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To take a nice example from David Owens: my feelings of guilt, or pride, or anger only really come in when I all-out believe that I have done badly, or well, or have been badly done to. Maintaining and manipulating large numbers of credences would overload our capacities, and our reasoning would get nowhere. So as a practical matter it makes sense to accept certain premises as given, and to do our reasoning on the basis of them, even though we acknowledge that there is some chance that they will be wrong.
In making my plans this morning I took it as a premise that the philosophy department would be functioning, that my route to it would be open, that my computer would not have been stolen, and so on; and this is so even though I would give to each of these propositions a credence of less than one. I even took it as a premise that the lifts would be working, pressing the button and waiting patiently for one to come, though the credence I would assign to that proposition is quite considerably less than one.
On this picture, the role of all-out beliefs is in many ways parallel to the role that, in Chapter 1, I ascribed to intentions. Just as intentions enable us to resolve deliberative uncertainty in order to facilitate action, so all-out beliefs enable us to resolve epistemic uncertainty in order to facilitate action. They allow us to reduce an unmanageable amount of information to a manageable amount by excluding certain possibilities from our practical reasoning.
They provide us with a relatively simple description of what the world is like, to which straightforward nonprobabilistic reasoning can be applied, around which plans can easily be built, and which can easily be communicated to others. This can be best understood, once again, in terms of differing thresholds for formation and for revision. Some considerations that would have been enough to stop me forming an intention will not be enough to lead me to revise it once it has been formed.
Similarly, some evidence that would have been enough to stop me forming a belief will not be enough to get me to revise it once it has been formed. Deliberating with all-out beliefs is an attitude dictated by practical considerations. But the deliberation that we do is not then limited to practical matters. I can deliberate about what happened in the distant past, or what will happen in the distant future, or about what I would have done if things were very different from how they are, even though none of this will affect my behaviour.
The approach offered here thus plausibly entails that if someone believes a proposition they will use it in their practical deliberation insofar as it is relevant; but it does not identify belief with such a use. But of course we cannot always do so. Sometimes it is clear to us that we do not know what did or will happen; this is true of the tree case and of the library case. In such situations we have to make use of a more partial notion. But this does not take us all the way to credences, for two reasons.
First, as we have seen, we do not normally assign anything like numerical values to the possibilities. Sometimes we do not even do this, but simply think of a number of possibilities as being live, without trying to rank them. Second, and more importantly, even when we do assign non-zero credences to a range of propositions, we need not accept each of them to have them to some degree. I suggest that they work by placing different thresholds for initial consideration and for reconsideration.
See Kaplan, , ch. This feature plausibly follows from the account proposed here, but again I do not think that it captures the essence of belief. Here people are quite prepared to assign numerical probabilities. But exactly because of this objective construal, it is plausible to think that the probability assigned is part of the content of an all-out belief, rather than a measure of the attitude: one all-out believes that there is a one-sixth chance of rolling a six.
Certainly our standard ordinary language locutions suggest this. No one who is not a theorist talks of having a one-sixth degree of belief. In the tree case I attributed to you a partial belief that you would succeed in moving the tree using one of three methods, and a further partial belief that you would fail with all three and that the tree company would move it.
But unless your view was remarkably blinkered, this would not exhaust your credences; or, at least, it would not exhaust the credences that you would be inclined to entertain, given the right prompting. You might give a non-zero credence to the tree being moved by a helpful gang of passing weightlifters, or to it being blown out of the way by a freak local tornado; and you would give a much higher credence to the tree not being moved at all, either because both you and the tree company tried and failed, or, more likely still, because you failed and the tree company did not show up.
So, on reasonable assumptions, your credences over the four options would not sum to one. Nevertheless, it is a very normal case in which you narrow your focus to these four, as we have assumed that you do. These are your live possibilities. They are the only four upon which you base your reasoning and, in this case, your plans. Or, at least, if you did initially consider this possibility, you do not continue to do so, and you certainly do not make plans around it.
It is not live. So there is something special about the four options that you believe partition the ways in which the tree will be moved. You have an all-out belief in their disjunction, even though your credence in that disjunction remains less than one. It follows that the attitude you take to each of the disjuncts is not simply credence. In thinking about the distant past we can equally treat some possibilities as live Mary Queen of Scots was in the pay of the French , and others not she was in the pay of the Russians , even though we would assign each a credence of greater than zero.
So the approach does not collapse back into that of Bratman and Williamson. We might call it partial all-out belief; but, since that has an air of oxymoron, I shall somewhat stipulatively call it partial belief. Partial Belief One partially believes p iff one takes p as a live possibility and takes not-p as a live possibility. Like credence, partial belief involves a distinctive partial attitude to a normal content, rather than a normal attitude to a distinctive partial content one partially believes that p, rather than all-out believing that p is probable. Given that partial belief and credence share this structural feature, we might ask whether credence can be accommodated within the partial belief account.
I suggest that we think of credences as the partial beliefs that an agent would have if they were quite unconstrained by cognitive limitations; or, more plausibly, as the partial beliefs that they do have when their cognitive limitations are irrelevant. I certainly would not want to suggest that one can simply choose which options to regard as live. More plausible is the idea that they will be determined by some sort of rules. An obvious place to start would be by looking at the rules that contextualist accounts of knowledge use to determine relevant epistemic possibilities, for instance, like those given in Lewis, It does not look as though the mention of a possibility should make it live though it is debatable whether this rule is correct even for the case of knowledge.
When you are asked the odds that you would give to a certain outcome—the odds that a gang of passing weightlifters will move the tree—this does not require much from you. Typically it is not a very good one we tend, for instance, to overestimate small possibilities and underestimate large ones , and serious work would be required to make it better; but nonetheless we are unconcerned about saying something.
Clearly there is much more that would need to be said in making precise this account of partial belief, and in explicating the notion of a live possibility on which it rests. But it should be clear enough for us to return to our main topic, that of partial intention. Partial Intention Consider again the tree example. For the extra cognitive load that this would impose would make it rational to avoid getting involved in much betting behaviour. You have then a set of partial beliefs; that is enough to start planning and acting on them. In so doing you exhibit various attitudes that are intention-like.
The attitudes are certainly like all-out intentions in many respects. What distinguishes the states you are in from normal intentions is simply that they are partial: they stand to all-out intentions much as partial beliefs stand to all-out beliefs. You do not all-out intend to move the tree by means of the crowbar; but you do partially intend to do so. Moving it with the crowbar is one component—a subplan—of your larger all-out intention of moving it before the evening. There are two ways to understand the idea of a partial intention.
We might say that an agent has a partial intention whenever they have merely a partial belief in its success. Or we might say that it is essential to partial intentions that they be only a proper part of an overall plan, i. With intentions the result does not come automatically. If I have only a partial belief that I will achieve my end by succeeding in a certain intention, it does not automatically follow that I have an alternative intention designed to achieve the same end. I might have no backup plan: I might simply have a partial belief that I will achieve the end at all.
I take the second path: Partial Intention An intention to F is partial iff it is designed to achieve a given end E and it is accompanied by one or more alternative intentions also designed to achieve E. If an intention is not partial it is all-out. An agent with partial beliefs considers two or more competing live possibilities. An agent with partial intentions is working with two or more competing plans.
Of course there may be other reasons for believing in that entailment; we shall examine some later.
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The worry is that if my end when wielding the crowbar is to move the tree, then clearly the intention is partial, since I have other intentions aiming for the same end; but if my end is rather to move the tree with the crowbar, then it is not partial. The intention to move the tree with the crowbar is thus partial simpliciter. This raises a worry from the other direction. The worry is misplaced. A partial intention need not be half-hearted. When you set to work with the crowbar, it does not follow that you push more gently than you could, on the grounds that your intention is only partial.
You may: you may want to hold some energy in reserve for the other options, or, knowing that you have them in reserve, you may be more careful not to risk your back. But that is not essential to the endeavour. Although your intention is partial, you may execute it with everything at your disposal. A partial intention is only partial because of the presence of alternatives. Does this bring a disanalogy with partial belief? But I doubt that that is an apt parallel. It is the action that results from the partial intention that can be whole-hearted, and this is equally true of an action that results from a partial belief.
To sum up this section: I propose that we should admit a notion of partial intentions, standing to all-out intentions much as partial beliefs stand to all-out beliefs. In the light of the earlier considerations, I suggest that much of the reluctance we have to call them intentions is merely pragmatic, triggered by the availability of mentioning instead a distinct action that is a trying.
Where no such action is available as in the library case we have less reluctance. But I am not too concerned if I am wrong about that; ordinary language is no infallible guide to psychological kinds. Do We Need Partial Intentions? Perhaps, though, we could live without partial intentions; perhaps we could account for the kinds of cases that I have discussed with just the normal framework of all-out intentions. We might instead try to understand them as compound all-out intentions.
Presumably they are not conjunctive: you do not all-out intend to move the tree by yourself and have it moved by the tree company, since you know that that is impossible. Of course we could say that; but to say only that would be to lose explanatory force. For we need to break compound intentions down into their elements if we are to understand quite what explains what.
Consider a parallel example with ordinary all-out intentions. Here presumably conjunction is permissible: if I intend to hear a concert and intend to buy some whisky, then I intend to hear a concert and buy some whisky. But we would not want to be constrained to use only the conjunctive sentence. It is my intention to hear the concert that explains why I buy a ticket; it is my intention to buy some whisky that explains why I divert to the off-licence.
It is only if we break the conjunction down into its consistent atoms that these explanations become available. The same is true when we try to give all-out disjunctive surrogates for partial intentions. It is my partial intention to get the tree company to move the tree that causes me to phone them; if we are limited just to all-out disjunctive intentions, we can give no explanation of this. A more plausible approach uses conditional all-out intentions: you all-out intend, if your attempt with the crowbar fails, to cut up the tree with the chainsaw; and so on.
This avoids the problem raised for the disjunctive approach, since in place of each partial intention we get a separate conditional intention. Nonetheless, I do not believe that the proposal will work. Of course it is true in a trivial sense that you intend each subplan to work if the others fail; to that extent your partial intentions are conditional. That, however, is just to say that they are partial intentions; it does not explain how they are to be characterized as a class of all-out conditional intentions.
What gives some support to this latter claim is the idea, made explicitly in the tree case, that each of the later stages in your plan will be triggered by the failure of earlier stages. But that does not provide a general recipe for reducing partial intentions to conditional intentions. Nor, in the library example, is your intention to return the books on the way home a conditional intention.
But we want to register that these are not normal all-out intentions: they are already enmeshed in further intentions that would have no place if they were. So there is not yet a set of conditional intentions in place. Of course in this case there is a compound intention: to start with either the crowbar or the chainsaw or the rope, and if that fails, to proceed to one of the remaining methods, and so on.
But we have already seen that compound intentions of this form cannot do the work that is needed of them. Third, whilst it is true that the subplans in the tree-moving example and the library example are basically sequential—I go through one subplan after another—not all cases will be like this.
Again we can use an example from Bratman to illustrate the point. Success in either involves hitting a target with an electronic missile. Ambidextrous as I am, I decide to start shooting in both games at once, one per hand, despite my knowledge that the games are linked, so that were I to be about to hit both targets simultaneously a chance I rate as very slim , both would shut down. Rather, I partially intend to hit a target with each missile. Bratman denies that there are intentions involved here, for reasons that I discuss below.
But I have responded to each with a different counterexample. A worry thus remains that a patchwork of different strategies might do the work: replace some of the partial intentions with intentions to try, some with disjunctive intentions, and some with conditional intentions. Such a response certainly seems inelegant; but can it be refuted? I suggest that the initial library example provides a refutation.
edutoursport.com/libraries/2020-09-17/2691.php I have already argued that that cannot be seen as an intention to try. But nor can it be seen as simply a disjunctive intention to either return or renew the books I need separate explanations of why I take the books with me, and why I take the laptop. I conclude then that we need a separate notion of partial intentions.
Consistency Requirements Bratman rejects the idea that there are states like partial intentions. But this is not on the grounds that they are unnecessary. Rather, he holds that they infringe a plausible consistency requirement on intention. My aim in this section is to rebut this argument, and then to explore consistency requirements on partial intentions more generally. There is a minimal consistency requirement that everyone can concede, so let us start by getting it out of the way. It should never be the case that your total set of intentions and partial intentions puts you in a practically impossible situation: it should never require you to do two inconsistent things or, at least, two things that you believe inconsistent at the same time.
Call this the execution requirement. Though the intuitive idea is clear, the requirement is rather hard to formulate. Sometimes a perfectly rational plan will require you to try to do two things that are in a sense inconsistent at the same time: that is just what happens in the video-game case. The point is rather that the demands on your immediate, proximate actions should be consistent: you should not have to stand up and sit down at the same time, to shoot the gun and not shoot the gun, to turn simultaneously to the left and the right, and so on.
The execution requirement poses no threat to the existence of partial intentions. But this is not the kind of requirement that interests Bratman. Rather, he is interested in the consistency of our intentions with our beliefs in their success. A weak requirement of this kind is: Weak consistency If an agent forms an intention, then they must not believe that they will fail to realize that intention. The obvious candidate is the constraint that Bratman endorses, namely: Strong consistency If an agent forms an intention, then the realization of that intention must be consistent with their beliefs and with the realization of all their other intentions.
The strong requires, in addition, a holistic coherence. For those who endorse the intention-entails-belief thesis, the strong consistency follows from the requirement of consistency on beliefs. But for those, like Bratman, who deny this thesis, it is an independent constraint. Strong consistency leads Bratman to deny partial intentions, or states like them, the status of intentions.
It follows, by both weak and strong consistency, that I cannot intend to hit both targets with both missiles for I believe that this is impossible. Further, since neither missile is privileged, any intention I have regarding one I must have regarding the other. So, by strong consistency, it follows that I cannot intend to hit either, for if I intended to hit one, I would also intend to hit the other, and the realization of both intentions is not compatible with my beliefs.
In consequence, following Chisholm, Bratman classes them as mere endeavourings, states that resemble intention in being action-guiding, but that are otherwise very different. As we have seen, partial intentions are like intentions in that they enable agents to coordinate, to curtail deliberation and to resolve indecision.
Thus the only ground for denying them the status of intentions is that they fail the strong consistency requirement. Yet whilst simple consistency is a plausible constraint on all-out intention, as it is on all-out belief, it is not a plausible constraint on partial intention. Rather, the consistency constraint that we place on our partial intentions should be like the one that we place on our partial beliefs; otherwise we are not treating like with like.
We do not require that partial beliefs be consistent, in the sense that everything that we partially believe must be compossible; so we should not require this of our partial intentions. Instead, we should require of our partial intentions at most the same kind of consistency that we require of our partial beliefs. So how can we reformulate analogues to the consistency conditions on partial beliefs?
A natural reformulation of the weaker requirement is: Very weak consistency for partial intentions If an agent forms a partial intention, then they must not all-out believe that they will fail to realize that intention. But if they lack a partial belief in success, and yet do not all-out believe that they will fail, this must be because they have failed to consider whether they will succeed; in which case it is surely irrational to have formed that subplan. The move from very weak consistency to weak consistency looks an innocuous one, but it brings an interesting consequence.
Very weak consistency clearly places only an atomic requirement on our intentions. Weak consistency appears to do the same. But since it requires a partial belief for each partial intention, it follows that if we have a consistency condition on partial beliefs, it will be transformed into a global requirement on partial intentions.
For if each partial intention must bring with it a partial belief, and there is a global consistency requirement on partial beliefs, that in turn will provide a global consistency requirement on the partial intentions. However, placing a global consistency requirement on partial beliefs is no trivial task. If we were dealing with credences, it would be clear how to proceed. We have a notion of consistency for sets of credences that is provided by the axioms of the probability calculus: a set of credences is consistent if and only if it conforms to those axioms.
Can we make use of a similar approach for partial beliefs? The problem, of course, is that it was precisely one of the features of partial beliefs, part of what distinguished them from credences, that they did not get numerical values. There are two ways to go. One is to retreat from the position that an agent will frequently only have partial beliefs.
Let us suppose then that, in addition to their partial beliefs, an agent, at least a rational agent, will go on to establish precise credences in ways that correspond to the axioms of the probability calculus. The alternative, far more in keeping with the account of partial belief that I originally proposed, is to try for a weaker test of consistency. It would be analogous to the requirements of the axioms of the probability calculus, but applying, where it does, in an ordinal way. Treating one possibility as likely would require treating its negation as unlikely; the conjunction of two possibilities must be treated as no more likely than either of them, and so on.
Still, it might seem too weak. Suppose, to vary our example, that you think that moving the tree by sawing it up is very likely to succeed, whereas moving it with the car or the crowbar is almost certain to fail. But suppose that, despite this, you plan to put almost all of your effort into the latter two plans. Then there are some grounds for saying that you would be behaving in a practically irrational way. Yet the weak consistency requirement, even with a consistency requirement on partial belief, says nothing against it.
To rule out this kind of imbalance we would need a stronger global measure of coherence akin to that given by the strong consistency requirement. We might try to do likewise. Suppose then that, in addition to placing a value on partial beliefs, we could place a value of between zero and one on each partial intention. How, though, should we place a measure on partial intentions? It is no good saying that a partial intention has degree n if and only if one has a credence of degree n that it will be successful; that makes the proportionality requirement trivial and so does nothing to rule out the cases of imbalance.
Instead we need a truly independent measure of the strength of a partial intention. This is rough; how, for a start, do we measure the investment of resources? Still, it is hopefully clear enough to give some sense to the proportionality requirement; enough, I think, to see that it is not plausible.
For it may be that one option will simply require more resources to be successful, however resources are measured; you are not irrational if you give it what it needs to have a chance of succeeding, even though you think it no more likely to succeed than the less demanding option. Alternatively you might simply prefer one of the options, even if you think it less likely to succeed; again you are not irrational if you put more resources into it than into the others.
Indeed, I suspect that the whole attempt to place a measure on partial intentions is wrong-headed. I do not mean just that they need not receive values, in the way that partial beliefs need not. More fundamentally, when it comes to partial intentions, there is no role for values to play. Our preferences can receive values, and so can our partial beliefs, and these are important for the intentions that we form. But once we have formed a partial intention, we add no explanatory advantage to our account of it if we also ascribe it a value—this is one important way in which partial intentions differ from partial beliefs.
I conclude then that there is no place for anything like strong consistency for partial intentions, or the proportionality requirement. One reason that I have spent so long investigating these various coherence requirements is because they will be important to us in considering whether partial intention entails partial belief. This is what Bratman calls the constraint of means—ends coherence: roughly, we must intend the means to our intentions. The requirement as I have roughly formulated it is a very strong one; almost certainly too strong, though I shall not argue that here.
It is just that the intention to achieve the means to a partially intended end may itself be partial. Given that partial intentions from different subplans need not be consistent, you can partially intend the means to one partial intention, whilst at the same time partially intending something inconsistent with that means: one requirement for the success of your subplan that involves getting the tree company out is that you do not phone to cancel.
So that subplan had better not contain any such intention. Yet it is exactly part of the other subplans, those in which you do move it, that you do phone to cancel. That has now fractured into a set of three questions depending on whether the belief is all-out or partial, and similarly whether the intention is all-out or partial.
I take them in turn. Does partial intention entail all-out belief? The answer to this question is obvious: a partial intention does not entail all-out belief in success. If one had all-out belief in success, one would have no need of a merely partial intention. For discussion of the plausibility of this move in application to intentions, see Setiya, The answer to this second question, although it has been much discussed, is, I think, almost as obvious. All-out intention does not entail all-out belief.
An all-out intention is simply one that is not accompanied by an alternative intention, and that is quite compatible with a merely partial belief in success. Once it is understood as a substantial claim, we have no grounds for believing it. To say this is, as we saw, to disagree with David Velleman, to whose arguments, mentioned at the end of the last chapter, we can now turn.
But once we move to the kind of framework that I have proposed, the alternative to an all-out belief in success need not be agnosticism. Instead it can be a partial belief. But even a partial belief can provide enough structure to enable defeasible intrapersonal coordination—after all, what else am I to do if I can see no other options?
And defeasible inter-personal coordination is equally possible, though we would expect a warning of my uncertainty to my collaborators. If the answer to our remaining question—whether intention entails partial belief—is positive, this may be enough to ground the normative constraints. We can do so by considering partial and all-out intentions together.
Does intention whether partial or all-out entail partial belief?
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Here, at last, a positive response has some plausibility. If I intend to do something, then it might seem that I must regard success as a real possibility. If I did not, then I would be in no position to plan and coordinate around it; and it is only if I plan and coordinate around it that we can really see it as an intention.
I raise two worries, though. If it is only the claim that an intention entails a partial belief, then the claim is very weak. Indeed it is just the weak consistency requirement for partial intentions that was discussed in the last section, now elevated from the status of a normative requirement to that of a necessary truth.
We might hope to make it stronger, but the only way to strengthen it that I can see is in the direction of the strong consistency or proportionality requirements of the last section, again transformed from normative requirements to necessary truths. But, as we saw there, it is very hard to make them plausible even as defeasible normative requirements; I see little hope of establishing them as necessarily truths.
My second worry concerns even this weak claim. But is it so clear that it requires one to take it as a premise in what to do subsequent to the time at which the action will or will not have been performed? Might he not be sure that he will break down?
This does not mean that he has a credence of zero that he will fail; only that he does not treat it as a live possibility. Again, this seems possible. His planning for what to do up until the torture takes it as a live possibility that he will not break down. We can imagine that he prepares himself in whatever way he can to resist it is wise not to try to imagine this too far. But at the same time his thought about, and plans for, the period subsequent to the torture all involve the premise that he will have broken down.
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Such a state of mind, admirable though it is, is perhaps rationally criticizable; if he is convinced he will break down, should he not rationally give up his resolve to hold out? But we have yet to see a reason for denying that it is possible. In this case perhaps it will be countered that he has not so much an intention as a hope that he will not break down; after all, it may seem that there is little that he can do to plan for it. But that is surely incidental to the form of the case. In general it seems that there may be cases in which agents have plans to achieve certain ends, but in which they are sure that they will fail.
We might wonder why, if they are really not prepared to formulate partial intentions contingent on their success, they are even bothering to try. All of these do seem to involve grounds for having or not having an intention that are, in some sense, non-standard: the value is there whether or not one achieves the end. And even if we could, since intentions are typically arrived at on a variety of grounds, we would risk excluding too much.
The thesis is better kept as the normative one that intentions rationally require partial belief. Velleman asks how we are to understand the source of the normative constraints on intention—most obviously the various coherence requirements discussed above. He argues that, if we understand intention to entail belief, then the normative constraints on belief will be inherited by intention. As we might put it, practical rationality is premised on theoretical rationality. One response to this is to insist that the normative requirements on practical rationality are sui generis.
I discuss such cases in Chapter 7. For various such cases, see Luria, , ch. An alternative but equally plausible explanation is that they have failed to form the right intentions, or that, whilst they have formed them, they are failing to realize that they are not acting on them. In particular, we have a very good take on static consistency for belief, which we might hope will provide a basis for consistency of intention. But matters are rather different when we turn to the partial case. We have no obvious analogue of consistency when it comes to credences or partial belief.
The best that we have is the idea of conformity to the axioms of the probability calculus. And the standard arguments for the rationality of that commitment rely on arguments that themselves appeal to practical rationality: Dutch Book arguments, that aim to show that agents who fail to meet the commitment will accept bets that they will be bound to lose; and Representation Theorem arguments, that aim to show that agents will meet the commitment on the assumption that they have certain preferences, and that they will seek to maximize utility.
Some have claimed that here theoretical rationality is grounded in practical rationality. We might say instead that the distinction between theoretical and practical rationality is less clear. Rather than grounding one on the other, we should see them as forming a package that will stand or fall together. And once we think this about partial intentions and partial beliefs, maybe we should explore the idea that this holds for all-out intention and all-out belief too.
Conclusion In this chapter I have argued for a novel interpretation of partial belief, and for the existence of partial intentions. I have argued that we should be sceptical of the intention-entails-belief thesis in any of its forms. And I have argued that the consistency requirement on intentions is a very weak one. That removes the only motivation that I can see for reducing intentions to beliefs. Beliefs and intentions are distinct existences, characterized by distinct features.
We should not expect necessary connections between them. Let us turn now to ask how intentions are formed. Some we form automatically. If you ask me what I am doing I can tell you, but I have given no conscious thought to the matter. According to much contemporary social psychology most of our mundane actions are like that. But where were the decisions?
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He never seems to decide anything. He is not comparing a favorite option to another option, as the two-option hypothesis suggests. He is not comparing anything. Klein argues that they use a number of methods to arrive at this knowledge, of which the most important involves a form of stereotyping: new situations are recognized as similar to situations that have been encountered before, and so the actor knows what to do on the basis of what worked in the past.
But not every case is like that. Or we may simply have been prompted to think about it.
In these cases, cases in which the question of what to do arises explicitly, we have to make a choice. This is my topic in this chapter. The distinction I am drawing between the acts that we choose to perform, and those that we perform without choice, suggests some kind of two-level system. One—standardly known as System I—is the level of automatic heuristic-based responses. These are fast, cognitively economical, typically very limited in scope.
We pick up on a certain cue and respond to it. In contrast there is much philosophical work to be done in elucidating the notion of choice. I suggest three central features. First, choice is an act. This has been well documented: subjects making choices become ego depleted: that is, they become less able to exercise subsequent self-control, a sign that their executive resources have been used up.
They stress the idea that even automatic actions can be brought under conscious control. Similarly, activities that start out under the control of System II can become automatic as agents become more experienced: driving is the classic example. In general I think that the two systems should not be thought of as radically isolated; indeed we may have something more like a continuum than two discrete systems.
In subsequent work, though, he has taken this to militate in favour of libertarianism; not the conclusion I shall draw. See Pink, , ch. I talk more about ego-depletion in Chapter 6. We can put off a choice, perhaps to gain more information, or perhaps just because we are reluctant to make it. Or we can bring a choice forward, convinced that we already know enough, keen to make it, or keen to get it over with. It is quite compatible with a given set of beliefs and desires that we choose one way or we choose another.
That, of course, is part of what makes choice an action: we are not pushed along by our beliefs and desires. The eastern United States is now part of the Reich, and the Pacific States have been ceded to Japan; an uneasy alliance exists between Japan and the Reich, and a stranger relationship has developed between the former Americans and their captors.
Arts reviews, commentary, and stories from a musical engineer's perspective
The story is intriguing and unnerving, obviously because the thought of the United States under an ideology like the Reich is horrible to imagine, but also because there are so many plot points that reflect realities that are in our own world today. Though he was born before the war he is, at least as far as we've gotten, completely loyal to the aging Hitler and the ideology of the Reich with its fierce anti-semitism and annihilation of anyone who doesn't fit the Aryan model.
He is ruthless, and would be impossible to sympathize with in any way if he did not have a family which he obviously loves, particularly his teenage son, Thomas. For those who haven't seen the show and hope to, the following bit is something of a spoiler, though I have no idea how it's going to play out as the seasons continue. I'll leave the decision to go on up to you. In an episode 8 of the first season, Smith takes his son to the doctor to check out a strained wrist. After the appointment, the doctor privately pulls Smith into his office and reveals that Thomas is in the early stages of a terminal congenital disorder.
In the scene, Smith is visibly shaken, and I remember thinking, Whoa, this will make him more human! Smith asks the doctor if they can get a second opinion. Yes, of course," Smith responds, flustered out of his typical reserve. I thought. That's not an option! And it hit me that under a totalitarian system, there wouldn't be the freedom to privately seek other opinions, particularly in a system where illness was seen as imperfection to be eradicated.
But the scene didn't end there. The doctor counsels Smith that he and his wife can treat their son at home quietly and behind the scenes, I thought, to get around regulations. Then the doctor pushes a syringe and ampule across his desk to the dazed father. And finally the full truth of what was going on in the scene sank in. The "medical assistance" was death.
They had to be terminated. They were a drag on society, or worse, a blight. Later that evening in the same episode, Smith flips through an old photo album of he and his brother. His wife looks over his shoulder reminiscing and speaks of how she wished she had had siblings and the great relationship like what he had had with his brother.
Then, in complete contradiction to her own logic regarding the joy of siblings, and in oblivion to the truth she says, "Well at least now, when someone is terribly ill, they're not allowed to suffer. That's a blessing. I was still mentally reeling over the sight of that bottle and ampule. This was not an alternate history.
Oregon already has its doctor-prescribed death-in-a-bottle for terminal patients. Colorado and California passed similar laws in their November votes. It's not our policy-makers who voted in these laws, it is "we the people. We should not allow suffering. We should not create an economic drag on society.
All the while we move blindly into a new Reich where prescribed death is acceptable and cheap, while actively researching potential cures and caring for those who are weak and suffering, and learning from them in the process, is seen as an impediment to cultural advancement. Eight years ago today, our daughter Keren died. During the course of her life, from before she was born to the day she died, and since, she had purpose and significance.
This wasn't just because we loved her, but because we saw that every piece of her Trisomy 18, genetically-flawed, body had been given to us by a God we loved and trusted. She was not a curse; she was not an object of suffering; we were not heart-broken by her brokenness. We were transformed by her existence.
We grieve her death, but it is not grief without hope. In addition to our own walk, throughout her life we were surrounded by family, friends, doctors, and teachers who were there for us and for her. They sought ways for her to reach her full potential.
Related Willing, Wanting, Waiting
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