14 April 2008

Praeter Intentionem

Suppose I make a general resolution to use just as much force as would be necessary to protect my life against attacks-- and it turns out that in one instance the force which is required is lethal. Have I murdered someone or only defended myself?

What about in the case in which, before I make the same resolution, I believe, with confidence and on good reasons, that a certain powerful enemy will make an attempt on my life?

Again, suppose I make a general resolution to promote the activities of the Washington Area Symposium in Ancient Philosophy and, as it happens, a paper given by myself is on the program. In advertising that paper, am I promoting myself or only the program? (Of course I knew that my paper was on the program in advance.) And if it could be one or the other, how would we decide between the two?

You judge for yourself.

April 18
Michael Pakaluk (The Catholic University of America)
"Necessitated Actions and Double Effect in NE III.1"

Skinner Building, Room 1115
Department of Philosophy
University of Maryland, 2 pm


Alexander R Pruss said...

I think the two cases are interestingly non-parallel.

There are two interesting independent questions about the murder case:
(1) Is it possible to intend to use an amount F of force without intending to kill, when one knows that F is a lethal amount?
(2) Do the intentions involved in general resolutions filter down to particular cases?
Thus, it is possible to answer the question whether you've murdered someone in the negative in at least two different ways: by answering "yes" to (1) or by answering "no" to (2).

In the activity promotion case, only the second question applies.

I am inclined to think that the answer to both questions is affirmative. So, use of lethal force is not an intentional killing, but you are promoting your paper. :-) Not that there is anything wrong with that.

Michael Pakaluk said...

I'd prefer to formulate your (2) in something like this way: Is it possible to specify an action in such a way that some things pertain to it essentially, and others only incidentally, and, if so, can it happen that only what is essential be what the agent intends to do, so that what is incidental ends up being 'apart from his intention' (praeter intentionem)?

But then (a) this question is relevant to the murder case as much as to the advertisement case; and (b) it's not clear that your (1) raises a question distinct from this.

Alexander R Pruss said...

You're right (I'd quibble with the formulation, but your refutation of my distinction holds).