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Old 07-03-2020, 05:34 PM   #226
BrianTheMick2
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Re: Question about the philosophy of morality and moral theories

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Maximizes happiness more so than pleasure, but only in the largest sense of the word, which 99.9999% of people fail to understand.

Taking everything every billionaire in the USA has and distributing it to the poor would maximize happiness in the near future as far as what to do with their money is concerned. However setting the precedent that "even if you are incredibly successful in this country (the best-case outcome for all your hard work and risks and sacrifices) the gov will take all you have and give it to the poor" could easily, in the long term, lead to a net negative pleasure change in the country due to the fact that investors, inventors, etc would be highly incentivized to move to a different country where when you "make it" in business, you don't lose everything you have.

For some reason, when 99.9999% of humans think about utilitarianism, they think of it in a way similar to the short-term case described above.
That doesn't describe utilitarians at all. You might be thinking of Marxists. Some utilitarians are Marxists. Most aren't. Maybe 3 or 4 of them are, I would guess.
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Old 07-03-2020, 06:16 PM   #227
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Re: Question about the philosophy of morality and moral theories

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This is partially true, but there is also chemistry involved which can add to the mix and muddy the waters. For example, we can imagine you not lying if you were in a "normal" state of mind, but because you were talking to the police, and the police frighten you and make you nervous, this caused your person to release different chemicals into your brain in different amounts (leading to elevated heart rate, sweaty palms, different way of thinking, etc) and you made the decision to lie when you otherwise would have told the truth.
Sure there's loads of mud but
a) the mud has to be accounted for (or ignored) whether you think before or after particular actions
and
b) we have learned from all the previous times when there's also been plenty of mud.

Ethics is in part learning from past considerations to act in the correct way without letting the mud lead you astray. If anything, that seems easier if you act based on past learning, and then rationalise, rather than try to decide what to do when in an emotional state. In practice I doubt it makes much difference but there may be some subtleties.
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Old 07-03-2020, 06:18 PM   #228
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Re: Question about the philosophy of morality and moral theories

I appreciate that "maximizing happiness" is a crude description of utilitarianism.

I am trying to get at a tautology, but I don't know how to. Stay tuned...
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Old 07-03-2020, 06:21 PM   #229
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Re: Question about the philosophy of morality and moral theories

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That which minimizes suffering and maximizes pleasure, from what I understand. You can probably put them on the same axis, so I guess maximizing pleasure would be the same thing.
Could be best just to worry about minimising suffering. If someone is happy, or just content, there's no obvious moral reason to make them happier. Arguably it can even a bad thing morally to maximise happiness e.g 'better than life' type scenarios.

Minimizing suffering on the other hand seems an obviously excellent thing to do.
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Old 07-03-2020, 06:42 PM   #230
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Re: Question about the philosophy of morality and moral theories

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Could be best just to worry about minimising suffering. If someone is happy, or just content, there's no obvious moral reason to make them happier. Arguably it can even a bad thing morally to maximise happiness e.g 'better than life' type scenarios.



Minimizing suffering on the other hand seems an obviously excellent thing to do.
I'm more in the minimize suffering camp because it is lower hanging fruit and because suffering people make a lot of weird faces and sounds that I dislike.
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Old 07-03-2020, 07:14 PM   #231
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Re: Question about the philosophy of morality and moral theories

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That doesn't describe utilitarians at all. You might be thinking of Marxists. Some utilitarians are Marxists. Most aren't. Maybe 3 or 4 of them are, I would guess.
I was giving an example that would be easy to understand. The point of the argument was to show the importance of Mill's saying "in the largest sense of the word." The particular tools used to explain that concept are not important, nor are the ism's held by people who would commonly agree with the details of the tools used. You should be able to focus on the important parts, and not nit pick at the unimportant details, as it distracts.
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Old 07-03-2020, 08:13 PM   #232
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Re: Question about the philosophy of morality and moral theories

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In practice I doubt it makes much difference but there may be some subtleties.
Maybe, but I would estimate that at least 40% of murders are due to a changed state of mind, such as anger, jealousy, fear, etc. where people make decisions that, in a "normal" state of mind, they would never make. That being said, the vast majority of decisions made are not murdering.
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Old 07-03-2020, 10:44 PM   #233
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Re: Question about the philosophy of morality and moral theories

I'm an utilitarian. With some reservations. Respect for the individual and not being that particular guy inducing pain are among them.
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Old 07-03-2020, 11:38 PM   #234
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Re: Question about the philosophy of morality and moral theories

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So take lying. Whether we lie at any point in time is a function of all the previous times we lied/told the truth and all our previous learning about lying/truth telling (among much other stuff). It's not some random act which we then justify, it's a pre- justified position which may get modified a bit after the current event when we 'rationalise' it.

Rationalising has a bad name but in this context it really just means learning.
Thanks, but that's not really what I'm referring to. Off the top of my head, one study I recall showed that people will pick the political candidate whose name appears on the right side of the ballot for no other reason than right-handed bias. So sure they're going to provide a reason for their choice but at least in some instances we know it wasn't the causal reason for their choice.
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Old 07-04-2020, 12:04 AM   #235
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Re: Question about the philosophy of morality and moral theories

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Maybe, but I would estimate that at least 40% of murders are due to a changed state of mind, such as anger, jealousy, fear, etc. where people make decisions that, in a "normal" state of mind, they would never make. That being said, the vast majority of decisions made are not murdering.
Sure but that changed state of mind at the time of the act is much the same whether you think before the act or after.
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Old 07-04-2020, 12:08 AM   #236
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Re: Question about the philosophy of morality and moral theories

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Thanks, but that's not really what I'm referring to. Off the top of my head, one study I recall showed that people will pick the political candidate whose name appears on the right side of the ballot for no other reason than right-handed bias. So sure they're going to provide a reason for their choice but at least in some instances we know it wasn't the causal reason for their choice.
Oh sure, not disputing that we have all sorts of biases and that people's thinking and self-awareness (whenever it's done) is often very weak.
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Old 07-04-2020, 12:36 AM   #237
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Re: Question about the philosophy of morality and moral theories

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Thanks, but that's not really what I'm referring to. Off the top of my head, one study I recall showed that people will pick the political candidate whose name appears on the right side of the ballot for no other reason than right-handed bias. So sure they're going to provide a reason for their choice but at least in some instances we know it wasn't the causal reason for their choice.
So do you think there isnt a causal reason for their decision then? Or are you saying that this example is an argument for there not being one? I'm trying to understand better what you are meaning by this.
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Old 07-04-2020, 04:47 AM   #238
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Re: Question about the philosophy of morality and moral theories

The casual reason seems to be the political candidate is on the right side of the ballot. The voter would seldom admit that. It's too banal to digest. We like to think we have "higher" reasons.
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Old 07-04-2020, 07:16 AM   #239
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Re: Question about the philosophy of morality and moral theories

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I was giving an example that would be easy to understand. The point of the argument was to show the importance of Mill's saying "in the largest sense of the word." The particular tools used to explain that concept are not important, nor are the ism's held by people who would commonly agree with the details of the tools used. You should be able to focus on the important parts, and not nit pick at the unimportant details, as it distracts.
It seemed to me that I was going after your largest point in the post I was responding to, which was an inaccurate description of utilitarians and what they want the world to be. You spent several paragraphs on it.

I would have made a second argument against it, namely that your description of what would happen was also incorrect because we have data on what rich people do when taxes on them are high. They don't, at least not in large numbers, leave high tax states or countries*, or give up on investing.

*If you allow me the liberty of assuming that your "take everything" was meant as hyperbole.
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Old 07-04-2020, 07:27 AM   #240
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Re: Question about the philosophy of morality and moral theories

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So do you think there isnt a causal reason for their decision then? Or are you saying that this example is an argument for there not being one? I'm trying to understand better what you are meaning by this.
There isn't a causal reason that would be considered rational. People generally like to think that they choose candidates due to some measure of merit, so it doesn't quite work to say, "I like candidates on the left side of the ballot."

You get the same sort of thing with judges handing out different sentences for the same sort of crimes just prior to and just after lunch. Most people like to think that they have rational reasons, and it doesn't quite seem correct to base punishment on something that has nothing to do with the convicted.
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Old 07-04-2020, 10:37 AM   #241
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Re: Question about the philosophy of morality and moral theories

I think different kinds of casual reasons are intermixed. The cliché of course being "all other things being equal, then...". My guess would be the right/left side of the ballot and prior/after lunch could account for 5-10% of the total decision making.
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Old 07-04-2020, 11:07 AM   #242
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Re: Question about the philosophy of morality and moral theories

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It seemed to me that I was going after your largest point in the post I was responding to, which was an inaccurate description of utilitarians and what they want the world to be. You spent several paragraphs on it.

I would have made a second argument against it, namely that your description of what would happen was also incorrect because we have data on what rich people do when taxes on them are high. They don't, at least not in large numbers, leave high tax states or countries*, or give up on investing.

*If you allow me the liberty of assuming that your "take everything" was meant as hyperbole.
My largest point in the post had nothing to do with rich people, it had to do with the definition of utilitarianism, and more specifically, that it doesn't mean "maximizing happiness" but rather "maximizing happiness in the largest sense of the word."

What you are doing is analogous to when earlier, when I was talking about the ethics of lying, and said "you should lie when the nazis are at your door and asking if you are hiding any jews in your attic," if you were to then point out that "nazis didnt ask about jews in people's attics - they just searched your attic", or something like this. That isn't the point -- you are focusing on the tool being used to convey the point instead of the point that is trying to be conveyed, and I'm not sure if you are doing it by mistake or on purpose.

I also think that, by now, there should be no further misunderstanding about what has happened, and that this misunderstanding should be over. I cant explain it any better than I already have (twice), or even if I can, I think it unfair that I should have to.
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Old 07-04-2020, 11:09 AM   #243
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Re: Question about the philosophy of morality and moral theories

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You get the same sort of thing with judges handing out different sentences for the same sort of crimes just prior to and just after lunch. Most people like to think that they have rational reasons, and it doesn't quite seem correct to base punishment on something that has nothing to do with the convicted.
If true, this seems to be an argument in favor of what I was saying earlier to chez about the chemistry in the brain having an effect on the decision making process (and that it may have a bigger effect than chez seems willing to give it credit for). The mind still weights the pros and cons of the situation, but the chemistry can change the weight of the pros and/or the cons, thus changing the outcome when the scale is used (to make a horribly simplified -- to the point of being useless -- observation).
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Old 07-04-2020, 11:15 AM   #244
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Re: Question about the philosophy of morality and moral theories

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I think different kinds of casual reasons are intermixed. The cliché of course being "all other things being equal, then...". My guess would be the right/left side of the ballot and prior/after lunch could account for 5-10% of the total decision making.
Sure, but not having sex for a month could add another 3% change, and getting only 6 hours of sleep the night before might add an additional 4%, and so on and so on. I think we could probably get the best estimate by having a person watch us for a month, taking diligent notes on our actions such as when we eat, how much, how much sleep we got, etc, and then reflecting on the decisions we made over the last month and pointing out any that we were surprised we made or that seemed uncharacteristic. When these two documents are then compared side by side, there may or may not be clear indications of a phenomenon, and I would predict that they would not be clear but would be present. The main limiting factor would be the persons own reflections on the decisions they made. Maybe it would be best to get 2 people watching you -- one to take notes on what you did, the other to take notes on your actions, noting any that they thought were out of line for you.
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Old 07-04-2020, 12:02 PM   #245
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Re: Question about the philosophy of morality and moral theories

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If true, this seems to be an argument in favor of what I was saying earlier to chez about the chemistry in the brain having an effect on the decision making process (and that it may have a bigger effect than chez seems willing to give it credit for). The mind still weights the pros and cons of the situation, but the chemistry can change the weight of the pros and/or the cons, thus changing the outcome when the scale is used (to make a horribly simplified -- to the point of being useless -- observation).
I think it's massive and haven't denied it credit at all.
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Old 07-04-2020, 12:16 PM   #246
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Re: Question about the philosophy of morality and moral theories

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My largest point in the post had nothing to do with rich people, it had to do with the definition of utilitarianism, and more specifically, that it doesn't mean "maximizing happiness" but rather "maximizing happiness in the largest sense of the word."



What you are doing is analogous to when earlier, when I was talking about the ethics of lying, and said "you should lie when the nazis are at your door and asking if you are hiding any jews in your attic," if you were to then point out that "nazis didnt ask about jews in people's attics - they just searched your attic", or something like this. That isn't the point -- you are focusing on the tool being used to convey the point instead of the point that is trying to be conveyed, and I'm not sure if you are doing it by mistake or on purpose.



I also think that, by now, there should be no further misunderstanding about what has happened, and that this misunderstanding should be over. I cant explain it any better than I already have (twice), or even if I can, I think it unfair that I should have to.
I'm not sure of what you mean by "happiness in the largest sense of the word." I'm still not sure what the point of all the paragraphs were if you were trying to make a point. The source of my confusion doesn't matter.

If you mean what most people mean by "overall well-being" and not "we measure giggling" then I agree.* They are also quite clear when they say "largest amount over the largest number of people" as well.

If you meant something different: If you meant happiness as some sort of value judgment on what people ought find pleasurable, then it clearly doesn't mean that. It isn't silent on the matter either - it directly states that doesn't matter at all whether happiness comes from making cute cat videos or building a spaceship. This isn't to say that consequences down the line are not important (they absolutely are), simply that suffering and pleasure are the ONLY measures that matter.

It also is extremely clear that pleasure and suffering have nothing to do with worthiness. Total suffering and pleasure to the largest number of agents. It is very clear that this does not mean, "to the most deserving."

"But humanity will conquer and populate the solar system" is not an end. It is a means. If it doesn't lead to less suffering and more pleasure (to the greatest number of agents), then it is not good.

To state it more clearly: Suffering is bad. Pleasure is good. The goal is maximize one and minimize the other for as many agents as possible. Absolutely everything else is just details on how best to achieve that goal, and are of absolutely no value outside of their usefulness in achieving that goal.

*not sure if it was worth mentioning since it is obvious, but that hardly counts as a criticism

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Old 07-04-2020, 12:28 PM   #247
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Re: Question about the philosophy of morality and moral theories

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I think it's massive and haven't denied it credit at all.
Maybe I misunderstood what you meant by the following then?

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Sure but that changed state of mind at the time of the act is much the same whether you think before the act or after.
I thought you were trying to say "person does action A1 in state of mind S1, but if person was in state of mind S2, person still would have done action A1"
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Old 07-04-2020, 12:33 PM   #248
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Re: Question about the philosophy of morality and moral theories

It's saying that the emotional impact on the brain (and other factors) are much the same whether the thinking component is before or after the action.
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Old 07-04-2020, 12:35 PM   #249
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Re: Question about the philosophy of morality and moral theories

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Maybe I misunderstood what you meant by the following then?



I thought you were trying to say "person does action A1 in state of mind S1, but if person was in state of mind S2, person still would have done action A1"
He was talking about whether it matters whether justification for a decision comes before or after the decision is made.

Whether the decision has factors that you are not aware of is an entirely separate matter.
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Old Today, 01:18 AM   #250
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Re: Question about the philosophy of morality and moral theories

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I'm not sure of what you mean by "happiness in the largest sense of the word." I'm still not sure what the point of all the paragraphs were if you were trying to make a point. The source of my confusion doesn't matter.

If you mean what most people mean by "overall well-being" and not "we measure giggling" then I agree.* They are also quite clear when they say "largest amount over the largest number of people" as well.

If you meant something different: If you meant happiness as some sort of value judgment on what people ought find pleasurable, then it clearly doesn't mean that. It isn't silent on the matter either - it directly states that doesn't matter at all whether happiness comes from making cute cat videos or building a spaceship. This isn't to say that consequences down the line are not important (they absolutely are), simply that suffering and pleasure are the ONLY measures that matter.

It also is extremely clear that pleasure and suffering have nothing to do with worthiness. Total suffering and pleasure to the largest number of agents. It is very clear that this does not mean, "to the most deserving."

"But humanity will conquer and populate the solar system" is not an end. It is a means. If it doesn't lead to less suffering and more pleasure (to the greatest number of agents), then it is not good.

To state it more clearly: Suffering is bad. Pleasure is good. The goal is maximize one and minimize the other for as many agents as possible. Absolutely everything else is just details on how best to achieve that goal, and are of absolutely no value outside of their usefulness in achieving that goal.

*not sure if it was worth mentioning since it is obvious, but that hardly counts as a criticism
Sorry, I'll respond in a couple days.
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