Posted: Oct 04, 2017 4:15 am
by Cito di Pense
zoon wrote:Sam Harris says, I think, that the single aim of moral action (which comes down to all actions other than mistakes of one kind or another) is to maximise the wellbeing of conscious creatures

It's just easier said than done. Which gets back to what I said about the pleasures of making sepulchral pronouncements. It's also easier said than done to adopt an 'evidence-based approach' to solving social problems. I'm not saying we should stop trying, but discussions of morality from that perspective are little more than marketing the social sciences. I'm not saying the social sciences are completely ineffective, only that you have to do a lot of politicking to argue that they're cost-effective in solving particular problems, especially in areas like this. Discussions of morality throw caution to the winds as far as cost is concerned. No problem is too small.

Go ahead, try to find an evidence-based approach to "the well-being of sentient organisms". It sounds good on paper, but in practice it means collecting armloads of statistics using the dull, rusty scalpel of survey research. Neuroscience? Remember what I said about computational intractability. It's survey research dressed up with pretty, brightly-colored images of brain scans. Later for you, pal.

zoon wrote:This is where I’m happier with ethicists like Stephen Finlay, who come down in the end to the moral predispositions that we find we have, such as that suffering should not be inflicted on innocent people, and that people should act to preserve their health and should avoid irrationality.

Easier said than done. But yeah, it looks good on paper, and convinces you that you've argued your way to a conclusion. But soft! It's the assumption you started with! Surprise! Oops, sorry. No surprises in circular reasoning, although it fools some people (like, say, Finlay) into thinking they did some heavy intellectual lifting. Still, hours of your life you won't get back if you thought a golden treasure awaited.

Do you think the people Stephen Paddock was shooting at were innocent? Sure, they were innocent of causing Stephen Paddock enough personal aggravation to shoot at them in particular. Oh, wait. You're not justified in shooting people just because they aggravate you, but you are if they are already shooting at you. Write me a dissertation on self-preservation. The lesson here is not to give yourself away by using the word 'innocent', which is a religious reference (see terms like "slaughter of innocents"). Use the legal term "not guilty".