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The value of a life?

YYW
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3/25/2013 11:47:07 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
How does one measure the value of a life?

Before proceeding, I want to clarify that it is not my purpose to discuss the theoretical or abstract value of "life" itself as a concept or state of being, but rather the value of those who are alive; individual people. I first thought about the value of my own life, how I would measure it, and how I would interpret those results. That said, I have a pretty high (albeit inconsistently applied) metric of self worth: the pursuit of the good and right, such that to the extent that people do what is good and right, their lives have value.

To the extent that people either do not do what is good and right either by the pursuit of that which is bad or evil and wrong, or by the failure to do what was good and right when necessity obliged their doing so, people's lives loose value.

The value of ones life, then, is entirely contingent upon one's actions -meaning that not only are we as individuals in control of the value of our lives, but we are empowered to affect the value of our own lives if after a period of reflection we find our lives to have either negative value, or to be devoid of value.

I would suggest that there ought to be made a distinction between being devoid of value and having negative value on the basis of a linear and gradient scale of morality. Negative value would be the absence of value, positive (not in the philosophical sense of positivism) value would be the presence of value -value which is derived from choices.

Choices may be good, bad or neutral; such that they may be formed on the basis of "good", on the basis of "bad" or on no basis whatsoever. The choice to walk down a street under most circumstances is a morally neutral choice, but a choice nevertheless to which we are accountable for. If on the walk, one encounters a fallen person in need of assistance, however, the choice to help or not help the person can not be neutral. Either one makes the choice to lend assistance, or one denies assistance. Denying assistance cannot be neutral because it effectuates harm by effect and intent, both having resulted from negligent duty.

It is necessary, then, to make several observations about what I'm suggesting: I am suggesting that interaction is the invocation of interpersonal duty, that when "I" see "you" and I know that you need help, I am bound to help you. It is my duty because I have recognized your need, and I am bound to the extent that I am able to lend my assistance, even if doing so comes at a personal cost to me. It is from the morally neutral choice that I made to walk down the street which made me accountable for that choice and the circumstances which follow. I am not divested of accountability for walking down the street because I did not contribute to your falling. I am nevertheless bound to come to your rescue.

And in coming to your rescue, I have affirmed the value of my own life. Were I not to choose to come to your rescue, I would have reduced the value of my life.

"I shall pass this way but once. Whatever good I may do here, let me do it now -for I will never trek this path again."
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Zaradi
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3/26/2013 12:23:14 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
I think you're trying to make something something quantitative that isn't quantitative, but rather categorical. Either your life has value or it doesn't have value. The "amount" of value is really just a false question because it makes the assumption that a human life can become more or less valuable per events that can take place, which really doesn't make all that much sense considering how they're still human, regardless of what they do.
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Cody_Franklin
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3/26/2013 12:50:26 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
I think there's a question underlying this discussion concerning why we need to estimate peoples' value. Why do we have to size them up, evaluate their "worth" (whatever that is), and then hand down judgment as if life is a trial? I think the question of value betrays the reduction of life to an object that we pass around and talk about like professional critics--it's as if ethics has suddenly been contaminated with the language of economics.

Beyond that, I'm suspicious of the idea of a running tally, which is what's required for life to gain and lose value as if there's an account subject to deposit and withdrawal. I think your discussion is one-dimensional insofar as it centers on the details to which an external judge ought to offer his attention (and their consequences for us); how ought we weigh people, and how ought we behave in this regime of judgment? It appears to completely exclude clemency and redemption, for instance, except by debiting the requisite amount of virtue into your account, which is entirely contrary to what's intended by forgiving someone. I suspect that, given the kinds of horrors of which our species has proven itself capable many times over, what is required is nothing less than a capacity on our part to forgive and teach patiently. This is what is required between a parent and child, and between teacher and student. If this is enough, we will not need to hold someone's moral debt over them; if it is not enough, their debt will do no good.

Even according to your accounting method, it is acts which have moral weight, not lives. An "evil person" who commits an act of genuine altruism seems to me a person capable of a great many things, rather than a low-value person trying to work off his debts. I'd rather keep an open mind than tight books, and these deliberations remind me of a koan I meditated on a couple months ago:

When Bankei held his seclusion-weeks of meditation, pupils from many parts of Japan came to attend. During one of these gatherings a pupil was caught stealing. The matter was reported to Bankei with the request that the culprit be expelled. Bankei ignored the case.

Later the pupil was caught in a similar act, and again Bankei disregarded the matter. this angered the other pupils, who drew up a petition asking for the dismissal of the thief, stating that otherwise they would leave in a body.

When Bankei had read the petition he called everyone before him. "You are wise brothers," he told them. "You know what is right and what is not right. You may somewhere else to study if you wish, but this poor brother does not even know right from wrong. Who will teach him if I do not? I am going to keep him here even if all the rest of you leave."

A torrent of tears cleansed the face of the brother who had stolen. All desire to steal had vanished.
YYW
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3/26/2013 7:20:23 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 3/26/2013 12:14:40 AM, Cody_Franklin wrote:
If you want to turn questions of character into opportunities for appraisal, you'll need units.

Why?
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YYW
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3/26/2013 7:24:07 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 3/26/2013 12:23:14 AM, Zaradi wrote:
I think you're trying to make something something quantitative that isn't quantitative, but rather categorical.

Qualitative measurement, not quantitative, is what I'm advocating for here.

Either your life has value or it doesn't have value.

There are degrees of value.

The "amount" of value is really just a false question because it makes the assumption that a human life can become more or less valuable per events that can take place, which really doesn't make all that much sense considering how they're still human, regardless of what they do.

Value as described would be contingent upon circumstance, which was a substantial part of the point. Regognize that I was not talking about the value of life in an abstract concept (value on the basis of humanity alone). That much we can agree upon, probably. I'm talking about a different measurement of value, that is the worth of a person's life 'as an individual' rather than as a being.
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YYW
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3/26/2013 7:42:33 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 3/26/2013 12:50:26 AM, Cody_Franklin wrote:
I think there's a question underlying this discussion concerning why we need to estimate peoples' value. Why do we have to size them up, evaluate their "worth" (whatever that is), and then hand down judgment as if life is a trial?

Because people make choices and those choices have meaning, the value of individual's lives is evaluable and necessary to evaluate. To say that we should not evaluate is to say that one is not accountable for their choices.

I think the question of value betrays the reduction of life to an object that we pass around and talk about like professional critics--it's as if ethics has suddenly been contaminated with the language of economics.

Explain this a bit more.

Beyond that, I'm suspicious of the idea of a running tally, which is what's required for life to gain and lose value as if there's an account subject to deposit and withdrawal.

I would be too, which is why I didn't include units to facilitate such a tally.

I think your discussion is one-dimensional insofar as it centers on the details to which an external judge ought to offer his attention (and their consequences for us); how ought we weigh people, and how ought we behave in this regime of judgment?

The judge could be the self or someone else, but it should be the self first -insomuch as the self is the first and best evaluator (and would ideally be the most scrupulous), because only the self can know true intent.

It appears to completely exclude clemency and redemption, for instance, except by debiting the requisite amount of virtue into your account, which is entirely contrary to what's intended by forgiving someone.

That I have forgiven you if you were to cause me harm only provides you with moral absolution after your having caused me harm, it does nothing to restore the value of your life or impact the choices you have made, once they have been made. I would suggest that while clemency and redemption are worthwhile concepts, and their being granted is a salutary enterprise, to suggest that forgiveness is something more than granted moral absolution is to elevate it to the level of an endorsement of a behavior for which forgiveness would be appropriate -which is to say that if I expect you to forgive me, and I am no longer accountable for my choices, what is to stop me from harming you? Forgiveness is itself contingent; it is something which one may or may not grant -and for which men are free to withhold at their leisure. But, being that it is something beyond the guilty (the one who caused harm), it is inappropriate to discuss forgiveness in the context of measuring the value of the self -put simply: because my choice to forgive you or your choice to forgive me is a choice beyond the self to be measured, it is tangential to a proper discussion of the value of that individual, unless the judgement of others (which forgiveness is, in its own right, a form of judgement) is to have a bearing on the value of others.

I suspect that, given the kinds of horrors of which our species has proven itself capable many times over, what is required is nothing less than a capacity on our part to forgive and teach patiently. This is what is required between a parent and child, and between teacher and student. If this is enough, we will not need to hold someone's moral debt over them; if it is not enough, their debt will do no good.

I think that it would be fair to, on the basis of the kinds of choices one would have to make, take that into account when considering self worth. I also think that to the extent that a child is unable to grasp the concept of making good choices to affect their worth, it would be improper to measure their life (that is, the life of a child) by this standard, insomuch as the standard itself presupposes an individual accountability, which requires itself a level of self-awareness that would likely be beyond the capacity of any but a mature adult.

Even according to your accounting method, it is acts which have moral weight, not lives. An "evil person" who commits an act of genuine altruism seems to me a person capable of a great many things, rather than a low-value person trying to work off his debts. I'd rather keep an open mind than tight books, and these deliberations remind me of a koan I meditated on a couple months ago:

So, to the extent that a person commits genuine acts of good, regardless of prior bad acts, that person is no longer properly describable as "evil." I'm not familiar with your example, but perhaps we've both read or seen Les Mis. Even though Jean Valjean committed acts after being released from prison which were bad, to describe him as 'evil' ignores the tangibly good character of many other actions, and his intent in those actions.
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Cody_Franklin
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3/26/2013 1:13:05 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 3/26/2013 7:42:33 AM, YYW wrote:
At 3/26/2013 12:50:26 AM, Cody_Franklin wrote:
I think there's a question underlying this discussion concerning why we need to estimate peoples' value. Why do we have to size them up, evaluate their "worth" (whatever that is), and then hand down judgment as if life is a trial?

Because people make choices and those choices have meaning, the value of individual's lives is evaluable and necessary to evaluate. To say that we should not evaluate is to say that one is not accountable for their choices.

Accountable to what or whom, and what kind of accountability?

I think the question of value betrays the reduction of life to an object that we pass around and talk about like professional critics--it's as if ethics has suddenly been contaminated with the language of economics.

Explain this a bit more.

You're trying to measure someone's value like the value of a stock or an investment tool. What you're doing seems a lot like setting up an ethical ticker that records everyone's actions and streams the data for everyone to see--complete exposure at all times and a reduction of life to a question of worth (the moral foundation for which, e.g., this notion that interaction manifest as interpersonal obligation, is already dubious). I've run this idea through the nihilism grid, and it means nothing to me to ask how much value someone's life has, as if any of us has the authority to make an ethical judgment about which lives are worth living and which aren't, much less something in terms of which we can talk about value.

Beyond that, I'm suspicious of the idea of a running tally, which is what's required for life to gain and lose value as if there's an account subject to deposit and withdrawal.

I would be too, which is why I didn't include units to facilitate such a tally.

Insofar as your goal is to establish a system of judgment in which which the value of peoples' lives varies according to their actions, you need units to track the value. I don't think you can just set up all the premises while denying the conclusion merely because you agree it's unpalatable. I mean, you don't actually seem to reject the idea of a running tally: you explicitly advocate assigning a changing degree of value to peoples' lives, which is all the function of a running tally with none of the functionality.

I think your discussion is one-dimensional insofar as it centers on the details to which an external judge ought to offer his attention (and their consequences for us); how ought we weigh people, and how ought we behave in this regime of judgment?

The judge could be the self or someone else, but it should be the self first -insomuch as the self is the first and best evaluator (and would ideally be the most scrupulous), because only the self can know true intent.

My issue is not the identity of the judge, but the relation of a judge to the defendant (which is to pass judgment and deliver a sentence). I think it's more pernicious if you ask people to be their own judges, not for some reason of accountability, but because you're demanding that people relate to themselves as a source of condemnation and punishment. I think that denies a substantial portion of human experience--not just experience of potential, but of one's life and memory. Your operation here lends its full attention to weighing people as if they're atomistic, capable of isolated decisions on which a verdict can really be rendered. The world is an ambiguous, chaotic place, and I'm worried that you're permitting the contamination of ethics not only with economics, but also with legality--you're concerned so much with obedience to an algorithmic set of demands (as in your assertion that interactions are a source of moral obligation) that I think you turn ethics into a large court replete with guilt and innocence, judgment and punishment. I'm curious where ethics as an individuated practice of happy living fits into this complex of verdicts and condemnations, not just systemically, but in the lives of individuals who're compelled to become their own accusers, prosecutors, judges, and executioners.
Cody_Franklin
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3/26/2013 1:13:07 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
It appears to completely exclude clemency and redemption, for instance, except by debiting the requisite amount of virtue into your account, which is entirely contrary to what's intended by forgiving someone.

That I have forgiven you if you were to cause me harm only provides you with moral absolution after your having caused me harm, it does nothing to restore the value of your life or impact the choices you have made, once they have been made.

I think first that, for the purposes of this discussion, you don't have the luxury of responding by invoking the system you're trying to defend. What I mean is, if one objection to determining peoples' value is that it excludes forgiveness and redemption, it doesn't make sense to respond that these are bad because it precludes accurate measurement of value. That's precisely why I argue your choice to exclude it is arbitrary. Second, I think you're right--forgiveness changes neither what transpired nor its impacts, but forgiveness is also posterior to both of those, implying that they have to be acknowledged before forgiveness is granted.

I would suggest that while clemency and redemption are worthwhile concepts, and their being granted is a salutary enterprise, to suggest that forgiveness is something more than granted moral absolution is to elevate it to the level of an endorsement of a behavior for which forgiveness would be appropriate -which is to say that if I expect you to forgive me, and I am no longer accountable for my choices, what is to stop me from harming you?

First, I think it's incredibly misleading to say that forgiveness could ever amount to an endorsement of a behavior. That sentiment clearly betrays the punitive underpinnings of what you're advocating, given that you would only ask such a question if you thought that anything less than moral condemnation and some kind of reprimand was the appropriate response to perceived wrongdoing. I maintain that, if patient guidance and an openness to redemption is insufficient to induce genuine change in someone's behavior, then holding a debt against them, which motivates through fear and shame, will be similarly insufficient, much the same as yelling at an employee only induces immediate compliance and, to borrow from Office Space, makes someone work just hard enough not to get fired.

Second, I'm surprised that the introduction of the possibility of forgiveness entails to you an expectation of forgiveness, which was included exactly nowhere in my discussion. In Book I of his counsel to Nero, Seneca remarks in II that it is as unwise to pardon indiscriminately as never to pardon, or to pardon very exclusively. What is important, I argued, is that we make clear the potential for forgiveness and redemption--not that we pardon everyone who does something we dislike. Your normative program only concerns itself with accounting (and making accountable), excluding completely the effect of forgiveness on calculation or the possibility of the primacy of a personal relationship over questions of guilt or innocence. If a man makes the mistake of cheating on his wife, it seems less important to determine the measure of his evil than whether his marriage can be repaired. If a domestic abuser, himself subject for years to beatings and verbal abuse by parents and authority figures, puts his wife in the hospital, a pronouncement of the lower value of his life is entirely unhelpful. If a prisoner in a concentration camp steals food from a fellow prisoner to survive, or if several prisoners kill another prisoner whose misbehavior cost them a week's rations, I am incredibly skeptical that a binary metric, such as is suggested in your advocacy, has any hope of disentangling the complicated ethical quandary unearthed in those camps. It's not just about forgiveness--I think your way of doing business is too simple and too concerned with being clean and systematic to be worth anything to anyone, particularly given that its metric for righteousness is just conformity to specified obligations.

Forgiveness is itself contingent; it is something which one may or may not grant -and for which men are free to withhold at their leisure. But, being that it is something beyond the guilty (the one who caused harm), it is inappropriate to discuss forgiveness in the context of measuring the value of the self -put simply: because my choice to forgive you or your choice to forgive me is a choice beyond the self to be measured, it is tangential to a proper discussion of the value of that individual, unless the judgement of others (which forgiveness is, in its own right, a form of judgement) is to have a bearing on the value of others.

If I was to hurt someone--hitting them, insulting them, whatever you like--do you really think that their willingness to forgive my transgression is irrelevant to the moral weight I assign that action? The only account I have to settle is with them.

I suspect that, given the kinds of horrors of which our species has proven itself capable many times over, what is required is nothing less than a capacity on our part to forgive and teach patiently. This is what is required between a parent and child, and between teacher and student. If this is enough, we will not need to hold someone's moral debt over them; if it is not enough, their debt will do no good.

I think that it would be fair to, on the basis of the kinds of choices one would have to make, take that into account when considering self worth.

What does that mean/entail? Whenever someone usually says "I'll take that into account", it's a nice way of blowing off the person to whom they're speaking.

I also think that to the extent that a child is unable to grasp the concept of making good choices to affect their worth, it would be improper to measure their life (that is, the life of a child) by this standard, insomuch as the standard itself presupposes an individual accountability, which requires itself a level of self-awareness that would likely be beyond the capacity of any but a mature adult.

So, what is self-worth?

Even according to your accounting method, it is acts which have moral weight, not lives. An "evil person" who commits an act of genuine altruism seems to me a person capable of a great many things, rather than a low-value person trying to work off his debts. I'd rather keep an open mind than tight books, and these deliberations remind me of a koan I meditated on a couple months ago:

So, to the extent that a person commits genuine acts of good, regardless of prior bad acts, that person is no longer properly describable as "evil."

I don't think a person is ever properly describable as good or evil. I think a person is a bastion of potentiality, free to pass over (or not) into an uncountable multiplicity of things. Borrowing from Krishnamurti, we're just a fortuitous concourse of particles; change can come in any form, at any moment. The most evil man could throw himself in front of a bullet to save a child, and the greatest saint could lose himself to passion. We are neither of these, much less similarly consistent.

I'm not familiar with your example, but perhaps we've both read or seen Les Mis. Even though Jean Valjean committed acts after being released from prison which were bad, to describe him as 'evil' ignores the tangibly good character of many other actions, and his intent in those actions.

Read, haven't seen it (heard it's good, though). You're sort of following, though. It's not to say that Valjean is a good man who happened to commit evil acts. It's a reverse-Nietzsche move insofar as I situate myself not "beyond" good and evil, but, in a sense, before it. I see Valjean as a guy doing a series of things, but I don't think of them as good or evil. I'm reminded of XKCD's "Umwelt" [http://xkcd.com...], the alt-text for which you can read (and further research) yourself.
YYW
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3/26/2013 3:46:27 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 3/26/2013 1:13:00 PM, Cody_Franklin wrote:
At 3/26/2013 7:20:23 AM, YYW wrote:
At 3/26/2013 12:14:40 AM, Cody_Franklin wrote:
If you want to turn questions of character into opportunities for appraisal, you'll need units.

Why?

Because measurement without units is impossible?

Quantitative measurement... sure. Qualitative measurement? Not so much.
Tsar of DDO
YYW
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3/26/2013 4:07:13 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 3/26/2013 1:13:05 PM, Cody_Franklin wrote:
At 3/26/2013 7:42:33 AM, YYW wrote:
At 3/26/2013 12:50:26 AM, Cody_Franklin wrote:
I think there's a question underlying this discussion concerning why we need to estimate peoples' value. Why do we have to size them up, evaluate their "worth" (whatever that is), and then hand down judgment as if life is a trial?

Because people make choices and those choices have meaning, the value of individual's lives is evaluable and necessary to evaluate. To say that we should not evaluate is to say that one is not accountable for their choices.

Accountable to what or whom, and what kind of accountability?

That's a big question, and one which some (like Judith Butler) have written entire books about. As best I'm able; accountability is multileveled. We are first accountable to ourselves, and then to others with whom we interact. Interaction is no more than an association, however casual, to the extent that in our interaction we are aware of others (and not willfully avoiding being made aware of others).

I think the question of value betrays the reduction of life to an object that we pass around and talk about like professional critics--it's as if ethics has suddenly been contaminated with the language of economics.

Explain this a bit more.

You're trying to measure someone's value like the value of a stock or an investment tool. What you're doing seems a lot like setting up an ethical ticker that records everyone's actions and streams the data for everyone to see--complete exposure at all times and a reduction of life to a question of worth (the moral foundation for which, e.g., this notion that interaction manifest as interpersonal obligation, is already dubious). I've run this idea through the nihilism grid, and it means nothing to me to ask how much value someone's life has, as if any of us has the authority to make an ethical judgment about which lives are worth living and which aren't, much less something in terms of which we can talk about value.

I'm not getting that far, Cody, for precisely the reasons you've explored. I'm not attaching numbers, utiles or even "stock" to the value of one's actions. I'm also not talking about value in a numerically quantifiable sense. I'm talking about qualitative value -which I know is both intellectually and philosophically frustrating- but which nevertheless is fundamentally different than the value we give money, gold, stocks in a market, etc. The criticism to follow that I've changed the meaning of value or waging an assault on (at least it's economic) definition is valid, but misses the mark in that that's fundamentally not the kind of "value" to which I am referring.

I'm also not going to propose a numerical scale by which the value of one's life may be measured. I'm saying that value may be determined on the basis of distinguishing that which is valuable (those actions which are good) from those which are not good. So, recognize that this is both implicitly not functionally operable in the with the same calculi as utilitarian moral worth, and makes no claim of objectivity (I couldn't ground that claim, because we're talking here about normative judgements).

And to the claim that interaction is not sufficient to effectuate moral obligation, I would suggest that because of the fact that we are precarious -that we are subject to harm- we are obliged of that precarity (as a stare of being) to not cause harm to others at minimum. But to interact with another, is to be made aware of the precarity of another (such that because one whom we meet is human, we know of them that they are subject to harm), and if one is precarious, then our -at least ethical obligation- is to preserve their being as they are. But our moral duty is something distinct from our ethical obligation, such that if we are bound to do what is good, and assisting others is good, then while ethically we are obliged to not cause harm, we are morally obliged to do good by helping others in need. If, however, helping others is not good, then no such duty could be said to exist -though if that is the contention with which you take issue, ours is a different discussion to be had, prior to that present.

Beyond that, I'm suspicious of the idea of a running tally, which is what's required for life to gain and lose value as if there's an account subject to deposit and withdrawal.

I would be too, which is why I didn't include units to facilitate such a tally.

Insofar as your goal is to establish a system of judgment in which which the value of peoples' lives varies according to their actions, you need units to track the value. I don't think you can just set up all the premises while denying the conclusion merely because you agree it's unpalatable. I mean, you don't actually seem to reject the idea of a running tally: you explicitly advocate assigning a changing degree of value to peoples' lives, which is all the function of a running tally with none of the functionality.

I'm not advocating a system that makes a claim of universal applicability -or at least would not aspire to make such a claim, in the absence of a universal endorsement. I also am not measuring value as you think I am. Perhaps as we talk this out, what I mean will be made more clear. And I grant you that if my goal were to establish a moral ticker, as you have suggested, then I would surely need some unitary system to track moral value over time. That's not what I'm doing (because it would be absurd).

More in subsequent posts....
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Zaradi
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3/26/2013 4:20:54 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 3/26/2013 7:24:07 AM, YYW wrote:
At 3/26/2013 12:23:14 AM, Zaradi wrote:
I think you're trying to make something something quantitative that isn't quantitative, but rather categorical.

Qualitative measurement, not quantitative, is what I'm advocating for here.

Either your life has value or it doesn't have value.

There are degrees of value.

These right here cannot co-exist. If you're saying that it's qualitative (meaning you either qualify for it or you do not), then there cannot be degrees of value that we possess. Likewise, if there are degrees of value to how much value we possess, then it must be quantitative.
Want to debate? Pick a topic and hit me up! - http://www.debate.org...
YYW
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3/26/2013 4:21:15 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
I think your discussion is one-dimensional insofar as it centers on the details to which an external judge ought to offer his attention (and their consequences for us); how ought we weigh people, and how ought we behave in this regime of judgment?

The judge could be the self or someone else, but it should be the self first -insomuch as the self is the first and best evaluator (and would ideally be the most scrupulous), because only the self can know true intent.

My issue is not the identity of the judge, but the relation of a judge to the defendant (which is to pass judgment and deliver a sentence).

So let's clear something else up here too. You're taking this farther than I've gotten or am willing to go, conceptually at least. I'm talking about MORAL worth, not guilt or innocence (which would come as a result of some judgment being passed). To measure worth, in the way I'm describing, is not to say "you are a good person, therefore you merit X" or anything of the matter. I'm also not suggesting that this process operate anything like a court of law. The person whose life is being measured is not a 'defendant' in any way. They are a person, whom is being evaluated. Let's be very clear about distinguishing moral evaluation and legal judgement -they are not the same thing, and I'm only talking about the former. I am not talking about the latter.

I think it's more pernicious if you ask people to be their own judges, not for some reason of accountability, but because you're demanding that people relate to themselves as a source of condemnation and punishment.

To say that someone is morally culpable is not to say that they are worthy of condemnation or punishment. It's to say that they are morally culpable -no more. Now, from the basis of moral culpability we can then move to a discussion of condemnation (that is to say, determine their guilt, lack of guilt, or innocence) -but to say that moral culpability is itself a cause to condemnation jumps the gun (metaphorically speaking). The same applies to punishment in a society with a functioning rule of law. If we accept someone is guilty (that is, they have done something which is against the law which has been proven beyond reasonable doubt) then and only then may we discuss punishment. The question I am asking is divergent from that. That morality and the law may at times correlate does not mean that morality is the impetus for law (though ideally it would be) or that the law is the arbiter of morality.

I think that denies a substantial portion of human experience--not just experience of potential, but of one's life and memory. Your operation here lends its full attention to weighing people as if they're atomistic, capable of isolated decisions on which a verdict can really be rendered.

That would be the case, if mine was a question which was legal in type of form. It's not. It's moral, normative, subjective, messy and in no way quantitatively measurable. Don't read into this what you're looking to find (though I admit that may be hard to do). Also, I'm not suggesting that this is perfect or that it ought to necessarily be the way we do things. I woke up, read the newspaper and had a thought -and then posted it on DDO. That's all this is.

The world is an ambiguous, chaotic place, and I'm worried that you're permitting the contamination of ethics not only with economics, but also with legality--you're concerned so much with obedience to an algorithmic set of demands (as in your assertion that interactions are a source of moral obligation) that I think you turn ethics into a large court replete with guilt and innocence, judgment and punishment. I'm curious where ethics as an individuated practice of happy living fits into this complex of verdicts and condemnations, not just systemically, but in the lives of individuals who're compelled to become their own accusers, prosecutors, judges, and executioners.

If separating law and morality is insufficient here, and I make room that possibility, I'll go into more detail later. But if it is, then let's move forward from this already. You've thought I meant something legally-oriented, and perhaps that's because I didn't draw the distinction clear enough (or used words, the connotation of which caused some unintentionally spurious implications), but I hope now it's less ambiguous at least.
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YYW
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3/26/2013 4:22:59 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 3/26/2013 4:20:54 PM, Zaradi wrote:
At 3/26/2013 7:24:07 AM, YYW wrote:
At 3/26/2013 12:23:14 AM, Zaradi wrote:
I think you're trying to make something something quantitative that isn't quantitative, but rather categorical.

Qualitative measurement, not quantitative, is what I'm advocating for here.

Either your life has value or it doesn't have value.

There are degrees of value.

These right here cannot co-exist. If you're saying that it's qualitative (meaning you either qualify for it or you do not), then there cannot be degrees of value that we possess. Likewise, if there are degrees of value to how much value we possess, then it must be quantitative.

Actually they can, so long as I can hierarchal rank things as better or worse than another. To the extent that the value of actions may be ordered (subjectively ordered, even), they are both evaluable in degree and qualitatively so.
Tsar of DDO
Cody_Franklin
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3/27/2013 12:07:20 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 3/26/2013 3:46:27 PM, YYW wrote:
At 3/26/2013 1:13:00 PM, Cody_Franklin wrote:
At 3/26/2013 7:20:23 AM, YYW wrote:
At 3/26/2013 12:14:40 AM, Cody_Franklin wrote:
If you want to turn questions of character into opportunities for appraisal, you'll need units.

Why?

Because measurement without units is impossible?

Quantitative measurement... sure. Qualitative measurement? Not so much.

What is qualitative measurement?
Cody_Franklin
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3/27/2013 12:07:22 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 3/26/2013 4:07:13 PM, YYW wrote:
At 3/26/2013 1:13:05 PM, Cody_Franklin wrote:
Accountable to what or whom, and what kind of accountability?

That's a big question, and one which some (like Judith Butler) have written entire books about. As best I'm able; accountability is multileveled. We are first accountable to ourselves, and then to others with whom we interact. Interaction is no more than an association, however casual, to the extent that in our interaction we are aware of others (and not willfully avoiding being made aware of others).

What kind of accountability? Also, what does it mean to be accountable?


You're trying to measure someone's value like the value of a stock or an investment tool. What you're doing seems a lot like setting up an ethical ticker that records everyone's actions and streams the data for everyone to see--complete exposure at all times and a reduction of life to a question of worth (the moral foundation for which, e.g., this notion that interaction manifest as interpersonal obligation, is already dubious). I've run this idea through the nihilism grid, and it means nothing to me to ask how much value someone's life has, as if any of us has the authority to make an ethical judgment about which lives are worth living and which aren't, much less something in terms of which we can talk about value.

I'm not getting that far, Cody, for precisely the reasons you've explored. I'm not attaching numbers, utiles or even "stock" to the value of one's actions. I'm also not talking about value in a numerically quantifiable sense. I'm talking about qualitative value -which I know is both intellectually and philosophically frustrating- but which nevertheless is fundamentally different than the value we give money, gold, stocks in a market, etc. The criticism to follow that I've changed the meaning of value or waging an assault on (at least it's economic) definition is valid, but misses the mark in that that's fundamentally not the kind of "value" to which I am referring.

I think you're refusing to attach numbers to your value calculation, but that's different to me than not quantifying at all. I think your quantification is just implicit--you remark, for instance, that, insofar as you can employ hierarchical ranking, you can make measurements; however, these designations are in turn dependent on implicit units which indicate the value of a life. Saying "this person is more valuable than this person" or "this action adds/subtracts value" requires some kind of numbering scheme. To do the ranking, for instance--on what basis do you rank things? To say that X is superior to Y requires acknowledging a discrepancy, which is quantification without the assignment of numbers. It's as if you said "X is superior to Y by Z" while arguing that the specific value of Z is irrelevant insofar as there's any discrepancy between the values of X and Y. I'm curious how you could determine the moral discrepancy between two actions without either assigning them values or relying on arbitrary and inconsistent intuitions about how to weight actions. In the first case, you're incorrect about not having to number; in the second, your advocacy fails because it only operates according to your say-so.

I'm also not going to propose a numerical scale by which the value of one's life may be measured. I'm saying that value may be determined on the basis of distinguishing that which is valuable (those actions which are good) from those which are not good.

How does one a) go about doing that, and b) assigning weight without being arbitrary or inconsistent?

So, recognize that this is both implicitly not functionally operable in the with the same calculi as utilitarian moral worth, and makes no claim of objectivity (I couldn't ground that claim, because we're talking here about normative judgements).

If it's not making a claim to objectivity, why would we buy into it, much less use it to make judgments about people and behave according to those judgments? It might be a thought-provoking intellectual exercise, but its practice toys with peoples' lives.

And to the claim that interaction is not sufficient to effectuate moral obligation, I would suggest that because of the fact that we are precarious -that we are subject to harm- we are obliged of that precarity (as a stare of being) to not cause harm to others at minimum.

Moral obligation does not follow clearly from vulnerability.

But to interact with another, is to be made aware of the precarity of another (such that because one whom we meet is human, we know of them that they are subject to harm), and if one is precarious, then our -at least ethical obligation- is to preserve their being as they are. But our moral duty is something distinct from our ethical obligation, such that if we are bound to do what is good, and assisting others is good, then while ethically we are obliged to not cause harm, we are morally obliged to do good by helping others in need.

1. What is the difference between "moral duty" and "ethical obligation"?

2. I reject that:

a. there is a Good;
b. if there was a Good, we would be bound to perform or pursue it;
c. ethics is about obligation or conformity to a normative structure.

You are free to persuade me.

If, however, helping others is not good, then no such duty could be said to exist -though if that is the contention with which you take issue, ours is a different discussion to be had, prior to that present.

Well, I do take issue with that; however, given your familiarity with my nihilistic disposition toward norms, I thought the present discussion would be more instructive for both of us.

Insofar as your goal is to establish a system of judgment in which which the value of peoples' lives varies according to their actions, you need units to track the value. I don't think you can just set up all the premises while denying the conclusion merely because you agree it's unpalatable. I mean, you don't actually seem to reject the idea of a running tally: you explicitly advocate assigning a changing degree of value to peoples' lives, which is all the function of a running tally with none of the functionality.

I'm not advocating a system that makes a claim of universal applicability -or at least would not aspire to make such a claim, in the absence of a universal endorsement. I also am not measuring value as you think I am. Perhaps as we talk this out, what I mean will be made more clear. And I grant you that if my goal were to establish a moral ticker, as you have suggested, then I would surely need some unitary system to track moral value over time. That's not what I'm doing (because it would be absurd).

More in subsequent posts....

I'll wait until you finish, then.
Cody_Franklin
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3/27/2013 12:07:24 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 3/26/2013 4:21:15 PM, YYW wrote:
The judge could be the self or someone else, but it should be the self first -insomuch as the self is the first and best evaluator (and would ideally be the most scrupulous), because only the self can know true intent.

My issue is not the identity of the judge, but the relation of a judge to the defendant (which is to pass judgment and deliver a sentence).

So let's clear something else up here too. You're taking this farther than I've gotten or am willing to go, conceptually at least. I'm talking about MORAL worth, not guilt or innocence (which would come as a result of some judgment being passed).

Control-F. You were the first in this thread to use the word "guilty", and, though this was perhaps a mistake, you also adopted my introduction of the word "judge"; moreover, given your contention that the motivation for your advocacy is accountability for one's actions, it doesn't seem unreasonable to infer that your advocacy functions legalistically, or is at least informed by legal categories, e.g., innocent/guilty. If nothing else, the primary function of the law--which is to render judgment--is encapsulated in your estimation of value according to the judgments rendered toward an individual's actions. Further, I think it's less unreasonable to conclude that you advocate people relating to themselves as judges relate to defendants, since it is ostensibly an individual's responsibility, as I understand, to identify and address possible misbehavior. This makes the court seem an attractive and accurate paradigm for your model of moral contemplation, regulation, and accountability.

To measure worth, in the way I'm describing, is not to say "you are a good person, therefore you merit X" or anything of the matter.

What is it to say, exactly?

I'm also not suggesting that this process operate anything like a court of law. The person whose life is being measured is not a 'defendant' in any way. They are a person, whom is being evaluated. Let's be very clear about distinguishing moral evaluation and legal judgement -they are not the same thing, and I'm only talking about the former. I am not talking about the latter.

Really? Your model demands pronouncements of guilt or innocence according to action--the guilty is the one who does not pursue the good, the innocent the one who does--and further demands the measure of a person according to his track record. It has the features both of temporal and divine judgment.

I think that they're absolutely different--sure. My argument is that your model, and most ethical theories, cannot avoid entangling the two. Maybe it's not your intention or your hope, but it is, I think, an inevitable result, particularly insofar as ethical discourse retains the use of legal methods and concepts (the concept of guilt in ethics is a salient and relevant example).

I think it's more pernicious if you ask people to be their own judges, not for some reason of accountability, but because you're demanding that people relate to themselves as a source of condemnation and punishment.

To say that someone is morally culpable is not to say that they are worthy of condemnation or punishment. It's to say that they are morally culpable -no more. Now, from the basis of moral culpability we can then move to a discussion of condemnation (that is to say, determine their guilt, lack of guilt, or innocence) -but to say that moral culpability is itself a cause to condemnation jumps the gun (metaphorically speaking).

I don't think it's the case that your model will actually make use of legal apparatuses to inflict punishment on people (though there are, incidentally, a pool of historical examples which have stitched together ethics and law--faithful Islamic states are an instructive contemporary example); my contention is that you are following in a tradition which infects ethics with the language and methodology of law--hence the inability to prevent the contamination of ethics with culpability, accountability, guilt and innocence, condemnation, etc.

The same applies to punishment in a society with a functioning rule of law. If we accept someone is guilty (that is, they have done something which is against the law which has been proven beyond reasonable doubt) then and only then may we discuss punishment. The question I am asking is divergent from that. That morality and the law may at times correlate does not mean that morality is the impetus for law (though ideally it would be) or that the law is the arbiter of morality.

Do you suppose that judgment is ever indistinct from punishment?

I think that denies a substantial portion of human experience--not just experience of potential, but of one's life and memory. Your operation here lends its full attention to weighing people as if they're atomistic, capable of isolated decisions on which a verdict can really be rendered.

That would be the case, if mine was a question which was legal in type of form. It's not. It's moral, normative, subjective, messy and in no way quantitatively measurable.

Largely, I'm arguing about what we might call the externalities of your proposal--even if your intentions are X, I suggest that there are certain consequences Y to which you are either not immediately privy or which you are assured (mistakenly, I would argue) will not come to pass.

Don't read into this what you're looking to find (though I admit that may be hard to do). Also, I'm not suggesting that this is perfect or that it ought to necessarily be the way we do things. I woke up, read the newspaper and had a thought -and then posted it on DDO. That's all this is.

Word. My argument on this bit is only with the methodology of evaluating actions, given that neither people nor their actions are isolated or decontextualized, and that a criterion as functionally binary as "pursuit of the good and the right" is insufficient to understand peoples' choices, particularly insofar as its sole concern is rendering judgment about them.

The world is an ambiguous, chaotic place, and I'm worried that you're permitting the contamination of ethics not only with economics, but also with legality--you're concerned so much with obedience to an algorithmic set of demands (as in your assertion that interactions are a source of moral obligation) that I think you turn ethics into a large court replete with guilt and innocence, judgment and punishment. I'm curious where ethics as an individuated practice of happy living fits into this complex of verdicts and condemnations, not just systemically, but in the lives of individuals who're compelled to become their own accusers, prosecutors, judges, and executioners.

If separating law and morality is insufficient here, and I make room that possibility, I'll go into more detail later. But if it is, then let's move forward from this already. You've thought I meant something legally-oriented, and perhaps that's because I didn't draw the distinction clear enough (or used words, the connotation of which caused some unintentionally spurious implications), but I hope now it's less ambiguous at least.

Fair. For my own part, I wasn't suggesting that you're advocating the law as a moral institution--I was arguing the converse, which is that you were letting the stuff of law (e.g., culpability) get mixed up in moral deliberation.
YYW
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3/27/2013 1:42:46 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 3/27/2013 12:07:24 AM, Cody_Franklin wrote:

Fair. For my own part, I wasn't suggesting that you're advocating the law as a moral institution--I was arguing the converse, which is that you were letting the stuff of law (e.g., culpability) get mixed up in moral deliberation.

Calling me out on the word choice was fair. I'll have to come up with a way to work that out. I'll respond tomorrow. For now, it's off to bed. Perhaps when I wake up I'll have another thought and post it on DDO... but perhaps not. Today was a bit of an off day for me. I took my ambien too late, was woken up too early (my d!ck neighbor) and yeah. That was what I was thinking about as the sleep aid was wearing off and I was trying to get the caffeine flowing to start the day. As a side note, though, Rx sleep aids are like the doctrine of double effect: they have good consequences, and bad consequences -and both so at the same time. But I digress... lol

Peace.
Tsar of DDO