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Intention in Action

The Philosophy of G. E. M. Anscombe

Series:

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 Five Action and Moral Object 203

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203 Chapter Five Action and Moral Object In this chapter we shall be discussing action in relation to the moral object. We have already noted that while in her book Intention Anscombe had restricted herself to philosophical psychology, she evalu- ates certain moral problems not only on the basis of moral psychol- ogy but also from the perspective of the moral object. We shall in this chapter be concerned with this important topic of the object of the moral action. It will be done under the following headings (1) Practical Rea- soning, (2) Is-Ought, (3) Action Explanation: Aristotle, St. Thomas and Anscombe and (4) Beyond Intention: Martin Rhonheimer. The first section discusses Anscombe’s interpretation of Aristotle’s practical reasoning. She sees practical reasoning as explaining the or- der which exists in actions which are done with intentions. The discus- sion brings to light the close relationship between action and its moral object: to be a good piece of practical reasoning the end (the object) has to be good. Hence the importance of the moral object in the philosophy of action. The oughts and ought-nots are part of any ethical system. From where do we get these moral oughts and ought-nots? The second section discusses whether the moral ought can be inferred from ‘is’. Anscombe realizes that moral ought can be inferred from ‘is’ in the manner in which Aristotle has done ethics: moral ought related to hu- man virtues. The third section is a comparative analysis of the action explanation by...

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