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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."


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ISSN: 2152-1123