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philosophy

The Intentionality of Sensation by Anscombe: Summary

The term `intentional object’ is introduced to refer to objects of thought which may or may not exist beyond thought in the actual world. There is a third type of reference to intentional objects beyond reference to the actually existent and the actually non-existent. This third type is to refer to an actual object with the reference to a property that the object does not have. For example, in `X worshipped the moon’, X does indeed worship something that exists, because the moon exists. However, X does not have the property – of divinity – that X venerates.

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There is a distinction between two understandings of the direct object of a sentence. In `A gave B a book’, the direct object could be the term `a book’ – in modern usage – meaning a linguistic item. It could also mean – in older usage – the actual book itself. Anscombe wishes to retain the older usage for the purpose of analysis. One thing is clear: an actual book is not a piece of language. The term `intentional object’ can refer to either the actual book or a piece of language but this fact of co-reference does not suffice to make the actual book identical to a piece of language. Anscombe argues that we must avoid the ambiguity by denying that the intentional object is the book and denying that it is a piece of language; an intentional object is a description under which.

The distinction between descriptions recalls Austin’s distinction between by mistake and by accident
when one has shot a donkey. If I intend to shoot my donkey but realise too late that the donkey I
aimed at was in fact your donkey, I have shot your donkey by mistake. If I intend to shoot my donkey but yours gets in the way at the last moment, I have shot your donkey by accident. The difference is the description under which I shot your donkey. The parallel with shooting is apt since Anscombe herself recalls the archery-related etymology of intention.

In the second part of the paper, Anscombe aims to apply this apparatus to sensation. The process she uses is to supply a number of examples which parallel the three reference types given above. An object of sensation, like an intentional object, may exist, may not exist, or be referred to under a description which it may or may not satisfy, if it does exist. (One assumes here pace Meinong that non-existent objects have no properties.)

Q: can parallels in usage establish the degree of similarity Anscombe requires? After all, she was earlier denying that parallels in usage could establish the identity of the book and the piece of language.

See Also:

Anscombe: Modern Moral Philosophy — Summary

Does Nietzsche Favor Master Morality Over Slave Morality?

Shame vs Embarrassment: The Distinction In The Literature

‘Both A Black Raven And A Red Herring Confirm The Claim That All Ravens Are Black.’

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Categories
philosophy

Modern Moral Philosophy by Anscombe: Summary

1 Critical Summary

Three theses:
– moral philosophy unprofitable
– concepts like `moral duty’ useless since assume obsolete background
– all modern (1958) English moral philosophy basically similar

General assault on all moral philosophers
– Butler said to `exalt conscience’; Anscombe objects that someone’s conscience can tell them to do vile things
– But Butler can respond by denying this — perhaps people sometimes act against their consciences

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Kant attacked for concept of `legislating for oneself’
– Said to be too legalistic, but this is not what Kant means
– Instead, he relies on the intuition that if action X is right in situation A, then it always will be in similar situations to A
– Anscombe does have a good response here which is to demand specifications of sufficient relevant similarity in A situations

Mill suffers from the same description problem: is it `murder’ or `mercy killing’?
– Without an answer to this, we cannot resolve conflict among utilitarian rules

Anscombe on Hume similarly bizarre to Schopenhauer on Kant i.e. sees all the right answers from all the wrong arguments
– Hume’s arguments moving from `is’ to `owes’ are as inadequate as the ones he castigates for moving from `is’ to ‘ought’; leads to a consideration of `brute facts’

Brute facts
– `He had potatoes carted to my house’ and `they were left there’ are brute facts relative to \he supplied me with potatoes”
– If xyz is a set of facts brute relative to a description A, then xyz is a set out of a range some set among which holds if A holds
– But no set among xyz entails A because exceptional circumstances can always make a difference
– Anscombe now admits the possibility of a transition from `is’ to `owes’ or to `needs’; does not sit well with her previous comments on Hume
– Injustice can now be defined as a set of sub-infringements such as `bilking’; this infraction will have a set of `brute facts’ associated
with it so we can derive a definition
– Need positive account of justice as virtue to show that an unjust man is a bad man: without this moral philosophy cannot proceed
– Legal conception of ethics inherited from religion a mistake; Aristotle believes virtue more a settled state of character than capable of being destroyed by single infractions
– Modern conceptions of obligation or ought-statements as law-like mistaken because there is no longer a law-giver { Nietzsche…
– `Less brute facts’: `is’-statements about a plant for example can lead to `needs’ statements if we want the plant to survive viz. the plant `ought’ to have water if it is going to flourish
– But this says nothing about whether the plant ought to flourish; so still no moral guidance here
– So Hume has shown just that `needs’, `owes’ statements are just variants of `is’-statements i.e. types of fact

Further claim that one cannot even derive `morally ought’ statements from each other, because the term has ceased to have other than
`mesmeric’ force
– Seems too strong; implies that we cannot get to `we ought not to torture cats’ from `we ought not to torture animals’

Utilitarianism and deontology both inadequate
– Cannot derive principle of utility from itself
– Similarly, cannot derive support for `divine law ought to be obeyed’ from within divine law
– Non-divine versions of deontology could be considered
Kant employs a deity but neo-Kantians need not

Virtue Ethics Introduced
– Since no content can be given to `morally wrong’, it would be an improvement to replace that sort of term by analogs of `unjust’
– Sometimes this would clarify viz. while we do not know whether something is `wrong’ we may know more quickly that it is unjust

Contra-utliititarianism again
– Utilitarianism as stated at that time would not allow e.g. absolute prohibition on killing the innocent for any purpose whatsoever
– Using something more modern like Nozick’s rules as side constraints might be more successful
– But unfair to criticize Anscombe for not anticipating future variants

All utilitarianisms incompatible with judaic religions since do not allow for any absolute prohibitions e.g. idolatry, adultery etc.
– Anscombe counts this as a criticism without admitting her own religious perspective; `the zeal of the converted’
– This is then taken to be so devastating as to render insignificant all other differences between the philosophers under consideration thus making out thesis three

Sidgwick
– Criticism as `dull’ and `vulgar’ too ad hom to be useful
– Complains that Sidgwick obviously wrong when he thinks that the reason for blasphemy rules is to prevent oense to
believers without giving an alternative

Sidgwick’s argument that one must intend all foreseen consequences of a voluntary action attacked
– A man who must choose between a disgraceful act and going to prison may not intend to withdraw child support even if that is
a consequence of going to prison
– Anscombe’s criticism fails, for the man has here weighed up the choices including the withdrawal of support and judged them better than the disgraceful act
– `a man is responsible for the bad consequences of his bad actions, but gets no credit for the good ones’ { far too gloomy/Roman/asymmetric
– Similarly, consequentialism attacked for being akin to consideration of temptation

– Previous point about `no law without a law-giver’ revisited with the aim of reviving the law-giver — this is disingenuous
– Criticism of Sidgwick et al as `conventional’ has no force because absent an argument that the conventions are wrong; some societies would be acceptable to Anscombe — nunneries perhaps
– Criticism of society as source of norms includes the consequence that `it might lead one to eat the weaker according to the laws of
nature’ indicates that Anscombe does in fact understand the naturalistic fallacy despite her protestations to the contrary

Distinction introduced between `morally wrong’ and unjust; illustrated by idea of judicially punishing an innocent man { this could be morally right but could not be just

We are not even permitted to consider execution to save millions; we have `corrupt minds’ if it is even a question!

2 Questions

1. How is Anscombe’s paper a response to Prichard?

(a) Prichard argues that contemporary (1912) moral philosophy rests on a mistake, being the belief that it is possible to answer the question `what ought we we to do?’ analytically or provide a proof that the dictates of conscience are in fact correct.
(b) Anscombe would share Prichard’s lack of faith in the current state of moral philosophy in her era, but would presumably differ from him in employing a divine law-giver to guarantee the dictates of conscience.

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2. How does Anscombe think a `virtues’ approach to morality would differ from `traditional’ approaches?

(a) It avoids the errors associated with utlititarianism (not self-sufficient, no allowance for absolute prohibitions) and deontology (not self-sufficient, who is the law-giver when not divine).
(b) It is unclear why Anscombe thinks that religions are self-sufficient other than by assertion or why absolute prohibitions are good.

3. What are `brute facts’, and how do they work in her theory of evaluation?

(a) Some among a range of facts which must be true if A holds.
(b) If A is an infraction of virtue e.g. an injustice, then some set of brute facts must also be true, consideration of which should allow
discrimination of whether there has in fact been injustice.

4. Does the theory preserve the `moral ought’?
(a) The initial line appears to be that no sense can be given to the term within the context of current moral philosophy.
(b) This is later { again, disingenuously { treated as a reductio i.e. we must in fact have the law-giver because we must have the `moral
ought’ with the force of divine/external law and we cannot get that otherwise

G E M Anscombe
Modern Moral Philosophy
Philosophy Vol. 33, No. 124, Jan. 1958

See Also:

Anscombe on Intentionality of Sensation: Summary

Putnam on Functionalism: Summary

Nietzsche On Memory: Outline

What Is “Theory Of Mind?”