When Does Intent Cease To Matter?

Most philosophy of ethics views intentionality as key. Was the mental intention good or bad?

I have been thinking about this in the context of recent presidents. Trump almost certainly did not mean to give Israeli intelligence to Hezbollah (though it’s questionable how much of a pass he gets for his apparent intention being ‘show off to Russian officials in order to bolster self-esteem and impress Vladimir Putin’).

But I actually am thinking more about this in the context of George ‘Dubya’ Bush. One can feel almost nostalgic for Dubya while in the thrall of dangerous insecure man-child. At worst, one thinks, he was merely a well-meaning idiot. And didn’t he direct a lot of money towards fighting the spread HIV internationally?

It’s easy to forget all the terrible, ethical lapses of his presidency; of a war driven by Freudian conflicts vis-a-vis, his father.

But even if we accept the premise that he was well-meaning, at what point does intention not matter? Even if he did not intend so many deaths, so many maimings, so much destruction, so much lost, at what point does the water of consequences burst the dam of intention? When is ‘I meant well’ (truly stated) not enough to stave off sin?