Monday, February 23, 2009

Praising the one who deserves it

In my last blog, I doubted whether still something new is said in the field of the philosophy of action after so many years of discussion. I think that for most publications my statement is true. However, sometimes it seems to happen that a new flower blooms in this field. Is it surprising that this flower was brought there from the garden of experimental philosophy? Take this. Someone does an action, say A establishes a company. The company has detrimental side effects on the environment. Another person, B, establishes also a company and this company has positive side effects on the environment. Both A and B care only for the profitability of their companies and both know about the side effects, but they are not interested in them. Then it is so, as Joshua Knobe found out, that usually people say that A hurt the environment intentionally, while they do not say that B helped the environment intentionally. Why this difference? For in both cases the actors had the same moral attitude towards the side effects and one could say that the side effects were symmetrical. If this is so and if it is also so that the person who is blamed for the negative side effects of his or her actions is rightly done so, then I must conclude that on the other hand often people do not receive the appreciation they deserve for what they do well. But must I really be praised for something that I have done intentionally from the philosophical point of view but that I had no intention to do?

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