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Intention in Action

The Philosophy of G. E. M. Anscombe


Pathiaraj Rayappan

G. E. M. Anscombe was one of the important philosophers of the twentieth century. Her most famous works are Intention and Modern Moral Philosophy and have given origin to the new branch called Philosophy of Action and have been an impetus for the revival of Virtue Ethics. This book studies G. E. M. Anscombe’s evaluation of moral theories and moral actions based on her findings in Philosophical Psychology. The author argues that a moral evaluation solely from the point of view of intention is insufficient and looks for a way in which this insufficiency can be overcome. Taking inspiration from Martin Rhonheimer, he finds a way to overcome this insufficiency through concepts such as the moral object, the anthropological truth of man and the practical reason, which are other essential elements to be considered in moral evaluation in addition to intention.


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Introduction 11


11 Introduction Given the present prevalent contraceptive culture, due to scientific de- velopments in the medical field, it is not too rare to come across serious minded youngsters, desirous of knowing the truth, who ask ‘what is wrong with contraceptive intercourse within marriage?’ – it is a good and effec- tive way of controlling population, avoiding unwanted pregnancies, spac- ing births, expressing mutual love! When they hear it said that it is against nature, they are confused. How is it against nature? they want to know. They give the example of the contraceptive pill which renders the sexual act in no way different from the ordinary sexual intercourse. Al- though intuitively we do perceive the difference between these acts and realize that there is ‘something wrong’ in it, we are at a loss to confront on a deeper rational basis. Considered by the intention embedded in the very action, contraceptive sexual intercourse (in whatever form it be) becomes problematic (we will have occasion to discuss this issue at length in this book). Hence, the concept of intention in moral actions is impor- tant, although it is not the only decisive element in the moral evaluation of human actions. Also, the right understanding of the concept of intention is needed. For example, Paul Touvier, a French Nazi collaborator who served a pro-Nazi militia set up by the collaborationist Vichy government (France), was condemned in 1994 for having executed seven Jews in 1944 in Rillieux-la-Pape near Lyon. During the legal process, Paul...

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