Monday, July 14, 2008

hedonistic utilitarianism

is it a good thing from a utilitarian perspective for a person to change what they want?
An example used is that it seems strange to say that I would benefit if someone used magic to make be a person who loves "grass counting". To me this tweaks a sort of intuition that can be summarized as "odd but not illogical".

this can be contrasted to the intuition I get from the opposite example:
imagine a man who hates black, and loves white he is in a room that is painted black with no lights in a room opposite is an otherwise identical man who hates white and loves black - in a room painted white, the two men are as it stands very depressed and close to suicide. It seems very odd indeed to say that there is not a benefit to swapping them, or the equivalent option of making then like the room they are in. (note the net result would be identical so if we want to say it has some sort of different value we seem to require something rather deontological rather than concequentialist)

So it would seem legitimate to change someones desires except in as far as that is obviously desire thwarting in itself (i.e. given any particular person and any particular desire the person probably doesn't want it changed)

Any person can be viewed as time slices of individual people. Just like with individual people each 'person' has desires about the other people including desires about what they will believe. it is for example perfectly possible that at time A I might desire to be B at time B I might desire to be C and at time C I might desire to be A. It is even possible that such a relationship might be intrinsic (imagine running around a race track).

Note the fact that these desires cancel out doesn't mean that I have no desires or that I would be OK with you thwarting those desires. So it seems that desire maths should work on those time slices and basic desires.

any disagreement?

Richard Chapell argues

The argument can be clarified further if restated in terms of desire: we want our desires to be satisfied, therefore what really matters to us to to achieve desire-satisfactions, and the particular things we now want are merely instrumental to the ultimate end of satisfying our desires in general...

The fallacy here derives from a kind of scopal ambiguity. It's true that we want our desires to be satisfied. That's tautological: we want to get what we want. But that latter 'what we want' should be understood de re rather than de dicto. We want to get those particular objects that we want. We do not merely want to have any old satisfied wants (e.g. induced desires that don't relate to our existing goals or values at all).

But lets say you are in a situation where again you have a desire that has no value to wider society, lets say that you like pink marshmellows and hate white ones but you keep changing your mind (maybe for a logical reason, maybe not). now at some stage in the future you are going to be given a marshmellow do you want a pink one or would you prefer to have the one that you want at the time?
Surely you want the latter?

which seems to answer the question of

"Why think that what matters most is happiness or desire-satisfactions in general?"

It seems to change when we discuss objectively valuable things (such as saving the planet) but that seems to either presuppose that there is a way that things are valuable outside of hedonism, or that you are just counting the hedonistic desires of other people (eg everyone else on earth, or future you) at the wrong place in the utilitarian equation.

It's not what we actually care about, after all. (I'd rather struggle to achieve some of my philosophical and personal goals than be a satisfied grass-blade counter.) Why should our counterfactual concerns outweigh our actual ones?

surely they don't because the counterfactual requires that you change a desire you don't want to change that is a thwarting of your desires in itself. But it seems a very strong position to argue they have no relevance at all.

Richard makes the odd point
And do you really know any parents who would accept a mad scientist's offer to turn their child into a super-satisfied grass-blade-counter?
But the obvious answer to that is WHY don't we well here comes the answer

There is some sense in which we want people (others, as well as ourselves) to get what they want. But it is definitely not in the sense of wanting to maximize the number of desire-satisfactions that occur.

well yes - and there you have it. his argument proves nothing because there is an alternative reason why he would not know any parents who want their children to be satisfied blade counters thats because its just not the sort of job that will get you jellious looks from other parents. Having said that how many parents does richard know/ there are definitely many out there who really don't have thoughts about what their child will do and have nothing against blade counting except in as far as it won't make much money - afterall there are few New Zealand parents who would force their child to be a philosopher even though thats the direction he seems to be heading in.

We do not look kindly on the prospect of artificially induced desires.
what is a 'artificially induced desire' and what is a 'real one' sounds like a vauge definition to me. I suggest there is no dividing line and our desires about artificial or non artificial things are just plain irrational.

Rather, what we want is for the people we care about to do well as assessed against their current goals (suitably idealized, perhaps), and we trust that their future desires will typically be a coherent continuation of these.

a baby's current goal is to suck a bottle and it has nothing to do with speaking or reading. so surely he is missing something here.


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