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Is intention more important than action?

PostPosted: March 14th, 2008, 12:59 am
by coffeeprincess
Do your intentions define your level of personal morality? Or do your actions?

If this question needs any more explanation you probably shouldn't try to answer it.

PostPosted: March 14th, 2008, 1:21 pm
by MarkE
wouldn't that depend on how thought out your actions are?
If the consequences of your actions end up doing the opposite of what you want - your intentions could still be great...

But if you mean to say actions speak louder than words, than i'd have to agree with you

PostPosted: March 14th, 2008, 4:19 pm
by coffeeprincess
Not words, intentions.

I think... hmm... what do I think.

If your intentions are the same as your actions they cancel each other and it is pointless to say which is more important.

However if your intentions are good and the action is bad (value judgments used for convenience) people think you are behaving badly, but you're trying to be good. So you are.

If your intentions are bad and you end up doing something good, like you kill someone and it turns out their a child rapist, you are still bad.

So I think intention is more important.

PostPosted: March 14th, 2008, 5:48 pm
by MarkE
it looks like it depends on the extremity of the action/consequence. I can't weigh the results of every action and consequence. I don't know why i agree with you but i feel like good intentions are always important.

PostPosted: March 14th, 2008, 6:43 pm
by Baekho
This is a really important questions, and from your answer, you can really tell what kind of ethical "system" (if any) you subscribe to.

For a really strict utilitarian, I would imagine one's intentions have no bearing on the situation at all---outcome is all that matters. I personally take issue with this stance, since it seems at least possible that you have a hypocrite who appears to be doing things out of the goodness of his/her heart, but in reality is quite selfish.

For a deontologist, it's neither the intention nor the outcome, but the action itself, that matters---namely, do my actions correspond to a pre-defined notion of good or bad? Am I doing my duty or not? I'm a little more sympathetic to a deontological position than I am to a utilitarian one, but even here I have major issues. Kant's "categorical imperative", for instance, is not based on the concrete situation actually occuring but on "universalizing" an abstract maxim, and to me that's entirely the wrong way to approach ethical situations.

Virtue ethics would emphasize one's internal relation to the action---it's not about what you do, but who you are in doing it. According to classical virtue ethicists like Aristotle, one performs actions because they are beautiful. A person of good character (or phronesis, "practical wisdom") will, according to Aristotle, have an intuitive orientation to do the right thing because they find virtue beautiful. According to the classical definition, virtue is an active condition (hexis) that makes one apt at choosing the mean (i.e. the beautiful action) between two extremes, one of excess and one of deficiency ("such as a man of practical wisdom would determine").

I'm very sympathetic to the virtue ethics position, but the problem here is that it depends on a number of factors that are likely to be considered overly "subjective." It seems that one either has this intuitive, ethico-aesthetic instincts or one does not---and if you don't what then (you're pretty much screwed if you weren't habituated properly as a child, according to Aristotle)? Besides, just what would a person of "practical wisdom" decide to do? :?

PostPosted: March 15th, 2008, 6:30 am
by Scott
Good explanations of the categories of ethical theories, Baekho!

**

Regarding the question of the importance of intention versus action, it depends on the meaning of importance.

For the most part, I would say the use of the word 'importance' implies a large amount of relativity and subjectivity. For example, what is important to you may not be important to me. Also, the way a person values their own actions will likely be different than how those actions are valued by someone else.

As for my own opinions, what is the importance of intentions and actions depends mostly on the situation. Usually, they both factor into my judgment of the situation and my reaction to it, but each to varying degrees depending on the situation. For example, if I am judging a babysitters, I will obviously value how the babysitters actually take care of the baby much more than how they intend to take care of the baby. In a contrasting example, if someone buys me a $10 gift, there's some $10 things I would want more than others, but I would care much more about the intention than the actual gift--as is cliché to say in that situation, it's the thought that counts.

Thanks,
Scott

PostPosted: March 19th, 2008, 12:02 pm
by Freeman
I agree that the outcome is the ultimate foundation in a situation.

If you do kill someone and they're a child molester, does it matter if you knew about his perversion before you killed him or after? Clearly your intention whether it was to kill a regular person or to kill a child molester still yielded the same outcome, and in the end it didn't matter what your intentions were, you still rightfully punished him either way.

PostPosted: March 20th, 2008, 10:20 am
by anarchyisbliss
I slightly disagree with freeman because even if you killed him and he wasn't a child molester he is still a bad person. Technically we are all bad people since we have all done bad things so I don't think the child molester example is very strong.

PostPosted: March 20th, 2008, 4:30 pm
by Freeman
What? So I got in a high school fight a while back, and that makes me a bad person, yet the child molester is considered on the same level as I am?

PostPosted: March 20th, 2008, 9:29 pm
by anarchyisbliss
Freeman wrote:What? So I got in a high school fight a while back, and that makes me a bad person, yet the child molester is considered on the same level as I am?


Why not, you both have committed "wrong" action. In other words, what makes you different or what makes your wrong action different?

PostPosted: March 20th, 2008, 10:13 pm
by MarkE
There is a very strong difference anarchy. There is not just right and wrong. Varying depths exist on both sides.

That's why we have varying punishments. Stealing is not as morally unacceptable as murdering. And laws are based on morals.

PostPosted: March 20th, 2008, 10:22 pm
by anarchyisbliss
MarkE wrote:There is a very strong difference anarchy. There is not just right and wrong. Varying depths exist on both sides.

That's why we have varying punishments. Stealing is not as morally unacceptable as murdering. And laws are based on morals.


But I disagree with that because stealing is just as immoral as murdering, in fact it is the same thing because when you murder you steal someone's life. I don't disagree with you , I disagree with the law makers who say they are trying to keep a standard of morality about the country.

PostPosted: March 20th, 2008, 10:28 pm
by MarkE
that doesn't make sense, stealing someones life is worse than stealing something. A life is more precious than a candy bar. Has anyone ever told you that you have a very skewed perspective of morals? I don't mean to offend.

Surely you'd rather steal than murder, regardless of the consequences, right?

PostPosted: March 20th, 2008, 11:04 pm
by anarchyisbliss
MarkE wrote:that doesn't make sense, stealing someones life is worse than stealing something. A life is more precious than a candy bar. Has anyone ever told you that you have a very skewed perspective of morals? I don't mean to offend.

Surely you'd rather steal than murder, regardless of the consequences, right?


They have, and I tell them that they are the ones who are skewed. The way I see it only me and a handful of other have gotten to the point where we truly understand morality, however it seems to highly advanced for laypeople to understand. I do not blame you you just have to look harder.

And why would say a life is more precious than a candy bar. What if that candy bar were the last thing left on Earth to eat? Or a gift from someones lost loved one?

I would rather steal than murder because it would be easier for me (Less paper work, little to no jail time), but not because stealing is more moral than murdering.

But collectively these are the moral rules that guide me not the world.

PostPosted: March 20th, 2008, 11:24 pm
by MarkE
Thank god too. If everyone viewed everything like that we'd be in anarchy. Strangely enough, that seems to be something you wouldn't mind.

If it was the last thing left on earth then are you saying you would kill for it?

You have a different set of morals and it doesn't make them any better, or smarter, or more advanced. You can't understand morality, it's not math, it's a feeling.

There are always little loopholes for someone to have separate morals from others. Morals are completely subjective, and i'm only trying to understand where you're coming from. You could kill someone without moral obligation not to? Or could you not steal based on your morals?