Author Topic: your mustache might be evil  (Read 102371 times)

Classical_Liberal

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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #300 on: November 04, 2016, 12:08:52 PM »
That doesn't sound like maximizing altruism at all, it sounds like penance for its own sake.  The personal satisfaction or lack there of of the giver has exactly zero relevance to the benefit received by others.  If the goal is to maximize benifit, then there is a clear winner in the case where time is more efficient than money.  To do otherwise to try to somehow prove one isn't doing it for selfish reasons - well, I'm just at a loss here for what the psychological analysis of that would be.  Who care's what a person's "real" motivation is, or whether or not they are being a hypocrite, if they end up doing the right thing?

My comment was prefaced with the idea that IF the goal is altruism.  Altruism is not the same as maximum benefit. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/altruism Rather altruism is to do something without regard to self, or harmful to self, for the good of another.  I believe your argument to be valid if the goal is to maximize good.  Which lead to the thought, can altruism exist if one is trying merely to be altruistic.  IOW, doing something altruistic because I want to be altruistic is inherently self gratifying and not altruistic, whether that action is of maximum benefit is immaterial. 

Introspective examination is selfish, but for some (me, at least) it provides a personal moral framework to form future opinions and actions. One could argue that with such a framework established, one can consistently provide a higher level of functional utility and minimize the net negative effects of life.

I will admit, your analysis and use of the term "penance" struck an emotional accord as something that may motivate some actions.  Perhaps more selfish introspection is required?  Edit: How is the idea of penance any different than trying to live a low net negative life?

Of course, one of those subconscious, irrational, emotional things we humans are stuck with is an unhealthy obsession over other people's internal motivations.  Hence all of our fears about terrorists and kidnappers, yet relative lack of concern over car crashes which cause 1000s of times more deaths.  Why the difference?  One is "deliberate", and the other an "accident".  Somehow killing someone with a gun is terrible and reprehensible, but killing someone because you wanted to check your messages is just an unfortunate mistake.  But both were just as much someone's fault, in in both cases the family has just as much lost someone.

The reason humans have fear of terrorists & kidnappers, but are are fearless commuting in a motor vehicle has little to do with intentions. The average US commuter has driven hundreds of times while distracted, probably without harming anyone. While that same person goes home to watch the news every night to see yet another rehash of the most recent terrorist attack somewhere in the world.  This a combination of anecdotal and appeal to emotion fallacies, along with poor math skills.

I would argue that intentions are indeed important. In general, human societies and the law would agree.  Ignoring intentions completely will inherently lead to "the ends justifies the means" mindset.  It also leads to decreased utility. Humans are fallible and as intelligent animals have self preservation instincts.  As such, if society ignores intentions many will be less likely to take actions for fear of poor outcomes despite intentions.  Obvious examples include safe haven laws, good samaritan laws, medical tort limitations, etc.  When a good intention actor does not act due to fears of the outcome, the end result is the same paralysis experienced when attempting to choose the most efficient means of giving.

« Last Edit: November 04, 2016, 12:18:24 PM by Classical_Liberal »

Bakari

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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #301 on: November 04, 2016, 05:18:54 PM »
My comment was prefaced with the idea that IF the goal is altruism.  Altruism is not the same as maximum benefit. 
Fair enough.  My point is that maximum benefit is all that should reasonably matter in a discussion of ethics.




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Rather altruism is to do something without regard to self, or harmful to self, for the good of another.  I believe your argument to be valid if the goal is to maximize good.  Which lead to the thought, can altruism exist if one is trying merely to be altruistic.  IOW, doing something altruistic because I want to be altruistic is inherently self gratifying and not altruistic, whether that action is of maximum benefit is immaterial. 


I acknowledge your distinction, but even so, I don't see either definition implying that an act is any less altruistic because a person gains warm fuzzy feelings inside.
"feelings and behavior that show a desire to help other people" if anything implies just the opposite, that the warm fuzzy feeling itself is an inherent part of altruism.  " unselfish regard for or devotion to the welfare of others" likewise does not imply that one can not enjoy the process of helping others.
If you take the more technical, biological definition, "behavior by an animal that is not beneficial to or may be harmful to itself but that benefits others of its species" it is referring to harm and benefit in terms of survival and reproduction, not whether the worker ant feels fulfilled or self-actualized.   Incidentally, the idea hinges on the idea that the unit of evolution is the individual.  If, like Richard Dawkins, myself, and the majority of modern biologists, you acknowledge the unit of survival to be the gene, then the second definition of altruism doesn't even imply the first definition - helping your own species (family first, strangers last, and other less closely related species only if it isn't too much trouble) IS still being selfish.

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Introspective examination is selfish,
Not at all!  Selfish means that you think of yourself *to the exclusion* of others.  http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/selfish :)
No one else is harmed because of introspection, and there is no reason you could not help others before during or after doing it.
Merely doing something good for yourself is not intrinsically selfish.  Its doing things for your self at the expense of others that it.


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but for some (me, at least) it provides a personal moral framework to form future opinions and actions. One could argue that with such a framework established, one can consistently provide a higher level of functional utility and minimize the net negative effects of life.
I would make that very argument! :)
A person who has done their introspection has a better chance of managing their irrational emotions, and thereby preventing those emotions from controlling them, pushing them into things like group think or in-group loyalty (and it's necessary corollary xenophobia)

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I will admit, your analysis and use of the term "penance" struck an emotional accord as something that may motivate some actions.
I find this response amusing, because in my mind I was arguing against Herbert Derp's points, and in agreement with you!


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Edit: How is the idea of penance any different than trying to live a low net negative life?


I don't even see the connection.  Penance is about doing something deliberately negative to yourself to compensate for something bad you have done in the past.  My outlook on consumption is similar to MMMs: more of it usually doesn't lead to more happiness anyway, so it is pointless and wasteful.  I don't feel particularly deprived, just because I bike places instead of drive, or use less electricity and gas than the average American, or because my work truck is old and runs on vegetable oil.  I'm trying to avoid doing something wrong in the first place.  Driving a petroleum powered SUV to commute to a desk job every day, and then buying carbon credits at the end of the year, that is like penance.  I'm trying to live a life where I don't have anything I need to make up for.


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The reason humans have fear of terrorists & kidnappers, but are are fearless commuting in a motor vehicle has little to do with intentions. The average US commuter has driven hundreds of times while distracted, probably without harming anyone. While that same person goes home to watch the news every night to see yet another rehash of the most recent terrorist attack somewhere in the world.  This a combination of anecdotal and appeal to emotion fallacies, along with poor math skills.


I grant that the media is a factor.  In fact, a big one.  Maybe that was a poor example, for that reason.  Why should we care whether a person is an "egoist" or "altruist", by any definition, if the end result is them doing good?
The whole issue of "altruism" as being somehow less good if a person "enjoys" doing the good things is of course an excellent example of our irrational focus on other's internal state, but it was the one I was trying to draw the original analogy too...
Let me think...
Well, the difference in my example is not just on the fear level.  The people who cause the deaths are treated very differently by both society and the law.  The person who deliberately kills someone "on purpose" is removed from society and punished, while a person who kills someone "negligently" by drinking and driving has much smaller legal consequences, and the person who "accidentally" kills someone by speeding or texting may face a traffic infraction or even no consequences at all other than in insurance rate hike.
All 3 were 100% at fault, and responsible for a totally avoidable death.  Why shouldn't they all face the same consequences?
How about the difference between "flashing" and "nudism"?  The experience of the "viewer" is identical.  How can the intention - the internal state of the actor - change the effect on another person?  Yet we treat them differently. 

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I would argue that intentions are indeed important. In general, human societies and the law would agree.
lol, well of course they would!  They are both composed of individuals who have human minds, with all the irrational emotions and motivations we agreed exist before.  If every individual makes the same mistakes, then seeing it codified into law and culture is exactly what we should expect.  But if we instead use law and/or culture as our guiding principal for ethics... well, when and where do we look?  Should we take our slaves from the nations around us, or in battle take for our bride whom we see fit?  Is in unethical to be homosexual, or is it unethical to persecute people who are?


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Ignoring intentions completely will inherently lead to "the ends justifies the means" mindset.
That seems to be the exact opposite to me... a person's intention is generally the ends.  The thing you presumably want to avoid is people using unethical means to achieve a particular end, which is seen as justified because the ultimate intention was good.
I think the problem more with the ends justifies the means is that it almost always describes a circumstance where a particular end is focused on too narrowly to the exclusion of other, equally important, ends which the means will conflict with.  That is a whole different topic though.


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  It also leads to decreased utility.
In what context?


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Humans are fallible and as intelligent animals have self preservation instincts.  As such, if society ignores intentions many will be less likely to take actions for fear of poor outcomes despite intentions.  Obvious examples include safe haven laws, good samaritan laws, medical tort limitations, etc.  When a good intention actor does not act due to fears of the outcome, the end result is the same paralysis experienced when attempting to choose the most efficient means of giving.
I see your point here, but I think it is slightly different than what I was talking about.  I think its a different situation if the poor outcome was not reasonably foreseeable at all.  For example, the texting driver knew the risk existed, and decided to take it.  They didn't "deliberately" drive head-on into another car, but they also didn't try particularly hard not too.   


Ultimately, the person who has the skill to (for example) perform CPR and chooses not to because they don't want to be sued and the person who knows how but just doesn't feel like it both lead to the same (poor) outcome.  From the point of view of the dying person and their family, it doesn't matter what the reason is.


Now, if your talking about not punishing someone who was genuinely trying to help but ended up being responsible for a bad outcome, I'd agree with that, but I'm not sure what situation the same outcome without the good intention could come up in.  In which case, you aren't really comparing different intentions at all, its just another form of saying not to punish people for mistakes they could not have foreseen.
« Last Edit: November 11, 2016, 01:21:48 PM by Bakari »

Metric Mouse

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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #302 on: November 04, 2016, 07:41:17 PM »
.

Think of how many people that $4 latte goes to feed. Of course there's the employees of the coffee house. But, the employees of the factory that made the cup, lid, other accessories, sugar, milk, etc get fed. As do the employees who source and extract the raw materials to make the cup and lid and other items. If those are manufactured overseas, the families or the importer, steamship line and railroad get fed. What about the architects who designed the building or the laborers who installed and built the store, they all got fed as well. There are numerous people who get to eat because people are free to spend their $4 however they like.

And the poor farmers who grew the coffee!

But seriously; great points. Even when one 'wastes' their money, it could still be put to good use by many other persons.

Herbert Derp

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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #303 on: November 05, 2016, 06:38:34 AM »
You might like (and everyone who has a human brain should follow) my favorite blog-turned-podcast:
http://youarenotsosmart.com/

Do you have any recommendations from there that are relevant to this conversation? They have a lot of articles.

It is, not by coincidence, roughly correlated with the degree of genes you are likely to have in common.  This was of course much truer when we lived in groups of 100 or less, when our emotions formed.

...

Because it gives us the best chance of maximizing the survival of our own genes (in someone else's body) into the future - which in turn means the next generation is likely to have genes that make them want to do the same

...

Only if you assume that the internal feeling of empathy has any connection or relation to objective ethics, or that its purpose is to make us behave in a way that maximizes good for all sentient beings.  That was never evolution's goal though.  That is a rational goal came up with by conscious humans.
http://www.randomthoughts.fyi/2016/08/your-feelings-dont-determine-ethics.html

if the purpose of empathy is to motivate behavior that makes it more likely for your own genes to survive into the future, then it is actually quite rational.

Yes, I understand that there are scientific explanations for how we evolved our feelings. But I don't see how that matters to me in determining my moral or ethical values. Evolution is an amoral process which is outside of my control. Although it may have its own "reasons" for imbuing me with my feelings, there is no reason why I should give moral or ethical consideration to those reasons. It's like saying that we exist because of the sun, therefore we should base our ethics on nuclear fusion.

Probably not both.  However, it only becomes hypocritical if you make the assumption that knowing what is ethical implies what action one must take.  If one is not making the claim that everyone should maximize the happiness of all living things, than not doing so isn't really hypocritical.  It might be unethical - but maybe thats ok.  For that matter, maybe being somewhat hypocritical would be ok anyway.
Really, why should anyone care if someone is being hypocritical, if the actual actions they take are good.

...

2) Not being able to justify a decision based on a system of rational ethics isn't necessarily the same thing as hypocrisy.  That part only comes in when you add in the feeling of wanting to believe one's self to be perfect all the time in every way, including following one's own system of ethics.  Even that isn't so impossible though - suppose your "system of rational ethics" is something along the lines of "do not, by your direct actions, cause immediate harm to a specific human being, outside of self defense".  Or even simpler "God, Family, Country".  It isn't all that hard to live a life that allows you to follow those 100%, or nearly so.
Of course, personally, I would argue that those are moral structures, not ethical ones, they merely can appear to fill the role of ethics; my point is that they are rational and consistent.

In my opinion, the purpose of an ethical system is to tell you what actions to take. If that is not the case, why not just do whatever you feel like doing, because it seems to me that's what you were doing anyway?

And with regards to the second point, that's exactly what I did. I think that the only way that I can ascribe any moral or ethical value to objects and events in the external world is through my own feelings. So therefore, my "system of rational ethics" is merely to do whatever feels right.

1) I believe it is possible, however difficult, to become (more) aware of the decisions one makes due to irrational feelings, and choose to choose differently.
The podcast from my first link (and the blog and books from the same author)  takes one very far in that direction

One of your podcasts talks about the importance of feelings:
https://youarenotsosmart.com/2014/09/15/yanss-podcast-032-willpower-is-a-battery-that-must-be-recharged/

Logic and reason are simply a means by which you can figure out how to achieve an objective. They are not a reason or a motive for having the objective in the first place. In my opinion, all meaning in the world, and hence our personal objectives, is a direct result of our subjective feelings--not objective logic or reason. As the above podcast points out, without feelings it is basically impossible to even think, since without feelings you'd have no reason to think.

The article you mentioned ("Your feelings don't determine ethics") contained this quote: "Understanding that our feelings serve an evolutionary purpose merely suggests that our own emotions can not be trusted to reliably provide us with truly ethical conclusions."

I agree that our feelings are unreliable and may ultimately serve an outside purpose. But unfortunately those same feelings also appear to be the sole source of purpose and meaning in our lives. I refuse to be the pawn of some sort of lovecraftian evolutionary god. But that refusal--that sense of revulsion, indignation, and even horror--is also just another feeling. Did the god who created my feelings also decide that I should hate him? It's not outside the capacity of a blind idiot god like evolution to do something so nonsensical.
« Last Edit: November 05, 2016, 06:51:59 AM by Herbert Derp »

Bakari

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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #304 on: November 05, 2016, 10:05:28 AM »
Logic and reason are simply a means by which you can figure out how to achieve an objective. They are not a reason or a motive for having the objective in the first place...
The article you mentioned ("Your feelings don't determine ethics") contained this quote: "Understanding that our feelings serve an evolutionary purpose merely suggests that our own emotions can not be trusted to reliably provide us with truly ethical conclusions."I agree that our feelings are unreliable and may ultimately serve an outside purpose. But unfortunately those same feelings also appear to be the sole source of purpose and meaning in our lives.
hmm, well, fair point.  At the same time, I feel like it is possible to acknowledge that core truth and still make a conscious choice to not let individual feelings about individual choices guide actions when they conflict with my rational conclusions.
In other words, the feeling may be what guides me into even wanting to fulfill the goal of maximizing happiness/minimizing suffering, (they give me the objective), but logic and reason are the means by which I figure out how to achieve it. 

Actually, no, I think it is even more than that: the objective that feelings generates is just "be good". 
I think most people continue to use feelings to also interpret what being good actually mean.  But I think it is possible to have logic and reason step in a step sooner and interpret the meaning, as well as figuring out how to achieve it.


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I think that the only way that I can ascribe any moral or ethical value to objects and events in the external world is through my own feelings.


I think this is the major point where we differ, which is leading to everything else.
I understand that viewpoint, and it is very common, but I think it is entirely possible to give the happiness of others an ethical value without resorting to our own internal feelings
http://www.randomthoughts.fyi/2015/05/on-objective-basis-for-right-and-wrong.html
"the fact that any individual experiences something as "good" calls the concept of "goodness" into being... That which is good is that which, on balance, brings a positive amount of pleasant experience into being."






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You might like (and everyone who has a human brain should follow) my favorite blog-turned-podcast:
http://youarenotsosmart.com/

Do you have any recommendations from there that are relevant to this conversation? They have a lot of articles.
lol, no, not really, I just thought you might like it in general :-P
I feel like the overall idea that permeates all of it is relevant, but nothing is directly about the emotions around ethics

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Yes, I understand that there are scientific explanations for how we evolved our feelings. But I don't see how that matters to me in determining my moral or ethical values. Evolution is an amoral process which is outside of my control. Although it may have its own "reasons" for imbuing me with my feelings, there is no reason why I should give moral or ethical consideration to those reasons.  It's like saying that we exist because of the sun, therefore we should base our ethics on nuclear fusion.
Well, that was kind of my point in mentioning it.  If feelings developed by an amoral process, than there is no reason we should give ethical consideration to our feelings.


Take, for example, the human propensity to care about family first, then neighbors, and to consider people from other nations or other races as outsiders, and be relatively hostile or even violent to them.  This fits entirely with our natural emotions, and it "feels" entirely right, moral, ethical, to those who do it.  Over time much of humanity has come to the conclusion that those feelings are wrong (in both senses of the word) and we have chosen to override them as much as possible.

Herbert Derp

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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #305 on: November 05, 2016, 07:25:03 PM »
hmm, well, fair point.  At the same time, I feel like it is possible to acknowledge that core truth and still make a conscious choice to not let individual feelings about individual choices guide actions when they conflict with my rational conclusions.
In other words, the feeling may be what guides me into even wanting to fulfill the goal of maximizing happiness/minimizing suffering, (they give me the objective), but logic and reason are the means by which I figure out how to achieve it.

Actually, no, I think it is even more than that: the objective that feelings generates is just "be good". 
I think most people continue to use feelings to also interpret what being good actually mean.  But I think it is possible to have logic and reason step in a step sooner and interpret the meaning, as well as figuring out how to achieve it.

But there are many more feelings than just the desire to do good, and those feelings certainly do not generate the objective of being good. Take fear, sadness, envy, and anger, for example. What about the desire for the truth? What's true isn't necessarily what feels "good."

I think this is the major point where we differ, which is leading to everything else.
I understand that viewpoint, and it is very common, but I think it is entirely possible to give the happiness of others an ethical value without resorting to our own internal feelings
http://www.randomthoughts.fyi/2015/05/on-objective-basis-for-right-and-wrong.html
"the fact that any individual experiences something as "good" calls the concept of "goodness" into being... That which is good is that which, on balance, brings a positive amount of pleasant experience into being."

I read that, and it sounds like that guy is saying that utilitarianism provides an objective basis of right and wrong, i.e. "that which is good is that which, on balance, brings a positive amount of pleasant experience into being." I am pretty familiar with the idea of utilitarianism, and in my opinion it disintegrates into complete nonsense upon even the most cursory analysis. There are plenty of critiques of utilitarianism, and I don't feel the need to elaborate on them unless you want to dive deeper into the subject.

But I will examine the article that you provided--the author contradicts himself with his own words. See this passage:

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The problem is, we treat the term "moral" as though it were interchangeable with "ethical".

The root of moral is "mores" which refers specifically to cultural standards and expectations.
Obviously those will vary from one community to another, and over time.
So you can fairly claim that consensual sodomy or adultery are "immoral" in Saudi Arabia, but are perfectly moral in San Francisco.

It has become so common for the term "moral" to be used to mean "ethical" that dictionaries have accepted it as such.

But ethics are really something different entirely.  They deal with the abstract concepts of "right" and "wrong".  This is what my debate partner thought could not exist on its own - but of course, if it doesn't exist on it's own, then it can not exist at all (which is exactly what they were claiming).
There can be no "ethical relativism".

Here he defines the difference between morality and ethics by claiming that morality is related to the consensus of a group, but ethics are abstract, objective, and not related to the culture or opinions of a group of people.

Contrast this with the following passage:

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In order to return to an objective stand point, its necessary to step back from the individual doing the experiencing and look at every consciousness which the thing to be judged effects.  Weight the significance of each individual's experience by how much the thing effects them, and then sum up all the pluses and minuses.
That which is good is that which, on balance, brings a positive amount of pleasant experience into being.
That which is bad brings, overall, negative experience into being.

No external authority is necessary to dictate right and wrong.  Deliberate actions which bring negative experience into being  are wrong.

Here he claims that to return to an "objective" standpoint, you must sum up every individual's experience of the thing being judged, and the positivity or negativity of the summation determines whether the thing is ethically right or wrong. But doesn't this summation of individual experiences constitute a group consensus? He had just claimed in the prior passage that group consensuses vary from community to community and over time, and do not constitute objective ethics! If you take the same objective thing to be judged, and evaluate it according to his summation technique upon different groups of people in different time periods, you will get different results about what is ethically right or wrong. How could this possibly be said to constitute an objective answer to what is right or wrong?

Finally, there's this passage:

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It does not answer whether involuntary quarantine for an unconfirmed illness is ethical, or whether its better to kill and eat the weakest survivors while they still have enough flesh to eat so that the others can make it until rescue.  It's impossible to sum up all the positives and negatives involved in fighting WWII and come to a "right" answer as to when and whether various allied nations should have gotten involved.

But the thing is, the real world is really complex.
Having a bunch of easy answers just means you are cheating.  A complex world means there often aren't easy answers, and if we want to come as close as possible to being ethical, we have to be willing to accept that.

Here the author just gives up and sticks his head into the sand when he realizes that his utilitarian ideals result in conclusions that he finds to be distasteful. It's sad, really. This sort of distasteful result is what happens when you take utilitarianism to its logical conclusion, and I am disappointed that he refuses to acknowledge that.

See the film I, Robot for an example of a thought experiment where utilitarianism comes to a distasteful conclusion:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Np1A4AGpqSo

VIKI's logic was undeniable. But as an egoist, I find her conclusion to be unacceptable. Will Smith's character probably agreed, hence this bit of dialogue near the end:

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V.I.K.I.: You are making a mistake. My logic is undeniable.
Detective Del Spooner: You have so got to die.
[injects nanites into V.I.K.I]

Well, that was kind of my point in mentioning it.  If feelings developed by an amoral process, than there is no reason we should give ethical consideration to our feelings.

Take, for example, the human propensity to care about family first, then neighbors, and to consider people from other nations or other races as outsiders, and be relatively hostile or even violent to them.  This fits entirely with our natural emotions, and it "feels" entirely right, moral, ethical, to those who do it.  Over time much of humanity has come to the conclusion that those feelings are wrong (in both senses of the word) and we have chosen to override them as much as possible.

If anyone can come up with an acceptable objective system of ethics that allows us to overrule our feelings, I would love to believe in it. But as far as I can tell, subjective feelings are all we have.

There's one final point I'd like to make here. You say that much of humanity has decided that xenophobia is wrong. Why? I think it's because that portion of humanity has been exposed to more objective knowledge and facts due to our technological advancement in recent times. By being able to know more about the lives of outsiders, we are able to reject xenophobia by realizing that outsiders are similar to ourselves. But this sense of similarity or companionship with outsiders is nothing more than just another subjective feeling, and in this situation it has overpowered our simultaneously held and contradictory xenophobic feelings. Every decision we make is just feelings versus feelings, and each person, as the executor of their sovereign will, must weigh their feelings against each other and come to a conclusion.
« Last Edit: November 06, 2016, 06:03:50 AM by Herbert Derp »

Bakari

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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #306 on: November 06, 2016, 08:46:41 AM »
But there are many more feelings than just the desire to do good, and those feelings certainly do not generate the objective of being good. Take fear, sadness, envy, and anger, for example. What about the desire for the truth? What's true isn't necessarily what feels "good."
of course, I don't see how that contradicts my point.  If anything, it supports it!  I was merely acknowledging your previous comment "They are not a reason or a motive for having the objective in the first place..."

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I read that, and it sounds like that guy is saying that utilitarianism provides an objective basis of right and wrong, i.e. "that which is good is that which, on balance, brings a positive amount of pleasant experience into being." ...

Here he defines the difference between morality and ethics by claiming that morality is related to the consensus of a group, but ethics are abstract, objective, and not related to the culture or opinions of a group of people.

Contrast this with the following passage:

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In order to return to an objective stand point, its necessary to step back from the individual doing the experiencing and look at every consciousness which the thing to be judged effects.  Weight the significance of each individual's experience by how much the thing effects them, and then sum up all the pluses and minuses.
That which is good is that which, on balance, brings a positive amount of pleasant experience into being.
That which is bad brings, overall, negative experience into being.

No external authority is necessary to dictate right and wrong.  Deliberate actions which bring negative experience into being  are wrong.

Here he claims that to return to an "objective" standpoint, you must sum up every individual's experience of the thing being judged, and the positivity or negativity of the summation determines whether the thing is ethically right or wrong. But doesn't this summation of individual experiences constitute a group consensus?
No, not at all.  For one thing, consensus means everyone agrees.  For another, the summation isn't limited to any particular group, it extends to all people (or all sentient consciousness) that the thing in question has an impact on.




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He had just claimed in the prior passage that group consensuses vary from community to community and over time, and do not constitute objective ethics! If you take the same objective thing to be judged, and evaluate it according to his summation technique upon different groups of people
Apply it to ALL of the groups at once, even if their interests conflict.

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and in different time periods,
There is no intrinsic reason why something couldn't be bad overall in one time, and then later, when many other conditions and factors have changed, become bad.  For example, in a world with extremely few people, having lots of kids, who can help provide labor and ideas and create better living conditions for everyone is probably good.  In a world with more people than can be sustainably supported having lots of kids may be a bad thing.


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Finally, there's this passage:

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It does not answer whether involuntary quarantine for an unconfirmed illness is ethical, or whether its better to kill and eat the weakest survivors while they still have enough flesh to eat so that the others can make it until rescue.  It's impossible to sum up all the positives and negatives involved in fighting WWII and come to a "right" answer as to when and whether various allied nations should have gotten involved.

But the thing is, the real world is really complex.
Having a bunch of easy answers just means you are cheating.  A complex world means there often aren't easy answers, and if we want to come as close as possible to being ethical, we have to be willing to accept that.

Here the author just gives up and sticks his head into the sand when he realizes that his utilitarian ideals result in conclusions that he finds to be distasteful.
That has nothing to do with being distasteful or not (nor "giving up"). 
It is unclear what the summation comes out to when the same event effects one person very strongly negatively (like being imprisoned), and other people relatively mildly and/or there is only some small statistical chance that anyone will be effected at all (the general population being protected from possible exposure to a virus).

Or, in the second example, how can you definitely sum up the negative impact on the weak of being killed, vs the possibility that the action will help the others survive long enough to be rescued?  If rescue just happens to be in twenty minutes, then the weak were killed for nothing. If they aren't found for a year, then everyone died, and the weak were murdered prematurely for nothing.  So it is unclear what the "logical" answer is.
If you are talking about a more clear cut situation with a "distasteful" outcome (like the infamous 'push a fat guy on the tracks to stop the trolley from running over several other people' thought experiment), then I would agree with VIKI - the distasteful option that leads to less suffering overall is the correct choice.
However, the trolley thought experiment is ridiculously unrealistic, and the real world is rarely so clear-cut.




BTW, the author of the random thoughts blog is ME!!!!
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Herbert Derp

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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #307 on: November 06, 2016, 09:45:25 PM »
of course, I don't see how that contradicts my point.  If anything, it supports it!  I was merely acknowledging your previous comment "They are not a reason or a motive for having the objective in the first place..."

I apologize, I think I misinterpreted your post. You said:

Quote
Actually, no, I think it is even more than that: the objective that feelings generates is just "be good". 

I took that to mean that the overall objective of all of our feelings is just to "be good." But rereading your post, I think you meant to say "feeling" not "feelings." So you mean that you have the feeling or desire to do good, and you have constructed your rational system of ethics as a means to achieve the objective of this desire to do good?

If that's the case then I don't think we actually disagree about anything.

No, not at all.  For one thing, consensus means everyone agrees.  For another, the summation isn't limited to any particular group, it extends to all people (or all sentient consciousness) that the thing in question has an impact on.

...

Apply it to ALL of the groups at once, even if their interests conflict.

...

There is no intrinsic reason why something couldn't be bad overall in one time, and then later, when many other conditions and factors have changed, become bad.  For example, in a world with extremely few people, having lots of kids, who can help provide labor and ideas and create better living conditions for everyone is probably good.  In a world with more people than can be sustainably supported having lots of kids may be a bad thing.

...

That has nothing to do with being distasteful or not (nor "giving up"). 
It is unclear what the summation comes out to when the same event effects one person very strongly negatively (like being imprisoned), and other people relatively mildly and/or there is only some small statistical chance that anyone will be effected at all (the general population being protected from possible exposure to a virus).

Or, in the second example, how can you definitely sum up the negative impact on the weak of being killed, vs the possibility that the action will help the others survive long enough to be rescued?  If rescue just happens to be in twenty minutes, then the weak were killed for nothing. If they aren't found for a year, then everyone died, and the weak were murdered prematurely for nothing.  So it is unclear what the "logical" answer is.
If you are talking about a more clear cut situation with a "distasteful" outcome (like the infamous 'push a fat guy on the tracks to stop the trolley from running over several other people' thought experiment), then I would agree with VIKI - the distasteful option that leads to less suffering overall is the correct choice.
However, the trolley thought experiment is ridiculously unrealistic, and the real world is rarely so clear-cut.

What I am referring to when I say "group consensus" is the aggregate opinion of the group of people who are impacted by the event, which is what your summation is trying to measure. And although it may not be limited to any particular group, it is limited to the people that the thing impacts--and those people may all be racists, rapists, etc.

Let's do a couple of thought experiments. These are intended to be realistic, not silly scenarios involving groups of people wandering around on trolley tracks. Each scenario is intended to have a clear-cut answer within your proposed ethical system.

1. It's the year 1910. One black man walks into a high-class restaurant in the deep south. Upon seeing a black man enter the premises, the other (all white) people in the restaurant are all extremely offended by his presence for various reasons. Various people shout and jeer at the black man and force him to leave the premises. Everyone is upset about what happened. The people impacted by this event are the black man, 20 white patrons, the white restaurant owner, and his staff. I posit that the overall experience of this event was negative. Was it objectively ethically wrong for the black man to enter the premises?

2. It's the early 400's. Barbarians are moving through the Roman countryside, raiding and pillaging as they go. They come upon a small farm owned by a reclusive farmer and his family. They murder the farmer and his sons and then proceed to rape and murder his wife. After her family is murdered, there is not any other person alive who knows the wife. The barbarians are very fired up from a hard day of pillaging, and the rape is a great way for them to revel in another day of glorious victory and the death of their sworn enemies. The wife is extremely traumatized after seeing her family get murdered in front her eyes, and although the rape is very painful, her mind is mostly numb by now due to the extreme trauma and despair surrounding the current and preceding events. Through it all, she clings to the faint hope that soon this will all be over and she can join her family in the afterlife once the barbarians kill her. Two weeks later, the barbarians are cornered by the Roman army and put to the sword. Not one of them ever regrets any of what he had done, and in death they all agree that they have won eternal glory on the battlefield during their successful raiding campaign. The people impacted by this event (the rape) are one woman and 25 barbarians. I posit that the overall experience of this event was positive. Was it objectively ethically wrong for the 25 barbarians to rape the wife?

3. It's the year 2010. I am taking a university calculus test. I happen to be cheating, as I have written a bunch of formulas on the palm of my left hand. I finish the test, hand it in to the TA, and leave the room. Nobody sees that I was cheating. I get an A+ on the test, partially due to my cheating. I am very satisfied with these results. Six years later, I am proud that I cheated and was able to graduate with a very high GPA. The only person impacted by this event is me. I posit that the overall experience of this event was positive. Was it objectively ethically wrong for me to cheat?

4. It's the year 2010. I am taking a university calculus test. I happen to be cheating, as I have written a bunch of formulas on the palm of my left hand. I finish the test and hand it in to the TA. But as I do so, he notices the writing on my hand. For some reason, he has an intense hatred of academic cheaters and confronts me in front of the entire class. Many of my classmates are disgusted by my behavior, the others don't really care. I automatically fail the class and am put on academic probation. My father is outraged that the money he paid for those credits was wasted and forces me to pay for the class out of my own money when I retake it. I am miserable for months. Six years later, the event still haunts me. The people impacted by this event are me, the TA, 25 classmates, and my friends and family. I posit that the overall experience of this event was negative. Was it objectively ethically wrong for me to cheat?

The first two thought experiments show that your system produces distasteful results that appear to be indistinguishable from typical ethical relativism. The results, however distasteful, are solely based on the subjective experiences of those involved. Upon closer examination, even more disturbing implications arise. In the first scenario, everyone always loses. No matter what, when the black man walks into that resturant it's always going to produce an event that is "bad" overall. But I think that most people can agree that it shouldn't be ethically wrong for a black man to walk into a public resturant. In the second scenario, we come to the very disturbing realization that the "goodness" or "badness" of the rape depends on the relative sizes of the two parties involved. If there are two barbarians raping four women, it's pretty obvious that the rape is a "bad" event. But when 25 barbarians rape one woman, the rape could be computed as a "good" event. How can this possibly be acceptable?

The second two thought experiments show that your system can produce highly inconsistent results. Are you saying that cheating is only bad when you get caught? That the only way to know whether a choice is objectively ethically right or wrong is to wait until after the fact? But if that's the case, you can't even answer the basic ethical question of "should I cheat on this test?" because it is impossible to compute the outcome until after you've cheated. How does this constitute objective ethics?

Therefore, the system you are proposing just seems like a form of ethical relativism to me. I mean, if you add up a bunch of subjective experiences to produce an overall experience, isn't that overall experience still just the subjective experience of the group of people involved? Which is fine by me, I already believe in ethical relativism. But how can you say that your system constitutes objective ethics in light of the above four scenarios?

Are you saying that you believe in moral relativism, and that what is right and wrong depends on the people who are involved and the specific circumstances of the event? That "objective ethics" is just an objective series of logical steps by which you can compute whether something is right or wrong within the context of moral relativism? I wouldn't call that objective ethics. I'd just call it moral relativism which is thought about in a rational way.

BTW, the author of the random thoughts blog is ME!!!!
(note the link in my signature under my posts)
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Oh, wow. Sorry I didn't realize that!

P.S. I got a great laugh out of that Richard Kulisz guy and your response to him on your blog post. "I can't really tell if you are trolling me, or if you are actually insane." - ROFL
« Last Edit: November 07, 2016, 03:28:21 AM by Herbert Derp »

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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #308 on: November 07, 2016, 08:43:55 AM »
/\ I like your examples HD.
As ARS said we should start a new thread. I think I have a good title and opening post. refining a bit for maximum exposure.

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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #309 on: November 07, 2016, 08:52:08 AM »
Actually, no, I think it is even more than that: the objective that feelings generates is just "be good". 
I took that to mean that the overall objective of all of our feelings is just to "be good." But rereading your post, I think you meant to say "feeling" not "feelings." So you mean that you have the feeling or desire to do good, and you have constructed your rational system of ethics as a means to achieve the objective of this desire to do good?

If that's the case then I don't think we actually disagree about anything.
exactly. I see how I was unclear with my grammar.

Quote
No, not at all.  For one thing, consensus means everyone agrees.

What I am referring to when I say "group consensus" is the aggregate opinion
This is part of it: I'm not talking about their opinion so much as the effect on contentment vs suffering.  They don't always line up.
The racists makes a good example of that distinction...


Quote
1. It's the year 1910. One black man walks into a high-class restaurant in the deep south. Upon seeing a black man enter the premises, the other (all white) people in the restaurant are all extremely offended by his presence for various reasons. Various people shout and jeer at the black man and force him to leave the premises. Everyone is upset about what happened. The people impacted by this event are the black man, 20 white patrons, the white restaurant owner, and his staff. I posit that the overall experience of this event was negative. Was it objectively ethically wrong for the black man to enter the premises?
The actual event - man walks through door - does not directly impact any of the other patrons in any way.  Had they simply not looked up at the door upon hearing it open, and continued to eat their meals, the event could have happened with zero change in their lives.  It is their opinion that this is a bad thing in general, because it violates their moral code, but it does not actually negatively effect them.


Chances are pretty good that he knew what the results would be, and made a conscious choice to do it anyway, so I don't think it is a given that the overall impact on him is bad.  He likely already felt the negative social impacts of the shouting and jeering, just from living in that world, and having it be direct and tangible is only a mild change from normal.  At the same time, he may feel pride or accomplishment or just satisfaction in having caused a stir.  The event has more impact on him than on any other one person, so the net effect can be positive even if it wasn't one small part of social change.


If we were going to consider indirect emotional effects, then we also have to consider the impact of their reactions on every other Black person in the society, and in fact on every white person who feels any degree of stress or conflict about the societies racial tension.
If this restaurant walk-in ends up being (planned or not) a stimulus for change, the net impact may well be positive.




Quote
2. It's the early 400's. Barbarians are moving through the Roman countryside, raiding and pillaging as they go. They come upon a small farm owned by a reclusive farmer and his family. They murder the farmer and his sons and then proceed to rape and murder his wife. After her family is murdered, there is not any other person alive who knows the wife. The barbarians are very fired up from a hard day of pillaging, and the rape is a great way for them to revel in another day of glorious victory and the death of their sworn enemies. The wife is extremely traumatized after seeing her family get murdered in front her eyes, and although the rape is very painful, her mind is mostly numb by now due to the extreme trauma and despair surrounding the current and preceding events. Through it all, she clings to the faint hope that soon this will all be over and she can join her family in the afterlife once the barbarians kill her. Two weeks later, the barbarians are cornered by the Roman army and put to the sword. Not one of them ever regrets any of what he had done, and in death they all agree that they have won eternal glory on the battlefield during their successful raiding campaign. The people impacted by this event (the rape) are one woman and 25 barbarians. I posit that the overall experience of this event was positive. Was it objectively ethically wrong for the 25 barbarians to rape the wife?
How did the farmer and sons get left out of who this event impacted?  I find it is somewhat unlikely that the amount of joy produced by being accomplice to a murder and 1/25th of a rape will produce enough joy to balance out the impact of several people losing their lives completely plus the trauma and despair.  The fact that she becomes "numb" after the fact doesn't negate the trauma and despair that brought it on.  It is in fact evidence of how bad it was, and it in itself is a negative state. 

The impact of  one person not getting the car smogged is infinitesimally small, small enough to be totally negligible, and outweighed by the effect it has on you of cost and time.  But you can't ignore the context of the rest of the world, and the commutative effects of everyone else doing it.  The event to consider is auto pollution as a whole, the tragedy of the commons of breathable air, and that has a impact on everyone, more so than the individual impact on your money and time.  Similarly, the entire idea of pillaging is the event to consider.  The barbarians probably murdered and raped many others before and they all can reasonably considered a single extended "event" - which means the impact on everyone pillaged is relevant.


Quote
3. It's the year 2010. I am taking a university calculus test. I happen to be cheating, as I have written a bunch of formulas on the palm of my left hand. I finish the test, hand it in to the TA, and leave the room. Nobody sees that I was cheating. I get an A+ on the test, partially due to my cheating. I am very satisfied with these results. Six years later, I am proud that I cheated and was able to graduate with a very high GPA. The only person impacted by this event is me. I posit that the overall experience of this event was positive. Was it objectively ethically wrong for me to cheat?


Depends.  Do you go on to get a job as a floral arranger?  Or did you just cheat your way into a MD or law degree, and are going to go on to do work in which people depend on you and you aren't actually qualified?


Of course, on the broader scale, you have a very small, but not zero, negative impact on every student who takes the same test after you from now on, by slightly skewing the curve. Even if there is no official curve, how well people do impacts the instructors expectations, and how future tests are written.


And, maybe most important, how could you possibly have been sure that the events in (4) wouldn't have happened?  You can't.  So that possibility has to be taken into account.  Sometimes something which may not be intrinsically wrong has to be considered in the context of the society we live in and existing laws to figure out the likely impact.  So, for example, there may not be anything ethically wrong with walking around outside naked, the fact that it is considered morally wrong means we can predict certain outcomes that may make it better to not do it
(of course then there is the possibility that event is the stimulus for change, like in the first example, but then the oppression of having to wear clothes on a hot day is probably not as negative impact as the oppression due to racism).




Quote
4. It's the year 2010. I am taking a university calculus test. I happen to be cheating, as I have written a bunch of formulas on the palm of my left hand. I finish the test and hand it in to the TA. But as I do so, he notices the writing on my hand. For some reason, he has an intense hatred of academic cheaters and confronts me in front of the entire class. Many of my classmates are disgusted by my behavior, the others don't really care. I automatically fail the class and am put on academic probation. My father is outraged that the money he paid for those credits was wasted and forces me to pay for the class out of my own money when I retake it. I am miserable for months. Six years later, the event still haunts me. The people impacted by this event are me, the TA, 25 classmates, and my friends and family. I posit that the overall experience of this event was negative. Was it objectively ethically wrong for me to cheat?


This is why in the blog post I said the answers weren't always easy - because we can't predict the outcome in advance, we sometimes have to guess at what the overall impacts will be, and take statistics into account in deciding the best course of action.  How do you conclusively add up the tiny impact the whole thing has on all the future students who take the class, both those who hear about it and those who merely attend class with an instructor who was aware of it?


Quote

P.S. I got a great laugh out of that Richard Kulisz guy and your response to him on your blog post. "I can't really tell if you are trolling me, or if you are actually insane." - ROFL
lol, I totally forgot about that.


This whole conversation would probably be better suited to the comments there, we have gone quite off topic!


We need to find a good segue to tie it in with the morality of finances and giving and accumulating...
« Last Edit: November 07, 2016, 08:58:55 AM by Bakari »

Renegade23

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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #310 on: November 08, 2016, 02:12:03 PM »
I must be an evil dick, but I feel very little moral obligation to help other people with my money. If I choose to do so that's great, but life sucks and then you die. I'll take care of me and mine and let the world sort itself out. In the grand scheme of things are we all just flailing in the wind?

When I do eventually build my stache to the point that I feel able to be charitable I will be using Givewell to find where my limited resources would be most effective.

Bakari

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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #311 on: November 08, 2016, 03:47:30 PM »
I must be an evil dick, but I feel very little moral obligation to help other people with my money. If I choose to do so that's great, but life sucks and then you die. I'll take care of me and mine and let the world sort itself out. In the grand scheme of things are we all just flailing in the wind?

When I do eventually build my stache to the point that I feel able to be charitable I will be using Givewell to find where my limited resources would be most effective.


Assuming you really do reach that point, then it would mean you weren't the first part after all.
It is even more meaningful to give if you don't feel obligated to, yet choose to do it anyway.

Adram

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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #312 on: November 09, 2016, 05:41:28 AM »
I must be an evil dick, but I feel very little moral obligation to help other people with my money. If I choose to do so that's great, but life sucks and then you die. I'll take care of me and mine and let the world sort itself out. In the grand scheme of things are we all just flailing in the wind?

When I do eventually build my stache to the point that I feel able to be charitable I will be using Givewell to find where my limited resources would be most effective.

There's nothing evil,about choosing to use the money you worked for in the way you want, no matter what guilt trips some of the hand wringers and virtue signallers in this thread want to lay on you.

People used to tithe to the church and give to the poor because there was no government safety net back then. Nowadays the government takes 30% of what we make - that's our contribution to improving the lives of others.

While there is any risk that I or my family won't be secure in the future, I won't be giving my money away. As they say in the airline safety demonstration, ensure your mask is fitted correctly before helping others. Once we hit FI, I'll reassess.

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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #313 on: November 09, 2016, 06:19:30 AM »
While there is any risk that I or my family won't be secure in the future, I won't be giving my money away.

Securing your family's future is different than, say, spending as much on a meal as would feed a family for a month.

Just because you can classify some of your savings as moral, in your eyes, to secure your future, I think it'd be hard to argue all of your spending is put to the best use it can be.
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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #314 on: November 09, 2016, 11:36:26 PM »
It is even more meaningful to give if you don't feel obligated to, yet choose to do it anyway.

Not sure this is mathematically true, or even true to the person that receives the charity given, though I can see your point.  I figure a dollar's a dollar, whether it comes from a miser or a saint.

Herbert Derp

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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #315 on: November 10, 2016, 01:17:13 AM »
This is part of it: I'm not talking about their opinion so much as the effect on contentment vs suffering.  They don't always line up.
The racists makes a good example of that distinction...

Sorry, I tend to see feelings and opinions as interchangeable since both are subjective. But what I was referring to was feelings, and feelings are either positive or negative.

Also, as I stated before, opinions are merely the result of feelings, i.e. someone may have the opinion that snakes are bad because they have negative feelings about snakes.

The actual event - man walks through door - does not directly impact any of the other patrons in any way.  Had they simply not looked up at the door upon hearing it open, and continued to eat their meals, the event could have happened with zero change in their lives.  It is their opinion that this is a bad thing in general, because it violates their moral code, but it does not actually negatively effect them.

Chances are pretty good that he knew what the results would be, and made a conscious choice to do it anyway, so I don't think it is a given that the overall impact on him is bad.  He likely already felt the negative social impacts of the shouting and jeering, just from living in that world, and having it be direct and tangible is only a mild change from normal.  At the same time, he may feel pride or accomplishment or just satisfaction in having caused a stir.  The event has more impact on him than on any other one person, so the net effect can be positive even if it wasn't one small part of social change.

If we were going to consider indirect emotional effects, then we also have to consider the impact of their reactions on every other Black person in the society, and in fact on every white person who feels any degree of stress or conflict about the societies racial tension.
If this restaurant walk-in ends up being (planned or not) a stimulus for change, the net impact may well be positive.

I posit that this black man was not staging an act of civil disobedience, he merely chose to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

You make the claim:
Quote
It is their opinion that this is a bad thing in general, because it violates their moral code, but it does not actually negatively effect them.

I disagree. I think that the feelings associated with being offended count as a "negative experience." Also, having been bullied as a child, I very strongly believe that the feeling of being jeered at is also a "negative experience."

Suppose that you went to a memorial service for a black teenager who was murdered by the police and started loudly proclaiming your support for white supremacy. The people at the memorial service would have a very negative experience, even though you may believe that you are entitled to the right to exercise your free speech.

The question I am really trying to ask you here is: is it objectively ethically wrong to do something that offends other people? More often than not, nothing good can come out of offending people--not for you or the people you offend. There is usually not an overarching positive agenda for offending people--the act of civil disobedience is the exception, not the rule. So in most cases, not only do you hurt the people you offend, but you also hurt yourself if the offended party retaliates against you.

How did the farmer and sons get left out of who this event impacted?  I find it is somewhat unlikely that the amount of joy produced by being accomplice to a murder and 1/25th of a rape will produce enough joy to balance out the impact of several people losing their lives completely plus the trauma and despair.  The fact that she becomes "numb" after the fact doesn't negate the trauma and despair that brought it on.  It is in fact evidence of how bad it was, and it in itself is a negative state. 

The impact of  one person not getting the car smogged is infinitesimally small, small enough to be totally negligible, and outweighed by the effect it has on you of cost and time.  But you can't ignore the context of the rest of the world, and the commutative effects of everyone else doing it.  The event to consider is auto pollution as a whole, the tragedy of the commons of breathable air, and that has a impact on everyone, more so than the individual impact on your money and time.  Similarly, the entire idea of pillaging is the event to consider.  The barbarians probably murdered and raped many others before and they all can reasonably considered a single extended "event" - which means the impact on everyone pillaged is relevant.

First and foremost, ethics are about making decisions, and I see no reason why the ethics of each decision should not be computed independently. When should we tie the ethics of one decision to the ethics of another? I see nothing in your proposed ethical system that accounts for this.

Your system does account for the ethics of the decision of getting a smog system installed on your car--the positive experience of less smog in the air outweighs the negative experience of getting the system installed. I don't see how this equates to the decision of the barbarians committing the rape. Sure, you can say that the overall decision of the barbarians to pillage the farm was ethically wrong under your system, and I agree. But that wasn't my point.

I'm not saying that the barbarians were justified in pillaging the farm and murdering the family. Under your system, there is no question that the decisions to commit these acts were ethically wrong. But when isolated as a single decision, committing the rape could be seen to bring more positive experience into the world than not committing the rape. Do you disagree?

Look, all I'm trying to say here is that the doctrine of utilitarianism promotes distasteful decision making under many circumstances. I just chose to use rape as a provocative example to illustrate my point. Personally, I am disgusted by any system that claims that something so obviously distasteful to my sensibilities is ethically correct, and I would much rather follow my heart. Acting for the "greater good" is a lofty idea, but when taken to the extreme it will result in cold and heartless decision making. I can think of various scenarios where rape is justified for the "greater good," but I flat out reject the notion that rape is objectively ethically justifiable.

I think you actually agree with me on this point about utilitarianism leading to distasteful solutions. You admitted earlier that you would side with VIKI and choose the distasteful utilitarian solution to world peace. One of the main reasons that I prefer the doctrine of ethical egoism over utilitarianism is because by definition, ethical egoism means that you always choose the least distasteful course of action when making a decision.

Depends.  Do you go on to get a job as a floral arranger?  Or did you just cheat your way into a MD or law degree, and are going to go on to do work in which people depend on you and you aren't actually qualified?

Of course, on the broader scale, you have a very small, but not zero, negative impact on every student who takes the same test after you from now on, by slightly skewing the curve. Even if there is no official curve, how well people do impacts the instructors expectations, and how future tests are written.

The last time I used calculus was in that class, so no, my potential lack of calculus skills has not hurt anyone else down the line. If I hadn't cheated, I could still have gotten an A+. I just would have had to spend more time memorizing pointless formulas. All I did was free up that time so that I could do something more enjoyable like playing video games.

And, maybe most important, how could you possibly have been sure that the events in (4) wouldn't have happened?  You can't.  So that possibility has to be taken into account.

This is why in the blog post I said the answers weren't always easy - because we can't predict the outcome in advance, we sometimes have to guess at what the overall impacts will be, and take statistics into account in deciding the best course of action.  How do you conclusively add up the tiny impact the whole thing has on all the future students who take the class, both those who hear about it and those who merely attend class with an instructor who was aware of it?

So you admit that your system fails when dealing with decisions that have an uncertain outcome, even if all possible outcomes of the situation are clear-cut in terms of their positive or negative impact. Which I admit was one of the points that you made in your original blog post. All I'm trying to say here is that your system fails to produce a simple answer for a basic ethical question such as "should I cheat on this test?"

When we are making decisions on the fly we simply do not have time to guess at what the overall impacts will be for all probable outcomes and take statistics into account in deciding the best course of action. That's not how humans think--we go with our gut feeling--and going with your gut feeling or doing what feels right is just egoism. When you look at it this way, you see that no matter how lofty your ideals, due to the limitations of the human mind all of your decision making boils down to your own subjective opinion about what feels like the right choice.

In my opinion, the idea of objective ethics is merely a lie intended to deceive us of our own human nature. If nothing else, I'm a realist, and I don't see the point in wasting my time trying to become something which I cannot become. All I've done is remove from my decision making process all the artificial, unnecessary, and overly complex ethical systems which try as we may, do not produce acceptable answers in all scenarios, nor account for actual observable human behavior.

This whole conversation would probably be better suited to the comments there, we have gone quite off topic!

We need to find a good segue to tie it in with the morality of finances and giving and accumulating...

If that guy ever creates the other thread, I might post in it. But honestly, at this point I think I'm pretty close to having said everything I want to say. I think this discussion is absolutely relevant to the overall conversation about altruism, because in order to agree that there is an objective ethical imperative to altruism then we must first agree on a system of objective ethics.

My overarching point is that I embrace the human condition and accept myself for what I am. I acknowledge that altruism can be a very satisfying and emotionally rewarding experience, and for that reason I practice it. However, I reject the notion that there is any such thing as objective ethics, and therefore also reject any directives imposed on me where the sole basis is to satisfy objective ethics--which is why I reject the ethical imperative to altruism.
« Last Edit: November 10, 2016, 01:41:46 AM by Herbert Derp »

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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #316 on: November 10, 2016, 10:00:24 AM »
Also, as I stated before, opinions are merely the result of feelings, i.e. someone may have the opinion that snakes are bad because they have negative feelings about snakes.
For some.  Many others are more complex, and also have thoughts, which are sometimes contrary to gut feeling.

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It is their opinion that this is a bad thing in general, because it violates their moral code, but it does not actually negatively effect them.

I disagree. I think that the feelings associated with being offended count as a "negative experience."
The event itself isn't what is fundamentally causing those feelings though.  Again, you are trying to take one thing in isolation which would not exist independent of many other inseparably connected things.  The negative feelings in this case are caused by particular social rules that they have been taught, which are by no means universal.  I think we are in agreement that those social rules themselves are unethical.  It makes no sense to judge one specific action as ethical or not based on its conformity to an unethical baseline.

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First and foremost, ethics are about making decisions, and I see no reason why the ethics of each decision should not be computed independently. When should we tie the ethics of one decision to the ethics of another? I see nothing in your proposed ethical system that accounts for this.
Because the events are in the real world connected to each other.  They don't happen in isolation, so why would we even consider judging them that way.  In your example, the rape would not have happened without the pillaging.  The loss of her family that supposedly tilted the scales of utility was part of a single continuous event.  The same people made all of the decisions.  Trying to compute things independently which are in reality dependent is just another version of the people on the trolley tracks argument, using examples disconnected from how the real world works, to try to show a logical flaw that isn't there.


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Your system does account for the ethics of the decision of getting a smog system installed on your car--the positive experience of less smog in the air outweighs the negative experience of getting the system installed.

The impact of any one car being smogged has next to no effect on air quality.  It is only in aggregate that there is any significant difference. 


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Sure, you can say that the overall decision of the barbarians to pillage the farm was ethically wrong under your system, and I agree. But that wasn't my point.

I'm not saying that the barbarians were justified in pillaging the farm and murdering the family. Under your system, there is no question that the decisions to commit these acts were ethically wrong. But when isolated as a single decision, committing the rape could be seen to bring more positive experience into the world than not committing the rape. Do you disagree?
Again, like in the first example, this is attempting to justify the ethics of a "single decision" which is intrinsically part of a larger set of decisions, using an already admittedly unethical baseline as the framework in which to judge that decision.
This makes no sense.  Even from a strictly logical standpoint, it makes no sense.  Take something objective like physics, you can't treat a single event as independent if it is in reality tied to other things.  You will never be able to land a person on the mars if you assume that the only variable is the spin of the Earth, and so ensure you'll make it during Earth's early evening.  It is also moving.  And they are both moving around the sun, at different rates.  It is all one single system, where every part affects all the other parts.

Sure, it would be nice if we could pretend everything is separate, because it would make things easier, but then we come to wrong conclusions.


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Look, all I'm trying to say here is that the doctrine of utilitarianism promotes distasteful decision making under many circumstances.
People's taste varies.  That is inherent in the meaning of the word.  In all of you examples, some person found the situation in question entirely tasteful, while someone else found it distasteful.  Yet you keep speaking of "distasteful" like it were some objective, factual quality.  Anytime there is moral disagreement - and there are relatively few things on which there is none - then people are disagreeing on what constitutes "distasteful".
That's the problem with resorting to feelings - then (to the patrons) the Black man walking into the place really was unethical, while (to the Barbarians) the rape - and the entire murder and pillaging - was entirely ethical.  To the student the cheating was ethical, but to the classmates it was unethical.  If any one event can have infinite meanings based on who is looking at it, then why even have a concept of "ethical" in the first place?  Just do what you feel, and leave it at that, but nothing is ever good or bad, and the very concept of "ethically justifiable" is simply meaningless.


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I just chose to use rape as a provocative example to illustrate my point. Personally, I am disgusted by any system that claims that something so obviously distasteful to my sensibilities is ethically correct, and I would much rather follow my heart.
Exactly why I reject your system.  The Barbarians followed their hearts - their victims were not of their own tribe, they were other's, outsider, likely deserving of their fate for their societies past slights; even the bible says that the rules of ethics change when you are dealing with outsiders: "Both your male and female slaves, whom you shall have, shall be of the nations that are round about you" Leviticus 25:44
"When you go to war against your enemies and the Lord your God delivers them into your hands and you take captives, if you notice among the captives a beautiful woman and are attracted to her, you may take her as your wife" Deuteronomy 21:10

You seem to be assuming that your own personal sensibilities are universal.  They aren't.  Under your system, the things you find distasteful are most assuredly ethical.   
The only way to avoid this is to have a single objective reference point, that doesn't change depending on any particular person's feelings or beliefs or assumptions.


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I think you actually agree with me on this point about utilitarianism leading to distasteful solutions. You admitted earlier that you would side with VIKI and choose the distasteful utilitarian solution to world peace. One of the main reasons that I prefer the doctrine of ethical egoism over utilitarianism is because by definition, ethical egoism means that you always choose the least distasteful course of action when making a decision.
Well, I was using your words for the sake of communication.  I didn't mean to say I agreed on what I found to be the least distasteful option.
I've actually never seen or read I Robot, but if I can guess the scenario correctly, I would actually say I feel it is overwhelmingly more "distasteful" to have millions of people suffer and die rather than kill one individual.  Sort of like the classic time travel thought experiment - obviously in the more immediate sense it will feel more distasteful to have to be the one to stab infant Hitler in his cute little baby chest, but that is only because you personally aren't faced with watching each Jew, homosexual, and allied soldier die one by one.  Looking at the big picture, I definitely feel it is more distasteful to NOT kill the baby.


When we watched Buffy, me and my wife were both passionately in agreement: Dawn is the key.  The sacrifice of the key is the only thing that will stop the entire world from turning into literal hell.  Push Dawn into the f-ing portal already.  But no, that's too distasteful for Buffy - her feelings tell her she can't possibly kill her own sister.  Well, if everyone in the entire world dies a slow tortuous death, that is going to INCLUDE Dawn as well, so you aren't saving her, you aren't protecting her, you are just delaying her death a few hours, yet you could save literally everyone else in the world.

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And, maybe most important, how could you possibly have been sure that the events in (4) wouldn't have happened?  You can't.  So that possibility has to be taken into account.

This is why in the blog post I said the answers weren't always easy - because we can't predict the outcome in advance, we sometimes have to guess at what the overall impacts will be, and take statistics into account in deciding the best course of action.  How do you conclusively add up the tiny impact the whole thing has on all the future students who take the class, both those who hear about it and those who merely attend class with an instructor who was aware of it?

So you admit that your system fails


No, I didn't say it "fails".
The real world is complicated.  We can't predict the weather, or the stock market, or earthquakes or many other complex systems with absolute certainty.  That doesn't mean that our models of how these things work are wrong, or "failures".  It just means reality is complex, and as individuals we can't always know every related variable. Pretending that there is some alternate system that can make 100% accurate conclusions 100% of the time is simply false and dishonest, whether we are talking a snake oil earthquake predictor, a sure fire guaranteed way to beat the stock market average with no risk, or a way to always know what is the "right" answer in ethical questions.
The easy answers are appealing, but they are often going to be wrong.


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All I'm trying to say here is that your system fails to produce a simple answer for a basic ethical question such as "should I cheat on this test?"
Well, yes, this is true.  Because there aren't "simple" answers.  Would you take a ride to Mars on a rocket trajectory designed by NASA scientists whose goal was a "simple" answer?


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When we are making decisions on the fly we simply do not have time to guess at what the overall impacts will be for all probable outcomes and take statistics into account in deciding the best course of action.
True.  Sometimes we don't have the time or luxury.  Sometimes we are blinded by personal factors that lead us to rationalize a decision we want to take which upon deeper analysis might be wrong.
We can see this all the time in non-ethical questions, like financial decisions, or phobias, or concern of social standing.  See Dan Ariely's Predictably Irrational, or Malcom Gladwell's Blink, or David McCrany's "You Are Not So Smart".
Sometimes it is unavoidable, because of time, but sometimes we just don't take the time to look deeper than our gut reactions because we don't know any better, or because of laziness, or because we want to hold on to some core beliefs or value taught to us at a young age.
Hence the racists who believe it is unethical for Black patrons to eat near them.  They are using your system of ethics - going on their own strongly held feelings.  Even though they have plenty of time to.


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That's not how humans think
For the most part, sure.  But
A) we are capable of reasoning, whether or not we choose to use it, and
B) the fact that people do something by default hardly makes it more likely to be ethical.


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This whole conversation would probably be better suited to the comments there, we have gone quite off topic!

We need to find a good segue to tie it in with the morality of finances and giving and accumulating...

I think this discussion is absolutely relevant to the overall conversation about altruism, because in order to agree that there is an objective ethical imperative to altruism then we must first agree on a system of objective ethics.


Excellent point! :)
« Last Edit: November 10, 2016, 05:55:22 PM by Bakari »

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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #317 on: November 10, 2016, 05:54:30 PM »
I should never reply right away - I always come up with better examples on my way to work :P

First lets take a question which is not ethical in nature:

"Is it good for me to eat (__fill in the blank___) ?"

Suppose you pose this question to a nutritionist.

They will most likely ask you a whole lot of questions: how old are you, what is your current weight and bodyfat percentage, what is your activity level, and how much protein and fiber and saturated and unsaturated fats do you eat each day?  What are your weight loss or athletic goals?  What is your daily calorie intake?  What food allergies do you have?

And you come back with "I just want a simple answer: is this good for me or not?"

Well, we understand that you want a simple answer.  But, since biology is incredibly complex, you aren't going to get accurate answers if you insist they be easy.
The fact that the nutritionist can not give you a "simple" answer, but instead needs to consider and evaluate many things, in no way invalidates nutrition science.

And obviously what the vast majority of people will do, the vast majority of the time, is just go on their feeling - those feelings in turn being based on a combination of instincts that tie certain smells to huger and appetite, and an ingrained memory of what they ate during childhood.

The majority of the time, those two methods - reason and emotion - will come to similar results: both will tell you not to drink bleach or eat asphalt.  Both will tell you to eat fruits.

But the fact that most people never consult a nutritionist, and nobody does before every meal plan, also does not invalidate the accuracy of nutrition science.

Being "simple", and being in line with what most people do most of the time, were never the topic at hand.


Now lets apply the same to an ethical question:

Sticking a sharp needle into the arm of a young child.
This results in the child feeling sharp pain, which they don't expect and don't understand and haven't done anything to deserve.
If the person who does the stabbing is like most normal people, they are going to feel bad for causing this cute little kid to feel pain and start crying.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems like by your reasoning this is an unethical act.

I say we have to take a step back and look at the entire picture.  This is not an isolated independent event, so there is no reason to pretend it is. 
So lets consider the vaccine in that needle...
Well, before vaccines, very few diseases had a more than 50% mortality rate.  Which means more likely than not, the kid wasn't going to catch it anyway.  But the consequences if they did would be much worse than the temporary pain of the shot.  A 20% chance of a terrible painful death outweighs the 100% chance of a hurt arm. 
Step back even further: disease transmission depends on a certain percentage of a population being susceptible.  If enough people are vaccinated than any one person can forgo it and still not catch it, because there is no one to catch it from.  But this kid IS one part of the population, so by vaccinating the child you are slightly decreasing the risk of every other person they ever interact with.

You want to disregard statistical analysis and probabilities, disregard the larger social context events occur in, disregard even the local immediate context surrounding the event itself, and go purely off of gut feelings.

So is it unethical to give a child a shot?

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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #318 on: November 11, 2016, 09:55:41 AM »

What can happen when we go with the easy route of emotion based ethics and avoiding "distasteful" actions vs considering the big picture impact and acting on reason:


http://www.popsci.com/can-classic-thought-experiment-explain-trumps-win

Herbert Derp

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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #319 on: November 13, 2016, 04:50:56 AM »
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I disagree. I think that the feelings associated with being offended count as a "negative experience."
The event itself isn't what is fundamentally causing those feelings though.  Again, you are trying to take one thing in isolation which would not exist independent of many other inseparably connected things.  The negative feelings in this case are caused by particular social rules that they have been taught, which are by no means universal.  I think we are in agreement that those social rules themselves are unethical.  It makes no sense to judge one specific action as ethical or not based on its conformity to an unethical baseline.

Are you saying that any feelings that are "learned" are excluded from your ethical system? Or just feelings which were "learned" from something that is deemed unethical? I see no reason why this is necessary and think this greatly complicates your system. Negative feelings are negative feelings. Why should the source be important? Remember our conversation on evolution and how it relates to feelings.

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First and foremost, ethics are about making decisions, and I see no reason why the ethics of each decision should not be computed independently. When should we tie the ethics of one decision to the ethics of another? I see nothing in your proposed ethical system that accounts for this.
Because the events are in the real world connected to each other.  They don't happen in isolation, so why would we even consider judging them that way.  In your example, the rape would not have happened without the pillaging.  The loss of her family that supposedly tilted the scales of utility was part of a single continuous event.  The same people made all of the decisions.  Trying to compute things independently which are in reality dependent is just another version of the people on the trolley tracks argument, using examples disconnected from how the real world works, to try to show a logical flaw that isn't there.

...

Again, like in the first example, this is attempting to justify the ethics of a "single decision" which is intrinsically part of a larger set of decisions, using an already admittedly unethical baseline as the framework in which to judge that decision.
This makes no sense.  Even from a strictly logical standpoint, it makes no sense.  Take something objective like physics, you can't treat a single event as independent if it is in reality tied to other things.  You will never be able to land a person on the mars if you assume that the only variable is the spin of the Earth, and so ensure you'll make it during Earth's early evening.  It is also moving.  And they are both moving around the sun, at different rates.  It is all one single system, where every part affects all the other parts.

Sure, it would be nice if we could pretend everything is separate, because it would make things easier, but then we come to wrong conclusions.

I disagree, precisely because events in the real world are connected to each other. They are connected so much that you will become hopelessly entangled in a series of cause and effect if you try to bind multiple series of decisions together. Suppose that I commit some crime and end up in prison. Are all my decisions while I'm in jail now bound to the ethics of the decision that put me there? What if that decision was tied to some other decision which was tied to yet another decision, etc, etc? I can trace any decision I make back to the decision my parents made when they decided to have sex. How do you define what constitutes a single event? What if the event contains multiple decisions made independently from multiple people? Do the ethics of other people's decisions affect the ethics of my decisions?

I do not believe it is possible to come up with a consistent way to bind multiple decisions together into an event, nor do I see any reason why each decision shouldn't be considered separately. Under your system, considering decisions separately does not absolve anyone of unethical behavior. Letting the barbarians off the hook for the rape does not let them off the hook for their other decisions. They are still guilty of unethical behavior--just not for the rape.

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Your system does account for the ethics of the decision of getting a smog system installed on your car--the positive experience of less smog in the air outweighs the negative experience of getting the system installed.

The impact of any one car being smogged has next to no effect on air quality.  It is only in aggregate that there is any significant difference.

I still don't see how this changes anything. Under your system, if you take all the small positives of less smog from your car alone and add them up for every person in the city, then it should in theory be greater than the negative of your work on the car. Otherwise it could not be considered ethical under your system, since the negatives would still outweigh the positives even once all the smog and all the cars were taken into account.

Exactly why I reject your system.  The Barbarians followed their hearts - their victims were not of their own tribe, they were other's, outsider, likely deserving of their fate for their societies past slights; even the bible says that the rules of ethics change when you are dealing with outsiders: "Both your male and female slaves, whom you shall have, shall be of the nations that are round about you" Leviticus 25:44
"When you go to war against your enemies and the Lord your God delivers them into your hands and you take captives, if you notice among the captives a beautiful woman and are attracted to her, you may take her as your wife" Deuteronomy 21:10

You seem to be assuming that your own personal sensibilities are universal.  They aren't.  Under your system, the things you find distasteful are most assuredly ethical.   
The only way to avoid this is to have a single objective reference point, that doesn't change depending on any particular person's feelings or beliefs or assumptions.

I make no assumption that my personal sensibilities are universal, nor am I proposing an objective system of universal ethics. I make decisions from the basis of my point of view, such that I can achieve the outcome which in my opinion is the least distasteful. If I was someone else, I would make different choices. I acknowledge and accept the reality that other people may make choices that are different from my own.

I should never reply right away - I always come up with better examples on my way to work :P

First lets take a question which is not ethical in nature:

"Is it good for me to eat (__fill in the blank___) ?"

Suppose you pose this question to a nutritionist.

They will most likely ask you a whole lot of questions: how old are you, what is your current weight and bodyfat percentage, what is your activity level, and how much protein and fiber and saturated and unsaturated fats do you eat each day?  What are your weight loss or athletic goals?  What is your daily calorie intake?  What food allergies do you have?

And you come back with "I just want a simple answer: is this good for me or not?"

Well, we understand that you want a simple answer.  But, since biology is incredibly complex, you aren't going to get accurate answers if you insist they be easy.
The fact that the nutritionist can not give you a "simple" answer, but instead needs to consider and evaluate many things, in no way invalidates nutrition science.

And obviously what the vast majority of people will do, the vast majority of the time, is just go on their feeling - those feelings in turn being based on a combination of instincts that tie certain smells to huger and appetite, and an ingrained memory of what they ate during childhood.

The majority of the time, those two methods - reason and emotion - will come to similar results: both will tell you not to drink bleach or eat asphalt.  Both will tell you to eat fruits.

But the fact that most people never consult a nutritionist, and nobody does before every meal plan, also does not invalidate the accuracy of nutrition science.

Being "simple", and being in line with what most people do most of the time, were never the topic at hand.

I think the difference between our two systems is that for your system, you cannot know the ethics of a choice unless you commit to doing all of this research. So if you make decisions without doing your research, you have no idea whether they are truly right or wrong. In fact, I'd say that under your system you will never truly know the ethics of any choice without the power of omniscience. There are always implications of your choices that you will not realize. So in the end, you really have no choice but to make an educated guess about what's right and wrong, and you'll probably never know the true objective ethical result of anything.

My system does not suffer from these shortcomings because it does not demand that we attempt to compute the "objective" result of anything.

Now lets apply the same to an ethical question:

Sticking a sharp needle into the arm of a young child.
This results in the child feeling sharp pain, which they don't expect and don't understand and haven't done anything to deserve.
If the person who does the stabbing is like most normal people, they are going to feel bad for causing this cute little kid to feel pain and start crying.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems like by your reasoning this is an unethical act.

I say we have to take a step back and look at the entire picture.  This is not an isolated independent event, so there is no reason to pretend it is. 
So lets consider the vaccine in that needle...
Well, before vaccines, very few diseases had a more than 50% mortality rate.  Which means more likely than not, the kid wasn't going to catch it anyway.  But the consequences if they did would be much worse than the temporary pain of the shot.  A 20% chance of a terrible painful death outweighs the 100% chance of a hurt arm. 
Step back even further: disease transmission depends on a certain percentage of a population being susceptible.  If enough people are vaccinated than any one person can forgo it and still not catch it, because there is no one to catch it from.  But this kid IS one part of the population, so by vaccinating the child you are slightly decreasing the risk of every other person they ever interact with.

You want to disregard statistical analysis and probabilities, disregard the larger social context events occur in, disregard even the local immediate context surrounding the event itself, and go purely off of gut feelings.

So is it unethical to give a child a shot?

Again, it depends on who's viewpoint you look at the event from. From the doctor's and parent's viewpoint, the shot is justified because the pros outweigh the cons. From the child's perspective, it's probably not justified if the child doesn't understand the pros. But there is no reason why the doctor and parent should defer to the child. They can justify their decision. They know that the child is wrong.

I'm not sure what you're getting at about isolating decisions or events in this example. Here, it seems that only one decision was made: the decision to vaccinate the child. We can reasonably compute the results of this decision because we know that getting the vaccination will protect the child as well as the general population. This is one decision considered independently of any other decision. I don't see how this equates to the scenario involving the barbarians--they made multiple decisions, not one.

People's taste varies.  That is inherent in the meaning of the word.  In all of you examples, some person found the situation in question entirely tasteful, while someone else found it distasteful.  Yet you keep speaking of "distasteful" like it were some objective, factual quality.  Anytime there is moral disagreement - and there are relatively few things on which there is none - then people are disagreeing on what constitutes "distasteful".
That's the problem with resorting to feelings - then (to the patrons) the Black man walking into the place really was unethical, while (to the Barbarians) the rape - and the entire murder and pillaging - was entirely ethical.  To the student the cheating was ethical, but to the classmates it was unethical.  If any one event can have infinite meanings based on who is looking at it, then why even have a concept of "ethical" in the first place?  Just do what you feel, and leave it at that, but nothing is ever good or bad, and the very concept of "ethically justifiable" is simply meaningless.

Agreed, I don't think that ethics is a very good word to describe the decision making process that I am proposing. But that's what philosophers call it, apparently: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethical_egoism

Anyway, what you are saying is exactly what I am proposing: that there is no meaningful basis for objective ethics, that nothing is objectively good or bad, and that the concept of "objectively ethically justifiable" is simply meaningless.
« Last Edit: November 13, 2016, 05:19:09 AM by Herbert Derp »

Bakari

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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #320 on: November 14, 2016, 09:36:21 AM »
Quote
I disagree. I think that the feelings associated with being offended count as a "negative experience."
The event itself isn't what is fundamentally causing those feelings though.  Again, you are trying to take one thing in isolation which would not exist independent of many other inseparably connected things.  The negative feelings in this case are caused by particular social rules that they have been taught, which are by no means universal.  I think we are in agreement that those social rules themselves are unethical.  It makes no sense to judge one specific action as ethical or not based on its conformity to an unethical baseline.

Are you saying that any feelings that are "learned" are excluded from your ethical system? Or just feelings which were "learned" from something that is deemed unethical?
No.  I am saying that the specific event in question is not the real root "source" of the negative feelings.  I'm saying that the events which led to "learning" those feelings is what ultimately created them, and therefore that is the event to judge when considering the negativeness of the feelings. 
If the teaching of, in this case, racism, is causing overall negative effects, then that is the part that is unethical.





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I see no reason why this is necessary and think this greatly complicates your system. Negative feelings are negative feelings. Why should the source be important?
The source has been the entire question all along. What we have been considering is whether a particular trigger of a negative feeling is ethical or not.  That trigger is only relevant as a source of a feeling.  So of course it matters if the real source is something different, in determining the ethics of that trigger!
Feelings don't occur in a vacuum.  They are directly in response to thoughts, to interpretations of experiences and events.  Successfully reframe an outlook to an experience, the feelings it generates can change.   


Quote
Because the events are in the real world connected to each other.  They don't happen in isolation, so why would we even consider judging them that way. 
...
Sure, it would be nice if we could pretend everything is separate, because it would make things easier, but then we come to wrong conclusions.

I disagree, precisely because events in the real world are connected to each other. They are connected so much that you will become hopelessly entangled in a series of cause and effect if you try to bind multiple series of decisions together.
The fact that it is inconvenient or difficult doesn't imply that it is wrong.  Physics and biology are mind-mindbogglingly complicated, and just about everything in them is connected to other things in a great web of interconnectvitiy. When one wants easy answers, they turn to religion and alternative medicine.


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Suppose that I commit some crime and end up in prison. Are all my decisions while I'm in jail now bound to the ethics of the decision that put me there? What if that decision was tied to some other decision which was tied to yet another decision, etc, etc? I can trace any decision I make back to the decision my parents made when they decided to have sex. How do you define what constitutes a single event? What if the event contains multiple decisions made independently from multiple people? Do the ethics of other people's decisions affect the ethics of my decisions?
"tied to" doesn't always imply cause and effect.  Different levels of relatedness have different degrees of effect.  Some things are unpredictable by human actors.  Lots of different answers to the various questions here.  Ones which your (or any other) system also has to answer - you just do it quicker, with part of your subconscious, instead of stopping to think about it all.
In the pillaging example, it is pretty easy to determine the two events should be tied together, since both the rape and the conditions surrounding (her lack of family) it would not have existed if not for the pillaging.  If one event could not have happened without another, and both were due to the decisions of the same actor, then they are clearly part of a single event.  Otherwise, you would not be judging "cheating on a test", you would be judging "making a mark on a piece of paper", followed by "making a different mark on a piece of paper", as independent events to be judged.



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Exactly why I reject your system.  The Barbarians followed their hearts
I make no assumption that my personal sensibilities are universal, nor am I proposing an objective system of universal ethics. I make decisions from the basis of my point of view, such that I can achieve the outcome which in my opinion is the least distasteful. If I was someone else, I would make different choices. I acknowledge and accept the reality that other people may make choices that are different from my own.
This seems to contradict what you said in the message before:
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Personally, I am disgusted by any system that claims that something so obviously distasteful to my sensibilities is ethically correct
Your system says that (from some points of view) the racism and rape, and the pillaging and murder too, were all ethically correct.
I say that they were not, and that whose point of view you look from is irrelevant.  They were always unethical.





Being "simple", and being in line with what most people do most of the time, were never the topic at hand.

I think the difference between our two systems is that for your system, you cannot know the ethics of a choice unless you commit to doing all of this research. So if you make decisions without doing your research, you have no idea whether they are truly right or wrong. In fact, I'd say that under your system you will never truly know the ethics of any choice without the power of omniscience. There are always implications of your choices that you will not realize. So in the end, you really have no choice but to make an educated guess about what's right and wrong, and you'll probably never know the true objective ethical result of anything.
True.

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My system does not suffer from these shortcomings because it does not demand that we attempt to compute the "objective" result of anything.
I don't see how that's a shortcoming.  It is a reflection of how complex the real world is.  And all of those things remain true, regardless of your system of evaluating ethics.  The real world remains just as complex even if you choose to ignore it.  And what happens when you learn after the fact that a decision you made had unexpectedly bad consequences, and now you feel guilty?  Does that guilt mean your past choice had been unethical all along?  What if there was no way you could have predicted the outcome, but you feel guilty anyway?  What if it was entirely predictable, yet you choose to ignore the likelyhood of a bad outcome, and didn't feel bad about it at the time, was the decision ever ethical?

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Sticking a sharp needle into the arm of a young child.
This results in the child feeling sharp pain, which they don't expect and don't understand and haven't done anything to deserve.
If the person who does the stabbing is like most normal people, they are going to feel bad for causing this cute little kid to feel pain and start crying.

Again, it depends on who's viewpoint you look at the event from. From the doctor's and parent's viewpoint, the shot is justified because the pros outweigh the cons.
What do you mean "justified"? That wasn't the question.  The feelings that the event causes inside the doctor and/or parent are negative feelings: sympathy and guilt, triggered by the child's crying, triggered by the metal in the arm.
You said we are going purely on feelings, and ignoring thoughts and reason and knowledge of big pictures.  You said also to isolate every decision and ignore context. 
So we can't take into consideration that intellectually they know the long term potential benefits of vaccination.  We also can't take into consideration the past decision to order vaccine, or to put said vaccine in the fridge, properly labeled, or to draw the vaccine into the syringe.  If you consider every event tied to the shot, you would have to track down the manufacturer of the syringe and look into their business practices
and see if the ingredients in the vaccine were ethically harvested, right? 
Since that would be much to complicated, all we are looking at is this one single event: stabbing a child with a piece of metal. 


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From the child's perspective, it's probably not justified if the child doesn't understand the pros. But there is no reason why the doctor and parent should defer to the child. They can justify their decision. They know that the child is wrong.
And the child "know's" they are wrong! Or are you saying that actually suggesting that "if you make decisions without doing your research, you have no idea whether they are truly right or wrong" - that because the adults HAVE done their research, while the child has not, the adults are in a better place to judge the likelihood of the event being right or wrong?
It sounds like that is what you are implying, without spelling it out, and I agree with you.

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I'm not sure what you're getting at about isolating decisions or events in this example. Here, it seems that only one decision was made: the decision to vaccinate the child. We can reasonably compute the results of this decision because we know that getting the vaccination will protect the child as well as the general population. This is one decision considered independently of any other decision. I don't see how this equates to the scenario involving the barbarians--they made multiple decisions, not one.
That is false, though.  If almost everyone in a population is vaccinated, than any one person being vaccinated doesn't matter to herd vaccination.  Herd immunity only requires 80-90% of the population to be immunized (depending on transmissability).  That means if the population has a 95% vaccination rate, then it truly doesn't matter if any one person gets vaccinated.  You want to look at a single event in isolation.  So we are looking at that one person.  Since everyone else already is (or will be), then this event will not effect herd immunity, and the child is extremely unlikely to catch it themselves.  In order to factor in the possibility that every other doctor and parent in the society might also make that same decision - well, you have to consider other decisions.  You can't have it both ways.
(Well, I guess you can do whatever you want, if you don't mind being inconsistent)



Agreed, I don't think that ethics is a very good word to describe the decision making process that I am proposing. But that's what philosophers call it, apparently: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethical_egoism
This is not the same thing as you have been arguing for in this conversation.  Ethical egoism says you "OUGHT" to do what is in your own best interest.  That is making an absolute statement.  It says that acting in one's own best interests in "right", is "ethical", and that self-sacrifice is always UNethical.
What you have been describing sounds a lot more like Subjective Relativism, or maybe even David Hume's moral philosophy.

Herbert Derp

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« Reply #321 on: November 21, 2016, 07:01:02 PM »
No.  I am saying that the specific event in question is not the real root "source" of the negative feelings.  I'm saying that the events which led to "learning" those feelings is what ultimately created them, and therefore that is the event to judge when considering the negativeness of the feelings. 
If the teaching of, in this case, racism, is causing overall negative effects, then that is the part that is unethical.

Ok, I agree that under your system racism would be considered unethical. But I still think provoking racists would be unethical under your system, assuming that no good comes out of said provocation. I don't see any reason why both of these can't be true.

The source has been the entire question all along. What we have been considering is whether a particular trigger of a negative feeling is ethical or not.  That trigger is only relevant as a source of a feeling.  So of course it matters if the real source is something different, in determining the ethics of that trigger!
Feelings don't occur in a vacuum.  They are directly in response to thoughts, to interpretations of experiences and events.  Successfully reframe an outlook to an experience, the feelings it generates can change.

My main focus has been on decisions, not triggers. We can agree that racism is unethical and that it is in part responsible for the racist's feelings but this is not really related to the actual decision which was made to provoke the racist.

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Suppose that I commit some crime and end up in prison. Are all my decisions while I'm in jail now bound to the ethics of the decision that put me there? What if that decision was tied to some other decision which was tied to yet another decision, etc, etc? I can trace any decision I make back to the decision my parents made when they decided to have sex. How do you define what constitutes a single event? What if the event contains multiple decisions made independently from multiple people? Do the ethics of other people's decisions affect the ethics of my decisions?
"tied to" doesn't always imply cause and effect.  Different levels of relatedness have different degrees of effect.  Some things are unpredictable by human actors.  Lots of different answers to the various questions here.  Ones which your (or any other) system also has to answer - you just do it quicker, with part of your subconscious, instead of stopping to think about it all.
In the pillaging example, it is pretty easy to determine the two events should be tied together, since both the rape and the conditions surrounding (her lack of family) it would not have existed if not for the pillaging.  If one event could not have happened without another, and both were due to the decisions of the same actor, then they are clearly part of a single event.  Otherwise, you would not be judging "cheating on a test", you would be judging "making a mark on a piece of paper", followed by "making a different mark on a piece of paper", as independent events to be judged.

...

What do you mean "justified"? That wasn't the question.  The feelings that the event causes inside the doctor and/or parent are negative feelings: sympathy and guilt, triggered by the child's crying, triggered by the metal in the arm.
You said we are going purely on feelings, and ignoring thoughts and reason and knowledge of big pictures.  You said also to isolate every decision and ignore context. 
So we can't take into consideration that intellectually they know the long term potential benefits of vaccination.  We also can't take into consideration the past decision to order vaccine, or to put said vaccine in the fridge, properly labeled, or to draw the vaccine into the syringe.  If you consider every event tied to the shot, you would have to track down the manufacturer of the syringe and look into their business practices
and see if the ingredients in the vaccine were ethically harvested, right? 
Since that would be much to complicated, all we are looking at is this one single event: stabbing a child with a piece of metal. 

I think you are building an unnecessary framework here. Sure we can judge individual decisions such as the decision to make a mark on a piece of paper, and the results may come out however they may come out. But those were not the answers we were looking for in the first place. The question we want to answer is "is it ok to cheat on this test?" The ethics of all these different decisions do not need to be aligned. For example, a soldier may need to make a decision to hurt someone that may be considered unethical as a single event. Although that decision can be unethical under your system, the soldier may be carrying out an overarching decision that is still considered ethical.

Basically, what I'm saying is that the ethics of an overarching decision do not determine the ethics of its "sub-decisions." Why bother worrying about this? You can still always get the answer for the main decision, as well as the sub-decisions if you are so inclined. The ethics of a decision do not invalidate the ethics of a sub-decision, and vice-versa. Can you explain what you are trying to say about the ethics of decisions and sub-decisions?

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Exactly why I reject your system.  The Barbarians followed their hearts
I make no assumption that my personal sensibilities are universal, nor am I proposing an objective system of universal ethics. I make decisions from the basis of my point of view, such that I can achieve the outcome which in my opinion is the least distasteful. If I was someone else, I would make different choices. I acknowledge and accept the reality that other people may make choices that are different from my own.
This seems to contradict what you said in the message before:
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Personally, I am disgusted by any system that claims that something so obviously distasteful to my sensibilities is ethically correct
Your system says that (from some points of view) the racism and rape, and the pillaging and murder too, were all ethically correct.
I say that they were not, and that whose point of view you look from is irrelevant.  They were always unethical.

I don't think I am making a contradiction. When you have multiple actors working in their own interests, conflict is a natural result. So if someone imposes their system of ethics on me that I don't agree with, I may have a negative reaction. I can accept that the enemy is justified from their point of view but still go to war with them on the basis of my point of view. A war isn't worth fighting if one side thinks they are wrong.

I don't see how that's a shortcoming.  It is a reflection of how complex the real world is.  And all of those things remain true, regardless of your system of evaluating ethics.  The real world remains just as complex even if you choose to ignore it.  And what happens when you learn after the fact that a decision you made had unexpectedly bad consequences, and now you feel guilty?  Does that guilt mean your past choice had been unethical all along?  What if there was no way you could have predicted the outcome, but you feel guilty anyway?  What if it was entirely predictable, yet you choose to ignore the likelyhood of a bad outcome, and didn't feel bad about it at the time, was the decision ever ethical?

Under my system, I would just reassure myself that I made the decision that seemed right at the time and move on. Lessons learned, I guess. The same holds true under your system. Remember, my system is not based on anything objective like overall benefit to the self or others. It's just based on the perceived pros and cons of decisions at the time they are made. If my decision results in a complete clusterfuck, it doesn't change my feelings at the time I made the decision.

And the child "know's" they are wrong! Or are you saying that actually suggesting that "if you make decisions without doing your research, you have no idea whether they are truly right or wrong" - that because the adults HAVE done their research, while the child has not, the adults are in a better place to judge the likelihood of the event being right or wrong?
It sounds like that is what you are implying, without spelling it out, and I agree with you.

What I'm saying is that under my system, the adults believe that they are justified in their decision to vaccinate the child and can use that sense of justification to make some hard sub-decisions in order to achieve their overall objective.

That is false, though.  If almost everyone in a population is vaccinated, than any one person being vaccinated doesn't matter to herd vaccination.  Herd immunity only requires 80-90% of the population to be immunized (depending on transmissability).  That means if the population has a 95% vaccination rate, then it truly doesn't matter if any one person gets vaccinated.  You want to look at a single event in isolation.  So we are looking at that one person.  Since everyone else already is (or will be), then this event will not effect herd immunity, and the child is extremely unlikely to catch it themselves.  In order to factor in the possibility that every other doctor and parent in the society might also make that same decision - well, you have to consider other decisions.  You can't have it both ways.
(Well, I guess you can do whatever you want, if you don't mind being inconsistent)

Sounds like this is more of a problem for your system, not mine. My doctors and parents only need a sense of justification to tip their ethical scales and carry out these hard decisions, which allows them to carry out these decisions in isolation. But in my opinion your system still works--you can just say that it's ethical to vaccinate a population and let the ethics of individual vaccinations remain murky. You already answered the important question about the ethics of vaccinating the overall population.

This is not the same thing as you have been arguing for in this conversation.  Ethical egoism says you "OUGHT" to do what is in your own best interest.  That is making an absolute statement.  It says that acting in one's own best interests in "right", is "ethical", and that self-sacrifice is always UNethical.
What you have been describing sounds a lot more like Subjective Relativism, or maybe even David Hume's moral philosophy.

I think your confusion stems from if you take the meaning of "best interest" to be from an outside perspective. But I believe that our feelings and desires can only be understood subjectively, and they are the only thing that determines what someone's "best interest" is. Take away all feelings and desires and you will no longer have any objectives. Without any objectives, all decisions become meaningless. Again, refer back to this podcast for more on this point.

I still think what I'm describing is a form of ethical egoism. I define the objectives of my feelings as what is in my interest and make all of my decisions based on how the predicted results align with these objectives. It could even be in my own interest to sacrifice myself for others, because I could have very strong feelings about self-sacrifice. So I am saying that I ought to do what is in my best interest.
« Last Edit: November 21, 2016, 07:02:42 PM by Herbert Derp »

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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #322 on: November 21, 2016, 07:57:05 PM »
So I am saying that I ought to do what is in my best interest.

I think you will do what you think is best, always.

I don't think it follows that you ought to do what you think is best, always.  Sometimes there are other things you ought to do, even if you end up not because you don't think that is best.

Ethical egoism argues that ethically, everything is best when we all act in our own selfish interests, thus we ought to act that way.

I do think we only act in the way we think is best.  And, as a hardcore determinist, I think that we have no choice to act otherwise.  But I think that if we could, or did, act otherwise, it would be better.  I don't agree that because we act in self-interest, that's the best way to act.
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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #323 on: November 21, 2016, 09:30:43 PM »
So I am saying that I ought to do what is in my best interest.

I think you will do what you think is best, always.

I don't think it follows that you ought to do what you think is best, always.  Sometimes there are other things you ought to do, even if you end up not because you don't think that is best.

Ethical egoism argues that ethically, everything is best when we all act in our own selfish interests, thus we ought to act that way.

I do think we only act in the way we think is best.  And, as a hardcore determinist, I think that we have no choice to act otherwise.  But I think that if we could, or did, act otherwise, it would be better.  I don't agree that because we act in self-interest, that's the best way to act.

Very good point. I agree with you in that I believe that as individuals who are only capable of acting on based our subjective experiences, we must always do what we feel is "best." To do otherwise would imply the absence of a free will, insanity, or both.

Obviously, this deterministic interpretation of free will comes into conflict with any system of objective ethics. It puts you in a rather unfortunate position if you believe in determinism and objective ethics--the implication is that if humans are only capable of deterministic decision making based on subjective feelings, we are fundamentally incapable of true objectively ethical decision making. In other words, we are not and cannot become objectively ethical beings--we can only imitate objective ethics by cultivating a strong desire to behave ethically.

But here is where we differ, I believe. If it doesn't follow that you ought to do what you think is best, then you must come up with some objective way to measure what is best--in other words, objective ethics. But I cannot bring myself to believe in any objective system of ethics because I can't find any way to choose which system of objective ethics I should follow. Bakari's brand of utilitarianism might say that a decision can bring an objective amount of "good experience" into the world, but I see no reason why X amount of "good experience" is objectively more meaningful than X amount of "bad experience" or X amount of hydrogen atoms. I see no alternative but to value nothing beyond my own subjective experience, since that is all I am capable of experiencing, and I cannot conceive of a "correct" objective value system.

I mean, you can come up with all sorts of objective ethical systems. For example, you could objectively try to increase objective happiness in the universe, or the objective amount of desires that are fulfilled, or the objective amount of snails in the pond behind your uncle's house. You could objectively choose to do nothing. You could objectively follow your god's commandments, or your king's commandments, or whatever you believe that your dog objectively wants you to do.

I guess I just don't see the point of any of it. Why should one system of objective ethics be more meaningful than any other? If you pick one of them as your favorite, you are still behaving according to your own subjective feelings. You can never escape this pattern of behavior and I feel like only a masochist would try to aspire to be something that he is not and can never become, assuming that he could figure out what he is supposed to become in the first place.

So I just throw the whole notion of objective ethics out the window, and claim that it is ethical for me to be what I am. In other words, I make decisions according to the way that humans objectively make decisions, and take this system to be my ethical system. This way, I don't have to aspire to be something that I am not. I can just be what I am. Perhaps my ethical claims hold no more weight than saying it is ethical for gravity to make things fall because, objectively, gravity makes things fall. Maybe it is more accurate to say that I do not believe in ethics at all; I simply believe in reality.
« Last Edit: November 21, 2016, 09:38:18 PM by Herbert Derp »

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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #324 on: November 21, 2016, 09:37:26 PM »


So I just throw the whole notion of objective ethics out the window, and claim that it is ethical for me to be what I am.

Here's where you lost me.

If the second half of the sentence said "and ethics is a meaningless term," sure.

But to claim that it's ethical to be what you are doesn't make sense if you're throwing it out the window, it more fits with a definition of ethics not existing, and thus being a meaningless term.

But "I don't buy into ethics therefore what I do is ethical" is nonsense, to me. Or I'm just not understanding you, at least.
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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #325 on: November 21, 2016, 10:00:17 PM »
So I just throw the whole notion of objective ethics out the window, and claim that it is ethical for me to be what I am.

Here's where you lost me.

If the second half of the sentence said "and ethics is a meaningless term," sure.

But to claim that it's ethical to be what you are doesn't make sense if you're throwing it out the window, it more fits with a definition of ethics not existing, and thus being a meaningless term.

But "I don't buy into ethics therefore what I do is ethical" is nonsense, to me. Or I'm just not understanding you, at least.

Read the rest of that paragraph, that's basically what I say:
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Perhaps my ethical claims hold no more weight than saying it is ethical for gravity to make things fall because, objectively, gravity makes things fall. Maybe it is more accurate to say that I do not believe in ethics at all; I simply believe in reality.

I think whether this boils down to nonsense depends on how you define ethics, and whether you believe that there is a relationship between existence and justification. I define ethics as the logical system I use to justify the decisions that I make. So I am saying that I have defined a logical system that explains why it is necessary that I make decisions in the way I do--and in my opinion, what is necessary is justified by nothing more than its own existence. Imagine that I am a rock falling out of the sky. That I am falling is necessary due to gravity, so in my opinion it is also justified. I do what I do because of my feelings. This is necessary due to my understanding of how the human mind works. Therefore, in my opinion it is justified.
« Last Edit: November 21, 2016, 10:04:13 PM by Herbert Derp »

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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #326 on: November 21, 2016, 10:38:02 PM »
Justified doesn't mean ethical.

Anyone can justify anything.

Again, it seems odd to call it "ethical" simply because it is the way it is, or because you can justify it.

To continue with your gravity example, I wouldn't say: "Look, I dropped the pen and it fell because of gravity.  That sure was ethical of that pen!  It did the right thing!"

Saying ethical in that sentence is nonsense.

You seem to be arguing that ethics is nonsense, which is a justifiable position, but then conflating it by saying that what you do is ethical, rather than just what you do. 
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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #327 on: November 22, 2016, 09:22:35 AM »
I think you are building an unnecessary framework here. Sure we can judge individual decisions such as the decision to make a mark on a piece of paper, and the results may come out however they may come out. But those were not the answers we were looking for in the first place. The question we want to answer is "is it ok to cheat on this test?"...
Basically, what I'm saying is that the ethics of an overarching decision do not determine the ethics of its "sub-decisions." Why bother worrying about this? You can still always get the answer for the main decision, as well as the sub-decisions if you are so inclined. The ethics of a decision do not invalidate the ethics of a sub-decision, and vice-versa. Can you explain what you are trying to say about the ethics of decisions and sub-decisions?
If the ethics involved in moving a pencil against paper, and of taking steps to get a particular grade in a class, are completely unrelated to the ethics of cheating on the test, then why is "is it ok to cheat on the test?" the question?  One is a sub-decision of the other, one a level up, one a level down.  Either you can take all factors of a complex system into account, and judge it as one continuous unit, or you can sub-divide into every individual decision and judge that, in which case the question is "is it ethical to hold a pencil?" and "is it ethical to move your hand?", as well as "is it ethical to open a door?" and "is it ethical to walk through an opened door?".  The level you are choosing to isolate is arbitrary.



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I don't think I am making a contradiction. When you have multiple actors working in their own interests, conflict is a natural result. ... I can accept that the enemy is justified from their point of view but still go to war with them on the basis of my point of view.
Of course!  But "interests" isn't the same as "ethics"



Quote
And the child "know's" they are wrong! Or are you saying that actually suggesting that "if you make decisions without doing your research, you have no idea whether they are truly right or wrong" - that because the adults HAVE done their research, while the child has not, the adults are in a better place to judge the likelihood of the event being right or wrong?
It sounds like that is what you are implying, without spelling it out, and I agree with you.

What I'm saying is that under my system, the adults believe that they are justified in their decision to vaccinate the child and can use that sense of justification to make some hard sub-decisions in order to achieve their overall objective...My doctors and parents only need a sense of justification to tip their ethical scales and carry out these hard decisions


AH!
Yes, well, now we are getting somewhere.  So it isn't just about immediate feelings that occur in a vacuum.  That "sense of justification" is  dependent on knowledge and reasoning.  It is dependent on (objective) scientific research.  The adults used all the steps of utilitarianism, to the best of their ability, to come up with what they believe to be the right answer.
Yes, granted, this is ultimately a "belief", and, granted, that belief will be coupled with a "feeling" of "doing the right thing".


I say that part is irrelevant, you say that is what makes it justified.  Whatever.  My point is they would come to a different conclusion and make different decisions if they had done anything other than use a logical utilitarian approach to deciding what to believe, and therefore, ultimately deciding what to feel!
That is what I am arguing for.  Using "good experience" as a base, and trying (to the limits of human ability), to maximize it, and using that as a guide for what to do.  Or as a guide for how to feel, and then act on those feelings, in the end that is the same thing.




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Ethical egoism says you "OUGHT" to do what is in your own best interest.  ... It says that acting in one's own best interests in "right", is "ethical", and that self-sacrifice is always UNethical.
What you have been describing sounds a lot more like Subjective Relativism, or maybe even David Hume's moral philosophy.

I think your confusion stems from if you take the meaning of "best interest" to be from an outside perspective. But I believe that our feelings and desires can only be understood subjectively, and they are the only thing that determines what someone's "best interest" is. Take away all feelings and desires and you will no longer have any objectives.


Ok, granted.  If you define "interest" as "whatever makes you feel best overall in the moment (even if what makes you feel best is contrary to your own short or long term physical and emotional well-being)" then this is inevitable, and the consequences of such will always be self-consistent.


Quote


I still think what I'm describing is a form of ethical egoism. I define the objectives of my feelings as what is in my interest

This is not the definition the Ethical Egoism actually proposes for "self-interest".  It says specifically and overtly that altruism is unethical.  There is no allowance for if you felt good because of it. 

 and "Nor does ethical egoism necessarily entail that, in pursuing self-interest, one ought always to do what one wants to do; e.g. in the long term, the fulfillment of short-term desires may prove detrimental to the self." which is in conflict with your statement " I would just reassure myself that I made the decision that seemed right at the time and move on. Lessons learned, I guess." - ethical egoism says that the decision was actually wrong all along if it ends up doing you more harm than good.


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and make all of my decisions based on how the predicted results align with these objectives. It could even be in my own interest to sacrifice myself for others, because I could have very strong feelings about self-sacrifice. So I am saying that I ought to do what is in my best interest.


Arguments under ethical egoism include "To give charity to someone is to degrade him". 
This actually seems to be one of the primary focuses of its proponents (see Ayn Rand's "The Virtue of Selfishness")
More over, under your definitions the term "altruism" is meaningless, because it simply isn't possible to do anything that you don't want (overall, all things considered) to do, (by definition, since you did it).   The term "self-sacrifice" is meaningless, if "self" is defined as "your subjective feelings in the moment a decision is made". 
But the very sentence "sacrifice myself for others" implies there is a "self-interest" that existsindependent of in-the-moment subjective emotional experience.

While your outlook may be a-moral (morally neutral), it at least isn't immoral (like Ethical Egoism)!  I think the comparison is not only inaccurate, but makes your position seem worse than it really is!
« Last Edit: November 22, 2016, 09:54:03 AM by Bakari »

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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #328 on: November 22, 2016, 09:25:14 AM »
I do think we only act in the way we think is best.  And, as a hardcore determinist, I think that we have no choice to act otherwise.  But I think that if we could, or did, act otherwise, it would be better.

Of course we have some control over what we think, and therefor it becomes possible to think otherwise, which in turn leads to acting otherwise, which in turn leads to better outcomes.


Hence the utility of threads like this - both the original one Sol posted, and the purely theoretical tangent we've taken recently


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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #329 on: November 22, 2016, 09:38:05 AM »
I do think we only act in the way we think is best.  And, as a hardcore determinist, I think that we have no choice to act otherwise.  But I think that if we could, or did, act otherwise, it would be better.

Of course we have some control over what we think, and therefor it becomes possible to think otherwise, which in turn leads to acting otherwise, which in turn leads to better outcomes.

I disagree.


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Hence the utility of threads like this - both the original one Sol posted, and the purely theoretical tangent we've taken recently

There's still utility in them, because they do change our behavior--not by influencing a choice (of which there is none) but by being a causal determinant in the act we do.
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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #330 on: November 22, 2016, 09:53:18 AM »
Obviously, this deterministic interpretation of free will comes into conflict with any system of objective ethics. It puts you in a rather unfortunate position if you believe in determinism and objective ethics--the implication is that if humans are only capable of deterministic decision making based on subjective feelings, we are fundamentally incapable of true objectively ethical decision making. In other words, we are not and cannot become objectively ethical beings--we can only imitate objective ethics by cultivating a strong desire to behave ethically.
I would agree with that, but I don't see the conflict.  "Unfortunate" doesn't mean "untrue".
We can only do the best we can.  We don't need to come up with a framework to rationalize our mistakes, we can just try to make the best decisions we can.  If we don't have a fallback way to rationalize mistakes, we might just try a little harder to get as close as we are capable of to the right answers the first time.

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If it doesn't follow that you ought to do what you think is best, then you must come up with some objective way to measure what is best--in other words, objective ethics.
That's true either way!  How do you decide what you think is best?  It isn't just something that spontaneously happens, the way you just are born liking the flavor of something or not.  Hell, even taste can be acquired.  You can choose to not have any responsibility, and adopt a pre-made set of rules like a religion, or you can make a point of never learning or thinking about anything and just do the first thing that pops into your head.  Even those things are choices you make (even if unconsciously), and ones you could change.  Everyone is coming up with some way to decide what is best, and the system they come up with is a guide for how they feel about individual decisions.


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But I cannot bring myself to believe in any objective system of ethics because I can't find any way to choose which system of objective ethics I should follow. Bakari's brand of utilitarianism might say that a decision can bring an objective amount of "good experience" into the world, but I see no reason why X amount of "good experience" is objectively more meaningful than X amount of "bad experience" or X amount of hydrogen atoms.
For the same reason you put value on your own subjective experience.  How do you know that what makes you feel good?  Why do you value feeling good?  You are putting an objective value on a subjective feeling (your own).  All I'm saying is that since we know each other all have similar objective feelings, and we have no way to objectively say oneself is any more (or less!) valuable than any other individual,  then everyone else's subjective experience has value too.


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So I just throw the whole notion of objective ethics out the window, and claim that it is ethical for me to be what I am. In other words, I make decisions according to the way that humans objectively make decisions,
The way humans make decisions includes "choosing a favorite" system of morals and/or ethics to follow. 


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Maybe it is more accurate to say that I do not believe in ethics at all; I simply believe in reality.


I think it is.  I've said that before in this conversation.

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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #331 on: November 22, 2016, 10:01:00 AM »
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So I just throw the whole notion of objective ethics out the window, and claim that it is ethical for me to be what I am. In other words, I make decisions according to the way that humans objectively make decisions,
The way humans make decisions includes "choosing a favorite" system of morals and/or ethics to follow. 

But you don't choose a favorite.  Just like you don't choose anything that you like.

If you like chocolate or vanilla or strawberry ice cream better, at what point did you "choose" to like that one better than the others?

If you are sexually attracted to X, or Y, at what point did you "choose" it?

At what point do you "choose" a system of morals?  You think you pick one.  Maybe you read a book, and it convinces you, and you change from your current beliefs.  But you didn't "choose" to be swayed by that book.  It just happened.  You didn't control it.

And then you read a discussion on a forum, and slightly modify what you think.  Again, you're not going "That Bakari guy says this..I decide that it makes sense to me!"  It makes sense to you, or it doesn't, but it's not of your own will that it makes sense or not.  It just does, or doesn't, without "you" having any input at all.
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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #332 on: November 22, 2016, 10:12:08 AM »
I do think we only act in the way we think is best.  And, as a hardcore determinist, I think that we have no choice to act otherwise.  But I think that if we could, or did, act otherwise, it would be better.

Of course we have some control over what we think, and therefor it becomes possible to think otherwise, which in turn leads to acting otherwise, which in turn leads to better outcomes.

I disagree.



That we have some control over what we think specifically, or that we can make any decisions, of any form, ever?
Certainly a good case can be made that free will does not exist, but the line is just as much a dead end as "I can never know that anything at all exists other than my own consciousness, since all information about the world is filtered through imperfect senses and biased perception".
True, but not particularly useful, so for the sake of doing anything other than just staring blankly until one staves to death, we assume that the world does exist and make decisions accordingly.


If we can make any decisions at all, though, then we can set in motion particular causal determinants - say, clicking on one thread instead of another, which in turn sets a different set of conditions inside our heads


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There's still utility in them, because they do change our behavior--not by influencing a choice (of which there is none) but by being a causal determinant in the act we do.


But if there is no choice, what does it mean to say anything is ethical?  It becomes like Herbert's "gravity is ethical" argument.  Like Penny says "Everything Happens".  What does it mean to say there is "utility" (or not), in anything, when everything (this thread included) was inevitable, and will lead to other inevitable things, and it could never have been any other way?  Utility implies some goal or valuation, but what does "goal" even mean if everything that ever happens could never have gone any other way?

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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #333 on: November 22, 2016, 10:17:45 AM »
True, but not particularly useful, so for the sake of doing anything other than just staring blankly until one staves to death, we assume that the world does exist and make decisions accordingly.

No.  Determinism and fatalism are not the same thing.

I'm surprised you of all people would buy into this myth, Bakari.

It's like if someone said a stoic is someone who never has emotions.  No.  That may be a popular misnomer, but it's not the case.

But if there is no choice, what does it mean to say anything is ethical?  It becomes like Herbert's "gravity is ethical" argument.  Like Penny says "Everything Happens".  What does it mean to say there is "utility" (or not), in anything, when everything (this thread included) was inevitable, and will lead to other inevitable things, and it could never have been any other way?  Utility implies some goal or valuation, but what does "goal" even mean if everything that ever happens could never have gone any other way?

Who said there's no goal?

Everything can only happen the one way, but that doesn't make actions irrelevant--those actions are causal determinants/antecedents in future actions. 

If you determine one way of being is "better" (say, you "decide" that about more happiness for everyone), that will impact your actions.  Just because you don't choose your beliefs doesn't mean they don't impact your actions, and thus impact others.

Your argument of it all being meaningless is the same as someone saying "well the heat death of the universe makes this all meaningless."  Sure, in a super zoomed out way, but that doesn't mean there isn't meaning in the moment.
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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #334 on: November 22, 2016, 03:05:07 PM »
This is an AMAZING thread. I am STUNNED that people who still work have the time to create such enormous posts continuously!

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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #335 on: November 22, 2016, 04:32:57 PM »
True, but not particularly useful, so for the sake of doing anything other than just staring blankly until one staves to death, we assume that the world does exist and make decisions accordingly.

No.  Determinism and fatalism are not the same thing.


I understand that determinists make a distinction, but I fail to find any meaningful one.
Most especially if you explicitly propose that free-will does not exist and their is no such thing as choice.


Yes, human behavior is a step in the causal chain, but that human behavior itself was the (inevitable) consequence of existing conditions, and so they themselves could not have happened any other way.  The net result is exactly the same, whether the inbetween steps involved a human mind or not.  It still leads to a world in which everything is, for all practical intents and purposes, pre-determined.  The only reason we can not accurately predict everything that will ever happen (including what choices everyone will ever make about everything) is insufficient information, but the conditions that will cause the future are all already set in motion.


Yet, in day-to-day life we do actually perceive ourselves as having choices, whether or not it is an illusion.  I just don't see how its helpful, in trying to determine what choices to make, to point out that there is no real "self" that is making those choices, that its just your brain doing what its various molecules tell it to.


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But if there is no choice, what does it mean to say anything is ethical?  It becomes like Herbert's "gravity is ethical" argument.  Like Penny says "Everything Happens".  What does it mean to say there is "utility" (or not), in anything, when everything (this thread included) was inevitable, and will lead to other inevitable things, and it could never have been any other way?  Utility implies some goal or valuation, but what does "goal" even mean if everything that ever happens could never have gone any other way?

Who said there's no goal?

Everything can only happen the one way...
So those goals will either happen or not happen, either way, why worry about it, if we have no influence over it?




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but that doesn't make actions irrelevant--those actions are causal determinants/antecedents in future actions. 
Certainly, but those actions are not under our control either.  Those actions themselves, if we have no choices, are just reactions that happen to pass through us. 

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If you determine one way of being is "better" (say, you "decide" that about more happiness for everyone), that will impact your actions.
I agree.  But this sentence is dependent on my being able to "determine" anything.




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Just because you don't choose your beliefs doesn't mean they don't impact your actions, and thus impact others.


Should we debate the ethics of a volcano that erupts undersea and supports an ecosystem of microbe, plant, and animal life, versus one that erupts violently on the surface and wipes out a village and a forest?
Would we question the best moral framework a hurricane should take, or whether an asteroid that does or does not land on Earth was justified in it's decision? 
Those are silly questions, precisely because we understand their actions to be purely deterministic - the conditions that precede this moment are 100% responsible for the actions they are taking now, and their current actions are 100% responsible for the ones they will take in the next moment.
If by some indescribably improbable coincidence the molecules of the hurricane were to briefly become arranged in such a way as to facilitate hurricane consciousness - yet that consciousness had no influence over the actions of the system as a whole - it would remain equally meaningless to judge the ethics of where it makes landfall.


If I were to start shooting people, or donate all my wealth, or just stare blankly, whatever it is I end up doing, it was inevitable, because all of whatever influences led to it all actually happened.  And so I can not be in anyway culpable for whatever my actions end up causing in the future either.  So I guess my question is, if you consider those actions "relevant", relevant to what?

arebelspy

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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #336 on: November 22, 2016, 06:52:06 PM »
Yet, in day-to-day life we do actually perceive ourselves as having choices, whether or not it is an illusion.

Absolutely.

I just don't see how its helpful, in trying to determine what choices to make, to point out that there is no real "self" that is making those choices, that its just your brain doing what its various molecules tell it to.

There are a number of benefits to seeing things the way they are.  One immediately obvious one in regards to determinism is a massive increase in empathy.  It destroys the just world fallacy. If it's not other people's choice to commit a crime, or make a poor financial decision, or something, we can empathize and feel for them.  If I were in the same situation, with the same brain chemistry, same background, all the same antecedents, I'd make the exact same choice.

So those goals will either happen or not happen, either way, why worry about it, if we have no influence over it?

Well I don't think we should "worry" ever, but by thinking about it, we will change our actions, and that will be a prior cause for other actions.

(No, we're not choosing to think about it.  That's okay.  By me saying this, I'm an antecedent cause in making you think about it, even if I didn't choose that.  By believing it, even though I have no choice, it affects actions.) 

If you determine one way of being is "better" (say, you "decide" that about more happiness for everyone), that will impact your actions.
I agree.  But this sentence is dependent on my being able to "determine" anything.[/quote]

You have to determine things all the time.  That doesn't mean there's any free choice involved in that.


And so I can not be in anyway culpable for whatever my actions end up causing in the future either.

I'm guessing by culpable here, you're talking about the fallacy a lot of people fall into that with determinism we can't hold a criminal responsible for their actions. This isn't true.  Even if they didn't have any choice to do them, by holding them responsible, we prevent them from causing future harm, and we set a deterrence for others.  Holding them responsible is a antecedent cause to help prevent future pain.

Of course, we should understand they had no choice, and treat prisoners with dignity.

So I guess my question is, if you consider those actions "relevant", relevant to what?

Relevant to any future actions.  They're all antecedent causes.



Does a dog have free will?  If so, how/why? If not, why not?

I have a 10-month old.  She's starting to show some personality.  Does she have free will?  Or are all her actions determined?  When she was two weeks old, and crying, or smiling, was she choosing to smile, or cry?  Or was it a reaction to stimuli around her, combined with her genetic makeup?  Did she have free will as a fetus?  I'm going to choose to kick mommy in the ribs?  If not, when did she "gain" free will?

Here's the bottom line: You feel like you have free will, because the antecedent causes are so complex, you can't trace them back, the way you can with a volcanic eruption.  There's so many competing factors, and you feel like you're choosing between them.  Maybe you choose based on a preference, or maybe you choose because one thing had more weight than the other.  But step it back one level.  You didn't CHOOSE to have that preference. And you didn't CHOOSE to give more weight to that thing.

Ultimately, you don't have a choice.  But you believe you do. And all your beliefs influence your actions (as antecedent causes), and all your actions affect future things (as antecedent causes).  So going through these deliberations will affect things, even if you had no choice to go through them.  Yes, staring at a wall could happen, but it's pretty unlikely, and by understanding and accepting determinism, it won't happen, because you'll see that staring at a wall is an antecedent cause, and would only make your life worse.  You wouldn't have control then choosing to do something else, but you very likely would.

And you can use this knowledge to help a lot of people.
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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #337 on: November 22, 2016, 07:48:59 PM »
Here's the bottom line: You feel like you have free will, because the antecedent causes are so complex, you can't trace them back, the way you can with a volcanic eruption.  There's so many competing factors, and you feel like you're choosing between them.  Maybe you choose based on a preference, or maybe you choose because one thing had more weight than the other.  But step it back one level.  You didn't CHOOSE to have that preference. And you didn't CHOOSE to give more weight to that thing.

But doesn't that still render the concept of ethics nonsensical?  If human behavior and volcanic activity are equally deterministic (differing in degree (as to the complexity of their antecedent causes), but not in kind), isn't it just as absurd to say that a person ought to behave in a given way as it is to say that a volcano ought to behave in a given way?  Volcanoes probably don't experience the illusion of having choice (or, for that matter, experience the experience of experiencing, period), but as long as it really is just an illusion then why should our behavior be subject to a system of ethics any more than should a volcano's?

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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #338 on: November 22, 2016, 08:44:56 PM »
Here's the bottom line: You feel like you have free will, because the antecedent causes are so complex, you can't trace them back, the way you can with a volcanic eruption.  There's so many competing factors, and you feel like you're choosing between them.  Maybe you choose based on a preference, or maybe you choose because one thing had more weight than the other.  But step it back one level.  You didn't CHOOSE to have that preference. And you didn't CHOOSE to give more weight to that thing.

But doesn't that still render the concept of ethics nonsensical?  If human behavior and volcanic activity are equally deterministic (differing in degree (as to the complexity of their antecedent causes), but not in kind), isn't it just as absurd to say that a person ought to behave in a given way as it is to say that a volcano ought to behave in a given way?  Volcanoes probably don't experience the illusion of having choice (or, for that matter, experience the experience of experiencing, period), but as long as it really is just an illusion then why should our behavior be subject to a system of ethics any more than should a volcano's?

The volcano doesn't feel like it has control.

Certainly though we can decide that a volcano blowing up and killing a bunch of villagers is a worse outcome, and do things to influence it not exploding (I mean, the science isn't really there yet, but pretend for this hypothetical).

If we can do things that influence that bad outcome in a deterministic way, why wouldn't we also do those things in us, who can cause bad things, like the volcano, but also have the benefit of feeling like we have choice?
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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #339 on: November 22, 2016, 09:13:50 PM »
I am not going to try to attempt to answer the free will argument. In reference to the OP, I think the MMM goal is to maximize happiness. This is going to be different for different people. However, I think one of is main points is that overall buying stuff doesn't make you happy. As a result, you can take an express train to happiness by not buying stuff you don't need.

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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #340 on: November 22, 2016, 09:28:48 PM »
If we can do things that influence that bad outcome in a deterministic way, why wouldn't we also do those things in us, who can cause bad things, like the volcano, but also have the benefit of feeling like we have choice?

We should, but we can't, any more so than the volcano itself can decide not to erupt onto a bunch of villagers, if determism is true and choice is an illusion.  So we should try to do what's best, just like the volcano should try to do what's best, which strikes me as nonsense.

Cathy

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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #341 on: November 23, 2016, 12:42:28 AM »
But doesn't that still render the concept of ethics nonsensical?  If human behavior and volcanic activity are equally deterministic (differing in degree (as to the complexity of their antecedent causes), but not in kind), isn't it just as absurd to say that a person ought to behave in a given way as it is to say that a volcano ought to behave in a given way?  Volcanoes probably don't experience the illusion of having choice (or, for that matter, experience the experience of experiencing, period), but as long as it really is just an illusion then why should our behavior be subject to a system of ethics any more than should a volcano's?

If I say that somebody "ought" to behave in a certain way, all I am saying is that a particular system of rules dictates that they should act in that way. This has absolutely nothing to do with "free will", no matter how that illusory concept is defined, and hence I do not need to resolve any imagined tension there.

We (mostly) limit the discussion of ethics to human actors not because humans enjoy "choice", but for the more mundane reason that the consequences we apply to actors who violate the norms of ethics (such as oral reprimands, social coldness, banishment from a community, psychiatric treatment, economic sanctions, or imprisonment) only make sense as applied to humans, and not to volcanoes. It doesn't make any sense to tell a volcano that it's a bad person, not because it lacks choice, but because it doesn't have facilities to process language. Home confinement would be an equally wanting sanction, not because a volcano lacks choice, but because it doesn't move much anyway. We can't punish a volcano by locking it in a cage, not because it lacks choice, but because it wouldn't fit within the cell walls, and even if it did, a cell wouldn't be effective in restraining its particular variety of offensive conduct. We also know from physics that we can't administer psychotropic drugs and therapy to a volcano to persuade it not to kill again, not because it lacks choice, but because it doesn't have a brain that would respond to such drugs and therapy.

In fact, the stronger argument is actually that consequentialist ethics (i.e., a form of ethics where the virtue of actions is determined by reference to the consequences of those actions) makes sense only under determinism. This is because, as I've explained before, there are only two alternatives to determinism: (1) mystical religious phenomena (such as souls); and (2) randomness. Under option (1), the consequences of actions are irrelevant, because virtue is determined solely by reference to the rules handed down by a deity, without regard for whether the deity's rules are themselves meritorious (for example, if the deity says it's moral to stone both parties to an act of extra-marital sex, without even any apparent mens rea requirement, then that stoning is moral (Deuteronomy 22:22)); and, under option (2), the consequences of actions are unknowable in advance, which makes it difficult or impossible to analyse the ethical implications of a proposed course of conduct. Hence, if consequentialist ethics is important to you, you should probably hope that determinism is correct.

As for the "illusion of having choice", I can't say I know what that is. I've certainly never experienced it. From my perspective, as an ordinary human being and not a deity, it's impossible to distinguish between determinism, religious phenomena, and randomness, and hence I remain agnostic about which is correct. The truth of the matter, if it even makes sense to say there is a truth in view of the unverifiable nature of the issue, does not affect my life in any way, so I pay it no mind.
« Last Edit: November 23, 2016, 01:43:18 AM by Cathy »

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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #342 on: November 23, 2016, 09:16:18 AM »
There are a number of benefits to seeing things the way they are.  One immediately obvious one in regards to determinism is a massive increase in empathy.
I suppose it might, in some individuals, but it seems unlikely to be massive in general.
We all know animals are alive.  We know there are conditions they respond negatively to and others they respond positively to.
Many people believe that non-humans are soulless, mindless automatons.  This does not give them empathy for those animals, it confirms that any injury done to them is justified.
I doubt  taking away one of the few qualities that makes humans feel that they are unique and special is likely to cause them to humanize more people.

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It destroys the just world fallacy.
And (whether you agree it should or not) replaces it with a "fatalistic" one, which leads to an equivalent overall conclusion.
"Lisa: Maybe there is no moral"
"Homer: Exactly! It's just a bunch of stuff that happened."
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And so I can not be in anyway culpable for whatever my actions end up causing in the future either.

I'm guessing by culpable here, you're talking about the fallacy a lot of people fall into that with determinism we can't hold a criminal responsible for their actions. This isn't true.  Even if they didn't have any choice to do them, by holding them responsible, we prevent them from causing future harm, and we set a deterrence for others.  Holding them responsible is a antecedent cause to help prevent future pain.

I'm saying we equally can't hold the person who tortures a prisoner, or conversely, one who lets a murderer go, culpable.  We can't hold society responsible for holding criminals responsible (or not).  We can not "prevent" or "set a deterrence" or anything else, these things just happen to happen through us, the way a computer can't "hold someone responsible".
 
There seems to be a dichotomy in the language of how you talk about the issue, where we are making a logical determination of the best way to think about the fact that other people can't make logical determinations of how to think. 
If we are not making choices, I don't see how you can say we are really "acting", or "making determinations", as opposed to these are things which just happen, and which our molecules happen to be involved with.

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Of course, we should understand they had no choice, and treat prisoners with dignity.
There can be no "should"!  Some people will feel/believe they had no choice, others will feel/believe they had a choice, but no one has any choice in which one they feel so it is meaningless to say what they "should" understand.

Given the view that the purpose of (society imposed) consequences is to direct the actions of future potential criminals, I don't see why we would necessarily be more likely to treat prisoners with dignity (I think deciding one has no free will and no choice already robs them of all dignity, but I digress) - why wouldn't we treat them in whatever way was most likely to cause others not to commit crimes? 

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Does a dog have free will?  If so, how/why? If not, why not?

I have a 10-month old.  She's starting to show some personality.  Does she have free will?  Or are all her actions determined?  ...  If not, when did she "gain" free will?

Its generally believed that certain human metal facilities, like reason and logic, impulse control, self-awareness, occur specifically in the frontal lobe, particularly the pre-frontal cortex.  This area grows more slowly in humans than other brain (or body) parts, and it never develops as fully in dogs.
It does exist, however, in both, so, to any extent that we have free-will, they should, albeit less of it.  It develops gradually.  It isn't an all or nothing quality.  Will power varies even among adults, and within one individual at different points in time.

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Here's the bottom line: You feel like you have free will, because the antecedent causes are so complex, you can't trace them back, the way you can with a volcanic eruption.
Its more than just being complex and not knowing the sources.  I absolutely can NOT trace back every molecule of mineral, both molten and solid, and every tectonic plate shift going back millions of years, and be able to predict, or even explain, exactly why a volcano finally goes off at one instant and not three minutes earlier or a thousand years later.  I don't think anyone can, or probably ever will be able to, because the various planetary cycles involved are far too complex.  This does not make me feel like I am actually causing a volcano to explode when it does.

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And you can use this knowledge to help a lot of people.
This is where you lose me.  It sounds like "this information, transiting through your mind, either will or will not change conditions for a lot of people".  That isn't equivalent, in my mind, to "me" using something to help people.  If I am in no way responsible for my own actions, then I am nothing more than a set of atoms involved in the big space show that is physics.

I will grant that there is some neuropsychological research that implies you may actually be right.
However, I very strongly doubt the reaction of wide-spread acceptance of this theory would be increased empathy.

I think a far more likely result would be internal self-justification for bad behavior.  "It may be immoral for me to steal this, but hey, I don't have a choice, this is just the natural result of the antecedent causes that led to my current brain state"
You already have various racists and xenophobes and nationalists claiming these things are "natural", due to biology, and therefor justified.  If we have no control over what we do, then ultimately everything is "justified", the way Herbert's falling mug is "justified" by the existence of gravity.

The volcano doesn't feel like it has control.

Certainly though we can decide that a volcano blowing up and killing a bunch of villagers is a worse outcome, and do things to influence it not exploding (I mean, the science isn't really there yet, but pretend for this hypothetical).

If we can do things that influence that bad outcome in a deterministic way, why wouldn't we also do those things in us, who can cause bad things, like the volcano, but also have the benefit of feeling like we have choice?

It doesn't mean anything to say "we can do things" if we have no control.  It is just "we will do things", or else "we won't".
If we aren't choosing to influence, then "we" aren't really influencing at all.  Things are just playing out. 
So the reason we wouldn't "also do those things in us" is that the antecedent conditions were not such that we would do those things in us.

I don't think you've really addressed how you find the concept of ethics meaningful if no one makes any choices about anything.
You've explained why it may be useful, in that it may in itself create better outcomes - the same can be said about religion or santa claus - but not how it is actually valid or meaningful.

To bring it back to the original topic - if I accept determinism to mean that humans can not make choices, then my response to the question of "why don't you donate more money?" has to be "I don't have any choice!"
« Last Edit: November 23, 2016, 09:24:01 AM by Bakari »

arebelspy

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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #343 on: November 23, 2016, 04:47:17 PM »
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Does a dog have free will?  If so, how/why? If not, why not?

I have a 10-month old.  She's starting to show some personality.  Does she have free will?  Or are all her actions determined?  ...  If not, when did she "gain" free will?

Its generally believed that certain human metal facilities, like reason and logic, impulse control, self-awareness, occur specifically in the frontal lobe, particularly the pre-frontal cortex.  This area grows more slowly in humans than other brain (or body) parts, and it never develops as fully in dogs.
It does exist, however, in both, so, to any extent that we have free-will, they should, albeit less of it.  It develops gradually.  It isn't an all or nothing quality.  Will power varies even among adults, and within one individual at different points in time.

What does "develops gradually" mean?

How can you partially have free will?

How can you have more free will, or less?
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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #344 on: November 24, 2016, 08:25:03 AM »
OP/sol,

Well said. I attempted a similar post about a year and a half ago and was pilloried. Part of that was my fault, as I lacked the words to put things in a non-judgmental manner and well, my post did come with some judgement. The other part of it was that people don't like to feel like they haven't done things the right way - they usually end up giving justifications for their actions in lieu of questioning things at a fundamental level. I don't know if you're going to get people to question, but your OP was definitely worded better than my post.

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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #345 on: November 24, 2016, 09:34:46 AM »
Its generally believed that certain human metal facilities, like reason and logic, impulse control, self-awareness, occur specifically in the frontal lobe, particularly the pre-frontal cortex.  This area grows more slowly in humans than other brain (or body) parts, and it never develops as fully in dogs.
It does exist, however, in both, so, to any extent that we have free-will, they should, albeit less of it.  It develops gradually.  It isn't an all or nothing quality.  Will power varies even among adults, and within one individual at different points in time.

What does "develops gradually" mean?

How can you partially have free will?

How can you have more free will, or less?


Our levels of executive control (the ability to consciously override automatic impulses) varies even within a single person depending on time of day, blood sugar levels, and what other things we have resisted or experienced recently. 
I don't think it is just semantics that links the terms "free will" and "will power".
Just like you can have gradations of consciousness and lucidity, there's no obvious reason why will should have to be an absolute.  In fact, if there were gradations (which I am sure there are), it would completely answer the apparent contradictions I pointed out in my last post.

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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #346 on: November 24, 2016, 09:38:01 AM »
OP/sol,

Well said. I attempted a similar post about a year and a half ago and was pilloried.
...
The other part of it was that people don't like to feel like they haven't done things the right way - they usually end up giving justifications for their actions in lieu of questioning things at a fundamental level. I don't know if you're going to get people to question, but your OP was definitely worded better than my post.


It seemed that was no less true of the various posters in this thread.  It included people making justifications for why their own personal preferred way of doing good was the correct way that all others should do as well, (not just people making justifications for why they offer nothing), but the level of self-righteousness and the lack of questioning of one's own assumptions seems universal.