Monday, March 18, 2019
Willing and Knowing :: Philosophy Philosophical Papers
Willing and KnowingABSTRACT This paper discusses W. K. Cliffords mere paper, The Ethics of legal opinion, and the significance of his use of the locution knowingly and volitionally in the context of honorablely ir prudent ignorance. It is argued that this locution can point to a very(prenominal) subtle and important distinction in the premisses of ethically responsible belief formation. An analysis of willful ignorance is then given. It is argued that, strictly speaking, there is no such thing as willful ignorance what is called willful ignorance in commonplace language is just the phenomena of getting oneself knowingly to believe something by volitionally and knowingly altering the enjoin for ones belief, rather than the genuine phenomenon of getting oneself willingly to believe something against the evidence. The former phenomenon is not, however, morally approvable. Therefore, willfulness of belief is not a necessary condition of morally irresponsible ignorance. 1. There is a very famous passage in W. K. Cliffords classic paper The Ethics of Belief in which Clifford describes a ship haveer who deceives himself to believe that his ship is seaworthy by knowingly and willingly ignoring the evidence to the contrary, ie. by knowingly and willingly changing the evidential situation that determines the content of his belief. According to Clifford, the shipowners psychogenic behaviour is unethical. He has no right to believe that the ship is seaworthy on such evidence as is before him. He is knowingly and willingly unknowledgeable of the real condition of the ship and, as a consequence, carries moral responsibility for the consequences of his evil state of mind, consequences highlighted by the deaths of passengers and crew when the ship goes down.The question of why Clifford uses the words knowingly and willingly when he describes the way in which the shipowner makes himself ignorant of the real condition of the ship is significant not only to Cliffords own theory but to the ethics of belief in general. One reader (see Haack, forthcoming) has recently argued that Clifford really means willful ignorance and just lacks in subtlety when he says knowingly and willingly. The motive behind this interpretation is the view that only a someone who is willfully ignorant of the evidence against her belief can carry moral responsibility for the consequences of the belief. In particular, involuntary ignorance, according to this view, has no such effect. I question this interpretation. In particular, I question the idea that the description of the shipowners ignorance as knowingly and willingly undertaken is somehow less subtle than its description as willfully undertaken.