Wrongdoing Without Motives: Why Victor Tadros is Wrong About Wrongdoing and Motivation [Book Review]

Law and Philosophy 32 (2-3):217-240 (2013)
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Victor Tadros defends a subjective, intention-focused interpretation of the means principle (MP), according to which to use another as a means is to form plans or intentions in which the other serves as a tool for advancing one's ends. My thesis here is that Tadros's defense of the subjective interpretation of the MP is unsuccessful. To make that case I argue for three claims. First, the subjective interpretation has implausibly harsh implications in certain cases, implying that certain people would be guilty of much more serious wrongs than they can plausibly be thought to have committed. Second, the cases that Tadros offers to argue that the subjective interpretation of the MP must be right are better interpreted as showing that it is impermissible to act on an illicit intention -- one that would direct an agent under certain, foreseeable circumstances to perform impermissible acts -- than that it is impermissible to act for an illicit reason. Third, while Tadros correctly rejects the objective, causal-role-focused interpretation of the MP -- according to which to use another as a means is for the other to play the causal role of means to the good which might be offered to justify the act one performs -- there is another way of defending the significance of causal roles, one that has implications that track those of the MP fairly closely. I argue elsewhere at length for this other principle, which I call the Restricting Claims Principle. Here I simply sketch the basic idea in a way sufficient to show that one can escape the dilemma that the MP faces without grabbing either the subjective or the objective horn, and without moving into a consequentialist world in which it is permissible to punish the innocent for the sake of the general welfare.


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Alec Walen
Rutgers University - New Brunswick

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The Doctrine of Illicit Intentions.Alec Walen - 2005 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 34 (1):39-67.

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