Wednesday, June 18, 2008


Harry Frankfurt thinks that the only thing we can do is to see whether a given thing is one that we care about. Consequently, Frankfurt identifies what is important with what we care about. But the "consequently" does not actually all follow. For in exactly the same way we might argue that the only way of figuring out what really exists in physical reality is by examining what we perceive with our senses, and thus conclude, with Berkeley, that to exist in physical reality just is the same as to be perceived. We can say that the fact that we care about something is evidence as that it is important, just as the fact that we apparently perceive something by our senses is evidence that the object is physically real, without denying that I might care about something unimportant or have hallucinatory perceptions of unreal things.


Mike Almeida said...

I might care about something unimportant or have hallucinatory perceptions of unreal things.


Frankfurt doesn't deny this. He talks about several ways we can be mistaken in what we care about.

Alexander R Pruss said...

Does Frankfurt admit that one might have an endorsed care about x and yet x not matter?

Mike Almeida said...

Here's what Frankfurt says about the caring relation (to X) and whether caring about X entails that we are are justified in caring about X.

'When the importance of a certain thing to a person is due to the very fact that he cares about it, however, that fact plainly cannot provide a useful measure of the extent to which his caring about the thing is justified'. (93 ff., The Importance of What We Care About). He urges that the critical question in such cases is whether the object is sufficiently important to warrant his caring about it. On the other hand he does deny that the importance of X can always be determined antecedent to whether you already care about it. But this seems in many cases right.

Alexander R Pruss said...

So I should replace my parallel by this one: "I might fail to care about something important (say, if I have an affective disorder) just as I may fail to see something that is right in front of my nose (say, if I have a vision disorder)."