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April 10, 2009


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You write,

The bomber is not merely guided by the goal of ending the war but, rather, also adopts harm as an end in the larger plan she has. She actively pursues civilian destruction and pain, and is satisfied when she gets such results. This is why she counts as someone who has a loving attitude towards evil.

What if the terror bomber is a utilitarian who pursues civilian destruction and pain, but does so very reluctantly, because this is the only available means to adverting even greater civilian destruction and pain. I fail to see how such a utilitarian counts as having a loving attitude towards evil (i.e., as having a loving attitude towards the civilian destruction and pain that she causes). Indeed, the utilitarian acts this way only because she hates civilian destruction and pain and so does whatever she can to minimize them. Thus, I fail to see how intending harm equates to loving evil.


that's a good point which I recognise is a problem for the argument. Alison MacIntyre makes a similar point. She writes that:

"A properly regretful agent with a clear-sighted grasp of just why she was causing a particular harmas a means to a good end would be able to acquit herself of the particular moral charge of manifesting a bad attitude.(McIntyre,2001, p. 227)"

But I think there are some things one can say in response and Hills says many of them.

First, you could say that the DDE only is able to condemn most instances of terror bombing. There are few clear-headed utilitarians. Most terror bombers have intended terror in some more robust sense.

Second, I'm not sure how the utilitarian bomber can hate civilian destruction and do whatever she can to minimize them. After all, she needs to maximise terror in order for the other side to give up. If you're not producing enough death and suffering to achieve this end, you'll be guided to create more pain and suffering. In this sense, the latter seems to be your plan-relative end.

Third, thinking in the utilitarian way does not maximise the utilitarian ends as is well known. The terror bomber will be much more effective in reaching the good end if she does not do utilitarian calculations about which means lead to that end. She will be much more effective if she adopts the end of terror and destruction as her proper end in deliberation. Consequentially direct pursue of that end is more effective than considering causing harm as mere means.

Jussi -

I share Doug's worry. Let me put it in slightly different terms. As Hurka makes quite clear, the morally relevant attitude is loving a particular thing for itself, rather than for the sake of some other thing. But I find it quite implausible to believe that every person who violates DDE intends harm for its own sake. One doesn't have to be a utilitarian to believe that sometimes one has to intend harm in order to achieve a desirable result. (Cf. "The Battle of Algiers") That doesn't mean that one intends harm merely for itself.


good. I'm trying to wiggle out of this. Here's one way to do so. You might be right that the terror bomber does not *love* harm because he does not intend harm for its own sake. But, if I remember this right from Hurka's book's chapter on proportionality already lacking a hating attitude towards pain and suffering can be an intrinsically bad state. Now, you might think that the attitude which bomber has towards pain and suffering is incompatible with having a hating attitude towards pain and suffering. If one hates pain and suffering, one cannot see the fact that some act brings about pain and suffering as a reason [edited...] for doing the action. And, this is what the terror bomber has to do. So, on this view, she could not have the hating attitude towards pain which is required for virtue. After all, it is a derivative reason for her that her bombing does bring about these evil consequences.


You write: "If one hates pain and suffering, one cannot see the fact that some act brings about pain and suffering as a result [this should be: reason] for doing the action. And, this is what the terror bomber has to do."

Why can't one hate pain and suffering and see the fact that x-ing will bring about pain and suffering as an instrumental reason for x-ing, as where bringing about this pain and suffering will minimize pain and suffering overall?

One thing you could say is that pain and suffering do not just hang about in the air but rather they are some persons pain and suffering. It would then be the case that we should always talk about hating and loving attitudes towards the pains, sufferings and pleasures of definitive individuals. And, now the question becomes, do you hate Susan's suffering if you want to cause her suffering and bring Mandy and Jane pleasure/avoidance of pain? I'm not sure I would want to answer that you do.


But even if I would prefer Susan's lesser suffering to Mandy's greater suffering, it doesn't follow that I intrinsically want Susan to suffer. And it seems that I can want Susan to suffer for instrumental reasons and still hate Susan's suffering.

Moreover, consider the following case. Suppose my baby daughter will be in terrible agony an hour from now unless I cause her minor pain sometime in the next half hour. Suppose that she has a temporary condition such that if I cause her pain now, she'll produce a massive amount of endorphins, which will anesthetize her for the next two hours. Suppose that this temporary condition will last for only the next half hour, so that if I don't act soon, she won't be anesthetized. Suppose that I prick her with a needle to get her endorphins going. Is it your view that I cannot possible hate my daughter's pain given that I see the fact that my pricking her with a needle will cause her pain as an instrumental reason for my doing so?

No. In that case you hate your daughter's suffering, and to bring about as little of it as possible as you can you'll need to cause her little suffering first in order to avoid more suffering later. Intrapersonal cases are different from interpersonal cases.

The Susan case is trickier. I was thinking of the case where all the individuals suffer as much as they can (death is the usual case in bombing). So, the question is can you hate Susan's death if you take her death to be something to be pursued for achieving the aim of saving the two other people.

One thing that Hurka's account requires is proportionality - that you hate things to the degree that they are bad and evil. And, death for an individual is as bad as things pretty much anything can be. We can then ask do you hate some individual's death enough if you can see it as an instrumental reason do some action that may later end to saving other people. I'm still not convinced that you can.


You write: "No. In that case you hate your daughter's suffering."

Good. So your earlier statement is false: viz., "If one hates pain and suffering, one cannot see the fact that some act brings about pain and suffering as a [reason] for doing the action."

You also write: "One thing that Hurka's account requires is proportionality - that you hate things to the degree that they are bad and evil. And, death for an individual is as bad as things pretty much anything can be."

This (the second sentence) also seems false. The Holocaust seems much worse than the death of any single individual. It seems, then, that one could intend the death of a single individual (e.g., the death of the woman who would otherwise become the great grandmother of the next Hitler) and hate this evil in proportion to its badness while seeing the fact that x-ing will cause this person's death as a reason to x given that x-ing is the only way that one can advert something as bad as the Holocaust (e.g., the next holocaust).

Well yes. But that earlier claim did not make the distinction I gave in the later replies. If one hates certain individuals suffering, one can see that fact that the action causes suffering as an instrumental reason for reducing the amount of pain that individual suffers later. But, I wanted to suggest later that if one hates certain individuals suffering, one cannot see the fact that your action causes pain to that individual as an instrumental reason for reducing the amount of pain other individuals suffer later.

The second holocaust point seems to me to be a rather nice illustration of the proportionality even though my intuitions are not so clear about those cases. I did mean as bad for the individual as possible. Of course death of one individual is not the worst thing that can happen in the world.

I think a better case would be one in which you could by killing a single German induce such fear amongst the Nazi's that they will surrender and a holocaust is avoided (imagine that they were real cowards). Of course a defender of the DDE will want to accept this even if she might not want to say that it is ok to induce similar fear by killing hundreds of thousands or millions of civilian Germans. DDE usually comes with some sort of proportionality clause too.

The defender of the previous view will then want to say that one must also hate the holocaust a lot in order to be virtuous. So, maybe, in the cowardly Germans case, hating the death of the one individual is compatible with seeing the death of that individual as a reason for avoiding the holocaust which it would be evil not to hate hugely. But, you might think that there is a lesser number of individuals the saving for whom one cannot treat someone's death as a reason if one hates the death of that person.

There is a difference between pain-and-suffering and pain AND suffering. People here seem to use pain-and-suffering as the equivalent of pain AND suffering without acknowledging that fact. It is entirely possible to feel pain and enjoy it. Michael Crichton has an entire novel based on that premise. People cut themselves every day and enjoy it. Marquis de Sade claimed that it is possible to enjoy pain during sex so much that it actually brings men and women to orgasm. You may not agree with de Sade or with Crichton, etc. but the fact remains some types of pain actually alleviate suffering.

Equally, it is possible to suffer without feeling any pain whatever. A 3-year-old who eats way too much candy and gets way too chubby for her own good, by the time she is 4 years old, is suffering, but feeling no pain whatever. In fact, she thoroughly enjoys the candy.

To love evil, you must enjoy suffering -- but only the suffering of others. And even so, you must do so with the knowledge that all the suffering is completely pointless, that it will result only in further suffering and nothing else whatsoever.

A misguided belief is not the same as being evil. A doctor who believes that removing a bullet from someone's head will make the person healthier, even though it may cause the patient migraines the rest of his life, is not evil, even in the event that the patient dies on the operating table while suffering an intense migraine. The doctor, in this case, is wrong and misguided in his belief that he can make the patient better, and yet not evil. But a woman who takes pleasure in reminding her child that the child's father is dead, just to watch the child cry, is evil, because no good is either intended or expected. There is no other intent present except to create the maximum amount of suffering -- for someone else.

Without getting into the religious aspects of evil, it can be defined as an act (or several acts) inherently disruptive, with no other intent than to cause suffering to someone other than oneself. Evil people do, of course, cause themselves to suffer but good people cause themselves to suffer too. Hence, to that extent, there is no real difference between being evil and being good. Good people, however, do not cause others to suffer unless they intend that suffering to have some positive effect. No doubt there are good people who cross the line and cause suffering for its own sake -- and when they cross that line, they are evil.

Furthermore, it should be clear that actions are evil in and of themselves, regardless of the person who commits the acts. A person whose actions are almost exclusively evil is an evil person. A person whose actions are almost exclusively good is a good person. But most of us fall somewhere in the middle, most of the time. Most of us strive to be 100% good and 0% evil and that never happens, in real life. A few, twisted people, try to be 100% evil and 0% good, and that never happens either.

The reason (in my opinion) that it is impossible to be 100% evil is that I define evil as inherently disruptive. But, in order to be 100% disruptive, 100% of the time, you need a fairly high degree of intelligence focus, dedication, cooperation, etc. and these are qualities that are inherently cohesive rather than disruptive. Moreover, even assuming that a person managed to be disruptive 100% of the time, he or she would have to wait until some semblance of order was restored to continue being disruptive.

And, for the same reason, it is impossible to be 100% good. Being good means (to me) creating healing and cohesion, constantly. But, if there is no injury to heal and no chaos to turn into cohesion, then you more or less need to wait until things begin to fall apart, to see if you are really capable of being good. Not being evil or disruptive is not (in my opinion) the same as being good. Good and evil (in my opinion) are active states in which a person chooses to be, voluntarily, consciously, and continuously. Everything else is simply a kind of emotional gravitation.

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