I promised more from my Ethics class at Columbia. I needed to prepare a couple of sketches to illustrate what interests me most: some readings in the philosophy of action. A question that philosophers discuss, apparently since antiquity, is whether something about an action must look good to the agent for her to be motivated to act. This is the so-called Guise of the Good. Something appears in a good light to the agent.
Take this little mouse that I once met near the garage. When I saw her, I briefly contemplated putting up a mouse trap. I went to the house to get a nice chunk of cheese. But the mouse seemed such a great character, and I abandoned the idea of the mouse trap. As you see, I offered her the cheese anyway. I put it on the floor.
Now a little drama unfolded, for the mouse wanted the cheese, and wanted it very much, but there was a scary large creature (me) in the vicinity. I thought some more about what philosophers would refer to as her motivational conflict. One thing that doesn’t quite convince me in the texts we studied (Aristotle, Anscombe, Velleman) is the focus on what looks “good.” I would say, the cheese looked “tasty” and that doesn’t seem quite the same. I might also say that the cheese looked “beautiful” or “perfect” (a perfect little mouse meal).
And I’m not sure that, on the other hand, my presence just felt “bad.” For a hungry mouse it must be utterly “unpleasant” or even “nasty” to have to have a suspicious person like me hang around. The mouse definitely felt I was a nuisance. Anyway, there may be a philosophical paper here, but I’ll have to get someone else to write it. On to more drawings.