Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Motive & Rightness

Received two books today. My copy of Bradley's Well Being and Death arrived at the office and Sverdlik's Motive and Rightness was waiting for me at home. I'm really excited to read Steve's book. I'll try to post some thoughts about it in the days to come. One of the things I miss most about life in Dallas is talking shop with Steve. Spent a considerable amount of time talking with him about the moral status of motives and intentions. Never could quite convince myself to believe everything he said, but I often thought that I probably should. I've long been in the camp that says that motives and intentions have little to do with the deontic status of an action. What we learn by scrutinizing someone's motives or intentions is something about the person and something about the moral worth of the agent's action. The permissibility of the action itself, however, never turns on what moved the agent to perform the action but only on whether there was a sufficiently good reason to act as the agent acted.

One of the reasons I was convinced that this view is the right one is that I'm convinced that our obligation is always to perform an act of some type or types and that doing something from one reason rather than another available reason isn't going to determine whether the thing you do is fitting or not. That needs to be spelled out and I've tried to do that. What I'm interested in seeing is why Steve thinks otherwise. Well, I have some idea as to why he thinks otherwise, but that's from reading papers that were available before the book. Now I'm interested to see how he's tied it all together.

So, the plan is to blog about the book in the weeks to come.

1 comment:

tristanhaze said...

I haven't looked at any of the relevant stuff, but a thought which comes to mind is that, for any action which done for some reason, there is a nearby action (in some sense of 'action') in the vicinity - namely the act of carrying out the first-mentioned action for some particular reason. (There's probably a nicer way to put it.)

You might conceivably want to use something like this to account for why it can seem like reasons are relevant to the rightness of the action-in-itself, even if they aren't, because it is easy to confuse that act with the act of performing it for such and such a reason. (Again, there's probably a nicer way to put it.)