(urth) 5HC : Skinner, Turing and happiness

Iorwerth Thomas iorweththomas at hotmail.com
Mon Feb 21 04:59:49 PST 2005

>From: maru <marudubshinki at gmail.com>

>That is interesting; I remember you bringing up virtue ethics earlier, in a 
>more alien context. It seems to fit; )
>I can't say I really like that philosphy: it seems to boil down to 
>selfishness, and I've always been more of a greater
>good -guy.

Well - yes and no.  It does seem very hard - to me, at least - to talk about 
'good' and 'bad' without at least at some point talking about what's good 
and bad for a particular organism.  Hence empathy is a virtue because 
possesion of it to a certain degree (but not so much that it paralyses you) 
is 'good' for a member of a social species.  Is that selfish? Hard to say: 
if I'm generous, I'm generous because I'm generous, not because of how it 
contributes to my good or anyone elses.  _Learning_ to be generous, on the 
other hand, is probably motivated by that kind of consideration, but I'm not 
sure if there's any ethical system that's immune from some sort of 
consideration (except extreme moral non-naturalism, and that has it's own 
problems [1]) of that kind.  'So, Mr. Kant, why exactly are we motivated to 
follow the categorical imperative?'

[1]  Though I'm sympathetic towards it.

>I know a few people who can't be really happy while anyone around them is 
>unhappy.  Could that be a less-extreme
>example of what your dissident is doing?  More religiously, that seems very 
>much like the bodhisattva idea, but if that's
>a bad connection, a misreading of intent, please tell me.

Not at all.  In a related sense, it could be argued that a Christian is 
someone who is willing to go to Hell in order that no one has to.  I can see 
where you're coming from, but I'm not sure happiness is the primary 
motivator (it's probably a motivation, but not the only one) in this case.  
But never having been in our dissident's situation - and  I hope I never am 
- I can't say I know for sure (and even then, generalising from one case to 
all would perhaps be foolish).  We may have to agree to disagree...

On second thoughts, if you're correct, I doubt anyone _should_ have a 
problem with such a motivation, as it's quite clearly unselfish.  Mich ink 
has no doubt been spilled on such issues.


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