• Pfhorrest
    4.4k
    Well, all you've told me so far is "if I am right, then I am right." I still don't have any idea of where your moral philosophy gets its purchase.SophistiCat

    No, I've said that if I am right, then every difference from to my view, if applied consistently, is tantamount to "just give up" (on answering moral questions). So, presuming one would care to answer moral questions if it should turn out to be possible, one must (if I am right) act in a way that tacitly assumes the premises I start from, and therefore (on pain of inconsistency) accept all that's logically implied by them.

    That's just the big picture overview. If you want the full argument, I've done a huge series of threads on it here over the past year. Foundational principles, semantics, ends, agents, means, and institutes, for your reference.

    To counter that you'd have to show that your system is, in fact, possible to apply. A system which relies, for its execution, on facts which are impossible to obtain with sufficient accuracy to yield results better than guesswork is not applicable. This third-party data on which your system relies changes too rapidly with too strong a feedback from the system itself for any scientific-like investigation to yield its answers in time for their enaction to bring about the desired result. Hence your system is not one that can be applied by humans.Isaac

    You are again assuming that I'm aiming to create a static world that permanently satisfies everyone exactly how it is, rather than a dynamic world that adapts to satisfy people's changing appetites in real time.

    That's where your system fails. What's the point in deciding that Xs are 'good ends' if later analysis of how to achieve those ends shows us that doing so is impossible? We have a choice here, we can set up our 'good ends' such that they are practically achievable, or we can set them up such that they are entirely useless at any pragmatic level. If you ignore the issues with method, you are just building pointless sky castles. Ethics is about real action among real humans.Isaac

    This sounds like exactly the thinking I was just charitable enough to assume Baker wasn't engaging in, when I responded to him:

    Even if we can't get all the way there, that's no reason to not go as far as we can. You are the one who seems to be saying "we can't possibly get all the way there, so let's not try". Would you have us pick some more accomplishable goal, try to get there, and then if we do get there, just stop trying to improve? Or wouldn't you have us keep trying to improve as much as we can? The latter is what I advocate, and I wouldn't have even thought it needed to be specified if you hadn't implied that you think to the contrary. All I've specified is what direction "improvement" is.Pfhorrest

    I'm just saying that we should be trying to reduce everyone's suffering as much as we can manage -- that perfection would be total elimination of all suffering, that's the ultimate shoot-for-the-moon goal, and the closer we can get to attaining that, the better. We can certainly sometimes reduce some suffering. That's a step in the right direction on my account, and not to be discounted just because it didn't eliminate all suffering forever. Would you at some point say "that's enough suffering eliminated, we can stop now", and just give up on even attempting to get rid of even more? Where is that line to be drawn, and why?

    The whole method of verifying people's hedonic experiences that you're contesting to vehemently is just a way to tell reliably if something consistently causes certain types of people to suffer in certain contexts, so that we can know to stop doing that. It doesn't need to tell us exactly what we must do; outside of those known-bad things, anything is permissible.

    This is exactly analogous to falsificationism and in my overall system is a direct application of the very same principles: we're not even trying to pick out exactly what the right thing is -- whether "right" here means "true" or "good" -- because that would be impossible. We're just trying to narrow down on the range of possibilities wherein it might still be.

    No, That is possible to predict, already has been predicted, and is something no-one but a psychopath generally struggles with. So no new method is required to assist with it.Isaac

    And yet we're still discovering more and more things about that as time marches on, recognizing the different challenges that different kinds of people have and adapting our social world to accommodate those differences. How are we discovering these things? Basically by "emic" sociology: we're paying attention to the first-person lived experiences of different people, and accounting for those different perspectives in our models of what is good and bad. Just like I'm advocating. Yet some of these recent adaptations are the things met with the fiercest social and political resistance. I guess just half of everyone are sociopaths? Or, maybe, we're just not all in good habits regarding updating our moral views? Maybe someone should advocate those kinds of habits some more, try to get everyone on board with that program...

    You've just completely ignored the argument I've already given against the pragmatism of this. I'll just repeat it, in case you're confused into thinking that ignoring it makes it go away.Isaac

    I don't know where the miscommunication is happening here, because the part you repeated sounds like it's arguing against trying to come up with a static, unchanging world that forever satisfies the appetites of everyone, when what I wrote that you're responding to is an explicit denial that that's what I'm trying to do. I'm not disputing that the thing you say is impossible is impossible; I'm disputing that I'm advocating that impossible thing.

    See a few paragraphs up ("The whole method of..." and "This is exactly analogous...") for elaboration on how what I'm advocating is different from that.
  • SophistiCat
    1.6k
    No, I've said that if I am right, then every difference from to my view, if applied consistently, is tantamount to "just give up" (on answering moral questions).Pfhorrest

    Don't be ridiculous. Everyone is answering moral questions, no thanks to your theory.

    That's just the big picture overview. If you want the full argument, I've done a huge series of threads on it here over the past year.Pfhorrest

    No, thanks. I entered one of those discussions once, and it went nowhere (just as it's not going anywhere here). I never got any answers from you, just a repetition of the same pitch.
  • Isaac
    4.2k
    You are again assuming that I'm aiming to create a static world that permanently satisfies everyone exactly how it is, rather than a dynamic world that adapts to satisfy people's changing appetites in real time.Pfhorrest

    No, I'm well aware of the fact that you're talking about a dynamic world adapting to satisfy people's changing appetites in real time. I'm saying that such an aim is impossible. the fact that you're prepared to update your world as people's appetites change does not have any bearing on the problem of people's appetites changing faster than you can update your 'ideal world' to accommodate the change. If your 'ideal world' is permanently several years behind the appetites it is supposed to satisfy then what exactly is its purpose?

    Would you at some point say "that's enough suffering eliminated, we can stop now", and just give up on even attempting to get rid of even more? Where is that line to be drawn, and why?Pfhorrest

    It's not your objective that's in question, it's your methods, but to answer your question directly, yes, I would at some point in time say "that's enough suffering eliminated, we can stop now" I don't hold the elimination of all suffering to be the only goal in life, and if suffering were eliminated to a degree where I found it to be less important than other goals, then I would suggest we stop there.

    As I said before, you could argue that the frustration of these other goals was a form of suffering, but then you end up saying nothing at all because reduction in suffering become de facto the only goal there is.

    The whole method of verifying people's hedonic experiences that you're contesting to vehemently is just a way to tell reliably if something consistently causes certain types of people to suffer in certain contexts, so that we can know to stop doing that.Pfhorrest

    No it isn't. I've (quite exhaustively now) explained why it doesn't do that. whether or not something causes certain types of people to suffer in certain contexts is, in part dependant on the very actions we take to prevent it and so will already have changed the very moment we enact any strategy to prevent it. As such it is not "a way to tell reliably if something consistently causes certain types of people to suffer in certain contexts, so that we can know to stop doing that." It is only such a thing if we don't make any changes to our culture as a result of the data we glean - which is exactly the opposite purpose.

    some of these recent adaptations are the things met with the fiercest social and political resistance. I guess just half of everyone are sociopaths?Pfhorrest

    No. Again, despite your frequent nods to it, this is just ignoring the complexities of long-term satisfaction. Most people who object to these changes do so from economic, societal or religious reasons - ie they think that pursuing them may bring satisfaction now, but the effects of doing so in the long term will bring less satisfaction overall. since such long-term satisfaction cannot be tested, the arguments are all moot and we end up deciding democratically. as I said on the other thread, you're not an unprecedented genius, we have all been here before and the system we have is largely the result of having been through all this.

    See a few paragraphs up ("The whole method of..." and "This is exactly analogous...") for elaboration on how what I'm advocating is different from that.Pfhorrest

    See a few paragraphs up for how it's irrelevant whether you're talking about a static or a dynamic idealisation. What matters is the fact that the very act of idealisation effects the appetite data it was idealised to meet, and as such it is rendered immediately inaccurate. Saying that you'll update it as appetites change is pointless. All you'll have is record of what appetites were at the time of survey and no reason to believe they'll be of any use trying to satisfy whatever appetites will be by the time a strategy is devised and finally has its effect.
  • Pfhorrest
    4.4k
    Don't be ridiculous. Everyone is answering moral questions, no thanks to your theory.SophistiCat

    And to the extent that they are genuinely trying to answer those questions and not throwing up their hands and saying "because ___ said so!" or "it's all just opinions anyway!", they're doing things as my theory recommends. I'm not saying that my theory is an entirely new thing completely unlike anything anyone else has ever done. It's mostly just taking bits of other approaches and putting them together, leaving out any bits of those other approaches that (if I'm right, and if they were applied consistently) would end up at one of those two thought-terminating cliches above.

    You're asking where my views "find purchase". That reduction of the particular things I disagree with to just giving up is where that happens. If I'm right about all the inferences between things, of course. But that -- "don't just give up" -- is what I'm ultimately appealing to to support everything else.

    No, I'm well aware of the fact that you're talking about a dynamic world adapting to satisfy people's changing appetites in real time. I'm saying that such an aim is impossible. the fact that you're prepared to update your world as people's appetites change does not have any bearing on the problem of people's appetites changing faster than you can update your 'ideal world' to accommodate the change. If your 'ideal world' is permanently several years behind the appetites it is supposed to satisfy then what exactly is its purpose?Isaac

    This still sounds like you think like my proposal is that we re-run through the whole elaborate process of "peer review" every time anyone's appetites change, to come up with an updated picture of exactly how the world will be that will then be forced on everyone -- too late, now that everyone's appetites have changed again. That's not what I'm proposing. As I've already said several times before, the "dynamic" solution to the problem I'm talking about is a liberal/libertarian one: let everyone control their own surroundings in real time. No long roundabout multi-year process required for those constant day-to-day fluctuations.

    you're not an unprecedented geniusIsaac

    You're the one putting that claim in my mouth, not me. I've tried to be very clear that my views are mostly just a combination of other already well-known views, minus the parts of those that are usually objected to, usually substituting those parts with parts of other views instead, but without importing the parts of those other views that are usually objected to, etc.

    This altruistic hedonism part of my view is basically just the normal ends of utilitarianism, there's nothing new there. But there's several objections to utilitarianism, including the question of on what grounds we can claim that minimizing suffering / maximizing pleasure is good, and the objection about the ends justifying the means. So I give a pragmatic argument for the first of those that's grounded in something like a secularized version of Pascal's Wager; and for the second thing I separate questions about means and questions about ends in the same way we normally separate epistemology and ontology, and while I agree with utilitarianism about the ends, I don't claim that that justifies just any means, and instead give a deontological account of the acceptable means to those ends, modeled after a falsificationist epistemology, which of course is nothing new of my own, though I do give what so far as I know is a novel argument for it again grounded in that secularized version of Pascal's Wager.

    The only reason I'm even putting forth these views myself is because I am unaware of anyone having put forth quite this combination of these facets of these views like this before, after having looked for someone who did. I know that pretty much all of the parts are unoriginal, but I've not seen anyone put them all together like this.

    If someone has, and I just don't know, I'm hoping to find out about that. (Like with my meta-ethics: I hadn't heard about anyone combining non-descriptivism with cognitivism, in a way almost but not quite like Hare's universal prescriptivism; but I eventually found out that there had been a paper on just that, inspired by Hare, published just shortly before my philosophy education, which is why it wasn't in my curriculum yet).

    And if nobody has, then hey, maybe this is an idea worth sharing, and not just keeping to myself.


    You seem to want to force upon me a dichotomy of either me saying nothing new and so nothing worth saying, or else me arrogantly thinking I'm some kind of unprecedented genius because (so far as I can tell) I've had a new idea. What would be an acceptable (to you) thing to say somewhere like this, if neither "I (dis)like this old idea" or "I think this might be a new idea" is allowable?
  • Isaac
    4.2k
    the "dynamic" solution to the problem I'm talking about is a liberal/libertarian one: let everyone control their own surroundings in real time.Pfhorrest

    Again what difference does that make to my argument? An individual doing it is no quicker than an institution doing it, they're no more able to predict what every future human's appetites are going to be for the rest of human existence as that dynamic future changes in real time in response to their emerging strategy. Either you're saying that everyone can do anything they like without hindrance, or else the nature of that hindrance is crucial to your ethics It's the hindrance that we're talking about here, the calculation of that which you'd like to do but should refrain from doing because of the consequences on the suffering of others. The whole debate is about how to work out what those things are, so saying that you can do what you like absent of those restrictions is irrelevant. We started out that way, one already can do what one likes absent of the restrictions laid down by whatever moral code one follows.

    You seem to want to force upon me a dichotomy of either me saying nothing new and so nothing worth saying, or else me arrogantly thinking I'm some kind of unprecedented genius because (so far as I can tell) I've had a new idea.Pfhorrest

    No, there's having a new idea but having the humility to recognise that each step is complex and fraught terrain which has been trod before. The only thing I object to about your posting style is the manner in which you text-dump your entire completed world-view, and when anyone questions some part of it you say "that's not what we're discussing here, I've dealt with that elsewhere", then when we look to the thread in which you've dealt with it you say "well, I don't want to waste time with people whom I can't convince (after five minutes) so I'm moving on to the next thread", issues are raised in that next thread and are referred back to the previous one... and so it goes on. Nothing ever gets dealt with because all you want to do is blurt out the entire edifice, but in doing so never deal with any of the issues that arise.

    Every single step you take might well be new, exiting and world-shattering (unlikely of course, but not impossible), but you'll not find out if only a short while into the issues you abandon the debate in favour of just assuming you're right and moving on to the next step. The reason philosophy (and science, for that matter) deals with small issues in great detail is that most authors and scientists are humble enough to know that if no-one else has come up with their grand world-view it probably because the issues are extremely complex and so are best tackled one at a time in great detail. Bit by bit we make progress.
  • SophistiCat
    1.6k
    And to the extent that they are genuinely trying to answer those questions and not throwing up their hands and saying "because ___ said so!" or "it's all just opinions anyway!", they're doing things as my theory recommends.Pfhorrest

    If you are not with me, then you are not genuinely answering moral questions? One can disagree with the answers that other people give to moral questions (as well one must), but to deny that they are being genuine is extremely presumptuous, not to say insulting. You have not earned the right to this stance.

    Everyone makes moral valuations. Everyone decides what is right and what is wrong. As a moral theorist, what you are proposing goes above and beyond genuinely answering moral questions. It is incumbent upon you to explain why this theoretical superstructure is needed in the first place, and how we can know if it's any good.

    You're asking where my views "find purchase". That reduction of the particular things I disagree with to just giving up is where that happens. If I'm right about all the inferences between things, of course. But that -- "don't just give up" -- is what I'm ultimately appealing to to support everything else.Pfhorrest

    You keep repeating this pitch, but it is unconvincing, because it is empty. If you can give us the motivation - What are we looking for? Why do need it? How will we know when we've found it? - then the rest is a no-brainer. No Pascal's Wager is needed to additionally convince us to go searching for answers. But I have not seen the answers to these questions from you.

    You want to have a science of morality, but absent the motivating principles that underlie science, this is just a simulacrum, a pseudo-science. It's technical, but ultimately pointless.
  • Pfhorrest
    4.4k
    Again what difference does that make to my argument?Isaac

    If we have a generally libertarian society where everyone gets to be master of their own little domain instead of being subject to the whims of others then we don't run into those kinds of conflicts nearly so much and so don't need to predict huge numbers of tiny details far in advance. The only issues that remain are in public spaces, where e.g. Alice is doing something in a public park that Bob claims harms his equal right to use the park, and Alice rebuts that Bob is being an over-sensitive crybaby and she's not doing anything harmful, and we need to decide whether Bob's claim is legit or not. For that we don't need to predict a ridiculously complex dynamic system of all people everywhere years in advance. We just need a "today's forecast", to use your weather analogy from the other thread. We just need to know that Bob and Alice are people with these relevant features in this relevant context and what the research says about the experiences of such kinds of people in such contexts, to resolve that particular conflict. And of course we need to know the analogue of "climate science" for big-picture long-term policy, which of course you know is different from long-term weather prediction, and which you've already admitted is something (the equivalent of which) is possible, i.e. general ethical trends.

    No, there's having a new idea but having the humility to recognise that each step is complex and fraught terrain which has been trod before. The only thing I object to about your posting style is the manner in which you text-dump your entire completed world-view, and when anyone questions some part of it you say "that's not what we're discussing here, I've dealt with that elsewhere", then when we look to the thread in which you've dealt with it you say "well, I don't want to waste time with people whom I can't convince (after five minutes) so I'm moving on to the next thread", issues are raised in that next thread and are referred back to the previous one... and so it goes on. Nothing ever gets dealt with because all you want to do is blurt out the entire edifice, but in doing so never deal with any of the issues that arise.

    Every single step you take might well be new, exiting and world-shattering (unlikely of course, but not impossible), but you'll not find out if only a short while into the issues you abandon the debate in favour of just assuming you're right and moving on to the next step. The reason philosophy (and science, for that matter) deals with small issues in great detail is that most authors and scientists are humble enough to know that if no-one else has come up with their grand world-view it probably because the issues are extremely complex and so are best tackled one at a time in great detail. Bit by bit we make progress.
    Isaac

    The reason I'm doing a bunch of threads is precisely to focus in on specific narrow issues, but you keep jumping the gun to complain about implications you think I'm making on topics I haven't even spoken about yet. Let me recap once again a history of our conversations here over the past year, this time narrowed down to just ethics-related things:

    - I started a thread that was supposed to be about just having broad philosophical principles with far-reaching implications in general, not specifically about my principles, though I mentioned what my principles were and some far-reaching implications I think they have, as an example of the kind of thing that thread was trying to solicit from others. (a la "What are your principles and what implications do they have?") I mentioned my principles there without presenting any arguments for them, because that thread wasn't supposed to be about them in particular, that was a thread about meta-philosophy more generally, and I was going to do another thread about my principles in particular later.

    But you made that thread entirely into an argument about one half of one of those principles (the moral half of universalism), and as a consequence of that disruption I never actually got around to doing a thread giving a proper argument for those foundational principles. I realized that last bit a month ago and went back and made a new post with that argument in that thread, but you ignored that. Maybe go back and read that now? I can link it if you want.

    - I did a thread about philosophy of language, including within it an account of moral language, and you once again made the entire thread about the implications of that on moral universalism. That account of moral language doesn't even entail moral universalism, it just leaves it possible, but that was enough to get you riled up. Plus I thought at that point that I had already presented my argument for universalism generally -- forgetting that you had disrupted the thread(s) where I had meant to do that, resulting in me not getting around to it until I realized that 9 months later -- so it seemed like you were just bringing up an argument I had already said everything I had to say on again in a mostly-unrelated place.

    - Months later after numerous threads unrelated to ethics, I did a thread with the main thesis that there are two parts to an ethical investigation, the philosophical part of figuring out what we’re asking, what would make an answer correct, and how we apply such criteria (meta-ethics); then the part where we actually do that application and come up with specific answers for the real world based on those philosophical principles (applied ethics); and how normative ethics as usually conceived doesn't really fit in there anywhere. Of course in elaborating upon that I assumed my own general ethics for illustration, and once again you focused entirely on the same points of objection to what I'd had to explain to you of my views in earlier threads (after repeatedly trying to get you to wait until I actually opened a discussion about that specifically, so it wouldn't derail other threads about other things only tangentially related).

    - Then I finally did that thread to discuss that issue specifically, giving my more detailed arguments for hedonistic altruism -- with references also back to the disrupted earlier thread on general principles where I had since added the arguments that I never got to because of you -- and you ignored it entirely. Maybe go back and read that now? I can link it if you want.

    - I did a thread on free will and its relation to moral responsibility that you ignored, thankfully.

    - I did a thread on the libertarian and deontological aspects of my ethics that I'd previously promised would address many of your concerns based out of your assumption that I was some ends-justify-the-means authoritarian, but you ignored it entirely. Maybe go back and read that now? I can link it if you want.

    - And most recently I did a thread on how to build a justified government in light of that kind of ethical system, but once again you ignore the specific narrow focus of that thread to fixate on the one thing you just can't let go of, completely ignoring 90% of the OP.

    Do you see the pattern here?

    If not for your disruptions, I would have done that first meta-ethical thread as planned, then given my actual arguments for my general principles where we could have hashed a lot of the groundwork for this out -- those general principles are supposed to be the boring obvious things that everyone will agree with, to use as a starting point for all the later arguments. That would have spared the disruption of the language thread, and then when I got around to doing actual ethics threads again, maybe you could have actually engaged in the ones that were supposed to be about the topics you kept interrupting every other thread with.

    It's like I'm trying to do specific focused threads on various topics in astronomy and you're just hung up on how these all just assume a background of heliocentrism, even if none of them are actually about heliocentrism -- except the one that is, which you ignore.

    If you are not with me, then you are not genuinely answering moral questions?SophistiCat

    Other way around: if you are not genuinely (attempting to) answering moral questions, then I'm not with you.

    It's not about whether or not they agree with me. I'm stating my (dis)agreement with them to the extent that what they're doing, if done consistently, would(n't) boil down to giving up, by saying either "because ___ said so!" or "it's all just opinions anyway!"

    I think many people are doing a lot of things right, but also, often, at least some things wrong (when it comes to figuring out what's right and wrong, I mean). I'm calling out what looks wrong with those approaches and why, and saying hey, let's not do that, let's just do the other stuff, that many of us are already doing, but without this stuff that just gums of the works of all that.

    You keep repeating this pitch, but it is unconvincing, because it is empty. If you can give us the motivation - What are we looking for? Why do need it? How will we know when we've found it? - then the rest is a no-brainer. No Pascal's Wager is needed to additionally convince us to go searching for answers.SophistiCat

    My "wager" isn't to convince anyone to go searching for answers, but rather assumes that people are already interested in answers if they may be available to find, and then argues why certain broad approaches would generally impede that search, and so are to be avoided.

    If someone just doesn't give a crap about what's good or bad at all, I don't know how to reach them. But I presume that most people do give at least some crap about that, that they'd like to know what those answers are, if there are any to know.

    From that basic premise, and the followup that you don't stand much chance of accomplishing anything if you don't try (so therefore anything that undermines the motive to try should be rejected), I argue that both "it's all just opinions anyway!" (relativism) and "because ___ said so!" (dogmatism) would constitute reasons to give up trying (because success is either impossible or guaranteed, respectively, no matter what we do), and so should be rejected.

    Not because they are definitely false (and here comes the "wager" part), but because if they're true then it doesn't matter whether or not we believe them (as in that case we'd have no power to figure anything out anyway), but if they're false we're better off (for the purpose of figuring things out) in disbelieving them, so the pragmatic thing to do is always assume they're false.

    That gives us the negation of relativism (universalism) and the negation of dogmatism (criticism) as starting principles. Criticism in turn demands that we reject any claims that can't be tested, since we'd have nothing to go on but someone's word for such claims, which gives us a principle I call "phenomenalism", the ethical side of which is hedonism.

    So there we have universalism (including moral universalism, i.e. altruism) and phenomenalism (including hedonism).

    Liberalism (of both thought and action, belief and intention) likewise follows from universalism, because its negation that I dub (for lack of a better term) "cynicism", by which I mean the rejection of all claims until they are conclusively proven from the ground up, would necessitate nihilism, which in practice amounts to solipsism or egotism, which are just the most extreme forms of relativism. So rejecting relativism for univeralism (as above) demands rejecting cynicism for liberalism as well.
  • Isaac
    4.2k
    If we have a generally libertarian society where everyone gets to be master of their own little domain instead of being subject to the whims of others then we don't run into those kinds of conflicts nearly so much and so don't need to predict huge numbers of tiny details far in advance.Pfhorrest

    On what basis do you make this claim?

    The only issues that remain are in public spaces, where e.g. Alice is doing something in a public park that Bob claims harms his equal right to use the park, and Alice rebuts that Bob is being an over-sensitive crybaby and she's not doing anything harmful, and we need to decide whether Bob's claim is legit or not.Pfhorrest

    That's literally all of morality. Morality is about how we treat others. If there are no 'others' being affected by our actions, there's no morality.

    For that we don't need to predict a ridiculously complex dynamic system of all people everywhere years in advance. We just need a "today's forecast", to use your weather analogy from the other thread.Pfhorrest

    Nonsense. Take Alice's wish to buy a new car and Bob's desire that his air remain free from diesel fumes. alice will claim that the economy will suffer if she doesn't, Bob will claim the environment will, Alice will claim that prosperity has brought about environmental benefits, Bob will claim that it's destroying the environment in the long-run... Even your trite example of using the park has implications for the moral character of subsequent generations, obedience to authority, slippery slope etc...

    I sincerely doubt you could come up with a single moral dilemma which could be solved by reference only to the two people involved.

    I realized that last bit a month ago and went back and made a new post with that argument in that thread, but you ignored that. Maybe go back and read that now? I can link it if you want.Pfhorrest

    Sure, I'd be interested to read it.

    Do you see the pattern here?Pfhorrest

    Well, yes, but it's obviously quite a different pattern from my point of view. As I said before it reads to me as if you keep making new threads which rely (in part) on premises from old threads which have numerous outstanding issues. That comes across as being more interested in proselytising than in discussing - proselytise for two thousand words, have brief discussion, shut that down and then proselytise for another two thousand words without even so much as acknowledging the numerous issues with the premises.

    The problem, as I see it, is that you're too ready to duck the issues by referencing some other part of this bible you've written without actually having to make the argument there and then about how exactly it resolves the problem. You're doing it here. Instead of outlining how you think...

    a thread on the libertarian and deontological aspects of my ethics ... would address many of [my] concerns based out of [my] assumption that [you were] some ends-justify-the-means authoritarianPfhorrest

    ... you just allude to that fact that it would, but when we turn to that thread, no mention is made of how it addresses the issues we were previously discussing. I've no doubt it all makes sense to you, I kind of presume that from the outset, so there's little point in writing anything publicly unless you address what other people say about it.

    I don't read all of your threads, nor all the replies in the ones I'm involved in, but from what I have read so far, this isn't confined to me. I'm one of the few people who reply to your threads at all (in any long-term engagement) and of the few others who do, most seem to raise similar issues (namely that your premises are the problematic part, and what you assume is self-evident is not so)
  • SophistiCat
    1.6k
    If someone just doesn't give a crap about what's good or bad at all,Pfhorrest

    Now I remember why my earlier attempt to engage you on this topic was a failure. Bye.
  • Pfhorrest
    4.4k
    Sure, I'd be interested to read it.Isaac

    https://thephilosophyforum.com/discussion/comment/513602

    If someone just doesn't give a crap about what's good or bad at all, — Pfhorrest

    Now I remember why my earlier attempt to engage you on this topic was a failure. Bye.
    SophistiCat

    Because...
    I presume that most people do give at least some crap about thatPfhorrest
    ...?
  • Count Timothy von Icarus
    125
    I don't get how anyone can be a pure hedonist. Pain is essential to personal growth, and pleasurable qualia are only part of what makes life worth living. I've seen this often phrased as the difference between happiness (the present experience of desirable sensations) versus joy (deep contentment) in religious discourse.

    To quote James 1, 2-3.

    "Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. And let perseverance be perfect, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing."
  • Pfhorrest
    4.4k
    the testing of your faith produces perseveranceCount Timothy von Icarus

    Why is perseverance good? (NB that I agree that it is, and I have my answer to that question; I just want to hear yours).
  • Count Timothy von Icarus
    125


    There are four reasons.

    I. The practical material. It's a tough world and the weak are trampled under foot. Negative feedback works as a learning mechanism, oftentimes better than positive stimuli. If you don't learn to grind, or to stand up for yourself in uncomfortable stations, embracing negative feelings, you'll end up worse off in the long run.

    II. Human's positive feedback mechanisms adapt over time, requiring greater stimuli for an equal subjective experience. Chasing hedonism can land you in a world of hurt.

    III. Connected to II, joy, versus happiness, requires long term psychological development (dare I say spiritual at times). This is work. Philosophy is work. Confronting your past can be negative. Opening up emotionally and being vulnerable is like pulling teeth for some people. Their also all necessary for a deeper joy and level of conciousness. The way Robert A. Johnson puts it, there are three levels to man. Simple two dimensional man, embodied by Don Quixote, three dimensional.man, where most modern people end up, embodied by Hamlet, and enlightened four dimensional man, embodied by Faust, who has faced his demons and been redeemed at the last.

    IV. Aesthetically, hedonism is pretty skin deep. Art made purely for the sake of "looking good" generally only gets so far. Not that I don't appreciate cool sci-fi landscapes, or colorful glass sculptures, but you're not going to understand Giotto or Michaelangelo without some pain in your life. An aesthetic experience that is worth the trade off.
  • Pfhorrest
    4.4k
    Thanks. That is the kind of answer I would give as well, but as I see it that still boils down to hedonism.

    In (I), the reason perseverance in the face of suffering is good because it helps to overcome suffering, shortening and lessening that suffering, which is still a hedonic concern.

    In (II), you pretty much spell it out: the bad being avoided is hurt, i.e. suffering.

    In (III), the good that comes of perseverance is a kind of heightened, refined, deeper or multi-dimensional enjoyment, where once more enjoyment, like suffering, is a hedonic concern.

    And in (IV), the aesthetic experience is enjoyable because of the catharsis of speaking the truth of some suffering you've had yourself, a kind of emotional unburdening and relief; where relieving suffering is, again, a hedonic concern (and in any case, so is aesthetic enjoyment).

    This is similar to arguments about whether the senses can be deceptive. We know that we can't always believe the things we think we see because we later find out that what we thought we saw was false. But how do we later find it out? By seeing something to the contrary. So it's still our senses telling us that our earlier senses were wrong. The lesson to be learned is not that all of the senses always lie (and so we need to turn to something beside the senses), but that no one bit of sensation tells the complete truth, and we have to attend to all of them -- which we can only every asymptotically approach -- to get at that complete truth.

    Likewise with the appetites and goodness, on my reckoning. Sometimes doing something that feels like it's good now can lead us to doing things that we later learn are actually bad, but we learn about them being bad by the same mechanism we thought they were good before. The lesson to be learned is not that all appetites will always all lead us astray (and so we need to turn to something beside the appetites), but that none of them ever tell us the complete picture of what is good, and we have to attend to all of them -- which we can only every asymptotically approach -- to get at that complete good.
  • j0e
    140

    You do a good job of stretching the concept. I am concerned, though, that psychological hedonism, like psychological egoism, ultimately says too little. If everything is X, nothing is X (in practical terms.)

    A man can get himself burned alive to rescue his family from a burning house, and we can say that he does some calculation where the death of his family is even worse than his skin melting off. But does this satisfy us? There's also the problem of death, which may throw a wrench into all calculations.
    Finally there's the issue of using 'subjective' terms. Do we give surveys?
  • Isaac
    4.2k


    Exactly the point I raised earlier about triviality. If we extend hedonism to all and any future pleasures/sufferings, and then we add to it the pleasure/suffering one gets from other people's pleasure/suffering... no actual real moral dilemma is helped in any way by such an analysis. We could still follow anything, from classical utilitarianism (my pleasure derives from knowing I've maximised all pleasures - utility monster included!), to Divine Command Theory (God invented pleasure so probably knows best how to maximise it).

    It's an approach which restricts only those with insufficient imagination to re-frame their narrative in new terms, anyone else has five minutes of mental gymnastics to do before they can carry on with exactly the solution they had in the first place but now with the benefit of a whole fresh post hoc justification.
  • j0e
    140
    It's an approach which restricts only those with insufficient imagination to re-frame their narrative in new terms, anyone else has five minutes of mental gymnastics to do before they can carry on with exactly the solution they had in the first place but now with the benefit of a whole fresh post hoc justification.Isaac

    Well said. I'd just add that it's easy to get sucked in if one is not wary. I once found psychological egoism plausible, until it finally clicked that it was empty (pragmatists, Wittgenstein, and others helped.)
  • Pfhorrest
    4.4k
    I'm not promoting psychological hedonism, just ethical hedonism. (But also, in your example of the man saving his family, presumably his gut-reaction interest is in sparing them the horrible suffering of burning to death, so that is still a hedonistic concern, just not an egotistic one).

    As far as "if everything is X, nothing is X", I see it similarly to my view on naturalism, which I consider equivalent to empirical realism and thus the descriptive analogue of altruistic hedonism.

    In saying that everything is natural and nothing supernatural exists, what we end up saying is along the lines of "something 'existing' in some way yet not meeting the criteria to be natural is an incoherent idea"; to be natural and to be real are just the same thing, and so "supernatural" just means "unreal".

    Likewise, in saying that all goods are hedonic goods, what we end up saying is basically the the idea of something being "good" in some sense independent of hedonistic concerns is incoherent; to be altrustically hedonistic, to bring enjoyment or pleasure to at least some while bringing pain or suffering to none, just is the same thing as being good, and so if there were a simple word for the opposite of altruistic hedonism the way "supernatural" is to "natural" (and please let me know if you know one!), it would just be a synonym for "immoral".
  • j0e
    140
    In saying that everything is natural and nothing supernatural exists, what we end up saying is along the lines of "something 'existing' in some way yet not meeting the criteria to be natural is an incoherent idea"; to be natural and to be real are just the same thing, and so "supernatural" just means "unreal".Pfhorrest

    I'm somewhat attracted to this view and have even expressed and argued for it before. I picture a continuum from familiar to postulated entities that are taken more or less seriously. For instance, I don't believe in ghosts, but surely something strange enough could happen to make me reconsider. I'm familiar with the concept which could come into play during an anomalous experience.
    Currently, though, I'm a little more wary of going against the grain of everyday language. 'Supernatural' is already taken, already suggests gods and ghosts, not simply the nonexistent or even the postulated, less likely entities.

    to bring enjoyment or pleasure to at least some while bringing pain or suffering to none, just is the same thing as being good, and so if there were a simple word for the opposite of altruistic hedonism the way "supernatural" is to "natural" (and please let me know if you know one!), it would just be a synonym for "immoral".Pfhorrest

    Perhaps you would soften this so that bringing pain to none is a sort of impossible target. As I've seen life, there's just no way around hurting others. For instance, should I drive a car when I know that I might destroy someone's life because I have a heart attack on the interstate? But maybe I'm a doctor rushing to the hospital to save someone's life. There's so much fuzzy calculation in life. We can't be sure of our methods or even be sure of our motives at times. I do think 'be nice = cause pleasure' and 'don't be mean = don't cause pain' are pretty universal, at least in the context of a global humanism.

    It's good (has been perceived a good) to hurt the tribe's criminals or enemies. It's good to be evil to the evil, and it's bad to be good to the evil. Revenge is still a popular theme in action thrillers. The bad guys are presented as so cruel that the viewer delights even in their torture. What do you make of 'an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth'? Obviously I don't expect that you embrace it, so I'm asking how you classify that paradigm, which seems outside yours. [I'm not advocating for this eye-for-an-eye stuff.]
  • Count Timothy von Icarus
    125


    Your description is quite good, but I don't think it follows that the reasons are reducible to hedonism. For example, my wife has grown in her faith and experienced "joy" in knowing her brother was at peace after his suicide. That doesn't mean anything about the experience was desired or pleasant. It's a joy in faith, which is qualitatively different from, and often absent in pleasant experiences.

    When Paul talks about being indifferent to life or death in Philippians, a letter written from prison, he isn't talking about pleasant qualia, but an enlightened state of faith outside such things. It's hard to say these things reduce to positive experience, especially since Paul and Peter did not recant as they were variously beheaded and crucified. A longing for execution does not seem hedonistic to me.

    From Philippians I, 21-23

    "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account."
  • Pfhorrest
    4.4k
    Perhaps you would soften this so that bringing pain to none is a sort of impossible target. As I've seen life, there's just no way around hurting others. For instance, should I drive a car when I know that I might destroy someone's life because I have a heart attack on the interstate? But maybe I'm a doctor rushing to the hospital to save someone's life. There's so much fuzzy calculation in life. We can't be sure of our methods or even be sure of our motives at times.j0e

    Sure, making a choice that unintentionally ends up hurting someone doesn't reflect any kind of character defect on your part. You may have been doing the best you could and just couldn't avoid all bad consequences. It's just that if something bad did happen, the thing that bad it bad was that someone got hurt; and that you couldn't have prevented it doesn't make it a bad thing, something that it would have been better to prevent, if possible.

    It's good (has been perceived a good) to hurt the tribe's criminals or enemies. It's good to be evil to the evil, and it's bad to be good to the evil. Revenge is still a popular theme in action thrillers. The bad guys are presented as so cruel that the viewer delights even in their torture. What do you make of 'an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth'? Obviously I don't expect that you embrace it, so I'm asking how you classify that paradigm, which seems outside yours. [I'm not advocating for this eye-for-an-eye stuff.]j0e

    I think that that kind of paradigm is just straightforwardly wrong, though I understand the emotional motive for it, and why it would be game-theoretically a successful evolutionary strategy.

    For example, my wife has grown in her faith and experienced "joy" in knowing her brother was at peace after his suicide. That doesn't mean anything about the experience was desired or pleasant. It's a joy in faith, which is qualitatively different from, and often absent in pleasant experiences.Count Timothy von Icarus

    So would she say that it's better that her brother died, since it brought her this joy through her process of getting past it? Or rather that such joy is merely something good that was able to be taken away from a bad situation? I expect that it's the latter, and that her joy in faith doesn't justify her brother's suffering; that it's not the case that his death ought to have happened, to bring her that opportunity for joy, but merely that, given that something awful did happen anyway, it's good that she was able to find some good as a consequence of that.

    When Paul talks about being indifferent to life or death in Philippians, a letter written from prison, he isn't talking about pleasant qualia, but an enlightened state of faith outside such things.Count Timothy von Icarus

    I agree that such a state, as the Stoics called it "ataraxia", is a good thing, but still for hedonistic reasons: being indifferent to suffering or enjoyment is a means of reducing suffering, and is good on that account. (It can also reduce enjoyment, however, and so can be bad on that account: when people don't care about things that used to bring them joy, and are just waiting to die, we usually call it depression today, and don't think of it as a good thing. Whether emotional withdrawal like that is good or bad depends on the context).

    "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account."Count Timothy von Icarus

    Factoring an afterlife into things just kicks the ball down the street. If there's a life after this one that is expected to be beyond all suffering, then a desire to get there instead of suffering in this life is still driven by hedonistic concerns. If staying behind is for the sake of helping over people to get there too, then that's out of hedonistic concern for them.
  • j0e
    140
    Sure, making a choice that unintentionally ends up hurting someone doesn't reflect any kind of character defect on your part.Pfhorrest

    For me the point is that I know that getting in a car puts others at risk. Another question: should Bono take a private jet if it helps him fight climate change? Should I continue to feed my beloved, carnivorous cat? Should I threaten to divorce my wife if she doesn't embrace vegetarianism? Recently, my dog had dental surgery under general anesthesia. I asked myself: do vets charge when they accidentally kill clients' pets? Should they charge? I could argue both sides. I don't pretend to have an answer here.

    I won't go so far as the condemn the study of ethics at an abstract level, but questions like these at least suggest the poverty of abstract theorizing in the face of ordinary life. Do you have any comments on this? Let me stress that I grant that ethical abstractions may be helpful, at least indirectly.
  • j0e
    140
    Factoring an afterlife into things just kicks the ball down the street. If there's a life after this one that is expected to be beyond all suffering, then a desire to get there instead of suffering in this life is still driven by hedonistic concerns. If staying behind is for the sake of helping over people to get there too, then that's out of hedonistic concern for them.Pfhorrest

    This analysis still sounds like psychological hedonism. Or some strange version of it where every ethical system is revealed to be ethical hedonism, except the eye-for-an-eye system which is just wrong. I'm not arguing the eye-for-an-eye system but just trying to clarify this issue.
  • Pfhorrest
    4.4k
    For me the point is that I know that getting in a car puts others at risk. Another question: should Bono take a private jet if it helps him fight climate change? Should I continue to feed my beloved, carnivorous cat? Should I threaten to divorce my wife if she doesn't embrace vegetarianism? Recently, my dog had dental surgery under general anesthesia. I asked myself: do vets charge when they accidentally kill clients' pets? Should they charge?j0e

    I acknowledge that those are all difficult questions to decide. My only point on this topic is that the grounds on which to decide them, the costs and benefits to weigh, are in terms of enjoyment and suffering, pleasure and pain. Picking the least bad out of many bad options may of course be the only known-available choice many times. I'm only on about what is it that makes such a choice less bad or more bad.

    This analysis still sounds like psychological hedonism. Or some strange version of it where every ethical system is revealed to be ethical hedonism, except the eye-for-an-eye system which is just wrong. I'm not arguing the eye-for-an-eye system but just trying to clarify this issue.j0e

    The relevant difference between accepting death because you expect heaven and retributive "justice" is that the latter is not necessarily rationalized in terms of its expected hedonic benefits (like deterrence, etc), but can be just for the sake of making bad people suffer; while the former is explicitly for the expected enjoyment / absence-of-suffering of heaven. By this account one of those is hedonistic and the other isn't, so this account is not of psychological hedonism (some times people do do things for non-hedonistic motives); but the one that isn't hedonistic is just straight up immoral, so it is an account of ethical hedonism.
  • j0e
    140

    I haven't studied metaethics with any seriousness, unless reading lots of Nietzsche counts (for reasons hinted at by the example problems.) I think we both reject the eye-for-an-eye scheme as crude. Do you have any second favorite approaches? Which ideological opponent of yours do you most respect while not agreeing? What is Pepsi to your Coca-cola?
  • Pfhorrest
    4.4k
    The closest thing to my ethical system that's well-known out in the philosophical world would be a kind of negative preference rule utilitarianism, where the rules in turn are those of a kind of left-libertarianism. Utilitarianism generally agrees with me on altruistic hedonistic ends, and the negative, preference, and rule versions of it each captures a bit of my take on how ethical means relate to those ends, though even altogether they're not quite the same. The left-libertarian specific rules capture more details about my take on means.

    Basically, such a model holds that we can minimize suffering for everyone by following rules that enable each of us to maximize our own preference satisfaction within our own co-equal domains.
  • Count Timothy von Icarus
    125

    You're correct if you expand the definition of "pleasure" under hedonism to "everything that is good." It seems like you're expanding your definition too far in that case though. "Everyone should seeks that which is good, and what is good is pleasurable," doesn't ring true to me.

    If pleasure is your only unit of analysis, then everything will seem to lead back to that, but I don't think it's that simple.
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