Making the distinction between ‘cause’ and ‘intention.’

The dilemma whether to listen to various musicians or watch certain actors whose private lives are or have been morally objectionable is still with us. Vittorio Pelosi’s distinction between ’cause’ and ‘intention’ may help (‘Fake your Way as an Intentist’). Many intentionalists define intention as a ‘performance expectation’ (Paisley Livingston) that includes conscious and unconscious intentions. However, if, as Pelosi suggests, you define intention as conscious an unconscious motives as ’causes’ then we have a model to help us when choosing how we feel about certain artists’ works.

For instance, if I enjoy a Michael Jackson song and feel ambivalent about it, I can say that his biographical history can undoubtedly influence him – but if these are unconscious influences they would be ’causes’ of the song. However, the meaning would be the imperfect out working of his conscious intention.

So, back to the original problem. How do we feel about listening and watching certain artists? Well, unless the artist intended lyrics or scenes about (for example) love to really be about distasteful things, then his biography may be causes of his actions but the lyric that he or she intended to be about romantic love between consenting adults IS about romantic love between consenting adults.

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