(urth) 5HC : Skinner, Turing and happiness, and even more Thread Necromancy

Chris rasputin_ at hotmail.com
Sun Mar 20 02:41:24 PST 2005

I don't even remember the original message being quoted here.

Quoting Iorwerth
>>'So, Mr. Kant, why exactly are we motivated to follow the categorical 

I don't recally Kant having anything to say about how or why anyone *does* 
follow the categorical imperativel. For him the question starts, and after 
many twists and turns ends, with a matter of why we *ought* to follow the 
categorical imperative, and this is (he thinks) because it is unavoidably 
consistent with Reason. [If it weren't, it wouldn't be the Categorical 
Imperative. No comment on that.]

>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.

There is a fundamental tension you are missing between *any* kind of view 
which acknowledges a "categorical imperative" (a system based on a 
particular *duty*) and *any* system like utilitarianism which relies on 
*results* as a justification.

With utilitarianism, the ends ultimately justify the means. So if, on any 
given specific occasion, it will produce a better result to disobey the 
"categorical imperative", then there is no question - you disobey the 
imperative. In such a situation the "rule" is purely superfluous, because 
you obey it or disobey it as the occasion demands.

There is an attempt to reconcile these two points of view, called "rule 
utilitarianism", which you could probably google to good effect, and I 
suspect you would view it favorably. The problem is that rule utilitarianism 
walks a rather tenuous line, and it tends to collapse completely into either 
pure act utilitarianism or else pure duty-based ethics if you really start 
running it through its paces in thought problems.

>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.

I suspect that here there is a problem between "Christian" as defined as an 
actual follower of Christ, as opposed to "Christian" as "your average member 
of a Christian church". The two are not mutually exclusive, of course, but 
the first does not require the second, nor does the second require the 

>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.

This really is a debate of its own that is far too long to present here. 
Yes, there is something to your intuition. But when you think it out, the 
notion of "selfish" that would be required to absorb *all* altruistic action 
ends up being trivial to the point where it disappears as a useful category. 
To really bring this point home I would recommend an article called 
"Psychological Egoism" by Joel Feinberg. Unfortunately I can't find an 
electronic version of it, so you'd have to find a tree/ink-killing version.

"Now we would have to say that all actions are selfish; but, in addition, we 
would want to say that there are two different kinds of selfish actions, 
those which regard the interests of others and those which disregard the 
intrests of others... After a while, we might even invent two new words, 
perhaps 'selfitic' and 'unselfitic,' to distinguish the two important 
classes of 'selfish' actions. Then we would be right back where we 
started..." -- Joel Feinberg

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