Action v. Intentions

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"We are not, Hester, the worst sinners in the world. There is one worse than even the polluted priest! That old man's revenge has been blacker than my sin. He has violated, in cold blood, the sanctity of the human heart. Thou and I, never did so!" --- Arthur Dimmesdale, to Hester Pryne (179).

Alright, I'm willing to concede that Chillingworth is kinda creepy, and we know he isn't really Dimmesdale's friend, but fakes it. Still, I'm not seeing either of those things as quite as bad as cheating on someone. True, the intent is more sinister (as Dimmesdale says), but the effect of his vengence seems to be nonexistent, unless one inculdes the side-effect of prolonging Dimmesdale's life. In which case, the sum result of Chillingworth's "revenge" is positive. In all honesty, he has to be the most useless, ineffectual villian in the history of literature. In fact, I cordially invite all of my enemies to secretly hate me, while being outwardly nice to me and taking whatever measures they can to prolong my life. Next time I get a parking ticket, rather than making me pay it, I invite the courts to punish me by having someone pretend to be my friend and personal physician, while secretly despising me. 

Seriously though, unless Chillingworth murder's Dimmesdale's parents, cooks them into a batch of chili and then feeds it to him within the next few chapters, he'll still be at least the second most ineffectual villian in the history of fiction, next to Wile E. Coyote.

I guess I have trouble buying into the idea that intention matters more than action. As I recall, "The road to hell is paved with good intentions."  (Couldn't figure out who said it, but apparently it is often incorrectly attributed to Samuel Johnson, who said something similar) If hell isn't something tangible enough: good intentions, coupled with ill-considered actions have cost countless lives, and caused immense suffering (Just check out the western-world's involvement with Africa).

While not hurting someone when trying to is worse than not hurting them without trying, I still can't see any reason it should trump hurting people through lack of consideration. Chillingworth, is vindictive, but doesn't really do anything. Hester doesn't intend to hurt him, but does so by ignoring his feelings and hooking up with Dimmesdale anyway. Dimmesdale was never married to Chillingworth, so I guess his worse sin is pre-marital intercourse. Overall, actions are far more important than intentions, if a careful assesment of the actions leaves one with a tie, then intentions might matter...Dimmesdale's suggestion of this not being the case irked me enough that I had to stop reading and start blogging.

One further adendum: Intentions do matter when the results of the actions are determined by something that the actor had no control over, or something that the actor had no way of knowing. EX1: If you make someone cookies and it turns out they have an allergic reaction, (because you had no idea they had an allergy) it doesn't count as an assasination attempt. EX2: If you buy someone plane tickets to meet you in Las Vegas for an awesome weekend of debauchery and the plane crashes, its also not your fault (You had no control over that aspect of the situation).

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