List journal issues    
Home List journal issues Table of contents Subscribe to APQ


Volume 50 • Number 1

January 2013



When Bad Thoughts Happen to Good People: A Thought-Experiment

by Howard J. Curzer

Bernard Williams quotes Charles Fried's description of an emergency situation in which a man (call him Joe) must choose between helping his wife and helping a stranger. Famously, Williams goes on to remark,

It might have been hoped by some (for instance, by his wife) that his motivating thought, fully spelled out, would be the thought that it was his wife, not that it was his wife and that in situations of this kind it is permissible to save one's wife.

That is, Williams maintains that in this situation Joe should help his wife simply because of their loving relationship. His first thought should be to help her, and he should have no second thoughts. In particular, he should not even consider the question of whether helping his wife is morally permissible. A Permissibility Thought would be "one thought too many."

view PDF



Home | Issue Index
© 2012 by the Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois
Content in American Philosophical Quarterly is intended for personal, noncommercial use only. You may not reproduce, publish, distribute, transmit, participate in the transfer or sale of, modify, create derivative works from, display, or in any way exploit the American Philosophical Quarterly database in whole or in part without the written permission of the copyright holder.

American Philosophical Quarterly is published by the University of Illinois Press on behalf of North American Philosophical Publications.

ISSN: 2152-1123