Monday, November 24, 2008

It's vast

[UPDATE
I've received a proper citation from D&CPF. I've also received a copy of the paper from Alex and MC Naturalist. Thanks to the three of you for your help, it's sort of unbelievable. Now, I'll get to making proper work of the Feldman piece.]

Of course, I'm speaking of the conspiracy that's plotting against me. I know, you think there's no such conspiracy (unless you're part of it). But, I came to campus to take a look up an article in The Monist to find that the Fondren Library (which I'm now sitting in) only carries that journal through 1970 and that the remaining volumes are housed in the Bridwell Library. The only rational explanation for splitting journals up and speading them across the campus is a vast conspiracy. Of course, the Bridwell Library is closed on Sunday. Saturday and Sunday are my writing days. The conspiracy just keeps getting vaster.

If anyone can think of another article in which someone defends the view that the justification of action depends (in part) on the external stuff while insisting that the justification of belief doesn't, I'd be forever grateful. If anyone has a copy of Feldman's 1988 article (something along the lines of "Objective and Subjective Duties in Ethics and Epistemology") and can email it, I'd be forever grateful.

Meanwhile, I've been reading through Herman's The Practice of Moral Judgment because she makes an honest effort at trying to reconcile the idea that, "the objects of moral assessment are not events or states of affairs, but willings" with moral intuitions that suggest that omissions, mishaps, accidents, and many other well-intentioned actions can have moral significance. She asks us to consider an example in which someone intends to return a borrowed clock but fails to do what she intends. Does the failure of execution have moral significance? It doesn't seem to show that there's any defect in the agent's will, but she concedes that there's a perfectly good sense in which the agent has failed to live up to her duties. As I understand it, she thinks that the story to tell will try to explain the special duty that the agent has to the person who loaned the clock in the following way: the agent realizes that her end was not realized and so she must either adopt a new end or adopt new means. Insofar as she's not free to adopt a new end (because there was the perfect duty to return the clock), this is why she can't "wash her hands" of the situation after the failure.

I think there are problems with this sort of treatment of cases involving good intentions and bad results, but it's perhaps worth noting that this sort of story seems to have no application whatsoever to cases in which the agent tries to perform an action that the agent had discretion in deciding whether to perform it and accidentally brings about some bad state of affairs in the course of acting on her intention to perform the action. If there's no Kantian story to be told about such cases, then we can set aside questions about the plausibility of the story, and note that intuition really does speak against the idea that the only objects of moral assessment are willings unless some story about reparative* (as opposed to reparative) duties can be told.

2 comments:

Degenerate and Close Personal Friend said...

Hey there.

I gave it my best shot, but to gain online access you need a subscription to Poesis, and oddly enough Pitt doesn't have one. Anyway, here's the cite, in case it'll help someone find the article:

“Subjective and Objective Justification in Ethics and Epistemology,” The Monist 71 (1988):405-419.

ADHR said...

Hello,

I just sent it to your Yahoo account. Let me know if it didn't go through.

Incidentally, can I exchange eternal gratitude for cash and prizes?