I watch chess videos on the internet. Yes, that makes me a super-nerd. But it also gives me a great example for explaining STA’s account of practical reasoning! See, it’s the medieval philosophy interest that saves me from being a real nerd…
When you watch certain chess instructors online, they are teaching a class at a chess center. Sometimes they have just a few players in attendance, other times many. The instructor will play through a game to teach a key theme or idea of chess.
Often in the course of these lectures the instructor will pause at a critical moment in the game and ask the students to answer basic chess questions. How do you assess this position? What are the advantages and disadvantages for each side? Most importantly, what is your plan?
There’s a funny moment in a lot of these classes where the students will shout out things like, “d5!” or “Nf3!” The GM instructor will laugh to himself a little and say, “No, I’m not talking about a move. What do we want to do here? What do we want to accomplish?”
While watching one of these videos where the students continued to give moves instead of plans, I realized we could map this perfectly to the account of practical reason given by Aquinas in ST I-II Q11-17. These kids (some quite a bit older than mere kids) were thinking in terms of moves instead of plans or, to put it another way, means instead of ends.
Actually they were thinking in terms of means with no end, which is pure gibberish. A means can only exist as the thing that moves me from where I am to the end I want to reach. Sure, in a game of chess you could name every legal move on the board and eventually, accidentally, hit upon the “right” move. But what is it that makes it the right move? Continue reading Chess and Practical Reason