My Fix for Utilitarianism, Kant's Deontology, etc...

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Re: My Fix for Utilitarianism, Kant's Deontology, etc...

Postby Karpel Tunnel » Fri Jul 13, 2018 11:59 am

James Kroeger wrote:(smile) Well, yeah...but it's nevertheless true. People are in the daily habit of trading some of what they have (like time) for something that they don't have. It's behavior which clearly has led to everyone being better off. Some of 'what you have' is going to vary from person to person, so it's kind of ridiculous to ask what if everyone offered plumber skills in an attempt to ascertain the morality of that kind of activity. It goes from being a reasonable projection to a pure fantasy abstraction.
That wasn't my point. My point was that when you abstracted, you added in words like 'service' - that is, words with postive characteristics. That was stacking the deck. We can't just look at what would happen if everyone did it, we have to make sure all these positive characteristics apply. The rule doesn't work on its own AND every positive valence word you add when abstracting away from the specific is open to different moral outlooks interpreting them differently.

Another way to put this is that you present a simple heuristic - and I do recognize you do not see this as a panacea or a way to eliminate all disagreement - but the moment we try to apply the heuristic, suddenly, at the more abstract level we need to introduce a number of moral laden terms.

But if the behavior you're applying the test to is characterized as spending your days productively, utilizing skills you have acquired/developed to provide a service for other members of the tribe who are in need of such services---which is also an accurate description of the behavior of a heart surgeon---then the test will validate the conclusion that the surgeon's behavior is moral.
I would also question the assumption of the intent of the would be heart surgeon implicit in
acquired/developed to provide
and even the seemingly obvious 'need' is carrying with it moral assumptions. One bypass surgery in the US is 23,000 dollars. Imagine what could be done with that in Ethiopia.

Suddenly after the heuristic is abstracted for application, one HAS to add value laden terms to make it work. Each term controversial - even with a heart surgeon, despite the fact that Fixed Cross chose it to show how even obvious to most people examples could be problematic.

Shift this to abortion, and it adds nothing. But i think the problem is actually that it adds little in most cases, because to apply the heuristic one must end up using the same kinds of consequentialist and deontological arguments. It does not reduce the need for all those arguments, nor, do I think does it simplify them.

Beyond that I think also has a negative aspect, one form of it below.

But let's retake an example: Should one rebel against laws or cultural practices one thinks are not moral or are bad for people....


If we abstract it as you did with the heart surgeon to...when one in the service of the community decide that certain rules are damaging to people one can decide to break that rule or rebel against authority...etc.

One person does this it may or may not be good. Everyone does this we have chaos.


Should one act to publicly defy a law if one believes it is unjust? I say yes, it is moral to do so, largely because I challenge your "chaos" projection.

In order for us to reasonably project 'chaos', we have to make certain assumptions about "everyone" or "the situation" that are rather extreme.

For example, we'd have to assume either that 1) the civil code is absolutely replete with injustices (in order for "everyone acting in the same way" to result in chaos, or 2) everyone is actually deluded about what they perceive to be injustices deserving of a civil disobedience response.
Let's take abortion, military spending, treatment and protection of nature, salaries of CEO vs. the common person and immigration policies. Those issues right now have more people than are in the US with strong opinions about unjust policies and laws. How can it be more, well people have strong reactions to each one. People are currently disatisfied with laws in both directions. The law is not anti-immigration enough to some, not pro enough for others.

If every anti-abortionist, anti-and pro-immigration person, anti-military spending and pro-military spending and action....etc. all felt it was justified to perform civil disobedience against unjust rules and policies, the country wuold shut down.

Despite that I think it can be moral to use civil disobedience against unjust laws, etc. I could have included more issues where large percentages of the population have strong opinions against current policy AND I could have added in a long list of 'orphan' injustices, with smaller percentages all potentially locking themselves to gates, occupying schools, hospitals, government offices and banks. Doing work slow downs and strikes, picketing Walmart and Hollywood.

Nearly every adult will have many civil disobediences to carry out. And if any of these have effects, than even many of the utterly indifferent and the rich and powerful who the system works for, will them themselves have reasons for civil disobedience.

So on the one hand that the heuristic does not reduce the need for the already present argument types used. And on the other that the heuristic has a tendency to morally judge individual reactions hence reducing diversity of responses and actions. Many more things that are just fine when some people do them or even it is really good that some people do them will be eliminated because it seems or does not pass the heuristic.
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Re: My Fix for Utilitarianism, Kant's Deontology, etc...

Postby James Kroeger » Mon Jul 16, 2018 11:31 am

Karpel Tunnel wrote:Let's take abortion, military spending, treatment and protection of nature, salaries of CEO vs. the common person and immigration policies. Those issues right now have more people than are in the US with strong opinions about unjust policies and laws. How can it be more, well people have strong reactions to each one. People are currently disatisfied with laws in both directions. The law is not anti-immigration enough to some, not pro enough for others.


After reading this, I wondered if the question you should really be asking is if one's intentions are what ultimately determines whether or not an action is moral/justified. Kant would perhaps have said yes, but I do not. I say that an act is moral, not if the actor believes that the act itself is moral, but only if the actual consequences of everyone mimicking the same behavior (presumably for the same reason) would cause everyone to be better off.

Your attempts to apply my rule to such behaviors as acts of civil disobedience seem to overlook the fact that many kinds of behavior involve 'compounding moral elements.' When it comes to acts of civil disobedience, there are actually two moral questions that need to be addressed: 1) whether or not the protest is moral and then also the question of 2) whether or not the cause that is inspiring the protest is in fact moral.

Each question needs to be addressed separately. One possibility: the protest is just, but the cause is not. Another possibility: the cause is just, but the protest is not morally justified.

In the first instance, you have people protesting a law (or the lack thereof) that they believe is immoral (or moral) because they believe everyone would be better/worse off, BUT the actual reality is that they are mistaken about their projections/guesses/etc. and the actual reality is that everyone would be worse off if the laws they are protesting/seeking were actually revoked/passed.

In this case, the protesters would be wrong about their cause, but at the same time their protesting actions (for a cause they don't realize is actually immoral) would be moral---not because their intentions are good, but---because their protesting actions are quite likely to increase the awareness of all parties to the particulars of the issue being discussed.

So even 'wrong-headed' protests would make everyone better off if all wrong-or-right-headed individuals were to protest behaviors they believe are a threat to the entire tribe. (Cuz they would lead to a more widespread awareness of all the relevant facts.)

Your basic claim here seems to be that arguments and disagreements over the morality of certain kinds of actions is an atmosphere of "chaos" and as such is an outcome we should view as making everyone worse off. But is it actually true that arguments over moral issues are a 'bad consequence' that should be avoided because they make everyone worse off?

Or are these arguments perhaps a good consequence in that they increase the likelihood that many of the mistaken perceptions/assumptions that led people to opposed viewpoints will be corrected via discussion and exposure to different viewpoints?


One of the things I think you need to incorporate into your understanding of what I'm proposing is that it will not automatically dispense 'perfect knowledge' of all the variables at issue to all observers, and so it cannot promise an absolutely certain, unequivocal judgment of any and all behaviors subjected to the rule.

It is a simple, observational truth that when you use the rule to evaluate whether or not a particular example of behavior is moral or immoral, the result you will sometimes end up with is STATUS: UNCERTAIN. Sometimes there simply is not enough information available in order for an observer to determine---with any level of certainty---whether or not an action is moral.

Which is to say, sometimes the best we can come up with is a conditional judgment: if the situation is A, then we condemn/chastise the actors for immoral behavior, but is the situation is B, then their actions should be considered worthy of praise. Again, if I'm Kant, I might disagree with this equivocal position, believing instead that as long as the intentions of the protesters arose from "a good will", then their actions are moral.

I relate this 'compounding of moral elements' to some of the most famous moral judgments of history. For example, the intentional slaughter of hundreds of thousands of innocent Japanese civilians during WWII by U.S. military leaders was an evil act of extraordinary dimensions, in spite of the fact that the U.S. was perfectly justified in participating in a war with Japan, due to the attack on Pearl Harbor.

The end (victory) might have been justified, but just because it was did not justify any and all means that are used to achieve the end. Indeed, we can say the same thing about the terrorists attacking civilians on Nine Eleven. The means they used to pursue their goals was clearly evil, but the fact that their methods were evil does not automatically mean that their cause was unjust.

In most of these 'compound-ethical-situations' we can think of, simply applying the rule I've proposed will not automatically produce the sort of clear judgment we desire. The reason for this is not the formulation of the rule---which captures the 'essence' of what our concerns are, from a moral perspective---but is rather the imprecision of the data you are trying to evaluate.

I reiterate, the rule captures what it is that concerns us when we evaluate the moral worth of some action. We are concerned about implications of universal imitation of the behavior in question, about how it could matter to the rest of us when/if everyone in the whole tribe were to start acting the same way.

You don't seem to be challenging this aspect of the rule, its scope of concern, but are more interested in noticing how difficult it could be to use it to evaluate certain kinds of behavior, which I certainly do acknowledge is a constant challenge in a world in which we must deal with so much uncertainty.

What I find puzzling is how/why you interpret this difficulty as a basis for rejecting utterly the rule's usefulness as an evaluative heuristic.
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Re: My Fix for Utilitarianism, Kant's Deontology, etc...

Postby Karpel Tunnel » Mon Jul 16, 2018 1:44 pm

James Kroeger wrote:
I reiterate, the rule captures what it is that concerns us when we evaluate the moral worth of some action. We are concerned about implications of universal imitation of the behavior in question, about how it could matter to the rest of us when/if everyone in the whole tribe were to start acting the same way.

You don't seem to be challenging this aspect of the rule, its scope of concern, but are more interested in noticing how difficult it could be to use it to evaluate certain kinds of behavior, which I certainly do acknowledge is a constant challenge in a world in which we must deal with so much uncertainty.

What I find puzzling is how/why you interpret this difficulty as a basis for rejecting utterly the rule's usefulness as an evaluative heuristic.

1) I don't Think that is what concerns me when I evaluate the moral Worth of some action. What concerns me is the particular agent, the particular intentions, the particular means and the particular ends.

For example it matters to me the context, the skills and intelligence of the agent, the amount of knowledge the agent had, why they chose to perform the act, what might have happened if other choices were made, what obstacles there were to other choices. If they act had effects on Another person or other persons, then who are these people, what have they done and so on.

For me to start to imagine what everyone performing that act is 1) hallicinatory and 2) irrelevant. I cannot imagine the consequences because all the situations are different given there are different agents in different contexts. I understand that you can start to take care of all this starting with your rule and then coming up with ways to check to see what criteria are necessary in all sorts of situations, but that just seems herculean and, misleading to me. I don't know what it would mean if everyone did what I did. I am going to divorce my wife. What if everyone divorced their wife. OK, well, I am divorcing my wife after getting counseling for 6 months and thesea re the issues we differ on. So now I have to translate this into intentions and efforts made and a whole set of criteria to see if I am happy with everyone who meets all these criteria divorces their wives. Or performs an act of civil disobedience.

I would need to then start to look at statistics and then try to figure out what 'trying hard' needs to look like when evaluating effort. I mean, it just seems like a weird hoop to make me jump through.


So yes, I am challenging the first aspect of the rule.


In my tribe if I hear that Running Bear kicked Little Deer in the ass because he was reckless when hunting, the story is over for me because I know Little Deer and Running bear. I don't want everyone in the tribe kicking people in the ass when they think someone is playing fast and loose with safety, but Running Bear, I know his skills and judgments.


Further I don't want Running Bear who for the first time kicking anyone in the ass, to have to pause before his kicking and try to work out all the potential problems if everyone, who was as perceptive as he is, with the responsiblity for the hunt, who has spent so many hours with the hunting group in question...and so on, and then trying to figure out if he has factored in enough of hte specifics to have a test criterion for 'what if everyone...' type questions.

I think that that kind of thinking will inhibit the wrong people and the assholes will game it.

Bad people will evaluate in ways that make them free to do what they want
and
Good people will, though humility for example, be more likely to back off from good acts.

I am not sure the rule is utterly useless. I think it is. Once we see the kinds of complicated consequentialist analyses we have to do to actually apply the rule, I don't see where the rule helps.

I think it is a misleading short cut. I prefer going directly to a consequentialist analysis - though I am also a deontologist - to spending even a moment on that heuristic.

I am sure using it might lead to people make decisions I would make. But I am not sure how it improves consequentialism. I don't see where, in situ, before a decision, it helps me. I have the same amount of work AND I must also do a thought experiment about what this means if everyone did it, while at the same time adjusiting that everyone to the specific of my act.
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Re: My Fix for Utilitarianism, Kant's Deontology, etc...

Postby James Kroeger » Tue Jul 24, 2018 12:41 pm

Karpel Tunnel wrote:1) I don't Think that is what concerns me when I evaluate the moral Worth of some action. What concerns me is the particular agent, the particular intentions, the particular means and the particular ends.

For example it matters to me the context, the skills and intelligence of the agent, the amount of knowledge the agent had, why they chose to perform the act, what might have happened if other choices were made, what obstacles there were to other choices. If they act had effects on Another person or other persons, then who are these people, what have they done and so on.

For me to start to imagine what everyone performing that act is 1) hallicinatory and 2) irrelevant. I cannot imagine the consequences because all the situations are different given there are different agents in different contexts. I understand that you can start to take care of all this starting with your rule and then coming up with ways to check to see what criteria are necessary in all sorts of situations, but that just seems herculean and, misleading to me. I don't know what it would mean if everyone did what I did. I am going to divorce my wife. What if everyone divorced their wife. OK, well, I am divorcing my wife after getting counseling for 6 months and thesea re the issues we differ on. So now I have to translate this into intentions and efforts made and a whole set of criteria to see if I am happy with everyone who meets all these criteria divorces their wives. Or performs an act of civil disobedience.

I would need to then start to look at statistics and then try to figure out what 'trying hard' needs to look like when evaluating effort. I mean, it just seems like a weird hoop to make me jump through.


So yes, I am challenging the first aspect of the rule.


In my tribe if I hear that Running Bear kicked Little Deer in the ass because he was reckless when hunting, the story is over for me because I know Little Deer and Running bear. I don't want everyone in the tribe kicking people in the ass when they think someone is playing fast and loose with safety, but Running Bear, I know his skills and judgments.


Further I don't want Running Bear who for the first time kicking anyone in the ass, to have to pause before his kicking and try to work out all the potential problems if everyone, who was as perceptive as he is, with the responsiblity for the hunt, who has spent so many hours with the hunting group in question...and so on, and then trying to figure out if he has factored in enough of hte specifics to have a test criterion for 'what if everyone...' type questions.

I think that that kind of thinking will inhibit the wrong people and the assholes will game it.

Bad people will evaluate in ways that make them free to do what they want and Good people will, though humility for example, be more likely to back off from good acts.

I am not sure the rule is utterly useless. I think it is. Once we see the kinds of complicated consequentialist analyses we have to do to actually apply the rule, I don't see where the rule helps.

I think it is a misleading short cut. I prefer going directly to a consequentialist analysis - though I am also a deontologist - to spending even a moment on that heuristic.

I am sure using it might lead to people make decisions I would make. But I am not sure how it improves consequentialism. I don't see where, in situ, before a decision, it helps me. I have the same amount of work AND I must also do a thought experiment about what this means if everyone did it, while at the same time adjusiting that everyone to the specific of my act.


Maybe I'm approaching this the wrong way, given your perspective. Let me just ask you...

Is there any doubt in your mind that under the category of "All Behaviors Understood to be Moral" we should properly include any behaviors which would---if everyone were to imitate them---make everyone authentically better off?

Can you imagine any examples of behaviors which---in spite of the fact that everyone would authentically be better off if everyone imitated them---would nevertheless have to be considered immoral, or even not moral?

Instead of stating, "Any behaviors which are moral will satisfy this test/rule", perhaps I should have worded it, "Any behaviors which satisfy this test/rule would have to be considered moral." Would that distinction have made a difference to you?

If my reasoning is ultimately flawed, then perhaps this approach will help to expose it to my active mind...
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Re: My Fix for Utilitarianism, Kant's Deontology, etc...

Postby Karpel Tunnel » Wed Jul 25, 2018 12:20 pm

James Kroeger wrote:
Maybe I'm approaching this the wrong way, given your perspective. Let me just ask you...

Is there any doubt in your mind that under the category of "All Behaviors Understood to be Moral" we should properly include any behaviors which would---if everyone were to imitate them---make everyone authentically better off?
My concerns are more what gets eliminated by the rule, so this is a good question. No, I don't think I have an objection to that. Some examples of what passes this generous criterion would be good, I think.

Can you imagine any examples of behaviors which---in spite of the fact that everyone would authentically be better off if everyone imitated them---would nevertheless have to be considered immoral, or even not moral?
No, but I can't think of any behaviors like that.

Instead of stating, "Any behaviors which are moral will satisfy this test/rule", perhaps I should have worded it, "Any behaviors which satisfy this test/rule would have to be considered moral." Would that distinction have made a difference to you?

yes, that makes a big difference. It does not say that behaviors that do not pass this test are necessarily immoral.

IOW perhaps such a rule could give us a starting point, a common base. I am skeptical that it would give us that base, but immediately I can, in relation to this rule, go out and live my life without now assuming that much, perhaps nearly all of what I do will be considered immoral.
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