Is Moral Intent Required for Moral Action?
Hi Folks . . . Let's have some fun with this one. . . .
Question: Given these parameters, is Moral Intent required for Moral Action?
> Most People Answered: NO
> I believe The Answer Is: YES - This is the reason WHY:
Moral Intent: The intention to confer benefit to another being and therefore society as a whole (universal society).
Action/Behavior: The motion of matter.
Moral Action: The intentional movement of matter for the purpose of conferring benefit to another being and a universal society, and which results in benefit to another being and a universal society (See: Immanuel Kant's moral philosophy for his view on moral actions, the test of universality, and the "Categorical Imperative").
Proposition: The presence of Moral Intent is required in order for an Action to be regarded as a Moral Action/behavior. Applying the definition of Moral Intent (the intent to confer benefit to another being and universal society) and Action (the motion of matter), we must conclude that action that is divorced from intent possesses no intrinsic morality or immorality.
Machine Conditioning Example:
A robot could be programmed to execute a series of behaviors that causes it to dispense nutritional resources that confer benefit to the recipients (benefits to society, universally). However, the robot is not regarded as “behaving in a moral manner”, because the robot lacks intent - a specific quality of consciousness required for an action/behavior to posses any moral qualities. The act may be beneficial to an individual and a universal society, but it is neither moral nor a-moral. Rather, we ascribe morality to the individual who intended to confer benefit upon the recipients by the act of programming the robot to execute this behavior.
One could propose that the robot was in-fact behaving in a moral manner, because the robot was programmed to confer benefit to beings as a result of the programmer’s moral intent. Therefore, the robot’s behavior serves as an extension of the programmer's intent, and one could theoretically propose that the robot is therefore behaving in a moral manner. Here, the behavior could be construed as moral, because we can establish a link between the programmer’s moral intent and the robot’s behavior. However, we only construe the robot’s behavior as moral insofar as the component of moral intent is linked to the behavior in some way. In this circumstance, moral intentionality is also required for us to ascribe morality to the behavior.
Inanimate Objects Conferring Benefit Example:
Consider the Sun (Our nearest Star). If we conceive of the Sun as a non-intentional and inanimate object that releases electromagnetic radiation throughout space, perhaps we can observe a theoretically mindless object and examine its behaviors. This object, in conjunction with a number of other objects in the solar system sustains conscious life on the planet earth. Sustaining life is typically regarded as a behavior that confers benefit to a being and a universal society, and therefore serves as a moral behavior. However, we typically do not ascribe the quality of morality to the Sun and its behavior of emanating electromagnetic radiation that sustains life, because the Sun’s behavior is believed to be divorced from consciousness and intent. Due to the lack of moral intent, we may conclude that the Sun’s emanation of life-sustaining radiation and gravity is morally neutral. Here, we affirm that action/behavior requires the existence of moral intent in order for it to be regarded as a “Moral Action/Behavior”.
Conclusion: YES - Moral Intent is required for Moral Action
Therefore, we shall conclude, for the moment, that the presence of Moral Intent is required in order for an Action to be regarded as a Moral Action/behavior. Applying the definition of Moral Intent (the intent to confer benefit to another being and universal society) and Action (the motion of matter), we must conclude that Action/behavior divorced from intent possesses no intrinsic morality or immorality. Some actions are moral, some actions are immoral, and some actions are morally neutral (Even if they confer benefits).
Thankfully, the U.S. Criminal Law appears to agree that intentionality is critical when determining the recourse required for engaging in a Moral or Immoral action. If your intent is moral, neutral , or non-existent (accidents, insanity, etc), but your actions are destructive to a being or society . . . Or if they are obstructive to the conferring of benefit to a being or society, you are to be treated with a reduced degree of severity in the event that a judgement of culpability is reached. The principle of mens rea (mental state) is applied in these circumstances.