Monday, May 11, 2009

Intention and understanding

George, who is quite happy thinking that he has just aced his logic exam (actually, he failed miserably) sees a first-order logic proposition on a board:

  1. (x)(~toothache(x) → ~(x = George))).
On a whim, he desires that this be the case. He rubs a lamp, the genie appears and George says to the genie: "Make it be the case that (x)(~toothache(x) → ~(x = George)))." To George's surprise, he immediately gets a toothache. The surprise isn't at the fulfillment of the wish—he fully expected the wish to be fulfilled—but at the toothache, since George did not see that (1) is logically equivalent to:
  1. toothache(George).

Did George get what he intended? Well, yes: he wanted (1) to be true, and the genie did make (1) be true. But while George got what he intended, he also got a toothache, which he clearly did not intend to get. Thus, one can intend (1) without intending (2). Intention cuts more finely than logical equivalence.

Suppose George were better at logic, so it was obvious to him that (1) and (2) are equivalent? Could he intend (1) without intending (2)? I am inclined to answer affirmatively. Belief does not automatically affect intentions—intentions are a matter of the will, not of the intellect. Of course, if he were better at logic, the toothache would not be a surprise.

Once we admit that intentions can cut this finely, we have to be really careful with Double Effect, lest we end up justifying the unjustifiable. We don't want to allow Janine to get away with murder by saying that she asked the genie to bring it about that either Fred is dead or 2+2=5, and so she never intended Fred to be dead. My way of doing that is to introduce the notion of accomplishment. As long as George intended (1), whether or not he knew that (1) entailed (2), George accomplished his toothache: the toothache was a part of the accomplishment of the action. As long as Janine intended the disjunction, the disjunct (or, more precisely, the truthmaker of the disjunct) which she (through the genie) accomplished is a part of her accomplishment.


Mike Almeida said...

But (1) is true in non-George worlds: i.e., worlds in which no one is identical to George. And (2) is false in those worlds: that is, it is false there that George has a toothache. So, it looks like these are not logically equivalent. What am I missing?

Alexander R Pruss said...

By "first order logic" I meant a standard non-free first-order logic, i.e., one where all names refer, and existential introduction is unrestricted.

Failing that, replace "George" with "the* nearest person named 'George'" and add the footnote "on a Russellian reading of the definite article".

Mike Almeida said...

By "first order logic" I meant a standard non-free first-order logic, i.e., one where all names refer, and existential introduction is unrestricted.So did I (unless you mean unrestricted across worlds!). My worry is that, granting that, you'll have a logical truth that is not a necessary truth. That can't be right. Another alternative is to assume some constant domain for possible worlds. Implausible, but ok. Williamson has an interesting way to make this assumption come out reasonable.

Chong Choe said...

“Did George get what he intended? Well, yes: he wanted (1) to be true….”

Well, not exactly. He asked for (1) to be true and, so, you could say that he wanted (1) to be true. But I think that’s not quite accurate. This problem presents the question of the effect of mistake on intention (double effect, as far as I understand it, involves intended and unintended consequences, and not usually mistake). It may be more accurate to say that George wanted (1*) to be true where (1*) is his mistaken understanding of (1). You could say that he brought the toothache upon himself (and, maybe, that he accomplished the toothache, where accomplishment includes the natural (or logical) consequences of what one intends), but mistake may prevent a finding of intention (i.e., that he intended (1) or (2)).

Alexander R Pruss said...

I was not assuming any mistake on his part. I was just assuming that he failed to see that (1) entails (2). A failure to see an entailment is not a mistake, since every propositions has infinitely many entailments.

Anonymous said...

But you don't think the "accomplishment" of an act includes all the known and unknown consequences of an act, right? I'm wondering when a particular consequence of an intended act is not part of the accomplishment. The typical examples given for Double Effect involve cases where certain bad effects are allowed to occur, but why wouldn't those bad effects be part of the accomplishment of the act? Or is it that sometimes the bad effects that are part of the accomplishment of an act are permissible? "Accomplishment" just seems to mean "all the consequences known or unknown."

Alexander R Pruss said...

I conjecture that x is accomplished iff x is identical to or a part of something intended. Even if there are counterexamples to this, it's pretty close to the truth.

For instance, suppose Fred intends to kill the noisy mammal next door. The noisy mammal next door is a human being, Patrick. But Fred doesn't care that it's a human being or that it's Patrick. He just cares about the noise. Then, if Fred succeeds, the death of Patrick was an accomplishment of his. Why? Because the death of the noisy mammal was an accomplishment, and the noisy mammal was Patrick, so the death of the noisy mammal was the death of Patrick.

Now, the state of affairs of (1) holding includes George's having a toothache as a part. That's a part of what makes (1) true--or maybe even all of it.

Anonymous said...

Oh, I think I see now. You're making a very specific claim about intention and understanding. You're saying that when doing x is the SAME THING as doing y, then we can't wiggle out of responsibility for the effects by claiming that we only intended x, not y. So, killing "the mammal next door" just is killing Fred.

But I think the cases that Double Effect is supposed to help us with are cases in which it is controversial whether the effect x is the same thing as effect y (like Fred and the mammal). In those cases, it's hard to see if the distinction between intending x but not y is valid.

If a drunk driver intends only to get home, not to injure people, are those two things (getting home and injuring people) just the same thing? That doesn't seem to be the same kind of thing as the Fred/mammal case because one could get home without injuring anyone, but one could never kill the mammal without killing Fred.

Or if a doctor saves a pregnant womans life and kills the baby in the process, if the baby would always die when the operation is performed, then it seems like the baby's death would be part of the accomplishment of the doctor's act.

Alexander R Pruss said...

Following one's chosen means is a part of the accomplishment. (One hasn't accomplished a task if the end result comes about in some way other than the means one chose for it.) However, further effects of the means or of the end are typically not a part of the accomplishment.

In the case of the doctor, we have to ask how it is that the death of child enters into the doctor's action plan. If the doctor thinks: "The child will grow, and its growth will impact a weak part of the womb, and kill the woman. If I kill the child, the child won't grow, and the woman will survive", then the child's death is a part of the doctor's plan, and hence is something that she accomplishes, assuming the plan is successful. On the other hand, if the child's death is a side-effect of chemotherapy for the woman, then the child's death is an effect of the doctor's accomplishment, rather than a part of that accomplishment.

The quick test is not so much whether the doctor's action could occur without the child's death, but whether the doctor's action would still be successful if the child did not die. In the chemotherapy case, the action would still be successful if the child did not die (even if it is physically necessary that the child dies as a result of the chemotherapy--this might be a per impossibile conditional). In the case of killing the child to prevent its growth, the action would be unsuccessful if the child did not die--even if the child's growth stops, the doctor's plan of action is not fulfilled.

My main departure from classical double effect is the move from intention (which is an intensional concept) to accomplishment (which is extensional). This helps with a number of curious cases, like the mammal case.

My other departure is that while classical double effect reasoning recognizes only two ways one could intend something--as an end or as a means--I think there are more ways than that. For instance, one can intend something as a constitutive component of the end. Or there is this weird case: A scientist asks you to send a nerve signal from your brain to your hand. How can I do that, you think to yourself? You then figure it out: you will simply clench your fist. That will require a nerve signal from your brain to your hand. Note, though, that while you clearly intend the clenching of your fist, you do not intend it as an end, and you do not intend it as a means--for how could it be a means to the sending of the nerve signal given that the nerve signal causally precedes the clenching!

Chong Choe said...

Dr. Pruss,

It seems to me that your view of accomplishment relies on overly broad definition of “intention.” Intention usually refers to a person’s conscious mental state, e.g., Fred intends to kill the noisy mammal. Your definition assigns to Fred an intent that never crossed his mind, the intent to kill Patrick. It’s easy to hold Fred criminally responsible for killing Patrick under a theory of transferred intent or, depending on the circumstances, reckless endangerment or felony murder (thinking here of a spring gun situation). It’s unnecessary and, I think, maybe inaccurate to hold Fred responsible for intending to kill Patrick because, prior to encountering Patrick, he had no such mental state.

But your definition of accomplishment is interesting. “I conjecture that x is accomplished iff x is identical to or a part of something intended.” “Part of” may be problematic. I don’t think that you can say that (2) was part of George’s intent or that the killing of Patrick was part of Fred’s intent. Maybe “logical consequence of” would be better? And I think this is different from the natural and foreseeable consequences of an act. Even if they involve the same state of affairs (e.g., the killing of Patrick), the logical consequences of one’s intent concern the unfolding or unpacking of what is intended. The natural and foreseeable consequences of an act concern the unfolding of the act (and is usually an analysis that takes place after the fact). Would this be one way of understanding accomplishment?

Alexander R Pruss said...

We need to distinguish between the intending, which is in the mind, and what is intended, which is something in the world, often a physical event (an inheritance, a death, etc.). Accomplishment goes along with what is intended.

Now, whether or not Fred intended to kill Patrick, if Fred has intended to kill something identical with Patrick, he has accomplished the death of something identical with Patrick. But if x = Patrick, then death of x = the death of Patrick. So, Fred has accomplished the death of Patrick, though he did not intend it.

Note, by the way, that in the story we can say, if we like, that Fred even knows that the mammal is Patrick. (Knowledge does not by itself change intent.)

Chong Choe said...

When the focus is on what is intended, where “what is intended” refers to external events in the world, rather than a person’s intention, liability no longer is based on the person’s guilty mental state, but some other reason or theory of liability. Accomplishment sounds like a version of the natural and probable consequences theory, one that includes logical consequences. But, because logical consequences arguably are closer to the intended act (as you’ve indicated, even contained in, entailed by, or equivalent to the intended act), accomplishment would be subsumed under the natural and probable consequences theory. If liability requires a specific mental state, then another theory of liability may be irrelevant. But, where a natural and probable consequence theory is relevant (e.g., in cases involving negligence, recklessness, or felony murder), then accomplishment would work too. If you’re trying to use accomplishment to satisfy the specific mental state requirement (that a person is guilty for what he accomplished in the same way that he is guilty for what he intended), I still don’t see how it would work.

I also wonder whether “what is intended” has to refer to some event in the world. Let’s say, at t1, we have Fred and the stuff in Fred’s mind, including his intention to kill the noisy mammal next door, who happens to be Patrick. At t3, Fred carries out his intention. So, at t3, we have Fred again and, now, the killing of Patrick. But, at t1, “what is intended” (i.e., the killing of the noisy mammal) doesn’t refer to anything in the world. You could say that “what is intended” refers to some future event in the world. But it seems more accurate to say that “what is intended” is in the mind and not the event in the world itself.

What I’m trying to get at here is that there seems to be a difference between intention and, say, something like perception. Intending is a pure mental act and the result of the act is one’s intention or what is intended. Visual perception is a mental act that involves the external world and the result of the act is one’s perception from what is perceived. I think, because intending is a pure mental act, one’s intention is the same as what one intends (e.g., the killing of the noisy mammal). One’s perception (e.g., the perception of green), however, is not the same as what one perceives (e.g., the green grass outside).

Alexander R Pruss said...

The term "intention" is ambiguous between the act of intending and the intended content. Thus, when we say that George and Sally had the same intention, we mean that their acts of will had the same intended content. But of course there are two acts of intending between the two of them.

The intended events are in the world in the case of successful action. Likewise, a perceived thing is in the world in the case of a successful, i.e., veridical, perception.

Neither the natural consequences of an action nor the probable consequences, nor those that are both natural and probable, need be a part of the accomplishment. The logical consequences of what one intended are not always a part of the accomplishment. For instance, a logical consequence of my raising my arm is that 2+2=4. (Because the proposition that 2+2=4 is logically necessary, and if p is logically necessary, then p logically follows from every proposition.) But that 2+2=4 is not something I have accomplished.

I am not trying to come up with a theory of liability or criminal responsibility. Rather, I am trying to come up with an account that (a) upholds the intuition that one should not do (accomplish?) evil, and yet (b) does not paralyze us in medicine, war, and ordinary life. I do this by saying that it is always wrong to accomplish a basic intrinsic evil. Of course, when one does so unknowingly, one may not be culpable, but one has nonetheless done wrong. Nonetheless, it can be permissible to do things that have basic intrinsic evils as causal consequences, though only if the basic intrinsic evils aren't accomplished in the action.

Chong Choe said...

I see that accomplishment follows from what is intended, but need not be a natural, probable, or logical consequence (but I suspect it ordinarily would fall into one or more of these categories).

As to your last point, I think this brings us back to a previous discussion about the connection between moral wrong and intention. I think an act is morally wrong only if it is one for which a person is morally responsible, and a person is morally responsible only if he has a morally culpable mental state. There may be other reasons for making him pay, but it is not because he has committed a moral wrong.

By “wrong” do you mean moral wrong or something broader, which may include mistake or accident? One example that comes to mind occurred in LA several years ago. An elderly man mistook the accelerator for the brake and ran into several people at a farmer’s market, causing 10 deaths and about 70 injuries. The man may not be morally culpable, but would you say that he did wrong? I think he accomplished the act of hitting the people at the farmer’s market.

Alexander R Pruss said...

I suspect that accomplishment is always a logical consequence of what is intended, but not every logical consequence of what is intended is an accomplishment.

Mistakes are a cases of failure of action, and failure of action occurs precisely when one does not accomplish one's intention. In the case of mistaking the accelerator and brake, probably one does not accomplish either pressing the brake (because one doesn't press the brake) or the accelerator (because one presses it accidentally).

As for culpability and wrongness, consider this. There are some very difficult medical ethics cases. Suppose Dr. Jones is trying to figure out if she should do A or B. Objectively speaking, she should do A, and should not do B. But it is a very difficult to figure out case. She does her very best. She consults with experts that she has good reason to respect. She prays. She reads Scripture. She concludes that what she should do is B. And so she does B. However, the correct answer was that she should do A, not B. So she does morally wrong in doing B. But she is not culpable for the wrongdoing.

There are many cases like this. Consider, for instance, the treatment of tubal pregnancy. There are three options (actually more, but I am simplifying). (1) Cut off a segment of the tube containing the child, and remove the segment. (2) Cut away the child, and remove him or her. (3) Do nothing, allowing the mother to die.

Now, reputable Christian ethicists disagree on which is the right thing to do. There is a double-effect based argument that (1) is permissible (as well as a pro-choice argument based on arguments that the fetus is not a person). There are also arguments that the child is a person and this comes too close to killing the child to be permissible, because what one is "really intending" is the removal of the child. There is an argument based on extraordinary means of sustenance that (2) is permissible (receiving sustenance from the fallopian tubes is not an ordinary means of sustenance). On the other hand there is the argument that (2) is impermissible because to cut away the child is to cut the placenta, and to do that is to do fatal surgery to an innocent person, not for that person's benefit, contrary to the Nuremberg Code. Finally, there is an argument for (3) based on arguments that the fetus is a person, and based on arguments that (1) and (2) are impermissible. On the other hand, (3) just does not seem right (I have not met a Christian ethicist who defended (3)).

So it's a tough question. And it's easy to see how a patient and doctor might come to the wrong answer, apparently quite inculpably. And then, if they act on the wrong answer, they do something immoral, but are not culpable.

Chong Choe said...

I still think culpability and wrongness overlap without remainder. If Dr. Jones has every reason to believe that doing B is morally right (and her due diligence in seeking expert advice, prayer, and reading Scripture confirms this), then doing B is morally right for her. And I’m not suggesting a subjective account of morality here. I’m just saying what is morally right or wrong has to do with a person’s knowledge and intent. Objectively, God perfectly adjudicates moral rightness and wrongness. God would not hold Dr. Jones morally responsible for doing B.

In cases involving a necessary choice between the survival of the fetus and the life of the mother, I think whether a person’s choice is morally wrong depends on that person’s moral deliberations and intentions. If the person selfishly wants to live and gives no consideration to the life growing within her, then her choice to do (3) is morally wrong. If the person considers all the relevant information (seeks medical and moral counsel, prays, reads Scripture, considers the interests of everyone involved) and then chooses to do (3), her choice is not morally wrong even though she accomplished the death of the fetus. In these cases, I don’t think there’s a clear right answer—every option is permissible, none is required. An argument that an option is impermissible probably is flawed in some way or another (e.g., even if the fetus is a person, so is the mother, and so (3) also is impermissible). I don’t think these situations, where the life of the mother also is at stake, invoke the Nuremburg Code (even assuming a fetus is a person).

You may say (and I don’t know if you would say this, I’m just conjecturing here) that killing a fetus is an intrinsic evil, for which a person is always morally responsible. I guess I would have to think more about whether I think there is such a thing as an intrinsic evil. Torture and rape, maybe; eating fruit from a forbidden tree, maybe not.

Alexander R Pruss said...

This view of culpability and wrongness overlapping without remainder has the consequence that everybody is infallible when they have with due diligence tried to find out what is right to do. That seems absurd. It implies that the sincere SS officer, who has innocently come to believe the Nazi ideology, did nothing wrong.

I agree that God wouldn't punish one for doing a wrong when one has with due diligence concluded that one should act in that way.

Alexander R Pruss said...

Moreover, I am worried about a circularity. If whatever answer you come to after due diligence is right for you, then what are you trying to figure out through that due diligence? There is no objective truth, beyond that yielded by the process of due diligence, that you are getting it. It, then, seems you're trying to figure what it is that you will figure out!

I know that views on which reflective equilibrium is constitutive of moral truth have the same feature. But that seems a good reason to reject such views.

Chong Choe said...

I generally agree that an objective procedure is inadequate to ground something that smells an awful lot like a subjective view. But that’s really not what I’m suggesting. Due diligence is not what makes a person morally blameless, but where moral responsibility is based on the person’s knowledge and intentions, due diligence suggests that the person is being conscientious and careful.

I’m not sure why you think that my view doesn’t leave room for objective truth. If Dr. Jones is deciding whether to perform an abortion or not (and there is no unusual risks to the mother involved) and, in reading Scripture, she learns that performing an abortion goes against biblical truth, the fact that she consulted Scripture and considered it in making her decision isn’t enough. She now is held responsible for that additional knowledge.

As for the SS officer, he may be convinced that what he is doing is morally right, but he too would be held responsible for what he knows and intends. An SS officer who knows that it is morally wrong to kill the Jews and orders others to do so is morally culpable. An SS officer who is conflicted about the matter, but feels strongly that he must do what he is ordered to do, is culpable but maybe not as culpable as the first. An SS officer who lacks the capacity to make moral choices (let’s say he suffers from a mental disorder), but does whatever he is ordered to do, may not be culpable.

There are objective moral truths and possibly even perfect thoughts and intentions on moral questions (thinking here of how Christ would have thought through moral questions). But my view is that each person is held responsible according to their level of knowledge (including their access to objective moral truths) and their intentions and purposes.

Alexander R Pruss said...


What about the SS officer who has a capacity to make moral choices, but who nonetheless conscientiously believes, after due examination, that the rule against murder has an exception for Jews, or else has an exception for killing people when one is ordered to?

I agree that each person is held responsible according to their knowledge (or belief). However, to say that is not the same as saying that what is right and what is wrong depends on their knowledge (or belief).

Chong Choe said...

I don’t know. I think the SS officer who conscientiously believes that the rule against murder does not apply for Jews is either (1) not being honest with himself and others, or (2) is being honest with himself, but is truly deceived. If (1), then he is morally culpable. If (2), deception may operate against culpability. What is really in the SS officer’s mind, that I don’t know, only God knows.

You raise the question of having the choice between doing what is morally wrong and disobeying an order (which also may be a moral wrong). In deliberating on this choice, a perfectly rational person would obey the order only if the moral wrong in disobeying the order is greater than the moral wrong involved in obeying the order. Obviously, in the case of the SS officer, a perfectly rational person would not obey the order (assuming nothing else was involved, e.g., a threat to his life or the lives of his family members). Again, in determining individual culpability, I think the SS officer who conscientiously believes that an exception to murder applies when one is ordered to kill is being either dishonest or deceived and the same results mentioned above apply.

A harder case is presented in the movie, “War Dance,” about children in refugee camps in northern Uganda who were kidnapped and forcibly trained to fight with a militant group. One very young boy was ordered to kill some innocent villagers or be killed himself. The boy probably understood the difference between right or wrong, but probably didn’t have the rational skills necessary to resolve the moral choice before him. In this case, while it may be more noble to choose death for oneself, I doubt anyone would hold the boy morally responsible for the killings.

Alexander R Pruss said...


So, suppose the officer is deceived. We agree that he is not culpable. But do you really want to add to that that he is not doing anything wrong? After all, if he is not doing anything wrong, then he is right that he is doing what he ought. And if he is right, then how is he deceived?

Chong Choe said...

Doing what is not morally wrong doesn't automatically make one’s action morally right. There are, after all, many morally neutral acts—picking vanilla ice cream instead of chocolate. But we don’t even have to go so far as to say that the SS officer’s act was morally neutral. We can simply say that there are more than two categories of moral action and that there is at least one other possible category, the not-wrong-because-of-some-legitimate-exception category (or whatever you want to call it), and the exception here being that the officer was deceived.

Alexander R Pruss said...

So, on this account, the action indeed is not wrong. And the officer agrees that it's not wrong. So what is he deceived about?

Well, on this view, it seems he is not deceived about the action not being wrong. He is only deceived about the reason it's not wrong. But tThe following just does not sound plausible: "When Hans went around shooting innocent people in the head, thinking this was not wrong for him to do, he was right that this was not wrong for him to do. However, he was deceived as to the reason why it was not wrong for him to do. He thought that the reason it was not wrong for him to do it was because he thought that these innocent people lacked rights. But the real reason it was not wrong to do was because he was deceived."

I suppose that is a way of upholding the claim that he was deceived. But it seems to depart from common sense. For, surely, common sense says that his deception consisted in his thinking a wrongful action not wrong, rather than in his being mistaken about the reason why his action was not wrong.

In fact, we can modify the case so that Hans isn't mistaken about anything. Suppose Hans is deceived into believing that it's not wrong to do what he is doing, but he has no theory as to why it's not wrong (just as most people don't have a theory about why it's not wrong to sratch one's back in private). So, it seems, he isn't wrong about anything then: He isn't wrong about the action not being wrong, and he isn't wrong about the reason for the action not being wrong, because he has no opinion why the action is not wrong.

Note, also, that on this view one cannot categorically say of just about anything that it's always wrong. One cannot say that murder, rape, torture, drunkenness, etc. are always wrong. For each of these actions has, on this view, exception cases. In fact, we cannot even say, on this view, that everyone has a duty to love the neighbor. For, on this view, if someone innocently does not know about the duty, then she has no such duty.

Chong Choe said...

Because I think better with particulars, let’s say that Hans has been indoctrinated from his youth with the virtues of eugenics and, specifically, about the superiority of the Arian race. Even from an early age, he was taught that it was right to breed more Arians, but wrong to allow any other race to live. He was taught that other races were less than human and that killing them was an act of valor. Believing all this, Hans thought that, when he was killing Jews as an SS officer, he was doing what was right. He was deceived, then, about the moral quality, rightness or wrongness, of his act (and the underlying reasons).

If Hans’s moral culpability is determined by his knowledge and intentions and his deception exonerates him from moral culpability, thereby making his act morally right (or, at least, not morally wrong), then how can I say that he was deceived (he thought his act was morally right and, so it seems, it was)?

I don’t find this question particularly difficult. Deception can be determined by objective facts. Let’s say Hans’s parents admit that they subjected their poor unsuspecting son to years of indoctrination. Hitler and his Nazi cohorts, who were mentally ill or bent on evil, were found to have spread false propaganda about the Jews. Hans’s reasons for believing that what he was doing was right were false, so he was deceived about the reasons and he was deceived about the moral quality of his act.

As to your last point about categorically saying something is wrong, I noticed this problem earlier when you mentioned intrinsic evil. I’m tempted to say that, given enough representative examples, we can at least conclude that certain acts are wrong in most cases, but leaving room for exceptions. But this doesn’t sit well with me.

Speaking of enough representative examples, God would have knowledge of all cases and can arrive at conclusions that certain acts are wrong in most cases, still leaving room for exceptions—of which we he also has knowledge. So I think that revelation provides a reliable source of objective truth, including one’s duty to love one’s neighbor. If a person truly doesn’t know about this duty, however, she may be held to a different standard.

To those who have been given much, much will be required.

Alexander R Pruss said...

"Hans’s reasons for believing that what he was doing was right were false, so he was deceived about the reasons and he was deceived about the moral quality of his act." - He was indeed deceived about the reasons. But on your view, I do not know that you can say he was deceived about the moral quality of his act. At least, if moral quality means "Was it wrong or not wrong?"

Chong Choe said...

If being deceived was the basis for believing that what he was doing was right, then, given that he was wrong about that, we can say that he no longer has any basis for believing that what he was doing was right. So, in that sense, he was deceived about the moral quality of his act, about his act being right.

Also, whether from revelation, law, or experience, we can say that, as a general rule, it is morally wrong to intentionally kill another human being without justification, where moral responsibility is based on the intent to kill. This is common knowledge. Hans’s belief that killing a Jew did not qualify as killing another human being prevented him from having this knowledge or, rather, from applying it correctly. He therefore was deceived about his act not being wrong.

Whether an act is in fact morally wrong or right in a particular case depends on the person's mental state, there are other facts (e.g., intrinsic value of human life, intentional killing of another human being without justification is wrong, Jews are fellow human beings) that, if known, would affect the person's culpability. I don't think that connecting moral responsibility with a person's mental state prevents me from affirming objective facts or objective moral norms.