(urth) 5HC : Skinner, Turing and happiness

maru marudubshinki at gmail.com
Sat Mar 19 23:22:00 PST 2005

Iorwerth Thomas wrote:

> 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.
My own brand of utilitarianism would say that following the categorical 
imperative will increase happiness at large, and eventually result i 
large gains for myself in addition. 'Do well by doing good' in a long 
run sense.  That, and it is rationally desirable for one's beliefs to at 
the very least be consistent.

>> 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...
No, you are thinking of Jesus there ; )  But that is a curious view of 
Christians. I should like you to expand on that.  I'd have argued that a 
Christian is someone who doesn't want to suffer the eternal torment of 
Hell, and so believes in Jesus and does what their church tells'em.

> 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.
> Iorwerth
Arrgh. The point was that even apparently unselfish, principled actions 
can be as well, if not better, understood as enlightened selfishness as 
well.  But fortunately no ink need die for our debate. No, 'tis the 
electrons and phospors who shall suffer.


More information about the Urth mailing list