[Marxism] Ted Honderich: philosophy with attitude

Shane Mage shmage at pipeline.com
Wed Jan 30 20:42:21 MST 2013

On Jan 30, 2013, at 8:20 PM, Jim Farmelant wrote:
> Some recent Honderich:
> TED HONDERICH INTERVIEWED for the book Weapons of the Strong:
> Conversations on US State Terrorism, edited by Cihan Aksan and Jon
> Bailes, Pluto Press 2012.
> http://www.ucl.ac.uk/~uctytho/StateNatureBailesInterview.html

This is most disappointing:

"It seems obvious to me that the right thing can be done out of bad  
motives. It seems obvious because what philosophers call  
consequentialism is true -- actions, policies, institutions,  
societies, are made right or wrong by their probable consequences,  
nothing else. The alternative to consequentialism, that intentions  
make actions right, or that some things are right on account of the  
agent's integrity, or on account of personal relations, or or virtues  
detached from consequences, or Kant's pure good will, or whatever --  
those suspect ideas are rightly in decline. Can you really dispute  
consequentialism? Even if you think, rightly, that intentions are  
among the guides to who needs punishment or the like, and of course  
guides to probable consequences?"

What makes that "obvious?" Probability in the sense Honderich uses it  
(ie., not the mathematical probability of, say, a fair pair of dice  
coming up seven) is entirely subjective.  One may view the "probable"  
consequences of one's actions in good faith (based on a rigorously  
impartial view of the objective situation), but human nature is such  
that impartiality is very rare indeed--the overwhelming human tendency  
is to judge "probable consequences" in close reference to one's  
desired outcomes and perception-framing prejudices. So probability is  
inherently subjective.  Its accuracy can be judged only  
retrospectively, once the spectrum of probabilities has collapsed into  
an outcome--which *ex post* had 100% probability.  And this doesn't  
even reach the issue of the chain of consequences following the "good"  
outcome--see in the *Gorgias* Sokrates pointing to the wise sea  
captain who takes no credit for saving the lives of his passengers  
because he has no way of knowing whether their subsequent actions will  
be good or evil!

Shane Mage

This cosmos did none of gods or men make, but it
  always was and is and shall be: an everlasting fire,
  kindling in measures and going out in measures.

  Herakleitos of Ephesos

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