Utilitarianism tells us that actions are morally right and good if and to the extent that they add to human happiness or diminish human unhappiness. And—or, perhaps, therefore—it also tells us that the best action a person can perform is that which of all the possible actions open to him is the one which makes the greatest positive difference to human happiness. Moreover, as everyone will also remember, utilitarianism further tries to tell us, perhaps intending it as a corollary of (...) that first, main claim, that the motive for an action has nothing to do with its moral rightness or goodness. But even if, as utilitarians, we accepted the dubious corollary, it would not follow, as many have thought, that utilitarians have no moral interest in motives. For unless, absurdly, a utilitarian believed either that there was never more than a fortuitous connection between on the one hand what we intended to do and on the other what we did and the consequences of what we did, or that, if there were such connections, we could not know of them, he must believe, as a moralist, that the best motive a person can have for performing an action is likely to be the desire to produce the happiest result. Indeed, utilitarians ought to be morally committed, it would seem, to trying to find out as much as they can about the consequences of our actions, e.g. what connections exist, if any, between how we raise children and what sort of adults they grow up to be. (shrink)
Glen Hartz argues, that neuroscience reveals that persons moved or frightened by fictional characters believe that they are real, so such behaviour is not irrational. But these beliefs, if they exist, are not rational and, in any case inconsistent with our conscious rational beliefs that fictional characters are not real. So his argument fails to establish that we are not irrational or incoherent when moved or frightened by such characters. It powerfully reinforces the contrary view.
Examining the nuances of verbalised agreements reveals that though not always about judgements, even the simplest involves participants in making judgements about why speakers say what they say, what in so saying they are doing, what this implies or leaves open etc. So conversations involve thinking, reasoning, and although the languages in which they are couched are culturally relative, the reasoning, propositions, logic involved are not. This illuminates why philosophers have been preoccupied with propositions and why they have been inclined (...) to think - wrongly - that all we do in using language is to assent to propositions, i. e. make judgements. (shrink)
Having distinguished essentially fictional characters from inessentially fictional ones and having identified Anna Karenina as an inessentially fictional character, Barrie Paskins solves the problem I posed in ‘How Can We Be Moved by the Fate of Anna Karenina?’ thus: ‘our pity towards the inessentially fictional is, or can without forcing be construed as, pity for those people if any who are in the same bind as the character in the fiction’. Making a similar point in a footnote, ‘our emotions towards (...) fictional characters are directed towards those real people, if any, who are in essentially the same situation’, he continues in the text, ‘This possibility is neglected by Radford and Weston.’. (shrink)
According to Wittgenstein's mature philosophy, no 'language game' or 'form of life' is inherently philosophically problematic. However real, practical moral problems undermine the objectivity of morality, which as moral beings we cannot abandon. This problem is both philosophical and 'real'. Morality therefore undermines the later Wittgenstein's whole account of philosophy, i.e. its nature, how such problems are resolved, and its relation with the rest of our lives. Perhaps that is why he virtually never mentions Ethics in his writings after 1932-3.
Although dogs are almost totally incapable of symbolic behaviour, they can hope, for a dog's behaviour can manifest not only a desire for something but varying degrees of expectation that it will get what it desires; but since they are almost totally incapable of symbolic behaviour, nothing they do can indicate that they both desire something and yet are certain that they will not get it. So the suggestion that dogs entertain idle wishes is, apparently, vacuous, i.e. untestable, or nonsensical. (...) Nonetheless, we can imagine situations in which we would be tempted to say of a dog that it had an idle wish, but since idle wishes so often and typically require language, we should be reluctant to impute it. (shrink)
In Part One of The Examined Life I recalled certain episodes from my childhood and youth in which, as I came to realize later, I had been exercised by a philosophical problem. By so doing I hoped not only to convey to non-professionals what philosophy is—or is like—but to show them that they too were philosophers, i.e., had been exercised by philosophical questions. In Part Two I gave some examples of how such problems may be treated by a professional, in (...) articles. (shrink)
The origin of this paper is a problem: I had long been struck by the fact that if my glance happened to fall on a newspaper, a message on a note pad, printing on a label, etc., I would begin to read what was there written or printed—if I could see it and it was in English. If I can see it, and it is in English, I cannot but read what my glance falls on, even if I wish not (...) to do so. So my reading—at least on these occasions and of this brief sort—seemed to be involuntary. The illiterate person, of course, cannot read and, in that way, is not free to read. The person learning to read does not read freely. But the ‘free’ reader is not free not- to read that on which his glance falls. (shrink)