• Bob Ross
    1.4k


    That's fair: I meant to depict the foreseeable effects, and not all of them.
  • Bob Ross
    1.4k
    @Count Timothy von Icarus

    CC: @Herg

    I see a mention was made in this discussion board (OP) by Herg, but when I visit the link it says "not found": https://thephilosophyforum.com/discussion/comment/915150 . Did a moderator remove it?
  • Leontiskos
    2k
    Your approach here is quite obtuse. You appear to be pretending that going to this trough, rather than that, is not making a choice... An odd way to think about it.

    No principle can be used by Buridan's Ass to choose which trough to go to. Yet it would be irrational not to make the choice. Therefore it is sometimes rational to make choices that are not governed by principle.
    Banno

    I think you just need to think a bit harder about what it means to make a choice. You can of course think of a choice as whimsical opting for no reason, but that is not how we usually use the word. Regardless, your argument seems rather silly, <Buridan's ass makes a "choice" without a principle, therefore our choices require no principles>. You are trying to form a rule out of a bizarre thought-experiment exception which is probably physically impossible, and such an approach follows the methodology for bad philosophy:

    A very bad way to do philosophy is to take extremely controversial cases and begin there. If someone begins with controversy then the foundations that inevitably get laid to account for the controversy are biased in favor of the emotional-controversial cases. This is a poor approach because controversial cases are by definition difficult to understand, and one should begin with what is easy to understand before slowly moving to what is more difficult. If the mind does not have the principles and the easier cases "under its belt" then it will have no chance of confronting the difficult and controversial cases. This is perhaps one of the most basic problems with modern philosophy, but I digress.Leontiskos

    Whether or not we want to say that you are equivocating on 'choice', your inference is not at all plausible.

    This question is reminiscent of the age-old question about the number of the stars:

    Of course, it is a good philosophical question whether it is not possible in some circumstances to decide or will to believe something, but these will have to be circumstances more auspicious than those I have described, where one can literally see nothing to choose between p and not-p. To quote Epictetus (Diss. i.28.3), just try to believe, or positively disbelieve, that the number of the stars is even.35

    I repeat: try it. Make yourself vividly aware of your helpless inability to mind either way. That is how the sceptic wants you to feel about everything, including whether what I am saying is true or false. . .

    35. The example is traditional, i.e. much older than Epictetus. It is a standard Stoic example of something altogether non-evident, which can be discerned neither from itself nor through a sign (PH ii.97, M vii.393, viii.147, 317; cf. vii.243, xi.59). It occurs also in Cicero’s reference (Acad. ii.32) to certain quasi desperatos who say that everything is as uncertain as whether the number of the stars is odd or even, a reference which is sometimes taken to point to Aenesidemus: so Brochard (1923) 245, Striker (1980) 64.
    — Myles Burnyeat, Can the sceptic live his scepticism?, p. 223
  • Leontiskos
    2k
    Upon thinking about it more, I updated the OP: now it resembles the traditional PDE.Bob Ross

    Very good. It now seems much better to me. :up:

    3. My PDE still finds comparing the alternative means (towards the end) necessary (because if there is a means that has no bad side effect to bring about the same good, then that is the best option even if the good effect significantly outweighs the bad effect of the currently selected means)Bob Ross

    Good point.

    4. The good effect must significantly, as opposed to merely, outweigh the bad effect—otherwise, it resembles too closely (although it is not) directly intentionally doing something bad as a means towards a good end (e.g., if there are two sick people and there is a means which could cure the one but kill the other, then it seems immoral to use that means).

    Number 4 gets me into dicey waters, because I am uncertain if I can still hold my expounded position on the hysterectomy: is saving the mother of cancer significantly outweigh the death of an unborn child? I am not sure.
    Bob Ross

    This is the sort of ambiguity that seems to always follow the PDE, namely cases which are hard to decide. So this is in line with the tradition of the PDE, and I think it is good to recognize such limitations.
  • Banno
    23.7k


    Are you arguing that rationality consists in following rules?
  • javra
    2.5k


    Maybe for entertainment, as a somewhat different perspective on this matter: Most of our volitions as conscious beings—though willed freely, here in the strict sense of there being no obstruction to our consciously willing, else intending, as we do—are nevertheless not deliberative. Here, we as conscious agents effortlessly inhere into, or else with, the volition of our unconscious mind—resulting in a unified volition/will relative to the total mind concerned. This often acquired, i.e. learned, and habitual means of acting and reacting to stimuli then makes our typical behaviors quite functional in their efficacy: e.g., we don’t deliberate between alternatives on how to move our fingers, wrist, etc. when reflexively catching a ball that was thrown to us—but our so catching it will have nevertheless been freely willed/intended (hence, with disappointment resulting were our will/intention to catch the ball to not be fulfilled as willed/intended).

    It is only when our unconscious mind is torn between different possible intents that we as conscious agents consciously experience alternatives (brought up to consciousness from our unconscious processes of mind), alternatives between which we as conscious agents then in one way or another choose via deliberation (this being the process of weighting two or more alternatives’ possible benefits and costs and then determining that one ought proceed with one alternative at expense of all others).

    With the Buridan’s Ass thought experiment, one will typically in no way deliberate between which side to move toward but, instead, will effortlessly inhere into (or with) the subliminal volitions of one’s unconscious mind—whose reasonings for so determining to go either leftward or rightward (here granting that one’s unconscious mind is not of itself utterly irrational in its activities) will be beyond the purview of one’s conscious awareness.

    Yet, were we to at any point actively deliberate between two alternatives which we at a conscious level appraise to be of equal value to our longer-term intent, I’ll venture that there will yet occur subliminal appraisals and reasons which the unconscious aspects of our total mind engages in that will tip the scale of the given deliberation. For example, maybe one side holds a background of sky and clouds (which we do not consciously appraise) that seems more inviting and hence auspicious than the other. In effect re-taking the choice from the conscious being (who finds no preference for either alternative being selected) back to the unconscious mind—whose volitions the conscious being once again effortlessly inheres with.

    While clarifying and justifying all this would take a considerable amount of time and effort, I’ll simply affirm that in real life no human (or lesser animal for that matter) ever dies of hunger or thirst from an indecision between alternatives which seem to be of equal worth or import. And I find the perspective just offered to be reasonable enough as-is in providing an explanation for why this is.

    Here, then, all reasoning—be it conscious or else unconscious—will yet be principled by, at the very least, the laws of thought: hence "following the rules/laws of thought". However,again, many if not most of our voluntary behaviors will not be deliberated upon at a conscious level of awareness. As regards at least some of these latter, our rational justifications for performing these, again, nondeliberative yet freely/unobstructed-ly willed behaviors will be both post hoc and ad hoc—which doesn’t necessitate that the explanations we then provide will be wrong but does allow for false conclusions to occur. E.g., a person is hypnotized to not sit down on a chair and, when asked why they don’t take a seat, provides a justification that seems rational but has nothing to do with the facts of the matter.

    I acknowledge that the philosophy of mind is very complex and that this perspective only skims the surface. Still, to sum up this partial perspective in a few words: the vast majority of our voluntary behaviors—for which we yet typically hold direct responsibility for on grounds of being that which we willed/intended—are not deliberated upon at a conscious level, such that the selecting of one alternative between two alternatives that to us conscious agents appear of equal value will, most often, not be consciously made.

    p.s. This, acknowledgedly incomplete, perspective in many ways accommodates what can be termed a bundle-theory of mind or, maybe more directly, of volition – taking into account both conscious and non-conscious aspects of a total mind. And this without in any way dismissing the possibility of metaphysical (i.e., libertarian) free will pertaining to us conscious agents whenever we do consciously deliberate between alternatives (hence, a free will wherein we as conscious agents solely determine the effect of the alternative which we choose, such that we as conscious agents are in practice metaphysically free to choose differently than what we will end up choosing ... but then this same libertarian free will could also be conceptually extended to the sometimes disparate volitions of one's unconscious mind, volitions with which one as conscious agent/will most often effortlessly unifies sans any conscious deliberations).

    At any rate, all this being one way to address the paradox presented in the Buridan's Ass thought experiment.
  • Banno
    23.7k
    Not much here with which i might disagree. Certainly the ass will not starve, so it chooses.
  • javra
    2.5k
    :smile: Nice to hear. As the the ass so choosing, I think the disagreement between the two of you was as to whether the choice is consciously deliberated or not and, hence, whether it is a conscious choice. And it's this which I wanted to address. In sum, the ass as a total being makes the choice, yes, but the ass as a conscious agent makes no choice whatsoever since it does not deliberate.

    This no more than I or you are consciously deliberating on which words to use in our expressing ourselves most of the time. Our conscious choice most of the time being strictly limited to whether or not we ought to express those concepts which we hold in mind. Nevertheless, the specific words we use (and their placement, etc.) still being chosen by us as total beings, this subconsciously.
  • NotAristotle
    276
    "indirectly intended" I'm not sure I understand how someone can indirectly intend something.
  • Bob Ross
    1.4k


    A direct intention is anything which is a part of the directional flow of what is aimed at (as the end); whereas indirect intention is anything which is still aimed at (for the sake of the end) but not a part of that directional flow towards the end.

    I would suggest reading through this thread and specifically the exchange between @Leontiskos and I.

    A good diagram for explaining this is Leontisko's V vs. 7; and a good example is how the one dying, by way of pulling the lever, in the trolley dilemma (to save the five) is a side effect which is not a part of the directional flow of the aim towards the end, which can be evidently seen by removing the one sacrificed person from the hypothetical and still seeing that that direct flow towards the end (of saving the five) is untainted. The killing of the one is still intended because it is foreseen and aimed at (insofar as it is a foreseen effect of using the means of saving the five), but is not intended in the same manner as using the lever (i.e., means) to save the five (nor is it intended in the same manner as kidnapping and harvesting the organs of a healthy person to save five sick people).
  • LuckyR
    438
    Traditional Abortion vs. Hysterectomy

    The morally relevant difference between killing an unborn human being to be rid of an unwanted pregnancy and killing an unborn human being by performing a hysterectomy to save the mother from cancer is that:

    1. The former scenario uses an innocent person as a means to bring about the desired end (of not being pregnant), thereby making the killing directly intentional and (thereby) immoral; whereas

    2. The latter scenario uses the hysterectomy as a means to saving the mother’s life from cancer and doing so has a bad side effect of killing an unborn human being, thereby making the said killing indirectly intended.

    The latter scenario is morally permissible because either choice (of action or inaction) will result in a bad side effect (of either letting the woman die of cancer or killing the unborn human being) and the bad side effect of killing the unborn is on a par with letting the woman die of cancer.

    Thoughts?


    I don't necessarily disagree with your analysis, though it bears noting that humans are pretty well versed in decision making while weighing relative personal risks. Though human perception of risks are often skewed. Similarly, substituting societal benefits and risks for personal ones is not much of a stretch.

    Part of the problem with the traditional trolley problem is that it assumes (which is reasonable in a Thought Experiment) that there is a completely accurate prediction of various outcomes.

    As to the abortion example, your comments make the (common) error of omitting the immorality of trampling the bodily autonomy of an adult human should abortion be outlawed.
  • Bob Ross
    1.4k


    As to the abortion example, your comments make the (common) error of omitting the immorality of trampling the bodily autonomy of an adult human should abortion be outlawed.LuckyR

    I didn't follow this part: what do you mean by that?
  • Leontiskos
    2k
    Are you arguing that rationality consists in following rules?Banno

    I am saying that a choice or a decision only properly exists when it is a consequence of deliberation or ratiocination.

    More generally, I am saying that the argument I am attributing to you fails, <Buridan's ass makes a "choice" without a principle, therefore our choices require no principles>. I think we can opt for an alternative without that opting being a consequence of deliberation or ratiocination.

    Buridan's ass always strikes me as a bit off given that we are almost always concerned with rational agents in these sorts of discussions, not donkeys. I am saying that in such a situation a rational being is capable of flipping a coin, either literally or metaphorically, and that they are so able to opt without ratiocination does not prove that choices do not involve ratiocination. Strictly speaking I would not call such a thing a choice, but if it is a choice it is a meager shadow of what we usually mean by the word 'choice'. The argument which uses this idea to make a generalization about choices or decisions surely does not hold.

    As for 's point, for me it is not a matter of conscious deliberation. Suppose grandma asks me to pick one of two cookies that she offers, and they appear to me identical. I enter into deliberation or ratiocination for a number of seconds, trying to decide. In the end there is nothing to decide given that there is nothing to differentiate the two. I say, "Grandma, I can see no difference. Give me whichever one you like." I am letting grandma flip the coin in this case, but whatever form the coin flip takes, it is not a consequence of deliberation. The deliberation had no effect on the outcome (except perhaps in an indirect way, by failing as an exercise of deliberation).

    To use an example I have given before, suppose I am driving and I quickly swerve when a deer darts out in front of my car. Was I involved in deliberation or ratiocination? For the Thomistic school of Aristotelianism, I surely was. Perhaps it was not conscious, but there was deliberation and the discursivity of the rational intellect. It was "quick thinking," perhaps a kind of rationality infused into my driving habits. In this case a choice or decision was truly made, and this is different from the case of the cookie because in the case of the deer there is legitimate matter for the rational intellect to fasten and work on, albeit quickly. In the case of the cookie there is ample time but insufficient material for a true decision to be taken. So the question is not so much one of whether there is time for reflection or self-conscious mental activity occurring. Bona fide choices or decisions do not require such things, even though it is often helpful to have them.
  • Leontiskos
    2k
    I didn't follow this part: what do you mean by that?Bob Ross

    The word "abortion" is for ideologues what a squirrel is for dogs. When they see the word they forget themselves immediately and are compelled to make a pro-choice argument. It cannot be denied that they have been well trained. Yet it's at least lucky Lucky didn't launch into a violin solo. :grin:
  • Lionino
    2.1k
    trampling the bodily autonomy of an adult humanLuckyR

    This bodily autonomy was trampled the moment a decision was made to create another body that has its own rights — among others the right to live. Even then, the argument is not about law-making.
  • LuckyR
    438


    I meant that declaring that killing is immoral while ignoring that violation of an adult human's body autonomy is also immoral, is missing the key issue of the topic of abortion.
  • LuckyR
    438
    This bodily autonomy was trampled the moment a decision was made to create another body that has its own rights — among others the right to live. Even then, the argument is not about law-making.


    Perhaps you're unfamiliar with the existance of sexual assault. Whose "decision" are you referring to? The rapist's?
  • LuckyR
    438
    The word "abortion" is for ideologues what a squirrel is for dogs. When they see the word they forget themselves immediately and are compelled to make a pro-choice argument. It cannot be denied that they have been well trained. Yet it's at least lucky Lucky didn't launch into a violin solo. :grin:


    I don't entirely disagree. Bringing up abortion to make one's point is akin to bringing up Hitler to accomplish the same thing. It's not a sign of a well thought out argument. But it is what it is.
  • Lionino
    2.1k
    Perhaps you're unfamiliar with the existance of sexual assault.LuckyR

    Most abortions don't have pregnancies resulting from rape.
  • LuckyR
    438


    While statistically accurate, philosophical logic/arguments should cover all eventualities.
  • Bob Ross
    1.4k


    The OP is NOT contending with whether or not a standard abortion is wrong or not: it is just using it as an example for the principle of double effect, and presupposes that it is wrong and offers a relevant difference between it and the permissibility of performing a hysterectomy.

    With respect to whether or not abortion is wrong, which is a completely separate topic, I would say it is immoral because directly intentionally killing an innocent person is always wrong. One cannot do something immoral for the sake of producing a good end: so even if it is good to uphold the autonomy of people, it does not follow that one can kill an innocent person as a means towards that end; just as much as someone cannot violate the autonomy of one person as a means towards saving the life of another (on the flip side).

    Likewise, to just anticipate the first response, abortion is not a case where one is violating the autonomy of the mother as a means to saving the life of the unborn child. There is an unborn child and its mother who does not want to be pregnant (for whatever reason) to start out, and now one must decide whether they are going to (1) kill the unborn child as a means towards respecting the mother's wishes or (2) let the woman's wishes be violated. In the case of the former, they are committing an immoral act; in the case of the latter they are letting something bad happen (at best) because they cannot do anything that is morally permissible to remedy the situation.

    Again, this has nothing directly to do with the OP; but I am more than happy to discuss it.
  • Banno
    23.7k
    I am saying that a choice or a decision only properly exists when it is a consequence of deliberation or ratiocination.Leontiskos
    So if I've understood, what the ass does should not properly be called making a choice, because the ass does not indulge in ratiocination or deliberation.

    And yet we would say that, for instance, the ass chose the trough on its left.

    So I'm suspicious. It looks to me as if you are obliged to discount the ass's choice in order to avoid your thesis being falsified.

    Suppose grandma asks me to pick one of two cookies that she offers, and they appear to me identical. I enter into deliberation or ratiocination for a number of seconds, trying to decide. In the end there is nothing to decide given that there is nothing to differentiate the two. I say, "Grandma, I can see no difference. Give me whichever one you like." I am letting grandma flip the coin in this case, but whatever form the coin flip takes, it is not a consequence of deliberation. The deliberation had no effect on the outcome (except perhaps in an indirect way, by failing as an exercise of deliberation).Leontiskos

    The suggestion that you must "enter into deliberation or ratiocination for a number of seconds, trying to decide" strikes me as contrived. I bet you just pick one of the cookies, without the "deliberation or ratiocination".

    But maybe that's just me. Or just you.

    I suggest that we do make decisions - even most of our decisions - without such "deliberation or ratiocination". Our justifications tend to be post hoc.

    Moreover, I contend that rationality is less about following rules and more about seeking consistency.

    Hence, making decisions is not always algorithmic.
  • Bob Ross
    1.4k


    @Leontiskos is using a very Aristotelian concept of choice; whereas @Banno is using it in the modern sense.

    For Aristotle, an act can be voluntary without being a choice; but it sounds like Banno would deny this distinction altogether. It seems like a mere semantically disagreement in the end. When speaking to Banno, I would just clarify that by "choice" I am referring to what they call "deliberate choice". At the end of the day, I don't think such a dispute amounts to anything but semantics, but maybe I am misunderstanding.
  • Banno
    23.7k
    Leontiskos is using a very Aristotelian concept of choice; whereas Banno is using it in the modern sense.Bob Ross

    Yep.

    In recent work it is called Structural Rationality.

    To some extent it underpins my preference for virtue ethics over deontology. Deontology concerns being rational by following rules, while there is virtue in attempting to achieve consistence in one's thoughts and acts. So there is more here than just semantics.

    Again, I find your work most impressive.
  • LuckyR
    438
    The OP is NOT contending with whether or not a standard abortion is wrong or not: it is just using it as an example for the principle of double effect, and presupposes that it is wrong and offers a relevant difference between it and the permissibility of performing a hysterectomy.

    With respect to whether or not abortion is wrong, which is a completely separate topic, I would say it is immoral because directly intentionally killing an innocent person is always wrong. One cannot do something immoral for the sake of producing a good end: so even if it is good to uphold the autonomy of people, it does not follow that one can kill an innocent person as a means towards that end; just as much as someone cannot violate the autonomy of one person as a means towards saving the life of another (on the flip side).

    Likewise, to just anticipate the first response, abortion is not a case where one is violating the autonomy of the mother as a means to saving the life of the unborn child. There is an unborn child and its mother who does not want to be pregnant (for whatever reason) to start out, and now one must decide whether they are going to (1) kill the unborn child as a means towards respecting the mother's wishes or (2) let the woman's wishes be violated. In the case of the former, they are committing an immoral act; in the case of the latter they are letting something bad happen (at best) because they cannot do anything that is morally permissible to remedy the situation.

    Again, this has nothing directly to do with the OP; but I am more than happy to discuss it.


    I know that. My point was/is that the abortion/hysterectomy example is a particularly poor demonstration of the Principle of Double Effect because abortion already has two effects (maternal and fetal impacts, positive and negative) and therefore hysterectomy (as cancer treatment) adding another, makes it it a triple effect.
  • Bob Ross
    1.4k


    Most interesting. I am also a virtue ethicist; but wouldn't you agree that even a virtue ethicist needs to formulate generally or even absolutely applicable moral principles, and adhere to them, in order to cultivate and maintain a virtuous character as well as to guide them through life?

    E.g., I find it hard to envision how a person could deliberately cultivate a character such that they are kind, if it were not for the fact that they knew that they generally or absolutely should be kind (which is itself a moral principle). Likewise, e.g., having instilled a disposition (i.e., a habit) of being kind is not enough to know how to act kindly in every situation; or, if it is, then it is impractical for the common man with an average intelligence. It seems like, to me, a person who holds moral compasses primal over principles still will have to, as a secondary aspect of their theory, accept the necessity of the latter.
  • Bob Ross
    1.4k


    I am not following: please outline the three effects of a standard abortion that are relevant to the end of ceasing the pregnancy.
  • Leontiskos
    2k
    Bringing up abortion to make one's point is akin to bringing up Hitler to accomplish the same thing.LuckyR

    You're a shill. :roll:

    I've put you on ignore. You reek of the ideology of OnlinePhilosophyClub.
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