SOPhiA 2021

Salzburgiense Concilium Omnibus Philosophis Analyticis

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Programme - Talk

Intention and Responsibility
(Ethics, )

A In The Method of Ethics, Henry Sidgwick writes, "I think, however, that for purposes of exact moral or jural discussion, it is best to include under the term "intention" all the consequences of an act that are foreseen as certain or probable" (p. 202). Contrastingly, the Doctrine of Double Effect (DDE) distinguishes between intended harm and harm that is foreseen, whereas only the latter may be justified by good consequences. The DDE will - whereas Sidgwick will not - differentiate the Strategic Bomber (who, to weaken the enemy, bombs an ammunition factory, knowing that it will destroy the nearby school and kill the children inside) from the Terror Bomber, who bombs the schoolchildren directly. The DDE allows for a nuanced view of these cases because it derives intention from motivational significance, drawing a sharp line between what an agent intends and what she merely foresees. But there are types of cases where equating intention with motivational significance lends counterintuitive judgement, such as with inseparable effects. Consider Glanville Williams' Mad Surgeon who is infatuated with the human body and extracts the hearts of his patients with the sole aim of admiring them. He does not wish for his patients to die, and yet we consider this an instance of intentional killing and label the surgeon a murderer. Sidgwick and Williams had argued this point so forcefully that it was the orthodoxy in British criminal law to consider foresight sufficient for intention. I will argue twofold. First, that intention and responsibility refer to conceptually distinct notions that ought to be kept apart, and that legal scholars are especially susceptible to erroneous judgement due to the highly moralising nature of their examples. Second, I will, drawing from the early works of Elizabeth Anscombe, provide a nuanced defence of the motivational significance view and propose an account on which is able to handle a plethora of cases from the literature.

Chair: Damiano Ranzenigo
Time: 16:50-17:20, 09 September 2021 (Thursday)
Location: SR 1.004
Remark: CHANGE. The talk is cancelled!

Levin Güver 
(University of Zürich, )



Testability and Meaning deco