Thursday, 24 May 2007

H. A. Prichard (1871-1947) on Moral Rightness

The sense of obligation to do, or of the rightness of, an action of a particular kind is absolutely underivative or immediate. The rightness of an action consists in its being the origination of something of a certain kind A in a situation of a certain kind, a situation consisting in a certain relation B of the agent to others or to his own nature. To appreciate its rightness two preliminaries may be necessary. We may have to follow out the consequences of the proposed action more fully than we have hitherto done, in order to realise that in the action we should originate A. Thus we may not appreciate the wrongness of telling a certain story until we realise that we should thereby be hurting the feelings of one of our audience. Again, we may have to take into account the relation B involved in the situation, which we had hitherto failed to notice. For instance, we may not appreciate the obligation to give X a present, until we remember that he has done us an act of kindness. But, given that by a process which is, of course, merely a process of general and not of moral thinking we come to recognise that the proposed act is one by which we shall originate A in a relation B, then we appreciate the obligation immediately or directly, the appreciation being an activity of moral thinking. We recognise, for instance, that this performance of a service to X, who has done us a service, just in virtue of its being the performance of a service to one who has rendered a service to the would-be agent, ought to be done by us. This apprehension is immediate, in precisely the sense in which a mathematical apprehension is immediate, e.g., the apprehension that this three-sided figure, in virtue of its being three-sided, must have three angles. Both apprehensions are immediate in the sense that in both insight into the nature of the subject directly leads us to recognise its possession of the predicate; and it is only stating this fact from the other side to say that in both cases the fact apprehended is self-evident.

(H. A. Prichard, “Does Moral Philosophy Rest on a Mistake?” Mind, n.s., 21 [January 1912]: 21-37, at 27-8 [italics in original])

Twenty Years Ago

5-24-87 . . . The Indianapolis 500 was run today. I watched it on television beginning at nine o’clock this morning. The winner? Al Unser, Sr, for the fourth time. Only A. J. Foyt, who dropped out early in today’s race, has won that many Indy 500s. My pick to win the race, incidentally, was Roberto Guerrero. When Mario Andretti, the polesitter, dropped out near the end of the race, Guerrero took the lead; but then tragedy struck. His car stalled during the final pit stop and Unser passed him. That was it. Today’s race featured two “Al Unsers.” Al, Sr, has been racing for many years, but his son, Al, Jr, is a relative newcomer to the sport. Just after Al, Sr, crossed the finish line today, Al, Jr, crept up in his car and gave a thumbs-up salute to his father. It was captured by a mini-cam in the younger Unser’s car. I got a lump in my throat and nearly cried. Here was an aging man, a father, winning a race, and his son drives up to congratulate him. It was a touching moment. [Al Unser Sr has long since retired, but Al Jr is still racing. He will start in 25th place in this Sunday’s race, which, as always, I will be watching with rapt attention. By the way, the Unser clan has won nine Indy 500s. Bobby, the brother of Al Sr, won three races (1968, 1975, and 1981), Al Sr four (1970, 1971, 1978, and 1987), and Al Jr two (1992 and 1994).]

Bucking Up the Zealots

I was flipping channels between innings of the baseball game yesterday evening when I came across Keith Olbermann’s Countdown on MSNBC. He said he had a “special comment” on Iraq later in the program, so I made sure I was there to hear it. As I expected, it was an asinine, hateful rant, full of accusations, scurrility, disinformation, and bombastic rhetoric. Read it for yourself and see. Olbermann is a clown. He knows that the only people who take him seriously are moonbats, and he also knows that, without them, he would be unemployed (or back doing sports for ESPN). So, night after night, he spins the news leftward in order to buck up the zealots. He must laugh all the way to the bank. Then again, maybe he believes his drivel.


Progressive organizations such as are livid. They thought they controlled the Democrat Party, and now they know that they don’t. What they control is the lunatic fringe.

Great Minds Think Alike

My Australian friend Dr John J. Ray, who follows American politics more closely than most Americans, thinks highly of Fred Thompson, as I do. See here for John’s latest posts.

A Year Ago



Here is a review of Richard Dawkins’s book The God Delusion. The book has not fared well at the hand of critics.

From Today’s New York Times

To the Editor:

Confronted too often with the sentiment so succinctly expressed by Nicholas D. Kristof when he writes that “even if a single-payer system isn’t politically possible right now” (“A Short American Life,” column, May 21), I can’t help but wonder what makes us different from the other developed nations that made the successful transition to national universal health care systems.

I’m tempted to blame the usual cast of special interests: enormously profitable commercial insurance and pharmaceutical companies; and providers who maximize revenues by promoting costly tests and procedures that deliver high margins but dubious outcomes.

But I’m beginning to wonder if it isn’t our own repetition of the defeatist notion that a national health care solution isn’t politically feasible that contributes to our inability to ultimately realize substantive health care reform.

The public needs to be disabused of the myths that portray the national health systems of other nations as inferior to ours when the reverse is demonstrably evident by measure of their health outcomes and per capita expenditures compared with ours.

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again—and recognize that the special interests are hoping that we’ll grow weary and settle for less when we deserve better.

Ted Herman
Vice President, Communications
Hudson Health Plan
Tarrytown, N.Y., May 21, 2007

Note from KBJ: What “makes us different from the other developed nations” is that we Americans believe in (1) personal responsibility, (2) self-sufficiency, and (3) individual liberty.

Google Buys California, Seeks Nuclear Weapon

Okay, I made that up.