544R. H. B. W. Joseph to Harrod, 16 April 1936 [a]

Replies to a letter not found, follows on from 543 . Joseph is glad that Harrod gradually found more peace after his History Schools. [1] As to the dispute on "Utilitarianism Revised", to Joseph's urge that one can not measure quantities of ends Harrod replied that one "can sometime safely judge that A's desire for x is stronger than his desire for y, and may presume that A desires x more strongly than B does y." Joseph points out firstly that a desire is not an end, secondly that even if one could measure, or compare the strength of, this desire, one could not thereby measure, or compare the amounts of, the things desired, and thirdly that "to choose is not that a stronger desire prevails over a weaker" (with reference to Plato's argument in Republic IV about the contrariety of the locistikán & the Ëpihumgtikán [2] ). Joseph surmises that Harrod's argument presupposes the utilitarian assumption that one finds out what result of alternative possible actions would be best by finding out which would produce most pleasure, and recalls that when he used to "object to Marshall that he didn't and couldn't perform his calculus of pleasures, he used to say he must be able to, or he couldn't prefer this to that. But herein he begged the question." Finally, Joseph agrees with Harrod "that `it is nonsensical--& indeed derogatory--to seek a reason for being good'", but he does not agree that the last paragraph of Harrod's paper is unimportant to his position: "I think it's vital. It's the only place where you touch the question, why ought I to be maxpro?" Continues at 545 R.

  1. 1. Refers to a nervous breakdown of which Harrod suffered in his undergraduate years: see note 2 to letter 29 R.

    2. The difference between "what is rational in the soul" and the "appetitive" in book IV of Plato's Republic was discussed at length by Joseph in chapter III of Essays in Ancient and Modern Philosophy, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1935, in particular pp. 48-59.

    1. a. From 33, Northmoor Road, Oxford # , ALI, seven pages, in HPBL Add. 72730/44-47.


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