Contraception and Chastity was first published by the CTS in Its fresh and incisive defence of the Church’s teaching has helped many to appreciate the. Download Citation on ResearchGate | Contraception and Chastity | Roman Catholic thinker Elizabeth Anscombe relfects on the theological implications of. Much good sense and wisdom is contained in Professor Anscombe’s reflections on “Contraception and Chastity,” but a challenge is made to her suggestion that.

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Elizabeth Anscombe, or Miss Anscombe as she was known, was an important twentieth century philosopher and one of the most important women philosophers of all time. Although she worked in almost every area of philosophy, she is best known to philosophers today for her work on ethics and the philosophy of action. Outside of philosophy she is best known for her conservative views on sexual ethics, which have chastityy a number of student organizations, calling themselves the Anscombe Society, promoting chastity and traditional marriage.

She is also well known for her opposition to the use of atomic weapons at clntraception end of World War II. Her work on action, found mostly in her short book Intentionwas a step in the direction of such a philosophy.

When they returned to Britain he was a schoolteacher, an science at Dulwich College in London. Anscombe herself went to Sydenham High School, graduating in While there she became interested in Catholicism and converted while still a teenager. She studied classics and philosophy at St. Later that year she anscombw the philosopher Peter Geach, whom she had met in her first year at Oxford after a mass at Blackfriars. They went on to have seven children. After another year at St.

Hugh’s as a research student she moved to Newnham College, Cambridge, where she had a Research Fellowship. At Cambridge she met Ludwig Wittgenstein and attended his lectures, continuing to do so even after she had moved back to Oxford, to take up a Research Fellowship at Somerville College in She later had a Teaching Fellowship there untilwhen she became the Professor of Philosophy at Cambridge University.

She remained there until she retired from teaching in Wittgenstein died inhaving named Anscombe as one of three literary executors of his estate. Her English translation of his Philosophical Investigations was published in This was the beginning of the most fruitful period of her career, perhaps because she was driven by a sense of outrage that a man who had deliberately authorized the bombing of non-combatants could be so honored.

In a typically Wittgensteinian way, Anscombe argued that some metaphysical theses are the result of our being misled by grammar.

Her work on the first person singular is a good example of this way of dealing with philosophical problems. The word I is not a name I call myself. It is not a name at all, even though it can appear to be one. If there is some question about who broke a vase then it is possible to make a mistake about who it was, and to be mistaken even about oneself having done it.

For instance, you might think that you nudged it, but come to realize perhaps after watching a video recording that, although you came close, it was actually someone else snd knocked it over. When we refer to a person we can, then, misidentify the person in question. This cannot be because I refers to my body and my body is always easy for me to identify, because one can misidentify whose body it was that did this or that. According to Anscombe this is an absurdity that shows that I cannot be a referring expression at all.

The reason why David Hume sought unsuccessfully for his self finding instead only a bundle of impressions and ideas is that there is indeed no self, no thing to which I refers, because I does not refer to anything not even a bundle. This is why there can be no misidentification: In order to say whether I am standing or not, I do not need in normal circumstances to look.

According to Anscombe this is because I does not refer to anything I might see or sense in any other way. If it referred to an object, therefore, the object in question would have to be one that could be identified without being observed by means of the senses. The conttraception way chastoty avoid Cartesian absurdity, therefore, as Anscombe sees it, is to deny that the first person singular refers to anything at all.


It is a word with a use but no reference. Failure to appreciate this grammatical feature, she holds, is what leads into the metaphysical mire of Descartes, Hume, and others who have speculated about the identity of the self. Like Wittgenstein, Anscombe was concerned about the culture around her. In this essay she rejects the then and perhaps still dominant view, which comes from Humethat the cause of some effect must either necessitate it or else be connected to it by some law.

She does not deny that events are caused, but she does want to insist that it is usually possible for things to go awry. Something might happen to spoil his plans. And what this something might be cannot be specified in advance or in general, because it might be all kinds of things. This means that any causal law linking a cause C with an effect E will have to be of the form: If C then E, other things being equal. Very often contraceotion things are not equal, which is why the movement of the planets is relatively easy to predict but the movements of animals, for instance, are impossible to predict.

The explosion would then be annd but not in a way that could, even in principle, be predicted.

Elizabeth Anscombe — Contraception and Chastity

Similarly, Anscombe argues, if I contract a disease after having been exposed to it, then it is easy to see what caused my getting sick.

But if all I knew was that I had been exposed to the disease then quite possibly no one would be able to tell whether I would become sick. It is much easier to trace an effect back to its cause than it is to read off the supposedly inevitable effects of any potential cause.

We can therefore know that one thing caused another without knowing any true law involving a necessary connection between events of one general type and events of another. It is sometimes said that one cannot observe causation, because we observe events but not the necessity with which we believe them to be connected.

Anscombe objects that we do observe drinking, vocalizing, cutting, and breaking, and that these all appear to be kinds of causation.

Anyone who denies this, Anscombe suggests, does so on the basis of a prejudice or philosophical theory about observation and causality. They do not, as they might think, believe in the theory because unbiased reflection on experience tells us that this kind of theory is true.

If every bit of human behavior were determined by causal laws, then it might seem that the difference between intended and unintended results of action could not possibly matter. For if determinism is true, some people think, then we are not free to act one way or another and assigning chastitg for actions makes no cnotraception.

In that case, it looks as though only consequences could matter. Anscombe rejects both determinism and consequentialism. Her book Intention aims to shed light on the concept of intention, and hence on intentional action, and the difference between intentional, rational action and non-rational behavior. Although not easy to understand, it has been enormously influential. Donald Davidsonfor instance, has called it the most important philosophical work on action since Aristotle.

All manner of movements occur in the world, but only some are counted as the behavior of agents. In turn, only some of this behavior is counted as action. For instance, I might toss and turn in my sleep, and this would normally be reckoned as human behavior, but no one would think to ask me why I rolled over at some particular time or twitched my leg just so.

In a sense these are not things that I did. My leg twitched, my body moved, but I really had no say in the matter and so would have no answer to a question about my reason for moving in these ways. I might be able to explain the cause, but I would be in no better a position than anyone else to do so, unless I happen to be some sort of expert on human physiology. Action is not like this: In asking such a question we are typically asking about their intention, that chasrity, what did they take themselves to be doing and what was their purpose in doing it.


In a sense, then, questions about intention are questions about the meaning of actions. This sets them apart from questions about causes, since I might not know what caused me to sleep so restlessly but I cannot be so ignorant of my intentions.

I could hypothesize that dehydration caused me to sleep badly, but if I get up to drink contradeption water then it is no hypothesis on my part that I am heading to the kitchen to get something to drink. Nor is it a prediction about what I expect to happen once I reach the kitchen. It is a statement of fact about what I am doing right now: Other descriptions of my behavior might be equally true. For instance, that I am putting one foot in front of the other, making the floorboards creak, and so on.

But the statement of my intention, of what I take myself to be doing, is likely to be the most illuminating for anyone who wants to understand what I am doing which is closely related to the question of why I am doing it.

If Anf am failing to achieve my goal it might be even more helpful to know what that goal was, since it will not be so clearly visible as it is in the cases in which I do achieve it. To see this point more clearly, imagine a climber who loses the will to live and so lets anscomve of the rock and falls to his death. This was intentional, an act of suicide. Now imagine that he simply loses his grip and falls.

This is unintentional and not suicide but a tragic accident. Now imagine that he has a momentary suicidal impulse. Shocked by this thought he loses concentration and lets go, falling to his death. This fall was caused by a thought of suicide, perhaps even by an intention to commit suicide, but it was an contracdption still, caused by a shock rather than carried out deliberately.

So intentional actions are not behavior caused by intentions. The intention is a part wnd an aspect of the act, not a prior event that causes it. An accidental fall will not be judged morally by anyone, but some people regard suicide as a sin. Similarly, in general, we tend to think of unintentional behavior as largely irrelevant to ethics, while intentional actions are precisely what ethics is often taken to be about.

This is one reason why it matters what intention is and how intentional actions are understood. Generally people act for reasons, and these reasons have to do with what seems good to the agents in question. Not everything that seems good really is good, of course, but not just anything can even seem good. His behavior is as unintelligible as it would have been if we had not been told his contracepyion.

So the behavior of our fellow human beings is only intelligible if we can and do relate it to a certain limited range of ideas about what might be regarded as good. We can see here some of the connection that Anscombe believes to exist between metaphysical questions and ethical ones. Perhaps this explains why intentions matter, but what are intentions?

G. E. M. Anscombe (1919—2001)

We might think of them as mental objects, states, or events that give rise to certain types of behavior, but Anscombe rejects this view. I might try to guess at or hypothesize about the intention that caused adn to do this or that, but perhaps only some kind of brain scan would ever settle the matter.

And perhaps we are wrong sometimes about our intentions, especially if we forget or have subconscious motivations. Nevertheless it seems implausible to suggest that contrwception do not normally know exactly what our intentions are.

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