Can you (rationally) intend x betray y and not intend y is betrayed by x?

In his article Playing Ones Part Tomas Smith raises many important points regarding possible understandings of joint intention. For example, his claim that we engage in joint-decision making “… against a background of circumstances which we do not choose and cannot control.”1 is a key fact that I think many writers miss.

One part of the paper that I am struggling to make my mind up on concerns the possibility of rationally intending one proposition a that relates two objects with a non-symmetric relation in one order and at the same time not intending a proposition b that is has the same objects in the opposite order but with the converse relation to a.

This much easier to understand with an example so I’ll quote Smith – please let me know what you’re intuitions on this case are in the poll below – if you do not feel you grasp the philosophical technicalities just go with your gut feeling – use comments section if you want to explain your answer.2

” (G1) God intends that Christ is betrayed by Judas.
   (G2) God intends that Judas betray Christ.
   <Christ is betrayed by Judas> and <Judas betrays Christ> are necessarily equivalent and constitutively related, and, arguably, identical, because one is compounded out of two objects and a non-symmetric relation in one order, and the other out of those same objects and the converse relation, in the opposite order. Nevertheless, if it is part of God’s plan that Christ be sacrificed, but no part of his plan that any man sin, then (G1) may be true but (G2) false.3


Notes:
1. Smith, “Playing one’s part.” Review of Philosophy and Psychology: special issue on joint action – what is shared? 2, no. 2(2011) p. 231
2. the existence/nature of God is supposed to be irrelevant to this example – so you should be able to replace the deity with a more down to earth agent if that makes you feel more comfortable.
3. Smith, “Playing one’s part.” Review of Philosophy and Psychology: special issue on joint action – what is shared? 2, no. 2(2011) p.240

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About Joseph Kisolo

Philosopher teaching Ethics & Epistemology @ NottsUni and interested in in Social Ontology. Outside academia interested in climbing, design, geekery and radical social justice.
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3 Responses to Can you (rationally) intend x betray y and not intend y is betrayed by x?

  1. frankieroberto says:

    Feels to be that the passive and active constructions (X did Y to Z; Z was Y’ed by Z) are logically and semantically equivalent (though with a different emphasis), and so it’s impossible to intend one without the other.

    Add in a quantifier though, and the constructions become different – ie ‘no men love all women’ isn’t that same as ‘all women are loved by no men’.

    However there’s a logical contradiction in the statements ‘no man has sinned’ (or the equivalent ‘all men have not sinned’) and ‘a man has sinned’.

    There is though a gotcha in the construction ‘not part of the plan that’. It not being part of your plan to, say, win the lottery doesn’t mean that it’s part of your plan to not win the lottery. In logical-form speak, X intending Y isn’t equivalent to X not intending not Y. I think.

    • Yep – Smith wants us to take the passive and active constructions as equivalent but he wants to deny the conclusion you draw i.e. he claims that this *does not* mean that intending one is the same as intending the other.

      There isn’t meant to be any funny quantifier business going on in the example and, as the example just has two singular objects (Christ & Judas), it doesn’t looks like there is.

      Re. complications about the role of the negation – I suppose (to make the point he is trying to make) Smith needs say not just that the God in the example fails to have any plans re. any man sinning (akin to me failing to have any plans re. winning the lottery) but that he actively intends that it not be the case that things be such that any man sins … hmm … but that can’t be Smith’s claim as if God intending (G1) & intended not-(G2) that seems obviously irrational.

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