Recall that I have just begun to call into question one of the reigning theses of our modern moral metaphysic. This is that the world, being broken, is in need of fixing. In the last post, I spoke of those who work (as it were) on the front end, believing that the world’s being broken means that anything could potentially go wrong. I then inquired into the kinds of dispositions that would be evident in the kinds of persons who believe this to be the case. Two important dispositions are those of the vigilant person–someone who is always on the lookout for what bad thing may occur–and the worrisome person.
Below, I discuss the connection between worry and the prospect of things potentially going wrong.
What is the nature of worry? We had better say that the worrier worries about something about the future. But what is this something? In actuality, it is an event or an episode. (I can’t worry about a bear, but I may worry about a bear’s tearing my head off.) So, worry has to do with an episode; that much is now clear. But not any old episode; it must, again, be an episode that could occur in the future. But not in any future but rather in one possible future state of affairs. So, worry has to do with some episode P occurring in some possible state of affairs X.
So far, so good.
But this is not the whole account of worry since it is not merely P’s occurring in some possible state of affairs X; it must be that P’s occurring taken to be a bad thing. So, worry has to do with the judgment that were P to occur in situation X, such an occurrence would be bad. But not bad in some respect or another but, as it is said, bad simpliciter (i.e., bad period, bad full stop).
Now we have: worry has to do with the claim that episode P’s occurring in state of affairs X would be taken to be bad.
But that doesn’t get us worry because P’s occurring is only possible. So, we would need for P to be so likely as to be nearly certain. Hence, worry has to do with (the claim to) near certainty.
But that still doesn’t get us to worry since (e.g.) the hero can act in order to avert disaster. Hence, the final piece: not being able to act in order to avert P. Thus, worry involves being unable to act in such a way that would avoid the near certain occurrence of P in state of affairs X on the understanding that this would be bad full stop.
One final step is necessary, though, because one might be watching a film and taking delight in this sort of scenario. One may not worry while watching this film; one may be on the edge of one’s seat. Thus, the final specification: ‘for me or mine.’
Hence, worry involves being unable to act in such a way that would avoid the near certain occurrence of P in state of affairs X with the understanding that this would be bad full stop for me or mine.
Clearly, the claim about worry is thus susceptible to three ripostes:
(i) that P is not near certain; it is but one possibility among others;
(ii) that P is not bad full stop; at most it may be bad in some respect or in one aspect or another or in some degree but not in toto;
(iii) that one can act so as to bring into being some other, better state of affairs (say, Y).
The three exercises one would perform, therefore, would be (i) logical, (ii) axiological, and (iii) ethical.