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The needs of the many do not outweigh the needs of the few

The Grey Man

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#1
The needs of the many are in fact weightless. There is no collective good; individuals are alone the arbiters of what is good, and they are under no compulsion to agree with each other. It is a matter of indifference to the lords feasting in the banquet hall that prisoners endure torture in the dungeon, just as the suffering of the prisoners is in no wise mitigated by pleasures of which they are not aware. That the 'greatest good of the greatest number' is tacitly assumed to be the supreme criterion of morality by a large number of English-speaking intellectuals is to be explained from the fact that they blithely follow the lead of the chimerical jurist-philosopher Jeremy Bentham in confounding ethics and jurisprudence. Why can we no longer tell the difference between the principles that govern one's relations with other people and their property and the principles that define one's very character? I'm not saying it's materialism, but...

2lqjgt.jpg
 

Artsu Tharaz

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#2
Is this about solipsism or the lost sheep? I'm confused.
 

The Grey Man

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#3
The lost sheep. The condemnation of ninety-nine God-forsaken sheep is redeemed by the work of grace in just one.
 

Cognisant

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#4
What does materialism have to do with this critique of utilitarianism?
 

The Grey Man

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#5
Materialism conceives of the world in terms of matter—a multitude of objects in space which move about with respect to time in determinate ways according to laws of nature. Utilitarianism is a characteristically materialistic ethical doctrine because it defines goodness as utility, which is a quantity attributed to events in time and space.
 

Artsu Tharaz

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#6
it defines goodness as utility
It defines goodness as a subjective state, and supposes the existence of a multitude of subjects of comparative importance, each existing for some length of time.

Is that the same?
 

The Grey Man

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#7
The attribution of the positive or negative subjective state to the object is identical to the attribution of utility to the event in time and space whereby the object manifests, so yes, I would say it is the same.

I vehemently reject the idea that the subject can have any comparative importance with itself whatever (see my banquet/dungeon example) and with it the utilitarian conception of goodness as a multitude of objective quantities that can be measured against each other and summed up like portions of matter.
 
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#8
the many is just lots of individuals. drawing a contrast between the 'many' and the 'individual' is stupid in the first place

better yet, if the needs of 90 people don't outweigh the needs of 10 people - bearing in mind that we're using the word 'needs' and not 'wants' i.e. necessarily for survival or for basic human living standards - what do you think should happen instead?

preferably answer in english
 

Hadoblado

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#9
I disagree.

I'm yet to meet anyone who endorsed Jeremy Bentham. Ever. I've seen people talk with some affection for John Stuart Mill, but I see no link with materialism.

I really don't like the way you frame things. It feels like you're always trying to jam stuff you don't like into the same box, explain that you don't like it, but because these things are different things and not the same thing, you don't supply an explanation of *why* you don't like it.


The needs of the many are in fact weightless. There is no collective good; individuals are alone the arbiters of what is good, and they are under no compulsion to agree with each other. It is a matter of indifference to the lords feasting in the banquet hall that prisoners endure torture in the dungeon, just as the suffering of the prisoners is in no wise mitigated by pleasures of which they are not aware. That the 'greatest good of the greatest number' is tacitly assumed to be the supreme criterion of morality by a large number of English-speaking intellectuals is to be explained from the fact that they blithely follow the lead of the chimerical jurist-philosopher Jeremy Bentham in confounding ethics and jurisprudence. Why can we no longer tell the difference between the principles that govern one's relations with other people and their property and the principles that define one's very character? I'm not saying it's materialism, but...
Your initial conclusion
Stuff that extends on your conclusion that doesn't explain it
Unsubstantiated claim about how everyone who disagrees with you unthinkingly follows stuff that you don't like
Extending from your unsubstantiated conclusion to a question to which the answer is...
Something else you don't like but haven't really explained the reasons for this connection

Here's a template:

I think utilitarianism is garbage. Here is why. Utilitarianism is also linked with materialism. Here is why. Materialism is bad. Here is why.
 

Artsu Tharaz

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#10
I know I brought it up, but I don't think I really understand the parable of the lost sheep.

So here's what "The needs of the many are in fact weightless." sounds like to me:

Ok, so no-one other than yourself matters, because only you can feel what you feel. So don't worry about others. Though, we do have empathy (pesky empathy!) which can make us want to help others, but really this is just some unknown force giving us a way to make ourselves feel good, while somehow maintaining the integrity of whatever objective stuff there is.

But I mean, don't just stop there! It's not just spatial differentiation that doesn't matter. Time doesn't matter either. What does your state tomorrow matter to your state today? Don't worry about consequences. Do what feels good in the moment. If you sacrifice your state of being now for some potential gain later, you're doing it wrong. Forget others, forget the future. Just live.

Now, what's the real story?
 

The Grey Man

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#11
the many is just lots of individuals. drawing a contrast between the 'many' and the 'individual' is stupid in the first place

better yet, if the needs of 90 people don't outweigh the needs of 10 people - bearing in mind that we're using the word 'needs' and not 'wants' i.e. necessarily for survival or for basic human living standards - what do you think should happen instead?

preferably answer in english
Goethe called architecture "petrified music"; in like manner, I think that commandments or 'oughts', as they are sometimes called, are petrified morality. Just as a building may imitate the timewise rhythm of music with its spacewise symmetries and melody with its embellishments, so commandments have a syntactic structure that imitates voluntary action—but words are not deeds.

The principle of morality is not the commandments set in stone for all mankind to follow but the individual man and his will. You may ask whether we should or should not—irrespective of who we are—provide for the needs of the greater part of mankind instead those of the few, but this negates the individuation of agents that is the basis of all morality.

@Hadoblado I brought up Bentham because he's the prototypical English utilitarian (Mill was his disciple) and because utilitarianism has historically been expounded chiefly by English-speaking philosophers such as Mill, Henry Sidgwick, and Peter Singer. I don't have rigorous empirical research to support my claim that large number of English-speaking intellectuals espouse the doctrine, but given this robust intellectual tradition and the fact that utilitarianism is very intuitive and commonly held by regular people I meet, I think it's unreasonable to assume that no such number exists.

I don't know what you mean when you say that my banquet/dungeon example doesn't explain my initial conclusion. I said that individuals decide what is good without agreeing with each other and then provided an example of individuals doing just that. What more do you want?

Utilitarianism is connected to materialism in that it is a characteristically materialistic ethical doctrine—just as materialism conceives of the world in terms of the motion of portions matter in relation to each other in time and space, so utilitarianism conceives of goodness as portions of positive and negative utility which constitute a global average or aggregate by virtue of their relations to each other. It fits within the overall materialist programme of arguing objects rather than the subjective unity of knowledge to be the prime substance or thing-in-itself.

Why don't I like materialism? Merely because it is wrong and I prefer doctrines that are right. I would explain why materialism is wrong if Leibniz hadn't done it for me 300 years ago (see his mill argument; so far I haven't heard a counter-argument that isn't meaningless word-jugglery, though if you have one I'd be very interested to hear it, and I say that without an ounce of sarcasm).

@Artsu Tharaz your intuition is right, I did not tell the full story in my original post.

The part that I didn't say is that the lords have not won any eternal victory, though they are temporarily free to indulge in worldly pleasures and their enemies are in chains. For the moment, they are the revellers, but they also are the prisoners.

I've argued a number of times in other threads that "I" is the metaphysical cognate of "here"; we are all perfectly justified in saying that "I am myself" as we are in saying "I am here" because we are all different, yet all the same, because while we differ from each other in character, yet our characters are all determinations of the same eternal subject.

You and I are each other in the same sense that we are the children who grew into us and the old men into whom we will degenerate. All of us—the child, the old man, the reveller, the prisoner—are the same "I".

I am not telling you to forget the future or to do anything; morality is alive and organic, not a set of commandments etched into a stone tablet—the latter is a mere imitation of the former. Moreover, you do not need to be told to live—no matter what I say, you are here, and you must needs act.
 

Cognisant

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#12
The most famous version of Leibniz’s mill argument occurs in section 17 of the Monadology:
Moreover, we must confess that perception, and what depends on it, is inexplicable in terms of mechanical reasons, that is, through shapes and motions. If we imagine that there is a machine whose structure makes it think, sense, and have perceptions, we could conceive it enlarged, keeping the same proportions, so that we could enter into it, as one enters into a mill. Assuming that, when inspecting its interior, we will only find parts that push one another, and we will never find anything to explain a perception. And so, we should seek perception in the simple substance and not in the composite or in the machine.
A motion activated security light would blow his mind, now you might argue a sensor responding to motion might not be the same as human perception and I'm not saying it is, that's unfair comparison. I'm not saying a simple motion sensor is comparable to the sophistication of human sight or hearing I'm refuting the basis of the mill argument, that mechanistic perception is impossible. A security light responding to motion is a mechanistic perception of that motion, indeed we now have security cameras that can detect faces and even recognize individuals, in this day and age Leibniz’s mill argument is hilariously outdated.
 

Artsu Tharaz

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#13
All of us—the child, the old man, the reveller, the prisoner—are the same "I".
If we're all the same I, then isn't it best to act for the needs of the many, because these are all instances of the one?

I mean, even Utilitarianism allows you to act for your own needs, so long as your benefits outweigh the harm you cause. And if the other is the same as the I, isn't it best to avoid harm to the other as you would yourself?
 

The Grey Man

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#14
A motion activated security light would blow his mind, now you might argue a sensor responding to motion might not be the same as human perception and I'm not saying it is, that's unfair comparison. I'm not saying a simple motion sensor is comparable to the sophistication of human sight or hearing I'm refuting the basis of the mill argument, that mechanistic perception is impossible. A security light responding to motion is a mechanistic perception of that motion, indeed we now have security cameras that can detect faces and even recognize individuals, in this day and age Leibniz’s mill argument is hilariously outdated.
You think it's outdated because you've misunderstood it.

Leibniz did not argue that no machine would ever be constructed whose structure resembles that of the human brain—he argued that the mind is not a machine.

The brain is made of matter—it is one among a multiplicity of objects which move in relation to each other with respect to time in a series of natural events or phenomena which are perhaps described in mechanistic terms, as interactions between the components of a 'world-machine.' The mind is the unity of this multiplicity, the combination of objects to constitute a unitary subjective experience. That the subject is a unit is why Leibniz called it a simple substance.
 

Cognisant

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#15
Utilitarianism defines utility as that which is good, it's a circular argument that doesn't really define what "good" is, instead utilitarianism is a framework upon which to enact any given definition of good.

By examining the implications of enacting this framework with a given definition of good we may assess the validity of that definition, this is a lot like using Plato's forms to assess something by comparison to its ideal case.

If good is defined as pleasure regardless of suffering caused then maximizing pleasure for the maximum number of people may indeed mean harming a minority of people, for example a group of children entertaining themselves by bullying another child. Of course we don't want that to happen so we have to reassess our definition of good, perhaps stipulating that suffering is not good. Under this new definition of utility a child being bullied detracts from the net utility of the scenario therefore all the children playing together peacefully we be a more optimal maximization of utility.
 

Cognisant

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#16
Leibniz did not argue that no machine would ever be constructed whose structure resembles that of the human brain—he argued that the mind is not a machine.
Leibniz’s mill argument clearly states "perception, and what depends on it, is inexplicable in terms of mechanical reasons" which in this day an age is a blatantly false premise and I'm not backing down on that, it's absurd.

The brain is made of matter—it is one among a multiplicity of objects which move in relation to each other with respect to time in a series of natural events or phenomena which are perhaps described in mechanistic terms, as interactions between the components of a 'world-machine.' The mind is the unity of this multiplicity, the combination of objects to constitute a unitary subjective experience. That the subject is a unit is why Leibniz called it a simple substance.
So you're saying that because the mind is one thing, made of many things, that the mind is not mechanistic? I can't follow your reasoning.
 
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#17
still haven't answered the question

when the needs of 90 individuals are contrary to the needs of 10, what happens?
 

The Grey Man

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#18
Leibniz’s mill argument clearly states "perception, and what depends on it, is inexplicable in terms of mechanical reasons" which in this day an age is a blatantly false premise and I'm not backing down on that, it's absurd.
I hope you don't back down, because I think I can see what you're getting at: contemporary neuroscience is on its way to elucidating the structure and processes of the brain in physical terms. But when Leibniz says 'perception', I don't think he means what you think he means. Perception, to Leibniz, is not any particular event in time and space, not any process of the brain—it is the representation of events in time and space in general. Perception is thus a metaphysical term and not a physical one, at least when Leibniz uses it.

So you're saying that because the mind is one thing, made of many things, that the mind is not mechanistic? I can't follow your reasoning.
To describe a thing in mechanistic terms is to explain it in terms of its relations to other things, to apply to it the principle of sufficient reason. The principle of sufficient reason essentially says that 'this thing is related to that thing in a determinate way'—and is for this very reason applicable only to the multiplicity of objects (which is why Schopenhauer rightly identified it as the principle of individuation) and not the unity into which they are combined, for if the unity were related to another, they would both be subsumed by yet another unity and become part of the multiplicity. Many pearls to a necklace, but only one necklace to a pearl.

still haven't answered the question

when the needs of 90 individuals are contrary to the needs of 10, what happens?
What happens. The whole point of my response to you is that philosophy alone is impotent—questions of morality are decided by the will of individuals alone.
 

Hadoblado

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#19
@Hadoblado I brought up Bentham because he's the prototypical English utilitarian (Mill was his disciple) and because utilitarianism has historically been expounded chiefly by English-speaking philosophers such as Mill, Henry Sidgwick, and Peter Singer. I don't have rigorous empirical research to support my claim that large number of English-speaking intellectuals espouse the doctrine, but given this robust intellectual tradition and the fact that utilitarianism is very intuitive and commonly held by regular people I meet, I think it's unreasonable to assume that no such number exists.
Okay so a lot of people think similar things to what Bentham thought, but that doesn't mean that they're his disciples. I flirt with utility but don't care about Bentham. It just feels like you say things because you can. A link with Bentham doesn't expand your argument beyond misrepresenting people and baiting people to correct you.

Now you're changing your stance to "it's unreasonable to think no such number exists". You changed to this from "the fact that they blithely follow the lead of the chimerical jurist-philosopher Jeremy Bentham in confounding ethics and jurisprudence."

This is dishonest and makes me not want to converse with you. If I said "all pan-psychists are morons" then retreated to "it's unreasonable to assume there are no moronic pan psychists" you'd think me dishonest too.

I don't know what you mean when you say that my banquet/dungeon example doesn't explain my initial conclusion. I said that individuals decide what is good without agreeing with each other and then provided an example of individuals doing just that. What more do you want?
I want you to justify your position. I still don't know why you think the thing you do.

Utilitarianism is connected to materialism in that it is a characteristically materialistic ethical doctrine—just as materialism conceives of the world in terms of the motion of portions matter in relation to each other in time and space, so utilitarianism conceives of goodness as portions of positive and negative utility which constitute a global average or aggregate by virtue of their relations to each other. It fits within the overall materialist programme of arguing objects rather than the subjective unity of knowledge to be the prime substance or thing-in-itself.
I don't know what you mean. They're compatible but also separable. You could easily jam utility into a karmic cycle of rebirth for example. My Aunt does just this.

In fact, I'd argue that the notion of 'utility' is non-materialistic in that your typical utilitarian will reject the minmaxing of utility by creating additional pleasure receptors. If I bioengineered a single organism to experience an enormous amount of pleasure, increasing total pleasure experience but not distributing it, most utilitarians would reject this as an ethical action despite it maximising the total utility.

Why don't I like materialism? Merely because it is wrong and I prefer doctrines that are right. I would explain why materialism is wrong if Leibniz hadn't done it for me 300 years ago (see his mill argument; so far I haven't heard a counter-argument that isn't meaningless word-jugglery, though if you have one I'd be very interested to hear it, and I say that without an ounce of sarcasm).
Circular into appeal to authority into google it. I don't care what some dead guy said. I don't want to have to google your positions for you. You're the one that wants interaction but then you seem to do everything in your power to make it as difficult as possible.

You like to say you're open to opposing views, but everything you do seems designed to state that you are right while hiding from opposing views.

- people can't address your arguments if you make them incomprehensible
- people get distracted trying to correct misrepresentations rather than address your position
- in order to know how you arrived at your conclusions, people have to google a body of text they're unfamiliar with?

The thing is, there are a lot of people here interested in the stuff you want to talk about. People talk to me about your posts all the time off-site. In fact, I'm pretty sure I've seen more interaction with your ideas outside of your threads than what occurs in them.

People here want to talk about philosophy, they just don't want to engage with the way you frame things. I include myself in this number but I am aware of several others who share the sentiment.
 

Cognisant

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#20
The Grey Man said:
I hope you don't back down, because I think I can see what you're getting at: contemporary neuroscience is on its way to elucidating the structure and processes of the brain in physical terms. But when Leibniz says 'perception', I don't think he means what you think he means. Perception, to Leibniz, is not any particular event in time and space, not any process of the brain—it is the representation of events in time and space in general. Perception is thus a metaphysical term and not a physical one, at least when Leibniz uses it.
Correct me if I’m wrong (metaphysics baffles me) the Ship of Theseus exists in a metaphysical sense, the matter of which the ship is comprised exists physically thereby giving the ship a physical existence however although this matter is of the ship it is not the ship itself, you can replace any part of the ship and it will still be the same ship, you could even burn the entire ship to ash and rebuild it entirely from scratch and it will still be the ship of Theseus, that’s what metaphysical means right?

So when you say Leibniz is talking about perception in a metaphysical sense he’s talking about the act of perception not the mechanism of perception itself, right? See that completely confuses me because I often argue that artificial intelligence is possible because AI only needs to be functionally equivalent. In other words although the mechanism may be different as long as the acts of perception/learning/thought/etc are occurring the AI has a legitimate mind, likewise that there’s no reason to say emotions of an artificial intelligence would be any less real than the emotions of a biological intelligence. That is insofar as they are functionally equivalent, a crying animatronic running to a script is depicting emotion without actually experiencing it and therefore isn’t functionally equivalent to an entity that’s actually suffering.

A motion activated security light metaphysically perceives motion, it has no capacity to be aware of this perception but the act of perception is taking place, you could replace the sensor with another kind (ultrasound, photosensitive, a very sensitive barometer) and it would still be a motion sensing device, a different mechanism but the act of perceiving motion is still occurring.

The Grey Man said:
To describe a thing in mechanistic terms is to explain it in terms of its relations to other things, to apply to it the principle of sufficient reason. The principle of sufficient reason essentially says that 'this thing is related to that thing in a determinate way'—and is for this very reason applicable only to the multiplicity of objects (which is why Schopenhauer rightly identified it as the principle of individuation) and not the unity into which they are combined, for if the unity were related to another, they would both be subsumed by yet another unity and become part of the multiplicity. Many pearls to a necklace, but only one necklace to a pearl.
But this is what I was saying about an unfair comparison, you can’t stipulate that perception is only occurring when the thing doing the perceiving has a mind then point at a flour mill and say “that machine is incapable of perception therefore machines will always be incapable of perception” because you haven’t actually proven anything, it’s a flour mill of course it doesn’t have a mind.

The more traditional form of this is saying that machines will never have human emotions because aren’t human, which in a pedantic sense is true, but it in no way proves that machines with human like intelligence can’t have human like emotions.
 

Artsu Tharaz

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#21
I vehemently reject the idea that the subject can have any comparative importance with itself whatever (see my banquet/dungeon example) and with it the utilitarian conception of goodness as a multitude of objective quantities that can be measured against each other and summed up like portions of matter.
I can compare myself at different points in time, attributing certain values to different experiences, perhaps summing everything up as a calculus, keeping in mind that the difference in significance between one moment and the next can be highly vast.

However, the moment I am currently in has a privileged position. In a sense, it could be considered the only thing I know to be real, and from this an inference could be made that it is all that exists. Of course, if considering such a viewpoint literally, forces would impact the mind that would make consideration of the future a necessity, but this could be considered just a modification on the present.

I see this as the same situation as the consideration of the needs of the many. I believe that different people can likewise be compared - at least in terms of individual experiences, but perhaps holistically as well - but the subject who is the centre of the experience (myself in my case, yourself in your case) always has a privileged position, giving rise to the possibility that they are all that matters. Likewise, if considering this viewpoint earnestly, the existence of others will still have an impact on the individual making the assessment.

I do not believe that the needs of the many are at all weightless, though the paradox that I've indicated above is something that I've considered many times.

Actually, I see the perspective of treating others as weightless is almost the meaning of "living in darkness", and to see others as important, and hence to love another as yourself, is to live in light.

This is not to say that "the work of grace in just one" cannot redeem the "condemnation of ninety-nine", but if what you are saying were true, what would be the significance of redeeming the ninety-nine at all? How could one redeem another if the weight accorded to the other were naught?
 

The Grey Man

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#22
Okay so a lot of people think similar things to what Bentham thought, but that doesn't mean that they're his disciples. I flirt with utility but don't care about Bentham. It just feels like you say things because you can. A link with Bentham doesn't expand your argument beyond misrepresenting people and baiting people to correct you.
A lot of people in the English-speaking world are utilitarians. Bentham is a utilitarian, an early and very influential one, so in a sense, these people are "following his lead", whether they care about him as a writer or not. I'm not saying that every intellectual in the English-speaking world has read Bentham or anything. The entire reason I brought up Bentham was to highlight the fact that many of them seem to blur the line between jurisprudence and ethics, which is echoed by the peculiar professional interests of the progenitor of English utilitarianism.

Now you're changing your stance to "it's unreasonable to think no such number exists". You changed to this from "the fact that they blithely follow the lead of the chimerical jurist-philosopher Jeremy Bentham in confounding ethics and jurisprudence."
There is no change. I assumed also the obverse, that this large number of Benthamites exists because of the ubiquity of utilitarian thinking due in part to the long succession of English-speaking utilitarian philosophical writers which began with Bentham. Not all, mind you, but a large number.

I will, however, freely admit that my comments on English intellectual trends were poorly substantiated and added nothing to my central argument. I didn't put very much care or thought into them, and for that I take full responsibility.

I want you to justify your position. I still don't know why you think the thing you do.
Alright, I'll unpack my original example.

So you have lords having a good time in the banquet hall (positive utility) and prisoners having a bad time in the dungeon (negative utility). A utilitarian would say that the positive and negative utilities either cancel each other out (total utilitarianism) or average out (average utilitarianism) so that the global utility of the situation is closer to nil utility or 0 hedons than the state of either the revellers or the prisoners by itself would suggest. But what does this mean? That the global utility is something close to neutral is no comfort to the prisoners being stretched on the rack, nor is it any concern to the feasting lords. So what is it, apart from an abstraction for us to play with?

I don't know what you mean. They're compatible but also separable. You could easily jam utility into a karmic cycle of rebirth for example. My Aunt does just this.

In fact, I'd argue that the notion of 'utility' is non-materialistic in that your typical utilitarian will reject the minmaxing of utility by creating additional pleasure receptors. If I bioengineered a single organism to experience an enormous amount of pleasure, increasing total pleasure experience but not distributing it, most utilitarians would reject this as an ethical action despite it maximising the total utility.
You're describing the schism between total utilitarianism and average utilitarianism, not the relationship between utilitarianism and materialism.

To my mind, the relation of utilitarianism to materialism has more to do with its general form than the particular method whereby global utility is calculated. Merely by defining goodness as a multiplicity of positive and negative quantities which it attributes to objects, it moves the center of gravity of ethics away from the subject and towards the object, just as materialist ontology emphasizes the object over the subject.

Circular into appeal to authority into google it. I don't care what some dead guy said. I don't want to have to google your positions for you. You're the one that wants interaction but then you seem to do everything in your power to make it as difficult as possible.
It's not an appeal to authority, it's an appeal to an argument that I thought it would be better for you to hear in its original form. It's really quite brief, as you can see from the version Cognisant posted. I can rehash it for you, but I doubt I'll outdo Leibniz. For a dead guy, he's a pretty good writer.

You like to say you're open to opposing views, but everything you do seems designed to state that you are right while hiding from opposing views.

- people can't address your arguments if you make them incomprehensible
- people get distracted trying to correct misrepresentations rather than address your position
- in order to know how you arrived at your conclusions, people have to google a body of text they're unfamiliar with?

The thing is, there are a lot of people here interested in the stuff you want to talk about. People talk to me about your posts all the time off-site. In fact, I'm pretty sure I've seen more interaction with your ideas outside of your threads than what occurs in them.

People here want to talk about philosophy, they just don't want to engage with the way you frame things. I include myself in this number but I am aware of several others who share the sentiment.
What about my Unity and Multiplicity thread? What's wrong with the way I've framed things there?
 

Hadoblado

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#23
Okay so we can ignore the bentham intellectual stuff? Cool.

So you have lords having a good time in the banquet hall (positive utility) and prisoners having a bad time in the dungeon (negative utility). A utilitarian would say that the positive and negative utilities either cancel each other out (total utilitarianism) or average out (average utilitarianism) so that the global utility of the situation is closer to nil utility or 0 hedons than the state of either the revellers or the prisoners by itself would suggest. But what does this mean? That the global utility is something close to neutral is no comfort to the prisoners being stretched on the rack, nor is it any concern to the feasting lords. So what is it, apart from an abstraction for us to play with?
Just for clarity, are we talking about a comparable pleasure to suffering exchange?

For instance, I would rot in a dungeon for one day if I could then have a banquet for a year. If I could find 365.25 other people that had this exact same evaluation, then we might agree to lock one of us up at random if a gameshow scenario would then give the rest of us a free banquet for the night. We would then arrive at a zero utility situation. Once we get our 366th member, we have an option that is slightly more pleasurable than it is suffering.

You're describing the schism between total utilitarianism and average utilitarianism, not the relationship between utilitarianism and materialism.

To my mind, the relation of utilitarianism to materialism has more to do with its general form than the particular method whereby global utility is calculated. Merely by defining goodness as a multiplicity of positive and negative quantities which it attributes to objects, it moves the center of gravity of ethics away from the subject and towards the object, just as materialist ontology emphasizes the object over the subject.
Fair.

I guess my issue is that, while I am both materialist and somewhat utilitarian, I treat utility as if it's non-material. Because for our intents and purposes, it is. At no point to I appeal to the firing of c-fibres to justify an act as wrong, nor am I squeezing out drops of dopamine from a brain. The conception isn't materialist.

I also know people who are utilitarians who are also non-materialist.

It's not an appeal to authority, it's an appeal to an argument that I thought it would be better for you to hear in its original form. It's really quite brief, as you can see from the version Cognisant posted. I can rehash it for you, but I doubt I'll outdo Leibniz. For a dead guy, he's a pretty good writer.
Then provide it. Link.

What about my Unity and Multiplicity thread? What's wrong with the way I've framed things there?
So in order to address one of your points I have to first read everything you've ever written and organise it into a cohesive position for you? You're not saying anything that can't be easily summarised. If you want to refer back to a conclusion reached in another thread, you should at the very least link it.
 

The Grey Man

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#24
Just for clarity, are we talking about a comparable pleasure to suffering exchange?

For instance, I would rot in a dungeon for one day if I could then have a banquet for a year. If I could find 365.25 other people that had this exact same evaluation, then we might agree to lock one of us up at random if a gameshow scenario would then give the rest of us a free banquet for the night. We would then arrive at a zero utility situation. Once we get our 366th member, we have an option that is slightly more pleasurable than it is suffering.
:skeptical:

365.25 people?! What in God's name is a quarter of a person? People are units! This is a very important fact to keep in mind when it comes to any discussion of ethics.

If I'm understanding you correctly, you're saying that the positive utility of a year-long banquet compensates the negative utility of a day in the dungeon in magnitude—the two balance each other out.

Everyone here is familiar with the metaphor to which I am alluding: the scales of Lady Justice. The defendant's good and his evil are weighed against each other and, according as the evil outweighs the good or vice versa, she pronounces judgment: guilty or innocent.

Do you see now why I see conceiving of morality in utilitarian or jurisprudential terms—as a system of weights and counterweights—as characteristically materialistic? For what is a weight but a portion of matter? You may protest this description of utilitarianism by saying that utility need not be thought of as weight, that it may be thought of as any multitude of magnitudes occupying a shared space in the world, but the occupation of space is no less a quality of matter than weight.

The error in this sort of materialistic moralizing is that it falsely identifies the multiplicity of the objects of perception as the principle of morality. The principle of morality is the unity of the subject. Merely that we can doubt, as Descartes did, that there exists anything beyond the mind, that there are minds corresponding to bodies in space besides our own, is sufficient to prove that these bodies have no utility besides that which we think into them by means of empathy or projection—and since the subject is the unifying principle of those bodies, whatever utility is thought into them is in fact our own.

The unitary subject endures the consequences of your actions; you may think it reasonable, based on your utilitarian calculation, to force one man to endure torture in a dungeon for one day so that 365 can feast for the night since all 366 'expect' more pleasure than suffering, but each man will actually either feast or be tortured. It is no consolation to the man who draws the short straw that others drew longer straws—that others drew longer straws is identical to his drawing the short straw!

Similarly, you may think today that your suffering tomorrow can be 'cancelled out' into a 0 by pleasure the day after, but what will you think when I ask you tomorrow? Will you be an unfeeling 0, or very much awake and alive?

Then provide it. Link.
I'll remember that.

So in order to address one of your points I have to first read everything you've ever written and organise it into a cohesive position for you? You're not saying anything that can't be easily summarised. If you want to refer back to a conclusion reached in another thread, you should at the very least link it.
:facepalm:

I suppose I was unclear. My question had nothing to do with this thread, I just wanted to know why the other one failed. It was designed especially to attract these philosophers of yours who want to discuss philosophy, but are apparently unwilling to do so with me. By focusing on so general and central a concept as unity and multiplicity, I hoped to elicit at least a general comment on the history of philosophy and possibly a brief exposition of the theme as it has been treated by a philosopher of choice. I chose to present the theme through the lens of Schopenhauer since I'm familiar with him and I think his work is excellent. As you can see, this attempt was mostly a failure, though I do appreciate the few responses it provoked. So where is everybody? What am I doing wrong?
 

Serac

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#25
you guys are confusing each other with all this namedropping of "isms"

what has materialism to do with morality in the first place? whether you think the world is all physics or not has no bearing on what you consider moral or how various events are experienced in the minds of people.
 

The Grey Man

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#26
you guys are confusing each other with all this namedropping of "isms"

what has materialism to do with morality in the first place? whether you think the world is all physics or not has no bearing on what you consider moral or how various events are experienced in the minds of people.
Indeed, what has materialism to do with morality? If you think the physical world and its changes are all there is, on what account can you consider anything moral or immoral? Where is the good and bad in pieces of matter moving hither and thither in space?

The mechanistic way of thinking about the world as inorganic portions of matter individuated by their relations in time and space is blind to the organic character of the world—there are objects organized according to physical laws and there is an Organizer at the mercy of His own creation.

20181106_132438.jpg

Pictured: The Last Judgment from Les Heures de Rohan (an illumination from a 15th century French devotional manuscript)

From Style and Civilization: Gothic by George Henderson (pg. 159):

Henderson said:
God is seated on a rainbow, while below him the dead rise from their graves. In the common run of medieval pictures of the Last Judgment is Christ the Mediator who sits on the rainbow. Many attributes of Christ are visible here—the thin naked body, the bleeding wounds, the crown of thorns. But the face, the reverend white hair, are those of God the Father. This image reveals an extraordinary and original penetration of the deepest wells of pathos. One is reminded of the words of a compassionate spectator in Shakespeare's King Lear:

A sight most pitiful in the meanest wretch,
Past speaking of in a king...
 

Serac

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#27
you guys are confusing each other with all this namedropping of "isms"

what has materialism to do with morality in the first place? whether you think the world is all physics or not has no bearing on what you consider moral or how various events are experienced in the minds of people.
Indeed, what has materialism to do with morality? If you think the physical world and its changes are all there is, on what account can you consider anything moral or immoral? Where is the good and bad in pieces of matter moving hither and thither in space?

The mechanistic way of thinking about the world as inorganic portions of matter individuated by their relations in time and space is blind to the organic character of the world—there are objects organized according to physical laws and there is an Organizer at the mercy of His own creation.
not sure if I confused you about what I meant. To clarify, I wonder what one's view on physics and metaphysics has to do at all with morality. If you assume the world is all just matter, you have a question of right and wrong. If you assume the world is more than matter, you have a question of right and wrong. You can assume a utilitarian view of morality independently of what you think the world is made up of. The only relevant factor is human experience.

Besides that, I think morality cannot be viewed categorically in terms of one system of morality. One an personal level, I'm a proponent of virtue ethics. In terms of how to allocate resources in a society, I'm a proponent of utilitarianism. In terms of how individuals should treat each other, I think in terms of deontological ethics. Similar to:

"I am, at the Fed level, libertarian;
at the state level, Republican;
at the local level, Democrat;
and at the family and friends level, a socialist"
(from Taleb – Skin in the Game)
 

The Grey Man

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#28
not sure if I confused you about what I meant. To clarify, I wonder what one's view on physics and metaphysics has to do at all with morality. If you assume the world is all just matter, you have a question of right and wrong. If you assume the world is more than matter, you have a question of right and wrong.
If you assume that the world is all just matter, how do you get a question of morality? What does matter have in common with suffering and volition? You might say that the apple "wants" to fall from the tree, but this is just a metaphor for its tendency to fall to the ground when released from a tree—there is nothing in the movement of objects that in any way resembles the subjective sensation of want, so ethical thinking is entirely precluded by erasing the subject from your world-conception.
 

Serac

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#29
not sure if I confused you about what I meant. To clarify, I wonder what one's view on physics and metaphysics has to do at all with morality. If you assume the world is all just matter, you have a question of right and wrong. If you assume the world is more than matter, you have a question of right and wrong.
If you assume that the world is all just matter, how do you get a question of morality? What does matter have in common with suffering and volition? You might say that the apple "wants" to fall from the tree, but this is just a metaphor for its tendency to fall to the ground when released from a tree—there is nothing in the movement of objects that in any way resembles the subjective sensation of want, so ethical thinking is entirely precluded by erasing the subject from your world-conception.
I'm confused. Are you assuming human consciousness cannot arise without some metaphysical component?
 

The Grey Man

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#30
I'm confused. Are you assuming human consciousness cannot arise without some metaphysical component?
Consciousness is characteristically metaphysical. Physical things are individuated from each other by means of their relations to each other in time and space and it is these same relations that combine them into a unity of self-consciousness. What to physical objects are laws to which they are bound are to the subject its structure as a metaphysical unit or 'simple substance'.

The first philosopher who used the word "arise" in reference to consciousness made a grave mistake. Arising is a particular type of event that happens in space and time, not the consciousness of events in general.
 

onesteptwostep

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#31
Its not really a sense of arise, but what consciousness is is what we categorize into metaphysics because theres no material substance that equates with thought. If youre asking whether there has to be some incorperal a priori for consciousness to "arise" I think thats up for debate as well. But due to what we know of consciousness, because it's not material, we still label it as a substance thus as a a part of metaphysics.
 

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#32
365.25 people?! What in God's name is a quarter of a person? People are units! This is a very important fact to keep in mind when it comes to any discussion of ethics.
I will stand up for that quarter of a man. Why do you deny their right to exist?

What if they chose to only count their needs as a quarter of other's?
It's their right to decide that they give up 3/4 of their entitled worth in any conceivable value system or vote.

They could also exist physically as a quarter, or experience life four times as slow... So many possibilities.


What is the ethically mathematical equivalent of a 0.999(9) repeating decimal man?
Are they a one or do they freeze the equaled vote due to their irregular nature?

Serious questions have to be answered :alien:.
Maybe my defence of a quarterman is half-assed, though bear in mind that I'm only putting a fraction of effort, it's not like they deserve more.
 

Serac

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#33
I'm confused. Are you assuming human consciousness cannot arise without some metaphysical component?
Consciousness is characteristically metaphysical. Physical things are individuated from each other by means of their relations to each other in time and space and it is these same relations that combine them into a unity of self-consciousness. What to physical objects are laws to which they are bound are to the subject its structure as a metaphysical unit or 'simple substance'.

The first philosopher who used the word "arise" in reference to consciousness made a grave mistake. Arising is a particular type of event that happens in space and time, not the consciousness of events in general.
I'm sure that if dogs could speak, they would tell us that their cognition is just so awesome that the only thing that can account for it is metaphysics (probably involving some deity – a huge and powerful dalmatian perhaps). And here we are, slightly glorified monkeys, claiming pretty much the same.
 

Artsu Tharaz

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#34
Is consciousness metaphysical because it is the pre-condition for physicality to exist in the first place thus making it transcendent of the physical?

edit: and like, if a tree falls in the forest...
 

The Grey Man

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#35
Yes. The subject is the condition of possibility for the perception of objects and objects that are not perceived by a subject are unknown. If a tree falls in the forest and I don't see it, then I need some other piece of empirical evidence in order to justify saying that such an event happened at that time to that tree (e.g. the fallen tree in the forest, people reporting that they saw it fall...), otherwise I'm groundlessly speculating.
 

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#36
I'm a bit confused by the following: originally you were criticising utilitarianism because it didn't acknowledge the subjective component of nature, treating it as object-without-subject,

But now the problem is that utilitarianism treats objects as subjects, when to the frame of reference used to make the ethical calculation, these subjects are merely objects, and only the individual themself is the subject.

Additionally, I am confused as to how this relates to dual-aspect theory, because are not the objects used in a utilitarian calculation also subjects?
 

QuickTwist

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#37
Is consciousness metaphysical because it is the pre-condition for physicality to exist in the first place thus making it transcendent of the physical?

edit: and like, if a tree falls in the forest...
No, it's the unconscious that is metaphysical.

Tools are Satan's gifts. Its the reason we don't view technology as a miracle.
 

Artsu Tharaz

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#38
Is consciousness metaphysical because it is the pre-condition for physicality to exist in the first place thus making it transcendent of the physical?

edit: and like, if a tree falls in the forest...
No, it's the unconscious that is metaphysical.

Tools are Satan's gifts. Its the reason we don't view technology as a miracle.
Tools - like typology and the notion of conscious/unconscious?
 

Cognisant

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#39
I think he means the band.

HAIL SATAN!!!

Hmm. quite.
 

Artsu Tharaz

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#40
Is consciousness metaphysical because it is the pre-condition for physicality to exist in the first place thus making it transcendent of the physical?

edit: and like, if a tree falls in the forest...
No, it's the unconscious that is metaphysical.

Tools are Satan's gifts. Its the reason we don't view technology as a miracle.
Also:

- Jesus was a carpenter
- Carpenters use tools
- therefore it is not wrong to use tools

So where are you coming from?
 

The Grey Man

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#41
I'm a bit confused by the following: originally you were criticising utilitarianism because it didn't acknowledge the subjective component of nature, treating it as object-without-subject,

But now the problem is that utilitarianism treats objects as subjects, when to the frame of reference used to make the ethical calculation, these subjects are merely objects, and only the individual themself is the subject.

Additionally, I am confused as to how this relates to dual-aspect theory, because are not the objects used in a utilitarian calculation also subjects?
Originally I was criticising utilitarianism because, whether or not it acknowledges the subjective aspect of nature, it misidentifies the objective aspect as the principle of morality. If a third party observer could see the lords feasting while the prisoners are being tortured, he might laud or lament the inequity of the scene, but either way, it makes no difference to anyone who is actually living in it, feeling it. His hedonic calculation might arrive at a more laudable or a more lamentable conclusion if he could see only the banquet hall or the dungeon, but it makes no difference to either the revellers or the prisoners—so to whom does it make a difference?

My objection to treating objects as subjects is that there are no subjects in the sense that there are objects—there is a subject. It is precisely the character of the subject that it is simple—unlike physical objects, the subject is not one among a multiplicity combined into a complex, but the unity of this combination itself.

Leibniz said:
Monads have no windows, through which anything could come in or go out.
I submit that the principle of morality is not the multiplicity, but the unity—not any parochial state of objects as parts, but the global state of the subject as an organic whole. The criterion of goodness is not any particular concatenation of objects according to intelligible natural laws, but a momentary dispensation of the subject from the inscrutable numina—in a word, grace.
 

Pizzabeak

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#42
People just look at you, then do or believe the opposite, thinking they’re smarter or deserve more stuff because they can “see what’s missing”, and hopefully be rewarded with redemption at last.
 

QuickTwist

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#43
Is consciousness metaphysical because it is the pre-condition for physicality to exist in the first place thus making it transcendent of the physical?

edit: and like, if a tree falls in the forest...
No, it's the unconscious that is metaphysical.

Tools are Satan's gifts. Its the reason we don't view technology as a miracle.
Tools - like typology and the notion of conscious/unconscious?
Is consciousness metaphysical because it is the pre-condition for physicality to exist in the first place thus making it transcendent of the physical?

edit: and like, if a tree falls in the forest...
No, it's the unconscious that is metaphysical.

Tools are Satan's gifts. Its the reason we don't view technology as a miracle.
Also:

- Jesus was a carpenter
- Carpenters use tools
- therefore it is not wrong to use tools

So where are you coming from?
When I say tools, what I mean is to make life easier as the end goal of that.

Making life easier for its own sake has very deep roots in humanity. The industrial revolution is to blame for how explicitly lazy people are ins 1st world countries. It leaves little room for God to work which is precisely Satan's plan. It's why everyone marvels when a "miracle" happens in the states. There is just no room for belief in the states because so seldomly do people actually NEED God. Go to some 3rd world countries like India or Africa and your view of the supernatural will be shattered in a horrific way.
 

Artsu Tharaz

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#44
@The Grey Man

what do you think of hedonism, i.e. the philosophy which shares the "pleasure vs suffering" aspect of utilitarianism but applies it to only the self, rather than to everyone?
 

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#45
@The Grey Man

what do you think of hedonism, i.e. the philosophy which shares the "pleasure vs suffering" aspect of utilitarianism but applies it to only the self, rather than to everyone?
Another name for this sort of self-centric hedonism is egoism.

Descriptive or psychological egoism says that people want what they want, which is true, albeit a bit tautological for my taste.

Prescriptive or normative egoism says that people should want what they want, which is just silly.

So I'm not a fan.
 

Artsu Tharaz

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#46
@The Grey Man

what do you think of hedonism, i.e. the philosophy which shares the "pleasure vs suffering" aspect of utilitarianism but applies it to only the self, rather than to everyone?
Another name for this sort of self-centric hedonism is egoism.

Descriptive or psychological egoism says that people want what they want, which is true, albeit a bit tautological for my taste.

Prescriptive or normative egoism says that people should want what they want, which is just silly.

So I'm not a fan.
Wouldn't it be closer to say of hedonism that "people should get what they want"?

Or in other words "do what makes you happy" [with "happy" being interpreted to mean experiences that are subjectively and absolutely deemed better than other alternative experiences]

You've probably mentioned it but what's your view on what makes something more or less ethical than something else?
 

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#47
@Artsu Tharaz this goes back to what I was saying about 'oughts' being "petrified morality." To say that you 'should' get what you want is just words; actually wanting it is what counts.

A thing is less ethical than something else because it's worse. Suffering is worse than pleasure.
 

QuickTwist

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#48
@The Grey Man

what do you think of hedonism, i.e. the philosophy which shares the "pleasure vs suffering" aspect of utilitarianism but applies it to only the self, rather than to everyone?
Another name for this sort of self-centric hedonism is egoism.

Descriptive or psychological egoism says that people want what they want, which is true, albeit a bit tautological for my taste.

Prescriptive or normative egoism says that people should want what they want, which is just silly.

So I'm not a fan.
The problem is that a lot of people (perhaps the majority) DON'T know what they want.
 

The Grey Man

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#49
The problem is that a lot of people (perhaps the majority) DON'T know what they want.
Ah, yes, the old "you may want this now, but you'll regret it later." If you're willing to act in the interests of your possible future self, why not act in the interests of everybody else as well? Because they're not "me"? They beg to differ. This sort of "enlightened egoism" is merely inconsistent utilitarianism, and I've already discussed my objections to that doctrine at length, here and elsewhere.
 

QuickTwist

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#50
The problem is that a lot of people (perhaps the majority) DON'T know what they want.
Ah, yes, the old "you may want this now, but you'll regret it later." If you're willing to act in the interests of your possible future self, why not act in the interests of everybody else as well? Because they're not "me"? They beg to differ. This sort of "enlightened egoism" is merely inconsistent utilitarianism, and I've already discussed my objections to that doctrine at length, here and elsewhere.
You have to realize that such a statement is disastrously dangerous to society at large because what you are arguing is that the only thing that matters is right now. There is NO hope in that.
 
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