Total Posts:6|Showing Posts:1-6
Jump to topic:

I Think I Figured Out Ethics

rileswilder
Posts: 5
Add as Friend
Challenge to a Debate
Send a Message
11/19/2016 6:22:27 AM
Posted: 2 weeks ago
Recently I've been obsessed with the idea of using a particular system as a foundation for ethics. In two parts:

Defaults
Restrictions

If we divide a response to an ethical problem into two extremes, which is the better option? This will be the default, which unless we can justify limiting must be sustained. For example, one of the most basic dichotomies, if we had to choose, should we have perfect freedom or perfect tyranny? For the purposes of this basic explanation, I'll simply say perfect freedom, so that is our default.

Now perfect freedom entails autonomous freedom - you can do whatever you are capable of. You can eat what you can. You can talk to whoever. You can murder. Obviously this would cause problems, because others' autonomous actions can infringe on your freedom, thus we require certain restrictions. Murder causes a greater loss of freedom than what is lost by limiting a person's freedom to murder, so this limitation is justified. Hopefully the mechanism here is clear: when deciding on a moral issue, begin at the default, and if there is a moral discrepancy, attempt to justify a restriction that best preserves the default state (eg, greatest possible freedom).

The importance of this mechanism is that it has the potential to reduce the inherent entropy when there are many different issues on the playing field that carry false equivalencies. One might retort, for example, that if we care about freedom, why are we dismissive of a person's right to murder? But if we permit murder, we are not preserving maximum freedom. A person has a right to their own bodily autonomy, but not to another's, unless it can be justified that the consequence without a restriction does more harm than the restriction does.

Another application is abortion. If our two options are that we permit a parent to abort their child, or we do not permit a parent to abort their child, what is the best possible solution? We could argue back and forth even within ourselves about what is without a doubt a difficult, charged topic. Consider the value of using defaults and restrictions. What is our default? If you're not sure, take the extremes of either and decide which is better. Should a person always be required to use their body involuntarily to preserve the life of another? Or should a person always be able to refuse to use their body to preserve another's life? The implications of both can be complicated, but I can see a clear, considerably less dystopian answer. People should generally retain their rights to their own body. Thus a right to an abortion is a default, not a restriction. Thus a ban or even a limitation on abortion must be justified, not the other way around.

I think this thought process can help clarify ethical questions. Sometimes people can be arguing with the assumption that their position is a default and thus they are requiring the other side to justify a limitation on their position, and an argument could go back and forth like that with no progress. Considering where the default is can reframe a conversation and likely find common ground. Even in the staunchest of advocates on either side of the abortion debate, most people agree that people have bodily rights. Most people agree people should be free, except in cases where it's problematic. If you can start from there, you have a better chance of arriving at an answer that is better for everyone.
Philosophy101
Posts: 125
Add as Friend
Challenge to a Debate
Send a Message
11/19/2016 7:51:08 PM
Posted: 2 weeks ago
At 11/19/2016 6:22:27 AM, rileswilder wrote:
Recently I've been obsessed with the idea of using a particular system as a foundation for ethics. In two parts:

Defaults
Restrictions

If we divide a response to an ethical problem into two extremes, which is the better option? This will be the default, which unless we can justify limiting must be sustained. For example, one of the most basic dichotomies, if we had to choose, should we have perfect freedom or perfect tyranny? For the purposes of this basic explanation, I'll simply say perfect freedom, so that is our default.

Now perfect freedom entails autonomous freedom - you can do whatever you are capable of. You can eat what you can. You can talk to whoever. You can murder. Obviously this would cause problems, because others' autonomous actions can infringe on your freedom, thus we require certain restrictions. Murder causes a greater loss of freedom than what is lost by limiting a person's freedom to murder, so this limitation is justified. Hopefully the mechanism here is clear: when deciding on a moral issue, begin at the default, and if there is a moral discrepancy, attempt to justify a restriction that best preserves the default state (eg, greatest possible freedom).

I disagree that not allowing people to murder increases freedom. I would rather have it that restrictions on freedom or whatever make available the enhanced version of the theory. This may be ad hoc, but a clever argument may clear away the sediment. Most likely it would involve several ground rules as the best possible state; liberty, freedom, happiness etc., then restrictions to keep the most of all deontological primitives in their most extreme state without infringing too much on one or another.

Murder would then infringe on liberty, for example, much more than on freedom and would thus need a restriction as accords to freedom. So a holistic way of looking at this theory may be in order.

The importance of this mechanism is that it has the potential to reduce the inherent entropy when there are many different issues on the playing field that carry false equivalencies. One might retort, for example, that if we care about freedom, why are we dismissive of a person's right to murder? But if we permit murder, we are not preserving maximum freedom. A person has a right to their own bodily autonomy, but not to another's, unless it can be justified that the consequence without a restriction does more harm than the restriction does.

Another application is abortion. If our two options are that we permit a parent to abort their child, or we do not permit a parent to abort their child, what is the best possible solution? We could argue back and forth even within ourselves about what is without a doubt a difficult, charged topic. Consider the value of using defaults and restrictions. What is our default? If you're not sure, take the extremes of either and decide which is better. Should a person always be required to use their body involuntarily to preserve the life of another? Or should a person always be able to refuse to use their body to preserve another's life? The implications of both can be complicated, but I can see a clear, considerably less dystopian answer. People should generally retain their rights to their own body. Thus a right to an abortion is a default, not a restriction. Thus a ban or even a limitation on abortion must be justified, not the other way around.

Abortion is a good example where ethics can come into play; most people have strong biases one way or another, but we can play the game of liberty, freedom and happiness on this one. Liberty is the idea we have certain inalienable rights; so we have the right to our body. Freedom is the notion that we can choose the course of path that best suits our needs. Happiness is individualized so that each person retains the right to be genuinely happy. So the extreme for freedom--we can have an abortion if it suits us. Yet liberty of the aborted fetus comes into play; the fetus should have a right to life. Happiness also regards people who may happier with a new baby or unhappier with the new baby. So according to the rules of this deontology we have to consider the possible happiness or misery of the child, the life of the mother, and the freedom the mother retains as she becomes pregnant. The answer seems to point to adoption as the best strategy and abortion as a last resort.

I think this thought process can help clarify ethical questions. Sometimes people can be arguing with the assumption that their position is a default and thus they are requiring the other side to justify a limitation on their position, and an argument could go back and forth like that with no progress. Considering where the default is can reframe a conversation and likely find common ground. Even in the staunchest of advocates on either side of the abortion debate, most people agree that people have bodily rights. Most people agree people should be free, except in cases where it's problematic. If you can start from there, you have a better chance of arriving at an answer that is better for everyone.

I think this is a fantastic system and if you play around with it you can find a sturdy set of ground rules such that when invoked generate the most comprehensive and reasonable restrictions using the fewest defaults. Moreover this theory allows for answers to be derived from the equation like the abortion case. In this way we can check our own beliefs to see if they coincide with the logic of our default beliefs.
keithprosser
Posts: 1,975
Add as Friend
Challenge to a Debate
Send a Message
11/19/2016 9:06:02 PM
Posted: 2 weeks ago
I get the impression what is proposed looks more like a way of framing the rules for an ethical system rather than defining what ethical system the rules should be for.

I get the idea it is about having a 'general principle' (the 'default') and a list of exceptions ('restrictions'), but it seems to give no guidance as to what the principles and exceptions should be.
Perussi
Posts: 760
Add as Friend
Challenge to a Debate
Send a Message
11/19/2016 11:02:27 PM
Posted: 2 weeks ago
At 11/19/2016 6:22:27 AM, rileswilder wrote:
Recently I've been obsessed with the idea of using a particular system as a foundation for ethics. In two parts:

Defaults
Restrictions

If we divide a response to an ethical problem into two extremes, which is the better option? This will be the default, which unless we can justify limiting must be sustained. For example, one of the most basic dichotomies, if we had to choose, should we have perfect freedom or perfect tyranny? For the purposes of this basic explanation, I'll simply say perfect freedom, so that is our default.

Now perfect freedom entails autonomous freedom - you can do whatever you are capable of. You can eat what you can. You can talk to whoever. You can murder. Obviously this would cause problems, because others' autonomous actions can infringe on your freedom, thus we require certain restrictions. Murder causes a greater loss of freedom than what is lost by limiting a person's freedom to murder, so this limitation is justified. Hopefully the mechanism here is clear: when deciding on a moral issue, begin at the default, and if there is a moral discrepancy, attempt to justify a restriction that best preserves the default state (eg, greatest possible freedom).

The importance of this mechanism is that it has the potential to reduce the inherent entropy when there are many different issues on the playing field that carry false equivalencies. One might retort, for example, that if we care about freedom, why are we dismissive of a person's right to murder? But if we permit murder, we are not preserving maximum freedom. A person has a right to their own bodily autonomy, but not to another's, unless it can be justified that the consequence without a restriction does more harm than the restriction does.

Another application is abortion. If our two options are that we permit a parent to abort their child, or we do not permit a parent to abort their child, what is the best possible solution? We could argue back and forth even within ourselves about what is without a doubt a difficult, charged topic. Consider the value of using defaults and restrictions. What is our default? If you're not sure, take the extremes of either and decide which is better. Should a person always be required to use their body involuntarily to preserve the life of another? Or should a person always be able to refuse to use their body to preserve another's life? The implications of both can be complicated, but I can see a clear, considerably less dystopian answer. People should generally retain their rights to their own body. Thus a right to an abortion is a default, not a restriction. Thus a ban or even a limitation on abortion must be justified, not the other way around.

I think this thought process can help clarify ethical questions. Sometimes people can be arguing with the assumption that their position is a default and thus they are requiring the other side to justify a limitation on their position, and an argument could go back and forth like that with no progress. Considering where the default is can reframe a conversation and likely find common ground. Even in the staunchest of advocates on either side of the abortion debate, most people agree that people have bodily rights. Most people agree people should be free, except in cases where it's problematic. If you can start from there, you have a better chance of arriving at an answer that is better for everyone.

The best for everyone is what we call balance. This is simple. (or easy to make so)
Forum Record: 6/0

Funny Quotes:

"i worship satan and allahu akbar and hispanic muslims i am an illigal immigrant"
-communist_snake-

"What fuking dates are you talking about child. the and ridiculous and stay out of mummies drugs, you're fuked."
-I'll keep this anonymous...-

"fuk off bog, no one even reads your crap, what price is you hooker now?"
-same dude as above....-
rileswilder
Posts: 5
Add as Friend
Challenge to a Debate
Send a Message
11/20/2016 5:41:36 AM
Posted: 2 weeks ago
At 11/19/2016 9:06:02 PM, keithprosser wrote:
I get the impression what is proposed looks more like a way of framing the rules for an ethical system rather than defining what ethical system the rules should be for.

I get the idea it is about having a 'general principle' (the 'default') and a list of exceptions ('restrictions'), but it seems to give no guidance as to what the principles and exceptions should be.

You're right, to some extent. This thought process is not super polished, but, yes, it addresses a mechanism more effectively than the defaults and restrictions themselves. It's more like a computer; you've gotta plug things in for it to work, and see if it's sound. There is a longer portion to this. I described how to decide on what the default is briefly: take an ethical question and render the answer into two extremes, and decide which is better. Making that decision is based on the most basic ethical principle I could think of, harm vs no harm (or life vs death). For the sake of argument when I say harm, I'm primarily referring to feeling harm within a given individual, rather than causing another harm.

One might think no harm is obviously preferable but I've seen it argued, usually by people who want to throw their arms into the air and say you can't logic ethics; it's all relative and subjective. Maybe some cultures prefer harm! Why do some people hurt themselves? But avoiding harm is demonstrably universal amongst all living things. There are some special cases, often where people are avoiding more significant harm by causing what might be perceived as less harm where it's not possible to endure no harm. Anyone who hypothetically prefers harm for the sake of harm would probably not be around to talk about it for long, thus making the idea that harm is preferable irrelevant.

I've oh-so-hilariously referred to this basic principle as an alteration of the Hippocratic Oath: do less harm.

So when you're trying to decide on what the default and restrictions should be, I generally fall back on "do less harm." (In some cases I can follow a certain default extreme to an end that doesn't make logical sense, as in the case of liberty/freedom. If we have perfect tyranny, the underlying assumption if we accept "do less harm" is that liberty causes more harm than control does. But because even the tyranny would be made up of people free at some level to make rules and execute that control, perfect tyranny is not even possible, let alone logical). The same thing when deciding on restrictions. If an applied default to a particular situation - say, yelling FIRE in a crowded theater - is contested, we use the fundamental principle of do less harm to establish a default (in this case, congress shall not infringe on liberty etc etc), and decide if a restriction is necessary. A restriction would be some logical limitation, like "no you can't do that" vs "yes you can do that." I don't really have a better way to guide what the restriction should be right now other than it's a reasonable limitation on a default state; it's easier to talk in terms of specifics.
rileswilder
Posts: 5
Add as Friend
Challenge to a Debate
Send a Message
11/20/2016 6:15:28 AM
Posted: 2 weeks ago
At 11/19/2016 7:51:08 PM, Philosophy101 wrote:

I disagree that not allowing people to murder increases freedom. I would rather have it that restrictions on freedom or whatever make available the enhanced version of the theory. This may be ad hoc, but a clever argument may clear away the sediment. Most likely it would involve several ground rules as the best possible state; liberty, freedom, happiness etc., then restrictions to keep the most of all deontological primitives in their most extreme state without infringing too much on one or another.

Murder would then infringe on liberty, for example, much more than on freedom and would thus need a restriction as accords to freedom. So a holistic way of looking at this theory may be in order.

A holistic perspective is definitely called for, but it can be difficult to sift through a lot of different components and it's easy to lose track of the more important or relevant aspects. Happiness isn't something I really touch because it's very difficult to define and can only be measured indirectly (people say they're happy). I usually have to make certain conclusions about what states are generally preferable and build from there, so depending on what you mean by happiness, it's not even the foundation; liberty and freedom (and more) are, and happiness is the binding agent.

Abortion is a good example where ethics can come into play; most people have strong biases one way or another, but we can play the game of liberty, freedom and happiness on this one. Liberty is the idea we have certain inalienable rights; so we have the right to our body. Freedom is the notion that we can choose the course of path that best suits our needs. Happiness is individualized so that each person retains the right to be genuinely happy. So the extreme for freedom--we can have an abortion if it suits us. Yet liberty of the aborted fetus comes into play; the fetus should have a right to life. Happiness also regards people who may happier with a new baby or unhappier with the new baby. So according to the rules of this deontology we have to consider the possible happiness or misery of the child, the life of the mother, and the freedom the mother retains as she becomes pregnant. The answer seems to point to adoption as the best strategy and abortion as a last resort.

See this is an interesting issue because of the implications equating has. I certainly agree that all living things retain some liberty; that's a default state we can agree on. But I disagree that the loss necessary when a parent exercises their freedom within their own body justifies a restriction on their freedom. The extreme default of people's bodies should be involuntarily used for the benefit of others is so egregious I almost can't conceptualize of a circumstance in which we can justify a restriction on bodily rights. We can also argue that adoption is less preferable because of the high rates of orphans who struggle much more in life. But I have to refine my justification system more because I mostly rely on some level of logic'ing without a streamlined mechanism.

I think this is a fantastic system and if you play around with it you can find a sturdy set of ground rules such that when invoked generate the most comprehensive and reasonable restrictions using the fewest defaults. Moreover this theory allows for answers to be derived from the equation like the abortion case. In this way we can check our own beliefs to see if they coincide with the logic of our default beliefs.

Thanks, your response has helped me refine this idea a little better. I don't have too many people IRL with an interest in listening to philosophy and/or my drivel so I appreciate your thoughtful response.