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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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Chapter Three Evaluation of Moral Actions and Moral Theories Based on Intention 105


105 Chapter Three Evaluation of Moral Actions and Moral Theories Based on Intention In the previous chapter we have seen Anscombe’s analysis of the con- cept of intention. Her analysis therein was a psychological analysis and not a moral or an ethical analysis, as in fact she manifestly stated it. In this chapter we shall see her use of the results of the findings of the philosophical psychology regarding intention, in moral theories and problems. “In general,” she says, my interest in moral philosophy has been more in particular moral questions than in what is now called ‘meta-ethics’. […] So far as general questions of moral theory have interested me, I have thought them closely tied up with problems of action-description and unsetllable without help from philosophy of mind.1 And true to her words, her moral philosophy is in large part in point- ing out the mistakes in the prevalent moral positions and that from the point of view of action-description of which intention is the cen- tral aspect. And in the following pages, we shall see her evaluation of war and contraceptive sexual intercourse from intention point of view; we shall present contract as being intentional in character; we shall see the faulty conceptions of intention that is at the root of the moral theory of consequentialism; and we shall outline the misuse of the principle of double effect on account of the faulty understanding of intention. 1 G. E. M. Anscombe, Ethics, Religion and Politics, p. viii. 106 3.1...

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