Ideas of G.E.M. Anscombe, by Theme

[British, 1919 - 2001, Elizabeth Anscombe. Friend of Wittgenstein. Married to Peter Geach. Taught at both Oxford and Cambridge]

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15. Nature of Minds / B. Features of Minds / 5. Qualia / b. Qualia and intentionality
The qualities involved in sensations are entirely intentional
     Full Idea: Anscombe argued that the qualities involved in sensations are one and all intentional only (and I think this holds even for the bodily sensations).
     From: report of G.E.M. Anscombe (The Intentionality of Sensation [1965]) by David M. Armstrong - Pref to new 'Materialist Theory' p.xxii
     A reaction: Compare Harry Gildersleve's exactly opposite proposal in Idea 7272. I think I am coming round to the Anscombe view, which builds the more mysterious up from the less mysterious. Gildersleve must explain how atomic qualia arise.
16. Persons / F. Free Will / 3. Constraints on the will
Freedom involves acting according to an idea
     Full Idea: Freedom at least involves the power of acting according to an idea.
     From: G.E.M. Anscombe (Causality and Determinism [1971], §2)
     A reaction: Since 'you' presumably have to sit above the idea and pass a judgement on it, then the same principle should apply to acting on a desire, which presumably 'you' could reject because it just wasn't attractive enough.
16. Persons / F. Free Will / 6. Determinism / a. Determinism
To believe in determinism, one must believe in a system which determines events
     Full Idea: 'The ball's path is determined' must mean 'there is only one possible path for the ball (assuming no air currents)', but what ground could one have for believing this, if one does not believe in some system for which it is a consequence?
     From: G.E.M. Anscombe (Causality and Determinism [1971], §2)
     A reaction: This seems right, but it doesn't follow that one has to know the full details of the system. The system might just be the best explanation, or even a matter of vague faith. It might, though, be just that you can't imagine any other outcome.
20. Action / B. Preliminaries of Action / 1. Intention to Act / a. Nature of intentions
Intentional actions are those which are explained by giving the reason for so acting
     Full Idea: Intentional actions are those to which a certain sense of the question 'Why?' is given application; the sense is of course that in which the answer, if positive, gives a reason for acting.
     From: G.E.M. Anscombe (Intention [1957], p.9), quoted by Rowland Stout - Action 2 'Two kinds'
     A reaction: This works better for grand large-scale actions than for small ones, like taking the knife out of the drawer before the fork. Kahnemann nowadays tells us that the reasons we articulate might not be the ones that are operative.
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 2. Elements of Virtue Theory / e. Character
It would be better to point to failings of character, than to moral wrongness of actions
     Full Idea: It would be a great improvement if, instead of 'morally wrong', one always named a genus such as 'untruthful', 'unchaste', or 'unjust'.
     From: G.E.M. Anscombe (Modern Moral Philosophy [1958], p.183)
     A reaction: People are indeed much more struck by the suggestion that they have a weakness of character, rather than that they have just done something wrong. This is Anscombe's first great appeal for a return to virtue as the basis of ethics.
23. Ethics / D. Deontological Ethics / 1. Deontology
'Ought' and 'right' are survivals from earlier ethics, and should be jettisoned
     Full Idea: The moral sense of 'ought' and of what is right should be jettisoned, if possible, because they are survivals from an earlier conception of ethics, and are only harmful without it.
     From: G.E.M. Anscombe (Modern Moral Philosophy [1958], p.175)
     A reaction: This is part of a revolutionary proposal to return to virtue theory, and has had a great influence (e.g. on me). Richard Taylor gives a good account of how duty lost its social and religious underpinnings. Our duties now seem to be purely contractual.
Between Aristotle and us, a Judaeo-Christian legal conception of ethics was developed
     Full Idea: Between Aristotle and us came Christianity, with its law conception of ethics, and Christianity derived its ethical notions from the Torah.
     From: G.E.M. Anscombe (Modern Moral Philosophy [1958], p.179)
     A reaction: While I am a fan of the primacy of the virtues in ethical thinking, I am doubtful about the complete elimination of laws (e.g. by Particularists). The law teaches us the virtues, and reminds us of them (like speed-limit signs).
26. Natural Theory / C. Causation / 5. Direction of causation
With diseases we easily trace a cause from an effect, but we cannot predict effects
     Full Idea: It is much easier to trace effects back to causes with certainty than to predict effects from causes. If I have one contact with someone with a disease and I get it, we suppose I got it from him, but a doctor cannot predict a disease from one contact.
     From: G.E.M. Anscombe (Causality and Determinism [1971], §1)
     A reaction: An interesting, and obviously correct, observation. Her point is that we get more certainty of causes from observing a singular effect than we get certainty of effects from regularities or laws.
26. Natural Theory / C. Causation / 6. Causation as primitive
The word 'cause' is an abstraction from a group of causal terms in a language (scrape, push..)
     Full Idea: The word "cause" can be added to a language in which are already represented many causal concepts; a small selection: scrape, push, wet, carry, eat, burn, knock over, keep off, squash, make, hurt.
     From: G.E.M. Anscombe (Causality and Determinism [1971], p.93)
     A reaction: An interesting point, perhaps reinforcing the Humean idea of causation as a 'natural belief', or the Kantian view of it as a category of thought. Or maybe causation is built into language because it is a feature of reality…
26. Natural Theory / C. Causation / 8. Particular Causation / b. Causal relata
Causation is relative to how we describe the primary relata
     Full Idea: Anscombe has inspired the view that causation is an intensional relation, and takes it to be relative to the descriptions of the primary relata.
     From: report of G.E.M. Anscombe (Causality and Determinism [1971], 1) by Jonathan Schaffer - The Metaphysics of Causation 1
     A reaction: It seems too linguistic to say that there is nothing more to it. It seems relevant in human examples, but if a landslide crushes a tree, what difference does the description make? 'It was just a few rocks and some miserable little tree'. No excuse!
26. Natural Theory / C. Causation / 8. Particular Causation / c. Conditions of causation
Since Mill causation has usually been explained by necessary and sufficient conditions
     Full Idea: Since Mill it has been fairly common to explain causation one way or another in terms of 'necessary' and 'sufficient' conditions.
     From: G.E.M. Anscombe (Causality and Determinism [1971], §1)
     A reaction: Interesting to see what Hume implies about these criteria. Anscombe is going to propose that causal events are fairly self-evident and self-explanatory, and don't need analyses of conditions. Another approach is regularities and laws.