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Moral Trade

Cody_Franklin
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9/16/2016 7:23:19 PM
Posted: 2 months ago
Sourced from this paper in Ethics [http://www.amirrorclear.net...]. Toby Ord gives the following introduction:

"If people have different resources, tastes, or needs, they may be able to exchange
goods or services such that they each feel they have been made better off. This is
trade. If people have different moral views, then there is another type of trade
that is possible: they can exchange goods or services such that both parties feel
that the world is a better place or that their moral obligations are better satisfied.
We can call this moral trade. I introduce the idea of moral trade and explore several
important theoretical and practical implications.
"

I think there's something to be said for the idea of reconciling our often divergent ethical interests by engaging in cooperative tradeoffs, not only for reasons that jibe with our individual views, but to better the world in ways many of the most common ethical frameworks converge on (one example presented in the article is diverting donations to gun rights/control advocacy groups, or at least some agreed proportion of those donations, to a mutually-agreeable charity like OxFam (which confers not only the benefit of matched endorsement of an agreed Good, but trades for the conserved cost/benefit of donations to their individual preferred charities)).

Alternatively, you can also use conventional prudential reasoning to persuade people to adopt your ethical view (or even enable you to engage in a little apparent hypocrisy), like a vegan who subsidizes a few others' non-carnivorous diets, or even pays somebody else, cap-and-trade style, not to eat meat for a couple meals so they themselves can indulge in a steak while still breaking even on their own ethical account.

I think it's a super interesting paper, with a super interesting/intuitive concept at heart, and with a lot of room for development and cultivation (it's suggested moral trading is something we already engage in fairly regularly, if not to nearly so sophisticated an extent as pure prudential trade), and, if anyone takes the time to read it through, I'd love to hear developed thoughts.
YYW
Posts: 36,303
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9/16/2016 8:25:26 PM
Posted: 2 months ago
At 9/16/2016 7:23:19 PM, Cody_Franklin wrote:
Sourced from this paper in Ethics [http://www.amirrorclear.net...]. Toby Ord gives the following introduction:

"If people have different resources, tastes, or needs, they may be able to exchange
goods or services such that they each feel they have been made better off. This is
trade. If people have different moral views, then there is another type of trade
that is possible: they can exchange goods or services such that both parties feel
that the world is a better place or that their moral obligations are better satisfied.
We can call this moral trade. I introduce the idea of moral trade and explore several
important theoretical and practical implications.
"

I haven't read the paper, but the concept described in the quote above is suggestive of what really is at the crux of any kind of cooperative negotiation that doesn't involve money. The quid pro quo of it, that is, the exchange not only has the potential to benefit both parties in the instance it occurs, but in future instances of cooperative coordination like in the first case of exchange.

I've found in my own life, frequently, I have to deal with people who do not share my values. There are many cases of low stakes interchanges where I can disregard them if I chose--meaning that I care more about my own values than I care about the exchange, where exchange would require compromise. For example, I have ended friendships over irreconcilable value differences (e.g. whether it is morally acceptable to lie to others, the dishonest person and I parted ways forever; or, alternatively, whether people believed that it was morally cognizable to discriminate against gay people because of their religious views, the bigot and I parted ways forever).

At the same time, there are times when I'm willing to compromise. Though I've never had occasion to do it, I'd lie to protect innocent lives (though I think that's what it would take), just like I'd work with a homophobe if there was enough money for me involved. But the threshold where I'm willing to compromise varies in form and degree. As in the prior scenarios discussed, human life is what it would take to get me to be dishonest; whereas a sufficient amount of money is all it would take to get me to work with a homophobe. My standards differ, and, I guess, everyone has a price even if that price isn't money.

It should be ok, I think, that people have a "price" (again, whether the price is money or something else). We should not hold normative ideas regarding, for example, morality, as absolutes because there is always an exception to every rule and the simple fact that people haven't encountered a factual scenario that would cause them to compromise their ideas doesn't mean that they won't or that they shouldn't have in the past. I'd even go so far as to say that the very "having" of a "price" (where "price" is used in the same sense as afore, i.e. representative of both literal money or something else of tangible or intangible value) is illustrative of a person's being reasonable... their willing to see things from another person's perspective, and to make a "fair" call in a given case rather than making "the call that is consistent with their worldview" where the two are mutually exclusive.

I think there's something to be said for the idea of reconciling our often divergent ethical interests by engaging in cooperative tradeoffs, not only for reasons that jibe with our individual views, but to better the world in ways many of the most common ethical frameworks converge on (one example presented in the article is diverting donations to gun rights/control advocacy groups, or at least some agreed proportion of those donations, to a mutually-agreeable charity like OxFam (which confers not only the benefit of matched endorsement of an agreed Good, but trades for the conserved cost/benefit of donations to their individual preferred charities)).

I agree, and I think if people approached their lives and times or their jobs, marriages, relationships, etc. with this attitude before a self centered attitude, they would in all probability lead happier lives. That is not to say that everyone should always compromise in every case, so much as an acknowledgement that someone else's ideas may have merit as well as our own. Again, though, this is not to say that people even should compromise on "things that really matter" (whatever those are... the language usage there is intentionally vague, to be broad enough as to be inclusive of all those things that should not be compromised on).

Alternatively, you can also use conventional prudential reasoning to persuade people to adopt your ethical view (or even enable you to engage in a little apparent hypocrisy), like a vegan who subsidizes a few others' non-carnivorous diets, or even pays somebody else, cap-and-trade style, not to eat meat for a couple meals so they themselves can indulge in a steak while still breaking even on their own ethical account.

I agree that conventional methods of persuasion can be used to change people's minds and in some cases that works; but a "distributive negotiation" (i.e. you get some of what you want and I get some of what I want) is often more likely to produce more and better results than mere appeals to reason.

I say this being entirely cognizant of the irony of saying it here, in the philosophy forum, btw. Here, we ostensibly are all reasonable people who hold reasonable positions reasonably..... right? Except... that's not always how it plays out in the world (or even here). The reality, I have found throughout the course of my life, is that most people do not have rational, or even good reasons for believing whatever it is that they believe. Rather, it is vastly more frequently the case that people have terrible reasons for their beliefs and just reason backward from their feelings or nature to justify whatever it is that they want to believe.

Of course, not all people are like this, but I'd say a substantial percentage of them are, with the very significant implication pertinent to the idea illustrated above in the paper. That implication is, simply, that moral trade is uniquely better situated to actually get people to move from their positions to other positions--though this does at the same time require some kind of hard and concrete thing, activity, service, or whatever "to be" exchanged that "sets the stage" for the moral exchange. What I mean by that is that simply saying "I'll give in on abortion if you serve the gays pizza" just doesn't make a lot of sense. The discussion would have to be a bit more meaningful than that.
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dylancatlow
Posts: 12,245
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9/16/2016 10:16:22 PM
Posted: 2 months ago
If moral trading became a widespread practice I could see people engaging in behavior they know would offend some special interest group just to extort a little "moral currency" out of them, and justify it to themselves on the basis of what they plan to do with it. There might be some self-correcting mechanism in there somewhere. But it's a very interesting idea. I mean, there are definitely scenarios in which "moral trade" is a straightforwardly sensible thing to do.
Smithereens
Posts: 5,512
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9/17/2016 9:48:30 AM
Posted: 2 months ago
"it is worth pointing out that moral trade is already encompassed within the standard definition of trade in economics."

I see his theory as being one of those like Freud, who rises up and subsequently fades to oblivion. The reason being that his ideas appear to be relevant to this day and age, but doesn't appear to be applicable across all cultures and times, much like Freud.

For example, it's socially acceptable in our society to compromise on your conscience for whatever reason. 1000 years ago that would have been considered a grave sin and you would need to confess and repent from it. In the future it might just be the same. So I think he speaks more to the people around him than to human nature itself.

He also appears to have a bit of a mathematically and formal way of thinking about human moral decisions. Yes, a trade would be easy if you knew what you want, but that's not going to be observed in reality. Imo humans are very fluid when it comes to right or wrong, highly adaptive to change and terribly unpredictable or inconsistent; as opposed to algorithmic and logical.

I didn't read the entire article, it goes longer than I expected, but it's an interesting idea.
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R0b1Billion
Posts: 3,733
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9/18/2016 2:33:41 PM
Posted: 2 months ago
I am actually pretty repulsed to this idea. Morality, to me, is a set of principles which are beyond my comprehension (at least partially). My principles are bigger than I am, because there are many times where what I feel I want to do can be intellectually justified, yet my principles preclude me from action anyway. To subsidize your principles, trade them off to borrow utility, and treat them as elements of economics or a physical equation is, to me, a very dishonest practice.

I'm pretty sure beating on infants is morally wrong. Maybe next time I want to choke out somebody's baby I can donate some money to an organization that helps them. Smh. And of course, as it usually goes, somebody who has more economic capital to work with is going to be able to buy, to justify, more evil because they have intellectual mechanisms in place to cancel out the moral calculus.
Beliefs in a nutshell:
- The Ends never justify the Means.
- Objectivity is secondary to subjectivity.
- The War on Drugs is the worst policy in the U.S.
- Most people worship technology as a religion.
- Computers will never become sentient.
dylancatlow
Posts: 12,245
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9/18/2016 7:42:47 PM
Posted: 2 months ago
At 9/18/2016 2:33:41 PM, R0b1Billion wrote:
I am actually pretty repulsed to this idea. Morality, to me, is a set of principles which are beyond my comprehension (at least partially). My principles are bigger than I am, because there are many times where what I feel I want to do can be intellectually justified, yet my principles preclude me from action anyway. To subsidize your principles, trade them off to borrow utility, and treat them as elements of economics or a physical equation is, to me, a very dishonest practice.

I'm pretty sure beating on infants is morally wrong. Maybe next time I want to choke out somebody's baby I can donate some money to an organization that helps them. Smh. And of course, as it usually goes, somebody who has more economic capital to work with is going to be able to buy, to justify, more evil because they have intellectual mechanisms in place to cancel out the moral calculus.

To take part in moral trade you are not necessarily asked to act against your moral principles. If you think that compromising on your moral principles is totally immoral period, then you have nothing to gain by trading away even one of your ideals for anything in return, so such a transaction wouldn't take place. But let's say someone wants you to do something that you regard as morally neutral in exchange for something you regard as morally positive. In that case, what is immoral about making that trade?
R0b1Billion
Posts: 3,733
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9/19/2016 4:59:44 PM
Posted: 2 months ago
At 9/18/2016 7:42:47 PM, dylancatlow wrote:
At 9/18/2016 2:33:41 PM, R0b1Billion wrote:
I am actually pretty repulsed to this idea. Morality, to me, is a set of principles which are beyond my comprehension (at least partially). My principles are bigger than I am, because there are many times where what I feel I want to do can be intellectually justified, yet my principles preclude me from action anyway. To subsidize your principles, trade them off to borrow utility, and treat them as elements of economics or a physical equation is, to me, a very dishonest practice.

I'm pretty sure beating on infants is morally wrong. Maybe next time I want to choke out somebody's baby I can donate some money to an organization that helps them. Smh. And of course, as it usually goes, somebody who has more economic capital to work with is going to be able to buy, to justify, more evil because they have intellectual mechanisms in place to cancel out the moral calculus.

To take part in moral trade you are not necessarily asked to act against your moral principles. If you think that compromising on your moral principles is totally immoral period, then you have nothing to gain by trading away even one of your ideals for anything in return, so such a transaction wouldn't take place. But let's say someone wants you to do something that you regard as morally neutral in exchange for something you regard as morally positive. In that case, what is immoral about making that trade?

Well his example about veganism doesn't seem to qualify for that, but anyway I don't believe in moral positives. That is utilitarian thinking. To me, Morality (or more specifically, immorality) is a bias inherent to any intelligent being. When this bias presents itself, we can avoid it or succumb to it. Avoiding it is good, but it isn't morally positive because you cant use it to balance out immorality. For example, we don't allow a philanthropist to occassionally rape a woman because he has netted positive morally. Unfortunately our consequentialist friends do arrive at this conclusion, and I object vehemently when I encounter it.
Beliefs in a nutshell:
- The Ends never justify the Means.
- Objectivity is secondary to subjectivity.
- The War on Drugs is the worst policy in the U.S.
- Most people worship technology as a religion.
- Computers will never become sentient.
R0b1Billion
Posts: 3,733
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11/6/2016 12:10:16 PM
Posted: 1 month ago
At 9/19/2016 8:14:33 PM, Cody_Franklin wrote:
Will try to have some commentary soon. Been busy as dick with worth the past minute.

*cough*
Beliefs in a nutshell:
- The Ends never justify the Means.
- Objectivity is secondary to subjectivity.
- The War on Drugs is the worst policy in the U.S.
- Most people worship technology as a religion.
- Computers will never become sentient.
R0b1Billion
Posts: 3,733
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11/9/2016 1:44:12 AM
Posted: 4 weeks ago
At 9/19/2016 8:14:33 PM, Cody_Franklin wrote:
Will try to have some commentary soon. Been busy as dick with worth the past minute.

*fart*
Beliefs in a nutshell:
- The Ends never justify the Means.
- Objectivity is secondary to subjectivity.
- The War on Drugs is the worst policy in the U.S.
- Most people worship technology as a religion.
- Computers will never become sentient.
Devilry
Posts: 464
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11/19/2016 1:06:40 AM
Posted: 2 weeks ago
This idea is old as the hills. The great pigs for women trade that went down between Islam and Christianity millennia ago.
: : : At 11/15/2016 6:22:17 PM, Greyparrot wrote:
: That's not racism. Thats economics.
PureX
Posts: 1,528
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11/21/2016 3:22:37 PM
Posted: 2 weeks ago
The whole point of ethical thought/investigation is to establish ideological imperatives that we can use to govern our behavior so as to achieve more positive results. It would seems to me that if we begin trading on those imperatives it would only serve to counteract that goal, and render the ethical endeavor self-defeating.