Utilitarianism tells us that actions are morally right and good if and to the extent that they add to human happiness or diminish human unhappiness. And—or, perhaps, therefore—it also tells us that the best action a person can perform is that which of all the possible actions open to him is the one which makes the greatest positive difference to human happiness. Moreover, as everyone will also remember, utilitarianism further tries to tell us, perhaps intending it as a corollary of (...) that first, main claim, that the motive for an action has nothing to do with its moral rightness or goodness. But even if, as utilitarians, we accepted the dubious corollary, it would not follow, as many have thought, that utilitarians have no moral interest in motives. For unless, absurdly, a utilitarian believed either that there was never more than a fortuitous connection between on the one hand what we intended to do and on the other what we did and the consequences of what we did, or that, if there were such connections, we could not know of them, he must believe, as a moralist, that the best motive a person can have for performing an action is likely to be the desire to produce the happiest result. Indeed, utilitarians ought to be morally committed, it would seem, to trying to find out as much as they can about the consequences of our actions, e.g. what connections exist, if any, between how we raise children and what sort of adults they grow up to be. (shrink)
Having distinguished essentially fictional characters from inessentially fictional ones and having identified Anna Karenina as an inessentially fictional character, Barrie Paskins solves the problem I posed in ‘How Can We Be Moved by the Fate of Anna Karenina?’ thus: ‘our pity towards the inessentially fictional is, or can without forcing be construed as, pity for those people if any who are in the same bind as the character in the fiction’. Making a similar point in a footnote, ‘our emotions towards (...) fictional characters are directed towards those real people, if any, who are in essentially the same situation’, he continues in the text, ‘This possibility is neglected by Radford and Weston.’. (shrink)
In a series of original and entertaining sketches, short stories, plays and his own 'philosophical autobiography' Professor Colin Radford expounds the nature and importance of philosophy for our everyday lives.
Glen Hartz argues, that neuroscience reveals that persons moved or frightened by fictional characters believe that they are real, so such behaviour is not irrational. But these beliefs, if they exist, are not rational and, in any case inconsistent with our conscious rational beliefs that fictional characters are not real. So his argument fails to establish that we are not irrational or incoherent when moved or frightened by such characters. It powerfully reinforces the contrary view.
In Part One of The Examined Life I recalled certain episodes from my childhood and youth in which, as I came to realize later, I had been exercised by a philosophical problem. By so doing I hoped not only to convey to non-professionals what philosophy is—or is like—but to show them that they too were philosophers, i.e., had been exercised by philosophical questions. In Part Two I gave some examples of how such problems may be treated by a professional, in (...) articles. (shrink)