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...