Wednesday, April 13 Ethics Colloquium, Dr Rachael Wiseman (Durham)


photo_rachael16:45 – 18:00 Dante 005

‘The Intended Consequences of Intention


This paper develops a reading of Anscombe’s Intention which sees it as the product of the ethical debates in which Anscombe was engaged between 1956 and 1958, in particular, her opposition to Harry S. Truman’s honorary degree from Oxford University, and her public critique of ‘the spirit of the age’ in her BBC Radio talk ‘Does Oxford Moral Philosophy Corrupt the Youth?’). Through those debates Anscombe came to realise that moral philosophy had lost sight of the distinctive use of the question ‘What is she doing?’, to mark out the class of intentional actions (Intention, sss23, 37). This question, as she saw it, is essential to identifying the nature and quality of an act, a category without which moral philosophy cannot precede.
Once we re-frame Intention as a corrective to this oversight, two things become clear. First, that the widespread view of Intention as offering a novel account of action is mistaken; rather, the insight of Intention “isn’t a philosophical thesis at all” (Anscombe, ‘Under a Description’); second, that that the consequences of Intention for ethics are yet to be appreciated.