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WANTING THE BAD AND DOI NG BAD THINGS: AN ESSAY IN MORAL PSYCHOLOGY By PETER BRIAN BARRY A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLOR IDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 2005
Copyright 2005 by Peter Brian Barry
iii ACKNOWLEDGMENTS I am grateful to a number of people for thei r contributions to this dissertation. My two greatest debts are owed to David C opp and Anton Tupa. As my supervisory committee chair, David faced the formidable task of reading and commenting on dozens of tortured drafts. His timely support and encouragement and wise counsel are greatly appreciated and I have learned much from him. Anton too helped guide earlier drafts into this present form. I only hope that he has enjoyed and benefited from working with me half as much as I have. Marina Oshana, Crystal Thorpe, and Dolo res Albarracin all capably served as members of my supervisory committee. Marina and Crystal both provided crucial comments and suggestions for improvement. Do lores tolerated a laymans forays and her very presence on my committee forced me to look for empirical confirmation of my theses. I am also grateful to members of the philosophy departments at the University of Florida and Bowling Green State University, especially John Biro, Kirk Ludwig, Chuang Lui, Greg Ray, David Sobel, Jon Tresan, and Gene Witmer. I also record my debt to the late Mich ael Robins, who served as my original dissertation advisor and sadly passed away while my dissert ation was in its infancy. Mike is responsible for initiating and cultiv ating my interests in the philosophy of action and moral psychology. I fear that this disser tation barely resemb les the project Mike briefly oversaw and that Mike may have less sympathy with my present views. I wish that I had a chance to argue with such a fo rmidable philosopher again. He is missed.
iv TABLE OF CONTENTS page ACKNOWLEDGMENTS.................................................................................................iii ABSTRACT....................................................................................................................... vi CHAPTER 1 THE IMP OF THE PERVERSE...................................................................................1 Introduction................................................................................................................... 1 Wanting the Bad and Desirability...............................................................................10 What Intentionally Pursuing the Bad Is . . and What it Is Not...............................16 Intentionally Pursuing the Bad and Akratic Action....................................................29 Conclusion..................................................................................................................34 2 DESIRE AND DESIRING THE BAD.......................................................................35 Introduction.................................................................................................................35 Humean Accounts of Desire.......................................................................................37 Nagel and Motivated Desires......................................................................................43 Hedonic Accounts of Desire.......................................................................................47 Thomism about Desire................................................................................................50 The Master Argument..........................................................................................64 Desiring the Bad and Intelligibility.....................................................................71 Conclusion..................................................................................................................77 3 INTENTION AND INTENDING THE BAD............................................................78 Introduction.................................................................................................................78 The Function of Intention and the Nature of Intention...............................................79 Desire-Belief Reductions of Intention........................................................................84 Intentions as Evaluative Judgments............................................................................90 Intentions and Decisions to Act..................................................................................96 Whither Rationality?.................................................................................................101 Conclusion................................................................................................................105
v 4 ACTING FOR REASONS AND REASONS FOR INTENTIONALLY PURSUING THE BAD............................................................................................109 Introduction...............................................................................................................109 The Problematic Syllogism.......................................................................................111 A Taxonomy of Reasons..........................................................................................115 Reason and Equivocation.......................................................................................122 The Problematic Syllogism Redux...........................................................................128 Conclusion................................................................................................................138 5 UNDERSTANDING, CONTROL, AND INTENTIONALLY PURSUING THE BAD..........................................................................................................................14 3 Introduction...............................................................................................................143 Goals and Having Goals...........................................................................................145 Goal-Directed Behavior and Intentional Action.......................................................152 Full-Blooded Action, Control, and Conscious Direction.........................................155 Practical Reasoning..................................................................................................163 Passive Cases of Treating as a Reason and Pursuing the Bad...........................166 Active Treating as a Reason and Pursuing the Bad...........................................170 Principled Decisions to Pursue the Bad.............................................................175 Resisting Razs Challenge........................................................................................179 Conclusion................................................................................................................182 LIST OF REFERENCES.................................................................................................183 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH...........................................................................................193
vi Abstract of Dissertation Pres ented to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy WANTING THE BAD AND DOI NG BAD THINGS: AN ESSAY IN MORAL PSYCHOLOGY By Peter Brian Barry August 2005 Chair: David Copp Major Department: Philosophy In this dissertation, I argue that it is possi ble to desire what is believed to be bad and not at all good, to intentionally pursue what is believed to be bad and not at all good, and that the believed badness of an action can be an agents reason for acting. I refer to these theses as the desirebad intentionbad and reasonbad theses, respectively. I consider various accounts of desire and I argue that all but one is consistent with the desirebad thesis. The account that is inconsistent, what I call the Thomist account, implies that believing that th e object of desire is good is necessary for desiring it. However, the Thomist account depends on dubi ous assumptions about the nature of desire and what it is to act intelligibly. I also consider various accounts of intention and I argue that the intentionbad thesis is consistent with a ll of them, includi ng accounts that identify intentions with a kind of evaluati on and the outcome of a kind of decision. I then consider objections to my three th eses. For example, it is plausible to suppose that intentional action is performed for reasons, but it seems that the intentional
vii pursuit of the bad cannot be action performed for reasons. This objection fails because it fails to distinguish different kinds of reas ons; in particular, it fails to distinguish normative reasons and an agents reason for acting. Here is another objection. Some philosophers claim that agents who intentionall y pursue the bad cannot be in control of or understand themselves and what they do. I cons ider various ways that agents can possess control and understanding; fo r example, by having goals an d performing goal-directed behavior, by deliberately forming and executi ng intentions, and by tr eating considerations as reasons. I argue that at least some ag ents who intentionally pursue the bad possess control and understanding, just as agents who act intentionally do. In responding to these objections, I develop a positive account of intentional action and agency that is inclusive enough to expl ain non-standard agents and their actions.
1 CHAPTER 1 THE IMP OF THE PERVERSE We stand upon the brink of a precipice. We peer into the abysswe grow sick and dizzy. . there grows into pa lpability, a shape, far more terrible than any genie, or any demon of a tale, and yet it is bu t a thought, although a fearful one, and one which chills the very marrow of our bones w ith the fierceness of the delight of its horror. It is merely the idea of what would be our sensations during the sweeping precipitancy of a fall from such a height. And this fall. . for the very reason that involves that one most ghastly and loathsom e of all the most ghastly and loathsome of images of death and suffering which have ever presented themselves to our imagination for this very cause do we now the most vividly want it. Edgar Allen Poe, The Imp of the Perverse 1 Introduction In some ways, Poes precipice dweller is no different from the standard sort of agent discussed by moral psychologists and phi losophers of action: there is some action that he wants to perform and he wants to perform the action because something about it appeals to him. According to what I shall refer to as standard accounts of moral psychology and action, when an agent wants to perform some action, she believes that her action would be good to perform and wants to perform the action because she believes her action would be good; further, acco rding to standard accounts, given that an agent wants something she believes to be good, the agent can proceed to act intentionally, supposing the opportunity comes up to get what she wants. But Poes precipice dweller is not the kind of agent that fits comforta bly into standard acc ounts. Poes precipice dweller wants to fall to the rocks below, but he does not want to fall because of any 1 Edgar Allen Poe, The Imp of the Perverse from The Complete Tales and Poems of Edgar Allen Poe p. 282.
2 believed good he associates with falling. Po es precipice dweller a ssociates fearful and ghastly and loathsome images of death and su ffering with falling from the precipice, and, in Poes words, for that very cause wants to fall. Proponents of standard accounts w ill insist that it is mi sleading to claim that the believed badness of falling to the rocks below is the very cause, or counts as the reason, that leads the precipice dweller to want to fa ll. The precipice dweller surely finds images of falling to be fearful and ghastly and loathsome, claims the proponent of a standard account, but what leads him to want to fall is, for example, the anticipated rush of excitement associated with falling. Perhaps he enjoys the prospect of falling in the same way that many persons enjoy scary movies or ro ller coasters. I shall discuss this response further in what follows, but note that Poe s account of the precipice dweller includes nothing that independently suggests that the prec ipice dweller believes there is something good about falling to the rocks below. Poes precipice dweller is motivated perversely, insofar as he is motivated to perform an act ion that deviates from what he believes is good to do. Standard accounts are forced to ex plain away or deny the seeming perversity of the precipice dweller. The interesting question is not whet her the precipice dweller, as Poe presents him and I describe him, can be re -described in a way that explains away his perversity. The interesting question is whethe r the precipice dweller, as Poe presents him and I describe him, is possible. In what follows, I shall argue for and defe nd three distinct but related theses. The first thesis has already been alluded to: agen ts can desire what they believe to be bad without also believing the thing they desire is good. I shall refer to instances where an agent desires something she believes to be ba d and to be not at al l good as instances of
3 wanting the bad or, alternatively, as instances of desiring the bad I shall refer to the thesis that agents can desire the bad as the desirebad thesis. For future reference, my claims that the desirebad thesis is true and that wanti ng and desiring the bad are possible are simply shorthand for the thesis that it is possible for agents to desire what they believe to be bad and to be not at all good. It will be useful to have a name for proponents of standard accounts who reject some or all of my three theses: I shall refe r to proponents of standard accounts who reject some or all of my three theses as Panglossi ans. The name Pangl ossian is derived from Voltaires satirical representation of Leibniz in Candide Familiarly, Leibniz claims that this world is in fact the best of all possible worlds God could have created in attempt to reconcile the omnipotence, omniscience and goodness of God with th e appearance that there is unnecessary suffering. Voltaire mocks Leibnizs the odicy by repeatedly subjecting Pangloss to undeserved suffering wh ile having Pangloss consistently repeat a variant of Leibnizs thesis that "all is for the be st in this the best of all possible worlds," even while things could seem ingly not be much worse: Candide came up, saw his benefactor reapp ear for a moment and then be engulfed forever. He tried to throw himself after him into the sea; he was prevented by the philosopher Pangloss, who proved to him th at the Lisbon roads had been expressly created for the Anabaptist to be drowne d in them. While he was proving this a priori the vessel sank, and everyone perished except Pangloss, Candide, and the brutal sailor who had drowne d the virtuous Anabaptist. .2 My Panglossian shares at least two features with Dr. Pangloss. First, my Panglossian suffers from a certain amount of undue optimism that all is for the best, that agents always desire what they believe to be good, for example. Second, my Panglossian typically asserts a priori that desiring the bad is impossi ble, despite of evidence to the 2 Voltaire, Candide p. 20.
4 contrary, just as Dr. Pangloss continues to asse rt that alls for the best when there is ample evidence to the contrary. I shall refer to the arguments offere d by proponents of standard accounts that challenge the truth of my three theses as Panglossian challenges. Panglossian challenges come in at least two varieties: weak and strong. Weak Panglossian challenges claim that explanations of action that appe al to the believed goodness of the action are always more plausible than explanations of action that appeal to the believed badness of the action. If it can be shown that it is more plausible to suppose that an agent would desire something because she believes the ob ject of her desire is good, rather than to suppose that she desired what she believes is bad and not at all good, then there would be some reason to doubt the truth of the desirebad thesis, for example. My general response to weak Panglossian challenges is that the moral psychology of the Panglossian is not as rich and explanatorily potent as the moral ps ychology of the proponent of the thesis that the intentional pursuit is possible.3 Strong Panglossian challenges purport to establish that my three theses are false by defending so me conceptual thesis concerning desire or action that would imply that so me or all of my three theses could not be true. I shall consider various strong and weak Panglossi an challenges in su bsequent chapters. Historically, many philosophers have been Panglossians insofar as they have rejected some or all of my three theses. The desirebad thesis, for example, is not widely 3 Similarly, I think there is no knockdown argument that explanations of allegedly altruistic action in terms of self-interest are mistaken; nonethel ess, I find it plausible that a mora l psychology that denies the thesis of psychological egoism, for example, and permits genuine altruistic actions is a much more compelling moral psychology.
5 defended.4 Plato explicitly rejects the possibility of desiring the bad.5 Aquinas claims people desire things because they think them good and if Aquinas means propose a necessary condition for desiring, then he is co mmitted to denying that desiring the bad is possible.6 Other philosophers come ve ry close to rejecting the desirebad thesis. Sidgwick understands desires as an impulse directed towar ds the realization of some positive future result.7 Locke understands desire as the uneasiness a man finds in himself upon the absence of anything whose pr esent enjoyment carries the idea of delight with it.8 Spinoza would deny that Poes precipice dweller could rightly be said to desire to fall to the rocks below given Spinoza defines desire as an appetite that is the very essence of man in so far as his essence is de termined to such actions as contribute to his preservation.9 Since falling to the rocks below does not contribute to an agents preservation, then the precipice dweller coul d not desire to fall on Spinozas account. And as I note in Chapter 4, a number of cont emporary philosophers have explicitly or implicitly rejected desirebad thesis. However, there is anecdotal evidence that wa nting the bad is possible. It is perhaps common to be tempted to lean too far over the edge of a tall building or to wonder what it would be like to quickly steer ones car into the median on the expressway. Women 4 For notable exceptions, see Michael Stocker, Des iring the Bad; An Essay in Moral Psychology, Journal of Philosophy 76 (1979), pp. 738-53 and David Velleman, The Guise of the Good, reprinted in his The Possibility of Practical Reason pp. 99-122. 5 Plato, Meno 77c-78b, in John M. Cooper, ed., Plato: The Complete Works 6 Aquinas: Selected Philosophical Writings Timothy McDermott, ed., p. 340. 7 Henry Sidgwick, The Methods of Ethics p. 46. 8 John Locke, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding A. D. Woozley, ed., p. 160. 9 Spinoza, Ethics (Hackett: 1992), Seymour Feldman, ed., p. 141.
6 suffering from postpartum depression ofte n enough have disturbing and aggressive desires to harm their newborn children.10 There are odd cases of agents who want to eat bizarre items such as dirt or carpentry nails or cigarette butts, and so forth; these are instances of the eating disord er, pica, an abnormal craving for the ingestion of non-food items.11 There is some reason to think the origins of pica lie in some sort of deficiency in a persons diet. We might make instances of pica comprehensible to an agent by explaining the etiology of her bi zarre desire, but when she is motivated to eat dirt or cigarette butts she surely doe s not believe there is anythi ng good about eating dirt and cigarette butts and she very likely believes th at eating dirt and ciga rette butts is bad. Even the most virtuous and pious of us have perhaps desired the bad. Former President of the United States Jimmy Carter, a deep ly religious man and former Sunday school teacher, publicly admitted to having committed adultery in his heart insofar as he sometimes looked upon women with lust. It may very well be that many agents think that there is something good about lustful leerin gs insofar as lustful leerings are believed to be pleasurable. Given Carters piety, it is plausible to suppose that Carter believes that the pleasure of looking upon women with lust is bad and not at all good.12 Protestant reformist Martin Luther was tormented by urges to curse Christ while praying.13 Given 10 One study conducted out of the Womens Mood Disorders Clinic in Cleveland found that 54% of women suffering from postpartum depression admitted to having such thoughts, as opposed to 21% of those with non-postpartum onset of depression; another study at the Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic in Pittsburgh found that 41% of surveyed women admitted to having such thoughts. See Lee Baer, The Imp of the Mind pp. 20-3 for discussion. 11 The word pica is derived from the Latin word for a magpie, a bird that will eat just about anything. 12 Gary Watson discusses a case of a man who thinks his sexual inclinations are the work of a devil and believes there is nothing even prima facie good about his sexual desires; see Watson, Free Agency, reprinted in Free Will ed. Watson, p. 101. 13 Erik H. Erickson, Young Man Luther: A Study in Psychoanalysis and History
7 Luthers faith, it is hard to believe that Luther thought there is anything good about cursing Christ. The second thesis I argue for is re lated to, but distinct from, the desirebad thesis: agents can act intentionally when they pursue what they believe to be bad and not at all good.14 I shall refer to this thesis as the intentionbad thesis. Suppose that the precipice dweller desires the bad insofar as he desires to fall to the rocks below and believes that falling would be bad and not at all good. Suppose he also engages in a piece of instrumental reasoning and concludes that jump ing from the cliff is an effective means for falling to the rocks below. Although the pr ecipice dweller believes that jumping from the cliff realizes something he believes to be bad and not at all good, the precipice dweller can nonetheless act intentio nally by jumping from the cliff. Or so I shall argue. I shall refer to instances in which an agent acts intentionally while believing the object of her pursuit is bad and not at all good as instances of intentionally pursuing the bad Panglossians are committed to denying the intentionbad thesis just as they are committed to denying the desirebad thesis. Any number of philosophers have rejected, or nearly rejected, the intentionbad thesis. Plato famously argues that no one ever willingly or knowingly chooses a lesser good over a greater good15 and less famously that no one would ever deliberately embrace any of the supreme evils and that no one would voluntarily allow his soul to be corrupted.16 Aristotle claims that all action aims at some 14 Watson seems to allow that an agent can act for a desire for what she believes is bad and not at all good, but Watson denies that those actions are free; see Watson, ibid., pp. 96-110, and Watsons discussion of the kleptomaniac, p. 110 in particular. I do not know if Watson endorses the intentionbad thesis, since the question of whether an act of pursuing the bad is intentional is different from the question of whether an act of pursuing the bad is free. 15 Plato, Protagoras 351d-358d, in Cooper, ibid. 16 Plato, Laws 731c, in Cooper, ibid.
8 good; if Aristotles dictum implies that to ac t intentionally an agen t must believe that what she aims at is good, then Aristotle is committed to denying the intentionbad thesis.17 Kant attributes the thesis that we avoid wh at we conceive to be bad to Scholastic philosophers; supposing that Kants characteriza tion of the Scholastics is correct, then it seems that Scholastic philosophers would deny we could pursue what we conceive to be bad.18 Aquinas claims that the will of human beings is ordered to seek bliss, that bliss is the goal of human life and that no one wills unhappiness or evil except accidentally by mistaking what is good for what is bad.19 Leibniz claims that God has decreed that the will shall always seek the apparent good.20 And many contemporary philosophers are committed to denying the intentionbad thesis.21 The third thesis I argue for I shall refer to as the reasonbad thesis. The reasonbad thesis implies that the believed badness of an action can be an agents reason for acting. Poe comes remarkably close to asserting the reasonbad thesis when he asserts the following: [There is] an innate and primitive pr inciple of human action, a paradoxical something which we may call Perverseness for want of a more characteristic term. . Through its promptings we act, for the reason that we should not . this 17 Aristotle, The Nicomachean Ethics 1094a2. 18 Kant, Critique of Practical Reason 5:59, Mary Gregor, trans. 19 See Aquinas, ibid., p. 338-40. 20 Leibniz, Discourse on Metaphysics p.49. 21 See Elizabeth Anscombe, Intention pp. 73-4; Dennis Stampe, The Authority of Desire, The Philosophical Review 96, pp. 355-81; James Griffin, Value Judgment pp. 32-3; Ronald De Sousa, The Good and the True, Mind 83, pp. 534-51; David Pears, Motivated Irrationality p. 198; Joseph Raz, Agency, Reason, and the Good from his Engaging Reason: On the Theory of Value and Action and On the Moral Point of View from Reason, Ethics, and Society: Essays in Honor of Kurt Baier J. B. Schneewind, ed., pp. 70-2; Sergio Tenenbaum, Accidie Evaluation, and Motivation in Weakness of the Will and Practical Irrationality Stroud and Tappolet, eds., pp. 147-71.
9 overwhelming tendency to do wrong for the wrongs sake [will not] admit of analysis, or resolution in to ulterior elements.22 Augustine also appears to be sympathetic with the reasonbad thesis in his memorable account of stealing pears from the tree of a neighbors orchard.23 Augustine notes that we typically suppose that the reasonbad thesis is false when we seek to explain an action: When we investigate a crime and ask for what reason was it committed, it is generally thought that there must be so me obvious motive; either the hope of gaining or the fear of losing. . Not even Cataline himself, then, loved the crimes he committed but the things he hoped to gain by them; which is something else entirely. (2.5.11) However, in his own case, Augustine is una ble to find any obvious motive indicative of gaining or losing. It was not pove rty that led Augustine to stea l, for what he stole he had in abundance. Augustine did not steal to enjoy the pears, for they were not especially appealing to the eye or the tongue and, at a ny rate, he later threw them away. Augustine did not steal to enjoy the company of hi s fellow hoodlums, for their company was nothing to him. Instead, Augustine claims what explains his theft of the pears was that he regarded the theft to be bad, that his act of stealing enticed him because it was an act of stealing, and claims that t here was no reason for my evil save evil itself. (2.4.9) Augustines testimony suggests that he did not act despite his belief that his action was bad and not at all good; rather, Augustine acted just because and on the grounds that he believed his action was bad and not at all good.24 22 Poe, ibid., p. 281, emphasis added. 23 See Augustines The Confessions Book 2. For further discussion, see Gareth Matthews, Augustine pp. 115-24. Thanks to Matthews for providing me with an advance draft of this chapter. 24 Ultimately, Augustine seems puzzled by his own account: Who can unravel this twisted bundle of knots and tangles? It is repugnant; I do not wish to see it or think of it. (2.10.18)
10 The project undertaken in th is chapter is to make sense of, and defend in a preliminary way, the desirebad and intentionbad and reasonbad theses. In Chapter 2, I argue that our best accounts of desire do perm it the possibility of desiring the bad and I consider arguments against the desirebad thesis. In Chapter 3, I offer and argue for an account of intention that helps to explain how agents intentionally pursue the bad. In Chapter 4, I consider and reject various arguments against the intentionbad and reasonbad theses. In Chapter 5, I explain how agents who intentionally pursue the bad can control and understand themselves and what they do. Initially, I want to respond to a potential objection that threatens the plausibility of the theses I defend. Wanting the Bad and Desirability One reason that some proponents of standard accounts have rejected any or all of the three theses I defend is that they belie ve that not just anyt hing can genuinely be wanted. Elizabeth Anscombe implicitly argues against the desirebad thesis insofar as she argues that that not just anyt hing can be wanted and that on ly what is conceived of in some way as desirable can genuinely be desired. Several proponents of standard accounts have appealed to Anscombes argumen ts in rejecting any and all three of my theses. 25 Since Anscombe has been so influential, her arguments demand special attention. Anscombe rejects what she takes to be a familiar doctrine that anything can be wanted.26 Here is a pregnant passage of Anscombes: 25 See, for example, Joseph Raz, Age ncy, Reason, and the Good, from his Engaging Reason p. 22, fn. 1 and Sergio Tenenbaum, ibid., p. 150, fn. 9. 26 Intention p. 67.
11 It will be instructive to anyone who thinks [that a nything can be wanted] to approach someone and say: I want a saucer of mud or I want a twig of mountain ash. He is likely to be asked what for; to which let him reply that he does not want if for anything, he just wants it It is likely that the other will then perceive that a philosophical example is all that is in question. . but supposing that he did not realize this, and yet di d not dismiss our man as a dull babbling loon, would he not try to find out in what as pect the object desired is desi rable? . if the reply is: Philosophers have taught that anything can be an object of desire; so there can be no need for me to characterize these object ions as somehow desirable; it merely happens that I want it, then this is fair nonsense.27 To be sure, Anscombe would concede that we can have odd or idiosyncratic wants, such as a desire for a saucer of mud. But Anscombe does suggest that wanting a saucer of mud is a more complicated matter than is perhaps supposed. For now, note that Anscombe accepts what I shall call the desirability thesis : any agent who genuinely wants something must be able to sincerely disc ern what aspect of the object of her want is desirable, and an agent who cannot sincerely discern what aspect of the object of her want is desirable does not really want the thing. Moreover, Anscombe claims that if an agen t is able to sincer ely discern in what aspect the putative object of her want is desi rable, then that agent is able to provide a desirability characterization of the object of her want. All of this suggests that Anscombe accepts a heuristic device for de termining if an agent genuinely wants something: an interrogator can ask a series of What for? and A nd what is the good of that? questions until an intelligib le answer has been reached.28 Call this the desirability test An agent who provides an intelligible an swer to her interrogato rs questions brings her interrogators questioning to a close insofar as she provides a desirability 27 Anscombe, ibid., pp. 70-1. 28 Anscombe, ibid., p. 72 and 75. Anscombe also cl aims that an agent who in sisted that he wanted something yet was unable to explain in what aspect the thing he purportedly wants is desirable is saying something unintelligible; ibid., pp. 26-7.
12 characterization of what she purportedly wants. Thus, the desirability thesis can be restated in at least two ways. First, an agent who wants something must be able to provide a desirability charac terization of what is wante d. Second, an agent who wants something must be able to pass the desirability test. Some proponents of standard accounts have argued that Anscombes desirability thesis implies that the desirebad intentionbad and reasonbad theses are all false. After all, not just any answer in re ply to the desirability test will suffice to show that an agent genuinely wants something and it is far from clear how an agent could intelligibly want and intentionally pursue what she believes to be bad and not at all good. Therefore, claims the proponent of standard accounts, when an agent putatively wants or intentionally pursues th e bad she will be unabl e to provide a desirabi lity characterization of what she wants and what she pursues, a nd her inability to pr oduce a desirability characterization is evidence that she does not re ally want or intentionally pursue what she believes to be bad and not at all good. I shal l have more to say about Anscombe and her adherents in later chapters, but note that at least two responses are available. First, a case can be made that Anscom be cannot rule out the possibility of intentionally pursuing the bad. Interestingly, Anscombe does not claim that passing the desirability test is necessary to intenti onally pursue something. Anscombe finds it plausible that we sometimes perform actions for no reason and for no particular reason when we act without purpose or absent calculation, for example; when we act for no reason, Anscombe claims, we cannot sincerely provide any desirability characterization of what we intentionally pursue.29 Now, the proponent of the 29 Anscombe, ibid., p. 73.
13 intentionbad thesis can plausibly claim that instances of the intentional pursuit of the bad are actions performed for no reason or for no particular reason. Matters will be clarified in Chapter 4, but for the moment I su ggest that we act for no reason when we intentionally pursue the bad in the same sens e as we act for no reason when we act on the basis of whims and passing fancies. So even if no sincere desirability characterization is possible in instances of the intentional pursuit of the bad, it does not follow that the intentional pursuit of the bad is not possible just because actions performed for no reason are possible.30 Second, accepting Anscombes desirability thesis does not commit one to denying that wanting the bad is possible. For all that has been said, an agent could claim that the believed badness of something is what she fi nds desirable about the thing and thus that the desirability characteristic of the thing that she wants is that it is bad 31 Admittedly, after introducing the desirability thesis, Anscombe claims that all that is required for our concept of wanting is that a man should s ee what he wants under the aspect of some good and this quote suggests that Anscombe be lieves that it is necessary to wanting something that the agent believes the thing she wants is good in at least some aspect.32 Thus, besides endorsing the desirability th esis, Anscombe also appears to accept a stronger thesis that I shall refer to as the goodness-as-desirability thesis : for any agent 30 It is not clear, unfortunately, that this line of argument preserves the truth of the reasonbad thesis. Perhaps this is acceptable: two out of three is not that bad and the trut h of my first two theses would still imply that standard accounts are mistaken. 31 See, for example, Stocker, Raz on the Intelligibility of Bad Acts, from Reasons and Value: Themes from the Moral Philosophy of Joseph Raz Wallace, et al., eds., pp. 303-32. Anscombe does accept that the statement The good of it is that it is bad can be intelligible; ibid., p. 75. However, Anscombe does not accept that somethings believed badness itself can be what an agent finds desirable about the thing she wants. See my discussion of Anscombes account of Satan below. 32 Anscombe, ibid., p. 75.
14 who genuinely desires something, that agent mu st be able to sincerely discern in what aspect the putative object of her want is desi rable and it must be the case that what an agent finds desirable about the pu tative object of her want is something she believes to be good in some aspect. Now, the philosopher who accepts the goodness-as-desirability thesis cannot also consistently claim that wanting the bad is possible, but Anscombes desirability thesis can be accepted even if Anscombes desirability-as-goodness thesis is not; the goodness-as-desir ability thesis is stronger than the desirability thesis and accepting the latter does not demand acceptance of the former. And the desirability-asgoodness thesis cannot simply be assumed without begging the question since its rejection is entailed by the desirebad thesis. Anscombes a dherents do of course have arguments for something like the desirabi lity-as-goodness thesis and I discuss them further in my Chapter 4. For now, I maintain that the proponent of my three theses can argue that the believed badness of what is wa nted can be what an agent finds desirable about what she pursues. But the proponent of standard accounts will surely not give up the game so easily and will surely demand an explanation of the proposed thesis that the believed badness of something could be found to be desirable. To forestall a confusion, the proponent of standard accounts who suggests that it is un clear how something believed to be bad could be found desirable might be making either a modal claim or a normative claim. For example, I am plausibly making a no rmative claim when I utter How could you have done that? suggesting that what yo u did ought not to have been done.33 But the philosopher who claims that wanting and inte ntionally pursuing the bad are possible is 33 My use of the word claim in this sentence is used to avoid claiming that my utterance is a proposition so as not to beg questions in favor of moral realists.
15 making a modal claim, not a normative one. And it is not implausible that there are explanations of the desirebad and intentionbad theses. Michael Stocker provides at least the be ginnings of an explanation of how it is possible that something believed to be bad c ould be regarded as desirable. Stocker imagines an embittered politician, who no longer cares for his constituents and is no longer moved to help them but rather to harm th em. It is not that th e politician no longer sees opportunities to do good for his constituents, nor that he fails to recognize such opportunities to help as good; rather, he now sees what would be good with respect to his constituents as something that should be prev ented or destroyed. St ockers politician still recognizes that various bills would benefit his constituents, but now instead of wanting to push such bills through legislative channels, he wants to quash them. A proponent of Anscombe's desirability thesis might appeal to many different considerations that the politician might take to be good about harmi ng his constituents. Perhaps the politician would painfully regard himself as dutys slave if he helped; thus, perhaps he fails to help because he thinks avoiding painful feelings is good. 34 Perhaps the politician views his constituents as ungrateful and, in a retribu tivist moment, he judges their suffering to be good because it is deserved. Perhaps the politi cian believes that their present suffering will allow him to save them later and reap the rewards of being their savior. Or perhaps he wants to be appreciated and this is a wa y to let his constituen ts know how much they need him. Or perhaps he has been readi ng Machiavelli and believes having a reputation of being fearsome is required to stay in power. Stocker denies that any of these considerations must be what his politician wants a nd that it could be the believed badness 34 Stocker, ibid., p. 742.
16 of harming his constituents th at the politician finds desira ble. If the politician is sufficiently depressed or enra ged or bitter, his judgments concerning what is desirable could alter significantly, and in the right sort of mood, he might come to regard the badness of harming his constituents as what is desirable about performing actions that cause his constituents to be harmed.35 If the arguments in this section ar e correct, then th e proponent of the desirebad intentionbad and reasonbad theses need not reject Anscombes desirability thesis. Still, it may still be somewhat unclear just what the intentional pursuit of the bad is, as well as what instances of the intentional pursuit of the bad have in common with other types of intentional actions. In the next section, I explain what the in tentional pursuit of the bad is and what it is not. What Intentionally Pursuing the Bad Is . . and What it Is Not I have suggested that the intentional pursuit of the bad is possible. However, it may remain unclear just what the intentional pursuit of the bad is and what it is not. In this section, I offer necessary and sufficient conditio ns for the intentiona l pursuit of the bad. The necessary and sufficient conditions for in tentionally pursuing th e bad are parasitic on the necessary and sufficient conditions for inte ntional action generall y. I will not supply a full-blown analysis of intentional action, but I suggest that whatever the best full-blown analysis turns out to be, the proponent of the possibility of intentionally pursuing the bad can supply a full-blown analysis of the in tentional pursuit of the bad by adding two further necessary conditions. I discuss th e two necessary conditions below. I also 35 Schopenhauer initially accepts that the su ffering of others can be desirable: the suffering of others is not a means for the attainment of the ends of its own will, but an end in itself. But Schopenhauer then retreats and claims an agent who desires the suffering of others "seeks . to mitigate his own suffering by the sight of the suffering of others, which at the same time he recognizes as an expre ssion of his power. See The Philosophy of Schopenhauer Irwin Edman, ed., p. 293.
17 explicitly distinguish the inten tional pursuit of the bad from othe r kinds of behavior that it might be confused with. I have already stipulated that when agents intentionally pursue the bad, they believe that the object of their pursuit is bad a nd not at all good. Thus instances of the intentional pursuit of the bad are instances of intentional action but are distinguished from paradigm instances of intentional action insofar as an agent who intentionally pursues the bad believes that th e object of her pursuit is bad. That an agent believes the object of her pursuit is bad is the first a dditional necessary cond ition for intentionally pursuing the bad. To see that the first necessary condition is required for an agent to intentionally pursue the bad, consider the following two ag ents: Donald and David. Both Donald and David want a gin and tonic, believe that gin and tonics are good to drink, and believe the drink in front of them is a gin and tonic. Suppose that on that basis, Donald and David both proceed to intentionally drink what is in the glass before them. However, the drink before Donald is made of gin and tonic while the drink before Davi d is made of petrol and tonic. David, unlike Donal d, is motivated to pursue someth ing that is, in fact, bad. While David performs an action that is, in f act, bad to perform, Davids action is not an instance of the intentional pursuit of the bad. Ca ses in which we want what is in fact bad while believing what we want is good are ne ither uncommon nor do they present any real challenge to standard accounts of intentiona l action. Since Donald does not intentionally pursue the bad and given there is no relevant difference between the psychologies of David and Donald, then it follows that David does not intentionally pu rsue the bad either.
18 Consider also the following case involvi ng two agents: Harry and Frank. Both Harry and Frank want, not a gin and tonic, bu t a petrol and tonic, believe that drinks made of petrol and tonic are bad and not at all good, and believe th at the drink before them is a petrol and tonic. Suppose that on that basis, Harry and Frank both proceed to intentionally drink what is in the glass before them. However, the drink before Harry is, in fact, made of petrol and tonic while the dr ink before Frank is, in fact, made of gin and tonic. Harry is motivated to pursue someth ing that is, in fact, bad while Frank is motivated to pursue something that is, in f act, not bad. Given my definition of the intentional pursuit of the bad, Harry does inte ntionally pursue the ba d. Further, I submit that if it is the case that Ha rry intentionally pursues the bad, then so does Frank. Even though Frank intentionally pursues something that is, in fact not bad, Frank is still a counter-example to standard accounts since Fr ank intentionally pursues what he believes is bad and believes that the object of his pursuit is not at all good. Since Harry does intentionally pursue the bad a nd given that there is no rele vant difference between the psychologies of Harry and Frank, then it seems to follow that Frank intentionally pursues the bad as well. The examples of Donald and David and of Harry and Frank suggest that it is neither necessary nor sufficient to intentionally pursue the bad that the object of ones pursuit actually is bad or bad to pursue. What is essential to inte ntionally pursuing the bad is that the agent believes that what she intentionally pursue s is bad. It is the fact that Donald nor David believe the object of thei r pursuit is good that makes it the case that standard accounts can explain thei r actions, even if what David pursues is, in fact, bad. And it is the fact that Harry and Frank both believe the object of their pursuit is bad and
19 not at all good that makes it the case th at standard accounts will have difficulty explaining their actions, even if what Frank pursues is good. Supposing that an agent acts in tentionally, the fact that she believes that what she pursues is bad is necessary, but not sufficient, for intentionally pursuing the bad. It is also necessary that, either, she believes that what she pursues is not at all good or that she fails to believe that what she pursues is at all good. Proponents of standard accounts can allow that agents can intentionally pursue what they believe to be bad provided that those agents also believe that what they pursue is goo d in some respect. If agents who intentionally pursue the bad really do believe that what they pursue is good in some respect then standard accounts can deny that intentionally pursuing the bad ever really occurs; agents who apparently intentionally pursue the bad have conflicting beliefs but their actions are no counter-exam ple to standard accounts. It is perhaps not uncommon to believe, after all, that what one pursues has something to be said for it and something to be said against it, and it is surely rare that we believe that what we pursue is, for example, only good and not at all bad. The proponent of standard accounts needs to argue that any and all instances of the intentional pursuit of the bad are instances in which an agent has multiple evaluative beliefs about the object of her pursuit, name ly, that the object of her pursuit is bad and that the object of her pursuit is good in some re spect. Call cases of the intentional pursuit of the bad in which an agent also believes th at the object of her pursuit is good in some respect impure instances of the intentional pursuit of the bad. Cases of the intentional pursuit of the bad in which an agent believes th at the object of her pursuit is bad and fails
20 to believe that the object of her pursuit is good in some resp ect can therefore be referred to as pure instances of the intenti onal pursuit of the bad. Note that the proponent of standard acc ounts cannot necessarily accommodate even impure instances of the intentional pursuit of the bad. Instances of the impure intentional pursuit of the bad might, at least sometimes, be instances of causally over-determined intentional action. Generally, some event E is causally over-determined if it is the case that there are multiple causes of E each of which is causally sufficient by itself to bring E about. The event of Jones being killed is causally over-determined if he is simultaneously shot by two different assassins, since, presumably, Jones would have been killed if either one but not both of the assassins had shot. In impure instances of the intentional pursuit of the bad, it might be the case that an agents desire for the bad and her desire for what she believed to be good causally over-determine her action, since, presumably, either would have sufficed to l ead her to act. But proponents of standard accounts cannot allow that an agents desire for what she believes to be bad and not at all good might be sufficient to explain her acti on. Therefore, impure instances of the intentional pursuit of the bad are perhaps as problematic for the proponent of standard accounts as pure instances of the intentional pursuit of the bad. Generally, the examples of the intentional pursuit of the bad that I discuss are pure instances of the intentional pursuit of the bad and even if the proponent of standard accounts can accommodate the possi bility of impure instances of the intentional pursuit of the bad, pure instances of the intenti onal pursuit of the bad are starker counterexamples to standard accounts. Note that it appears that there are some pure instances of the intentional pursuit of the bad. Consider an agent that I refe r to as Carla who
21 engages in self-mutilating, or cutting, behavior.36 Carla is being treated for both anorexia and depression. During the course of her treatment, Carla reveals she cuts herself on her arms and breasts and that her ta rgeted areas of cutting are selected because mutilation of these areas creates the greatest amount of pain with the least amount of visible damage. Carlas self-mutilating behavior is diagnosed as the product of feelings of low-self esteem and self-hatred that ar e themselves the product of her parents unhappy marriage. But what is interesting about Carla is that this is not how things seem to her. Some comments about self-mutilating behavior are in order to forestall confusion. First, there is no consensus that self-mutilation is a distinct mental disorder rather than a consequence of other mental disorders, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety or depression, eating disorders, psychosis, and so forth.37 While it is true that selfmutilating behavior is often concurrent with ot her mental illnesses, it is not true that every agent who engages in self-mutilating behavior also suffers from depression or anorexia or obsessive-compulsi ve disorder or borderline personality disorder, and so forth. Second, there are several competing mode ls that attempt to explain self-mutilating behavior in terms of its function.38 Cutting behavior might function as an expression of anger or anxiety that cannot otherwise be expressed; it ma y be the result of external pressures and signal that the patient is re siding in an unhealthy environment; it may function as a suicide replacement; it may serve as a means for a patient to distinguish 36 Carlas case is based upon a case study in Stev en Levenkron, Cutting pp. 90-1, p. 110. 37 Self-mutilating behavior is not recognized as a distinct mental disorder in the most recent DSM, although trichotillomania, the compulsive pulling out of ones hair, is and receives its own entry. 38 For discussion, see Suyemoto, The Functions of Self-Mutilation, Clinical Psychology Review 18 (1998), pp. 532-3.
22 herself from others39; some case studies suggest self-mutilation might be inflicted to deter sexual assault40 or to reinforce the ability to suffer great pains.41 No one functional model has gained consensus as the functional model that explains self-mutilation. As a result, there is no reason to suppose that ther e is any one particul ar desire that is the cause of self-mutilating behavior. Return to Carla. Carla believes she engages in self-mutilating behavior in order to harm herself and she explicitly denies that she wants to hurt anyone else; Carla insists that it would defeat the whole purpose if anyone else, such as her parents, were hurt by her self-mutilating behavior.42 Further, Carla denies that she enjoys the pain she inflicts upon herself; self-mutilators are not, by definition, sadists.43 Generally, Carla does not herself believe her acts of self-mutilation are instrumental to realizing something else she believes to be good, such as the f eeling of release or gaining control; some cutters report that their self-mutilating behavi or is not a means to an end, unlike those who undergo the pain of a tattoo for the sake of self-expression. Levenkron claims that for the self-mutilator, the act of creating pain, when pain is experienced. . is in itself the 39 Suyemoto, ibid., pp. 537-48. 40 Robert Cavanaugh, Self-Mutilation as a Manife station of Sexual Abuse in Adolescent Girls, Journal of Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology (2002), vol. 15, no. 97, pp. 97-100. 41 Levenkron, ibid., p. 120-3. 42 Levenkron, ibid., p. 91. 43 Levenkron takes great pains to distinguish self-mutilators from sadists; ibid., pp. 23-6. It is interesting to note that many cutters do not report feeling pain or painful feelings while cutting themselves; Suyemoto reports many self-mutilators do not experience pain during the act; ibid., pp. 534. Note that the laymans understanding of the sadist as someone who enjoys pain or inflicting pain is mistaken; it is not a necessary condition of being a sadist that one takes pleasure in the infliction of pain. The DSM-III lists eight possible symptoms of sadistic personality disorder, only one of which demands that an agent takes pleasure or enjoys the infliction of pain.
23 goal.44 Carlas own stated purpose is th at she engages in such behavior simply to harm herself and this is a result that she be lieves is a bad and not at all good. Carla appears to be a genuine counter-examp le to standard accounts, insofar as she appears to act intentionally but she does not believe that the object of her pursuit, namely, the infliction of bodily harm, is at all good. It is tempting to suppose that Carla is therefore a paradigm example of an agent who intentionally pursues the bad and that selfmutilating behavior is a paradigm example of the intentional pursuit of the bad. However, supposing that Carla and self-mutila ting behavior are paradigm examples can suggest some potentially misleading gene ralizations. Similarly, although I have suggested that agents like A ugustine intentionally pursue the bad, the idea that Augustine and his actions are paradigm examples can suggest some potentially misleading generalizations. In the remainder of this se ction, I want to discu ss a series of potential mistaken assumptions about th e intentional pursuit of the bad and continue to clarify what the intentional pursuit of th e bad is and what it is not. First, it might be supposed that all agen ts who intentionally pursue the bad are estranged from their actions, fail to identify with the desires that produce their actions, and feel shame or regret at performing thei r actions. Carlas own actions trouble her and she herself appears to have feelings of regret and shame and so forth; Carla intentionally pursues the bad despite her belief that engaging in self-m utilating behavior is bad and not at all good. Yet we can imagine another versi on of Carla, Carla* who is not estranged from her cutting behavior, wholeheartedly identi fies with her desire to harm herself, and feels no shame or regret and so forth. Carla* does not harm herself despite her belief that 44 Levenkron, ibid., p. 41.
24 engaging in self-mutilating behavior is bad a nd not at all good, but instead harms herself just because her self-mutilating behavior is bad a nd not at all good. But whatever their differences, both Carla and Carla* count as agents who intentionally pursue the bad.45 Second, it might be supposed that intenti onally pursuing the ba d is intentionally performing an action on e believes to be morally bad. Augustine, for example, performs an action that is, by his own lights, morally ba d. However, even if an agent performs an action she believes to be morally bad and not at all morally good46, she does not necessarily intentionally pursue the bad. Actions that are believed to be morally bad can be believed to be good in some other resp ect. Morally bad actions can be fun or humorous or might be just the thing to gain profitably. A Nietzschean might believe that intentionally acting in morally bad ways is expression of her liberation from a slavish morality and that liberating herself from a slave morality is a good thing. One can perfectly well believe that an action is good in virtue of being fun or humorously naughty or profitable or liberating while also believing that ac tion is morally bad. The remarks in the previous paragraph may suggest that instances of the intentional pursuit of the morally bad are never also inst ances of the intentional pursuit of the bad; this too is a mistaken generalization but one that has philosophical precedent. Consider Miltons Paradise Lost and Satans infamous declar ation: Evil be thou my Good.47 It appears that Satan is reversing his moral compa ss; as an angel he is attracted to the good and only the good, and he becomes a fallen angel when he resolves to no longer be so 45 Augustine also appears to count as intentionally pursuing the bad and so forth, but Augustine more resembles Carla* than Carla. 46 Nothing rests on my use of the term bad rather than some other moral term of disapprobation; we could just as easily speak of the belief that one is pursuing something wrong or wicked or vicious, and so forth. 47 Paradise Lost Book IV, line 110.
25 attracted. Still, Satan appears to have goals: recall that Satan claims that it is Better to rule in Hell than to serve in Heaven, s uggesting he still believes that freedom and autonomy are good, even if he fails to belie ve freedom and autonomy are morally good.48 Anscombe offers an interpretation of Satan where he pursues what he believes to be good, but not morally good: Evil be thou my good is often thought to be senseless in some way. Now all that concerns us here is that Whats the good of it? is something that can be asked until a desirability characterization has been reached and made intelligible. If then the answer to this question at some stage is The good of it is that its bad, this need not be unintelligible; one can go on to say And what is the good of its being bad? to which the answer might be the condemnation of good as impotent, slavish, and inglorious. . all that is required for our concept of wanting is that a man should see what he wants unde r the aspect of some good.49 On Anscombes interpretation of Satan, Satan wants to perform an action he believes is morally bad only because he believes that what he pursues is good in some non-moral respect. Thus, Anscombes Satan fails to in tentionally pursue the bad. It is tempting to claim that agents who pursue what they believe to be morally bad must believe nonetheless that what they pursue is good in some non-moral respect. Anscombes Satan reverses his moral compass only as a means fo r getting what he regards as good. Here is Vellemans complaint about Anscombes Satan: What sort of Satan is this? He is trying to get things right, and so he rejects the good only because he has found respects in wh ich it is unworthy of approval. He rejects the good, that is, only because it is slavish and inglorious, and hence only because shunning the good is a means to liber ty and glory. But then he isnt really shunning the good, after all, since the goods of liberty and glory remain his ultimate goals. Anscombes Satan can want evil only by judging it to be good, and 48 Paradise Lost Book I, line 263. 49 Anscombe, Intention p. 75.
26 so he remains, at heart, a lover of the good and the desirablea rather sappy Satan.50 If Velleman is correct, then Anscombes Satan simply accepts an idiosyncratic extension of good and wills the means required to obtain what he believes to be good. If this is how we are to understand Satan, then we mu st admit Satan is no different from other agents who will the means necessary to realize their ends.51 But the idea that Satan is really pursuing what he believes is non-morally good fails to preserve Satans perversity. Note that Satan is a classic example of an ag ent in the grip of self -deception. Satan goes to rather extraordinary lengths to keep hims elf and the other fallen angels deceived with dubious accounts of their successes and predicti ons of their victories. Satan claims that the adverse power of the rebelling a ngels shook the very throne of the Almighty, knowing full well it did not.52 In response to Beelzebubs ch allenge that their deeds only proved the high supremacy of heavens perpetual king,53 Satan responds that their labors to pervert Gods good ends will oft-t imes. . succeed, so as perhaps shall grieve him, if I fail not, and disturb his inmo st counsels from their destined aim.54 But Satan knows full well their labors will fa il. And recall that on some accounts of the story, Satan knows full well that he will lose in the end a nd that his efforts are bound to fail and that he will not be able to obtain what he is now intentionally pursuing. What is perverse 50 Velleman, The Guise of the Good, p. 19. See also S. I. Benns discussion of Satan in Wickedness, Ethics 95:4 (Jul., 1985), reprinted in Ethics and Personality: Essays in Moral Psychology John Deigh, ed., p. 201. Benn would complain, I suggest, that Anscombes interpretation of Satan ruins the thought that Satan is malignantly wicked, and Satan is malignantly wicked if anyone is. 51 Velleman, ibid., p. 18. 52 See Paradise Lost Book I, lines 104-105; Book VI, lines 710-12 and line 834 shows Satans claim to be false: it is Christs chariot and not Satans armies which shake heaven to its foundations. 53 Paradise Lost, Book I, lines 131-2. 54 Paradise Lost Book I, lines 166-8.
27 about Satan is not that he has an idiosyncratic account of good but rather that he continues to will an end that the knows will ruin him if he realizes it. It may be the case that while Satan believes the autonomy that he pursues is pro tanto good, since he knows that getting autonomy will ruin him, he believes that his act of pursuing autonomy in this case is bad. Thus, I suggest, it is not plausi ble to suppose that Satan intentionally pursues the morally bad but fails to intentionally pursue the bad simpliciter. It is tempting to say, given the above discussion, that the agents that I am interested in do not intenti onally pursue the morally bad, but intentionally pursue the bad simpliciter But this is also misleading and s uggests another misunderstanding. For an agent who intentionally pursues the bad may not want the bad simpliciter Carla, for example, intentionally pursues something she beli eves is bad but Carla is not interested in pursuing just anything she believes to be bad. For example, Carla believes that harming her family members is bad and not at all good, but she denies that she is interested in harming members of her family. Agents w ho intentionally pursue the bad, I suggest, do not intentionally pursue just anything that they believe to be bad and not at all good, but only what they believe to be bad in some re spect. Further, note that appealing to an agents emotions or moods and so forth in e xplaining the intentional pursuit of the bad, as Stocker suggests, helps to explain why an agent may find something she believes to be bad desirable. Carla is frustrated with hers elf and lacks self-esteem and thus her anger is directed at herself, rather than her parents. So it is perhaps not surprising that while Carla believes both that harming herself is bad and not at all good and that harming her parents is bad and not at all good, she only wants to harm herself and not her parents, just because Carlas anger and frustration are directed at herself and not them.
28 Finally, one may suppose that an agent who intentionally pursues the bad must be irrational, or at the very least, must be in th e grip of some powerful emotion or mood that makes them less than clear-headed. After a ll, Carla appears to suffer from a mental disorder. Further, it is often supposed that ag ents who perform actions they believe to be immoral or otherwise bad, like A ugustine and Satan must be irrational. I shall have more to say about rationality later. Stocker is helpful here as well. Stocker claims that motivation always involves background emotions and moods and so forth.55 If Stocker is correct, then it cannot be that Carla and Stockers politicia n are irrational or confused merely because they are in the grip of some emot ion or mood. If being motivated always depends upon moods or emotions, then the f act that Carla and St ockers politician are moved as a result of their emotions or moods does not distinguish them from rational and clear-headed agents. In this section, I have been attempting to clarify what the intentional pursuit of the bad is and what it is not by attempting to explain away potential misunderstandings. One further clarification remains: the intentional pursuit of the bad is not identical to akratic action. Not all instances of akratic action are instances of the intentiona l pursuit of the bad and it might be the case that not all instances of the inte ntional pursuit of the bad are instances of akratic action. However, ak ratic action has long been of philosophical interest, and thus I dedicate the following s ection to distinguishing the intentional pursuit of the bad from akratic action. 55 Stocker, ibid., pp. 750-3.
29 Intentionally Pursuing the Bad and Akratic Action One familiar picture of the akrates is the picture of an agent who is overcome by base urges in opposition to her belief or knowle dge that she should not act on those urges; for example, we might describe an akrati c agent who smokes as being overwhelmed by an urge for a cigarette, all the while knowing that she should not smoke. This familiar picture cannot be taken too seriously for at least two reasons. Firs t, not every case of akratic action is a case where an agent is overwhelmed by some urge, much less by some base urge. I might believe that I ought to stay in bed because my bed is so warm and comfortable, but because I have an urge to take care of myself, I akratically get up to brush my teeth.56 Cases of inverse akrasia are also perhaps relevant here. In cases of inverse akrasia, an agent fails to act as she believes she ought to, but winds up actually doing the right thing. 57 For example, Huckleberry Finn believes that Jim should be turned over to bounty hunters, yet when th e opportunity presents itself, Hucks conscience prevents him from doing what he believes is his moral duty and Huck akratically saves Jim out of friendship. S econd, the picture of the akratic agent as overcome by base urge threatens our sens e that akratic action is voluntary, since intentional actions are voluntar y and akratic actions are intent ional actions. The behavior of the akrates becomes difficult to construe as intentional action if we suppose the akratic agent is overcome by urges. Rejecting the familiar picture, we might instead describe the akrates as an agent who intentionally acts while judging that so me alternative action would be better or 56 The example and the point belong to Davidson, How is Weakness of the Will Possible?, p. 30. 57 Nomy Arpaly discusses such cases in Unprincipled Virtue p. 9-10.
30 superior. On Davidsons persua sive analysis of akratic actio n, an agent acts akratically just in case she acts contrary to her all-things considered j udgment about what is to be done; more formally, an agent acts ak ratically in performing some action x just in case she performs x intentionally, she believes there is at least so me other action y open to her, and she judges all-thi ngs considered that y would be better to do than x .58 Davidsons analysis captures the intuition that akratic actio ns are contrary to the agents belief that she acts in a way that she ought not to. Ther efore, it might be thought that an agent who intentionally pursues th e bad must act akratically. After all, an agent who intentionally pursues the bad believes her ac tion is bad and not at all good a nd thus it is plausible to suppose that the agent believes th at there is some other acti on available to her that is better than intentionally pursu ing the bad. Nonetheless, th ere are important differences between akratic action and inte ntionally pursuing the bad. The tooth-brushing example suffices to s how that an agent can act akratically without making a moral all-things-considered judgment th at she ought to act differently. The tooth-brushing example also shows that not every case of akratic action is a case of intentionally pursuing the bad: I might act against my all-things considered judgment when I get out of bed and brush my teeth, but I still think brushing my teeth is good in some respect. Similarly, when I smoke akra tically I believe that I ought not to smoke, but I still see some good in smoking. Generally, even if I fail to act in accord with my all-things considered judgment I might still perform an action I believe is good in some 58 The analysis is taken from Davidson, ibid., p. 22. Other philosophers have proposed analyses sympathetic with Davidsons construal of akratic ac tion as action equivalent to acting against ones all things considered judgment: s ee Gerasimos Santas, Platos Protagoras and Explanations of Weakness, Philosophical Review 65 (1966), pp. 3-33; A. Phillips Griffiths, Acting with Reason, Philosophical Quarterly 8 (1958), pp. 289-99; Robert Audi, Weakness of Will and Practical Judgment, Nous 13 (1979), pp. 173-96; and Al Mele, Irrationality chap. 2.
31 respect, however minimal, and thus fail to intentionally pursue the bad while acting akratically. Similarly, not every instance of intentiona lly pursuing the bad is an instance of akratic action; agents might intentionally purs ue the bad while failing to believe there is some available alternative course of action that is better or superior There are at least two sorts of instances of the intentional pur suit of the bad that ar e not also cases of akratic action; in both sorts of instances, the agent does not act in opposition to an allthings considered judgment that some altern ative action would be better or superior. First, note that we sometimes act just gi ven the recognition ther e is a reason to act and without considering altern atives. To explain how an agent could akratically act against her all-things consid ered judgment, Davidson suppos es the akratic actor makes two different kinds of practical judgments prior to acting: a conditional all-things considered judgment that an action would be desirable given all the evidence believed to be relevant, and a distinct unconditional judgm ent opposed to that all-things considered judgment.59 For example, on Davidsons analysis, an agent who smokes akratically would consider reasons for and against smoking and form a conditional all-things considered judgment, presumably that sh e ought not to smoke because, given all the evidence believed to be relevant, smoking is not desirable. However, the akratic agent also judges unconditionally th at she ought to smoke. If she acts on her unconditional judgment that she ought to smoke, she acts in opposition to her conditional all-things considered judgment that she ought not to smoke, and thus acts akratically. Note, however, that if an agent does not consider reasons for and ag ainst some course of action, 59 For the details, see Davidson, ibid., pp. 34-40. Davidson later identifies the distinct unconditional judgment with an intention to act.
32 then she could not form a conditional all-thi ngs considered judgment and an agent who does not form a conditional all-things consid ered judgment could not act akratically on the Davidsonian analysis of akratic action. Suppose an agent believes that smoking is bad while failing to believe th at smoking is at all good. S uppose that in some situation, however, the agent forms the unconditional judgment that she ought to smoke without making any judgment that she ought not to smoke. Or suppose that she just straightaway decides to smoke. Given the agent does not ju dge all-things considered that she should not smoke, she could not smoke akratically, ev en if she intentionally pursues the bad. There is another sort of case that sugges ts that not every case of the intentional pursuit of the bad is a case of akratic action. An agent might consider various reasons for performing various actions and form the all-th ings considered judgment that she ought to perform an action that she believ es is bad and not at all good to perform. It is not that she is faced with a moral dilemma and decides to perform an action that is the least-bad of the actions she believes are available to her.60 Instead, the agent I have in mind weighs the reasons for and against various courses of action, judges that the believed badness of some course of action is the strongest reas on she has, and proceeds to act accordingly. Perhaps a sufficiently depressed or despai ring agent would conclude that she should perform some action believed to be an infe rior alternative on the grounds that it is inferior. Perhaps Augustine deliberates about whether to steal pear s or apples, judges that it would be worse to steal the pears, a nd, on that basis, he in tentionally steals the pears. Perhaps Carla believes that cutting hers elf is the worst thing that she could do, but 60 This would not necessarily be a case of intentionally pursuing the bad because an agent who performs an action that is the lesser of all evils might believe that an action is good just becau se it is the lesser of two evils.
33 for that reason judges she has most reason to cut herself and acts accordingly. To be sure, this is a perverse way to judge what ones best or superior course of action is. However, the Davidsonian account of akratic action does not come with any built-in axiological theory, nor any account of what an agents strongest or weightiest reasons are, or any account of how to go about adding up reasons. If an agent can get herself to judge all-things considered th at she ought to perform an ac tion she believes is bad and not at all good, then if she can proceed to form and execute the further unconditional judgment to perform that action, she can inten tionally pursue the ba d without also acting akratically. Even if one allows for the possibility of akratic action, one might deny the possibility of intentionally pursuing the bad, for akratic actions are often performed for something the agent regards as good. If we stipul ate that for all akra tic actions, the agent still believes there is something good about th e action she performs, then we can perhaps comprehend akratic action in a way that we cannot comprehend intentionally pursuing the bad. I shall do more to make the inten tional pursuit of the ba d comprehensible in subsequent chapters. But if one can find room in an account of moral psychology for intentional though akratic action, we might also find room for the in tentional pursuit of the bad. I would suggest that the most plau sible explanations of akratic action suppose that there is a gap between believing there are reasons for performing an action and intentionally perfor ming that action, a gap that is to be filled in by an agents decision or choice or intention to act. Reasons for acti on do not all by themselves determine what an agent will do. But if quite generally there is a gap between believing there are reasons for performing an action and acting in tentionally, then it might be the case that an agent can
34 resist the force of reasons as she understands them or act in ways altogether differently from how such reasons prescribe. Accounts of akratic action will ha ve to explain how it is that an agent can resist the force of reas on that recommend acting in a way contrary to the way the akratic agent actually acts. And if an agent can intend and act intentionally in ways contrary the force of reasons for acti on, it seems equally possible that an agent could intend in opposition to what she believes would be good to do. Conclusion In this introductory chapter, I have attempted to motivate and defend the desire bad thesis that agents can desire what th ey believe is bad and not at all good, the intentionbad thesis that agents can intentionally pursue wh at they believe to be bad and not at all good, and the reasonbad thesis that agents can act intenti onally for the reason that their action is bad and not at all good. The project of this first chapter is simply to clarify the three theses; defending them is another matter. In the next ch apter, I defend the desirebad thesis and in later chapters, I defend the intentionbad and reasonbad theses
35 CHAPTER 2 DESIRE AND DESIRING THE BAD . whenever the desire for something igni tes in our hearts, we are moved to pursue it and seek it and, seeking and pursuing it, we are led to a thousand unruly ends. Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, La Galatea1 Introduction In this chapter, I defend the desirebad thesis: agents can desire what they believe to be bad and not at all good. I discuss comp eting accounts of desires and desiring and I argue that there are plausible accounts of desire that permit the possibility of desiring the bad. While there are some accounts of desire that do not appear to permit the possibility of desiring the bad, we have independent reasons for rejectin g those accounts. For the purposes of the ensuing discussion, I accept that desire always underlies intentional action, insofar as I accept that it is necessary for an agent to act intentionally that the agent has some desire that expl ains, or potentially explains, her acting.2 As I note below, many philosophers of very different philosophical sympathies accept that desire always underlies intentional ac tion. The thesis that desiri ng always underlies action may be false; indeed, some prominent philosophers reject it.3 But if desiring does always underlie action, then it is plau sible to suppose that an agent can intentionally pursue what 1 Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, La Galatea Book IV. 2 As noted below, the thesis that desire always underlies action might be confused with the Humean theory of motivation; I do not know that I endorse the Humean theory. My argument for the thesis that desire underlies all intentional action depends upon the truism that, for any intentional action, we would not have so acted unless we wanted to so act, and I stipulate that want and desire denote the same kind of psychological state. 3 See, for example, Jonathan Dancy, Practical Reality
36 she believes to be bad and not at all good onl y if she desires what she believes is bad and not at all good. So if desiring does always underlie intentional ac tion, the truth of the intentionbad and reasonbad theses depends upon the truth of the desirebad thesis. Relatedly, if the desirebad thesis is false, there is so me reason to doubt the other two. Two plausible assumptions will therefore guide the discussion that follows. First, I suppose that desires play an e ssential role in the production an d explanation of intentional action. Second, I suppose that the explanat ion of intentional action is a kind of explanation Donald Davidson refers to as rationalizing explanation or rationalization .4 In ordinary usage, rationaliz ation denotes a purported just ification of an action, but a justification that seems bogus. In wh at follows, I follow Davidsons usage of rationalization to denote an explanation of inten tional action that explains by revealing what it is that an agent saw, or thought she saw, about the action she performed that appealed to her and led her to act.5 That there is something about an action that appeals to an agent rationalizes the performance of that action, a nd, when the explanation is a correct one, suffices to explain that action. The paradigmatic form of a rationalizing explanation is to cite the acting agents de sire to realize some end and belief that performing this action will realize that end.6 These two assumptions stand together fairly well. If desires always unde rlie intentional action, then any explanation of intentional action must explain by citing de sires. If rationalization is the means for explaining 4 Davidson, Actions, Reasons, and Causes, reprinted in his Essays on Actions and Events pp. 3-19. Davidson also famously argues that rationalizing explanations are causal explanations, but this aspect of Davidsons thesis need not be discussed here. 5 Davidson, ibid., p. 3. 6 Davidson, ibid., p. 5; while Davidson speaks of pro-a ttitudes rather than desires, Davidson also suggests desires are a sub-class of pro-attit udes. Therefore, if pro-attitudes can play role in rationalizing explanations, then so can desires.
37 intentional action, then since de sire underlie inten tional action, rationalizing explanations must cite an agents desires. Humean Accounts of Desire One popular account of desire is what I shall refer to as the Humean Account of Desire or Humeanism Hume famously argues that r eason alone can never be a motive to any action of the will.7 Roughly, for Hume, reason refers to the faculty of theoretical reason that produces belief. C ontemporary Humeans often read Hume to mean that reason cannot supply the motive of a ny action of the will, and therefore beliefs, the product of theoretical reason ing, cannot be motives that can lead an agent to act. So what supplies and constitutes motives to act must be something besides belief: namely, desires. Contemporary Humeans have been impressed with the distinction Hume draws between desire and belief and have followed Hume in distinguishing desires from beliefs, in part, by appealing to the motivational for ce that desires possess and beliefs purportedly lack.8 I cannot explore the full implications of the Humean account here, but I do want to examine whether desiring the bad is consis tent with accounts of desire proposed by prominent contemporary Humeans. I isolate vari ous theses that seem to be constitutive of the Humean account a nd then argue that the desirebad thesis is consistent with Humeanism about desire. Here is one theme that is popular among Hu means: desire functions as a class term, including in its extension all manner of propositional attitudes that can produce and explain behavior and intenti onal action. Since psychologica l states like fears and hopes 7 David Hume, Treatise of Human Nature Bk. II, Pt. III, Sect. III. 8 For representative examples of contemporary Humean s, see Michael Smith, The Humean Theory of Motivation, Mind 96, pp. 36-61 and Chapter Four of his The Moral Problem and David Lewis, Desire as Belief, reprinted in his Papers in Ethics and Social Philosophy
38 and wishes and intentions and so forth can produce and explain beha vior and intentional action, then, the Humean claims, states lik e fears and hopes and wishes and intentions are desires.9 Here then is a first attempt at capturing a Humean thesis about desire: a psychological state counts as a desire just in case that state can produce and explain behavior and intentional action. Yet this first attempt at a Humean thesis cannot be constitutive of Humeanism. It is widely conceded by Humeans and non-Humeans alike that beliefs must play a role in the production and explanation of intentional acti on; even if one desires something, if one lacks any beliefs about the object of ones de sire, such as the necessary or sufficient means for acquiring the object of ones desire one is not going to do much of anything. But if we concede that beliefs do have a role to play in the produc tion ad explanation of action, then given the first attempt at a Humean thesis, beliefs are desires. Note also that some philosophers who identify themselves as non -Humeans argue that some beliefs, such as a belief that an acti on is prudent or morally require d, are sufficient to motivate an agent to act absent any distin ct psychological state that in tuitively counts as a desire.10 But these non-Humeans do not claim that motiv ationally efficacious beliefs are desires. The first attempt at a Humean thesis ca nnot do justice to a disagreement between Humeans and some non-Humeans and thus needs to be revised. Here is a revision: desire functions as a catch-all term, including in its extension all manner of non-cognitive propositional attitudes that are constitutively motivating. 9 See Michael Smith, ibid., p. 55 for discussion of this point. 10 See, for example, Thomas Nagel, The Possibility of Altruism and John McDowell, Are Moral Imperatives Hypothetical Imperatives?, reprinted in his Mind, Value, and Reality
39 Since beliefs are cognitive states rather than non-cognitive states, beliefs are not candidates for falling under the extensi on of desire in the first place. It is fine to suppose that de sires, but not cognitive states like belief, are essential to motivation but some explanations must be offered why desires, but not beliefs, are essential to motivation. The conviction that desires but not beliefs are essential to motivation is often expressed in the claim that desire and belief have different directions of fit.11 Desires, and non-cognitive conative stat es generally, have a world-to-mind direction of fit, insofar as they are satisfied when the world fits the mind. Alternatively, beliefs, and cognitive states ge nerally, have a mind-to-world direction of fit, insofar as beliefs are true when the mi nd fits the world. The claim that beliefs and desires have different directions of fit helps to explain the Humean thesis that desires can produce and explain intentional action in a way that beliefs cannot. Consider Michael Smiths analysis of what the difference in the direction of fit of desires and beliefs amounts to: . the difference between beliefs and desi res in terms of direction of fit comes down to a difference between the counterfact ual dependence of a belief and a desire that p on a perception that not p ; roughly, a belief that p is a state that tends to go out of existence in the pr esence of a perception that not p whereas a desire that p tends to endure, disposing a subject in that state to bring it about that p Thus, we may say, attributions of beliefs a nd desires require that different kinds of counterfactuals are true of the subjects to whom they are attributed. We may say that this is what a difference in their directions of fit is .12 11 I am uncertain of the origins of the locution direction of fit; I had thought the locution first appeared in Anscombe, but it seems not to appear at all, although Anscombes discussion of the shopkeeper pursued by a detective is often cited in the discussion of the dir ections of fit of belief and desire. Austin uses the locution to distinguish different sorts of speech act s; See Austins How to TalkSome Simple Ways, Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 53, pp. 227-46. For further discussion, see Lloyd Humberstone, Direction of Fit, Mind 101 (Jan. 1992), pp. 59-83. 12 Smith, The Humean Theory of Motivation, p. 54. For critical discussion of Smiths proposal, see Lloyd Humberstone, ibid., pp. 63-5; G. F. Schueler, Pro-attitudes and Direction of Fit, Mind 100, pp. 277-81; David Sobel and David Copp, Against Direction of Fit Accounts of Belief and Desire, Analysis
40 In a similar vein, Robert Stalnaker has proposed that to desire that P is to be disposed to act in ways that would tend to bring it about that P in a world in which ones beliefs whatever they are, were true.13 Both Smith and Stalnaker suppose that desires are desires that P where P is understood as some proposition. We do not strictly desire beer or dissertations, but rather we desire that we have a beer or that our dissertation be finished in a timely manner. At the risk of obscuring a thesis that demands a technical formulation, we may say that to have a desire is to be motivated to bring it about that some proposition be made true. Thus, it is no su rprise that there is an intimate connection between desire and action according to Smith and Stalnakers dispositional accounts of the direction of fit of desires and beliefs: to desire that P just is to be disposed to make P true and the paradigm means for making some proposition P true is by performing an action. I make it the case that I am enjoyi ng a beer or finishing my dissertation by intentionally getting a beer or by intentionally revising my dissertation. But to believe that P is not necessarily to be di sposed to bring it about that P If one truly believes that P then P is already the case and there is nothing to bring about. There are cases in which I believe something is the case that I am not disposed to bring about: I might believe that I am in great pain without being disposed to bring it about that I am in great pain. There are also cases in which I desire what is the case: I might desire to eat pasta salad while eating pasta salad. Once we are clear about what kind of dispositional state desires and beliefs are, it is no surprise that desire s but not beliefs, are intimately connected to motivation and action. 61, pp. 44-53; Al Mele, Motivation: Essentially Motivation-Constituting Attitudes, The Philosophical Review 104:3, pp. 394-5. 13 Stalnaker, Inquiry p. 15, emphasis added.
41 It is not my intent to judg e the adequacy of Humean acc ounts of desire or direction of fit accounts of desire and be lief or to judge dispositional accounts of desire and belief. My interest is in the implications of Hum ean accounts of desire fo r the possibility of desiring the bad: the Humean account of desi re does not preclude desiring the bad and actually helps to explain the possibility of desiring the bad. The Humean might follow Hu me in claiming that desire s and beliefs are distinct existences; if desires and be liefs are distinct existences then absent some further argument, it is plausible that there is no necessary connection between an agent having some belief and having some corresponding desire In particular, absent some further argument, the Humean is not forced to clai m that we can only desi re what we believe good nor that the belief that something is bad cr owds out a desire for that thing. I have supposed that Humeans include states like whim s in the extension of desire, but as I understand whims, it is possible to have a wh im to perform an action without believing that what one pursues is good. If desires and beliefs are distinctive states in our psychological economies and if there are no necessary connections between them, then it should not be surprising to fi nd that desires and evaluative beliefs can come apart such that we can desire what we be lieve is bad and not at all good. One difficulty with the thesis that desires a nd beliefs are distinct existences and that there are no necessary connectio ns between desiring and believ ing is that agents do seem with great regularity to desire what they be lieve is good or valuable or otherwise worth pursuing. But if beliefs do not themselves motiv ate agents in a way th at desires do and if there are never any necessary connections betw een beliefs and desires, it is difficult to explain why agents regularly come to desire what they believe to be good. In response,
42 the Humean might claim that agents have a gene ral desire to pursue what they believe is good. The Humean does not need suppose that th e desire to pursue what one believes is good is irresistibly strong, but only strong enoug h to ensure the alleged regularity obtains between believing something is good and being motivated to pursue that thing. However, this picture seems to allow the possibility of agents having desires to perform actions they believe to be bad and to desire to pursue what they believe to be bad and not at all good. So Humeans can explain the regular connec tion between believing something is good and being motivated to pursue it without ruling out the possibility of desiring the bad. Further, understanding desires as dispositions helps to explain how agents could desire something while believing that the object of the desire is bad and not at all good. Consider an agent like Carla who desires to harm herself in spite of believing that harming herself is bad and not at all good. Given Smiths analysis of desires as dispositions, insofar as Carla desires to harm herself, then given her perception that she is not presently harming herself, he r to desire to harm herself di sposes her to bring it about that she harms herself. If desires genera lly are dispositions in the way Smith and Stalnaker suggest, then desires for the bad might persist and constitute an agents motivation despite an agents be lief that the object of desi re is bad and not at all good. Suppose that Humeanism about desire is co nstituted by the thesis that desires are non-cognitive propositional atti tudes that can produce a nd explain behavior and intentional action and that dispos e agents to bring about the c ontent of the that-clause that is the object of the desire. The Humean account of desire does not imply that the desirebad thesis is false nor does it preclude desiring the bad. Unfortunately for the proponent of the desirebad thesis, the Humean account is not the only plausible account
43 of desire available. I consider some altern atives below. So while the proponent of the possibility of desiring the bad should be reli eved she has an ally in the Humean, she cannot quite rest contented. Nagel and Motivated Desires The Humean account of desire may be the dominant account of desire but it has not been endorsed by some of our best philosophe rs. Some contemporary philosophers with Kantian leanings have argued that some psyc hological states that are more like beliefs than Humean desires can supply motivation. In a brief but influen tial argument, Thomas Nagel attempts to resist accounting for al l motivation in terms of Humean desires.14 Since Nagels account of desire has been rather influential, it will be useful to determine whether desiring the bad is consiste nt with Nagels account of desiring. Nagel rejects Humeanism about desire inso far as he rejects th e assumptions that all motivation has desire at its source and that belief by itself cannot produce action.15 Surprisingly, however, Nagel does not reject the thesis th at desire underlies action. Instead, Nagel admits the truth of a t rivial claim that it is a logically necessary condition that a desire be present given that an agent is motivated.16 Nagel claims that it simply follows from the fact that. . [some] considerations motivat e me that I have a desire: if the prospect of my future happiness motivates me, then it simply follows, according to Nagel, that I desire my future happiness.17 Yet this admission does not 14 Nagel, ibid., pp. 29-32. 15 Nagel, ibid., p. 27. 16 Nagel, ibid., pp. 29-30. See also Wallace, How to Argue About Practical Reason, p. 360. 17 Nagel, ibid., p. 29.
44 commit Nagel to Humeanism about desire for Nagel distinguishes between different kinds of desires, not all of whic h are amenable to Humeanism. Nagel distinguishes desires that are motivated from desires that are unmotivated Initially, Nagel claims that mo tivated desires, like beliefs, are the product of decision or deliberation and are to be dist inguished from unmotivated de sires that simply come to us and assail us in the way that appetites and some emotions do.18 Presumably, Nagel means that motivated and unmotivated desires should be jointly exhaustive of desires, such that every desire is either motivated or unmotivated. Unfortunately, not every desire is either the product of decision or deliberat ion or simply assails us. Long-standing desires for ones health or for the flourish ing of ones children need not result from decision or deliberation, but neither do they have the sort of phenomenology such that they assail the desiring agent. Fortunately, Nagels intent is clear. Nagel surely intended to distinguish motivated and un motivated desires and given Nagels own suggestions, we can distinguish them as fo llows: motivated desire s are conative states acquired as a result of decision or deliber ation, while unmotivated desires are conative states not acquired as a resu lt of decision or deliberation.19 While Nagel accepts that desire underlies every action, he does not accept that unmotivated desire underlies every action. Given the distinction betw een motivated and unmotivated desires, Nagel claims we cannot conclude that all motivation is ultimately grounded in unmotivated desires since it is an open ques tion whether there must always be an unmotivated desire that initiates decision or deliber ation that produces motivated 18 Nagel, ibid., p. 29. 19 I borrow here from Schueler, Desire pp. 20-1. See also Wall ace, ibid., p. 363.
45 desires.20 Presumably, the Humean needs the cla im that all action must ultimately be the result of some unmotivated desire since motivated desires appear to be more like cognitive states like beliefs rather than non-cognitive states like desires as the Humean understands them. But if some cognitive stat e can produce and explain intentional action, then Humeanism about desire must be rejected. In the same way that it is not my present purpose to evaluative the validity of the Humean account of desire, it is not my present purpose to evaluate Nagels critique of the Humean account nor to assess whether motivated desires all by themselves are capable of motivating agents to act. Rather, I want to assess whether Nagels thesis that action can be produced by motivated desires implies that desiring the bad is not possible and that the desirebad thesis is false. As far as I can tell, the desirebad thesis is consistent with Nagels thesis. Note that I have not disputed that the or igins of some desires lie in decision or deliberation. Admittedly, my account of Carl a, for example, leaves it open whether her desire to harm herself is motivated rather than unmotivated, but I can see no reason to suppose that the proponent of the desirebad thesis should deny that motivated desires for the bad are possible. Suppose that some ge nuine desires are the product of decision or deliberation. This leaves open what sort of deliberation or decision produces those desires and what the basis of the agents deliber ation or decision is. For all that has been said, an agent might decide to perform some action and thus acquire a desire to act because she believes that the action is bad and not at all good. If the reasonbad thesis is correct, then agents can decide to act for the reason that their action is bad and not at all 20 Nagel, ibid., p. 30.
46 good to perform; if an agent acquires a desire to act as a result of her decision to act for the reason that her action is bad and not at all good, then she has acquired a motivated desire for the bad. Suppose, for example, that an agent engages in practical deliberation about what she is to do but becomes frustrated as a result of her inability to come to any practical conclusion. As a result of her frustr ation, she decides to perform an action that she believes utterly lacks any good consequences and will only result in bad consequences and she proceeds to punch a hole in the wall. Since my frustrated agent came to be motivated to punch the wall as a result of her decision or deliberation, her desire to punch the wall was a motivated desire for what she believes to be bad and not at all good. Thus, it appears that desi res for the bad can be motivated. It may be objected that, by Nagels own light s, not just any delib eration or decision can produce motivated desires but only ra tional decision or de liberation. After claiming that a desire to s hop for groceries upon discovering th at the refrigerator is empty is a motivated desire, Nagel claims Rational . explanation is just as much in order for that desire as for the action itself.21 I admit it is unclear to me what Nagel means by rational deliberation; were that he said more.22 Perhaps any decision or deliberation that produces a desire for the bad is not rational. If not, then ev en if an agent comes to be motivated by her non-rational decision or delibe ration, it does not follow that her desire is motivated in Nagels sense. Suppose that no rational delibe ration could produce a motivated desire for what one believes to be bad and not at all good so that there could be 21 Nagel, ibid., p. 29, emphasis added. 22 Wallace focuses upon Nagels claim that motivated, but not unmotivat ed, desires are susceptible to rational explanation. Wallace argues that insofar as motivated, but not unmotivated desires, are susceptible to rational explanation, motivated desires can be rati onalized by other propositional attitudes that an agent has; see Wallace, ibid., p. 364.
47 no motivated desires for the bad. It would s till be the case that desiring the bad is possible: even if there cannot be motivated desires for the bad, there still might be unmotivated desires for the bad. Even if it can be shown that motiv ated desires for the bad are not possible, the proponent of the desirebad thesis can retreat to the claim that all desires for the bad are unmotivated. I conclude, then, that even if Nagels motiv ated desires function as he thinks it does not follow that desiring the bad is not possi ble. Humeans and nonHumeans about desire can both claim that desiring the bad is possible and that the desirebad thesis is true. Hedonic Accounts of Desire Desires, according to the Hu mean, are non-cognitive states that dispose an agent to bring something about. The kinds of desires Na gel is interested in have a particular kind of etiology that non-cognitive states disposing an agent to act might lack. Humeans like Smith and non-Humeans like Nagel disagree ab out what kinds of origins desires might have. It might be complained, however, that both accounts of desire miss something that is crucial to understandi ng the nature of desire. What is essential for something to be a desire, it might be claimed, is not that it disposes an agen t to act nor that it has any particular kind of etiology. Instead, it might be claimed, it is essentia l to desiring that an agent who desires P is disposed to feel pleasure if it seems to her that P and perhaps that she is disposed to feel pain if it seems that notP ; this is a hedonic account of desire.23 John Stuart Mill appears to accept something lik e a hedonic account of desire in claiming desiring a thing and finding it pl easurable, aversion to it and th inking of it as painful, are 23 Timothy Schroeder discusses hedonic accounts of desire and calls them by this name in his Three Faces of Desire pp. 27-35. I borrow his formulation, ibid., p. 27.
48 phenomena entirely inseparable or, rath er, two parts of the same phenomenon.24 More recently, Galen Strawson appears to accept someth ing like a hedonic account of desire in claiming that the primary linkage of the noti on of desire to a notion other than itself is not to the notion of action or behavior but rather to the notion of being pleased.25 Neither Mill nor Strawson is guilty of advocating a kind of psychological hedonism according to which our only motive for doing anything is to derive pleasure or avoid pain. Mill and Strawson are only committed to the claim that it is a necessary condition of desiring something that one would feel pleasurable sensations, for example, upon satisfying the desire: desiring might only be necessarily co rrelated with pleasurable sensations according to hedoni c accounts of desire. On hedonic accounts of desire, to desire something is perhaps inter alia to feel pleasure upon acquiring the object of desire or perhaps to be relieved of painfu l feelings. According to hedonic accounts of desire, at least one face of desire is its hedonic face. It is far from clear that hedonic accounts of desire are correct, esp ecially if desire is understood as having the broad sort of extension that, for example, Humeans suppose that it has. No doubt if I desire to finish my dissertation on time I will at least enjoy the sensation of relief that sweeps over me when I submit my final draft, but I might also have a yen to do a cartwheel down the hall and feel neither pleasure nor pleasurable relief upon actually doing a cartwheel down the hall. I can also imagine creat ures incapable of feeling either pleasure or pain, call th em super-stoics, who nonetheless perform intentional actions; even supe r-stoics might want to do things on occasion. But suppose 24 John Stuart Mill, Utilitarianism p. 49. 25 Galen Strawson, Mental Reality p. 280.
49 that hedonic accounts of desire ar e correct and that it is part of the very nature of desire that a desiring agent feels pleasure or the absence of painful feelings upon satisfying a desire. Would the validity of hedoni c accounts of desire imply that the desirebad thesis is false? It might appear so. Most of us believe that there is something good about feeling pleasurable sensations and almost all of us believe that there is something good about being relieved of painful sensations. Ther efore, it might appear that any agent who desires anything at all will believe that th ere is something good about obtaining the object of her desire: obtaining the object of her de sire will produce pleasurable sensations or will relive her of painful feelings and that is something good. However, we are rather easily talked out of the thesis that pleasure is always beli eved to be good. To adapt an example from Gary Watson, imagine a stoic monk who believes that his sexual desires are the work of the devil, that the very fact that he has sexual desi res shows that he is corrupt to the bone, and that any pleasure he derives from satisfying his sexual desires is altogether bad.26 It is far from clear that the monk must believe that there is something good about the pleasure that he derives from satisfying his sexual desires.27 To borrow a locution from Watson, the monk does not believe that satisfying his sexual desires is represented by a positive entry, however small, on his desirability matrix.28 Since the monks sexual desires are desires for what he believes is bad and not at all good and since he believes that the pleasure he would derive from satisfying his sexual desires is bad and 26 Gary Watson, Free Agency, reprinted in Free Will Watson, ed., p. 101. 27 He may think there is something good about getting rid of his sexual desires, but that is surely not the same thing as satisfying his sexual desires and it is surely some other desire that leads him to rid himself of his sexual desires if he does. 28 Watson, ibid., p. 101.
50 not at all good, it seems to follow that the monk desires the bad. I conclude that even if hedonic accounts of desire are correct and it is necessary to desire something that one feels pleasurable sensations or the relief of painful feelings upon satisfying the desire, the desirebad thesis might still be correct. I have surveyed Humean accounts of desire, Nagels non-Humean account of motivated desires, and hedonic accounts of desi re and I have conclude d that none of them must be at odds with the desirebad thesis. There remains one account of desire that does pose a challenge to the desirebad thesis, however. I consider this account below. Thomism about Desire In what follows, I shall refer to th e following claim by Thomas Aquinas as Aquinas thesis: people desire th ings because they think them good.29 In tribute to Aquinas, I shall refer to th e large number of philosophers who endorse something like Aquinas thesis as Thomists and I suppose that endorsement of something like Aquinas thesis is Thomism about desire. The foundations of Thomism precede Aquinas himself: Aristotle claims that all desire aims at some good30, and Kant attributes a version of Aquinas thesis to scholastic philosophers.31 It is what more recent Thomists have had to say about desire that concerns me here.32 In what follows, I investigate what a 29 From Aquinas: Selected Philosophical Writings Timothy McDermott, ed., p. 340. 30 Aristotle, The Nicomachean Ethics 1094a2. 31 At 5:59 of the Critique of Practical Reason Kant refers to the old formula of the schools. In Mary Gregors translation, the formula is rendered: We desire nothing except under the form of the good; nothing is avoided except under the form of the bad. 32 Elizabeth Anscombe, Intention ; Warren Quinn, Pu tting Rationality in its Place reprinted in Value, Welfare, and Morality Frey and Morris, eds., pp 26-50; Thomas Scanlon, The Importance of What We Owe Each Other chap. 1; Sergio Tenenbaum, Accidie Evaluation, and Motivation from Weakness of Will and Practical Irrationality Stroud and Tappolet, eds., pp. 147-71 ; Joseph Raz, On the Moral Point of View from Reason, Ethics, and Society J. B. Schneewind, ed. pp. 70-2 and Agency, Reason, and the
51 commitment to Thomism entails. It seem s that if Thomism is correct, then the desirebad thesis is false: if desiring implies thinking that the object of desire is good, then desiring what one believes is bad and not at all good is impossible. Note that Aquinas stops short of claimi ng we desire things because we believe them good. Contemporary Thomists have te nded to follow Aquinas on this point. Tenenbaum suggests desiring is conceiving some thing to be good from some evaluative perspective.33 Raz claims that what is desire d must in some way be seen as good.34 Stampe claims that what is characteristic of desi re is that the object of desire seems to an agent as if the thing would be good.35 But one can think that P, conceive that P is the case, one can see that P, and it can seem to one that P, without believing that So Thomists, including Aquinas, are not committed to the thesis that desiring necessarily implies believing the object of desire is good, even if the Thomist is committed to claiming that desiring demands being in a belief-l ike state in which the object of desire is represented as being good. I shall use the term 'thinking' to refer to this cognitive state. Note also that Aquinas thesis is co nsistent with all of the following: T1 : Necessarily, we desire if we think is good T2 : Necessarily, we desire only if we think is good T3 : Necessarily, we desire if and only if we think is good T4 : A desire for is identical to thinking is good.36 Good from his Engaging Reason pp. 22-45; Dennis Stampe, The Authority of Desire, The Philosophical Review 96, pp. 335-81. 33 Tenenbaum, ibid., p. 148. 34 Raz, ibid., p. 72. 35 Stampe, ibid., p. 356. See also Quinn, ibid., p. 29. 36 Compare Tenenbaum, ibid., p. 148.
52 Different contemporary Thomists accept some or all of T1-T4. T4 is the strongest of all the above formulations of Aquinas thesis, for only T4 implies that a desire is a cognitive state.37 The thesis that desires are cognitive states is not without precedent38 but it is a controversial thesis that is explic itly denied by Humeans, for example.39 At any rate, T4 is only true if the weaker formulations of Aquinas thesis are true. Similarly, T3 is stronger than either T1 and is only true if both T1 and T2 are. T1 amounts to a sufficiency condition for desiring and T2 amount s to a necessary condition. T1 cannot be constitutive of Thomism since T1 does not pr eclude the possibility of desiring the bad: that thinking something is good is suffici ent for desiring does not imply that only thinking that something is good is sufficient for desiring. Further, T1 is plausibly regarded as false; thinking that something is good is not sufficient fo r desiring that thing. It is commonly supposed that an agent can fail to be sufficien tly or appropriately motivated to pursue something the agent believes to be good, if the agent is weak of will or suffers from accidie and so forth.40 The worry is not just that an agent suffering from extreme accidie might be too weakly motivated to actually pursue what she thinks is good, but rather that she might fail to be motiv ated to pursue it alt ogether. Desires are conative states. An agent who lacked any motivation to pursue would not be in a conative state with obtaining as its object. But an agen t who lacked a conative state 37 Tenenbaum, for example, clai ms that desiring should be identified with conceiving of something as good from an evaluative perspective. See Tenenbaum, ibid., p. 157 and 158. See also Stampe, ibid., pp. 358-9 where Stampe identifies desires with a kind of perception. 38 See, for example, Jonathan Dancy, Practical Reality and Huw Price, Defending Desire-as-Belief, Mind 98, pp.119-27. 39 For arguments that desires must be distinct from be liefs and that cognitive states cannot also be conative states, see Smith, ibid., p. 54. 40 See Stocker, ibid., pp. 741-6.
53 directed at would therefore lack a desire to pursue If all this is correct, then I submit that if extreme cases of accidie are possibl e, then T1 is false just because an agent can fail to desire what she thinks is good. If T1 is false, then T3 and T4 are false as well. This leaves T2 as the most plausible a nd least controversial version of Thomism. Admittedly, Aquinas thesis is not identical to T2: Aquinas claims that people desire things because they think them good, and perh aps the because of Aquinas explanation is the because of causality. T2 only states that thinking th e object of desire is good is necessary for desiring and does not imply that there is a causal relation between thinking good and desiring. But T2 does imply that thinking good and desiring are necessarily correlated and if two events are not necessarily correlated then they do not necessarily stand in a causal relation. S o, the truth of Aquinas thesis depends upon the truth of T2. Thus, in what follows I shall be concerned wi th T2 and suppose that T2 at least partly constitutes Thomism about desire. Unfortunately, some philosophers who appear to be Thomists about desire do not always seem to endorse T2. Quinn suggests th at, of necessity, we evaluate the object of desire as good, and this suggests that Quinn acce pts that thinking the object of desire is good is necessary for desiring.41 However, Quinn also claims only that an agent may desire something that he evaluates as pleasan t or interesting or advantageous or decent, for example.42 Again, Raz claims that what is desi red must in some way be seen as good, and this suggests that Raz accepts that thinking that the object of desire is good is 41 Quinn, ibid., p. 40. 42 Quinn, ibid., p. 40. Quinn claims that to call an experience pleasant or unpleasant is already to bring it under an evaluative concept; ibid., p. 37. I wish Quinn had said more about this, for I am uncertain what it is to bring an experience under a concept, but for my part, I have no trouble imagining an agent who lacks the concept of goodness who nonetheless truly a nd sincerely calls an experience pleasurable.
54 necessary for desiring. But Raz, apparently, does not claim that an agent who desires something must think that the thing is good. Instead, Raz only claims that an agent desires something only if she thinks that, roughly, the thing instantiates some property where that property is a good-making property.43 Quinn and Raz thus appear to accept, not T2, but something like the following variant of T2: T2* : Necessarily, we desire only if we think is G, where G is some good-making property.44 I suggest that T2* is not a viable Thomist alternative to T2. There are two difficulties awaiting the Thomist who endorses T2*. First, T2* appears to be consistent with the desirebad thesis, as I explain below. A ph ilosopher who accepts the truth of the desirebad thesis seems to be forced to reject the th esis that thinking the object of desire is good is necessary for desiring, and thus a philo sopher who accepts T2* appears be forced to reject T2 and thus to reject Thom ism. Second, T2* has the counter-intuitive implication that what is ac tually bad cannot be desired. Consider my suggestion that T2* is consistent with the desirebad thesis. T2* only demands that an agent thinks, roughly, that this action instantiates some property G where G is a good-making property, but not that an agent thinks that this action is good. Suppose that being pleasurable is a good-ma king property. My ascetic monk might think that some act of fornication, D, is pleasurabl e, but also think that performing pleasurable actions is bad and not at all good. Since my monk does think that his act of fornication 43 My evidence for this is contained in Razs following response to Stocker: Stocker is mistaken to think that I attribute a kind of high order reflectiveness to people: for example that they not only think of their actions as pleasurable or thrilling or beneficial . but also think of them as good in virtue of possessing those properties. All I ever claimed is that people act for considerations which we classify as a belief in the possession of a good making property. See Stocker s Raz on the Intelligibility of Bad Acts, pp. 305-6, for discussion. 44 I borrow this formulation of T2* from a suggestion by Stocker, ibid., p. 306.
55 instantiates a property that is in fact a good-making property, then according to T2*, my monk can desire to perform the act of fornicat ion. So it appears that, consistently with T2*, my monk can desire what she believes is bad and not at all good. Hence, T2* is consistent with the desirebad thesis. If the Thom ist wishes to deny the desirebad thesis, her most obvious move is to reject T2* and to revert to T2. At any rate, Thomists have independent reason to reject T2*: T2* implies that agents cannot desire something th at is actually bad, even if it is believed to be good. It is surely plausible that I can desire someth ing that, in fact, in stantiates no good-making properties and thus is not at all good insofar as I mistakenly believe there is something good about it. I might mistakenly believe that the drink in front of me is a gin and tonic when it is really a petrol and tonic. I might come to desire to drink insofa r as I believe there is something good about gin and tonics, bu t in fact there is nothing at all good about the petrol and tonic that is actually before me since it will not quench my thirst and will surely make me sick. However, T2* rules out the possibility of desi ring something that is actually bad and not at all good, si nce T2* states that it is necessary to desire something that it instantiates some goodmaking property. So the Thom ist has independent reason not to endorse T2*. I have suggested that Thomists seem committed to claiming that the desirebad thesis is false. However, some Thomists who endorse T2 argue that we can desire the bad.45 To explain the possibility of desiring th e bad, some Thomists have noted we can have multiple evaluative thoughts about an object of desire. Drawing an analogy 45 Tenenbaum, ibid., p. 158. Scanlon suggests that it is possible to have a desire to purchase a new computer, for example, while one one s considered judgment is that there is no reason to purchase a computer; Scanlon, ibid., p. 43. Th is suggests that Scanlon might accept that we could desire the bad.
56 between desire and belief is perhaps illustrative. It is possible to think that there is an oasis in the middle of a desert highwaythat is, for it to seem as if there is an oasis in the middle of the highwaywhile al so believing that there is not and could not be an oasis there.46 Similarly, some Thomists claim it is possi ble to think that having a cigarette is good, for example, while also believing that ha ving a cigarette would be bad and not at all good. An agent with conflic ting evaluative beliefs is in a problematic mindset, but just so long as I have the thought that having a cigarette is good, I can desire what I also believe is bad and not at all good consistently with T2. Perhaps Thomists can accommodate some instances of desiring the bad in the way suggested in the previous pa ragraph, such that the T homist can perhaps allow for instances of weakly desiring the bad: agents who weakly desire the bad believe that the object of their desire is bad and not at all good, but they also think or conceive of the object of their desire as good in some aspect.47 Thomists cannot, however, accommodate the possibility of strongly desiring the bad: ag ents who strongly de sire the bad believe that the object of their desire is bad and not at all good and do not also conceive or think of the object of their desire as at all good. The paradigmatic instances of desiring the bad that I have discussed are instances of str ongly desiring the bad. Carla, for example, believes that harming herself is bad and does not think of harming herself as at all good. Instances of strongly desiri ng the bad would be counter-examples to T2 since, by 46 The word think, as I employ it, is a term of art intended to denote a cognitive state with representational content that is not necessarily a belief. The sense of t hink, as I employ it, is intended to include not only beliefs in its extension, but also cognitive states like seemings and conjectures and hypotheses and supposings and so forth. The word thought, as I employ it, is a noun that denotes the mental state had by an agent who is thinking in the above sense. 47 Actually, I suspect that some Thomists cannot even allow that weak desires for the bad are possible but the explanation depends upon discussing what Thomists claimed about the explanation and production of intentional action. I pursue this matter below.
57 definition, an agent who strongly desires the bad fails to think the object of her desire is good. The Thomist must therefore claim either that strong desires for the bad are not possible or that strong desires for the bad ar e not really desires properly understood. In what follows, I shall suppose that the desirebad thesis is a thesis a bout the possibility of strongly desiring the bad. Thomists have claimed that any number of psychological stat es are not really desires properly understood even if they are des ire-like. We speak not only of having desires, but also of having urges and impulses and cravings and so forth. Like desires, states like urges and impulses and cravings can be part of what produces and explains intentional action. However, for reasons to be discussed below, some Thomists have claimed that urges and impulses an d cravings and the like are not desires, even if they are desire-like.48 I shall refer to the class of desire-l ike states Thomists have distinguished from desires proper as faux desires. It is intu itively possible to have an urge for what one believes to be bad and not at all good. Bu t if urges are faux de sires and not desires proper, then that we can have an urge for the bad does not show that T2 is false, since T2 is a thesis about desires proper. Further, even if an urge is part of the explanation of why an agent acts, a Thomist might deny that urge s rationalize our actions. I can surely satisfy my urge to have a cigarette by smoking intentiona lly and thus my urge to smoke is part of what explains my smoking intentionally. But a Thomist might point out that my urge to smoke is painful when not satisfied and claim that it is only insofar as I desire to rid myself of the pain that I smoke intentionally.49 Thus, the Thomist might claim that what 48 Raz claims that it is wrong to take them [urges] as the basis for an analysis of wants and desires, ibid., p. 70. 49 Raz, ibid., p. 71.
58 rationalizes my smoking is my desire to avoid painful feelings, not my urge to smoke. So the Thomist can allow that we can have urges fo r what we believe to be bad and not at all good, and he can allow that urges can produ ce and explain intentional action, while denying that urges are desires proper. It should not be surprising, then, if Th omists attempt to assi milate strong desires for the bad with faux desires rather than desi res proper. Raz comes close to claiming that strong desires for the bad are faux desires a nd not desires proper when he claims that some people. . believ[e] that one can want anything, and not only what appears to one to be good or of value. This equates a desi re for something with an urge for it which attacks one.50 If the Thomist can distinguish de sires proper from faux desires and if strong desires for the bad are to be assimilate d to faux desires rather than desires proper, then strong desires for the bad are not counter-examples to T2. However, the Thomist must provide some basis for distinguishing faux desires from desires proper, and the Thomist must pr ovide some reason for claiming that desires for the bad are faux desires rather than de sires proper. Below, I examine how some Thomists have attempted to distinguish de sires proper from faux desires. I suggest Thomists have not shown strong desires for th e bad are faux desires rather than desires proper. Scanlon suggests a means for distinguishing desires proper from faux desires. Scanlon is primarily interested in desire in the directed-attention sense such that to have a desire is to have ones attention directed insistently toward considerations that 50 Raz, ibid., p. 70
59 present themselves as counting in favor of that thing.51 If I have a desire in the directed-attention sense for a glass of water, th en it must be the case that my attention is insistently drawn to considera tions that count in favor of drinking, such as the promised relief of a dry throat or the anticipated pleasure of drinking.52 By contrast, if I suffer from pica and I find myself wanting to eat ciga rette butts, there are no considerations that insistently present themselves to me as count ing in favor of eating cigarette butts. But perhaps we are inclined to say that I do not have a desire to eat cigarette butts, but rather that I am in the grip of an urge or craving. If the genuine desire to drink a glass of water is paradigmatic of desires proper and the urge to eat cigarette butts is paradigmatic of faux desires, then perhaps th ere is a basis for distinguish ing desires proper from faux desires: desires proper are marked by ha ving my attention dr awn insistently to considerations that count in fa vor of the object of my desire, while my attention is not so drawn when I have a faux desire. Raz claims that the absence of a phenomenological feel is essential to desiring proper: desires proper, according to Raz, lack any felt quality.53 Absent believing there is anything good about doing so, I may be drawn to count blades of grass, attacked by an urge to paint potatoes green, or pr opelled by a force beyond my control to stick my finger in a bit of goo. In all these cases, Raz would deny that I ha ve a desire proper. Desires proper, according to Raz, emerge only as the result of a belief or belief-like state that there is something good about the object of ones desire a nd disappear if the belief 51 Scanlon, ibid., p. 39. See also Quinn, ibid., p. 36. Scanlon also claims that when I have a desire in the directed-attention sense, it must seem to me that there are reasons in fa vor of pursuing that thing which I desire; ibid., p. 65. 52 Scanlon, ibid., p. 65. 53 Raz, ibid., p. 71.
60 is abandoned or lost.54 Cognitive states need not be accompanied by a phenomenological feel, I suppose, so perhaps it is no surprise that desires proper are not accompanied by any phenomenological feel. By contrast, it is characteristic of urges and impulses and cravings and passions that it feels as though they attack. suggesting that urges and impulses and the like are not the product of an evaluative belief or belief-like state. But then, ex hypothesi urges and impulses and the like are not desires proper. It is controversial whether the phenom enology of desiring can reveal anything about the nature of desire. Some philosophers have rejected altoge ther the thesis that desires are or are necessarily correl ated with any phenomenological feel.55 Further, appealing to the phenomenology of some experi ence does not generally reveal the nature of what is experienced: when I act intentionally, if may feel as if it is up to me that I act as a result of my free will, but it does not follow that I have free will, much less that my intentional action depends on the exercise of my free will. There is also a methodological problem w ith both Scanlons and Razs attempt to distinguish faux desires from desires proper. Both Scanlon and Raz note particular features of paradigm cases of both desires proper and faux desires and then suppose that those features will be present in all cases of desires proper and faux desires. But the instances that Scanlon and Raz gene ralize from may be anomalous or sui generies instances that are not representative of desi res or urges or passions generally. At any rate, it is far from clear why desires for ones children to prosper, to take bloody revenge, 54 Raz, ibid., p. 71. Actually, I have interpreted Raz here. Raz claims both that desiring something depends upon finding ones desire to be backed by reasons and then that Only what is seen is some way as good can be [desired]; ibid., pp. 71-2. It is puzzling how these claims are related and why they occur so closely unless Raz supposes that there is a relationship between believing that what is desired is good and finding the desire to be backed by reasons. 55 Michael Smith has an excellent discussion of this point; see Smith, ibid., pp. 45-9.
61 to attend a department meeting, and to make love must all have something in common, besides the fact that they are all desires. So even if the desire to ta ke revenge or to make love has some phenomenological f eel that the desire for ones children to prosper or to attend a department meeting lacks, it does not fo llow that they are not all desires proper. In fairness, some Thomists have made clea r that their claims about the nature of desire and desiring are restrict ed. Quinn claims that a favor able evaluation of the object of desire is (of necessity) typically present in basic desire.56 Scanlon claims that having ones attention directed to considerations th at count in favor of pursuing the thing is essential in the most common cases of desire.57 But if Quinn and Scanlon only mean that a positive evaluation of the desired object is typically or commonly present in desiring, then they must concede that what is true of the token instances of desiring that they examine might not hold in all instances of desiring. Some Thomists have acknowledged that they are conc erned with only a particular sense of desire. Scanlon, for example, states that he is concerned with what we ordinarily mean by or the commonsense notion of desire.58 Raz states that he is concerned with the philosophical sense and not the more common sense of desire.59 If there is no disagreement about what the relevant intension of desire is, then it should be no surprise that there is disagreement about what is included in the exte nsion of desire. There is no reason to suppose that desire s for the bad, strong or otherwise, are always alike in the way that either Raz or Scanlon suppose. Following Nagel, two 56 Quinn, ibid., p. 40, emphasis added. 57 Scanlon, ibid., p. 38, emphasis added. 58 Scanlon, ibid., p. 38. 59 Raz, ibid., pp. 70-1.
62 different kinds of desires for the bad can be distinguished: desires for the bad can be motivated or unmotivated. Frankfurts unwill ing addict is perhaps an example of an agent who has an unmotivated desire for the bad since addictive desires do not typically arise from decision or deliberation.60 Augustine appears to be an example of an agent who has a motivated desire for the bad. Suppose that Augustine decided to steal the pears because he wanted to perform a wicked action and believed th at stealing the pears was a wicked thing to do: Augustines desire for the bad would be motivated. Recall Nagels initial claim that unmotivat ed desires assail us whereas motivated desires do not, suggesting that unmotivated desires have a phenome nological feel that motivated desires lack. If there are motivated desires for the bad, then it will be difficult for the Thomist like Raz to assimilate desire s for the bad to faux desires rather than desires proper given that motivated desi res for the bad lack the phenomenology of unmotivated desires. Similarly, it does not seem implausible that some desires for the bad will involve ones attention being insisten tly drawn to the object of desire; indeed, it is not uncommon for self-mutilators like Carla to be unable to focus on anything else but the pursuit of their desire. So it will be diffi cult for Scanlon to claim that all desires for the bad are not desires proper since some desire s for the bad do have the feel of desires proper. Nevertheless, Nagels initial char acterization of motivated and unmotivated desires is problematic: it seems that some desires that are the result of decision or deliberation are, or can be, accompanied by a phenomenological feel and that some desires that are not the result of decisi on or deliberation are not accompanied by any 60 Frankfurt, Freedom of the Will and the Concept of a Person reprinted in The Importance of What We Care About pp. 17-8. Note that Frankfurt himself provid es an example of a motivated addictive desire, ibid., p. 15.
63 phenomenological feel. Hence, appeals to the phenomenology of desire cannot be used to show that strong desires for the bad are not desires proper. Here is another argument for assimilati ng strong desires for the bad with faux desires rather than desires proper: Raz argues that while we have urges and so forth, we do not normally endorse them.61 Presumably, it is only desire s proper that are endorsed. It is difficult to understand how an agent c ould endorse a strong desire for the bad just because, by definition, an agent who strongly desi res the bad fails to think that the object of desire is at all good. So, if we do not endorse strong desires for the bad, then strong desires for the bad do not count as desires proper. I am not entirely certain what Raz m eans by endorse here, but Frankfurt has developed an account of endorseme nt in terms of identification.62 Consider Frankfurts recent commentary on the matter: These reflective attitudes of identification are ofte n based on or grounded in evaluations of desirability. However, they need not be. A person may identify himself with (or withhold himself fr om) a certain desire or motivation for reasons that are unrelated to any such a ssessment, or for no reason at all . . [t]he fact that he accepts it entails not hing, in other words, concerning what he thinks of it.63 To my ear, this suggests that Frankfurt believe s an agent can identify with a strong desire for the bad; at least, for Frankfurt, agents are not precluded from identifying with strong desires for the bad even if ther e is no reason to id entify with a strong desire for the bad. And if we can endorse strong desires for the ba d, then that is some reason to suppose that strong desires for the bad are desires proper. 61 Raz, ibid., p. 71. 62 Frankfurt developed his account of identification in a series of papers collected in his The Importance of What We Care About 63 Frankfurt, Reply to Gary Watson from Contours of Agency: Essays on Themes from Harry Frankfurt Buss and Overton, eds., p. 160, emphasis added.
64 I have examined a number of Thomist argum ents that strong desires for the bad are not desires proper and I have ar gued that Thomists have not yet succeeded in establishing their desired conclusion. However, Thomists have offered a more plausible argument that strong desires for the bad are not desires proper. Many Thomists have argued that if we accept that desires are essent ial to the explanation of in tentional action and that the explanation of intentional acti on is rationalizing e xplanation, then it follows that desires for the bad cannot be desires proper. I sh all refer to this Thomist argument as the Thomists master argument. The Master Argument The master argument for Thomism runs roughly as follows: 1) Desires have an essential role to play in the explanation of intentional action. 2) The explanation of intentional action is rationalizing explanation. I have granted the truth of 1) and 2) and 3) is a straightforward cons equence of 1) and 2): 3) Desires have an essential role to play in rationalizing explanations. The fourth premise of the master argument constitutes the nub of Thomism about desire: 4) If desires are to play an essential role in rationalizing explanations, then, necessarily, an agent who desires someth ing thinks that the object of her desire is good. If it is part of the nature of desires proper th at they should be able to produce and explain intentional action, then if a strong putative desire for the bad cannot produce and explain intentional action, then it cannot be a desire proper. 5) is a consequence of 3) and 4): 5) Necessarily, an ag ent who desires something thinks that the object of her desire is good. 5) is the conclusion of the master argument and the conclusion of the master argument just is T2). If the master argument is sound, then Thomism is vindicated and the desirebad thesis is false and agents cannot strongly desire the bad.
65 Premise 4) is the most contentious part of the master argument for Thomism. It will be useful to have a name for it in the fo llowing discussion: I shall refer to premise 4) as the master premise If the master premise is false, then the master argument is not sound and its conclusion can be resisted. The remainder of this chap ter is dedicated to resisting the master premise. Typically, Thomists have offered some version of a reductio ad absurdum argument for the master premise: if we reje ct that, necessarily, an agent who desires something thinks that the object of her desire is good, then we will be unable to construct rationalizing explanations from an agents desires and beliefs. Quinn offers a relevant version of a reductio against non-Thomist accounts of desire.64 Suppose we deny that, necessarily, an ag ent who desires something thinks that the object of her desire is good. Quinn imagin es an agent who is disposed to turn on every radio he finds turned off; as noted above, Humeans may claim that Quinns agent thereby desires to turn on radios. While Quin ns radio-turner-oner is disposed to turn on radios he finds turned off, he fails to believe there is anything good about turning on radios. But now it is unclear how the radio-turne r-oners purported desire, understood as a dispositional state, could possibly rati onalize turning on radios. Quinn argues as follows: A non-cognitive pro-attitude, conceived as a psychological state whose salient function is to dispose an agent to act, is just not the kind of thing that can rationalize. That I am psychologically se t up to head in a certain way, cannot by itself rationalize my wills going along w ith the setup. For that I need the thought 64 Quinns target is often less than clear. At times, Quinn objects to moral non-cognitivism and moral antirealism, to subjectivist accounts of valu e, and to Humean accounts of desi re; see Quinn, ibid ., p. 31 where Quinn conflates all three.
66 that the direction in which I am psychol ogically pointed leads to something good. .65 Quinn intends to show that desires should not be understood simply as dispositional states to bring about some state of affairs, but Quinn also implies that strong desires for the bad cannot rationalize and therefore do not count as desires proper. Crucially, we cannot determine what it is about turning on radi os that appealed to Quinns radio-turneroner if we only know that he is disposed to turn on radios he finds turned off. Quinn suggests that what is necessary to construc t rationalizing explanati ons in terms of an agents desires and beliefs is just what is mi ssing in the case of the radio-turner-oner: if we are to construct rationalizi ng explanations from an agent s desires and beliefs, then it must be the case that, necessarily, an agent who desires something thinks that what she desires is good. But then we are committed to the truth of the master premise. Two responses are in order. First, Qu inn may be correct th at crude functional states cannot rationaliz e action. It does not follow, how ever, that a desire proper is necessarily correlated with th e thought that the object of desire is good. Given the assumption that desires do play a role in rationalization, Quinn leaves us to choose between two accounts of desire: Thomism and an account of desires as crude functional states underlying dispositions and tendencies but the crude functional state account of desire fails and we are led to Thomism. But surely there are more subtle functional accounts of desire besides the crude account that Quinn considers. Thomists themselves might offer a functionalist account of desire.66 Further, there are non-functional accounts 65 Quinn, ibid., p. 36. 66 David Copp and David Sobel argue that Scanlon can be interpreted as being a functionalist about desire. See Copp and Sobel, Desires, Motives, and Reasons: Scanlons Rationalistic Moral Psychology, pp. 2614.
67 of desire that are available to Thomists and non-Thomists alike. So the failure of a crude functionalist account of desire to explain how desires co uld rationalize action does not force us to Thomism. Second, it does not follow that th e radio-turner-o ners behavior can be rationalized even if the radio-turner-oner th inks that turning on radios is good. We may be unable to rationalize the radio-turneroners behavior because his behavior is not really an intentional action .67 Quinns agent appears to be ob sessive or compul sive. We should not expect to be able to c onstruct rationalizing explanations of, for example, tics and twinges, and perhaps we should also not neces sarily expect to be able to construct rationalizing explanations of obsessive a nd compulsive behavior. If Quinns radioturner-oner does not perform an intentional action, then we cannot conclude that our inability to rationalize his behavior is due to a failure to accept the master premise. We should not expect rationalizing explanations of what cannot be rati onalized and it is not clear that compulsively turni ng on radios deserves to be c ounted as inten tional action. Even if Quinns particular example does not suffice to show Thomism is correct, Quinn may suggest an argument that Thomism must be correct. R ecall that rationalizing explanations explain intentiona l action by revealing what it is about an action that appeals to the acting agent. Here is a piece of sy llogistic reasoning that is, I think, implicit in Quinns argument quoted above: i) An action is subject to rationalizing e xplanation only if there is something about that action that app eals to the acting agent. ii) An action appeals to the acting agent only if the acting agent thinks that there is something good about performing that action. iii) Therefore, an action is subject to rati onalizing explanation only if the acting agent thinks that there is someth ing good about performing that action. 67 Copp and Sobel make a similar point, ibid., p. 263.
68 If it were the case that an action appeals to an agent only if the agent thinks that there is something good about her action and if desires are essential to explaining actions, then there could be no case in which we cite a desire to explai n an agents action where an agent does not also think that the object of her desire is good: the consequent of the master premise would be true and the master premise would trivially follow, the master argument would be sound, and Thomism would be vindicated. Other Thomists seem to endorse the syllogi stic reasoning I attribute to Quinn. Here is Tenenbaum: In a proper intentional explanation, the ag ent (or a third person) will be able to explain the point of engaging in such an activity; in other wo rds, he will be able to explain what good he sees in the pursuit of th is activity. On this view, a desire for an object as it typically appears in, for instance, an intentional explanation in the form of a belief-desire expl anation must show what the agent found attractive in the choice of this action. But if the desire is not for something that one can intelligibly conceive to be good, or if it is not for something the agent conceive s to be good, we would not know what point the agent coul d see in such an action and we would therefore not have made the agent intelligible.68 Unfortunately, Tenenbaum speaks of conceiving of something as good rather than thinking it to be good, and of finding something attractive rather than finding appealing. Here is what I think is a charitable recons truction of Tenenbaums argument, however. It does not seem implausible that the point of an agents action is to bring about something the agent found appealing about her action. But, according to Tenenbaum, knowing the point of an action is a matter of knowing wh at an agent conceives of as good about the action and thus an action cannot have a point and cannot be rationa lized unless the agent conceived of her action as good in some way. Thus, on this reconstruction of 68 Tenenbaum, ibid., p. 150.
69 Tenenbaum, if we are to explain action in te rms of an agents desires, then we must suppose that there is something about the objec t of her desire that she thought was good. Raz too echoes some sympathy with the th esis that an action can appeal to an agent only if the agent thinks there is something good about what is desired: . typical intentional actions are actions about which their agents have a story to tell (i.e., actions manifesting an internal viewpoint about what one is doing, or is about to do), a story that explains why one acted as one did. Moreover, and this point is crucial, the explanation make s intelligible not only why the action happened; it makes it intelligible as an ac tion chosen. . the story is of what the agent took to be facts which show the act to be good and which therefore constitute a reason for its performance. .69 If the story about in tentional actions is ra tionalizing explanation, th en Raz can be read as asserting that rationalizing explanations must cite an agents thought that there are facts which show an action to be good. If Raz supposes that desires must be part of the story, then Raz accepts that an action can be rationalized only if the acting agent thinks that there is something good about what she desires. The proponent of the desirebad thesis must resist the re asoning I attribute to Quinn, Tenenbaum, and Raz. In particular, the proponent of the desirebad thesis must resist ii), the thesis that an action can appeal to an agent only if the agent thought that there is something good about performing the action. In what follows, I shall offer a diagnosis of why some philosophers have supposed that only what is thought good can appeal and thus why only what is thought good can be desire d. I shall then argue that the believed badness of something can be what appeals to an agent. So even if an action must appeal to the acting agent if the action is to be rationalized, it does not follow that the acting 69 Raz, Agency, Reason, and the Good, p. 24.
70 agent must think that her action is at all good. I then consider implications of my proposal for the master premise, the master argument, and for Thomism. Unfortunately, I think Davidson is partly re sponsible for the popularity of the thesis that only what is thought good can appeal. Da vidson claims, for example, that desiring something entails holding it to have some positive characteristic,70 that desires constitute value judgments,71 and that desiring something involves setting a positive value on the object of desire.72 It is rather easy to conc lude that Davidson must believe that the only way to hold that the object of desire is valuable or has some positive characteristic is if the object of desire is believed good. However, Davidson explicitly claims that desires must not be taken fo r convictions, however temporary, that every action of a certain kind ought to be perfor med, is worth performing, or is, all things considered, desirable.73 For example, Davidson claims th at a man may all his life have a yen. . to drink a can of paint, without ev er, even at the moment he yields, believing that it would be worth doing.74 It is true that Davidson suggests there is some correlation between desiring P and making an incipient value judgment about P but it does not follow that Davidson is committed to the thesis that desiring P implies thinking that P is good.75 It is surprising that while Qui nn and Tenenbaum and Raz appeal to 70 Davidson, Intending, p. 97, n. 7. 71 Davidson, ibid., p. 102. 72 Davidson, How is Weakness of the Will Possible?, p. 31. 73 Davidson, Actions, Reasons, and Causes, p. 4; Da vidson actually claims that pro-attitudes must not be confused with convictions that the object of desire is desirable, but again, sin ce desires are a sub-class of pro-attitudes for Davidson, what holds for pro-attitudes should hold for desires. 74 Davidson, ibid., p. 4. 75 I thus disagree with Vellemans analysis of Davidson in his otherwise excellent The Guise of the Good, pp. 103-5.
71 something like Davidsons th esis that the explanation of action is rationalization, Davidson himself is not clearly a Thomist.76 Of course, Davidson might be wrong, or rather Davidson on my reading of him might be wrong, and Thomists might be right that, necessarily, desiring implies thinking good. The proponent of the desirebad thesis still requires an account of how what is desired can appeal to an agent when the object of desire is believed to be bad and not at all good. Surprisingly, Thomists themselves have offered an explanation of why what is believed to be bad and not at a ll good can appeal to an agent. Desiring the Bad and Intelligibility Anscombe claims that what an agent w ho genuinely desires something must be able to provide an intelligible desirability characterizati on of the object of desire.77 Some Thomists have echoed Anscombes interest in intelligibility: Tenenbaum claims that only desires for what can intelligibly be c onceived of as good can rationalize action78 and Raz claims that the believed goodness of a desire d action makes that action an intelligible object of choice.79 It seems false, however, that only what is believed good can intelligibly appeal to an agent or be an intelligible object of choice, at least given ordinary usage of intelligible. I submit that given or dinary usage of intelligible, something is intelligible just in case it is understandable .80 Admittedly, it is hard to understand how 76 It will not do to claim that yens are not desires, esp ecially if desire is underst ood in the broad sense that the Humean understands it. It is cer tainly plausible that yens can ratio nalize action, but then yens deserve to be called desires by the Thomists own lights. 77 Anscombe, ibid., p. 75. 78 Tenenbaum, ibid., pp. 150-1. 79 Raz, ibid., p. 24. 80 My computers dictionary and www.dictionary.com support this reading of intelligible.
72 an agent could be motivated to pursue someth ing she believed to be bad and not at all good, if all that we are told is that she believes th e thing to be bad and not at all good, but it does seem understandable how an agent can de sire what she believes to be bad and not at all good if we also know that an agent is, for exampl e, sufficiently frustrated or depressed. As I argue above, it is not impl ausible to suppose that desiring the bad is constitutive of or the causal product of certain emotions or moods. As I am now, I find it difficult to understand how anyone could want to mutilate their body or to leap from a precipice onto the rocks below, but I can understand how a sufficiently depressed or frustrated agent might. Understanding how an agent could desire something is not necessarily a matter of imagining myself, as I am right now, being motivated to pursue the thing. Instead, understanding how an ag ent could desire something may require imagining what I would want if I were in th e grip of some mood or emotion. Similarly, even if it is unintelligible to me how anyone who is in the same sort of psychological state as I am right now could desire a particular thing, it do es not follow that desiring the thing is unintelligible. Gi ven the appropriate moods and emotions, agents can be in psychological states that can rationalize actions that, absent those psychological states, could not be rationalized. It might be objected that my appeal to emotions and moods to explain how desiring the bad is possible and how acting on a desire for the bad is intelligible is suspect. For example, I have accepted and the master argum ent is committed to the thesis that the explanation of intentional acti on is rationalizing e xplanation. Further, the paradigmatic schema of rationalization is to explain an action in terms of an agents desires and beliefs. If desire-belief explanations do adequately explain their explananda then it seems that
73 desire-belief explanations are sufficient for explaining intentional action. And insisting that desire-belief explanati ons are sufficient for explaini ng intentional action suggests that there is no need to suppose that any further psychological states are relevant to the explanation of action. If so, my appeal to emotions and moods to explain, for example, desiring the bad is unnecessary and ad hoc However, taking desire-belief explanations too seriously might lead us to suppose that explanations of action citing some releva nt desire and belief pa ir are interesting and complete. Often, neither is the case. Merely citing a desire and instrumental belief need not be very interesting; it may only indicate th at the agent wanted to act in a certain way, but claiming that an agent acted because she wanted to is an otiose explanation.81 Further, citing only a desire and belief pa ir in a rationalizat ion neglects other psychological, sociological, and hi storical factors that normally would also be relevant, as I suggest below. It is intuitively plausi ble, as Michael Stocker has argued, that psychological states like moods and emotions are relevant to the explanation of action.82 Consider what it is like to act out of frustration: suppose that a sufficiently frustrated agent intentionally punches a hole in his living room wall. It is perhaps true of an agent who intentionally punches a hole in his wall that he wants to punch a hole in his wall and believes that by performing that particular action, he will punch a hole in his wall. However, an explanation of the frustrated agents act of punching a hole in his wall just 81 Following Davidson, we might claim that it is not enough to know that some action appealed to an agent if we are to explain that action; we must know what it is about the action that appealed to her and led her to act; ibid., p. 3. 82 See for example, Stocker, Desiring the Bad; An E ssay in Moral Psychology. Stockers thesis that motivation might not follow from the judgment an action should be performed because certain moods or emotions might interfere or prev ent the judgment from being motiva tionally efficacious is often noted. What is not always noted is Stocker s claim that moods and emotions are necessary for motivation, that it is only given a host of moods and emotions that agents are ever motivated to act.
74 in terms of this desire and belief pair does not allow us to distinguish the frustrated agent from an agent who just happens to enjoy punc hing holes in things. The agent who enjoys punching holes in things also wants to punch a hole in his wall and believes that by performing that particular action, he will punc h a hole in his wall. Explaining the two agents actions only in terms of their desires and beliefs leaves us unable to distinguish two very different actions of two very differe nt agents. Thus, desire-belief explanations need not be complete. We have good reason then to suppose that de sire-belief explanati ons of intentional actions do not necessarily adequately explain their explananda But, I suggest, if we allow that various kinds of moods and em otions are relevant to the production of intentional action, then we have some reason to believe that desiring the bad is possible: it might be constitutive of certain moods and emotions that agents suffering from them desire the bad and desiring the bad might be the causal product of certain moods and emotions. First, consider Fre uds discussion of melancholia: The distinguishing mental features of melancholia are a profoundly painful dejection, cessation of interest in the outside world, loss of the capacity to love, inhibition of all activity, a lowering of the self-regarding feelings to a degree that finds utterance in se lf-reproaches and self -revilings, and culminates in a delusional expectation of punishment.83 If Freud is correct that depr ession manifests itself in self-re proach and self-reviling, then it would not be surprising that agents su ffering from depression desire things for themselves that they believe are bad and not at all good. After all, we typically desire things that are bad and not at all good for pe rsons that we revile. Thus, it would not be 83 From volume 14 of The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud James Strachey, ed., p. 244. I take the quot e from Michael Stocker w ith Elizabeth Hegeman, Valuing Emotions p. 245; Stocker and Hegeman equate depression and melancholia.
75 surprising if desiring the bad is constitutive of suffering from depression or melancholia. At least with respect to some cas es of depression, wanting the bad is part of what it is to be depressed. Second, suffering from some emotion or mood might cause an agent to desire what she believes is bad and not at all good. If em otions or moods like depression give rise to desires for what one believes to be bad a nd not at all good, then it is no surprise that agents who suffer from these moods and emoti ons find it so difficult to feel any better: moods and emotions like depression might be re-enforcing. For example, an agents frustration may cause him to acquire and act upon desires whose fulfillment only furthers his frustration. An agent who is already frus trated and acts on a desi re to punch a hole in his wall is left with a hole in his wall, a broken hand, and little left to show for his efforts.84 Moods and emotions like frustration can perhaps give rise to desires that agents who are not in the grip of those moods and emotions do not suffer from. For present purposes, it is impor tant to recall that even if desire-belief explanations of actions are the paradigmatic means for explaining intentional action, there are other elements of our psychological economy that ar e enlightening and interesting that can be invoked in the explanation of action. Emoti ons and moods have considerable influence on what an agent desires and what she is motiv ated to do, and thus they ought not to be neglected in explanations of intentiona l action. I complain about desire-belief explanations because I believe that taking them too seriously could lead Thomists to mistaken conclusions about what desires must be. 84 While discussing a similar sort of case, David Velleman remarks: Someone who smashes crockery in order to feel better didnt feel all that bad to begin with. See Velleman, The Guise of the Good, p. 121.
76 Return, then, to Carla. Again, Carla desi res to mutilate herself and believes that mutilating herself is bad and not at all good. Ca rla may be able to offer a desirability characterization of the action she desires to perform insofar as the believed badness of self-mutilation appeals to her. Is this an in telligible desirability characterization, given Anscombes concern? I submit that it is understandable how a sufficiently depressed and frustrated agent could find an action that harms herself to be appealing. Suppose that Carla acts upon her desire to mutilate herself. Is it intelligible to choose to self-mutilate ones own body, given Razs concer n? I submit that it is understandable how a sufficiently depressed and frustrated agent co uld choose to mutilate herself. Thus, if there is the relationship between intelligibi lity and being understandable that I have suggested, then what is believed to be bad and not at all good can intelligibly appeal to an agent and be an intelligible obj ect of choice. Of course, the sense of intelligible that Anscombe and Tenenbaum and Raz appeal to may not be the ordinary sense I make use of. But then the Thomists must offer some other sense of intelligible that they mean to appeal to that does not beg the que stion against the proponent of the desirebad thesis. But now, it seems to me, a numbe r of Thomist theses fall apart. Given that agents suffer from the appropriate moods and emotions, agents can intelligibly desire what they believe to be bad and what they do think is not at all good, and given the appropriate moods and emotions, what is believed to be bad and thought to be not at all good can appeal to an agent. Premise ii) of Quinn s syllogism is therefore false. The master premise of the Thomists master argument also appears to be false since desires for the bad can be a part of rationalizing explanati ons. The master argument is therefore not sound and we are not forced to accept its conc lusion. Finally, since strong desires for the
77 bad are possible then T2) is false: it is not the case that, necessarily, we desire something only if we think that thing is good. We ha ve grounds, I submit, for rejecting Thomism about desire left to right. Conclusion I have argued that the desirebad thesis is true. I also ha ve argued that a number of considered accounts of desire do not preclude the possibility of desiring the bad. While Thomism about desire precludes strongly desi ring the bad, Thomism about desire is mistaken. The account of desire th at I would favor is therefore not Thomist but Augustinian Indeed, Augustine appears to be a counter-example to Aquinas thesis about desire, insofar as Augustine appears to desire, at least some things, because he thinks that they are bad and not at all good. I say that the account of desire that I would favor is Augustinian and would allow that desiring the bad is possible. I shall not provide a full-blown account of desire and desiring here. Just what desires are remains an elusive question. However, we have good reason to believe that our best accounts of desi re will be consistent wi th the possibility of desiring the bad, and thus it is a necessary condition for any account of desire and desiring to be plausible that they be consistent with the desirebad thesis. In subsequent chapters, I argue that the intentionbad and reasonbad theses are also true: agents can desire what they believe to be bad and not at all good, agents can intentionally pursue what they believe to be bad and not at al l good, and agents can act intentionally for the reason that what they pursue is believed to be bad and not at all good. The truth of the desirebad thesis does not ensu re the truth of the intentionbad or reasonbad theses, but we have perhaps removed one obstacle for accepting the latter two theses.
78 CHAPTER 3 INTENTION AND INTENDING THE BAD Im behaving badly and Im going to go on behaving badly. This is a situation where people do behave badly. Graham Greene, The Quiet American1 Introduction In the previous chapter, I discussed desi re and desiring and I argued that the most plausible accounts of desire are co nsistent with the truth of the desirebad thesis such that agents can desire what they believe is bad and not at all good. I ha ve suggested that the truth of the desirebad thesis makes it plausible to suppose that the intentionbad and reasonbad theses are also true. Yet I concede that the truth of the desirebad thesis does not ensure the truth of either the intentionbad thesis or the truth of the reasonbad thesis, for reasons to be discussed below. In this chapter, I begin to defend the intentionbad thesis that agents can intentionally pursue wh at they believe to be bad and not at all good. I assumed in the previous chapter that de sire underlies intentio nal action, insofar as I assumed that desire is essential to the produc tion and explanation of intentional action. But this assumption is potentially misleading. While desire plausibly plays a role in the production and explanation of intentional action, intention also plausi bly plays a role and it is controversial whether or not inten tions are desires, as I discuss below.2 It is widely 1 Graham Greene, The Quiet American p. 147. 2 Humeans might count intentions as desires, in the same way that the Humean would count wishes and hopes and so forth as desires, since intentions surely have a world-to-mind direction of fit, rather than the mind-to-world direction of fit had by beliefs, for example. However, many philosophers have supposed
79 conceded by philosophers of action that if an agent fails to intend to perform some action, the agent cannot act intentionally.3 Therefore, even if the desirebad thesis is true, it does not follow that the intentionbad thesis is true: even if agents can desire what they believe is bad and not at all good, it does not follow th at agents can intentionally pursue the bad, just because it has yet to be shown that agents can intend the bad. The definition of intending the bad paralle ls the definition of desiring the bad that I have worked with in previous chapters: agents who intend the bad intend to perform an action that the agent believes is bad and not at all good. In this chapter, I argue our best understanding of intention is consistent with the po ssibility of intending the bad. Broadly, I offer two arguments in this chapter: first, I argue that there is nothing about the nature of intention that precludes us from supposing that agents can intend the bad, and second, I argue that if intending the bad is possible then we have strong reason to suppose that intentionally pursuing the bad is possible. The Function of Intention and the Nature of Intention Many philosophers interested in understan ding what intention is have focused on the functional role that intentions play in pr actical deliberation and act ion. If we are clear about the functional role s of intention, then we are in be tter to understand the nature of intention. It is widely conceded among philosophers of action that, for example, intentions supply motivation. However, it is a mistake to suppose that the only function of intention is to supply motivation. It ha s been argued that intentions also have a that there is some difference between intentions and the state we typically refer to as desire, as I discuss below. 3 This thesis supposes that behavior counts as an inte ntional action only if the behavior is suitably related to an intention. Michael Bratman calls this the single phenomenon view; see Bratman, Intention, Plans and Practical Reason p. 112 and Two Faces of Intention reprinted in The Philosophy of Action Mele, ed., p. 180.
80 sustaining function.4 Actions are datable events and th ey rarely, if ever, occur in an instant or within a single-time slice; most ac tions, if not all, take time to unfold. Given that intentions have a motiv ating function, they can cause or otherwise initiate actionevents, but intentions also make it the case th at the action-event actu ally obtains after it has been initiated. Imagine a weightlifter attempting to clean-and-jerk a heavy weight: his action is complex; it proceeds in stages, a nd takes time to perform. Suppose that the weightlifter initially intends to lift the weight above his head. If, in the middle of his lift, he loses or abandons the intention, then, othe r things being equal, we would expect him to cease to his attempt to lift the weight.5 Since his intention must be present if he is to actually intentionally li ft the weight, it is plausible to suppose that his intention plays a role in sustaining his attempt to lift the wei ght. Other things being equal, an agent who intends to is disposed to bring about once the intention to has been executed, supposing has not obtained immediately af ter the intention is executed. Many philosophers have also suppos ed that intentions have a guiding function.6 An intention guides an intentional action only if the content of the intention to itself figures appropriately, in a sense to be explained, in the etiology of -ing.7 I may intend to act and develop a complicated plan as part of my intention to act. If I come to believe that my behavior does not match the behavior I intended to perform, then, other things 4 Al Mele, Springs of Action p. 130. 5 The example is mine, but the point is made by Mele, ibid., pp. 130-1. 6 See, for example, John Bishop, Natural Agency pp. 167-72; Myles Brand, Intending and Acting p. 175; Irving Thalberg, "Do Our Intentions Cause Our Intentional Actions?", American Philosophical Quarterly 21, pp. 249-60; Al Mele, ibid., pp. 135-7. 7 Mele, ibid., p. 136.
81 being equal, if my intenti on performs a guiding function, I will cease my deviation and take steps to bring about the in tended result in the way I had planned. If I intend to walk to my office on campus and if my intention se rves a guiding function, then I will have at least an incipient plan to walk to my office and if I come to believe that I am deviating from my plan, I will take steps to correct my deviance and bring it about that I actually do walk to my office. Importantly, it is by considering my initial intention and corresponding plan to walk to my office that I determine that I have deviated from my intention. An intention serves a guiding f unction insofar as the intention disposes an agent to bring about the intended result in th e intended way, partly because of the content of the intention itself. It is also widely conceded by philosophe rs of action that intentions have a coordinative function.8 Bratman, for example, claims that intentions are typically elements in coordinating plans9 and that plans are intentions writ large .10 Intending to perform an action enables an ag ent to coordinate her action and reasoning, as well as the actions and reasoning of others, to ensure that the intended result does actually obtain. Bratman identifies three further features of intentions that are crucial for intentions to perform motivating, sustaining, guiding, a nd coordinating functions Bratmans argues that three kinds of related di spositions are associated with intentions: intentions are conduct-controlling, they have a characteristic stability or inertia, and they play 8Gilbert Harman, Practical Reasoning, Review of Metaphysics 79, pp. 431-63; Bratman, Intention, Plans and Practical Reason Two Faces of Intention, and the essays collected in his Faces of Intention ; Mele, ibid., pp. 137-8. 9 Bratman, Intention, Plans, and Practical Reason p. 111. 10 Bratman, ibid., p. 8.
82 characteristic roles in practical reasoning.11 To say that intenti ons control conduct is to say that intentions do more than merely influence conduct. Desires might influence conduct insofar as an agent who desires some thing is at least somewhat motivated to pursue that thing. Yet it is consistent with desiring something that, other things being equal, an agent does not act if the time and th e opportunity come and is not irrational in failing to act. However, an agent who intends to perform some action will normally at least try to act if the time and opportunity come up.12 To say that intent ions are stable or have a characteristic inertia is to say that agents who intend to are, as a result of intending to disposed to resist reconsideri ng or abandoning their intention to .13 Normally, an agent who has intended to has effectively settled the question of what is to be done, since intending to disposes an agent not to reconsider the matter. To borrow from a point made by Michael Robins once we have intended to perform some action, we have answered affirmatively th e question Shall I pe rform this action?.14 Finally, to say that intentions pl ay characteristic roles in prac tical reasoning is to say that an intention to has at least two effects on an agents future deliberations. First, an intention to disposes an agent to both reason from the intention to to other distinct intentions that will lead to her -ing.15 If I have already intended to travel home for the holidays, my intention to travel home may, fo r example, lead me to intend to purchase tickets for a flight home. Second, an intention to disposes an agent to constrain future 11 Bratman, ibid., p. 22. 12 Bratman, ibid., pp. 15-6. 13 Bratman, ibid., p. 17. 14 See Robins, Promising, Intending, and Moral Autonomy p. 21. 15 Bratman, ibid., pp. 16-7.
83 intendings in light of the intention to by disposing an agent to make her intention to consistent with her other inte ntions and with her beliefs.16 Here then are the beginnings of an account of the nature or essence of intention: an intention is a conative psychol ogical state that motivates an agent to act but also serves sustaining and guiding and coordina ting functions, such that inte ntions control rather than merely influence behavior, have characteristic stability and inertia, and dispose an agent to reason in particular ways. If there is so me psychological state that serves all of these functions and is correlated with all of these dispositions, then we have license to claim, I suggest, that the psyc hological state just is an intention. Note, however, that if we accept the above account of the nature of intention, then we have reason to suppose that agents can intend the bad. Suppose th at Carla is in some psychological state, M that motivates Carla to mutilat e herself and she believes that mutilating herself is bad and not at all good. Suppose also that M sustains and guides and coordinates Carlas behavior a nd practical deliberation, that M controls rather than merely influences her conduct, that M is both stable and has inertia, and that M disposes her to form intentions in light of M that are also consistent with M If the above account of the nature of intention is correct, then we have license to suppose that M just is an intention. But since Carla intend s to perform an action that sh e believes is bad and not at all good, it follows that Carla intends the bad. In this section, I have offe red an account of intenti on in terms of the various functions that intentions perform. Further, the account of intention that I offer accords with accounts offered by other philosophers. Fi nally, the account of in tention that I have 16 Bratman, ibid., pp. 17.
84 offered permits intending the bad. Yet while I have perhaps identified part of what is necessary for some psychological state to count as an intention, there might still be more to intending that precludes intending the bad. Thus, we must conti nue investigating the nature of intention. The invest igation will continue as follows. First, I consider a popular account of intention where intentions are unde rstood as reducible to a certain kind of desire and belief pair. Intendi ng the bad is possible and easily explicable if desire-belief reductions of intention are corr ect. However, desire-belief reductions of intentions are problematic, although perhaps not fatally flawe d. Worse, the arguments that lead us away from desire-belief reductions of intenti on seem to imply that intending the bad is not possible, for reasons I explain. Nonethel ess, I consider two ot her attractive accounts of intention and argue that they do permit intending the bad. Thus, I suggest, for a number of popular and attractiv e accounts of intention, it is possible for agents do intend the bad. Desire-Belief Reductions of Intention I intend to argue that plausible accounts of intention do allow that agents can intend the bad. There is a familiar disagreement in th e literature on intention that is relevant to our investigation of the nature of intention: philosophers have often disagreed whether intentions are reducible to more basic psychologi cal states, such as de sires or beliefs, or whether intentions are irreducible to other psychological states.17 In this section, I argue 17 We might also be error theorists about intention and suppose that the English word intention fails to refer to anything at all. Gilbert Ryle ridiculed the thesis that volitions played any role at all in the production of voluntary action; see Ryle, The Concept of Mind David Velleman has supposed that Ryle similarly ridicules the thesis that intentions play a role in the production of intentional action; Velleman, Practical Reflection p. 109, fn. 2. Anscombe suggests that an action is not called intentional in virtue of any extra feature which exists when it is performed; Intention p. 28. But then there is little reason to suppose that there are intentions at all. Donald Davidson, at one point claimed that intention is syncategorematic and cannot be taken to refer to an entity, state, disposition, or event; Actions, Reasons, and Causes, p. 8. Davidson later retracted this view in his Intending. I shall simply suppose that
85 that intentions are not reducible to other psychological states; in particular, that intentions are not reducible to pairs of desires and beliefs. The diffi culty for the proponent of the intentionbad thesis is that some arguments for the irreducibility of intention appear to imply that intending the bad is not possible. I resolve the apparent difficulties in later sections; for now, the proponent of the intentionbad thesis ought to ally herself with the best account of intention available. According to one familiar and rather simp le account of intention, an intention just is a desire paired with a belief about how to satisfy that desire : I shall refer to this account of intention as the desire-belief account.18 For example, an agents intention to tune a piano, according to desire-belief accounts, is re ducible to a desire to tune a piano and a belief that an action will result in a piano being tuned. The proponent of the intentionbad thesis should be initially attract ed to this desire-belief accoun t of intention; if we accept that agents can desire the bad, as I argued in the previous chapter, th en since desire-belief accounts suppose that intentions are just are suitably paired desires and beliefs, desirebelief accounts of intention can explain how agents can intend the bad. So if the desirebad thesis is true and if desire-belief accoun ts of intention are correct, then agents can intend the bad. Would that things were so simple. While the prospect of reduci ng intentions to desire and instrumental belief pairs has struck an impressive number of philosophe rs as plausible, many philosophers have argued the project of reducing intentions to de sire and instrumental belief pairs is doomed intention does actually refer to psychological states that frequently obtain and thus I shall dismiss outright the error theorist acco unt of intention. 18 See Audi, Intending, Journal of Philosophy 70: 387-402, and Intending, Intentional Action, and Desire, in Marks, ed., The Ways of Desire
86 to failure.19 Philosophers who reject desire-b elief accounts have tended to claim intentions are subject to constraints of rationality that desire and belief pairs are not subject to. For example, while there is not hing irrational about desiring two mutually exclusive ends and having beliefs about how to bring about those ends, it is not clear one could rationally intend to bring both ends about. 20 Further, intending to perform an action seems to commit an agent, other thi ngs being equal, to acting when the time comes. Yet an agent who has some desire and belief pair need not be committed, other things being equal, to acting when the time comes. Thus, since intentions are not identical to desire paired with beliefs about how to satisfy that desire, intentions cannot be reduced to desire and instrumental belief pairs. I shall have more to say about rationa lity and intention, but consider some arguments that push us away from simple desire-belief accounts of intention. Suppose, for example, that I have a desi re to remove Smith, a prominent politician, from office and I believe that if I assassinate Smith, I will thereby remove him from office. Do I thereby intend to assassinate Smith? I thi nk our intuitions suggest I do not First, note that while many of us have desires for ends that are mora lly innocent, we believe that we can satisfy those desires by performing actions that we be lieve are morally reprehensible. Many of us desire wealth and believe that we can achieve wealth by robbing a bank; many of us desire the company of an attractive partner a nd believe that slipping her a Mickey Finn is a means for doing so; many of us desire to rid ourselves of an annoying colleague and 19 See Brand, Intending and Acting ; Bratman, Intentions, Plans, and Practical Reason ; Harman, Practical Reasoning in Mele, ed.; McCann, Rationality and the Range of Intention, Midwest Studies in Philosophy 10:191-211; Mele, Springs of Action ; Searle, Intentionality 20 See especially Bratman, ibid., and Harman, ibid.
87 believe that murder is an effective means of doing so. If simple reductive accounts are correct, then any number of us have any number of morally reprehensi ble intentions. Yet I doubt that most of us actually intend to perform that many morally reprehensible actions, and this is some evidence that simple desire-belief accounts are flawed. Here are some explanations of why I do not necessarily intend to assassinate Smith and why you do not necessarily intend to rob the bank, among other things. Recall the above claim that an agent who intends to pe rform some action has effectively answered the question about what she is going to do. Ye t an agent who has some relevant desire and belief pair need not have settled the question about what she is going to do. It is possible, for example, that while I have th e relevant beliefs about how to satisfy my desire, I have not put togeth er by desire and belief pair and I do not recognize that my belief is relevant to the satisfa ction of my desire. We know th at belief is not closed under entailment, so that an agent may believe th e propositions A and If A then B without also believing the proposition B that is en tailed by their conjunction. Similarly, an agent might desire to remove Smith from office and believe that assassination is an effective means for removing Smith from o ffice without believing that assassinating Smith will bring about the desired result. An agent who fails to believe that assassinating Smith will bring about the desired result could not be guided by an intention to assassinate Smith, just because she does not recognize that assassinating Smith is a means for realizing the desired result. But that sugge sts that desire and in strumental belief pairs do not necessarily perform a gui ding function. Therefore, desi re and instrumental belief pairs are not intentions.
88 Here is another way an agent can fail to answer the question about what she is going to do, even though she has a desire and in strumental belief pair. An agent might have multiple and conflicting beliefs about how to satisfy her desire, such that she believes there is more than one way to satisfy her desire. Yet she may not be sure which way of satisfying her desire is easiest or mo st prudent, or she may be uncertain whether some of the options believed to be availabl e to her ought morally not to be performed, or she may withhold final judgment on the matter or seek further counsel, and so forth. In all of these cases, an agent desires some outcome and believ es that she can realize that outcome by performing a particular action, bu t the agent has not yet answered with sufficient finality the question of what she is going to do. An agents desire and belief pair may influence her behavior, but since she has not yet answered with sufficient finality the question of what she is going to do, her desire and instrumental belief pair will not control her conduct. But intentions control conduct and do not merely influence conduct. Therefore, desire and instru mental belief pairs are not intentions. Perhaps the simple reductive account of inte ntion is too simple. More complicated reductive accounts of intention have been offered; in partic ular, some reductive theorists have supposed that an agent must have more than just a belief that performing some action will bring about a desire d result to intend to act. Wayne Davis, for example, argues that an agent intends to just in case the agen t believes that she will because she desires to and believes that her desire will motiv ate her to act in such a way that she s.21 My suspicion is that a ny reductive account of intention is bound to fail and that we 21 Davis, A Causal Account of Intending, American Philosophical Quarterly 21, pp. 43-54, reprinted in The Philosophy of Action Mele, ed., p. 147.
89 will be able to construct c ounter-examples to that account.22 At any rate, if some reductive account of intention does es cape counter-examples, we can easily accommodate the thesis that agents can intend the bad. A Panglossian who defends a reductive account of intention must either ar gue that desiring the ba d is not possible or that the requisite belief requirement for intending precludes inte nding the bad. I have already argued that desiring the bad is po ssible in the previous chapter. So the Panglossian must appeal to some belief cond ition for intending that makes intending the bad impossible: for example, the Panglo ssian might argue that believing that -ing is good is necessary for intending to or perhaps that not believing that -ing is bad and not at all good is necessary for intending to I know of no philosopher who actually defends these putative necessary conditions fo r intention, and such necessary conditions cannot simply be stipulated without begging the question. It would be fortunate for the proponent of the intentionbad thesis if the simple desire-belief account of intention were corr ect, since it the simple desire-belief account seems consistent with the thesis that agents can intend the bad. We shall have to see if plausible reductive desire-belief accounts of intention can be produced that escape counter-examples. However, the alleged failures of reductive desire-belief accounts suggest different accounts of intention that suppose that intentions are psychological states irreducible to desire a nd instrumental belief pairs. In the case of the agent who has not put together her desire and instrumental belief and in the case of the agent who has not yet settled on any course of action, it is tempting to claim that the agent has not decided what she is to do. Thus, perhaps it is the case that inten tions ought to be 22 For a counter-example to Davis proposal, see Kirk Ludwig, Impossible Doings, Philosophical Studies 65, p. 258.
90 understood as states of being decided that end practical inquiry by answering questions about what is going to be done. Similarly, in the case of both the agent who has not put together her desire and belie f and the agent who has not ye t settled on any course of action, it is tempting to claim that in neither cas e has the agent judged that some action is most desirable or better than its alternatives and so forth. T hus, perhaps it is the case that intentions ought to be understood as evalua tive judgments about act ions. Eventually, I shall argue that both of these accounts of intention can allow that agents can intend the bad, but it may initially app ear that each account rules out intending the bad. I thus consider accounts of intentions as states of being decided to ac t and as evaluative judgments in the following two sections. Intentions as Evaluative Judgments It is plausible to suppose, I suggest, that in tending to act is the terminus of practical reasoning and deliberation.23 It is also plausible to s uppose that practical reasoning and deliberation at least sometimes terminates in beliefs about action, for example, in the belief that some action is the best thing to do.24 Practical reasoni ng and deliberation may also terminate in a belief that some action would be acceptable or permissible to perform, or is otherwise good enough, and so forth.25 It is also plausible to suppose that intentions are the terminus of practical reasoning a nd deliberation since, normally, an agent who intends to do something need not do anything el se beside execute her intention if she is to 23 This allegedly plausible suggestion may seem to co nflict with Aristotles familiar suggestion that the conclusion of practical reasoning is an action from Movement of Animals 701a1, in Aristotle: Selections Irwin and Fine, eds.. Aristotles view on this matter is somewhat complicated and I suspect is ultimately not in conflict with the present proposal, but I ignore the complication here. 24 Bratman, Practical Reasoning and Weakness of Will, Nous 13, pp. 153-71. 25 Mele, Deciding to Act, Philosophical Studies 100, p. 83.
91 act intentionally. Thus, we perhaps have some reason to identify intentions with evaluative judgment s about actions. Indeed, at least one prominent philosopher of action has identifie d intentions with particular kind of evaluative judgment about an action. In his later work on the matter, Donald Davidson claims intentions are a particular kind of pro-attitude: an all-out or unconditional judgment, that an action is desira ble, or ought to be performed, or is better than alternative actions or some such thing.26 If Davidson is correct to identify intentions with evaluative judgments, then w eak and strong Panglossian challenges to the intentionbad thesis can be offered. Recall that strong Panglossian challenges purport that, for example, the intentionbad thesis is conceptually impossible while weak Panglossian challenges purport that the intentionbad thesis is always less plausible than standard theses of moral psychology. Explai ning the precise nature of the Panglossian challenges will require a discussion of Davidson s thesis that intentions are evaluative judgments. Briefly, however, the Panglossian challenges are that if intentions are identified evaluative judgments about an ac tion, then it is either unclear how we could intend actions we believe to be bad and not at all good or it is impossible to intend actions we believe to be bad and not at all good. Thus, claims the Panglossian, it is either impossible to intend the bad or it is un clear how agent could intend the bad. Davidson is led to the identify intentions with evaluative judgments about actions given certain theses he endor ses concerning practical reasoni ng. Here is something of a truism concerning practical reasoning: fo r (nearly) every action, that action has 26 See Davidson, Intending, p. 98-101 and his Replies to Essays I-IX in Essays on Davidson: Actions and Events Vermazen and Hintikka, eds., (Oxf ord: Oxford University Press, 1985), pp. 196-7, 206, 220. Davidson hints at this thesis but does not explicitly identify intentions with all-out evaluative judgments in How is Weakness of the Will Possible?.
92 something to be said for it and something to be said against it. Alte rnatively, for (nearly) every action, there are reas ons to perform the action and reasons to refrain from performing the action. There are perhaps al ways opportunity costs to performing any action: doing serious work frustrates the de sire to lounge about or to see a good movie and so forth. Thus, for (nearly ) any action, an agent will judg e that the action is desirable to perform, given some reasons for performing the action.27 Parity of reasoning suggests that for (nearly) any action, an agent will also judge that th e action is not desirable to perform, given some reasons against perfor ming the action. But knowing that an action has something to be said for it and something to be said against it is not all there is to practical reasoning: . . if an agent is to act in the face of conflict. . [i]t is not enough to know the reasons on each side: he must know how they add up.28 Suppose that an agent does add up all the reasons for and against vari ous actions, given the evidence believed to be relevant, and comes to judge that, all things considered, some par ticular action is most desirable or ought to be performed or is better th an any alternative action. At this stage, an agent has formed a conditional judgment about an action, the judgment that, allthings-considered, the action is desirable or pr eferable or some such thing: for example, an agent who decides that stay ing at home and studying has more to be said for it and less to be said against it than goi ng out for a few drinks judges that, all-things considered, staying home and studying is better than goi ng out for a few drinks. The judgment is 27 Davidson suggests that an agent who has a pro-attitude towards performing some action must have had attitudes and beliefs from which, had he been aware of them and had the time, he could have reasoned that his action was desirable (or had some other positive attri bute); Intending, p. 85. The relevant judgment might only be an implicit evaluative judgment, but Davidson suggests there will be a relevant judgment nonetheless that could have been part of an agents explicit practical reasoning or deliberation. 28 Davidson, How is Weakness of the Will Possible, p. 36.
93 conditional insofar the conclusion that the action should be performed is conditioned by the evidence believed to be relevant. However, Davidson claims that we cannot suppose that practical reasoning only issues conditional evaluativ e judgments about actions; we must also suppose that practical reasoning issues unconditional or all-out judgments that an action is desirable or preferable or some such thing, if practical reasoning is ever to produce action. The judgment that staying home and studying is better than going out for a few drinks is an unconditional all-out judgment, since the a ll-things considered modifier has dropped out. Unconditional judgments may be based upon conditional judgments about an action, and if an agent is not akratic on Davidson s view, then an agents unconditional and conditional judgments will roughly fall in line. Davidsons arguments that practical reasoning must issue in unconditional judgments and not simply in conditional judgments are found in a few dark passages.29 But perhaps we can understand why Davidson supposes that practical reasoning cannot issu e only in conditional judgments given we recognize that Davidson identifies intenti ons with unconditional all-out evaluative judgments about action.30 Again, we have been supposing that intending is normally the last step in practical reasoni ng prior to acting intentionally. While we may often come to intend to act on the basis of various reasons and evidence believed to be relevant, the content of our intention usually does not ma ke reference to those reasons and evidence: 29 Davidson claims, for example, that Reasoning that st ops at conditional judgments. . is practical only in its subject, not in its issue and that Practical reas oning does. . often arrive at unconditional judgments that one action is better than anotherotherwise ther e would be no such thing as acting on a reason; see Davidson, ibid., p. 39. 30 See Intending, p. 99 and 101 and Replies to Essays I-IX, pp. 196-7 and p. 220.
94 we simply intend to act. At any rate, Da vidson identifies intenti ons with unconditional all-out evaluative judgments about actions. At this point, nothing yet speaks against the possibility of in tending the bad. We can, however, begin considering Panglossi an challenges that might follow from Davidsons identification of intentions with all-out evalua tive judgments. The Panglossian may offer a strong challenge as follows. Intentions, on Davidsons view, are all-out evaluative judgments th at are arrived at on the ba sis of conditional judgments about the desirability of an action. But if an agent believes that an action is bad and not at all good, then an agent cannot conditionally judge that an acti on is desirable. Therefore, an agent cannot arrive at the unconditional judgment that an action is desirable, for example. Therefore, on Davids ons view, intending the bad is not possible. In the previous chapter, I argued that Davidson does not explicitly reject the desirebad thesis and some of Davidsons remarks suggest that he does allow that desires for the bad are desires proper. Note that Davidson also claims that: [t]he reasons an agent has for intending are basically of the sa me sort as the reasons an agent has for acting intentionally; they consist of both desires (and other pro-attitudes) and beliefs. 31 If desires and pro-attitudes can constitute reasons for intending, then Davidson is committed to claiming desires for the bad are reasons to intend. But then it seems that desires for the bad are relevant to practical reasoning and deliberation. It is important not to confuse a normativ e reason for acting with an agents reason for acting, and Davidsons account of intentions as evaluative judgments is a thesis about an agents reason for acting. Moreover, while Davidson claims that intentions are pro31 Davidson, Replies to Essays I-IX, p. 213.
95 attitudes, he does not explicitly claim that ha ving a pro-attitude entails believing that the object of the pro-attitude is good.32 Davidson suggests that ha ving a pro-attitude implies attributing to some state of affairs a positive at tribute, but this is not the same thing as thinking that the state of affairs is at all good.33 Davidson also sugge sts that having a proattitude implies judging that stat e of affairs has something to be said for it, but this is not the same thing as judging that th e state of affairs is at all good.34 I tentatively suggest that, even given Davidsons acc ount of intention, an agent ca n intend the bad if she has a pro-attitude towards the believed badness of th e action that she intend s to perform or has a pro-attitude towards the believed badness of the state of affairs that she believes will obtain if she acts. An ag ent who intends the bad might intend the bad because she attributes a positive attribute to the action she believes is bad and not at all good or because she judges that the badness of her action is what the action has to be said for it. It is difficult to shake the thought that there must be something irrational about intending the bad; after all, ca n there be sense made of taking the believed badness of an action to be a positive attribute of the acti on or to count in favor of performing the action? I examine this difficulty further belo w. Note, however, that even if it is never rational to intend the bad, irrational intentions are still intentions. Akratic intentions are likely irrational as well, but surely one can intend akratically and akratic intentions are intentions. Thus, even if it is not rationa lly possible to intend the bad, it might be nonetheless possible to intend th e bad. All that I require is that intending the bad is 32 Davidson, Intending, p. 102. 33 Davidson, ibid., p. 84 and 87. 34 Davidson, Actions, Reasons, and Causes, p. 9.
96 possible, and if intending the bad is possible, then we have some further evidence that intentionally pursuing the bad is possible. The intentionbad thesis is a modal thesis that intending an action believed to be bad and not at all good is possibl e, not that it is desirable or prudent to intend the bad. In this section, I have discussed Davids ons thesis that intentions just are a particular kind of evaluative judgment concer ning actions. I sugge st that Davidsons thesis is consistent with the intentionbad thesis and allows that agents can intend the bad. The Panglossian may object that it is a neces sary condition of intending that the acting agent thinks that there is something good about her action. But the judgment that something is good is only one kind of evalua tive judgment. As I suggest above and pursue below, the evaluative judgment that an action is bad and not at all good can also be part of what generates or constitutes an intention. Intentions and Decisions to Act As discussed above, intending to act is at least one way for an agent to settle questions about what she is going to do. Another way for an agent to settle questions about what she is going to do is to decide to perform some action. Insofar as intending to act and deciding to act both normally settle que stions about what an agent is going to do, we can consider the following pl ausible thesis: to decide to just is to intend to Many philosophers have argued that to decide to perform some action is at least a way of forming an intention to .35 Thus, we might suppose that states of being decided about acting just are intentions. 35 See Kaufman, Practical Decision, Mind 75, pp. 25-44; McCann, Intrinsic Intentionality, Theory and Decision 20, pp. 247-73; Frankfurt, Identification and Wholeheartedness, from his The Importance of What We Care About pp. 174-6; Mele, Springs of Action p. 156; Kane, The Significance of Free Will p. 24; Pink, The Psychology of Freedom p. 3; Al Mele, Deciding to Act, p. 81-108.
97 It is possible for an agent to believe that some action is the thing to do but not yet intend to perform that action.36 An agent who is akratic or who is suspicious of her faculty of practical reasoning or who is very timid might believe that some action is the thing to do, but not yet have committed hersel f to performing that action. An akratic smoker might believe that he ought to quit imme diately but not yet have resolved that he will take any steps to quit.37 A patron at a restaurant ma y believe that the mother at another table is acting badly when she raises her hand to her child a nd that intervening is the thing to do, but if he lack s the courage of his convictions he might fail to intend to intervene. In the case of the akratic smoker and the timid patron, the agents believe that some action is the thing to do, but, I suggest, neither yet intends to perform that action. Neither agent has yet decided to act even if they have decide d that some action is the thing to do. As noted above, to intend to is to be committed in the relevant sense to ing if the opportunity comes up, other things being equal. That I have decided to suggests a similar sort of commitment to -ing if the opportunity comes up, other things being equal. Deciding to act seems to plausibly fill the gap between believing that some action is the thing to do and actually performing that acti on and it can therefore seem plausible to identify intending to with being decided to Providing the details of the pr oposal that intentions are to be identified with states of being decided to act is beyond the scope of this project. But suppose that it is prima facie plausible to identify intentions with states of being decided to act. Nothing that has 36 The discussion that follows may actually suggest that identifying intentions with evaluative judgments is mistaken, since evaluative judgments, in the relevant sense, seem to be beliefs that an action ought to be performed. 37 Al Mele, ibid., p. 83.
98 been said so far precludes the possibility of deciding to perform an action one believes is bad and not at all good and thus, for all that ha s been said, an account of intention that identifies intentions with states of bei ng decided to act is consistent with the intentionbad thesis. The Panglossian might nonetheless challenge to the thesis that agents can decide, and thereby intend, to perform an action be lieved to be bad and not at all good by insisting that there is some depe ndency relation between deciding to and believing that -ing would be good. I shall have more to say about decisions a nd intentional action in my fifth chapter, but briefly, my suggestion is that in the sa me way that an agents moods and emotions can cause her to desire the bad, an agents moods and emotions can cause her to decide act in ways that she believes are bad and not at all good. An agent who is in the grips of frustration might decide to punch a hole in her wall just because punching the wall is bad and not at all good. A sufficiently depressed ag ent might decide to mutilate herself just because the damage she inflicts is bad and not at all good. On the account of intention being considered, agents who d ecide to perform actions that they believe are bad and not at all good thereby intend the bad. Suppose, however, that we grant the Pangl ossian that agents cannot decide to perform actions they believe are bad and not at all good. It does not follow that agents cannot intend the bad. Even if an agent in itially believed there is something good about -ing and decides to the agents intention to might persist even after the agents evaluative belief there is something good about -ing is gone.38 Suppose that a young 38 A suggestion by Kirk Ludwig, albeit one made in a very different context, brought this response to light. Ludwig suggested that even if intentions depend upon an agents desire to and a belief that some action will bring about -ing, the intention to might persist even if the relevant desire or belief is lost.
99 woman, Michelle, acquires an eati ng disorder that leads her to decide to starve herself to dangerously unhealthy degrees. Perhaps when she initially began starving herself, she believed that starving herself is good since starving herself is a means for acquiring a slim figure. On that basis, she decided to st arve herself. But over time, perhaps Michelle begins to doubt that starving herself is good, si nce her health has bega n to deteriorate and she thinks that the figure that she sees in th e mirror is not at all attractive. Michelle now no longer believes that starving herself is good nor does it even seem to her that starving herself is good. But her intention to starve herself is not easily abandoned, even though she no longer believes that starving herself is good. Our previous observations intention explain how agents could continue to intend to perform actions they previously decided to perform because those actions were thought to be good. We noted above that intentions are resistant to reconsideration and have a characteristic iner tia and stability. If intentions are resistant to reconsideration, then if an agent intends an action she believes is bad, her intention to perform that ac tion could overwhelm the influence of her evaluative belief, just because intentions are by nature resistant to reconsideration. In this case, Michelle decided to do something that she now believes is bad and now still intends the bad, even though she no longer thi nks that her action is good. Thus, even if intentions are states of being decided to act and even if the Panglossian is correct that agents cannot decide to perform actions th ey believe are bad and not at all good, agents can still intend the bad. Of course, intentions are not irrevocable and there are circumstances in which an agent can and should abandon an intention. Pe rhaps the Panglossian means to object that an agent cannot continue to intend the bad if she fails to believe there is something good
100 about her action. The Panglossian could claim that to continue to have an intention, the intention must survive furthe r rational considerat ion. And if the agents intention does not survive rational consideration, then it is simply misleading to say that the agent intends to act in ways that she believes are bad and not at all good. There are conditions under which an agent may reconsider and perh aps revise or abandon a standing intention to act. If an agent acquires new beliefs or if information available to her changes, an agent might revise or abandon an intention she previously held and be entirely reasonable or rational in doing so. Mich elle initially thought that there was something good about starving herself but no longer thinks that there is anything at all good about starving herself. Perhaps Michelle will reconsider and abandon her earlier decision to starve herself. Then again, she might not To claim that there are c onditions in which intentions are revocable is to claim that there are conditions in which it is rationally permissible to abandon an intention; it hardly follows that in every such case, the agent will abandon her intention, even if she may rationally do so. The same standing dispositions or moods or emotions that led Michelle to form the inte ntion to starve hersel f might dispose her to continue to intend to starve herself even though she no longer thinks that starving herself is a good thing. The story of Michelle seem s coherent. Thus, even if agents who presently intend the bad could rationally revoke their initial decision to act, it does not follow that they will. Therefore, it does seem possible for agents to continue to intend the bad, even if they believe that relevant facts have changed. Could an agents intention to perform some action she believes to be bad survive rational reconsideration? Even if we reject the implausible thesis that an agents
101 intentions must always fall in line with her ev aluative beliefs, we might still insist that an agent is irrational if she does not bring her intentions in line with her evaluative beliefs. One response is to insist that rationality is besides the point here: irrational intentions are still intentions and even if an agent coul d only irrationally intend the bad, she would still intend the bad. In this section, I argued that the thesis that intentions are states of being decided to act is consistent with the intentionbad thesis. But recall that one of the reasons for rejecting reductive desire-bel ief accounts of intention was that intentions seem to be governed by norms of rationality that desi re and instrumental belief pairs are not necessarily governed by. But if intentions are governed by certain norms of rationality, or rather, if part of what it is to be an in tention is that intentio ns are governed by certain norms of rationality, then it may be a mist ake to simply wave off the objection that intending the bad is irrational. In the penulti mate section of this chapter, I face up to the issue whether agents can rationally intend the bad and I attempt to specify some limited circumstances in which intendi ng the bad might be rational. Whither Rationality? Can it be rational to intend the bad? Ca n it be rational to intend to perform an action that is believed to be ba d and not at all good? My answers to these questions are at best tentative and speculative, but I suggest the answers to bo th questions are yes. To be clear, the success of th e present project does no t depend upon successfully demonstrating that it can be rational to intend th e bad. My thesis is that intending the bad is possible, not that it is rational, but if it can be shown that intending the bad is sometimes rational, it may seem more plau sible to suppose that intending the bad is
102 possible. And I submit, there are perhaps so me instances in which intending the bad is rational. First, consider Thomas Fowler, th e protagonist in Graham Greenes The Quiet American who publicly insults the man whom he believes stole his Vietnamese mistress; Fowler defends himself by explai ning that he will act badly just because this is one of those situations where people do act badly.39 In just what sense Fowler takes himself to have acted badly is unclear, but suppose that Fowler himself believes that publicly insulting his rival is bad a nd not at all good. Must it be irrational for Fowler to nonetheless intend to publicly ve nt his rage? Fowler believes that this is a situation where people do act badly, so perhaps on that basis he comes to intend to act badly. Similarly, I might be unfamiliar with exactly what is going on in a football game but I might intend to cheer when the home team comes on the field because I believe that cheering when the home team comes on the field is what people do in s ituations like this. It is unclear that I am irrati onal in intending to cheer and sim ilarly it might be unclear that Fowler is irrational in intending to act badly. Alternatively, Fowlers claim that this is a situation in which people do act badly is perhaps a disguise d way of claiming that this is a situation in which he ought to act badly. It would be odd to claim that it is irrational for an agent to intend to do what she believes sh e ought to do. Note also that intending to because you believe that you ought to does not entail believing that -ing is good. An opponent of morality, perhaps an agent who has read too much Nietzsche, might recognize that he morally ought to act in cert ain ways but he does not think that acting morally is necessarily good. An opponent of convention, like Do stoyevskys man from 39 Graham Greene, The Quiet American p. 147.
103 the underground, might think that etiquette demands that he ought to act in certain ways but he does not think that following the dema nds of convention is good. So perhaps there is room to suppose that intending the bad is at least sometimes rational. Second, an analogy might be drawn between intending the bad and intending akratically. Akratic action is a paradigm example of irra tional behavior and intending akratically is a paradigm ex ample of irrational intending.40 Recently, however, some philosophers have questioned whether or not akratic action is always irrational.41 If akratic action is sometimes rational, then perhaps it is sometimes rational to intend akratically. And if it is sometimes rational to intend akratically, perhaps it is sometimes rational to intend the bad. Finally, note that there is a gap between the rationality of intending to and the rationality of -ing intentionally; even if the latter would be positively irrational, the former need not be. For example, even though it would be positively lunatic to fire nuclear missiles at an enemy who has already fired theirs since doi ng so would only bring on more destruction, it may not be irrational to intend to fire at an enemy if he fires his first.42 Suppose your enemy is extremely intuiti ve and can discern whether or not you 40 Jon Elster, Ulysses and the Sirens: Studies in Rationality and Irrationality ; Mele, Irrationality: A Study on Akrasia, Self-Deception, and Self-Control 41 See, for example, Nomy Arpaly, On Actin g Rationally Against Ones Best Judgment, Ethics 110, pp. 488-513; Alison McIntyre, Is Akratic Action Always Irrational?, from Identity, Character, and Morality Flanagan and Rorty, eds., pp. 379-400; Robert Audi, Weakness of Will and Rational Action, Australasian Journal of Philosophy 68, pp. 410-30. Thomas Hill expresses at least some doubt that akratic action is always irrational in his Weakness of Will and Character, Philosophical Topics 14, pp. 93-115. Arpaly suggests, and I concur, that Harry Frankfurt is committed to rejecting the thesis that akratic action is always irrational; see Frankfurts Rationality and the Unthinkable, The Importance of What We Care About pp. 177-90. 42 David Lewis, among others, has a collection of papers on this subject reprinted in his Papers in Ethics and Social Philosophy ; it is of course not uncontroversial that utilizing mutually assured destruction is either rational or the most rational option available here, but I gloss this point.
104 really will respond in kind to a nuclear attack. If he intuits that you wi ll not, then there is little to deter him from attacking you first. Further, if he believes that you would not intend the bad, he may doubt your resolve and attack first, but if he believes that you intend to fire back and that you believe firi ng back is bad and not at all good, he may believe that you are a lunatic who had best not be prodded. One way to convince him that he best not attack first is to sincerely intend to respond in kind to a nucl ear attack, but not because you believe deterring nuclear wa r is good. If you do intend what you believe is bad and not at all good, you will have su ccessfully deterred him from attacking you first. If this strategy coul d be successful, then it may be rational to intend what you yourself believe is bad and not at all good, ev en if it would be i rrational to act upon the intention. Here is another instance in which it might be rational to intend the bad. Consider the following ironic saying: to get to heaven, you have to raise a little hell. Suppose that God has a special place in h eaven reserved for genuinely repentant sinners who have genuinely committed moral transgressions. Pe rhaps you believe that the best chance to get into heaven is to intend to commit a series of venal sins, to ex ecute those intentions, and later to genuinely repent for your sins. Of course, if you believe that there is something good about sinning then you w ont genuinely intend the bad, you cannot genuinely repent, and He will not be persua ded to welcome you to heaven. Suppose at time t to ensure that you will genuinely commit moral transgressions, you take steps to ensure that you will intend the bad at time t + 1. Undergoing brain surgery or securing counter-factual interv eners could ensure all of this. Further, you take measures to ensure that, at time t + 1, you will have forgotten about your actions at time t such that you
105 intend to act in ways that you believe ar e bad and not at all good. Thus, at time t + 1, you would genuinely intend the bad. Finally, suppose that you ensure that at some later time t + 2, you will come to repent in order to be forgiven for your moral transgressions. Perhaps you ensure that the persuasive prie st from your childhood gets you to repent. This plan would ensure that you genuinely in tend the bad and that you genuinely repent and thus that you get into h eaven by raising a little hell.43 If getting into heaven is a rational enterprise and if you believe this pl an would be successful, then it would be rational to intend the bad.44 Here too, I do not suppose that a few examples will settle the question whether intending the bad is rational, but these ex amples are a way to begin a long debate. At the very least, my exam ples suggest we cannot dismiss outright the thesis that intending the bad might sometimes be rational. Again, the success of my overall project does not depend on showing that it is rational either to intend the ba d or to intentionally pursue the bad, although I believe the above arguments suggest that at least in some local instances it might be rational to do so. Again, it is no part of my pr oject to commend or recommend intending the bad. This is not to say that intending the bad might not be just the thing to do, however; indeed, there might be some circumstances in which rationality demands no less. Conclusion My goal in this chapter has been to begin to defend the intentionbad thesis that agents can intentionally perform actions that th ey believe to be bad and not at all good. I discussed various functional roles that intenti on plays in hope of expl aining the nature of 43 This plan may suppose that He is something of a chump and wont see through your clever plan, but surely He is a man of His word and will honor His offer and let you into heaven. 44 The preceding argument is inspired by Kavkas The Toxin Puzzle Analysis 43 (1983) pp. 33-6.
106 intention. I have also examined accounts th at suppose intentions are suitably paired desires and beliefs and I have examined accounts that suppose that intentions are evaluative judgments or states of being decided to act. In any case, I have argued that however we understand intentions, it is possi ble for agents to intend the bad. I also suggested that in some cases perhaps very contrived cases it is possible to rationally intend the bad. Thus, I conclude th at intending the bad is possible. Still, it does not follow that intentionally pursuing the bad is possible. Therefore, even if has been shown that agents can intend the bad, the intentionbad thesis has not been secured. Quite generally, it is not th e case that if an agent can intend to an agent can intentionally. We might be able to in tend to perform actions that are nomic or physical impossibilities. A group of agents might be oddly struck by lightning every time one of them intends to perform a token of some act-type. Instances of causal deviance might be pervasive such that no one ever intentionally s, even if everyone intends to Or agents might be very lazy. Sinc e it is not true that intending to is sufficient for -ing intentionally, then it is not true that intending the bad is sufficient for intentionally pursuing the bad. But then, again, the intentionbad thesis has not been secured. However, here is an argume nt that suggests that the intentionbad thesis is very likely the case, given that is possi ble for agents to intend the bad: 1) If an agent can intend to and if -ing is a nomic and physical possibility, then, other things being equal, an agent can intentionally 2) An agent can intend to pursue the bad 3) Intentionally pursuing the bad is a nomic and physical possibility 4) Therefore, other things being equal, an agent can intentionally pursue the bad The other things being equal clause is not meant to be controversial; I only mean to preclude familiar goblins that annoy action theo rists and prevent us from offering a full-
107 blown analysis of intentional action. Suppose I intend to perform some action Suppose also that I do not abandon my intentio n, that contingent circumstances do not prevent me from executing my intention, that the time and opportunity to execute the intention come up, that I do not run afoul of causally deviant chains, and so forth. In those circumstances, it seems plausible to s uppose that I will execute my intention and that I will intentionally. But if my intention is to perform an action that I believe is bad and not at all good, then I intend the bad. And if I successfully execute my intention to perform an action I believe is bad and not at all good, then I will inte ntionally pursue the bad. There are three responses to the above qui ck argument that the Panglossian may offer. First, the Panglossian might argue that the intentional pursuit of the bad is not a nomic or physical possibility. This first response does not seem likely to succeed. Some actions are not nomic or physical possibilities: I cannot intentionally square the circle and I cannot intentionally leap unaided over Griffin-Floyd Hall. But instances of the intentional pursuit of the ba d are not guaranteed to be actions that are similarly impossible. Second, the Panglossian might obj ect that the first premise of the above quick argument is false. Instead, the Pa nglossian might propose the following revised argument: 1) If an agent can intend to and if -ing is a nomic and physical and conceptual possibility, then, other things being equal, an agent can intentionally 2) An agent can intend to pursue the bad 3) Intentionally pursuing the bad is a nomic and physical and conceptual possibility 4) Therefore, other things being equal, an agent can intentionally pursue the bad The Panglossian would likely then deny that the above argument is sound, on the grounds that that the intentional pursuit of the bad is not conceptually possibl e. In the following
108 chapter, I shall consider a strong Panglossi an challenge of this kind that both the intentionbad and reasonbad theses are false. The challenge depends on the claims that it is a conceptual truth that intentional actions are actions performed for reasons and that it is not conceptually possible that an instan ce of the intentional pursuit of the bad is performed for a reason. I turn to th is argument in the following chapter..
109 CHAPTER 4 ACTING FOR REASONS AND REASONS FOR INTENTIONALLY PURSUING THE BAD You see: reason, gentleman, is a fine thi ng, that is unquestiona ble, but reason is only reason and satisfies only mans r easoning capacity, while wanting is a manifestation of the whole of lifethat is, the whole of human life, including reason and various little itches. And though our life in this manifestation often turns out to be a bit of tras h, it is still life and not just the extraction of a square root. . human nature acts as an entire whole, with everything that is in it, consciously and unconsciously, and t hough it lies, still it lives. Fyodor Dostoevsky, Notes From the Underground1 Introduction In previous chapters, I argue that the desirebad thesis is true and that it is possible to desire what is believed to be bad and not at all good. I also argue that agents can intend the bad and this is st rong reason to suppose that the intentionbad thesis is true. However, I acknowledge that even if the desirebad thesis is true and even if agents can intend the bad, the intentionbad and reasonbad theses do not follow; it is possible that agents can desire the bad but be unable to translate those de sires into action. In this chapter, I examine a strong Panglossian ch allenge that implies that even if the desirebad thesis is true, the intentionbad and reasonbad theses are nonetheless false. The strong Panglossian challenge begins from plausibl e theses concerning intentional action and leads to the conclusion that it is conceptual ly impossible to intentionally pursue the bad because it is conceptually impossible to inten tionally pursue what is thought to be bad and not at all good where in doing so, one acts for a reason. I will attempt to defang this 1 Fyodor Dostoevsky, Notes From the Underground p. 28, emphasis added.
110 challenge and argue that it is conceptually possible to intentio nally pursue the bad because it is conceptually possible to inten tionally pursue the bad for a reason. I thus defend both the intentionbad and reasonbad theses. Here are two intuitive theses: intentiona l actions are performed for reasons and acting intentionally just is acting for a reas on. While I do not argue for their truth, note that many philosophers appear to accept them, or at least accept close relatives of them. Donald Davidson famously argues that reas ons are the cause of intentional actions2 and explicitly states that it is (logically) impossible to perfor m an intentional action without some appropriate reason.3 Alvin Goldman claims that a piece of behavior is an intentional action if and only if it is done for a reason.4 Robert Audi claims that an action for a reason apparently must be intentional.5 Al Mele and Paul Moser take it to be a virtue of their account of intentional ac tion that their account is consistent with the popular thesis th at intentional A -ing is coextensive with A -ing done for a reason.6 Carl Ginet suggests that ther e are important connections between the concept of an action and the concept of an explanation of an action in terms of the acting agents reasons for doing it and that actions, and only actions, can have that sort of explanation.7 Rdiger Bittner states that people do things for reasons. 8 2 Davidson, Actions, Reasons, and Causes, pp. 3-19. 3 Davidson, Hempel on Explaining Action, p. 264. 4 Goldman, A Theory of Human Action p. 70. 5 Audi, Acting for Reasons, The Philosophical Review 45:4 (Oct. 1986), p. 511. 6 Mele and Moser, Intentional Action from The Philosophy of Action Mele, ed., p. 254. 7 Ginet, On Action p. 3. 8 Bittner, Doing Things for Reasons p. ix.
111 The intuitive theses perhaps contain the seeds of the strong Panglossian challenge alluded to above that the intentionbad and reasonbad theses are conceptually impossible. The strong Panglossian challenge can be recons tructed briefly as follows. An agent who intentionally pursues the bad believes that th e object of her pursuit is bad and not at all good. An agent who believes that what she pur sues is bad and not at all good could not believe that there is a reason for her to act. Thus, an agent who in tentionally pursues the bad could not act for a reason. But intentional actions are performed for reasons and acting intentionally just is acting for a reason. Therefore, no apparent instance of the intentional pursuit of the bad is actually an intentional action and it is simply misleading to speak of agents intentionally pursuing the bad. The proponent of the intentionbad and reasonbad theses thus appears to be committe d to rejecting the intuitive theses. In what follows, I consider various de veloped formulations of the above strong Panglossian challenge. I argue that none of th em is decisive and that the Panglossian has not shown that the intentionbad and reasonbad theses are false. The Panglossian objections depend upon ambiguities with respect to our use of the term reason and upon an overly restrictive account of what it is to believe th at an action is justified. The Problematic Syllogism Here again is the brief construction of the strong Panglossian challenge: An agent who intentionally pur sues the bad believes that the object of her pursuit is bad and not at all good. An agent who belie ves that what she pursues is bad and not at all good could not believe that there is a reason for her to act. Thus, an agent who intentionally pursues the bad could not act for a reason. But intentional actions are performed for reasons and acting intentionally just is acting for a reason. Therefore, no apparent instance of the intentional pursuit of the bad is actually an intentional action.
112 The challenge hinges on the premises that an agent must have a particular kind of belief to act for a reason and that an agent who intent ionally pursues the bad lacks such a belief. The following is a more detailed constructi on of the challenge. I shall refer to the following argument as the problematic syllogism ; it is problematic precisely because it implies that the intentionbad and reasonbad theses are false. The problematic syllogism can be rendered as follows: 1) If an agent is acti ng intentionally, then she is acting for a reason; 2) Acting for a reason is acting with th e belief that there is a reason for performing the action; 3) Acting with the belief that there is a reason for performing an action is acting with the belief that there is something about the action that justifies performing it; 4) Acting with the belief that there is something about an action that justifies performing it is acting with the belief that there is something good about the action; The conjunction of 1) 4) en tails the following conclusion: 5) If an agent is acting in tentionally, then she believes that there is something good about the action she performs. Further, the conjunction of 2), 3) a nd 4) entails the following conclusion: 6) Acting for a reason is acting with the belief that there is something good about the action being performed. 5) entails that the intentionbad thesis is false, since one of the necessary conditions for intentionally pursuing the bad is, at least, that an agent fails to believe that her action is at all good. 6) entails that the reasonbad thesis is false, since it entails that an agent cannot act for a reason and fail to believe that th ere is something good about the action being performed. I shall not challenge the truth of 1), but I shall examine variati ons of 1) below. Premises 2), 3), and 4) are all intuitively pl ausible and all have ph ilosophical arguments supporting them. Consider 2): act ing for a reason is acting with the belief that there is a
113 reason for performing the action. An impressive number of philosophe rs have noted that agents regularly provide spontaneous and non-in ferentially derived explanations of their actions, even while performing the action.9 Call this the spontaneity principle Suppose that the explanations are explanations in terms of reasons. It would be difficult to understand how agents could regularly offer spontaneous and non-inferentially derived explanations of their actions in terms of the reasons for which they acted unless they had beliefs about the reasons for which they acted while they were acting. Further, intentional action is of ten the product of reflect ive deliberation about what to do. It is plausible to suppose that agents who engage in reflective deliberation are considering and balancing reasons for and against perfo rming various actions. Call this the deliberative principle If agents do engage in reflective deli beration, then it is plausible to suppose that they must have beliefs about reasons ha ving to do with their actions. Finally, it is plausible to suppose that inten tional action is purposeful behavi or, such that, whenever an agent acts intentionally, the agent has a purpos e for performing that action. Call this the teleological principle But if an agent has a purpose for performing an action, then it seems that she must believe that she has th e purpose and thus believe that she has a reason to act, since believing an action will fu lfill a purpose implies believing there is a reason for performing the action. Consider also 3): acting with the belief that there is a reason for performing an action is acting with the belie f that there is something about performing the action that justifies the action. An analogy between pr actical and theoreti cal reasoning might support 3). It is plausible to suppose, as Da vid Velleman has, that theoretical reasoning 9 For an impressive list of citations, see David Velleman, Practical Reflection pp. 18-9.
114 constitutively aims at tracking the truth: Velleman claims that an agent who has no inclination toward the truth isnt in a position to believe.10 Having an inclination toward the truth is a matter of being receptive and responsive to reasons for believing a proposition: roughly, an agent who actually engages in theoretical reasoning comes to believe a proposition only if she is responsiv e to reasons for believing that proposition. For example, if an agent believes that th ere is no justification for believing some proposition P then given that theoretical reasoning constitutively aims at the truth, the agent would presumably not believe P If there is an analogy to be drawn between theoretical and practical reas oning, then it seems plausible to suppose that agents who engage in practical reasoning mu st believe that their actions are justified if they are to act, just as agents who engage in theoretical reasoning must believe that a proposition P is justified if they are to believe that P So perhaps practical reasoning constitutively aims at something analogous to truth. Call this Vellemans principle .11 Further, recall that in previous chapters I have accepted Davidsons th esis that the explanation of intentional action is rationalizing explanat ion and the thesis that rati onalizations explain by citing what it is about an action that appeals to an agent and leads her to perform it.12 By Davidsons own lights, a rationa lization provides at least a minimal justification of the performance of an action. Davidson claims th ere is a sense, albeit an anemic one, in 10 Velleman, The Possibility of Practical Reason, reprinted in his The Possibility of Practical Reason p. 188. See also Introduction, pp. 17, from the same volume. 11 Velleman also argues that there is a constitutive motive of practical reasoning that in turn provides the constitutive aim of practical reasoning. See his Introduction, p. 17-8, ffn. 26. Unfortunately, Vellemans views about what the constitutive motive and aim of practical reasoning are have evolved, and thus it is unclear what he thinks the constitutive motive and aim of practical reasoning are. Velleman offers the intentionally imprecise description of the constitutive mo tive as a desire to be actuated by reasons; ibid., p. 19. 12 Davidson, Actions, Reasons, and Causes, pp. 3-19.
115 which every rationalization justifies: from the agents point of view there was, when he acted, something to be said for the action.13 Call the thesis that rationalizing explanations express an agents belief that her action has some thing to be said for it and is therefore at least minimally justified Davidsons principle The same principles that appear to justify 3) also appear to just ify 4). Perhaps just as theoretical reasoning constitutively aims at truth, practical reasoning constitutively aims at the good. Perhaps agents who find thei r obsessive or compulsi ve behavior to be excessive and unreasonable also believe that there is nothing good about their actions. Perhaps it is simply obscure how one could be lieve an action is justifiably performed if one did not believe that there is something good about the action. Given that the problematic syllogism a ppears to be a straightforwardly valid argument and given that 1) 4) appear to be well justified, there are grounds for accepting 5) and 6) and for rejecting the intentionbad and reasonbad theses. I respond to the challenges to the intentionbad thesis and to the reasonbad thesis separately. I argue that while the problematic syllogism contains a formally valid argument in opposition to the intentionbad thesis, the argument suffers from an informal fallacy. I then argue that the argument contained within the problem atic syllogism that is opposed to the reasonbad thesis can be resisted. A Taxonomy of Reasons As I argue in this sectio n, I argue that there is mo re than one kind of reason relevant to the explanation and justification of action and that the term reason is often used equivocally. Nonetheless, insofar as we hope to find something consistent about the 13 Davidson, ibid., p. 9.
116 different senses of reason, we should, I sugge st, assume the following two theses. First, our conception of a reason will be that of a consideration that is relevant to the explanation and justification of action; to be a reason just is to be the sort of thing that is relevant to the explanation and production a nd justification and ev aluation of actions. This observation has led some philosophers to suppose that reasons must be dicta where dicta are, roughly, predicates or propositions or sentences. For example, Steven Darwall claims that since reasons must be the sort of thing that can be. . said on behalf of an act and thought in favor of an act, reasons must be dicta.14 However, Darwalls claim cannot be correct. Predicates and propositions and sentences are not the sort of things that explain or justify action; th erefore, dicta are not reasons and vice versa Instead of claiming with Darwall that reasons are dicta, we ought to assert merely that reasons must be expressible as dicta. In citing a reason to ex plain or justify an action, we claim that we have reasons; when reasoning about what we should do, we suppose that there are relevant reasons; if we finally deci de to perform some action, we judge that we have sufficient reason to act. Thus it is essential that reasons figure into explanations and justifications of action, but all that depe nds upon the second thesis: reasons must be capable of being represented or expressed in dicta. I have already suggested that reasons can be asserted as part of an explanation or justification of behavior. There is an intuitive difference between explanation and justification. At least, it is surely the cas e that not every explanation of some event, E justifies the occurrence of E ; shifting weather pa tterns might explain a drought in the Midwest, but the drought is not justified becau se of shifting weather patterns. Perhaps, 14 Darwall, Impartial Reason p. 31.
117 therefore, we must distinguish between diffe rent kinds of reasons that are invoked in explanations of behavior, on the one ha nd, and in justifications on the other.15 There are, however, any number of things that might be included in an explanation of an agents behavior, but not all of those things are reasons in the appropriate sense. A lack of serotonin might be part of what e xplains why an agent mopes and damage to the prefrontal lobes of the brain might be part of what explains violent be havior, but a lack of serotonin and damage to the prefrontal lobes are not reasons in the relevant sense. We are interested in a sub-class of reasons invoked in explanations of w hy an agent acts that we can refer to as motivating reasons. Following Michael Sm ith, we can characterize a motivating reason as a psychological state that is potentially explanatory of an agents behavior.16 Further, we can simply stipulate that motivating reasons are not simply brute causes, but must somehow be capable of rationa lizing behavior. In previous chapters, we have considered various plausi ble candidates for motivating r easons; desires, beliefs, and intentions are all psychological st ates that potentially explain an agents behavior but also are capable of rationalizing an agents behavior and thus coun t as motivating reasons. Of course, not all motivating reasons will actually explain an agents be havior since not all motivating reasons will actually produce any behavior. I might desire to read James Joyces Ulysses without ever cracking its spine, much less picking up the book or purchasing it or forming the intention to find a copy or so forth. I might be physically or psychological unable to perform any relevant mental or physical behavior, I may be 15 See, for example, Derek Parfit, Reasons and Persons p. 118: We must distinguish between two kinds of reasons; explanatory and good . See also Kurt Baier, The Moral Point Of View pp. 148-56; Bernard Williams, Internal and External Reasons from his Moral Luck ; Michael Smith, The Humean Theory of Motivation, p. 38; Steven Darwall, ibid., p. 27, among others. 16 Smith, ibid., p. 38.
118 struck dead before the opportunity to act comes up, and so forth. Effective reasons are a sub-class of motivating reasons that ac tually do explain an agents behavior. It is not necessary for something to be a motivating reason that an agent believes that she is motivated as a result of that motivating reason. An agent suffering from an Oedipus complex perhaps has a desire to sleep with his mother but insofar as he surely represses his desire, he does not believe that he is motivated to sleep with his mother. Still, his Oedipal desire might explain why he pines for mother when she is absent, why he refuses to leave mothers house, and so fo rth; if his Oedipal de sire does explain his behavior, then his Oedipal desi re is a motivating reason. This story seems coherent. If the story is coherent, then we must admit that it is possible for an agent to have a motivating reason but not believe th at she has the motivating reason. Not everything that we refer to as a reas on must actually explain behavior. In particular, reasons that justify behavior need not explain an ything at all. Reasons that justify behavior are normative reasons. Various philosophers have suggested plausible accounts of normative reasons. Smith char acterizes a normative reason as some consideration that justifies an agents beha vior from the perspective of some normative system that generates that requirement.17 Thomas Scanlon claims that a reason for something is a consideration that counts in favor of the thing. For example, a reason for performing an action just is a consideration that counts in favor of performing the action.18 One thing that unites these accounts is that it is possibl e on all these accounts that a normative reason never explains anythi ng that any agent does. Presumably, British 17 Smith, ibid. p. 39. 18 Scanlon, What We Owe To Each Other p. 17.
119 sailors had a normative reason to eat citrus fruits to prevent scurvy and cavemen had a normative reason to brush their teeth, even if neither the sailors nor the cavemen could have intentionally eaten ci trus fruits or br ushed their teeth for that reason. Note that nothing in the present char acterizations of mo tivating and normative reasons prevents something from being bot h a motivating and normative reason. I have suggested that there are di fferent kinds of reasonsmo tivating and normative reasons that justify and explain beha vior respectivelybut that doe s not mean a reason could not both justify and explain. Note that no rmative reasons are sometimes offered in explanations of intentional action. In some cases, an an swer to the question Why did you do that? elicits both a rationalizing expl anation and a justification. The most common, if not uncontrove rsial, example of something th at is both a motivating reason and a normative reason is a morally innocent de sire; for example, my desire to drink a cup of tea might both explain my act of brew ing a cup and justify my act.19 Admittedly, it is controversial whether or not desires can constitute normative reasons.20 I do not insist that desires can or ever do constitute normative reasons. I only pause to note that, as far as I can tell, nothing that has been said so far indicates that something could not be both a normative and motivating reason. 19 For arguments that at least some desires provide no rmative reasons for action, see Stephen Schiffer, A Paradox of Desire, American Philosophical Quarterly 13:3 (July 1976), pp.197-8; Donald Davidson, Davidson, Intending, p. 102 and Replies to Essays I-IX, from Essays on Actions and Events Vermazen and Hintikka, eds., p. 213; Dennis Stampe, The Authority of Desire, The Philosophical Review 46:3 (July 1987), pp. 335-81; Ruth Chang, Can Desires Provide Reasons for Action?, from Reason and Value: Themes from the Moral Philosophy of Joseph Raz R. Jay Wallace, ed., pp. 56-90. 20 For arguments they cannot, see Dere k Parfit, ibid., p. 121; Joseph Raz, The Morality of Freedom pp. 140-4; E. J. Bond, Reason and Value p. 31; Stephen Darwall, Impartial Reason esp. chapters 3 and 6; Michael Stocker, Plural and Conflicting Values p. 191; G. F. Schuler, Desire pp. 91-7; Scanlon, ibid., pp. 41-9.
120 There is another kind of reason that dema nds attention that is not a normative or motivating reason; this is the sort of reason I shall refer to as an agents reason. An agents reason is the reason that an agent sin cerely asserts, or woul d sincerely assert, is the reason for which she performed some beha vior, or for which she will or would have acted. An agent who sincerely asserts her reas on is providing what she thinks is at least a minimal justification of her action; at least, an agent who sincerel y asserts her reason for acting appears to imply that she believes her action has something to be said for it. Further, an agent who sincerely asserts her reason for acting gives us a clue what her motivating reason is. An agents sincere avow al of her reason for acting is supposed to help us construct, at least par tially, a rationalizing explanation of her action. It is true that an agents reasons are very often elliptical such that we cannot necessarily discern what an agents motivating reason is even when she truly states what her reason for acting is. For example, an agent might claim that sh e donated money to charity because it was the right thing to do. But the righ tness of an action is not a psychological state and thus the rightness of her action cannot be her motivati ng reason. Still, we might reasonably infer that an agent wanted to perform a right action, or that she believed that she was performing a right action, and so forth. So even if an agents statement of her reasons does not allow us to deduce what her motiva ting reasons are, her statement may give some idea of what her motivating reasons are. Still, for a reason R to be an agents reason, it need not be the case that R is an effective or motivating reason si nce it is possible that an ag ent has mistaken, if sincere, beliefs about the reasons for which she perfor ms some behavior. An agent who represses his Oedipal desire to sleep w ith his mother might falsely believe that he stays close to
121 home because he wants to save money. Even though his Oedipal desire is his effective motivating reason, his reason for acting is his desire to save money. Further, for a reason R to be an agents reason, it al so need not be the case that R is a normative reason since it is possible that an agent acts fo r a reason that utterly fails to justify performing the action. Thus, an agents reason for acting might fail to either explain or just ify her behavior. It might be puzzling why an agents r easons deserve attention if they do not necessarily explain or justify behavior. There are some reasons for philosophers to be interested in an agents reasons, however. Fi rst, it seems that in paradigm cases of intentional action, there is overlap between an agents reasons and her effective motivating reasons, such that in paradigm cases of intentio nal action, agents have true beliefs about their motivating reasons and true beliefs about why they act. I pursue this point further in Chapter 5 where I discuss cases of paradigmatic or full-blooded actions. Second, many of the principles discu ssed above suppose that an agents reasons are relevant to the explanation and justificati on of action. If the deliberative principle is correct, then agents often act on the basis of reflective deliberation and it is plausible to suppose that agents who act as a result of re flective deliberation will have beliefs about what reasons they act for. If the teleol ogical principle is correct, then agents who perform actions have goals that they mean to fulfill and it seems plausible to suppose that an agent who has a goal believes that she has a reason to act, namely, to fulfill her goal. Third, there is long tradition in moral and le gal philosophy that stresse s that the rightness or wrongness of an agents action depends, at least in part, on an agents reasons. Kantians, for example, insist that something like the following is the case: an action is morally praiseworthy only if an agent believed that she acte d for moral reasons. Finally,
122 it is intuitive that agents who act intentionally are at least sometimes in control of what they are doing. While I do not defend any particul ar account of control here, it is hard to understand how an agent could be in control of what she does if she is mistaken about the reasons for which she acts. An agent who was always mistaken about her effective reasons, for example, could hardly be said to be in control of what she is doing since she does not even know why she is acting. But th at suggests that an agents reasons can make a difference with respect to, for example, whether or not an agent is in control of what she does. Thus, it is perhaps not th at surprising that some philosophers have supposed that an agents reasons must at least be similar to her effec tive reasons, if she is to act intentionally.21 In this section, I have attempted to distingui sh different kinds of reasons. Failure to distinguish between these kinds of reasons leads to potential conf usion, and, I suggest, the problematic syllogism conflates different kinds of reasons. Or so I argue in the following section. Reason and Equivocation In this section, I discuss the problema tic syllogism and the strong Panglossian challenge to the intentionbad and reasonbad theses. I have conceded that the premises of the problematic syllogism appear to be we ll-founded and that si nce the problematic syllogism is a straightforward piece of syll ogistic reasoning, it appears to be sound. However, the problematic syllogism as it stands suffers from an informal fallacy: the problematic syllogism only appears plausibl e if we ignore that the term reason is 21 Robert Audi, for example, includes in his analysis of acting for a reason a belief condition that an agent believes something to the effect that there is a co nnecting relation between her action and the reason for which she acts; see Audi, Acting for Reasons, The Philosophical Review 45:4, (Oct. 1986), p. 519. David Velleman has a sophisticated discussion of self-a wareness in action and argues that agents at least attempt to understand what they are doing in his Practical Reflection.
123 ambiguous. Disambiguating reason in the pr oblematic syllogism ma kes it appear much less plausible. Here, again, is the problematic syllogism: 1) If an agent is acting intentionall y, then she is acting for a reason 2) Acting for a reason is acting with th e belief that there is a reason for performing the action 3) Acting with the belief that there is a reason for performing an action is acting with the belief that there is some thing about the acti on that justifies performing it 4) Acting with the belief that there is so mething about an action that justifies performing it is acting with the belief that there is something good about the action The problematic syllogism yields the following two conclusions: 5) If an agent is acting inte ntionally, then she believes that there is something good about the action she performs. 6) Acting for a reason is acting with the be lief that there is something good about the action being performed. Consider 1): If an agent is acting intenti onally, then she is acting for a reason. I am inclined to think that reason, in 1), refers to a motivating reason and that it is an analytic truth that agents who act inte ntionally act for motivating r easons. Thus, a disambiguated 1) should read as follows: 1a) If an agent is acting intentionally, then she acts for a motivating reason 1) only seems plausible if reason refers to motivating reasons. Suppose, for example, that 1) is a thes is about normative reasons. 1) would therefore be disambiguated as follows: 1b) If an agent is acting intentionally, then she acts for a normative reason 1b) seems clearly false since there are intentiona l actions that have not hing to be said for them and thus that could not be supported by normative reasons. I find it plausible that there are some actions that simply have nothi ng at all to be said for them. Banging my
124 head on the desk right now yi elds absolutely nothing that is good and thus there is no normative reason for me to intentionally bang my head on the desk. Further, consider cases in which we claim that agents ac t for no reason. For example, I might intentionally cross my legs or crack my knuckl es and claim sincerely that I do so for no reason. Following Ginet, we might insist that these actions are inte ntional if any actions are.22 Clearly, however, I do not cross my legs or crack my knuckles for no motivating reason; something explains my intentionally crossing my legs or cracking my knuckles. Claiming that we act for no reason is a facon de parler and, I suggest, is most naturally read as meaning that there is no normativ e reason that demands that the action is performed. Actions performed for no reason also sugge st that 1) is not a thesis about an agents reasons. Suppose that 1) were a thesis about an agents reasons. A disambiguated 1) would th erefore read as follows: 1c) If an agent is acting intenti onally then she acts for her reason However, in cases in which an agent acts for no reason, it is not clear what an agents account of her own reasons for acting will be. Asking an agent an agent Why did you do that? after she has cracked he r knuckles intentionally migh t elicit elliptical responses like I dont knowbecause I wanted to; it is no t clear that this answer implies that an agent has any belief about what her reason for acting is. An agent who claims something like I dont knowbecause I wanted to might be trying to explain that she has a fetish for cracking her knuckles and just finds it pleas urable. In that case, perhaps she has a reason for cracking her knuckles. Alternativ ely, an agent who claims something like I 22 Ginet, ibid., p. 3.
125 dont knowbecause I wanted to might be speaking literally. Perhaps her knuckle cracking was mindless and thoughtless a nd although she cracked her knuckles intentionally, there was nothing about her acti on at the time she performed that appealed to her. Thus, she lacks a reason for acting. Note th at, typically, claiming because I wanted to does not quite provide an agent s reason. An agents si ncere avowal of her reason for acting is supposed to help us c onstruct, at least partially, a rationalizing explanation of her action. But an agent w ho only claims that she acted because she wanted to does not tell us enough to begin constructing a rationaliz ing explanation; her response only tells us what we already kne wthat there is something about her action that appealed to her and led her to perform itbut it gives us no idea what it is about her action that appealed to her a nd led her to perform it. Fina lly, consider cases in which agents act intentionally but have false beliefs about the reasons for which they act, such as is the case with my agent who intentionally stays near mother because of his repressed Oedipal desire. His reason for staying near moth er is that he wants to save money, but he does not literally act for his reason, even if he thinks that he does. But then it appears that an agent can act intentionally without having, at the time she acted, an agents reason. If all this is right, then 1) is most pl ausibly disambiguated as 1a) and read as a thesis about motivating reasons. If 1a) is th e properly disambiguated reading of 1), then if the Panglossian means to use reason une quivocally, then reason in the consequent of 1) should refer to the same thing that it refers to in the antecedent of 2). Still, all of the following are potential readings of 2): 2a) Acting for a motivating reason is acti ng with the belief that there is a motivating reason for performing the action
126 2b) Acting for a motivating reason is acti ng with the belief that there is a normative reason for performing the action 2c) Acting for a motivating reason is acting wi th the belief that there is an agents reason for performing the action Rather than directly considering whether 2a) 2c) is most plausible, consider 3). All of the following are potential readings of 3): 3a) Acting with the belief that there is a motivating reason for performing an action is acting with the belief that th ere is something about the action that justifies performing it 3b) Acting with the belief that there is a normative reason for performing an action is acting with the belief that th ere is something about the action that justifies performing it 3c) Acting with the belief that there is an agents reason for performing an action is acting with the belief that there is something about the action that justifies performing it I submit that 3b) must be the appropriate di sambiguated reading of 3). 3a) seems false since it seems false to suppose that believing that one is acting for a motivating reason entails that one believes there is something that justifies the action being performed. At the very least, even if one believes that ones action is the product of some motivating reason, it is not clear how to infer that there is something about that action that justifies its performance. The Panglossian may find 3c) plausible, but, as I suggest below, 3c) is compatible with very un-Panglossian theses since it remains an open question at this point what can count as an agen ts reason; it is an open ques tion at this po int whether an agent who believes that she has a reason for acting must also believe that her reason justifies performing her action. Thus, 3b) is the most likely reading of 3). Since reason as it appears in the conseque nt of 2) must refer to the same thing that reason as it appears in th e antecedent of 3) refers to, if the Panglossian means to use
127 reason unequivocally, then 2b) must be the appropriate disambiguated reading of 2). The premises of the disambiguated problematic syllogism are as follows: 1a) If an agent is acting intentionally, then she acts for a motivating reason 2b) Acting for a motivating reason is acti ng with the belief that there is a normative reason for performing the action 3b) Acting with the belief that there is a normative reason for performing an action is acting with the belief that th ere is something about the action that justifies performing it 4) Acting with the belief that there is something about an action that justifies performing it is to act with the belief that there is something good about the action being performed Whether we are forced to accept the conclusi ons of the problematic syllogism and deny the desirebad and reasonbad theses depends upon whethe r or not the disambiguated problematic syllogism is sound and therefor e whether or not its premises are true. Unfortunately, 2b) seems false. Examples of agents who act for no reason seem to be counter-examples to 2b), since when agen ts act for no reason it seems they do not believe there is a normative reason for acting. If 2b) is false, then not all of the premises of the disambiguated problematic syllogism are true and thus the problematic syllogism is not sound. Thus, the proponent of the intentionbad and reasonbad theses need not accept the conclusions of the problematic syllogism that pur port to show the intentionbad and reasonbad theses are false. The Panglossian who offers the problematic syllogism as an argument against the intentionbad and reasonbad theses faces the following dilemma. In its original version, the problematic syllogism appears to be plausible only because of an ambiguity. The disambiguated problematic syllogism does not appear to be sound. Thus, the Panglossian seems forced to admit that the problematic syllogism is either invalid because it suffers
128 from a fallacy or that it is unsound. Either way, the proponent of the intentionbad and reasonbad theses need not accept the conclusions of the problematic syllogism and thus need not abandon either the intentionbad and reasonbad theses. The Problematic Syllogism Redux In the previous section, I argued that the problematic syllogism suffers from an ambiguity and that the problematic syllogism appears to be unsound once the ambiguity is removed. But even if this counts as a victory for the proponent of the intentionbad and reasonbad theses, it is perhaps a rather hol low victory. My argument that the disambiguated problematic syllogism is unsound depended on, for example, cases in which agents mindlessly crack their knuckles But knuckle-cracking cases do not supply the proponent of the intentionbad and reasonbad theses with much to explain how it is possible to intentionally pursue the bad and to act for the reason that ones action is believed to be bad and not at all good. The Pa nglossian thesis seems to be that there is something an agent must believe, B if an agent is to act inte ntionally and act for a reason. But even if there are knuckle-cracking cases in which an agent acts intentionally, perhaps they are not really cases in which an agent acts for a reas on. If we set aside such cases cases of actions performed for no reas onand focus on cases in which an agent has a reason for acting, perhaps the Panglossian is correct that an agent must believe B to act intentionally and to act for a reason. If so, the problematic syllogism can be revived. In the discussion that follows, cases of mindless and trivial act ions in which an agent acts for nor reason will simply be i gnored. For the remainde r of this section, I suppose that an agent who acts for a reason mu st have her own reason for action. I shall refer to instances in which an agent acts in tentionally and has her reason for acting cases of acting intentionally*. I also suppose that when an agent acts intentionally*, she not
129 only has a reason for acting, but her reason for acting actually does produce and explain her acting intentionally*. I claim that an ag ent who acts intentionally* and who acts for a reason, acts in the belief that her action is justifie d, acts in the belief that there is a normative reason that justifies her action, and acts in the be lief that there is something good about her action. An agent who acts in the belief, I suggest, does not merely act with some belief; instead, acting in a belief about her reason, for example, implies that her reason actually does produce and explai n her action. Thus, in cases of acting intentionally*, an agents reason actually tr acks the effective reason that explains her action. Unless otherwise stated, the instances of acting for a r eason that I discuss in this section are cases of actin g intentionally*, not simp ly acting intentionally. With these stipulations in place, consid er the following redux version of the disambiguated problematic syllogism: 7) If an agent acts for a reason, then sh e acts in the belief that the action is justified 8) If an agent acts in the beli ef that the action is justified is, then she acts in the belief that there is a normative reason that justifies the action 9) If an agent acts in the be lief that there is a normative reason that justifies the action, then she acts in the belief that there is something good about the action The conjunction of 7) 9) yields the following conclusion: 10) If an agent acts for a reason, then she acts in belief that there is something good about the action Note that the redux version of the problematic syllogism does not suffer from any obvious equivocations and, given the inter alia clause, it can allow that motivating reasons have a role to play in the produc tion and explanation of action. And 10) does appear to imply that the intentionbad and reasonbad theses are false. If acting intentionally* is acting fo r a reason, then it is not possible for an agent to believe that her
130 action is bad and not at all good and still act inte ntionally*, if 10) is true; thus, the intentionbad thesis would be false. And is seem s that 10) precludes acting for the reason that the action is believed to be bad and not at all good, since acting for a reason involves believing that there is something good about the action being performed; thus the reasonbad thesis appears to be false, if 10) is true. Thus, the proponent of the intentionbad and reasonbad theses must also resist the redux version of the problematic syllogism. I shall attempt to do so in the remainder of this chapter. It is worth noting that 10) actually may be consistent with the reasonbad thesis, even if it is not consistent with the intentionbad thesis. Again, the reasonbad thesis states that the believed badness of an action can be the acting agents reason for acting. Suppose that 10) is true and that it is a necessary condition of acting for a reason, and thus for acting intentionally, that an agen t believes there is something good about her action; it does not follow that her reason for acting is that her action is believed to be good. It is possible to believe that an action would be good to perform and to act for a different reason. Imagine a variant of th e Kants shopkeeper. Suppose the shopkeeper believes that there is something good about pr oviding exact change: perhaps he believes that it is good that people get what they de serve. Suppose the shopke eper also believes providing exact change will lead to the ruin of his business si nce he believes that all of his competitors do not give exact change a nd that he cannot unless he too cheats his customers. So suppose that the shopkeeper also believes that there is something bad about giving exact change: it will lead to the ruin of his business. Perhaps the shopkeeper does not intentionally pursue the bad since he believes th ere is something good about his giving exact change. But suppose that the shopkeeper is frustrated with trying to
131 compete with corrupt competitors and decides to give exact change for the reason that it would lead to his own ruin. If this is possible, then th e shopkeeper would intentionally give correct change and his reason for doing so would be that givi ng correct change is bad. The shopkeeper would act for a reason an d would act intentionally, but he would not act for the reason th at the Panglossian hoped. For all that, it is not clear that the red ux version of the problematic syllogism is sound and thus it is not clear that the redux version does block the intentionbad thesis. I suggest that the proponent of the intentionbad and reasonbad theses can accept 7), and perhaps can accept 8); if the proponent of the intentionbad and reasonbad theses can accept 7) then there is reason to suspect that 8) is false and if the proponent of the intentionbad and reasonbad theses can accept 8) then there is reason to suspect that 9) is false. Consider 7): if an agent act s for a reason, then she acts in the belief that the action is justified. Above, I suggested that Da vidsons principle supports 3); Davidsons principle also appears to suppor t 7). Again, Davidsons princi ple states that rationalizing explanations indicate that from the acting ag ents point of view, he r action is justified because she believed her action had something to be said for it. Thus, if Davidsons principle is correct, then there is a concep tual connection between thinking an action is justified and thinking an acti on has something to be said for it. The proponent of the intentionbad and reasonbad theses can allow that an agent who intentionally* pursues the bad or acts for the reason that her action is believed to be bad and not at all good thinks that her action is jus tified. This is because the proponent of the intentionbad and reasonbad theses can allow that an agent who in tentionally* pursues th e bad or acts for
132 the reason that her action is believed to be ba d thinks that her acti on has something to be said for it. Davidsons principl e leaves it open just why an ag ent thinks that her action is justified and everything depends on what an ag ent thinks is sufficient for an action to have something to be said for it. Perhaps an agent believes that the believed badness of an action is what the action has to be said for it. Perhaps an agent like Carla believes that actions that lead to her being harmed are justified because she thinks that her being harmed, while not a good thing, has something to be said for it. Perhaps a sufficiently frustrated agent performs actions that she be lieves are utterly futile because she takes the futility of those actions to be something to be said for them. Perhaps a self-loathing agent believes that an action that harms her has some thing to be said for it because that action results in her being harmed. If it possible to have perverse beliefs about what an action has to be said for it, or for that matter about what sorts of considerations justify an action, then it is possible for an agent to believe that some action believed to be bad and not at all good has something to be said for it. Thus, ev en if Davidsons principle is correct, it may be possible for an agent to believe that some action believed to be bad and not at all good is justified. The argument in the previous paragraph de pends on the possibility of agents having perverse beliefs about, for example, what it is for an action to have something to be said for it. But it is far from clear why it is not pos sible for agents to have perverse beliefs of this sort. I have already argued that some moods and emotions might cause an agent to desire what she believes is bad and not at all good. Simila rly, moods and emotions might cause an agent to have perverse beliefs about what an action has to be said for it and what
133 it is about an action that ju stifies it. Dostoevskys man from the underground suggests he has perverse beliefs about what his actions have to be said for them: So Im bothering you, straining your hearts, not letting anyone in the house sleep. Dont sleep, then; you, too, should feel every moment that I have a toothache. For you Im no longer a hero, as I once wished to appear, but simply a vile little fellow, a chenapan Well, so be it! Im very glad you ve gotten to the bottom of me. Its nasty for you listening to my mean little moans? Let it be nasty, then; heres an even nastier roulade for you. . Youre laughing? Im very glad. To be sure, gentlemen, my jokes are bad in toneuneven, confused, self-mistrustful. But that is simply because I dont respect myself.23 Admittedly, it is difficult to understand th e underground mans reasoning here and he himself cautions against taking his ruminations too seriously. Yet it appears that the underground man thinks that moaning loudly to keep everyone up is nasty and that it is because his moaning is nasty that his acti on has something to be said for it. The underground man seems possible. So it seems possible that agents can have perverse beliefs about what counts in favor of an act ion. So long as agents can have perverse beliefs about what counts in favor of an act ion, then agents can in tentionally* pursue the bad and act for the reason that the action is believed to be bad and not at all good consistently with 7). Th us, the proponent of the intentionbad and reasonbad theses can accept 7). It is unclear what we should say abou t 8), if 7) is consistent with the intentionbad and reasonbad theses. It is simply not clear whethe r or not an agent who thinks that her action is justified because, for example, she th inks that her action is bad and not at all good can also think that there is a normative reas on that justifies her action. Perhaps the only thing that could be belie ved to count as a normative reason for an action is a 23 Dostoevsky, ibid., pp. 13-4.
134 consideration that implies th e action is good. Raz appears to accept something like this since he argues that only facts which show an act to be good constitute a reason for performing the action.24 In contrast, however, recall th at Smith claims that a normative reason is some consideration that justifies an agents behavior fro m the perspective of the normative system. I am uncertain what Smith thinks constitutes a normative system, but perhaps there are perverse normative system s that generate perverse requirements. Perhaps there are perverse normative systems that imply that the fact that an action is bad and not at all good is a normative reason for pe rforming the action. If there are perverse normative systems, then it is possible that those perverse normative systems generate perverse normative reasons. If there are perverse normative reasons, then the proponent of the intentionbad and reasonbad theses can accept 8). Suppose, however, that perverse normative reasons are incoherent. The proponent of the intentionbad and reasonbad theses can still accept 8). 8) only implies that if an agent acts with a belief that her action is justified, she will believe that there is a normative reason that justifies her action. Even if there are no perverse normative reasons, it is possible for agents to believe that there are perverse normative reasons or to believe that, for example, the fact that an action is bad and not at all good is a normative reason. So perhaps the proponent of the intentionbad and reasonbad theses can accept 8). Thus, it appears that if the redux version of the problematic syllogism is to make trouble for the proponent of the intentionbad and reasonbad theses, the Panglossian must establish 9): if an agent acts in the belief th at there is a normative reason that justifies the 24 Raz, Agency, Reason, and the Good, p. 24.
135 action, then she acts in the belief that ther e is something good about the action. I am not aware of any philosopher who explicitly defends 9). Perhaps it is simply unclear how an action that is believed to be ba d and not at all good could also be believed to be justified. The proponent of the intentionbad and reasonbad theses objects that, when explaining action, we do not need to suppose the agent took there to be facts which show her act to be good. In response, Raz claims: The [objector] is, therefore, committed to the availability of an explanation of how it is that non-good making qualities make an action eligible. I find it difficult to imagine such an explanation.25 There are at least two different readings of th is passage. On one reading of this passage, Raz is not committed to any distinctly Pa nglossian thesis that an agent who acts intentionally must believe he r action is at least minima lly good. Instead, Raz may only be committing himself to a negative thesis about what is required for acting intentionally; Raz may only demand that, if an agent is to act intentionally, then that agent must not believe that her action is bad and not at all good, or that if an agent is to act intentionally, then that agent must not believe that her reason for acti ng is the believed badness of her action. The argument for the proposed negative belief constraint ap pears to rest on an inability to imagine how non-good making-qualiti es make an action eligible. I shall return to this argument below. Note, howev er, that Razs account of what it is for an action to be eligible suggests he does endorse somethi ng like 9). Raz claims that the explanation of action must include: [W]hat the agent took to be facts whic h show the act to be good, and which therefore, constitute a reason for its performance, making it eligible.26 25 Raz, ibid., pp. 26-7.
136 It thus appears that it is at least sufficient for an action to be eligible that, inter alia an agent took there to be facts which show the act to be good. Further, it is apparent from the above quotation that Raz does suppose there is some link between thinking that an action is good and there being a reason for performing the acti on. Thus, it appears that Raz does accept something very close to 9). In fairness to Raz, he does offer argum ents intended to show that only goodmaking qualities could make an action eligible, beyond merely gesturing that the intentionbad and reasonbad theses are incomprehensible. Raz argues that: The difficulty in explaining the eligibili ty of actions in ways other than by reference to good-making qualities is of finding conceptual room for an alternative. . It would seem to follo w that those who do not hurt others, or who deny that the fact that an action would hur t others is in and of itself a reason to perform it, are irrational, or at least imperfectly rational, for they fail to acknowledge such reasons.27 In a similar vein, Raz argues that: That an action will hurt another is no r eason for performing it for if it were then everyone would have such a reason and t hose who did not act for them would be irrational. That is absurd. .28 I find these remarks puzzling. In response to the first of Razs arguments quoted immediately above, it is not true that if an agent fails to acknowledge a normative reason for acting, the agent is irrational. Some agen ts are simply not in position to know about some normative reasons that apply to them: it is plausible to suppose that my British sailors and cavemen could not have been re sponsive to and could not have acknowledged that they had reasons to eat citrus fruits a nd brush their teeth, but it hardly follows that 26 Raz, ibid., p. 24. 27 Raz, ibid., p. 28. 28 Raz, ibid., p. 26.
137 they were irrational. Further, in response to the second of Razs ar guments, it is not clear why if something is a norm ative reason, then every agent must have that normative reason to act. Finally, as I ar gue above, the proponent of intentionbad and reasonbad theses is simply not committed to claiming that, for example, the fact that some action would hurt someone is a normative reason. The proponent of the intentionbad and reasonbad theses is only committed to claiming that the believed badness of an action can be thought to be what justifies performi ng an action or to constitute what an action has to be said for it. Return to Razs claim that: The [objector] is, therefore, committed to the availability of an explanation of how it is that non-good making qualities make an action eligible. I find it difficult to imagine such an explanation. Again, I am not certain what it is for an action to be eligible, but if Ra z means to object to the intentionbad and reasonbad theses, he must mean to claim that: The [objector] is, therefore, committed to the availability of an explanation of how it is that non-good making qualitie s make an action eligible from the point of view of the acting agent I find it difficult to imagine such an explanation.29 But this is a challenge th at the proponent of the intentionbad and reasonbad theses can meet. I have attempted to provide the beginnings of an explanation of how non-good making qualities can make an action eligible from the point of view of the acting agent. Given the appropriate moods or emotions, agen ts might come to acquire desires for what they believe to be bad and not at all good; they might be disposed to count as their reasons for acting considerations that show an action to be bad and not at all good; they might acquire evaluative principl es that, for example, actions believed to be bad and not 29 The boldface passage is my addition.
138 at all good are justifiable. If all of this is possible, then I submit it is possible that nongood making qualities could be thought to by an agent to make her action eligible. If the final remarks of the preceding para graph are correct, then we can explain why even the redux version of the problema tic syllogism fails to show that the intentionbad and reasonbad theses are false. The proponent of the intentionbad and reasonbad theses can claim that 9) is false, even if 7) and 8) are true: given the appropriate moods and emotions are in place, an agent can believe there is a normative reason that justifies her action yet fail to believe there is anything good about the action. Suppose, however, that it is impossible for an agent to believe that there is a normative reason that justifies her action while also belie ving that her action is bad and not at all good. Then, I submit, 8) is false: given that an agent has perverse beliefs about what justifies an action, it is possible for an agent to believe that the action she believes is bad and not at all good is justified. Either way, the redux version of the problematic syllogism is not sound. Conclusion I have argued in this chapte r that the proponent of the intentionbad and reasonbad theses can resist the problematic syllogi sm. My arguments depend partly on the hypothesis that agents can have perverse be liefs about what justifies an action, about what counts as a reason, and so forth. T hus, what can count as an agents reason fluctuates with the contours of an agents psychological profile. Admittedly, agents with what we take to be standard and healthy psychological profiles will accept reasonable ethical principles, and will have reasonable judgments about what justifies an action and counts as a normative reason to act. But perhap s there is a danger in appealing to agents with abnormal and unhealthy psychologi cal profiles in defense of the intentionbad and
139 reasonbad theses. I want to consider two objecti ons to my response to the problematic syllogism that will in turn motivate the following chapter. First, recall that I have sugge sted that moods and emotions can lead agents to desire what they believe to be bad and not at all good, to count the fact that an action is believed to be bad and not at all good as a reason to act, and so forth. It may be objected, however, that this does not prope rly or sufficiently e xplain how agents come to be in the position where they desire the bad or count non-good making considerat ions as reasons. Further, only appealing to moods and emoti ons does not satisfactorily explain how agents could, for example, acquire a desire for the bad as a result of deliberation or could deliberately and reflectively count the fact that an action is believed to be bad and not at all good as a reason for performing the action. I have suggested that these things are possible in previous chapters, but I have not explained why they are possible and I have only gestured and some sort of black box th at somehow produces perverse desires and evaluative beliefs. But that is not an adequate explanat ion. Call this the objection from the black-box .30 I think that the objection from the blackbox is overstated. I have argued, for example, that instances of the intentional pursuit of the bad admit of rationalizing explanations. The objection from the bl ack-box appears to demand not only that intentional actions are rationalized, but that ev erything that contribute s to explanations of intentional action must be subject to someth ing like rationalizing e xplanation. Since my objector does not accept that claiming emoti ons and moods cause agents to acquire perverse desires and perverse evaluative prin ciples, she must mean to demand some other 30 A remark by Judith Hill inspired the name of this objection.
140 kind of explanation. The most obvious other kind of explanation that we have been considering is rationaliz ing explanation. But much of what produces standard kinds of intentional action is not subject to rationalizing expl anation. Perhaps my desires for what I believe to be good do not themselves admit of rationalizing expl anations. Perhaps the standard evaluative princi ples that I accept do not themselves admit of rationalizing explanations. There are surely brute facts about our psychol ogical profiles, insofar as there are some psychological states that can contribute to rationaliz ing explanations of our actions that are not themselves subject to rationalizing explanati ons. Thus, I submit, the objection from the black-box demands too mu ch and the fact that I must appeal to contingent facts about the psyc hology of some agents does not show that my defenses of the desirebad and intentionbad and reasonbad theses are inadequate. There is no reason that moral psychologists should not appeal to psychology for help. Strangely, one of my most spirited Pangl ossian opponents appear s to agree. Raz claims that when people take what they be lieve to be bad-making features to be their reasons [for acting]. . they act for anomic reasons .31 Raz also refers to anomic agents who are, I suppose, agents who act for anomic reasons.32 I welcome Razs locution and I offer the following expanded definition: anomic reasons are an agents reasons and are considerations that an agent thinks show her action to be bad and not at all good. Raz also claims that the appeal of contrariness explai ns the allure of anomic reasons.33 He also claims that the appeal of contrariness is an established 31 Raz, ibid., p. 32, emphasis added. 32 Raz, ibid., p. 33. 33 Raz, ibid., p. 33.
141 psychological phenomenon, that contrariness is a psychological explanation of the actions of anomic agents, and that it is through some corruption of a psychological process that anomic reasons could be take n to be genuine normative reasons for action.34 So I have argued. However, it is clear that R az still wants to resist the desirebad and intentionbad and reasonbad theses. Consider Razs following argument: I am facing the proverbial sa ucer of mud, and proceed to eat it, moving my hands and mouth as I would normally do when eating. Something has gone wrong with me. In the absence of any good-making characteristic which I believe eating the mud possesses I will not be able to understand what I am doing I will be more horrified at myself behaving in this way th an other people will be. For to me this will signify that I have lost c ontrol over myself that I am possessed by something which makes me act in ways I do not understand ways which I disavow, protesting that it is not really me.35 Focus on Razs dual claims that agents who act for anomic reasons will not be able to understand themselves and what they are doi ng and that agents who act for anomic reasons will not be in control of themselves and what they are doing. These remarks suggest a second objection to the theses I have defended and the strategy I have used to defend them. It is a sign perhaps, of agen ts who are psychological ly healthy that they know what they are doing and why they are doing it; agents who suffer from the kinds of psychological maladies that interest Freudians ar e said to suffer from mental illnesses. If Raz is right that agents who act for anomic reasons cannot understand themselves or what they are doing, then those agents are hardly pa radigmatic examples of agents. Further, insofar as I claim that agents who, for exam ple, intentionally pursu e the bad, are in the 34 Raz, ibid., p. 33. 35 Raz, ibid., p. 32, emphasis added.
142 grip of various moods and emotions, I have perhaps implied that those agents are less than psychologically healthy. Perhaps agents who are less than psychologically healthy, to put the point lightly, are so far removed fr om what counts as a pa radigmatic agent they simply do not deserve to be called agents at all. If they do not deserve to be called agents, then perhaps their behavior does not deserve to be calle d intentional action. Similarly, perhaps instances of intentionally pursuing the bad are so far removed from what counts as a paradigmatic instance of intentional action that they simply do not deserve to be called intentional actions at all. In the following chapter, I want to make the case that instances of the intentional pursuit of the bad are not near ly as far removed from instances of paradigmatically intentional action, nor need they be unable to understand themselves or be out of control, as Razs remarks suggest.
143 CHAPTER 5 UNDERSTANDING, CONTROL, AND IN TENTIONALLY PURSUING THE BAD Oh, tell me, who first announced, who was th e first to proclaim that man does dirty only because he doesnt know his real interest s; and that were he to be enlightened, were his eyes to be opened to his real normal interests, man would immediately stop doing dirty, would immedi ately become good and noble, because, being enlightened and understanding his real profit, he would see his re al profit precisely in the good. . What is to be done with the millions of facts testifying to how people knowingly that is, fully understanding their real profit, would put it in second place and throw themselves onto anothe r path. . precisely as if they simply did not want the designated path, and st ubbornly, willfully pushed off onto another one, difficult, absurd, searching for it all but in the dark. Fyodor Dostoevsky, Notes From the Underground1 Introduction In earlier chapters, I attempted to explain how it is possibl e for agents to desire the bad and to intend the bad. In the previous ch apter, I argued that the believed badness of an action can be an agents reason for acting. However, even if the Panglossian is forced to accept the truth of the desirebad and reasonbad theses, it does not follow that she must accept the intentionbad thesis. Agents can have desires for things they never intentionally pursue and an agents reason is not necessari ly what explains her actions. So the intentionbad thesis has yet to be establishe d, even if there are grounds for supposing it is true, as I sugge st at the end of Chapter 3. Yet as I note at the end of Chapter 4, the Pa nglossian may insist that it is a mistake to speak of agents intentionally pursuing th e bad and that speaking of the intentional 1 Dostoevsky, Notes From Underground pp. 20-1.
144 pursuit of the bad is a misnomer. In partic ular, while the Panglossian may allow that agents can pursue what they believe is bad and not at all good, the Panglossian will deny that they intentionally pursue what they be lieve to be bad and not at all good and that their behavior counts as intentional action. Raz is concerned that an agent who finds herself pursuing what she believes to be ba d and not at all good will not be able to understand herself and what she do es and will not be in control of herself and what she does.2 Further, it seems plausible to suppose that an agent who does not understand what she is doing and is not in cont rol of what she is doing canno t be acting intentionally. Since Raz challenges the proponent of the intentionbad thesis to explain how agents who pursue the bad understand themselves and what they do and how they can be in control of themselves and what they do, I shall call this challenge Razs Challenge Dostoyevskys man from the underground appears to disagree with Raz. In this chapter, I side with the man from the underg round. It is intuitive that agents who act intentionally understand themse lves and what they are doi ng and that agents who act intentionally are in control of themselves and what they ar e doing. In this chapter, I argue that agents who pursue the bad can unde rstand themselves and what they are doing and be in control of themselves and what they are doing. I shall argue as follows: 1) Agents who act intentionally understand themselves and what they do and are in control of themselves and what they do in virtue of meeting some set of requirements, N for having understanding and control 2) At least some agents who pursue the bad meet the requirements, N for having understanding and control 3) Therefore, at least some agents who pur sue the bad act intentionally and thus pursue the bad 4) Therefore, the intentionbad thesis is true 2 Raz, Agency, Reason, and the Good, p. 35.
145 This argument, if cogent, would rebuke Raz s challenge and establish the truth of the intentionbad thesis. My tasks in this chapter are, first, to provide a plausible account of what is included in N and second, to defend 2) and e xplain how agents who pursue the bad could meet the requirements included in N Goals and Having Goals It is reasonably well accepted in the ph ilosophy of action that the explanation of intentional action is teleological explanation.3 A teleological explanation of action explains by citing teleological entities such as goals and purposes and ends in the explanans of the action.4 One reason we expect intenti onal actions to be subject to teleological explanations is because, intuitiv ely, intentional action is goal-directed and purposeful behavior and so fo rth. And surely goal-directed and purposeful behavior will be explicable in terms of goals and purposes and so forth. Since instances of the pursuit of the bad are purportedly inst ances of intentional action, in stances of the pursuit of the bad should be subject to teleol ogical explanation as well. If so, then instances of the 3 Charles Taylor, The Explanation of Behavior p.6; George Wilson calls the thesis that the explanation of action is teleological a truism; See Wilson, The Intentionality of Human Action p.167; Dretske appears to accept that the explanation of action is teleological explanation since he defends the thesis that behavior can be explained in terms of reasons and goals and purposes and so forth; Dretske, Explaining Behavior: Reasons in a World of Causes ; Michael Smith claims that reasons ex planations of action are teleological explanations, The Humean Theory of Motivation, p. 44; Donald Davidson claims that he is defending an account of explanation that is both causal and teleolog ical, Actions, Reasons, and Causes, p. 9; R. Jay Wallace claims that To act intentionally, is necessarily to be in a goal-directed state, in How to Argue About Practical Reason, Mind 99 (1990), pp. 359. 4 To be sure, I am stipulating the senses of teleo logy and teleological expl anation that I think are relevant here. It may be that these senses do not tran slate to other areas of philos ophical discourse, such as the philosophy of biology. Perhaps explanations of human behavior are teleological but are a sui generies kind of teleological explanation that differs significantly from other kinds of teleological explanation, for example, explanation of plant behavior. Note howeve r that Taylor claims that the explanation of human action is the paradigm of teleological explanation; Taylor, ibid., p. 26.
146 pursuit of the bad must be expl icable in terms of goals and they must be instances of goal-directed behavior.5 Much, then, rests on what it is to have a goal and on what it is for behavior to be goal-directed. Suppose, for example, that an agent who pursues the bad does not have a goal; her behavior would therefore not be su sceptible to teleological explanation. But that suggests that her behavior, whatever it is, is not intentional action. So perhaps the Panglossian ought to be in the business of cl aiming that agents who pursue the bad do not have goals and therefore that th eir behavior is not goal-directe d. Note that the thesis that instances of the pursuit of the bad are not goa l-directed and are not the product of an agents goals supports Razs challenge. If an agent does not have a goal when she acts, it is plausible to suppose she could not understa nd herself or what sh e is doing since she herself has no idea why she is moving her body in this way or what would constitute successfully completing her behavior. For si milar reasons, an ag ent with no goal could hardly be in control of herself or what she is doing since, by her own lights, there is no end to which she moves her body. The challenge for the proponent of the intentionbad thesis, then, is to make it plausible to s uppose that agents who pursue the bad have goals and that their behavior is goal directed and therefore subject to teleological explanation just like other intentional acti ons. I shall initially discuss what it is to have a goal and then what it is for behavi or to be goal-directed. On some accounts of goals, having a goal is a relatively simple matter. Some philosophers have implied that simply desi ring is tied up with ha ving a goal. Michael 5 I use the terms goal and purpose and end interc hangeably, since, as far as I can tell, they are synonymous; my dictionary lists them as synonyms, at any rate. Also, I use the locutions goal-directed and purposeful interchangeably since, as far as I can tell, they are synonymous.
147 Smith has argued that having a motivating reason is inter alia having a goal, and that having a motivating reason is, inter alia desiring.6 We have previously encountered Donald Davidsons thesis that rationalizing explanations of intentional action explain by citing what it is about an acti on that appealed to an agent.7 It seems intuitive that an agent who performs an action because there is something about it that appeals to her has a goalnamely, to bring about that which appe als to her. Since Davidson claims that rationalizations invoke desires, it seems that Davidson will also accept that having a goal is tied up with desiring.8 Dretske speaks of goals pr oducing behavior a nd action and, at one point, speaks of purposes and wants interchangeably.9 The thesis that having a goal is to be iden tified with having a de sire is consistent with a rather minimal account of what it is for something to be a goal. David Velleman claims that an end is conceived by an ag ent as a potential ob ject of his actions.10 Consider also Taylors account of purposes in his discussion of purposive behavior: . the events productive of or der in animate beings are to be explained. . in terms of the very order which they produce. Th ese events are held to occur because of what results from them, or, to put in a more traditional way, they occur for the sake of the state of affairs which follows And this of course is part of what is meant by the term purpose when it is invoked in explanation.11 6 See Smith, ibid., p. 55. 7 Davidson, ibid., p. 3. 8 Davidson, ibid., p. 4. 9 Dretske, ibid., pp. 109-36, and p. 114 esp. 10 Velleman, The Possibility of Practical Reason, p. 191. 11 Taylor, ibid., p. 5, my emphasis.
148 The order that Taylor seems to be referri ng to here just is something like purposeful behavior. Similarly, with respect to goals, Taylor claims that: When we say that actions are classified by their goals, we mean not only that they are classified by the result which in fact is brought about by them, but also by that end to which they are aimed ; and that is why we speak of a goal.12 Taylors remarks are preliminary but they suggest a minimalist account of what goals are. First, goals are crucially i nvolved in the production of acti on and behavior. But Taylor also suggests that behavior, when it is expl ained by purposes and goa ls, occurs for the sake of the state of affairs which follows and that actions come about because of the end to which they are aimed. To borrow fr om Vellemans earlier suggestion, if an end is what an agent conceives of as a potential object of her action, an agent can only believe that her action has successfully been performed if she also be lieves that she has attained that object. If this minimal account of goals is acceptable, then we can also develop a minimal account of what it is to have a goal: to have a goal is to be motivated to bring about some particular event or state of affa irs by performing some action, partly for the sake of realizing that goal, a nd the realization of that goal is required for the successful performance of that action. On this minimal account of what it is to ha ve a goal, having a desire seems to imply that an agent has a goal. An agent who de sires something is presumably motivated to pursue that thing, at least to some minimal de gree. And since an agent desires to pursue something in particular, there is some crit erion of success with respect to an action performed because of that desire: if I desire a mango and reach into the refrigerator and pull out a plum, then I have failed to inten tionally acquire a mango. Perhaps, then, an 12 Taylor, ibid., p. 27, my emphasis.
149 agent who has a desire for something she believes to be bad has a goal. And if agents can act on desires for the bad, then agents can have goals when they pursue the bad. Not all philosophers accept a minimal account of what it is to be a goal or to have a goal, however. Raz, for example, claims that having a goal is not desiring, because unlike desires: Goals are our goals because in our actions we have set on pursuing them, because they play an important role in our em otional and imaginative life, because our success or failure in pursuing them is goi ng to affect the quality of our life [and because]. . they represent what matters to us in life. .13 Some of what Raz claims about goals is, I think, mistaken. Recall that we are supposing that the explanation of intentional action is teleological and theref ore that intentional actions are to be explained in terms of an ag ents goals. If Raz is correct, then it would seem to follow that all of our actions must be ultimately aimed at realizing something that plays an important role in our life, that will greatly affect the quali ty of our life if we obtain it, and so forth. But that seems wrong. I can intentionally pursue something that is of very little value to me or something I want but have little invested in, and if I fail to successfully obtain that thing, the quality of my life will hardly be affected; acting on whims and actions performed for no reason se em to be actions of this kind. But given Razs account of goals and given the thesis th at intentional actions are to be explained teleologically in terms of an agents goals, Raz is committed to claiming that we cannot act intentionally on whims and that we cannot act intentionally for no reason. However, focus on Raz claim that wh en we have a goal, we have set on pursuing that goal. It does seem possible for me to have a desire that I am simply resolved never to act on or that I am alie nated from, or I might have many conflicting 13 Raz, Incommensurability and Agency, from his Engaging Reason pp. 63-4.
150 desires and have not settled on what to do, and so forth. In those cas es, it seems plausible that I might have no goal corresponding to the re alization of the object of my desire, just because I am not set on pursui ng the object of my desire. Suppose, then, that desiring is not alwa ys sufficient for having a goal because having a goal implies being set on pursuing so mething. If not being settled on pursuing something implies that an agent does not ha ve a goal, perhaps be ing settled on pursuing something implies that an agent has a goal of pursuing that thing. Call this the settlement account of having a goal. Recall that one way of settling on what is to be done is to intend to pursue it, as discussed in Chapter 3. Perhaps, then, inte nding to perform some action or intending to pursue something implies having a goal. This result is consistent, however, with the thesis that agents who pur sue the bad have the goal of doing so. If intending implies having a goal, then given that agents can in tend the bad as I argued in Chapter 3, then agents can have the goal of obtaining something they believe to be bad and not at all good. Settlement accounts precl ude having the goal of obtaining what is believed to be bad and not at all good only if the only way of be ing settled on pursuing something is to think that the thing is good. But there are other ways of being and becoming settled on pursuing something. Bei ng settled amounts to ending deliberation and accepting the outcome of ones deliberation; an agent might decide to end deliberation because she is happy with the resu lt or she might simply end deliberation and accept the result out of frustrati on or exasperation. In situations where an agent ends deliberation because she is frustrated or exasperated, there is no guarantee that the outcome of her deliberation will direct he r to something that she thinks is good.
151 On both minimal and settlement accounts of ha ving a goal, it is possible to have the goal of pursuing the bad. But perhaps there ar e other accounts of ha ving a goal that rule out having the goal of pursuing what is belie ved to be bad and not at all good. Such accounts would imply that to have a goal of pursuing something, that thing must be thought to be at least minimally good. I know of no account of having a goal that implies this result, but call an account of this kind an honorific account of having a goal. I find honorific accounts of having a goal im plausible. Again, suppose that the explanation of action is teleol ogical explanation and that ac tions are to be explained in terms of an agents goals. Recall the disc ussion of actions performed for no reason from Chapter 4. I claimed that agents who act for no reason lack the belief that their action is justified by any normativ e reason; this is rather close to claiming that agents who act for no reason do not believe that th ere is anything good a bout the action they perform. Proponents of honorific accounts are left with a dilemma: they must either claim that agents who act for no reason do not really perform intentional actions since they do not have a goal or they must deny th at the explanation of action is teleological.14 Unless there is an adequate defense of some honorific account of what it is to have a goal, it seems plausible that agents w ho desire and intend the bad can have goals corresponding to their desires and intentions fo r the bad. Further, if it possible for an agent to have the goal of pursuing the bad, her pursuit of what she believes to be bad and not at all good might count as goal-directed behavior. Give n the above suggestion that a 14 It may be objected that anyone wh o accepts that the explana tion of intentional action is teleological must be concerned about actions performed for no reason sin ce it is not clear that agents who act for no reason have any goal or end or purpose. This result need not follow. An agent who sticks her finger in a puddle of goo for no reason might have the goal of sticking her finger in a puddle of good or for the purpose of acting for no reason.
152 goal both produces intentional action and c ounts as the criterion for the successful performance of the action, perh aps goal-directed behavior is simply behavior that is produced that, at least sometimes leads to th e realization of that goal. Things are unfortunately not so simple, as I suggest belo w. Supposing that agents can have the goal or obtaining what they believe to be bad and not at al l good, not just any behavior produced by that goal realizes that goal will necessarily count as goal-directed behavior, nor will it necessarily count as intentional action. Goal-Directed Behavior and Intentional Action Suppose that an agent is in a mental state, M and that being in M suffices for having a goal of bringing about some state of affairs, G Suppose also that M produces some behavior, B Here is one account of goal-directe d behavior adapted from a proposal of Taylor and Wright: Some behavior, B is goal-directed just in case B is produced by M partly because B -ing tends to bring about G .15 In a simple case, an agent calls out to his be loved who happens to be across the street in order to catch her attention; his calling out is perhaps goal-directed behavior because it is produced by a desire to catch her attention a nd because calling out to her tends to bring it about that he catches her attention. The account of goal-directed behavior I attr ibute to Taylor and Wright may not be adequate as a teleological account of goal-directed behavior. First, M might produce B partly because B -ing tends to bring about G but do so as a result of a deviant causal chain. To borrow a familiar example, a mountain climber might have the goal of killing 15 Taylor, ibid, p. 5 and Wright, Teleological Explanations p. 39. In what follows, I borrow from Dretskes discussion and criticisms of Taylor and Wrights proposal; see Dretske, ibid., pp. 111-2.
153 his climbing companion and releasing a climbe r from his support rope does tend to bring about killing mountain climbers. Further, th e mountain climbers goal might lead him to release his climbing companion, but only becau se his goal makes him nervous and causes his hand to shake involuntarily. This may be go al-directed behavior bu t it certainly is not a case of intentional action since involuntary bodily move ments are not intentional actions.16 For behavior to be both goal-directed and intentional, it must be the case that the agents goal is appropriately related to her behavior. Second, it is unclear that B -ing must tend to bring about G if B -ing is goal-directed. Counterfactually, B -ing now might produce G even if no one has ever B ed previously and thereby brought about G Relatedly, it might be that B -ing used to tend to produce G but no longer does. Perhaps B -ing never did produce G Still, an agent who believes falsely that B -ing produces G might perform B and although she fails to produce G her B -ing is still goal-directed. Finally, and relatedly, even if B -ing does or will tend to bring G it does not follow that B -ing that realizes G produced by M will be goal-directed be havior; unbeknownst to me, some behavior of mine might bring about one of my goals. Suppose I go to the home of my rival who I want to defeat and I ring hi s doorbell to get his attention and begin my plan of defeating him. Suppose that he is fiddling with the wiring of his doorbell inside just as I push his doorbell I unknowingly kill h im and thus defeat him. My goal partly explains my killing him and el ectrocuting your rivals does tend to defeat them, but if I do not know that I am killing him, then my beha vior could hardly count as goal-directed intentional action. 16 The example is adapted from Davidson, Freedom to Act, reprinted in his Essays p. 79.
154 In light of the above criticisms, I propose the following emendations of Taylor and Wrights account of goal-directed behavior: Some behavior, B is goal-directed just in case B is appropriately produced by M partly because the agent who perf orms the behavior believes that B -ing has tended to bring about G or that B -ing will tend to bring about G This account of goal-directed behavior makes it clear that an agent who acts intentionally acts partly because she believes that her action will bring about the end that she aims to realize. This account also remedies the ot her difficulties with Taylor and Wrights proposal noted above. If my emended proposal is an adequate account of goal-directed intentional action, then it is not difficult to dem onstrate that at least some inst ances of the pursuit of the bad are goal-directed. Suppose that John desires to punch a hole in the wall and he believes that punching a hole in his wall is bad and not at all good. Suppose th at Johns desire to punch a hole in his wall leads him to swing hi s fist, partly because he believes that swinging his fist tends to bri ng it about that one punches a hole in the wall, and suppose that John swings his fist in exactly the way that he believes will produce a hole in his wall. If John succeeds, then he pursues th e bad since John believes that punching a hole in his wall is bad and not at all good and he has the goal of punching a hole in his wall. Thus, given the present account of goal-direct ed behavior, some instances of the pursuit of the bad are instances of goal-directed behavior. However, even if my emended account of Taylor and Wrights proposal suffices as an account of goal-directed behavior, it may s till fail as an account of intentional action. We have been supposing that a ll intentional action is subject to teleological explanation and that seems to imply that all intentional action is goal-directed behavior. However,
155 not all goal-directed behavior is intentional actio n; the emended account of goal-directed behavior is missing somethi ng that is needed for an account of intentional action. Full-Blooded Action, Control, and Conscious Direction David Velleman claims that what makes for [intentional] action is not simply being goal-directed.17 Velleman offers the following example to illustrate: Say, a child accidentally brushes a glass o ff of the table, and your hand shoots out to catch it. Everything happens so fast that you see your hand catching the glass before you realize that the glass is falling Now suppose, finally, that another childan older and sassier childhefts the glass with a smirk and calls, Here, catch! You then undertake the same beha vior, but as a fully intentional action.18 In both cases, it is plausible to suppose that the glass-catcher wants to save the falling glassware. Further, it is plau sible to suppose that thrusting out ones hand tends to save falling glassware, that both glass-catchers be lieve that thrusting out their hands tends to save falling glassware, and that the belief of each glass-catcher is part of what explains why each thrusts out her hand. So both instan ces of glass-catching appear to count as instances of goal-directed beha vior. Yet Velleman insists that only the second instance of glass-catching behavior, and not the first, is an intentional action. Interestingly, Velleman claims that the behavior of the s econd glass-catcher, but not the first, is under the agents conscious contro l and conscious direction.19 Similarly, Velleman claims that intentional action just is goal-directed behavior that is executed under conscious control.20 Since we are already interested in under standing what it is for an agent to be in control of herself and what she does, it ma y be useful to determine what the difference 17 Velleman, ibid., p. 190. 18 Velleman, ibid., p. 189, emphasis added. 19 Velleman, ibid., pp. 191-2. 20 Velleman, ibid., p. 191.
156 between Vellemans glass-catcher is in order to determine what the difference is between goal-directed behavior and intentional action. To be sure, the cases of the two glasscatchers are perhaps under-described. The first instance of glass-catching might appear to be a reflex and, intuitively, reflexes are not intentional actions; if a bee stings me and I quickly withdr aw my arm, it seems plausible to claim that I did not withdraw my arm intentiona lly. But some instances of reflexive actions might count as intentional actions. An agile baseball player might reflexively catch a line-drive coming at his hea d. Out of habit, I mi ght intentionally pick up the phone receiver when it ri ngs without thinking about what I am doing. Similarly, a parent with a number of clumsy children mi ght routinely and habitually catch falling glasses, and thus catch the gla sses intentionally even if she catches them reflexively. The agile baseball player has been trained to cat ch line-drives and has done so a number of times. I answer the phone out of habit as does the parent who catches glasses knocked off tables by her clumsy children. In all thes e cases, it is plausibl e to suppose that the agents who perform reflexive actions have an intention or standing policy to perform that behavior in those circumstances It is unclear if the firs t glass-catcher does intend to catch falling glasses, but if he does have a st anding intention to catch falling glasses, we should not be so quick to insist that he does not act intentionally. It might be the case that Velleman is wr ong and that the first instance of glasscatching is an instance of in tentional behavior, but it does not follow that it is a fully intentional action like the second instance of glass-cat ching. Velleman distinguishes between full-blooded actions which are para digm instances of in tentional action in which human agency is exercised to its fu llest and actions that are less than full-
157 blooded in which human agency is exer cised only partially or imperfectly21 Fullblooded action, claims Velleman, is human action par excellence .22 Actions that are less than full-blooded include instances in which an agent acts halfhear tedly, or unwittingly, or in some equally defective way.23 Consider what else Velleman claims about fullblooded action and the two glass-catchers: Whats missing from the reflexive case is conscious direction on your part, which is something other than eye-hand coordi nation. When goal-directed behavior proceeds under this conscious control, it becomes a full-blooded action, rather than a well-coordinated reflex.24 Here, Velleman equates conscious direction with conscious control, such that an agent who consciously directs her behavior will also have conscious control of it. Perhaps the behavior of the first glass-catcher counts as intentional action, perhaps it does not, but there is a strong case to be made that the beha vior of the first gla ss-catcher does not count as full-blooded action just because there is a strong case to be made that the first glasscatcher fails to consciously direct his behavior, and thus following Velleman, he would not be in control of his be havior and would therefore not perform a full-blooded action. Recall that Vellemans first-glass catcher thru sts out his arm before he realizes that the glass is falling. If the fi rst-glass catcher does not realize that the glass is falling, he surely cannot direct his behavior in order to sa ve falling the falling glass. Thus, even if the first glass-catcher has an intention to sa ve falling glasses, it does not follow that he directs his behavior in accord with his intent ion when he intentionally catches the falling 21 Velleman, ibid., p. 189. 22 Velleman, What Happens When Someone Acts?, p. 124. 23 Velleman, ibid., p. 124. 24 Velleman, The Possibility of Practical Reason, p. 191.
158 glass. If he does not, then while he may or may not save the falli ng glass intentionally, he does not perform a full-bloode d action insofar as he lacks the requisite control over his behavior that agents exhibit when the perform full-blooded actions. It will be useful to focus on Vellema ns account of full-bl ooded action for two reasons. First, while I have argued that pursuing the bad can be goal-directed behavior, I have been trying to demonstrate that pursing th e bad can also be inte ntional action. If it can be shown that at least some instances of pursuing the bad are full-blooded actions, or at least that they more closely resemble fu ll-blooded actions than defective actions, then we have strong grounds for claiming that at least some agents who pursue the bad have the same sort of control and understanding that agents who perform uncontroversial instances of intentional action do. This just is the argumenta tive strategy that I proposed at the beginning of this chapter. Second, we ar e attempting to discern what it is to for an agent to control herself and what she does a nd to understand herself and what she does. Velleman offers a plausible account of what it is for an agent to control her action that suggests an account of what it is for an agen t to understand herself and what she does in terms of conscious direction. I propose to consider Vellem ans account of control in terms of consciously directing ones action.25 If it should turn out that agents who pursue the bad can also consciously di rect their behavior, then we have a direct argument that agents who pursue the bad are in control of themselves and what they do in response to Razs challenge. Consider two claims that Velleman advances with respect to control and conscious direction of ones behavior. First, Vellema n claims that in instances of full-blooded 25 Vellemans account of control is no t the only account of cont rol that is available in the literature. For a rather different account of control, see John Martin Fisher and Mark Ravizza, Responsibility and Control and Fischer, The Metaphysics of Free Will: An Essay on Control
159 action, the acting agent both form s an intention and deliberat ely executes that intention.26 Second, Velleman claims that practical reas oning is the process by which you exercise conscious control.27 These claims are intertwined: part of practical reasoning, as I understand it, includes the deliberate formati on and execution of intentions, and if practical reasoning is the pro cess of exercising conscious control over what one does, then deliberately forming and executing intentions will also be part of the process of exercising conscious control. Above, I have suggested that simply having and behaving as a result of an intention is not sufficient for acting intentionally; again, the first glasscatcher might have an intention to save falli ng glasses but he might not consciously direct his behavior. Velleman claims that an agents desires and beliefs can cause a corresponding intention de spite him, and hence without his participation and that those same desires can cause an agent to execute that intention, again, de spite him and without his participation.28 A reluctant smokers desire to smoke might cause him to intend to smoke and to execute his intention to smoke, but even though he smokes intentionally, he does so reluctantly and half-h eartedly and unwittingly. His sm oking behavior is certainly goal-directed and appears to be intentional act ion, but it does not count as a case of fullblooded action, nor does it seem to be a case in which he controls and consciously directs his smoking behavior. We are now in better position to explain wh at it is to consciously direct ones behavior: an agent consciously directs her behavior only if she deliberately forms and 26 Velleman, What Happens When Someone Acts?, p. 124. 27 Velleman, The Possibility of Practical Reason, p. 198. 28 Velleman, What Happens When Someone Acts?, p. 125. See also Harry Frankfurt, The Problem of Action, reprinted in his The Importance of What We Care About p. 72.
160 executes an intention to act; at the very least, both the first glass-ca tcher and the reluctant smoker do not deliberately form and execute th e intentions that pr oduce and explain their behavior and this is part of the explanation of why their behavior fa ils to count as fullblooded action. In Chapter 3, I argued that agents can delibe rately form intentions to pursue the bad and that agents can deliberately execute those intentions by deciding to act and by deciding to execute their intentions. I shall have more to say about decisions, including decisions to act below. However, this is likely not all there is to Vellemans account of control; again, Velleman claims th at practical reasoning is a means by which agents exercise conscious control over thei r behavior, but there is more to practical reasoning than just forming and executing in tentions, especially in instances of fullblooded action. Velleman, again, following Frankf urt, suggests that agents who perform full-blooded actions reflect on possible motives and reasons for acting and adjudicate between those various motives and reasons for acting.29 Very often, agents engage in deliberation about what to do before they form intentions to act a nd this deliberation will also be a part of the means by which agen ts exercise consciou s control over their behavior on Vellemans account. We can also stipulate that agents who engage in the appropriate kind of deliberation about reasons and motives prior to forming intentions to act are sufficiently reflective and attentive in their deliberations, that counter-factual interveners are not interfering with them or coercing them, and so forth. We now have a rather complicated account of what is required for agents to perform full-blooded actions and thus to consci ously direct their beha vior: agents who act intentionally must deliberately form and execu te intentions to act, and prior to forming 29 Velleman, ibid., pp. 138-9. See also Frankfurt, F reedom of the Will and the Concept of a Person, p. 18.
161 their intentions, agents must sufficiently and reflectively consid er various possible motives and reasons for acting and then ad judicate between those motives and reasons absent coercion or interference.30 Note that demanding that agents who perform fullblooded actions deliberately form an intenti on to act after having engaged in conscious deliberation about what to do is just the thi ng to ensure that an agent understands what she does and why she is doing it. And deliber ately executing that intention is just the thing to ensure that an agent who is engaging in goal-directed behavi or is in control of what she is doing. Thus, we ha ve a plausible account of what it is for an agent to consciously direct her behavior and a plausible account of what is required for an agent to be in control of herself and what she does and to understand herself and what she does. The question, then, is whether or not agents who pursue the bad can similarly exercise control and understanding by c onsidering and adjudicating be tween various reasons and motives for acting and whether they can deli berately and consciously form and execute intentions to pursue what they beli eve to be bad and not at all good. I suggest that agents can engage in conscious and deliberate reflection and adjudication and deliberation and deliberatel y and consciously form and execute their intentions while also pursuing the bad. Note that we can construct different cases of pursuing the bad that differ in how conscious and deliberate they are; for example, we can imagine two different Carlas, Carla1 and Carla2, both of whom engage in selfmutilating behavior. Suppose that Carla1 has a deep-seeded desire to harm herself based upon feelings of a lack of self-worth, one that is engaged when she is made to feel bad about herself. Upon being demeaned yet agai n by her rather uncaring parents, her desire 30 For sympathetic proposals, see Michael Bratman, Practical Reasoning and Weakness of Will, Nous 13:2 (May, 1979), p. 154, and his remarks on full-blown actions and Al Mele, Springs of Action p. 13.
162 to harm herself is engaged, and she locks herself in her room, procures her favored cutting instrument, and proceeds to mutilate hersel f. It is only after she has finished her cutting and has begun to bleed th at she realizes what she has been doing. Contrast Carla1 with Carla2 who has a similar deep-seeded desire to harm herself. Upon being demeaned yet again by her rather uncaring parents, her desire to harm hersel f is engaged. Unlike Carla1, Carla2 reflects upon her desire to harm hers elf and decides to act on her desire. Carla2 then consciously and deliberately forms an intention to mutilate herself. She then locks herself in her room and consciously a nd deliberately executes her intention and harms herself. It seems that Carla2 performs a full-blooded ac tion and thus counts as being in control of herself and what she doe s and understands herself and what she does. Of course, the Panglossian is not going to accept all of this. In particular, I suspect the Panglossian will claim that I have simply helped myself to the claim that an agent who pursues the bad can conscious ly and deliberately reflect on a desire to harm herself, decide to act on that desire, and then form and execute an intention to pursue the bad. Further, claims the Panglossian, while I have suggested in previous chapters that various moods and emotions can explain why agents desire and intend the bad and why agents regard the believed badness of an action to be a reason to act, I have not explained in any detail how deliberation that produces those results is supposed to proceed; recall the objection from the black box noted at the end of the previous chapter. The Panglossian might agree that practical reasoning pr ecedes full-blooded action and agree with Velleman that practical reasoning is the m eans by which agents exercise conscious control over what they do, but deny that I ha ve adequately explained how agents could engage in practical reasoning and then pursu e the bad. Thus, the Panglossian would deny
163 that I have earned the claim that some instan ces of the pursuit of the bad are instances of full-blooded action. Further, if instances of full-blooded action a nd instances of the pursuit of the bad are sufficiently disanal ogous, then the argument from analogy in response to Razs challenge is undermined. I am suggesting that some instances of the pursuit of the bad do proceed from practical reasoning of the kind discussed above. I concede that I have perhaps not said enough about how practical reasoning is suppos ed to produce instance s of the pursuit of the bad. In the following sections of this ch apter, I attempt to provide a more detailed account of how agents might engage in practic al reasoning yet still pursue the bad. If it can be shown that agents can engage in pr actical reasoning just lik e agents who perform instances of full-blooded actions yet still pursu e the bad, then given I have already shown that agents who pursue the bad can have goals and that their behavior is goal-directed, we ought to conclude that at least some instances of the pursuit of the bad are sufficiently analogous to full-blooded actions and are ther efore intentional. We will then have grounds for rejecting Razs challe nge. We will then be in po sition to insist the truth of the intentionbad thesis. Practical Reasoning Vellemans account of full-blooded action im plies that agents who perform fullblooded action engage in practical reasoning abou t what they will do; in particular, they consider and adjudicate between various reasons for acting. In this section and in the sections that follow, I want to consider various ways agents might consider and adjudicate between various reasons for acting th at might lead them to pursue the bad. Here are some plausible thoughts rega rding practical reasoning. Practical reasoning involves, among other th ings, thinking about what c onsiderations are relevant
164 to deciding what to do, weighing those cons iderations and balancing them against conflicting and competing considerations and so forth. Failing to treat some consideration as a reason is to fail to treat th at consideration as rele vant, or to treat it as irrelevant, to determining what to do. Treat ing some consideration as a reason involves more than treating that consideration as if it were a reason; I might imagine what it would be like to be a very different person who is moved by reasons that do not at all move me. In that case, I might treat some consideration as if it were a reason but not treat it as a reason. Treating some consideration as a reason thus appears to be treating that consideration as relevant to determining what to do. Thus, insofar as we interested in understanding what it is to enga ge in practical reasoning and in determining if agents who pursue the bad can do so on the basis of practic al reasoning, we ought to take an interest in what it is to treat some consideration as a reason and as relevant to determining what to do. Other philosophers have endorse d accounts of what it is to treat some consideration as a reason that are at least consistent with the above proposal. Michael Bratman suggests that treating a desire as a reason involves treating th at desire as justifying to some extent the performance of some relevant action.31 Thomas Scanlon claims that taking a consideration to be a re ason for acting is to take that consideration as counting in favor of that action.32 Steven Darwall suggests that when an agent counts some consideration as her reason, that reason engage[s] cons iderations that seemed 31 Bratman, Identification, Decision, and Treating as a Reason reprinted in his Faces of Intention p. 198. 32 Scanlon, What We Owe To Each Other p. 17.
165 recommendatory in the agents own view.33 Treating some consideration as a reason thus appears to involve a certa in kind of psychological att itude; in particular, treating some consideration as a reason appears to involve a belief that something like a justificatory relation holds between that c onsideration and some relevant action. An agent may come to treat some consid eration as a reason on the basis of some decision or deliberation, but not necessarily. An agent may make a decision to treat some consideration as a reason, where absent that decision, the agent would not have included that consideration in her deliberation. I shall re fer to this first kind of case of treating as a reason as active An agent might also treat a consid eration as a reason for acting, but not on the basis of any prior psychological activity. At no point must an agent decide for example, to treat some consideration as a reason, even if she does trea t that consideration as a reason. She may simply be sensitive or responsive to reasons of that kind or disposed to treat considerati ons of that kind as a reason.34 Hoping not to confuse the issue, I shall refer to this kind of treating as a reason as passive In cases of passive treating as a reason, the agent is still reflective to a degree, just as agents are who come to believe a proposition without drawing any inferences. We are supposing that practi cal reasoning precedes full-blooded intentional actions, that agents who perform fullblooded actions have understa nding and control, and that engaging practical reasoning is a means of exer cising control. Since I have suggested that part of practical reas oning involves both actively and passi vely treating considerations as reasons and therefore as relevant to determini ng what to do, it is wo rthwhile to determine 33 Darwall, Impartial Reason p. 32. 34 For discussion of reasons-responsiveness, see John Martin Fischer and Mark Ravizza, Responsibility and Control
166 whether or not agents who pursue the bad can actively or passiv ely treat as reasons considerations that favor or recommend or pr escribe pursuing the bad. If so, we will be that much closer to demonstrating that agents who pursue the bad can perform fullblooded actions, that they are have control and understanding over themselves and what they do, and that the intentionbad thesis is true. Passive Cases of Treating as a Reason and Pursuing the Bad In earlier chapters, I have argued that agents might have perverse evaluative beliefs and might accept perverse principles concerni ng what justifies an action and that these evaluative beliefs and principles might be perv erse by an agents own lights. If this is right, then perhaps agents can passively treat, for example, the fact that an action would cause her to be harmed or to suffer needless ly as a reason to act if she already accepts perverse principles with respect to what c onsiderations should be treated as reasons. Most of us are disposed to passively fail to treat, or to passively treat as irrelevant, considerations that show an action to be bad and not at a ll good. Typically, I do not need to deliberate or decide to fail to treat the f act that an action would cause me to be harmed or to suffer needlessly as a reason; I simply dont treat that consid eration as a reason to act. We should already be willing to accept th e more general thesis that agents can be disposed to passively treat some considerations but not others as reasons. We attempt to habituate our children to share, to avoid being cruel, and so forth in the hopes that these habits are internalized and c ontinue to be practiced in adult life. We dont necessarily teach children to decide that the fact that an action is honest or kind is a reason to perform that action; we might only try to dispose them to passively treat those considerations as reasons. Finally, as I have suggested in ear lier chapters, an agents moods or emotions might dispose her to treat some consideratio ns as reasons that, absent that mood or
167 emotion, she would not have treated as a reason. Love makes a man do crazy things, perhaps, but if I love you, I might also be disposed to sacrifice for your well-being, to help you where I can and so forth. While we can be disposed to treat, for ex ample, the fact that another person is suffering as a reason, we know all too well that people can fail to be disposed to treat facts of that kind as reasons. Psychopaths s eem to be both unwilling and unable to treat the fact that another person is suffering as a reason to act. It is not simply that psychopaths lack a desire to help other people or to tend to their feeli ngs, but that even if a psychopath had such a desire he would be unsure about or obliv ious to taking that desire as a reason to do anything that did not also serve his own interests.35 There is some evidence that some psychopaths fail to treat the suffering of others as reasons because of damage to particular regions of the brain near the frontal lobes.36 Thus, the psychopath can be disposed to fail to treat some consideration as a reason absent any decision or deliberation. In the same way I might be disposed to passively treat some consideration as a reason or to fail to be disposed to passivel y treat some considerat ion as a reason, I might be disposed to passively treat something I be lieve to be a bad-making feature of an action as a reason for me to act. If I am raised by sadists, I might be disposed to treat the suffering of others as a reason to intervene to end their suffering, and I thus treat their suffering or my desire to help as a reason for me to act, even if I al so believe that their suffering is bad and not at all good. A woman who is rais ed in an abusive household 35 See Hare, Without Conscience for authoritative discussions of this point. 36 See, for example, Antonio R. DAmasio, Descartes Error
168 might be disposed to seek relationships w ith abusive men, even if she sees nothing good about being abused. Psychol ogist Lorna Smith Benjamin discusses what she calls attachment behavior and, according to Claudi a Card, attachment to an important other person can elucidate behavior th at otherwise appears simply perverse, irrational, perhaps even diabolical.37 Carla might be disposed to treat the fact that mutilating herself will cause her to be harmed as a reason because she has been raised in an abusive and neglectful household and because she has been tr ained to think of herself as worthless. Depressed agents might fail to be attracted to actions that would promote their happiness or well-being and frustrated agents might be disposed to perform actions they believe they will fail at. To be clear, I am arguing for two distinct th eses here. First, I suggest that agents can passively treat considerations as reasons, insofar as agents can be disposed to treat some considerations as reasons absent a ny decision or deliberation to treat those considerations as reasons. Second, I suggest that dispositions to passively treat certain considerations as reasons can arise absent any decision or deliberation. Keeping these theses distinct is important because it allows us to tend to a Panglossian objection that has been lingering. I have been claiming that if an ag ent pursues the bad, we can provide a rationalizing explanation of that action by citi ng the fact that the believed badness of the action appealed to the acting agent. In th e current language, I claim that an agent who pursues the bad might be disposed to treat the believed bad-making feature of her action as a reason for her to perform the action. Th e Panglossian objects that an agent cannot 37 Claudia Card, The Atrocity Paradigm p. 90; Laura Smith Benjamin, Interpersonal Reconstructive Therapy
169 treat the believed badness of an action as a reas on to act. I respond that an agent can treat the believed badness of an action as a reason to act, if she is, for example, disposed to treat that particular bad-making feature as a r eason to act; if she is so disposed, then she might passively treat the bad-ma king feature of her action as a reason for her to act. It is here, I think, that a Panglossian objection emerges. The Panglossian objects that we are interested in pr oviding rationalizing expl anations of actions. To appeal to factors like an agents upbringing or soci al conditioning or biology or psychology might explain why she treats some bad-ma king consideration as a reason, but that kind of explanation is the wrong kind of explanation; that kind of e xplanation is a merely causal explanation, but merely causal expl anations are not rationalizations.38 But this objection is misguided. Rationalizing explanations expl ain why an agent acted as she did. But not everything that is part of a rationalizing expl anation can itself be rationalized; as I have suggested in this secti on, agents can be passively dispos ed to treat a consideration as a reason, and there is no guarantee that there wi ll be a rationalizing e xplanation of why an agent is disposed to treat that consider ation as a reason, alth ough there will be nonrationalizing explanations of why she trea ts that consideration as a reason. The Panglossian cannot object that an agen t who passively treats some bad-making consideration as a reason is unable to understand herself and what she does or that she is not in control of herself and what she does. For one thing, an agent who learns about her habituation and upbringing and biology a nd psychology might come to understand why she does what she does. For another, agents often passively treat good-making 38 I say that merely causal explanations are not rationalizations to make clear that I do not accept the thesis that rationalizations cannot also be causal explanations. Davidson himself, of course, defends the thesis that rationalizing explanation is a variety of causal explanation in his classic Actions, Reasons, and Causes.
170 considerations as reasons for them to act. It is not plausible that they must fail to understand themselves and what they do and must fail to be in control of themselves and what they do. If we claim that we lack understanding and control whenever we cannot provide a rationalizing explanati on of why we are disposed to treat some consideration as a reason, then I submit we almost always lack understanding and control. And that seems to be a reductio of the present objection. In this section, I have disc ussed cases of passively tr eating a consideration as a reason. I have argued that agents might pa ssively treat bad-making considerations as reasons as a result of perverse dispositions and evaluative te ndencies that are not subject to rationalizing explanations. Since agents who perform full-blooded actions sometimes passively treat considerations as reasons fo r them to act, there is no disanalogy here between paradigmatic instances of acti on and instances of pursuing the bad. Active Treating as a Reason and Pursuing the Bad In the previous section, I ar gued that agents can be disposed, for various reasons, to passively treat bad-making features of an ac tion as reasons to act. Practical reasoning must begin somewhere, and at least sometim es, practical reason begins with agents passively treating some considerations as re asons. But practical reasoning also involves making decisions about which considerations to take into account when deciding what to do and it involves investigating and discerni ng what reasons there are to act as well. Scanlon discusses an agent who attempts to d ecide whether or not he will play to win while believing there are reasons for and agai nst playing to win; the agent may decide, for example, to treat the fact that playing to win will be more enjoyable as a reason but not to treat other considerations believed rele vant, such as the potential disappointment of
171 ones opponent, as reasons to act.39 We might deliberately ignore or disregard some considerations we believe are relevant to av oid the costs of includi ng those considerations in our reasoning. I might disregard the possibi lity that my future beloved will be at the bar I am considering going to if I believe that if I do start thinking about her, I will be unable to think about anything else. I might look at only part of a menu because I know that I will not make up my mind in time if I have too many options for my entre. I might decide to disregard some consideration I believe is relevant to my deliberation on moral grounds as well. As I suggested above, making a decision a bout what considerations to treat as reasons is a way of actively tr eating some consideration as a reason. It is not the only way, however. I might actively treat some consideration as a reason by engaging in something more akin to theore tical deliberations about whethe r some consideration really is a reason and thereby coming to believe that it is, or is not, a reason for me to act. I might wonder about whether or not some desire of mine real ly is a reason to act and engage in thoughtful patters of reasoning, not ju st to decide what my reasons are, but to discern what my reasons are; I might reason about what a fully informed and benevolent advisor would advise me to do or I might consider whether my initial intuitions are correct by attempting to reach a reflective equi librium. So practical reasoning involves not just weighing considerations for and agains t action; practical reasoning also involves decisions about what to count as relevant in determini ng what to do and it involves deliberation that leads to new beliefs about what to do. 39 Scanlon, ibid., pp. 51-2.
172 In the same way that an agents di spositions and evaluative tendencies and emotions can explain why she passively treats some consideration as a reason, an agents dispositions and evaluative tendencies and emotions can explain why she actively treats some consideration as a reason. I want to ex amine different kinds of decisions to treat a consideration as a reason and then argue we can plausibly explain decisions to treat badmaking properties of an action as a reason to ac t. What I have to say about decisions to treat considerations as reasons can also larg ely be applied, I think, to the ways in which we acquire beliefs about our reasons and I s uggest that we can also plausibly explain cases in which agents come to believe that bad-making properties of an action are reasons to act. We can identify different sorts of decisions to treat a consideration as a reason. A decision can be made on a principled basis, based upon evaluative crit eria, or a decision can be made that is unprinci pled and not based upon any ev aluative criteria. An agent might make a decision based upon what she ta kes to be good grounds. Alternatively, an agent might make a capricious or erratic de cision, knowing that there are no grounds for deciding in that way rather than some other way, with real indifference to what is at stake.40 I shall refer to decisions of the first kind, decisions that are based upon evaluative criteria believed by the agent to be relevant, as principled decisions, and I shall refer to decisions of the sec ond kind, decisions that are beli eved by the agent not to be supported by some further evaluative criteria, as existential decisions. An agent might make a principled decision to treat, for example, her desire to help a friend who is in need 40 Frankfurt, ibid., p. 19, ffn. 6. However, in other places, Frankf urt suggests that what I am calling existential decisions are not really decisions but are rather choices ; see Frankfurt, Identification and Wholeheartedness , p. 172 and Bratman, Identification, Decision, and Treating as a Reason, pp. 191-2.
173 as a reason. An agent might make an existent ial decision to treat, for example, her desire for tea rather than her desire for coffee as a reason while failing to believe there is any justification for preferring tea to coffee. Perhaps she simply decides to be the sort of person who drinks tea rather than coffee, even though she does not believe there is anything that actually ju stifies doing so. Decisions can have another feature that is relevant. For example, an addict might grudgingly or half-heartedly decide to treat he r desire for her favored drug as a reason simply because it takes too much effort to resist the drug a nd the struggle is too painful; in such a case, it is not clear the agent endorses or identifies with her desire in any strong sense, even though she treats her addictiv e desire as a reason for her to act.41 It is consistent with making a grudging decision that the agent has real reservations about making the decision; nonetheless, the agent is treating his desi re as a reason, insofar as he is willing to act upon the desire and form in tentions on that basis. I shall refer to decisions of this sort as grudging decisions. With these distinctions in tow, I begin by examining principled decisions; I shall argue it is possible for an agent to activel y make a principled decision to treat the believed badness of an action as a reason. In the previous section, I argued that agents can be disposed to passively tr eat a bad-making feature of an ac tion as a reason to act. It is equally possible, I suggest for an agent to make a principled decision to treat a badmaking feature of an action as a reason to act. Some agents acquire or inherit perverse beli efs or principles about what justifies an action; such an agent can perhaps make a principled decision to treat a bad-making 41 Bratman notes this possibility in his ibid., p. 199 and 205.
174 feature of an action as a reas on. Consider Carla again. Carl a recognizes there are reasons to perform any number of actions that do not constitute self-mutilating behavior. Carla believes there is a reason for her to confront her parents and tell th em how terribly they act towards her; she believes there is a reas on for her to go for a walk and to blow off some steam and relax; she believes she has a reason to call her close friends so they can console her. In all these cases, Carla believe s she has a reason to do something that she knows will result in her feeling better and in her present state improving. But because of her emotional state and because she has acquire d the dispositions and habits of a selfmutilator, Carla is disposed to disregard thos e considerations and not to treat them as reason. Instead, she is disposed to treat the bad-making features of self-mutilating actions as reasons, and when she is sufficien tly distressed or upset, she is disposed to only see and actively treat the bad-making features of self-mutilating actions as reasons. Similarly, an agent who attempts to arri ve at some reflectiv e equilibrium about what is to be done might arrive at perverse conclusions about what to do if she begins the reflective process with perverse intuitions or principles about what to do. Carla may have the intuition that she should perform actions that will make her feel better but also have the intuition that she is to be made to suffer. Perh aps to avoid cognitive dissonance and arrive at a reflective equilibrium, she aba ndons one of those intu itions; there is no guarantee that she will abandon her intuition that she is to be made to suffer, rather than retain that intuition. Garbage in, garbage out. If Carla arrives at a reflective equilibrium and believes that her in tuition that she is to be made to suffer suggests there is a reason for her to act, then Carla will actively be trea ting her intuition that she is to be made to suffer as a reason to act.
175 Principled Decisions to Pursue the Bad Can a decision to treat the bad-making feat ures of an action as reason to act be principled? Principled decision to treat a co nsideration as a reason must be made on the basis of some evaluative criteria, but it is un clear just what sort of evaluative criteria could be appealed to that would favor or recommend or prescribe performing an action believed to be bad and not at all good. But it does seem possible for agent to inherit or acquire perverse evaluative criteria that they are disposed to appeal to when they are actively treating some consideration as a re ason. Rachel Cohon notes that it is possible that agents have imperfect standards of pr actical rationality, such that the agent will see reasons to act where there are none.42 Carla, for example, might have imperfect standards of practical ra tionality such that she comes to be lieve that the f act that a selfmutilating action would harm her is a reason for her to act, even though there is really no such reason. Admittedly, the evaluative criteria Carla appeals to that implies she the fact that her self-mutilating action would harm her is a reason for her to act might be perverse, and perverse by her own lights. But if Carla already accepts that evaluative criteria and is disposed to treat it as relevant when she decides what consid erations to count as reasons or when she tries to discern what reasons she has, she can actively treat a bad-making feature of an action as a reason for her to act. Again, garbage in, garbage out. Various philosophers have suggested or left it open that agents can make principled decisions based upon evaluative criteria, even if the agents believe that the evaluative criteria is perverse. Michael Bratman has focused on the role of policies in practical reasoning and deliberation; a pol icy, for Bratman, is a suitably general future-directed 42 Cohon, Internalism About Reasons for Action, Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 74:4 (Dec., 1993), p. 274.
176 intention that has the distinct ive function of organizing and coordinating and directing an agents action and activity ove r time. Policies amount to commitments to perform a certain kind of action on certain potentially recurrent occasions.43 Bratman stops short of claiming that for some suitable intention to count as a policy, the ag ent must identify or endorse or be satisfied with that policy ; Bratman explicitly consid ers the possibility that an agent could be estranged fr om her self-governing policies.44 This strikes me as plausible. I may have a policy to support le ftist causes, but perhaps my youthful idealism has withered over time and I am now estrange d from my leftist policy. Still, if I am disposed to appeal to my leftist policy, a policy that I am now es tranged from, when I attempt to determine what reasons I have to ac t, then my decision to treat my desire to promote leftist causes as a reason to act can be a principled decision. Gary Watson has suggested that an agents values, when combined with factual beliefs and probability estimates, yield judgments about what is to be done.45 Interestingly, Watson later claims that agents can be estranged from their values, such that it is a mistake to conflate valuing with judging good and allows that we can be alienated from our values: what one values in a particular case may not be sanctioned by 43 Bratman has developed this account in various pl aces, but see especially Reflection, Planning, and Temporally Extended Agency, p. 41-8; Intention and Personal Policies, pp. 455-61; and Identification, Decision, and Treating as a Reason and his Intention, Plans, and Practical Reason 44 Bratman takes this concern seriously enough to modify an initial proposal that identification with a desire is a matter of whether the desire coheres with self-governing policies an agent is satisfied with; Bratman, Reflection, Planning, and Temporally Exte nded Agency, pp. 48-9. Note that Bratman also does not claim that the fact that an agent decided to treat, for example, some desire as a reason implies the agent identifies with that desire. Since Bratmans account of identification with a desire depends upon making a decision to treat that desire as a reason, it ca nnot be a necessary condition for deciding to treat a desire as a reason that an agent already identifies with that desire; that would reverse the order of explanation. See Bratman, Iden tification, Decision, and Treating as a Reason, p. 197 and pp. 200-1. 45 Watson, Free Agency, The Journal of Philosophy 72:8 (April, 1975), p. 215.
177 a more general evaluational standpoint that one would be prepared to accept.46 Velleman suggests that an agent might be al ienated from materialism or sense of sin.47 Similarly, my values might be rooted in a ri gorous Catholic upbringi ng that I now think is ill-advised and silly and horribly misguided. St ill, if Watsons initial thought that values contribute to judgments about what is to be done is correct, then pe rhaps values that an agent is alienated from can be appealed to as evaluative criteria when she is deciding to treat some consideration as a reason; her deci sion would then be a principled decision. Allan Gibbard contrasts accepting a norm with being in the grip of a norm; an agent is in the grip of some norm, N1, if she does not believe that N1 overrides some other norm, N2, but still governs her be havior in accord with N1 rather than N2.48 Even when an agent is only in the grip of a norm, however, the agent has a motivational tendency to act as prescribed by that norm.49 For example, the subjects of the infamous Millgram experiments followed norms prescribing coope rativeness and on that basis they complied with orders to administer increasingly pain fulor what they thought were increasingly painful-electric shocks.50 But at least some of the s ubjects protested vigorously and vehemently. It strikes me as plausible to suppos e that at least some of the subjects in the Millgram experiments genuinely believed that torturing victims is bad and not at all good, but were in the grip of norms of cooperative ness and complied with their orders to shock. 46 Watson, Free Action and Free Will, Mind 96 (April, 1987), p. 150. 47 Velleman, What Happens When Someone Acts?, p. 134. Velleman attributes the examples to Elizabeth Anderson. 48 Gibbard, Wise Choices, Apt Feelings p. 60. 49 Gibbard, ibid., p. 60 and pp. 68-71. 50 See Gibbard, ibid., pp. 58-60 for discussion.
178 Their reasons for acting will make reference nor ms of cooperativeness, and thus they might use norms they are in the grip of when deciding what to do; their decisions would thus be principled decisions. Agents who are in the grip of a norm may not think that performing the relevant action is good or that it is good to be in the grip of that norm; again, agents who are in the grip of a norm do not necessarily accept that norm. I have suggested that insofar as agents can appeal to policies and values and norms that are perverse by their ow n lights as evaluative criteria, a decision to treat some consideration as a reason will be a principled decision. If so, ther e is no disanalogy here between instances of full-blooded action and at least some instances of the pursuit of the bad. Perhaps, however, there is no room for the thesis that agents who pursue the bad make principled decisions to treat bad-making features of their actions as reasons. Even if agents cannot make principled decisions to treat some bad-making feature of an action as a reason, it does not follow that agents canno t make decisions to pursue the bad. Note that even if Carlas decision to treat the fact that her action instantiat es some bad-making property as a reason is not a pr incipled decision, it still might be an existen tial decision. If existential decisions are possible, then it s eems possible for Carla to make a decision to treat the fact that her action will harm hersel f as a reason to perform it and her decision to treat that fact as a reason will be a case of actively treating th at fact as a reason. A decision to treat a bad-making feature of an action as a reason to act may or may not be a grudging decision. It is possible, I am supposing, for an agent to wholeheartedly decide to focus only upon the bad-making prope rties of the actions she is considering performing and to have no qualms or reservations But it is also possible for an agent to make such a decision only grudgingly. Even if Carla only grudgingly decides to treat the
179 fact that her self-mutilating action will harm her as a reason to act, she still actively treats that consideration as a reason. In this section, I have argued that agents can make decisions to treat a bad-making feature of an action as a reason to act. If so, then agents can actively treat a bad-making feature of an action as a reason to act. I pause to note that agents who actively treat some consideration as a reason do appear to unde rstand themselves and what they do and do appear to be in control of what they do. An agent who decides to because of some reason R perhaps understands that she is the sort of person who acts in that sort of way for that sort of reason. An agent who decides to because she actively treats some consideration C as a reason R takes charge of what reasons she will act for, in some interesting sense. It is time, then, to return to Razs challe nge. In previous sections, I have already suggested how the various arguments will go, but in the penultimate section of this chapter, I want to make the arguments explic it. I provide the rele vant arguments below. Resisting Razs Challenge Again, Raz challenges the proponent of the intentionbad thesis to explain how agents who pursue the bad understand themselves and what they do and be in control of themselves and what they do. I promised to argue as follows: 1) Agents who act intentionally understand themselves and what they do and are in control of themselves and what they do in virtue of meeting some set of requirements, N for having understanding and control. 2) At least some agents who pursue the bad meet the requirements, N for having understanding and control. 3) Therefore, at least some agents who pur sue the bad act intentionally and thus pursue the bad. 4) Therefore, the intentionbad thesis is true.
180 In earlier sections of this ch apter, I have identified some of the requirements included in N that suggest that agents who act intenti onally understand themselv es and what they do and are in control of themselves and what th ey do. Agents who act intentionally have goals and purposes and ends, and their actions are subject to teleolog ical explanations in terms of those goals and purposes and ends. In tentional action is goal-directed behavior insofar as agents who act inte ntionally act because of and fo r the sake of realizing their goals and purposes and ends. Agents who act intentionally often engage in practical reasoning and acting as a result of practical reasoning is a m eans of exhibiting control by considering and adjudicating be tween various reasons for act ing. Agents can consider and adjudicate between various reasons for acting by forming and executing intentions. Further, practical reasoning i nvolves treating some considerati ons rather than others as reasons for acting. Agents can passively or ac tively treat some considerations rather than others as reasons and agents who actively treat some considerations ra ther than others as reasons make decisions to treat those consider ations as reasons. At least some of the decisions to treat considerations as re asons are principled decisions based upon evaluative criteria believed to be relevant to determining what to do. I find it intuitive that these are all ways of understanding oneself and ones actions or of exhibiting control over oneself and what one does. In defense of 2), I have argued that ag ents who pursue the bad can also exhibit understanding and control in precisely th e same ways that agents who perform uncontroversial instances of in tentional action exhi bit understanding and control. Agents who pursue the bad can have goals and purpos es and ends. Their behavior counts as goal-directed behavior when they act because of and for the sake of realizing those goals
181 and purposes and ends, and thus, their behavior is subject to teleol ogical explanation. Agents who pursue the bad can act on the ba sis of practical reas oning and can consider and adjudicate between various reasons for ac ting. Agents who pursue the bad can form and execute intentions to pursu e the bad. They can both acti vely and passively treat badmaking features of their actions as reasons for pursuing the bad. Agents who pursue the bad might be disposed to passive ly treat bad-making features of their actions as reasons. They also might actively treat bad-making feat ures of their actions as reasons by deciding to treat those bad-making features as reasons Their decisions might only be existential or grudging decisions, but there is a case to be made that agents who pursue the bad can make principled decisions to treat bad-making f eatures of their actions as reasons. If all this is right, or if very much of it is right, then 2) of my argument is true. But if 1) and 2) are true, then we have good grounds for accepti ng 3) and 4), and thus, for accepting the intentionbad thesis. Of course, the Panglossian might accept 1) but offer a different account of understanding and control and claim that N includes rather different requirements than those I have proposed. I confess I do not know what the account would look like or how it would not avoid my arguments in this chap ter. Surely understanding what one does is, at least partly, a matter of understanding the reasons for which one acts. Surely understanding oneself is, at le ast partly, a matter of knowi ng the kinds of reasons for which one acts. Surely having control over wh at one does is a matte r, at least partly, having some say with respect to the reasons fo r which one acts. Similarly, having control over oneself is, at least partly a matter of having some cont rol of what one treats as reasons. Admittedly, we may very often lack significant control over what we treat as
182 reasons, but in that respect, agents who pursue the bad are no worse off than agents who perform paradigmatic instances of intentional action. I take it, therefore, that I have responded to Razs challe nge. I also take it that I have supplied sufficient positive arguments that the intentionbad thesis is true. Note also that some of my arguments in this chapter suggest that the reasonbad thesis is true; for example, if agents can treat the believed badness of an action as a reason for acting, it seems plausible to suppose that the believed badness of an action could be an agents reason for acting. And that just is the reasonbad thesis. It is odd to be in agreement with th e man from the underground. But he is conceptually possible as ar e the actions he imagines. Our best accounts of moral psychology ought to permit these possibilities. Conclusion I have argued for and defended a trio of thes es in this and earli er chapters: I have defended the desirebad thesis that agents can desire wh at they believe to be bad and not at all good, the intentionbad thesis that agents can intend and intentionally pursue what they believe to be bad and not at all good, and the reasonbad thesis that the believed badness of an action can be an agents reason for acting. If my thre e theses are correct, then so much the worse for standard accounts.
183 LIST OF REFERENCES Anscombe, Elizabeth (2000), Intention (Cambridge: Harvard University Press), 2nd edition. Aquinas, Thomas (1993), Selected Philosophical Writings (New York: Oxford University Press), translated by Timothy McDermott. Aristotle (1995), Aristotle: Selections (Indianapolis: Hackett Pub lishing), translated by Terence Irwin and Gail Fine. __________ (1999), The Nicomachean Ethics (Indianapolis: Hack ett Publishing), 2nd edition, translated by Terence Irwin. Arpaly, Nomy (2000), On Acting Rationa lly Against Ones Best Judgment, Ethics 110, pp. 488-513. __________ (2003), Unprincipled Virtue: An Inquiry Into Moral Agency (Oxford: Oxford University Press). Audi, Robert (1973), Intending, The Journal of Philosophy Vol. 70, No. 13, pp. 387403. __________ (1979), Weakness of Will and Practical Judgment, Nous Vol. 13, pp. 17396. __________ (1986a), Acting For Reasons, The Philosophical Review Vol. 95, No. 4, pp. 511-46. Reprinted in Mele (1997), pp. 75-105. __________ (1986b), Intending, Intentional Action, and Desire, in Marks (1986), pp. 17-38. __________ (1990), Weakness of Will and Rational Action, Australasian Journal of Philosophy Vol. 68, No. 3, pp. 410-30. Augustine (2001), The Confessions (New York: Everyman Pub lishing), translated by Philip Burton. Austin, J. L. (1954), How to TalkSome Simple Ways, Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 53, pp. 227-46.
184 Baer, Lee (2002), The Imp of the Mind: Exploring the Silent Epidemic of Obsessive Bad Thoughts (New York: Penguin Publishing). Baier, Kurt (1958), The Moral Point of View: A Rational Basis of Ethics (Ithaca: Cornell University Press). Benjamin, Laura Smith (2003), Interpersonal Reconstructive Therapy: Promoting Change in Nonresponders (New York: The Guilford Press). Benn, Stanley I. (1985), Wickedness, Vol. 95, No. 4, pp. 795-810. Reprinted in Deigh (1992), pp. 191-206. Bishop, John (1989), Natural Agency (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press). Bittner, Rdiger (2001), Doing Things for Reasons (New York: Oxford University Press). Brand, Myles (1984), Intending and Acting (Cambridge: The MIT Press). Bratman, Michael E. (1979), Practical Reasoning and Weakness of the Will, Nous Vol. 13, pp. 153-72. __________ (1984), Two Faces of Intention, The Philosophical Review Vol. 93, pp. 375-405. Reprinted in Mele (1997), pp. 178-203. __________ (1987), Intention, Plans, and Practical Reason (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press). __________ (1989), Intention and Personal Policies, Philosophical Perspectives Vol. 3, pp. 443-69. __________ (1996), Identification, Decisi on, and Treating as a Reason, Philosohpical Topics Vol. 24, pp. 1-18. __________ (1999), Faces of Intention: Selected Essays on Intention and Agency (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press). __________ (2000), Reflection, Planning, and Temporally Extended Agency, The Philosophical Review Vol. 109, No. 1, pp. 35-61. Bond, Edward Jarvis (1983), Reason and Value (New York: Cambridge University Press). Buss, Sarah and Overton, Lee (2002), Contours of Agency (Cambridge: MIT Press). Card, Claudia (2002), The Atrocity Paradigm: A Theory of Evil (Cambridge: Oxford University Press).
185 Cavanaugh, Robert (2002), Sel f-Mutilation as a Manifesta tion of Sexual Abuse in Adolescent Girls, Journal of Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology Vol. 15, No. 97, pp. 97-100. Chang, Ruth (2004), Can Desires Provide R easons for Action?, in Wallace (2004), pp. 56-90. Cohon, Rachel (1993), Internalism About Reasons for Action, Pacific Philosophical Quarterly Vol. 74, No. 4, p. 274. Copp, David and Sobel, David (2002), Des ires, Motives, and Reasons: Scanlons Rationalistic Moral Psychology, Social Theory and Practice Vol. 28, No. 2, pp. 243-76. Damasio, Antonio R., Descartes Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain (1994: Putnam Berkeley Group). Dancy, Jonathan (2000), Practical Reality (Oxford: Oxford University Press). Darwall, Stephen L. (1983), Impartial Reason (Ithaca: Cornell University Press). Davidson, Donald (1963), Ac tions, Reasons, and Causes, Journal of Philosophy Vol. 60, pp. 685-700. Reprinted in Davidson (1980), pp. 3-19. __________ (1970), How is Weakness of th e Will Possible?, in Davidson (1980), pp. 21-42. __________ (1973), Freedom to Act, in Essays on Freedom of Action (London: Routlege and Kegan Paul). Reprinted in Davidson (1980), pp. 63-81. __________ (1978), Intending, in Philosophy of History and Action Yovel and Reidel, eds. (1978). Reprinted in Davison (1980), pp. 83-102. __________ (1975), Hempel on Explaining Action, Erkenntnis Vol. 10, pp. 239-53. Reprinted in Davidson (1980), pp. 261-75. __________ (1980), Essays on Actions and Events (Oxford: Oxford University Press). __________ (1985), Replies to Essays I-IX, in Vermazen and Hintikka (1985), pp. 195-229. Davis, Wayne A. (1984), A Causal Theory of Intending, American Philosophical Quarterly Vol. 21, pp. 43-54. Reprinte d in Mele (1997), pp. 131-48. Deigh, John, ed. (1992), Ethics and Personality: Essays in Moral Psychology (Chicago: University of Chicago Press).
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193 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Peter Brian Barry is a graduate of the University of Florida Department of Philosophy. He has also earned masters de grees in applied philosophy and philosophy from Bowling Green State University (O hio) and the University of WisconsinMilwaukee, respectively. He has also earned a bachelors degree from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee after majori ng in philosophy and political science. He is the son of Barbara Jean Barry and the twin brother of Robert James Barry.
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