IPOD SUMMARY/COMMENTARY 7.4-7.7
- In these sections, A&S consider four objections to their proposed account of praiseworthiness and blameworthiness. Here is the official formulation of their account: Praiseworthiness: A person is praiseworthy for some action A to the extent that A manifests an intrinsic desire (or desires) for the complete or partial right or good (correctly conceptualized) or an absence of intrinsic desire (or desires) for the complete or partial wrong or bad (correctly conceptualized) through being rationalized by it (or them). [and similarly for blameworthiness]
- Regarding an earlier criticism that I had of SC’s account of good/bad will (and PWness and BWness): it occurs to me that while praiseworthiness is somewhat naturally interpreted in terms that are indifferent to the weight given to personal, non-moral intrinsic desires, admirability is less so. So it may be that, while, in rightly PHI-ing, the abjectly-self-sacrificing moral person is as (or more) praiseworthy as (than) the ordinarily highly moral person, the latter has (and expresses) an overall better character in PHI-ing and hence is more admirable. It is perhaps important that praise (and the antecedent “moral crediting” attitudes that lead to praising) is part of a “natural” social institution for training up people to be fit for social and community life (so that communities may function well), while admiration (considered as a kind of “crediting” attitude) has a more prominent function that is not necessarily quite so social: that of developing oneself according to role models (though it surely functions as well to “train people up” for being moral). This might explain why whole-character admirability, on a view like SC, would concern all of one’s intrinsic desires and their relative priority, not just some of them (e.g., not just the moral ones). And the abjectly-self-sacrificing person would, intuitively, come out worse for wear on this kind of scale of evaluation. In any case, we need to evaluate a kind of good will (or ability to act for the appropriate or correct reasons) of agents both: (i) in respect to being well-suited to social and community life (i.e., in respect of morality) and (ii) in respect to living a good life overall. Though I can image both praising and admiring people in either respect, my sense is that praising is more naturally keyed toward training people up for social and community life while admiring is more naturally keyed toward self-development using role models. There is, then, I think, room for a theory like SC to accommodate the sorts of intuitions that I was consulting regarding how and in what respects we should “credit” (morally or otherwise) the ordinarily-highly-moral person more than the abjectly-self-sacrificing person (in their rightly or morally rightly PHI-ing or otherwise).
- 7.4 – 7.7 cover four objections to SC’s account of PWness and BWness. 7.4 concerns the objection that the focus on intrinsic desires renders it impossible to account for deontology – so that SC could be true only if deontology in morality (however partial) is false. This objection really concerns how (or whether it is possible or explanatorily advisable) to explain deontology or strong reasons to follow rules in terms of end (on SC, intrinsic desires). The discussion is a bit technical. But I think it is pretty widely accepted that you can provide a broadly “teleological” account of deontology. It is just that, in order to do so, you need to specify some somewhat exotic ends (as one would expect, given that, paradigmatically, the pursuit of ends is distinguished from obedience to rules in the pursuit of ends). For example, the that-right-PHI-ing-be-done end does not do it (because this yields a “maximizing consequentialism” of right action). Rather, you need something like this: me-now refraining from PHI-ing (say, stealing) for every value of ‘now’. (I’m sure this is not quite right – there are technical details here that I’m not really well-versed in. But this is broadly the right idea.) I agree that it is possible to give a teleological account of deontology in this sort of way. Though I’m less confident that do so is explanatorily helpful, I do think that, at a certain fundamental level, it is. After all, we need some explanation of what rule-following comes to and hence wht having the following of a rule as an end is.
- 7.5 concerns potential problems with the ‘correct conceptualization’ condition. SC makes two plausible claims: (a) that the agent who does what is right and is motivated by the ends of the correct moral theory (say under the concept RESPECTING OTHERS) is praiseworthy (in performing the right action), even if she thinks of what she is doing under the concept WRONG (e.g., Huckleberry Finn not returning his slave-friend Jim to his owner for the unarticulated right reasons, meanwhile thinking that he is acting wrongly not rightly) and (b) that the agent who takes himself to be acting rightly (under the concept RIGHT) but who has a mistaken moral theory (say, the agent-indifferent, welfarist act consequentialist who conceptualizes right action as UTILITY-MAXIMIZING) is not praiseworthy (in performing the right action).
- As indicated earlier, I think the real issue here, for SC, is what weight to give to intrinsic desires to do what is right as against intrinsic desires to do the things that are in fact right (say, respect others). The sense-versus-reference issue is a technical side issue of “correct conceptualization.” And, intuitively, it seems that both sort of conceptualizations seem relevant to acting from the right reasons (for counting as praiseworthy in performing the morally right action). It is plausible, though, that the intrinsic desire to respect others (whatever this comes to when you spell it out) is more important for having a good will than is the desire, intrinsic or otherwise, to do the right thing. (It is also odd to think of the overall mental state of perhaps-intrinsically desiring to do the right thing while having no idea of what the right thing is – and hence no more-specific perhaps-intrinsic desires. I’m inclined to think that the intrinsic desire to do what is right depends on intrinsic desire to do whatever it is that one takes to constitutive what is right. And I’m inclined to think that the intrinsic desire to do what is right functions to motivate one to do what is right when one is not sure or when one has only second-hand information about what makes the right action right. In this way, the intrinsic desire to do what is right functions, along with the desire to do the things that make right actions right, to motivate us toward performing substantively correct right actions. This is my best shot at a start of a theory of how the intrinsic desire to do what is right could matter in constituting a good will.)
- One might derive an objection from Darwall as follows: there is an important general reason, beyond that stepping on your toe causes you pain, not to step on your toe. A&S admit this, but to admit this is not to admit that this general reason is the reason that stepping on others toes is wrong. The reason might be that (negligently or intentionally) stepping on another person’s toe expresses lack of respect for them. So the correct conceptualization condition of SC works to explain such cases. Another objection might be derived from Gideon Rosen’s treatment of non-culpable moral ignorance: one might be non-culpable in holding slaves in a slave-holding society because one has no way of knowing that holding slaves is wrong. Though A&S treat this kind of case in terms of the concept WRONG, the same point could be made with respect to RESPECT FOR PERSONS. The difference here is that between general desire/reason and getting the specific application right. From Rosen, we might get the idea that PWness and BWness requires more than good or bad will (the right intrinsic desires according to SC) – it requires having the right information or beliefs as well. But the differences here can be accounted for on the “right action” side of things rather than the “good will” side of things – and that is the right way to handle these cases. One maintains a good will – say with respect to respecting other human beings – if one honestly lacks good access to the fact that women, people of darker skin color, etc. are human beings just like the other ones you know. Though this is rare (and rarer than Rosen thinks), it does happen. So there are some (rare) non-blameworthy – because good-willed – slave-holders, “objective” sexists and racists, etc. (There is a bunch of good material in this section, but it is a substantive application of SC (not a crisp response to a crisp objection), so I’ll omit further summary.)
- 7.6 concerns various objections to the effect that SC’s account of PWness and BWness either gives too much credit (credit where credit is not due) or too much blame (blame where blame is not due). I don’t have much to say here. The account here is general enough that, if you add enough do-dads and whirley-gears to it, you can account for what needs to be accounted for. I just don’t see any killer objections here (or any objections to lead to interesting elaborations). I wish I had more of an idea of what a good theory of PWness and BWness should explain – this would motivate interest in their discussion – but they don’t really lay things out this way. However, they do seem to show that their theory is a framework that is adequate to handling various subtleties. Best, perhaps, to just read it.
- 7.7 concerns objections having to do with partial good or ill will. Two main objections. First, there is a worry that certain kinds of partial good will on SC (like concern for one’s own child) should not count as partial good will because they may seem to reflect personal or partial desires or reasons that are morally objectionable. Second, there is the more technical objection that, if (say) Kant is right then the Millian will count as having partial good will – and if (say) Mill is right the the Kantian will count as having partial good will. Since I don’t see why this second thing is an objection at all (and this is precisely what they conclude), I’ll ignore it.
- The first thing, then: partial good will that looks like (morally objectionable) partiality. Can SC adequately account for our intuitions here? Reply: once we look at the relevant details, it is clear that SC can get this right (the three anti-Kurdish tribalist Turks – illustrative cases). I find their reply here pretty convincing but hard to summarize: it really is best to just read it. It is good and insightful regarding how various tribalist/racist attitudes are wrong, independently of being a defense of SC’s view of PWness and BWness.