Monday, January 03, 2011

fitting vs fortune --> In fact

What if at the limit they remove the causality between beliefs and actions?

So they do everything fortunate - acording to your moral theory (hedonism, concequentialism...) however the internal life is fitting and epiphenominal.

unlikely/weird - but we are talking about an hypothetical ideal.


Richard looks at defending utilitarianism. He starts off below case of ethics, we should likewise distinguish 'morally fortunate' from 'morally fitting' character. The fortunate character is that which serves to promote the good. The fitting character is that which embodies an orientation towards the good. This is the sense in which someone might have "good intentions", even if the intention has bad consequences, and so is unfortunate. Talk of "virtuous" character also plausibly concerns the 'fitting' mode of evaluation.
Critics of consequentialism often object to how a consequentialist agent would (allegedly) think. They claim that the consequentialist agent is, in some sense, a bad character. Defenders of consequentialism typically dismiss such objections by citing the distinction between 'criteria of rightness' and 'decision procedures'. (Utility provides the criterion that determines the moral status of an act; it's a further question whether agents ought to attempt to calculate utilities themselves.) This is not entirely satisfactory.

This is a good and useful seperation (not entirely new of course but nothing is)

Interestingly in the comments on the thread I see from X. Trapnel

I don't see any reason to think that "being a consequentialist just means rejecting" the 'fitting' mode of evaluation. (That would certainly be a surprise to readers of Parfit's Reasons and Persons.) It merely means that given a choice between being fitting or fortunate, we should prefer the latter.

Richards response is
I don't see any reason to think that "being a consequentialist just means rejecting" the 'fitting' mode of evaluation. (That would certainly be a surprise to readers of Parfit's Reasons and Persons.) It merely means that given a choice between being fitting or fortunate, we should prefer the latter.

no more comments after this but I take that as Richard conceding the whole debate at least for a normal utilitarian... why?

Well because consequentialism says somthing about almost everything. it is the classic objection to utilitarianism that it is hugely demanding becuase every action influences an almost infinite number of future actions. Well this is also relevant here because fortunate and fitting overlap in EVERY case. If you prefer any degree of fortunate over any degree of fitting then you have no regard for fitting.

Also possible I suppose is an ideal agent where their desires etc are completely decoupled for their actions. Ie that their having a friend or enemy has absolutly no influence on what they do in regard to that person. Like a person in your brain watching the world operate according to utilitarian rules. I suppose that sounds like some sort of torture for this fellow but I also envisage the minor fix (in fact i think this would be natural) that they dont care about the fact that there is a discontect between their desires and actions.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

the Zombie Argument

In Refuting the Zombie Argument, part II screw plato looks at the zombie argument.

As occurs in most dualist debates - He argues "faith in our intuition is unjustified" in response to the dualists apparent over confidence in the value of their intuitions. The dualists response to this was "we have nothing else so intuition is some evidence".

So to look into this let's look at how intuition works.

from wikipedia "The term intuition is used to describe thoughts and preferences that come to mind quickly and without much reflection"

These thoughts are defined only by that they are not intermediated by the rational format. In this sense thy by their nature are inferior IF they include only the same set of data - but often this will not be the case. So again from wikipedia

"The reliability of one's intuition depends greatly on past knowledge and occurrences in a specific area. For example, someone who has had more experiences with children will tend to have a better instinct or intuition about what they should do in certain situations with them."

Intuition is a way for your brain to sift through experience without having to formally state what it is doing and because of that it can sift through more information faster but is more prome to error.

There are certain situations where intuition would add value - there is a very complex set of facts that you know of but are unable to formalize at that particular moment. What you can bring to this problem is a set of vague rules that were created off the back of those facts, then you find that those vague rules dont fit with the hypothesis.

So can we say that this is likely to be the case?

a) if you are not really concentrating on resolving the problem
b) you have reason to believe there is a lot of evidence available that you can access in theory but not directly.

The problem is a is false and for b the dualists have not proposed specifically what that evidence is or why they expect it to be there - in fact in the case of epiphenominalism it can't exist (because in epiphenominalism qualia have no effect on the arguments you make so they can't create evidence that would lead to an argument).

Saturday, January 01, 2011


from philosophy etc roundup.

False Dichotomies, Deism, and Religious Bundles highlights a very annoying thing that ones sees often in politics. Bundeling of ideas is a classic tool to manipulate people. So I like the principle - and yet in practice most people do find themselves making a decision of tribal affiliation - somthing an aloof philisopher might not understand but for the average joe it is usually do I belong to the christian tribe or the athiest tribe. then where do I fit within that tribe. So I understand the position even if I agree with richard it is to a large extent irrational.

In Giving What We Can section he adresses charity - which I am usually pretty cynical of (vs public programmes) but in the context of givewell this is a good idea. The issue this raises for me is how the UN can be so stupid as to leave so much low hanging fruit as givewell is able to find. Maybe we should spend some of our time trying to fix that system.

He covers utilitarianism - nothing much to disagree with here for a utilitarian, except that as usual I dont see the moral problems that he strugles to defend utilitarianism from as having much prima face value in the first place.

Non-Physical Questions asks "Would you still be conscious if your neurons were replaced by (functionally identical) silicon chips?" and then infers from this
"But clearly there is something more we can wonder about. So if there's a substantial fact we remain ignorant of, it must concern a matter over and above the physical facts."

Well tht doesnt seem odd to me - I'd say Block's "Chinese Nation" and the silicon brain are in theory (although in practice it may be ridiculous/impossible) concious. This should be automatic for a functionalist which I believe richard is supposed to be (although I counld be mistaken). So my sugestion is that I have nothing to wonder about and the argument falls flat...

Friday, December 31, 2010

the standard on 2010

" Well 2010 has been a year for some political surprises such as Brown’s landslide victory over Banks "

Um to who was that a surprise? It is like if you combined germany france and italy and were surprised that the german candidate won. Simply he was hte mayor of the largest area, he was also standing against a candidate who is very poloarizing and so inspite of his making a total arse of himself, people hated banks more than they hated him.

Why do I bring this one up? well it jsut annoyes me when the media sells a election as a surprise. they either do it to pretend that their story is interesting - or they do it to make their victory look more like a swing to the left/right and to ppaint themselves as winners.

I suppose both are true here. I wish that the media would just say the truth and emphasise the most relevant facts.

Various from no rightturn

Unsuppressed: Urewera 18 to be denied jury trial

1) I dont see why that would have been supressed so I agree with NRT there.
2) I dont agree at all with this
"Juries aren't just a fundamental protection for the accused, the ultimate check on abuses of state power - they are also the primary signifier of a fair trial in this country."
In fact I think the opposite is true. Juries are the way to get an unfair trial - if that is what you want. A lawyer would probably advise you to go for a jury trial if he figured the facts didn't support you If they did and were complicated he would suggest you go for a judge and if they do and they are simple it doesn't matter much.

If the public "just doesn't believe that." then there is a much greater good to be resolved here - one that will be harmed if one validates the belief that judges are unreliable by denying them this case based on them being unreliable. this is an issue even if juries are indeed better for some reason because as long as you plan to use judges for anythign you dont want to undermine the publics respect for them on anything other than the pure facts.

Various from Norightturn

First on the recent news story that the NZ soldiers were involved in a raid where civilians were killed

"So, can the NZ SAS soldiers apparently responsible for killing two civilians in a botched raid in Kabul on Friday be prosecuted? Not by the Afghans, they can't. The SAS in Afghanistan are working as part of the "International Security Assistance Force", and their presence there is covered by a one-sided Military Technical Agreement [DOC] imposed on the provisional government of Afghanistan by their occupiers. "

1) If the suggestion is that NZ should abide by standard local laws that would probably rule out any intervention like peace keeping in East Timor.

Well... I am opposed to that sort ofthing (as well as our presence in afganistain... but simply military should only be involved in very special cases and when it is that sort of special case they will obviously require special laws to act.

2) From what I have heard (and i could be wrong) the case in question is one of poor intelligence (which is of course sometimes wrong) resulting in the soldiers entering a building where some civilians with machine guns failed to hear them identifying themselves (or figured it was just a standard trick) and opened fire, then the NZders returned fire.

It sounds like more of the fault likes with the intelligence and possibly the civilians who opened fire (even if the latters reaction was to some degree understandable). Of course an investigation can look into that (and that should happen) but prima face I think we are looking in the wrong direction here.

Thursday, December 30, 2010


Two things I've learnt abut Assange

1) His philosophy regarding Wikileaks is not just the usual conspiracy theory - it is actually quite realistic and intelligent take on the world , and while you might or might not agree
that those with power should use that power to control those without power (ie you might argue that they are smarter and thus will use that power in a good way - for example how we might not want the public of zimbabwae to know that their priminister supported sanctions against their country (even though all the politicians and your average westerner already figured that one out).

2) he is quite an arsehole when it comes to women with scant regard for their safety regarding STD. Probably to the point of being guilty. And I say that from carefully looking at the evidence. *

*That being said I dont think he will be found guilty - this sort of case is damn hard to prove beyond reasonable doubt and the Sweedish authorities would probably in the normal course of events drop the case if he was not who he is.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Political plot or Foolish Journalism

Apparently a recent survey showed that
As Usual, Public Wants Lower Deficit Without Cutting Spending or Raising Taxes.

As usual its interesting to look at the details. TThis is what they said

"Fifty-six percent of respondents said that they were not willing to pay more in taxes in order to reduce the deficit, and nearly as many said they were not willing for the government to provide fewer services in areas such as health care, education and defense spending."

Now lets use a couple of brain cells and ask ouselves what the likely positions of a thinking person will be.

1) the steriotypical left leaning poor person will say "I dont want to pay more taxes, however the rich should pay more taxes and we should increase services and we should decrease the deficit."
2) the steriotypical right leaning rich individual will say "I dont want to pay more taxes, we should cut services and maybe we should decrease the deficit"
3) a debt tolerant person (particularly in these recession times) "dont increase taxes, dont decrease services dont decrease the deficit

so my simplified survey gets
66% dont raise taxes (on me) to reduce the deficit, and
66% dont reduce services to reduce the deficit
and 66% decrease the deficit

So what does that say? well the individuals may all be quite rational - it is jsut that when there are many options it isnt surprising htat less than 50% will support even the most popular one.

So why the title? well surely the media knows this - and they know how the steriotypical individuals feel so why do they want to eroniously perpetuiate the idea that the public doesn't know what it wants?

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Labours recession busting strategy

Labours newest policy is to offer the unemployment benefit to spouses of people with incomes so high that they would not normally qualify. The Labour party notes how this will efectively act as unemployment insurance and give a little help with paying morgages and such - National and hte media note how this would result in the government paying benefits to very rich couples.

But it seems there is an easy solution here.

What if we adjusted the way the benefit works to force those on the benefit to jump through a few extra hoops. What we are trying to do here is take advantage of the fact that those who dont really need the benefit wont be willing to do much wpork in order to get it. Obvipously if you are the wife of a man on 3 million dollars (as per the example on the TV) you are unlikely to be willing to go downto the local Work and Income every week because it would "cost" more in your time than you get back.

At present I understand there are some requirements to be actively searching for a job as assesed by your caseworker - but they are pretty simple. But what if we added a set of other requirements?

Possibly a requirement to do some sort of charity work if your case worker nominates you.
- in this case you can eliminate the complete non hopers who need lots of supervision or are dangerous by the fact that the caseworker would never nominate them - while including most of the spouses of rich people who might be very useful.

Or Possibly a requiremejnt to take suitable jobs (I believe there is some sort of requirement along these lines but it could be made stricter)

Or just having to report in on how the job search is going constantly, or having to get some sort of budgeting advice or to keep a record regarding how the benefit is being spent

Or even recieving some of that benefit as some sort of food stamp or rental credit

Mostly these are very simple things for a person on a benefit (I was on a benefit a couple of times and there was pleanty of time to do this sort of thing) But probably somthing that would be pretty annoying for a millionare. If the millionare is so determined and stingy to go through all the hoops to get the money then we can either live with it or get far more than value of money back via things like the charity work.