forum 11: week of 26 March - knowledge and accomplishment
The parallel might be wrong, spurious or misleading. One way to test its robustness is to push the analogy further. Where does it break? Are there analogs of Gettier cases for accomplishment? Yes, I think, and I can explain, but I'm bothered by more specific forms of the question: are there analogs of fake barn cases?
If Williamson is right about everyday explanation of action - and it is a controversial view - then something similar should be arguable for accomplishment. But is it?
hah: no replies (yet). Come to class and all will be explained.
I'm not sure if I understood the question correctly, but here's my attempt to answer it: I get the impression that one of the possible analogs of the fake barn cases has already been discussed in the paper. It's the killer flu case, where the subject has been planning to murder someone, but instead sneezes on them and ends up killing them this way instead of the initially intended method. This doesn't appear to be a genuine case of accomplishing accomplishment, because, while the intended result has been achieved, since it was achieved by means other than the ones planned in advance, it is not the case of AA, but seems to have been achieved with some element of luck.
I think that Williamson's argument is more satisfying when applied to accomplishment rather than knowledge. I'm not sure if I'm convinced that persistence could be part of the distinction between knowledge and something lesser like true belief. But classifying accomplishment with respect to persistence seems more plausible. For knowledge, I think it's more likely that the distinction comes earlier - possibly from the cause of the persistence (in other words how the knowledge was acquired).
A similarity I notice among accomplishment, and Williamson's explanation of our actions, is the role of stakes. It seems that the more difficult something is to accomplish, the more willing we are to call it an accomplishment. If accomplishing something will lead to something significant, such as a large cash prize, then we would consider achieving this to be an accomplishment. The same can be said for Williamson's example of the burglar; the burglar is willing to ransack the house if he knows that the diamond is somewhere in the house, but his strong desire to possess the diamond is necessary for him to search the house, knowledge alone would not be enough. In both cases it seems that one's motivation to achieve whatever is at stake plays a crucial role.
Three quotations from two individuals with accomplishment:  No bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country.
 Lead me, follow me, or get out of my way.
 and , General George S. Patton
 The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.
 Winston Churchill
The reference to accomplishment in the preceding quotations is DR. Morton’s paper titled Accomplishing Accomplishment, page two, last paragraph, on success: “I have in mind getting what you want because of your efforts.” To me, Patton and Churchill are strong examples of accomplishment by human effort. In the Hollywood film titled Patton, General Patton is portrayed as the only general the Nazis were afraid of. Patton successfully led the US Third Army across France in World War II, to attack Nazi forces. Churchill led Britain to fight the Nazis, no matter what happened. Churchill’s effort earned a year for the United States to prepare to enter WWII. Do the quotations of Patton and Churchill achieve philosophical knowledge, because of the accomplishments of Patton and Churchill.
It seems to me that, at any rate, all this talk of accomplishment seems to be a certain unspoken assumption of freewill. It seems somehow silly to suggest that anything could actually be accomplished without freewill, in that accomplishment seems different from a success event occurring. You have to mean it, and to have effectuated an outcome based on your intentions. What if your intentions are not your own, or at least pre-determined by causes and events before you were ever before? If that were true, does it still make sense to talk about accomplishments, aims, reality, desires in the way that we have used them in class? How are our desires different from a rock's desire to fall down a cliff, or from the universe's desire for max entropy and min enthalpy? Are those cases different? If so, how?
Your definition of accomplishment seems to be "An event that is the consequence of X's actions, where X is the one who accomplishes". With this definition X does not have to be aware of what they accomplish they just have to have be one of the reasons the even takes place. However, for X to accomplish their accomplishment they must actively strive for a certain event to take place and thus be the cause of that events existence. I feel like saying accomplishing an accomplishment is confusing, just like how saying knowing you know seems confusing. I would say directly accomplish and indirectly accomplish would better capture the meaning (if I even understand it). Once it is seen in those terms it seem clear to me that an indirect accomplishment is not really an accomplishment since you cannot take credit for its completion. If someone wildly throws a dart and it happens to hit a bulls-eye on a nearby wall people would pat her on the back for her luck, whereas if she had been practicing throwing darts all morning in order to accomplish the same thing purposely people would praise her for different her skill and effort. In this case the difference seems to be skill and effort, without which I do not believe you can call something an accomplishment. But maybe this is just turning into an argument about language and I'm missing the point...thoughts?
To consider an individual to be one who has accomplished something is to give them credit for it. The credit is due to the degree that they have moved beyond the influence of other persons or contextual influences on their claimed success.Only to that extent,which it seems to me would be difficult to estimate,could it be truly said to be an effort based on free will.Take the case of Churchill mentioned by Jim above for instance:His biographer William Manchester mentions a little known fact in "The Last Lion" (the official biog.) concerning Churchill's decision to oppose Hitler.A minor Soviet diplomat residing in England on the eve of Britain's involvement in hostilities approached Churchill and convinced the staunchly conservative Brit,who at one point referred to the Soviet Union as a "jewish empire,"to reconsider his neutral stance.Ultimately,as we now know,Sir Winston abandoned his neutrality and the rest,as they say,is history.The official(whose name,I'm embarrassed to say,I don't recall,and have so far failed to google)returned to the USSR a short time later and disappeared,a victim of Stalin's paranoia.By way of this example,I think it can be said that Churchill's accomplishment was,to some degree creditable to another,and was not therefore entirely of his own making.It was therefore a conditioned response to the problem before him,and was one to which he significantly contributed to solving.I used to get into some heated rows with a friend who was a great fan of the great man view of history,I would take great delight in pointing to Tolstoy's portrait of Napoleon in "War and Peace."Contrary to a portrayal of Napoleon as a great accomplisher,Tolstoy likens the conquering general to a chip of wood carried along on the great river of history,and further to this as a helpless prisoner of massive forces surrounding him and of which he is largely unaware.Indeed,Tolstoy presents him as the least free of individuals.This seems to connect with Quine's theory of established (i.e.locked-in)truths as those closest to the centre of an interlocking web of current opinions.Conversely,the'truths'most subject to change are at the outer edge where current experience is most directly or immediately encountered.In Tolstoy's great novel,the accomplishing heroes tend to be humble,almost comic figures who have no sure guides in their attempts to come up with solutions to perplexing,because novel,problems.In a word,they must innovate,thus accomplishing accomplishment.
Rob, Your reference to a minor Soviet diplomat is of interest. I have not read Manchester's book. The second edition appears to be dated 1988. Five Days in London May 1940, by historian John Lukacs, 236 pages, was printed 1999, Yale University Press. Lukacs calls himself an uncategorized historian, with one advantage over many British historians, Lukacs's familiarity with documents and other materials relating to Hitler, in this case especially in 1940. Any further information you can think of to relate Manchester's discussion of Churchill's decision to fight against Hitler's Nazi forces will be appreciated.
I agree that the difference seems to be skill and effort, without which I do not believe you can call something an accomplishment, at least in some cases. But how does this difference turn into an argument about language? And the element of luck is what makes something that seems like an accomplishment not an accomplishment. Or am I wrong about what makes something an accomplishment?
It is necessarily a discussion about language since a common understanding of the term itself,one we can agree on for the sake of discussion and clarity,is required.Luck,skill and effort are important ingredients of accomplishment, but another term needs to be added to complete that list:attribution.Accomplishment implies a claim,it is someone's accomplishment.This someone can be an individual or a group,but ownership is implied,because accomplishment is a particularizing and polar term and concept,further implying competition.Success is opposed to failure.This is also true of negative accomplishments,as in crimes,where blame is attributed to someone.Blame is placed on a designated accomplisher,just as credit is given in cases of positive attainment.These concepts are firmly established,even foundational,in our language and culture,to the degree that they function as unquestioned norms.Inflated claims of expertise and to celebrity on one side,or to scapegoating on the other,raise further questions around how we understand and then define personal identity,and whether reputation can really be regarded as a discrete,private property.We live in the culture of the signed work.Who accomplished the great cathedrals of the Middle Ages?Who accomplished the pyramids.Trout would undoubtedly credit the chrono-synclastic Infindibulum:-)
To me,in Dr. Morton’s paper titled Accomplishing Accomplishment, page two, last paragraph, on success, the definition “I have in mind getting what you want because of your efforts” has a clarity, and a concrete connotation. Brute effort. The online dictionary defines accomplish to succeed in doing, and Merriam-Webster, to bring about by effort.
Clearly when we say someone has accomplished something we mean that they intended to do such an such an act and that it was due to some action they took and not merely due to quiescence or chance. For example the case of the man trying to murder someone but doesn't get to do it the way they intended however the man dies due to catching the flue. So although the man had the intention and did the action the victim did not dye due to that action but rather due to a another cause which the murderer did not even intend to. So the question is did he accomplish the death of his victim? I think it is difficult to say that he didn't because although he did not achieve his desired result by the method which he took the results were achieved...the way to answer this question about accomplishments i think comes back to intention or action....which of the two matter. I would think that according to the criminal law it is intend that matters. if the man intended to murder and did but not due to his action would he be guilty of murder or not? And again that is hard to answer because if he intended to kill the man but the man died from some cause totally irrelevant to his action like a heart attach the next day maybe he would not be found guilty but if he died from a heart attach caused by fright i think he should be guilty. However I can see that although we can accomplish a desired result to say that you have accomplished an accomplishment seems to translate to you DOING something which has directly caused the result. So to AA you must have intent and also an action which directly leads to your result.
When we usually say accomplishment I think what we refer to is AA. AA seems to mean that you intended to do something a certain way the act is done with controlled orchestration. To just A seems to worry only about the consequence you attempt to bring about while AA focuses more on intention.