Monday, January 9, 2023

Means inappropriate to ends

Consider this thesis:

  1. You should adopt means appropriate to your ends.

The “should” here is that of instrumental rationality.

I am inclined to think (1) is false if by “end” is meant the end the agent actually adopts, as opposed to a natural end of the agent. If your ends are sufficiently irrational, adopting means appropriate to them may be less rational than adopting means inappropriate to them.

Suppose your end is irrationality. Is it really true that you should adopt the means to that, such as reasoning badly? Surely not! Instead, you should reject the end.

Instead of (1), what is likely true is:

  1. You should be such that you adopt means appropriate to your ends.

But what is wrong with being such that you adopt means inappropriate to your ends is not necessarily the means—it could be the ends.

Unjust laws have no normative force, and stupid ends have no normative force, either.

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