8 Bit Philosophy: Are Your Actions Good? (Kant vs. Mill)

Yay! Some philosophy without trying to push an agenda! Much more enjoyable than an episode that walks you through some philosophy and ends with a big stamp saying "EAT VEGAN!"

RJ 17:
Yay! Some philosophy without trying to push an agenda! Much more enjoyable than an episode that walks you through some philosophy and ends with a big stamp saying "EAT VEGAN!"

Amen to that. It's a good day when I can come to this site (or any game site) and not have to have politics shoved down my throat.

So i was studying today for an Ethics exam in about a week from now, and now i want to relax i see a video on Utilitarianism and Deontology...

Yay education :D

Also I would like to point out that Utilitarianism doesn't necessarily has to be about happiness. I think the more general idea is about the fact that Utilitarianism considers an action morally good if it produces the greatest good for the greatest amount of people. Utilitarianism looks at the consequences of ones actions. There are different versions of Utilitarianism such as the hedonistic version which switches bad and good consequences with pain and pleasure (happiness). But pleasure and pain are very subjective, and more often we would not know the full extent of our actions or inactions so often risks are taken into consideration.

Deontology looks at ones intentions and duties (moral prinicples) when one performs an action. Deontology can fill some of the loopholes that Utilitarianism has such as the following:

According to Utilitarianism slavery would be perfectly moral because slaves are a minority and the suffering of the minority does not weigh up to the good consequences (or happiness,...) that the majority (non slaves) derive from exploiting their workers.
Deontology amends this by saying that slavery as a concept is not morally justifiable because of prinicples.

There are many different ethical theories (Utilitarianism, Deontology, Justice, Virtue ethics,...) and each of them has their advantages and disadvantages and they should all be used together to look at different aspects of an ethical problem.

Sadly however most problems are too complex to be easily solved by any combination of theories but they help in adequatly view a problem.

Why am I rambling about all of this?
To ease the stress of the upcoming exams and to stroke my ego :P

Oh boy if I am wrong about this I will shun the forums for a looong time :/

I figured that the entire star fighter/invading alien force would actually move towards a discussion about the alien invaders having their planet destroyed and seeking refuge elsewhere, thus to the humans you are good, but to the aliens you are evil. I found this discussion to be an odd sort, but I believe there's a middle-ground of sorts.

I don't believe I do things out of duty entirely, I tend to do them out of both duty and joy for others, and I think all others fall under this belief. If we see a baby fall into a river, most everyone would instantly dive in after it. If the crocodile gets it, at least we tried a "good" action, though at the same time... it's only good for the humans. You'd be taking the croc's food, and it may starve if it can't find anything else to snack on.

It's why I love to make people laugh, I get joy from it, and I feel a duty towards others to make them feel joy as well. Their laughter and joy also builds upon my own joy and laughter.

Crimsom Storm:
If we see a baby fall into a river, most everyone would instantly dive in after it. If the crocodile gets it, at least we tried a "good" action, though at the same time... it's only good for the humans. You'd be taking the croc's food, and it may starve if it can't find anything else to snack on.

Edited to the relevant part.

In philosophy and critical thinking, this is called an equivocation or a shifting meaning, when a term changes what it means in the discussion thus slipping in an error. Kant uses good in the moral sense; good actions, actions motivated by what he would call a holy will. The good for the animal is not a moral good - it's good for the croc in the sense of healthful.

The classic example (with many variations) goes like this:
Nothing is better than God.
A cookie is better than nothing.
A cookie is better than God.

It is not an error to use both senses of the word. It is an error to switch in the middle of the argument and continue to treat it as if you have not.

Utilitarianism, simple as it may be, is pretty damn hard to refute.

Prepare Your Keyhole:

According to Utilitarianism slavery would be perfectly moral because slaves are a minority and the suffering of the minority does not weigh up to the good consequences (or happiness,...) that the majority (non slaves) derive from exploiting their workers.

Well, I think a utilitarian could argue that slaves are usually not a minority, at least they weren't in the pre-civil war south, and the hardship that was placed on them almost certainly outweighed whatever convenience they provided their owners.

That being said, utilitarianism's indifference towards equality in general is definitely hard to stomach. Prioritarianism tries to fix this by placing added weight on those worse off, but as much as it might FEEL right to strive for equality, I can't conceive of any rational justification why equality is good for it's own sake.

Olas:
Utilitarianism, simple as it may be, is pretty damn hard to refute.

Prepare Your Keyhole:

According to Utilitarianism slavery would be perfectly moral because slaves are a minority and the suffering of the minority does not weigh up to the good consequences (or happiness,...) that the majority (non slaves) derive from exploiting their workers.

Well, I think a utilitarian could argue that slaves are usually not a minority, at least they weren't in the pre-civil war south, and the hardship that was placed on them almost certainly outweighed whatever convenience they provided their owners.

That being said, utilitarianism's indifference towards equality in general is definitely hard to stomach. Prioritarianism tries to fix this by placing added weight on those worse off, but as much as it might FEEL right to strive for equality, I can't conceive of any rational justification why equality is good for it's own sake.

All of these positions are impossible to refute because the discussion by now has been boiled down to first principles; the logic of deontological, utilitarian/consequentialist, and relativist ethics are the deadest of dead horses.

The utilitarian in your slavery example still has the problem that if a pro-slave argument could find a way to tip the scales so one iota of net happiness was generated by slavery, slavery would then be morally permissible. A Kantian ethic can simply state, per the CI, "Sorry dude, people are an ends, not a means; slavery is simply wrong. I cannot will that ownership of myself is given to others, so I cannot will that the ownership of others is given to anyone."

Another utilitarian conundrum: suppose I have three individuals, John, Paul, and Ringo.

John is a firefighter. During a harrowing fire, he selflessly rushed into a burning building to save a lost child. He was critically injured during this and died. The child was not saved.

Paul is an upper middle class lawyer. His financial situation is secure and rosy. One Thursday, he finds a $100 USD bill on the ground. He doesn't need the money at all, so he donates it to a homeless shelter to buy dozens of meals for needy individuals.

Ringo is an insanely wealthy venture capitalist whose net worth places him in the single digits of Forbes' list. He's annoyed to continually receive letters from some group called MSF, but as he's about to throw it out, the hot new intern he wants to seduce happens to walk buy. Wanting to seem generous and noble, Ringo donates a piddling $1,000 USD to MSF, which buys necessary foodstuffs and medications that save approximately thirty lives in a third world country.

According to many form of utilitarianism, Ringo is a better man than Paul who is a better man than John. And rule-act utilitarianism is just deontological ethics in a cheap tux.

Or perhaps they're both correct... to a point

Methinks the most functional philosophy is a combination of the two, where a positive outcome is desirable to keep people from performing actions that outright harm under the delusion that they are morally right, but failure to obtain positive results when you did all you reasonably could to obtain them using well-chosen means wouldn't invalidate that you really gave it your all.

Olas:
Utilitarianism, simple as it may be, is pretty damn hard to refute.

Prepare Your Keyhole:

According to Utilitarianism slavery would be perfectly moral because slaves are a minority and the suffering of the minority does not weigh up to the good consequences (or happiness,...) that the majority (non slaves) derive from exploiting their workers.

Well, I think a utilitarian could argue that slaves are usually not a minority, at least they weren't in the pre-civil war south, and the hardship that was placed on them almost certainly outweighed whatever convenience they provided their owners.

That being said, utilitarianism's indifference towards equality in general is definitely hard to stomach. Prioritarianism tries to fix this by placing added weight on those worse off, but as much as it might FEEL right to strive for equality, I can't conceive of any rational justification why equality is good for it's own sake.

I guess it depends on what you mean by, "for it's own sake." If you want to find utilitarian value in equality it's actually pretty easy. Equality in opportunity allows for the best and brightest among all people to have the chance at success. This is good for every wealth/class/race/gender ect. because it allows anyone of those groups to find success. It is also good for society because it allows those with the greatest talents to share those talents with society instead of being subjugated. I don't think you can say that it is equality for equality's sake, it's equality for the sake of the individual and society. Equality of outcome is a different matter.

Gorrath:

Olas:
Utilitarianism, simple as it may be, is pretty damn hard to refute.

Prepare Your Keyhole:

According to Utilitarianism slavery would be perfectly moral because slaves are a minority and the suffering of the minority does not weigh up to the good consequences (or happiness,...) that the majority (non slaves) derive from exploiting their workers.

Well, I think a utilitarian could argue that slaves are usually not a minority, at least they weren't in the pre-civil war south, and the hardship that was placed on them almost certainly outweighed whatever convenience they provided their owners.

That being said, utilitarianism's indifference towards equality in general is definitely hard to stomach. Prioritarianism tries to fix this by placing added weight on those worse off, but as much as it might FEEL right to strive for equality, I can't conceive of any rational justification why equality is good for it's own sake.

I guess it depends on what you mean by, "for it's own sake." If you want to find utilitarian value in equality it's actually pretty easy. Equality in opportunity allows for the best and brightest among all people to have the chance at success. This is good for every wealth/class/race/gender ect. because it allows anyone of those groups to find success. It is also good for society because it allows those with the greatest talents to share those talents with society instead of being subjugated. I don't think you can say that it is equality for equality's sake, it's equality for the sake of the individual and society. Equality of outcome is a different matter.

That's what I mean though when I say it's hard to find value in equality "for it's own sake". One can certainly argue that equality generates value overall in most situations, but that's not a universal rule. What about a scenario where it clearly creates more value OVERALL to treat people unequally? If I have 2 pieces of chocolate and 2 people who want it, should I split the chocolate up evenly, or give it all to the person who enjoys chocolate more? Our gut instinct tells us that it's "wrong" to treat people unequally, but from a utilitarian perspective it doesn't matter at all, thus it's been argued that utilitarianism has no moral objections to slavery, at least in principle.

If we assume that this is true, and that utilitarianism is valid as a moral philosophy, the eerie but inescapable conclusion is that slavery isn't fundamentally immoral. I would love to hear an argument for why this is incorrect, why slavery is rationally immoral in principle, but I haven't yet.

thedoclc:

Olas:
Utilitarianism, simple as it may be, is pretty damn hard to refute.

Prepare Your Keyhole:

According to Utilitarianism slavery would be perfectly moral because slaves are a minority and the suffering of the minority does not weigh up to the good consequences (or happiness,...) that the majority (non slaves) derive from exploiting their workers.

Well, I think a utilitarian could argue that slaves are usually not a minority, at least they weren't in the pre-civil war south, and the hardship that was placed on them almost certainly outweighed whatever convenience they provided their owners.

That being said, utilitarianism's indifference towards equality in general is definitely hard to stomach. Prioritarianism tries to fix this by placing added weight on those worse off, but as much as it might FEEL right to strive for equality, I can't conceive of any rational justification why equality is good for it's own sake.

All of these positions are impossible to refute because the discussion by now has been boiled down to first principles; the logic of deontological, utilitarian/consequentialist, and relativist ethics are the deadest of dead horses.

I disagree, I think some of them are actually possible and quite easy to refute. Deontology, at least as I understand it, is based on a preset of moral values or "duties" one has, either to god or to some lawmaker, but never justifies why these values are correct except by the fact that they come from a "higher authority". Deontology seems like a non-sequitur to me, presupposing that those in power either define what is moral, or are always in line with morality, but neither has reason to be true.

The utilitarian in your slavery example still has the problem that if a pro-slave argument could find a way to tip the scales so one iota of net happiness was generated by slavery, slavery would then be morally permissible.

But that's only a "problem" if we assume in the first place that slavery is always inherently wrong, which has yet to be proven as far as I can tell. We live in a society where slavery is viewed horribly, and our knee-jerk reaction is to dismiss it strongly, but to me this seems like an emotional reaction, not a logical one. I know it looks bad when one seems to be "pro-slavery" but it's merely an observation I'm making.

A Kantian ethic can simply state, per the CI, "Sorry dude, people are an ends, not a means; slavery is simply wrong. I cannot will that ownership of myself is given to others, so I cannot will that the ownership of others is given to anyone."

erm... okay? Surely people are both an ends AND a means. And to say "slavery is simply wrong" doesn't prove anything. I can do the same thing with gay marriage: "gay marriage is simply wrong" and my argument is just as supported as yours.

Another utilitarian conundrum: suppose I have three individuals, John, Paul, and Ringo.

John is a firefighter. During a harrowing fire, he selflessly rushed into a burning building to save a lost child. He was critically injured during this and died. The child was not saved.

Paul is an upper middle class lawyer. His financial situation is secure and rosy. One Thursday, he finds a $100 USD bill on the ground. He doesn't need the money at all, so he donates it to a homeless shelter to buy dozens of meals for needy individuals.

Ringo is an insanely wealthy venture capitalist whose net worth places him in the single digits of Forbes' list. He's annoyed to continually receive letters from some group called MSF, but as he's about to throw it out, the hot new intern he wants to seduce happens to walk buy. Wanting to seem generous and noble, Ringo donates a piddling $1,000 USD to MSF, which buys necessary foodstuffs and medications that save approximately thirty lives in a third world country.

According to many form of utilitarianism, Ringo is a better man than Paul who is a better man than John. And rule-act utilitarianism is just deontological ethics in a cheap tux.

This is why I think it's wrong to equate utilitarianism with consequentialism. Obviously we can only judge individual character by intentions, not unanticipated outcomes. But how does that relate to whether it's morally correct to do that which creates the greatest overall good for the most people? It seems to me that utilitarianism exists to help us make moral decisions about the future, not to judge whether a decisions was moral after the fact.

RJ 17:
Yay! Some philosophy without trying to push an agenda! Much more enjoyable than an episode that walks you through some philosophy and ends with a big stamp saying "EAT VEGAN!"

It said nothing of the sort. That you feel it said "eat vegan" says more about you than it does about the video.

WhiteTigerShiro:

RJ 17:
Yay! Some philosophy without trying to push an agenda! Much more enjoyable than an episode that walks you through some philosophy and ends with a big stamp saying "EAT VEGAN!"

It said nothing of the sort. That you feel it said "eat vegan" says more about you than it does about the video.

"Would you still eat bacon if it came from Pikachus?" after an episode based entirely around how animals have feelings as well. Pretty sure that translates to "eat vegan because animals have feelings and rights too."

Now excuse me, I'm going to go murder a cow and enjoy the sweet taste of it's blood.

Olas:

thedoclc:

All of these positions are impossible to refute because the discussion by now has been boiled down to first principles; the logic of deontological, utilitarian/consequentialist, and relativist ethics are the deadest of dead horses.

I stand by my statement.

erm... okay? Surely people are both an ends AND a means. And to say "slavery is simply wrong" doesn't prove anything. I can do the same thing with gay marriage: "gay marriage is simply wrong" and my argument is just as supported as yours.

Ah, the relativist argument! You may not want to call this one up. It turns around to bite back.

U: "You're being arbitrary in defining people as an ends and not a means, and I view this arbitrariness as a fatal flaw."
D: "I'm not sure I buy I'm being arbitrary as the CI does tend towards a universal point of view, but that's an odd argument for you to use! You've arbitrarily decided to make utility - I'll toss you a bone and not use happiness, and we'll skip pure hedonistic utilitarianism - the yardstick, but if you say my argument is flawed because of an arbitrary decision, you must accept that same criticism and we have nothing to talk about. Your utilitarianism is just as 'arbitrary,' and we're back to that boring dead horse I was talking about earlier."
Relativist: "AHHH! So everything's relative, isn't it?"
U&D: "Who let this guy into the room?"
U: "I don't view my measuring happiness and suffering as arbitrary."
R: "But it is! You've just decided that they're what you're going to use as a guide."
U: "Eh, I'll ignore him if you do."
D: "Deal. He's a pedantic douche anyway."

But in any case, after arguing that it's an assumption that slavery is wrong in absolute terms that is wrong. Kant said the only unqualified good was a good will. Then there's some metaphysics and finally his deontological command defined by the categorical imperative which would cause a reasoner to find a reason to reject wrong-doing - and thus slavery. He doesn't assume slavery is wrong; he argues for his categorical imperative, and when he believes he has laid it out, then it can be applied. That was what I argued - and you missed. But the utilitarian still has no strong ground.

Now, I'm going to be completely arbitrary here, but a moral system that can't stand up and say, "Slavery is wrong," in my eyes is one which has somehow managed to miss a moral truth so stupidly obvious that the system isn't worth considering. It's like a calculator that can't add.

Man, this video really did a disservice in not explaining the CI, and then thinking that Mill was really the proponent of consequentionalism. They should have explained Bentham. I agree with you that a Mills-like utilitarianism isn't really consequentialism, but you can't opt out of calling Bentham a utilitarian.

(After John, Paul, and Ringo)

This is why I think it's wrong to equate utilitarianism with consequentialism. Obviously we can only judge individual character by intentions, not unanticipated outcomes. But how does that relate to whether it's morally correct to do that which creates the greatest overall good for the most people? It seems to me that utilitarianism exists to help us make moral decisions about the future, not to judge whether a decisions was moral after the fact.

Yes, I like a Millsian utilitarianism over a pure hedonistic utilitarianism, but that's certainly moving the goalposts. Bentham's utilitarianism was just that. Greatest happiness for the greatest number.

The decision to do more than add up the pleasures and pains and try to get the best trade-off - to judge people by their intentions as well as outcomes and to expect people to fulfill duties they undertake - is to fall away from what makes gives utilitarianism its unique position. It starts turning utilitarianism into deontological or virtue ethics. There's the catch; I think it's a mistake to think that consequentialism and deontological ethics are separated, but exist on a spectrum from one to the other. The more the utilitarian tries to rebuff those who attack the seemingly-absurd consequences of pure hedonistic utilitarianism by moving away from strict consequentialism, the more they fall into deontological or virtue ethics.

While a Bentham-like utilitarian would just agree Ringo did best.

Deontological ethics are defined by duty, not god (small g, god of philosophy, as opposed to the Abrahamic God). Certainly, divine command deontology is "act as god wills," but there are plenty of other branches. Kant didn't need god to get to his imperative. Mills himself tried to interest us in his "highest forms of utility," which really then wound up being the proto-left liberalism of English gentlemen with a strong endorsement of rights and democracy. This is also where the statements of secular humanism foul up big time; rejecting a divine origin for ethical laws does not force you to become a consequentialist, or do they think Rawls and Nagel and others like them don't exist?

And this, ironically, from someone who considers themselves otherwise pretty much a secular humanist.

thedoclc:

Olas:

thedoclc:

All of these positions are impossible to refute because the discussion by now has been boiled down to first principles; the logic of deontological, utilitarian/consequentialist, and relativist ethics are the deadest of dead horses.

I stand by my statement.

Well... I stand by mine too.

image

We gonna actually defend our points? Merely stating that position doesn't make it true, or convince others that it is, so if you want to actually refute me you should put some more effort into it.

thedoclc:

erm... okay? Surely people are both an ends AND a means. And to say "slavery is simply wrong" doesn't prove anything. I can do the same thing with gay marriage: "gay marriage is simply wrong" and my argument is just as supported as yours.

Ah, the relativist argument! You may not want to call this one up. It turns around to bite back.

Oh god no! I'm not a relativist. Moral relativism is nonsense. Just because I don't think merely stating a position outright is justification for it's truth, that doesn't mean I think there ARE NO moral truths. You'd be best not to jump to conclusions.

Anyway, I've clearly established my belief in utilitarianism, which is pretty much incompatible with moral relativism.

U: "You're being arbitrary in defining people as an ends and not a means, and I view this arbitrariness as a fatal flaw."
D: "I'm not sure I buy I'm being arbitrary as the CI does tend towards a universal point of view, but that's an odd argument for you to use! You've arbitrarily decided to make utility - I'll toss you a bone and not use happiness, and we'll skip pure hedonistic utilitarianism - the yardstick, but if you say my argument is flawed because of an arbitrary decision, you must accept that same criticism and we have nothing to talk about. Your utilitarianism is just as 'arbitrary,' and we're back to that boring dead horse I was talking about earlier."
Relativist: "AHHH! So everything's relative, isn't it?"
U&D: "Who let this guy into the room?"
U: "I don't view my measuring happiness and suffering as arbitrary."
R: "But it is! You've just decided that they're what you're going to use as a guide."
U: "Eh, I'll ignore him if you do."
D: "Deal. He's a pedantic douche anyway."

What an entertaining little dialogue you just made up, but like I said, I'm not a relativist, and have clearly pointed to utilitarianism as my preferred moral philosophy. The fact that I have trouble reconciling certain aspects of Utilitarianism with my emotional objections to slavery doesn't mean I discount it.

But in any case, after arguing that it's an assumption that slavery is wrong in absolute terms that is wrong. Kant said the only unqualified good was a good will. Then there's some metaphysics and finally his deontological command defined by the categorical imperative which would cause a reasoner to find a reason to reject wrong-doing - and thus slavery.

image
I'm not sure if you're being thick or I'm being dumb, but I'm having trouble following what you're saying. It sounds kinda like you're saying that a well intentioned person is always in the right morally. I guess I can sorta get on board with that, but I'm more interested in determining whether ACTIONS are moral, not the actors.

In order to be well intentioned an actor must still believe what they're doing is morally right, so we still need a way of evaluating the moral worth of an action, and I'd nominate utilitarianism for that.

If we say that an act is morally right because the actor was well intentioned it leads to circular logic. I'm well intentioned, therefore my action must be morally right, and since I believe my act is morally right, it must be well intentioned. If anything, this seems closer to moral relativity than utilitarianism.

He doesn't assume slavery is wrong; he argues for his categorical imperative, and when he believes he has laid it out, then it can be applied. That was what I argued - and you missed. But the utilitarian still has no strong ground.

It's based on our positive and negative valuation, what could be more grounded than that? I think a lot of people don't like utilitarianism because it seemingly to takes something we consider very complicated: morality, and makes it seems simple. Utilitarianism is really just stating the obvious, and yes it is very basic and reductionist to the point of being borderline indisputable, but I see it as the starting point of moral philosophy, not the end. You have to build on it if you want to create useful rules of law.

Now, I'm going to be completely arbitrary here, but a moral system that can't stand up and say, "Slavery is wrong," in my eyes is one which has somehow managed to miss a moral truth so stupidly obvious that the system isn't worth considering. It's like a calculator that can't add.

Well, I'll happily listen to any arguments you think up to support that assertion, but as of now I can't conceive of any. Does that bother me? Yes. But I can't abandon reason just because it FEELS a certain way, even if it is "stupidly obvious" to you.

Man, this video really did a disservice in not explaining the CI, and then thinking that Mill was really the proponent of consequentionalism. They should have explained Bentham. I agree with you that a Mills-like utilitarianism isn't really consequentialism, but you can't opt out of calling Bentham a utilitarian.

I don't really know anything about either person, nor do I really care. Are we discussing philosophy or history?

(After John, Paul, and Ringo)

This is why I think it's wrong to equate utilitarianism with consequentialism. Obviously we can only judge individual character by intentions, not unanticipated outcomes. But how does that relate to whether it's morally correct to do that which creates the greatest overall good for the most people? It seems to me that utilitarianism exists to help us make moral decisions about the future, not to judge whether a decisions was moral after the fact.

Yes, I like a Millsian utilitarianism over a pure hedonistic utilitarianism, but that's certainly moving the goalposts. Bentham's utilitarianism was just that. Greatest happiness for the greatest number.

So in order to respond I decided to look up the difference between Millsian utilitarianism and Bentham's utilitarianism. As far as I can tell the only difference is that millsian utilitarianism is more pretentious and considers certain pleasures "higher" (and therefore better) because they're more intellectual. Personally I don't really care very much whether a pleasure is "high" or not, I enjoy both critical thinking as well as ice-cream and sex.

The decision to do more than add up the pleasures and pains and try to get the best trade-off - to judge people by their intentions as well as outcomes and to expect people to fulfill duties they undertake - is to fall away from what makes gives utilitarianism its unique position. It starts turning utilitarianism into deontological or virtue ethics. There's the catch; I think it's a mistake to think that consequentialism and deontological ethics are separated, but exist on a spectrum from one to the other. The more the utilitarian tries to rebuff those who attack the seemingly-absurd consequences of pure hedonistic utilitarianism by moving away from strict consequentialism, the more they fall into deontological or virtue ethics.

I don't see it as a spectrum, I see it as 2 separate factors, like heat and humidity. When determining whether an action is good we should look at the resulting pleasure/pain. When determining whether a person is good we should look at their intentions.

But you seem to be using a different definition of deontology than me. I was working on the following definition of deontology:

noun

Deontology is defined as an ethical theory that the morality of an action should be based on whether that action itself is right or wrong under a series of rules, rather than based on the consequences of the action.

An example of deontology is the belief that killing someone is wrong, even if it was in self-defense.

Which is quite different than the intent based philosophy you're arguing for.

While a Bentham-like utilitarian would just agree Ringo did best.

Deontological ethics are defined by duty, not god (small g, god of philosophy, as opposed to the Abrahamic God). Certainly, divine command deontology is "act as god wills," but there are plenty of other branches. Kant didn't need god to get to his imperative. Mills himself tried to interest us in his "highest forms of utility," which really then wound up being the proto-left liberalism of English gentlemen with a strong endorsement of rights and democracy. This is also where the statements of secular humanism foul up big time; rejecting a divine origin for ethical laws does not force you to become a consequentialist, or do they think Rawls and Nagel and others like them don't exist?

And this, ironically, from someone who considers themselves otherwise pretty much a secular humanist.

You say deontological ethics are defined by duty not god, but then I have to ask duty to what? What does duty even mean in this context? The sheer obligation to do right by others? I'd argue that utilitarianism is also based on one's duty if that's what we're talking about, duty to everyone.

Olas:

Gorrath:

Olas:
Utilitarianism, simple as it may be, is pretty damn hard to refute.

Well, I think a utilitarian could argue that slaves are usually not a minority, at least they weren't in the pre-civil war south, and the hardship that was placed on them almost certainly outweighed whatever convenience they provided their owners.

That being said, utilitarianism's indifference towards equality in general is definitely hard to stomach. Prioritarianism tries to fix this by placing added weight on those worse off, but as much as it might FEEL right to strive for equality, I can't conceive of any rational justification why equality is good for it's own sake.

I guess it depends on what you mean by, "for it's own sake." If you want to find utilitarian value in equality it's actually pretty easy. Equality in opportunity allows for the best and brightest among all people to have the chance at success. This is good for every wealth/class/race/gender ect. because it allows anyone of those groups to find success. It is also good for society because it allows those with the greatest talents to share those talents with society instead of being subjugated. I don't think you can say that it is equality for equality's sake, it's equality for the sake of the individual and society. Equality of outcome is a different matter.

That's what I mean though when I say it's hard to find value in equality "for it's own sake". One can certainly argue that equality generates value overall in most situations, but that's not a universal rule. What about a scenario where it clearly creates more value OVERALL to treat people unequally? If I have 2 pieces of chocolate and 2 people who want it, should I split the chocolate up evenly, or give it all to the person who enjoys chocolate more? Our gut instinct tells us that it's "wrong" to treat people unequally, but from a utilitarian perspective it doesn't matter at all, thus it's been argued that utilitarianism has no moral objections to slavery, at least in principle.

If we assume that this is true, and that utilitarianism is valid as a moral philosophy, the eerie but inescapable conclusion is that slavery isn't fundamentally immoral. I would love to hear an argument for why this is incorrect, why slavery is rationally immoral in principle, but I haven't yet.

Sorry I wasn't able to get on and respond quicker. I agree that equality for it's own sake isn't inherently valuable. There are lots of situations where you can point out how equality is amoral or even immoral/unethical. Equality has no value unto itself, I agree.

Even in utilitarianism, any moral descision you make is only informed by what you can measure with limited information in the moment. This means that it is necessary to build in room for error. You may think that enslaving 5% to increase the happiness of the 95% means that you have a net gain, but that will turn out to be untrue if someone in that 5% would have invented a cure for cancer instead of laboring in a field. The way we build in buffers for error is by maximizing chances for every individual to excell, which you cannot do in a soceity which does not offer equal opportunity. Since slavery is one of the most stringent ways to create inequality of opportunity, it is immoral because it destroys your buffer for error, or at least erodes it in an unacceptable way.

This is why strict rule and divine command theory morality both fail. They have no mechanism for correction and/or nuance. Utilitarianism has that same problem if you don't have a mechanism to account for errors in understanding. Since utilitarianism is based on maximizing well being, and no one has the ability to understand what impact any action will have on the net well being, we must make the best descisions we can with the information we have while also building in these ways to correct for the errors we are bound to make. Equality of opportunity is just one such mechanism.

I find slavery immoral not just because it violates the much needed buffers in utilitarianism though but because it almost becomes scapegoating. To me, the best moral choices are never driven by a single moral philosophy but the most applicable moral philosophy to any situation. If you told me that I had to flip a switch that would kill 10 people or a switch that would kill a million, I'd kill the ten. Utilitarianism is at play given the context.

If I see someone drop 5 bucks and I have a choice to either keep or return it, how does utilitarianism come into play? I have no idea which action would lead to more net well being. Maybe the guy's rich and won't give two craps about his five bucks where as that five bucks might do a lot for my own well being. This would fly in the face of social contract theory though, so if utilitarianism isn't giving me a useful moral answer, I must reach for another moral philosophy for guidance. So, utilitarianism is a valid moral philosophy but its moral precepts are not universally applicable.

Gorrath:

Olas:

Gorrath:

I guess it depends on what you mean by, "for it's own sake." If you want to find utilitarian value in equality it's actually pretty easy. Equality in opportunity allows for the best and brightest among all people to have the chance at success. This is good for every wealth/class/race/gender ect. because it allows anyone of those groups to find success. It is also good for society because it allows those with the greatest talents to share those talents with society instead of being subjugated. I don't think you can say that it is equality for equality's sake, it's equality for the sake of the individual and society. Equality of outcome is a different matter.

That's what I mean though when I say it's hard to find value in equality "for it's own sake". One can certainly argue that equality generates value overall in most situations, but that's not a universal rule. What about a scenario where it clearly creates more value OVERALL to treat people unequally? If I have 2 pieces of chocolate and 2 people who want it, should I split the chocolate up evenly, or give it all to the person who enjoys chocolate more? Our gut instinct tells us that it's "wrong" to treat people unequally, but from a utilitarian perspective it doesn't matter at all, thus it's been argued that utilitarianism has no moral objections to slavery, at least in principle.

If we assume that this is true, and that utilitarianism is valid as a moral philosophy, the eerie but inescapable conclusion is that slavery isn't fundamentally immoral. I would love to hear an argument for why this is incorrect, why slavery is rationally immoral in principle, but I haven't yet.

Sorry I wasn't able to get on and respond quicker. I agree that equality for it's own sake isn't inherently valuable. There are lots of situations where you can point out how equality is amoral or even immoral/unethical. Equality has no value unto itself, I agree.

Even in utilitarianism, any moral descision you make is only informed by what you can measure with limited information in the moment. This means that it is necessary to build in room for error. You may think that enslaving 5% to increase the happiness of the 95% means that you have a net gain, but that will turn out to be untrue if someone in that 5% would have invented a cure for cancer instead of laboring in a field. The way we build in buffers for error is by maximizing chances for every individual to excell, which you cannot do in a soceity which does not offer equal opportunity. Since slavery is one of the most stringent ways to create inequality of opportunity, it is immoral because it destroys your buffer for error, or at least erodes it in an unacceptable way.

Eh, it's still just an argument for equality being ultimately in everyone's best interest, thus dodging the underlying issue. When people object to slavery, I don't think it's because they believe the slaves could invent a cure for cancer.

I find slavery immoral not just because it violates the much needed buffers in utilitarianism though but because it almost becomes scapegoating. To me, the best moral choices are never driven by a single moral philosophy but the most applicable moral philosophy to any situation. If you told me that I had to flip a switch that would kill 10 people or a switch that would kill a million, I'd kill the ten. Utilitarianism is at play given the context.

If I see someone drop 5 bucks and I have a choice to either keep or return it, how does utilitarianism come into play? I have no idea which action would lead to more net well being. Maybe the guy's rich and won't give two craps about his five bucks where as that five bucks might do a lot for my own well being. This would fly in the face of social contract theory though, so if utilitarianism isn't giving me a useful moral answer, I must reach for another moral philosophy for guidance. So, utilitarianism is a valid moral philosophy but its moral precepts are not universally applicable.

Interesting, though I think it's important to acknowledge that this social contract is a tool for maintaining order, and since an orderly society is better for everyone than a chaotic one, social contracts are actually compatible with utilitarianism. With that in mind, the moment a social contract fails to serve everyone's best interest it no longer has any moral authority and can be broken without guilt.

Olas:

Gorrath:

Olas:

That's what I mean though when I say it's hard to find value in equality "for it's own sake". One can certainly argue that equality generates value overall in most situations, but that's not a universal rule. What about a scenario where it clearly creates more value OVERALL to treat people unequally? If I have 2 pieces of chocolate and 2 people who want it, should I split the chocolate up evenly, or give it all to the person who enjoys chocolate more? Our gut instinct tells us that it's "wrong" to treat people unequally, but from a utilitarian perspective it doesn't matter at all, thus it's been argued that utilitarianism has no moral objections to slavery, at least in principle.

If we assume that this is true, and that utilitarianism is valid as a moral philosophy, the eerie but inescapable conclusion is that slavery isn't fundamentally immoral. I would love to hear an argument for why this is incorrect, why slavery is rationally immoral in principle, but I haven't yet.

Sorry I wasn't able to get on and respond quicker. I agree that equality for it's own sake isn't inherently valuable. There are lots of situations where you can point out how equality is amoral or even immoral/unethical. Equality has no value unto itself, I agree.

Even in utilitarianism, any moral descision you make is only informed by what you can measure with limited information in the moment. This means that it is necessary to build in room for error. You may think that enslaving 5% to increase the happiness of the 95% means that you have a net gain, but that will turn out to be untrue if someone in that 5% would have invented a cure for cancer instead of laboring in a field. The way we build in buffers for error is by maximizing chances for every individual to excell, which you cannot do in a soceity which does not offer equal opportunity. Since slavery is one of the most stringent ways to create inequality of opportunity, it is immoral because it destroys your buffer for error, or at least erodes it in an unacceptable way.

Eh, it's still just an argument for equality being ultimately in everyone's best interest, thus dodging the underlying issue. When people object to slavery, I don't think it's because they believe the slaves could invent a cure for cancer.

Well sure, but unless you're laboring under a very different definition of morality than I am, arguing that it's in everyone's best interest is what makes it moral. THe well being of thinking beings is what morality is about. The objection I proposed isn't the reason most people reject it, it's true but I was merely formulating an objection to it under utilitarian principals. Most people don't reject it under utilitarian principals, I was merely showing that you could embrace utilitarianism and still reject slavery as being immoral. That's why I go on to explain how you could reject it under other moral philosophies as well.

I find slavery immoral not just because it violates the much needed buffers in utilitarianism though but because it almost becomes scapegoating. To me, the best moral choices are never driven by a single moral philosophy but the most applicable moral philosophy to any situation. If you told me that I had to flip a switch that would kill 10 people or a switch that would kill a million, I'd kill the ten. Utilitarianism is at play given the context.

If I see someone drop 5 bucks and I have a choice to either keep or return it, how does utilitarianism come into play? I have no idea which action would lead to more net well being. Maybe the guy's rich and won't give two craps about his five bucks where as that five bucks might do a lot for my own well being. This would fly in the face of social contract theory though, so if utilitarianism isn't giving me a useful moral answer, I must reach for another moral philosophy for guidance. So, utilitarianism is a valid moral philosophy but its moral precepts are not universally applicable.

Interesting, though I think it's important to acknowledge that this social contract is a tool for maintaining order, and since an orderly society is better for everyone than a chaotic one, social contracts are actually compatible with utilitarianism. With that in mind, the moment a social contract fails to serve everyone's best interest it no longer has any moral authority and can be broken without guilt.

I agree that social contract theory and utilitarianism overlap in areas. I'd argue that any and all moral philosophy that's worth a damn should overlap with other moralphilosophies that are worth a damn. This is why an application of one or more moral philosophies is contextual; some may have noting to say about a situation and some may come to the same conclusion, select which one best fits. I agree that any social contract that becomes damaging should be jettisoned, just as any utilitarian approach that has no buffers for error should be rejected. No matter which moral philosophy/ise are applied, the end result should be a consideration as to what's best for the well being of thinking beings.

Olas:

thedoclc:

Olas:

I stand by my statement.

Well... I stand by mine too.

And I stand by my statement that this is why these arguments get old, fast.

I've spoilered the text, but at the bottom, well...there's the trap.

But you seem to be using a different definition of deontology than me. I was working on the following definition of deontology:

noun

Deontology is defined as an ethical theory that the morality of an action should be based on whether that action itself is right or wrong under a series of rules, rather than based on the consequences of the action.

An example of deontology is the belief that killing someone is wrong, even if it was in self-defense.

Which is quite different than the intent based philosophy you're arguing for.

Dictionaries often have simplified or poor definitions for technical terms, and those terms themselves sometimes have definitions which folks argue over. The 'duty' aspect is the duty to obey certain rules - not laws, but moral rules. Indeed, following moral rules may require breaking laws. And I did not raise "intent" and virtue ethics over deontological ethics, though I'm far more inclined to virtue ethics than utilitarianism. So your use of "intent-based" is misleading, unless you mean, "intend to hold up reasoned principles."

I mean, sorry, this is an ad hominem, but you're not showing you've put time or thought into this when you quote a damn dictionary at me. You'd have seen the obvious trap if you'd gone as far as Wikipedia. Even Wikipedia gives you the duty-based part of deontology.

"It is sometimes described as "duty-" or "obligation-" or "rule-" based ethics, because rules "bind you to your duty."

That's the second sentence of the article. I'd also add that I see the connection between "rules" and "duty" is obvious.

You say deontological ethics are defined by duty not god, but then I have to ask duty to what? What does duty even mean in this context? The sheer obligation to do right by others?

To repeat myself, there are -branches- of deontological ethics, each of which has an answer to "Duty to what?" Duty to god if divine command. Duty to obey the categorical imperative for the Kantian, which is followed by many influential thinkers like Rawls and Nagel. Heck, even a secular humanist just posits certain rights, without philosophic basis, and states we have a duty to respect them. (So much for secular humanism being purely consequentialist, despite such claims.)

I'd argue that utilitarianism is also based on one's duty if that's what we're talking about, duty to everyone.

Having said that, you've basically become a deontologist for all you are arguing against it.

RJ 17:

WhiteTigerShiro:

RJ 17:
Yay! Some philosophy without trying to push an agenda! Much more enjoyable than an episode that walks you through some philosophy and ends with a big stamp saying "EAT VEGAN!"

It said nothing of the sort. That you feel it said "eat vegan" says more about you than it does about the video.

"Would you still eat bacon if it came from Pikachus?" after an episode based entirely around how animals have feelings as well. Pretty sure that translates to "eat vegan because animals have feelings and rights too."

Now excuse me, I'm going to go murder a cow and enjoy the sweet taste of it's blood.

And my immediate answer was "Heck yeah!" Besides, after re-watching and dwelling on the question a little more, I think the point of the question was less about promoting a vegan lifestyle and more about pointing-out how we are arbitrarily okay with eating some animals, but not others (cows vs dogs, for example). Hence why the idea of bacon coming from Pikachus comes-off as shocking, because even though they aren't even real animals, they're still on the "do not eat" list.

Edit: No pun intended, btw. Didn't catch that until I was re-reading the post. >_<

 

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