Does Intent Depend on Effect?
Ok, so I was looking for “philosophy video blog” sites for ideas on incorporating video on SocratesVotes, and I came across this “experimental philosophy” vid.
Here’s the gist of it. Two almost idential scenarios are presented, then you’re asked two questions.
- Scenario A: A company president is told that a new policy will maximize profits, but harm the environment. He acknowledges the harm to the environment, but insists that he only cares about profits. He gives the program the green light, and the environment is consequently harmed.
- Scenario B: The same president is presented with the same profit-maximizing policy, only now it benefit the environment. As before, he acknowledges that it will help the environment, but insists that he doesn’t care—he’s only interested in profits. The program is implemented, and the environment is consequently benefitted.
Questions: In the first scenario, did the manager intentionally harm the environment? In the second scenario, did he intentionally benefit the environment?
Apparently a majority of respondents said yes to the first question but no to the second. I’m not sure why. It seems to me that in both cases the manager knowingly brings about some effect on the environment (good or bad), but in neither case does he intentionally bring about that effect. Now, just because the effects were unintentional doesn’t mean he doesn’t bear some responsibility—he’s still worthy of praise or blame, depending on the effect. But it seems pretty clear that environmental effects didn’t factor into his decision—he’s all about the Benjamins. (I’m assuming that the doctrine of double effect makes sense.)
Any ideas on how can we explain the people who thought intent depended on effect? Any of you have that reaction? And if that judgment is widespread, what are the implications for public opinion?