Welcome to what we expect will be a very interesting and productive discussion of Abe Roth‘s “Intention, Expectation, and Promissory Obligation.” The paper is published in the most recent edition of Ethics and is available through open access here. Sarah Stroud has kindly agreed to contribute a critical précis, and it appears immediately below. Please join in the discussion!
Ethics Discussion at PEA Soup: Abe Roth’s “Intention, Expectation, and Promissory Obligation,” with a critical précis by Sarah Stroud
At a recent symposium on Victor Tadros's book The Ends of Harm, Victor and I were debating whether the Means Principle (MP) is best thought of on a subjective interpretation (for A to use B as a means, A has to intend that B play some role in bringing about a good) or an objective, causal-role-based interpretation (for A to use B as a means, B has to serve as a causal means in bringing about some good that might be offered to justify A doing what she does). Victor argues for the subjective interpretation; I argue not exactly for the objective, but for the relevance of causal roles in a principle that has more or less the same range of application as the means principle.
This led to our discussing whether the critics of the subjective view–principally JJ Thomson, Frances Kamm, and Tim Scanlon—have ever offered any good reasons for their views (no, says Victor) or whether they have, or at least whether their arguments provide a good starting point for building an argument that the subjective interpretation faces an uphill battle (yes, say I). Victor then suggested that I post this as a topic for debate on Pea Soup. So here we are.