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- Feb 4, 2016
Why is empirical observability irrelevant? Why would you establish foundational principles for your ethical theory without first seeing if they conform to reality? What is an appropriate foundation for your ethical theory if not observations concerning the real world?
this a plausible induction, especially if we define pain to be necessarily (by definition) something that feels bad (so masochist don't count). }. So the utilitarian may reason if it is bad, and if the morally reasonable action would be to avoid pain, and seek better states for me, then it should be best to minimize pain overall for as many people as possible.
But then if you say: well, but we can't access other minds, and who knows if they can even feel pain or perhaps oxygen feels intense pain as we breathe in - may be then we ought to suffocate us to death...and stuff.
yeah, ok. But that is a 'later' concern. A more primary concern may be if the utilitarian reasoning is correct in the first place. If it is practically 'tractable' or not is the next concern. Also, even if it is 'intractable' because of inaccessibility of other minds that in itself doesn't contradict the principle that we ought to minimize overall pain and maximize happiness (or preference or whatever utility you want to entertain).
I wanted to keep it more focused on the primary foundational concern. I think we should get to the practical concern after its foundational principles have been established.
For example, you could ask, why should I even concern about other people's pain ? I may think it is reasonable for me to avoid pain because I dislike this, but why should I be further obligated to think of others unless it fulfills my own selfish concerns (like maintenance of stable society or whatever). From my perspective, other's pain are aliens and abstract - and only seem to matter to me in relation through me (through empathy and mirror neurons or whatever I may or may not actually have). Utilitarians may talk about having a more 'universal' outlook and intuitive plausibility, but none of that is convincing enough - why should I think beyond oneself? why should I not be selfish or be morally obligated to not be selfish ? One may even argue from a Humean fashion than in terms of action passion rules reason. So I may even argue that just because I feel pain doesn't mean it is 'normatively reasonable' for me avoid it, or even that I am 'morally obligated' too. One can attack the very idea that 'pure reason (moral or otherwise)' applies to actions and decisions in the first place. Reason applies only to the extent of the matter of answering whether our actions are consistent with our beliefs, passion, goal etc, but it is the passion, goals and dreams that RULE, while reason is only meant to serve our passions to optimize our actions. So there can be many directions to attack. There are also some interesting line of thoughts from the other direction, one of the most interesting I have found is from Santideva. These, I will say are some more primary concerns. I am not saying that these concerns exist today or haven't been solved or that it have been solved - I am just putting this as examples of some of the arguments that can address the core seed of utilitarianism. Furthermore, with certain thought expeiments one can make utilitarianism sound unappealing in certain contexts, thereby showing that they can't even win out the 'intuitive plausibility' criteria; though the epistemology of intuitive plausibility may be a bit questionable in the first place. Whatever.
Whether utilitarianism is practically tractable or not is a secondary problem - that doesn't mean we shouldn't concern ourselves with it before the foundational issues are solved, but I am not interested in them at the moment. Also note that typical practical problem does not usually point out a flaw in utilitarianism per se, but in the problem of 'utilizing' utilitarianism in a practical scenario. So it's a different topic altogether since in the thread ttitle you are attacking the foundations of utilitarianism itself.
This whole business of adding together or averaging subjective experiences is a fantasy with no connection to reality.
Also, I am not sure, what is with your subjective experience not sharing space - they share the SAME world if we can interact with our subjective fields even if not directly in our own subjective fields. I am not sure math requires something to be shared in some kind of specific kind of space.
if not what appears to be the case
I agree. We are all the same "I" experiencing different things. I no more end at the limits of my experience than the surface of the Earth ends at the horizon. Nevertheless, like the surface of the Earth beyond the horizon, I can't see any experience beyond my own.
The hedonistic utilitarian can't take the suffering of objects into account if he doesn't know which ones suffer and which ones do not, hence the need for a procedure whereby he can decide whether to ascribe subjectivity—and, more to the point, experiences of pleasure and/or suffering—to any given object or not.
To address it we have to move more towards epistemology.
I am at the moment, more interested in solving if we should even think of using utilitarianism in the first place and why or why not. The problems associated with APPLYING utilitarianism (like how do we be good utilitarians if we can't even know who is suffering, if an object can suffer or not and so on....) comes after (in my list) the question: if we should try to apply utilitarianism in the first place, or what motivation do we really have to even concern ourselves with it, or if it is fundamentally wrong why so ?
The particular metaphysics of the actual world? What other metaphysics are there? If the actual world as disclosed by empirical observation is irrelevant to meta-ethics (though I have a very different understanding of what is meta-ethics), how can meta-ethics possibly be applicable to the real world? Again, where do these meta-ethical foundations come from if not empirical observation?
https://philpapers.org/rec/SINPG (this is more of a joke, but yeah).
I didn't meant to say empirical observability is irrelevant to metaethics altogether. Mainly I was trying to distinguish more metaethical concerns (about the foundations of the ethical principles themselves), to more practical concerns (about using the principles).
Modal thinking can help us to test out concepts and their robustness. Also it helps us to see what we ourselves actually think about the concepts, if our thinkings are consistent or not. 'possible worlds' don't have to be real (unless you are Lewis' fan); but note that possible worlds by definition should be logically consistent and mathematical principles should hold too. So imagining things in possible worlds rather than the actual world can also help us test what logically follows from what and if our ideas are logically consisent or necessarily connected etc.
Induction is very important; it is the essence of technology. But inventors don't make new tools by looking for empirical evidence that conforms to their inductive judgments; they make inductive judgments that conform to the evidence that they've already collected. How, then, can we expect our ethical theory to be applicable to the world if we make it conform to our intuitions instead of reality?
Also, why do you think that the suffering of inorganic objects is likely to be trivial?
(Introverted mystical consciousness may be a counter-point, but I haven't have it yet, so I don't know what to say about it)). Structure seems to correletae with biology, neurology, some neural mechanism with strong interconnections. Induction -> something with a much simpler structure or connection may not hold united consciousness.
No positive evidence giving inorganic substances any reason to have consciousness.
One may argue for panpsychism and argue that fundamental stuffs ma have some form of fundamental mentality. But still no positive evidence for them having any non-trivial level of consciounsess.
None of these reasoning are deductive or close to perfect. But that's how the world rolls in abductions and apparent plausibilities.
I am still more of a pyrrhonian, so I don't necessarily strictly adhere to any of the above beliefs.
Justify? Bah! Let those tedious pedants justify themselves. They're the ones who have been endlessly pontificating about this meaningless word 'ought', not I.
Have you read all their works of trying to justify them?
I didn't understand what you meant by 'still'. I thought something like, I know someone is experiencing the benefit—it's Alice!—so what's does this talk of 'someone' change?
but nobody experiences any overall benefit.
It is basically, veery roughly speaking, counting happy people with sad people as negatives. And people seem to share space, and subjective happiness seem to share and belong to the same world. There is no reason why we can't count it. That other subjective worlds can't be directly accessed is an irrelevant point to the concept of counting them.
You can say that BECAUSE we CAN'T access them we CAN'T truly KNOW them or their state. We can't 'count' what we can't know. Good enough. But that's where some epistemology comes in; but before even bringing that in, it is still a matter of practical epistemic limitations. For example, would addressing this problem answer if we SHOULD count them in the first place ? If we COULD count them, then would we do count them and follow utilitarianism. These are the foundational questions I am more interested in. Whether we can or can't is an important question sure, but it doesn't indicate whether we should or should not.
Well actually, it is taken for granted that ought implies can, but here by 'should' I mean more of a "should if could".