Source: Think: A Compelling Introduction to Philosophy (1 ed, 1999) by Simon Blackburn

  [p 274:] Again, we here uncover a central cause of strife and misunderstanding. For communication is often a matter of addressing one another's concerns. This is not done if one side has a concern, and the other regards that concern just as a kind of problem or obstacle in itself -- something to be managed or cured. Suppose Annie is concerned about her career and self-development, and Bertie responds not by thinking about ways to nurture her career and self-development, but by thinking about ways to damp that concern. "Don't get upset, darling, you won't worry about that if we go out to dinner/hold my hand/have a baby. . ." The response is inappropriate in just the way that the punch in the stomach removing hunger was inappropriate. But it is probably not quite so OBVIOUS that it is inappropriate, at least not to Bertie, and probably not even if Annie walks out on him.

[1.] In terms I introduced in Chapter 3, we can put this by saying that Bertie has "objectified" Annie's concern, treating it ITSELF as the problem, rather than seeing what it was that concerned Annie.

[2.] But from Annie's perspective it is Annie's CAREER that is the problem, not Annie's concern with her career.

In so far as Bertie does not share that perspective, they are not on all fours.

[p 275:] The wife with the concern for her career, in the example above, might come to share her husband's perception that it is that ambition that is to be regarded as the problem, and seek with more enthusiasm to rid herself of it by other distractions. But then again she might not do this, and she might make a mistake if she does, for the concern may be more central to her identity than she has been led to think.

Please aid me to understand Blackburn's distinction of Annie's concerns.

  1. In 1, how is Bertie objectifying Annie's concern? Suppose that Bertie is ethical. Then Bertie's addressing Annie's concern implies his addressing the cause of Annie's concern; after suggesting dining out, he will ask Annie about, and so address, the cause of her concern.

  2. I do not comprehend the distinction between Annie's career vs Annie's concern with her career.

  • 1
    The question is really - "What does this particular passage from this particular book mean?" so I think it is off-topic
    – M. le Fou
    Feb 7, 2016 at 5:17
  • @M.leFou No; my questions challenge the passage.
    – user8572
    Feb 7, 2016 at 5:25
  • 1
    @M.leFou if it's a book by a philosopher, then an attempt to understand it is not off-topic (at least not on account of that)
    – virmaior
    Feb 7, 2016 at 12:11
  • @virmaoir I find that suprising. I don't think that a question like 'what does this mean?' can really have an answer.
    – M. le Fou
    Feb 7, 2016 at 13:32
  • 1
    I read it as closer to "how does this argument work?" But certainly the headline could be much more specific here
    – Joseph Weissman
    Feb 8, 2016 at 17:37

1 Answer 1


For 3: The cause of Annie's concern is not hunger nor lack of male companionship, etc. The cause of Annie's concern is her career and lack of self-development. Blackburn is portraying a situation in which Bertie is not interested in addressing those causes but is instead interested in distracting Annie from those causes with dinner/companionship/sex. Bertie's concern is not Annie's career but only that Annie is concerned (about something). That's apparently what Blackburn means by "objectifying" -- Annie's concern itself (not her career) is the (sole) object of Bertie's focus.

For 4: "Concern" is a very different thing certainly than "career". Presumably Annie sees her own concern not as a "problem" but as a first step toward a solution (of a "career problem"). But even if they are both "problems", they are certainly not "the same problem".

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