Blogging avant la lettre

by Kieran Healy on January 11, 2007

_Analysis_ publishes a lot of relatively short papers, but this one — by G.E.M. Anscombe — from 1966 seems close to the limiting case. The link goes to the JSTOR copy, which requires a subscription. No matter. I shall reproduce the paper in full here, including notes:

*A Note on Mr Bennett* _By G.E.M. Anscombe_

The nerve of Mr Bennett’s argument is that if A results from your not doing B, then A results from whatever you do instead of doing B.1 While there may be much to be said for this view, still it does not seem right on the face of it.

1‘”Whatever the Consequences”‘, Analysis, January 1966, p. 96.

That about settles it. (Indirect hat tip: Carolina Sartorio.)

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Cosmopoetica » Incisive Analysis?
01.12.07 at 8:01 pm
Cosmopoetica Commonplace Book » A Note on Mr. Bennett
01.12.07 at 8:09 pm



Anderson 01.11.07 at 10:02 pm

You know, a lot of dissertations could probably be condensed to about that point.


Jay Conner 01.11.07 at 10:18 pm

G.E.M., she being one of the few who touched the garments of Wittgenstein, is as a god to me, but I, (a non-JSTOR person) would like a few more facts of the original controversy.

If Virtue results from not doing Sin, I have no problem with that, but it seems rather tautological.

If Victory results from not doing Defeat…, assuming no quarter is given, the game can go on forever, well, perhaps.

But what was the original point ?


harry b 01.11.07 at 10:19 pm

Is it on anyone’s “the paper by someone else I most wish I’d written myself” list? Carolina?


"Q" the Enchanter 01.11.07 at 11:06 pm

Or, in the classic statement of the argument: A says p; however, intuitively, not-p; therefore, not-p.


Kieran Healy 01.11.07 at 11:13 pm

The original paper is by Jonathan Bennett and is about the principle of double-effect, which Bennett argues against but which Anscombe, being a good Catholic, is rather more prepared to believe. (This is why it’s referenced in a paper by Carolina on omissions, and “this event”: — being held “here”: organized by “this person”: — is why I’m aware of the paper.)


Hasan Jafri 01.12.07 at 2:27 am

How does this equation work with Tony Blair’s legacy? If A — Blair’s legacy — results not from doing B — wandering aimlessly in Iraq — then does his legacy result from whatever he did other than wandering aimlessly in Iraq? But what was that?


Ben 01.12.07 at 3:09 am

Wow, that’s even shorter than my PSR book note! I just hope copying a whole article from JStor onto the net doesn’t get you in trouble…


Neil 01.12.07 at 5:06 am

Or, in the classic statement of the argument: A says p; however, intuitively, not-p; therefore, not-p.

That doesn’t seem the right paraphrase. Better: A says p; however, intuitively, not-p; therefore intuitively not-p. I can’t fault the argument. But I’m certain that this triviality was only published because it came from the pen of Anscombe.


abb1 01.12.07 at 7:37 am

Great, all those people dying of cancer all over the world are the result of my reading this blog, ’cause instead I could’ve found a cure. So I’m a mass-murderer. Thanks, Mr. Bennett.


Teddy 01.12.07 at 7:53 am

I have good news for you, abb1. Seen differently, you could have invented a weapon of mass destruction that would exterminate the human race. But mercifully, you didn’t. Ergo, we should all be grateful to you that we are alive. Thanks!


Sk 01.12.07 at 11:48 am

Goddamn it! GW is the only mass murderer around here! You people are off script!


Escomb 01.12.07 at 8:59 pm

Mr Bennett should have said . . . instead of doing ONLY B. Because given B, C and D, A may also result from not doing C and D or, indeed, X, Y and Z (but I’d rather not get that far down in the alphabet where things may change, as in String Theory).

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