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Social Contract Theory leads to....

MTGandP
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9/13/2010 6:42:42 PM
Posted: 6 years ago
This is one of those times when it would be nice to have a Philosophy forum. Anyway. . . .

Consider taking interpersonal social contract theory to its extreme. Everyone wants to maximize his own happiness. So the smartest social contract to sign is one with a society in which every person agrees to try to maximize everyone else's happiness. That way, each individual person will on average have the highest happiness possible -- that is, a person's expected happiness is maximized. A rational, self-interested person who is following social contract theory would certainly sign such a contract. If everyone signs it, the result is a world in which everyone's goal is to maximize overall happiness. So the logical result of social contract theory is Utilitarianism.

Thoughts? Criticisms?
LaissezFaire
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9/13/2010 6:45:38 PM
Posted: 6 years ago
At 9/13/2010 6:42:42 PM, MTGandP wrote:
This is one of those times when it would be nice to have a Philosophy forum. Anyway. . . .

Consider taking interpersonal social contract theory to its extreme. Everyone wants to maximize his own happiness. So the smartest social contract to sign is one with a society in which every person agrees to try to maximize everyone else's happiness. That way, each individual person will on average have the highest happiness possible -- that is, a person's expected happiness is maximized. A rational, self-interested person who is following social contract theory would certainly sign such a contract. If everyone signs it, the result is a world in which everyone's goal is to maximize overall happiness. So the logical result of social contract theory is Utilitarianism.

Thoughts? Criticisms?

If there were a group of people where every person wanted to maximize the happiness of every other person, a social contract, or any government at all for that matter, would be unnecessary. And if that isn't the case (it isn't), then the social contract will not work out that way.
Should we subsidize education?
http://www.debate.org...

http://mises.org...

http://lewrockwell.com...

http://antiwar.com...

: At 6/22/2011 6:57:23 PM, el-badgero wrote:
: i didn't like [Obama]. he was the only black dude in moneygall yet he claimed to be home. obvious liar is obvious liar. i bet him and bin laden are bumfvcking right now.
LaissezFaire
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9/13/2010 6:46:23 PM
Posted: 6 years ago
At 9/13/2010 6:45:38 PM, LaissezFaire wrote:
At 9/13/2010 6:42:42 PM, MTGandP wrote:
This is one of those times when it would be nice to have a Philosophy forum. Anyway. . . .

Consider taking interpersonal social contract theory to its extreme. Everyone wants to maximize his own happiness. So the smartest social contract to sign is one with a society in which every person agrees to try to maximize everyone else's happiness. That way, each individual person will on average have the highest happiness possible -- that is, a person's expected happiness is maximized. A rational, self-interested person who is following social contract theory would certainly sign such a contract. If everyone signs it, the result is a world in which everyone's goal is to maximize overall happiness. So the logical result of social contract theory is Utilitarianism.

Thoughts? Criticisms?

If there were a group of people where every person wanted to maximize the happiness of every other person, a social contract, or any government at all for that matter, would be unnecessary. And if that isn't the case (it isn't), then the social contract will not work out that way.

That is, government would be unnecessary for their purposes. It's unnecessary anyway.
Should we subsidize education?
http://www.debate.org...

http://mises.org...

http://lewrockwell.com...

http://antiwar.com...

: At 6/22/2011 6:57:23 PM, el-badgero wrote:
: i didn't like [Obama]. he was the only black dude in moneygall yet he claimed to be home. obvious liar is obvious liar. i bet him and bin laden are bumfvcking right now.
Sam_Lowry
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9/13/2010 6:51:46 PM
Posted: 6 years ago
At 9/13/2010 6:42:42 PM, MTGandP wrote:
This is one of those times when it would be nice to have a Philosophy forum. Anyway. . . .

Consider taking interpersonal social contract theory to its extreme. Everyone wants to maximize his own happiness. So the smartest social contract to sign is one with a society in which every person agrees to try to maximize everyone else's happiness. That way, each individual person will on average have the highest happiness possible -- that is, a person's expected happiness is maximized. A rational, self-interested person who is following social contract theory would certainly sign such a contract. If everyone signs it, the result is a world in which everyone goal is to maximize overall happiness. So the logical result of social contract theory is Utilitarianism.

Thoughts? Criticisms?

The false premise here is that the smartest thing to do is to sign a contract in which every person tries to increase the happiness of everyone else. There is no guarantee that people who have signed the contract will actually abide by it, or even that if they did abide by it that it would result in an increase in individual happiness more than if one had focused on their own happiness only.
J.Kenyon
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9/13/2010 7:15:46 PM
Posted: 6 years ago
At 9/13/2010 6:42:42 PM, MTGandP wrote:
This is one of those times when it would be nice to have a Philosophy forum. Anyway. . . .

Consider taking interpersonal social contract theory to its extreme. Everyone wants to maximize his own happiness. So the smartest social contract to sign is one with a society in which every person agrees to try to maximize everyone else's happiness. That way, each individual person will on average have the highest happiness possible -- that is, a person's expected happiness is maximized. A rational, self-interested person who is following social contract theory would certainly sign such a contract. If everyone signs it, the result is a world in which everyone's goal is to maximize overall happiness. So the logical result of social contract theory is Utilitarianism.

Thoughts? Criticisms?

"Each of us is intimately familiar with our own individual wants and needs. Moreover, each of us is uniquely placed to pursue those wants and needs effectively. At the same time, we know the desires and needs of others only imperfectly, and we are not well situated to pursue them. Therefore, it is reasonable to believe that if we set out to be 'our brother's keeper,' we would often bungle the job and end up doing more mischief than good."

- James Rachel, "Ethical Egoism." In Reason & Responsibility: Readings in Some Basic Problems of Philosophy. California. Thomson Wadsworth. 2008. p. 534
Reasoning
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9/13/2010 7:21:38 PM
Posted: 6 years ago
At 9/13/2010 6:42:42 PM, MTGandP wrote:
Everyone wants to maximize his own happiness. So the smartest social contract to sign is one with a society in which every person agrees to try to maximize everyone else's happiness.

Non sequitur
"What we really ought to ask the liberal, before we even begin addressing his agenda, is this: In what kind of society would he be a conservative?" - Joseph Sobran
MTGandP
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9/13/2010 7:26:03 PM
Posted: 6 years ago
At 9/13/2010 6:45:38 PM, LaissezFaire wrote:
If there were a group of people where every person wanted to maximize the happiness of every other person, a social contract, or any government at all for that matter, would be unnecessary. And if that isn't the case (it isn't), then the social contract will not work out that way.

That's not what I'm saying. What I'm saying is that if everyone wants to maximize their own happiness (which I think it's safe to assume they do), they would all be willing to sign a Utilitarian contract because they'd have a greater expected happiness with the contract in place than without.

At 9/13/2010 6:51:46 PM, Sam_Lowry wrote:
The false premise here is that the smartest thing to do is to sign a contract in which every person tries to increase the happiness of everyone else. There is no guarantee that people who have signed the contract will actually abide by it...
Isn't that a criticism of social contract theory in general?

At 9/13/2010 6:51:46 PM, Sam_Lowry wrote:
...or even that if they did abide by it that it would result in an increase in individual happiness more than if one had focused on their own happiness only.

If people determine that the best way to maximize overall happiness is for everyone to focus on their own personal happiness, then they will do that. Everyone abiding by the contract couldn't possibly reduce happiness, and it would most likely increase it.
LaissezFaire
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9/13/2010 7:28:54 PM
Posted: 6 years ago
At 9/13/2010 7:26:03 PM, MTGandP wrote:
At 9/13/2010 6:45:38 PM, LaissezFaire wrote:
If there were a group of people where every person wanted to maximize the happiness of every other person, a social contract, or any government at all for that matter, would be unnecessary. And if that isn't the case (it isn't), then the social contract will not work out that way.

That's not what I'm saying. What I'm saying is that if everyone wants to maximize their own happiness (which I think it's safe to assume they do), they would all be willing to sign a Utilitarian contract because they'd have a greater expected happiness with the contract in place than without.

Still wrong. If everyone wanted to maximize their own happiness, they would act on their own to do so. Each individual is a better judge of what's best for them than the rest of society. Why would anyone be willing to give up their ability to pursue their own happiness so that the rest of society can do it for them?
Should we subsidize education?
http://www.debate.org...

http://mises.org...

http://lewrockwell.com...

http://antiwar.com...

: At 6/22/2011 6:57:23 PM, el-badgero wrote:
: i didn't like [Obama]. he was the only black dude in moneygall yet he claimed to be home. obvious liar is obvious liar. i bet him and bin laden are bumfvcking right now.
LaissezFaire
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9/13/2010 7:30:47 PM
Posted: 6 years ago
Anyway, there's never been any actual social contract and there never will be, much less a perfectly utilitarian society.
Should we subsidize education?
http://www.debate.org...

http://mises.org...

http://lewrockwell.com...

http://antiwar.com...

: At 6/22/2011 6:57:23 PM, el-badgero wrote:
: i didn't like [Obama]. he was the only black dude in moneygall yet he claimed to be home. obvious liar is obvious liar. i bet him and bin laden are bumfvcking right now.
LaissezFaire
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9/13/2010 7:31:34 PM
Posted: 6 years ago
At 9/13/2010 7:28:54 PM, LaissezFaire wrote:
At 9/13/2010 7:26:03 PM, MTGandP wrote:
At 9/13/2010 6:45:38 PM, LaissezFaire wrote:
If there were a group of people where every person wanted to maximize the happiness of every other person, a social contract, or any government at all for that matter, would be unnecessary. And if that isn't the case (it isn't), then the social contract will not work out that way.

That's not what I'm saying. What I'm saying is that if everyone wants to maximize their own happiness (which I think it's safe to assume they do), they would all be willing to sign a Utilitarian contract because they'd have a greater expected happiness with the contract in place than without.

Still wrong. If everyone wanted to maximize their own happiness, they would act on their own to do so. Each individual is a better judge of what's best for them than the rest of society. Why would anyone be willing to give up some of their ability to pursue their own happiness so that the rest of society can do it for them?
Should we subsidize education?
http://www.debate.org...

http://mises.org...

http://lewrockwell.com...

http://antiwar.com...

: At 6/22/2011 6:57:23 PM, el-badgero wrote:
: i didn't like [Obama]. he was the only black dude in moneygall yet he claimed to be home. obvious liar is obvious liar. i bet him and bin laden are bumfvcking right now.
MTGandP
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9/13/2010 7:36:36 PM
Posted: 6 years ago
At 9/13/2010 7:28:54 PM, LaissezFaire wrote:
At 9/13/2010 7:26:03 PM, MTGandP wrote:
That's not what I'm saying. What I'm saying is that if everyone wants to maximize their own happiness (which I think it's safe to assume they do), they would all be willing to sign a Utilitarian contract because they'd have a greater expected happiness with the contract in place than without.

Still wrong. If everyone wanted to maximize their own happiness, they would act on their own to do so. Each individual is a better judge of what's best for them than the rest of society. Why would anyone be willing to give up their ability to pursue their own happiness so that the rest of society can do it for them?

Because they would have a greater expected happiness.

You're still somewhat misunderstanding what I'm saying. The goal of Utilitarianism is to maximize overall happiness. If maximum happiness is achieved when everyone is completely selfless, then that's what Utilitarianism supports. If it's achieved when everyone is completely selfish, then that's what Utilitarianism supports. Considering how human happiness works, a perfectly Utilitarian society would consist mostly of people working towards their own personal happiness (for reasons explained by James Rachels as quoted by J.Kenyon).

If everyone agrees to work to maximize overall happiness, then each individual has a greater expected happiness. Therefore, the smart thing to do to maximize your own happiness is to join such an agreement. The worst that can be reasonably expected to happen is that you're exactly as happy as if you were the only person working towards your own happiness.
J.Kenyon
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9/13/2010 7:37:33 PM
Posted: 6 years ago
At 9/13/2010 6:42:42 PM, MTGandP wrote:
Thoughts? Criticisms?

I think your idea is ridiculous, though I have no objection to you or anyone else choosing to sign such a contract for their own governance within the context of an external, ultraminimal state.

Also, I'm interested in how you would respond to Rachel's criticism that I brought up earlier.
LaissezFaire
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9/13/2010 7:38:38 PM
Posted: 6 years ago
At 9/13/2010 7:36:36 PM, MTGandP wrote:
At 9/13/2010 7:28:54 PM, LaissezFaire wrote:
At 9/13/2010 7:26:03 PM, MTGandP wrote:
That's not what I'm saying. What I'm saying is that if everyone wants to maximize their own happiness (which I think it's safe to assume they do), they would all be willing to sign a Utilitarian contract because they'd have a greater expected happiness with the contract in place than without.

Still wrong. If everyone wanted to maximize their own happiness, they would act on their own to do so. Each individual is a better judge of what's best for them than the rest of society. Why would anyone be willing to give up their ability to pursue their own happiness so that the rest of society can do it for them?

Because they would have a greater expected happiness.

You're still somewhat misunderstanding what I'm saying. The goal of Utilitarianism is to maximize overall happiness. If maximum happiness is achieved when everyone is completely selfless, then that's what Utilitarianism supports. If it's achieved when everyone is completely selfish, then that's what Utilitarianism supports. Considering how human happiness works, a perfectly Utilitarian society would consist mostly of people working towards their own personal happiness (for reasons explained by James Rachels as quoted by J.Kenyon).

If everyone agrees to work to maximize overall happiness, then each individual has a greater expected happiness. Therefore, the smart thing to do to maximize your own happiness is to join such an agreement. The worst that can be reasonably expected to happen is that you're exactly as happy as if you were the only person working towards your own happiness.

And if different people in the society have different ideas of how to "maximize happiness"? Surely this would occur, since it isn't actually possible to measure the "happiness" of society. What if some utilitarians think that a large government maximizes happiness, and others think that no government maximizes happiness?
Should we subsidize education?
http://www.debate.org...

http://mises.org...

http://lewrockwell.com...

http://antiwar.com...

: At 6/22/2011 6:57:23 PM, el-badgero wrote:
: i didn't like [Obama]. he was the only black dude in moneygall yet he claimed to be home. obvious liar is obvious liar. i bet him and bin laden are bumfvcking right now.
MTGandP
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9/13/2010 7:39:53 PM
Posted: 6 years ago
LaissezFaire: I didn't see your edit before I published my post. I think I can explain better given your new addition of "some of". You use some amount of your abilities, let's say 50%, working towards the happiness of others. The reason you do this is because you can create more happiness in others with that 50% than you would be able to create in yourself. Likewise, everyone else is doing the same thing, and many of those people are using their abilities to work towards your happiness. Therefore, you can expect that your happiness will be greater than if you used your other 50% on yourself but also gave up the help of others.

Of course, you aren't guaranteed an increase in happiness. Some people will be more happy and others will be less happy. But for each person, expected happiness is greater.
J.Kenyon
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9/13/2010 7:40:02 PM
Posted: 6 years ago
At 9/13/2010 7:36:36 PM, MTGandP wrote:

If everyone agrees to work to maximize overall happiness, then each individual has a greater expected happiness. Therefore, the smart thing to do to maximize your own happiness is to join such an agreement. The worst that can be reasonably expected to happen is that you're exactly as happy as if you were the only person working towards your own happiness.

False. Within a utilitarian framework, some individuals could expect to have greater happiness (you might even argue a majority would, though I would dispute this). However, it remains true that many people wouldn't, thus it would not be in their self interest to sign such a contract.
LaissezFaire
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9/13/2010 7:44:54 PM
Posted: 6 years ago
At 9/13/2010 7:39:53 PM, MTGandP wrote:
LaissezFaire: I didn't see your edit before I published my post. I think I can explain better given your new addition of "some of". You use some amount of your abilities, let's say 50%, working towards the happiness of others. The reason you do this is because you can create more happiness in others with that 50% than you would be able to create in yourself. Likewise, everyone else is doing the same thing, and many of those people are using their abilities to work towards your happiness. Therefore, you can expect that your happiness will be greater than if you used your other 50% on yourself but also gave up the help of others.

Of course, you aren't guaranteed an increase in happiness. Some people will be more happy and others will be less happy. But for each person, expected happiness is greater.

Why would 50% of my abilities cause a greater increase in happiness if I am working toward the happiness of others than if I am focusing on my own happiness? I couldn't possibly be a better judge of everyone else's happiness than I am of my own.

As for each person's expected happiness being greater, why is that so? If we're talking about money (which we are, if we're talking about government), then it certainly wouldn't be in the interests of a high income person to sign away 50% of his abilities in exchange for part of 50% of everyone else's abilities, if everyone else earns much less than him on average.
Should we subsidize education?
http://www.debate.org...

http://mises.org...

http://lewrockwell.com...

http://antiwar.com...

: At 6/22/2011 6:57:23 PM, el-badgero wrote:
: i didn't like [Obama]. he was the only black dude in moneygall yet he claimed to be home. obvious liar is obvious liar. i bet him and bin laden are bumfvcking right now.
MTGandP
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9/13/2010 7:51:20 PM
Posted: 6 years ago
At 9/13/2010 7:37:33 PM, J.Kenyon wrote:
Also, I'm interested in how you would respond to Rachel's criticism that I brought up earlier.
As you pointed out, it's not relevant to the thread. Start a new thread or send me a PM or something. I'd love to respond, but not here.

False. Within a utilitarian framework, some individuals could expect to have greater happiness (you might even argue a majority would, though I would dispute this). However, it remains true that many people wouldn't, thus it would not be in their self interest to sign such a contract.
That's why I said expected happiness. I am presuming that it's impossible to know beforehand whether your happiness would be increased or decreased.

At 9/13/2010 7:38:38 PM, LaissezFaire wrote:
And if different people in the society have different ideas of how to "maximize happiness"? Surely this would occur, since it isn't actually possible to measure the "happiness" of society. What if some utilitarians think that a large government maximizes happiness, and others think that no government maximizes happiness?

This would be a major problem, you're right. But I'd argue that if everyone is trying to maximize happiness this will result in greater happiness than if only a few people (or no one) are interested in overall happiness. Besides, if everyone is perfectly rational, we should come to agreement. (Of course, people are not perfectly rational, but we're speaking hypothetically here.)

At 9/13/2010 7:44:54 PM, LaissezFaire wrote:
Why would 50% of my abilities cause a greater increase in happiness if I am working toward the happiness of others than if I am focusing on my own happiness? I couldn't possibly be a better judge of everyone else's happiness than I am of my own.
That's just definitional. Maybe the number is 50% of your abilities, maybe it's 10%, maybe 0%. You can't be a perfect judge of the happiness of others, but you can still get a pretty good reading.

As for each person's expected happiness being greater, why is that so? If we're talking about money (which we are, if we're talking about government), then it certainly wouldn't be in the interests of a high income person to sign away 50% of his abilities in exchange for part of 50% of everyone else's abilities, if everyone else earns much less than him on average.

Think of it more in terms of specialization. You might be really good at making shoes while your neighbor is really good at making chairs, so it makes sense for you to trade, and then each person gets a greater benefit than if you made all your own chairs and he made all his own shoes.

Similarly, suppose you are really good at having interesting conversations (one form of happiness), while your neighbor is really good at making people laugh (another form of happiness). Your neighbor can do a better job of making you laugh than you can, and you can give your neighbor more interesting things to think about than she can come up with on her own. (I don't know if this example really makes sense, I just made it up.)

I am going to bed now. I'll respond to comments in the morning.
LaissezFaire
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9/13/2010 7:58:08 PM
Posted: 6 years ago
At 9/13/2010 7:51:20 PM, MTGandP wrote:
At 9/13/2010 7:38:38 PM, LaissezFaire wrote:
And if different people in the society have different ideas of how to "maximize happiness"? Surely this would occur, since it isn't actually possible to measure the "happiness" of society. What if some utilitarians think that a large government maximizes happiness, and others think that no government maximizes happiness?

This would be a major problem, you're right. But I'd argue that if everyone is trying to maximize happiness this will result in greater happiness than if only a few people (or no one) are interested in overall happiness. Besides, if everyone is perfectly rational, we should come to agreement. (Of course, people are not perfectly rational, but we're speaking hypothetically here.)
No, you were arguing that it would be rational for an individual wanting to maximize their own happiness to sign this contract. And even if everyone was perfectly rational, since value and happiness are completely subjective, no amount of rational objective thought could reach a consensus on this issue.

At 9/13/2010 7:51:20 PM, MTGandP wrote:
At 9/13/2010 7:44:54 PM, LaissezFaire wrote:
Why would 50% of my abilities cause a greater increase in happiness if I am working toward the happiness of others than if I am focusing on my own happiness? I couldn't possibly be a better judge of everyone else's happiness than I am of my own.
That's just definitional. Maybe the number is 50% of your abilities, maybe it's 10%, maybe 0%. You can't be a perfect judge of the happiness of others, but you can still get a pretty good reading.
It doesn't matter what the % is. My point is valid with any %. No one is a better judge of other people's happiness than they are of their own happiness.

As for each person's expected happiness being greater, why is that so? If we're talking about money (which we are, if we're talking about government), then it certainly wouldn't be in the interests of a high income person to sign away 50% of his abilities in exchange for part of 50% of everyone else's abilities, if everyone else earns much less than him on average.

Think of it more in terms of specialization. You might be really good at making shoes while your neighbor is really good at making chairs, so it makes sense for you to trade, and then each person gets a greater benefit than if you made all your own chairs and he made all his own shoes.

Similarly, suppose you are really good at having interesting conversations (one form of happiness), while your neighbor is really good at making people laugh (another form of happiness). Your neighbor can do a better job of making you laugh than you can, and you can give your neighbor more interesting things to think about than she can come up with on her own. (I don't know if this example really makes sense, I just made it up.)
Specialization doesn't require a social contract, it's just what naturally happens with everyone trying to maximize their own happiness.
Should we subsidize education?
http://www.debate.org...

http://mises.org...

http://lewrockwell.com...

http://antiwar.com...

: At 6/22/2011 6:57:23 PM, el-badgero wrote:
: i didn't like [Obama]. he was the only black dude in moneygall yet he claimed to be home. obvious liar is obvious liar. i bet him and bin laden are bumfvcking right now.
J.Kenyon
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9/13/2010 8:03:32 PM
Posted: 6 years ago
At 9/13/2010 7:51:20 PM, MTGandP wrote:
At 9/13/2010 7:37:33 PM, J.Kenyon wrote:
Also, I'm interested in how you would respond to Rachel's criticism that I brought up earlier.
As you pointed out, it's not relevant to the thread. Start a new thread or send me a PM or something. I'd love to respond, but not here.

What? How is it not relevant to this? That cuts directly to the core of your contention that individuals ought to seek to maximize others' happiness so as to indirectly increase their own.

False. Within a utilitarian framework, some individuals could expect to have greater happiness (you might even argue a majority would, though I would dispute this). However, it remains true that many people wouldn't, thus it would not be in their self interest to sign such a contract.
That's why I said expected happiness. I am presuming that it's impossible to know beforehand whether your happiness would be increased or decreased.

You can come up with a pretty good estimate. I'm planning on going to medical school, so I can reasonably expect to be better off in a libertarian society than Joe Schmoe who flips burgers at McDonald's. Ergo, I would not agree to your contract.
J.Kenyon
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9/13/2010 8:35:44 PM
Posted: 6 years ago
Also, you'd need some pretty harsh (fascist?) punishments for slackers, otherwise your system would be killed by the free rider problem. Most people probably wouldn't consent to that sort of punishment when signing a voluntary contract.
Sam_Lowry
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9/13/2010 10:20:24 PM
Posted: 6 years ago
At 9/13/2010 7:26:03 PM, MTGandP wrote:
That's not what I'm saying. What I'm saying is that if everyone wants to maximize their own happiness (which I think it's safe to assume they do), they would all be willing to sign a Utilitarian contract because they'd have a greater expected happiness with the contract in place than without.

They would be willing to sign, but they wouldn't be willing to obey.

Isn't that a criticism of social contract theory in general?

No, just ones that are inherently ridiculous. There is good reason to believe that if everyone agrees not to murder each other, and enforced sanctions are placed on murderers, that you will be less likely to be murdered in such a society. There is absolutely no reason to believe that people will actually follow through and do everything that they can in order to help everyone else. They will obviously only do the least amount of work as possible as to not be caught. You're own premise confirms this.

If people determine that the best way to maximize overall happiness is for everyone to focus on their own personal happiness, then they will do that.

In other words you admit that your initial premise was unjustifiable. You're argument rests on the idea that people will realize that the best way to maximize their self interest is to leave their self interest in the hands of other people who's only concern is their own self interest. If they don't do that, then social contract theory does not inherently lead to utilitarianism.
MTGandP
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9/14/2010 6:06:12 AM
Posted: 6 years ago
At 9/13/2010 7:58:08 PM, LaissezFaire wrote:
No, you were arguing that it would be rational for an individual wanting to maximize their own happiness to sign this contract. And even if everyone was perfectly rational, since value and happiness are completely subjective, no amount of rational objective thought could reach a consensus on this issue.
Then perhaps people will vote, under the assumption that the result will be at least what makes the majority happy. Either way, I think it's obvious that if everyone is working towards overall happiness then the overall happiness will be at least as great -- and almost certainly greater -- than if people work towards only their own happiness.


At 9/13/2010 7:51:20 PM, MTGandP wrote:
At 9/13/2010 7:44:54 PM, LaissezFaire wrote:
I couldn't possibly be a better judge of everyone else's happiness than I am of my own.
. . .
It doesn't matter what the % is. My point is valid with any %. No one is a better judge of other people's happiness than they are of their own happiness.
That's true, but it doesn't follow from that that people will best be able to maximize happiness by being completely self-interested. There are plenty of things we can do that can be reasonably expected to make others happy, which often take less effort than what's required to make ourselves happy. If you don't have at least a pretty good idea of what will make people happy, then you just don't know people well enough.

Specialization doesn't require a social contract, it's just what naturally happens with everyone trying to maximize their own happiness.

Perhaps so. I was using it to explain how it's possible to maximize overall happiness without focusing all your efforts on yourself.

At 9/13/2010 8:03:32 PM, J.Kenyon wrote:
What? How is [Rachels' criticism] not relevant to this? That cuts directly to the core of your contention that individuals ought to seek to maximize others' happiness so as to indirectly increase their own.

That's not my contention. My contention is that people ought to try to maximize overall happiness, which includes their own, because this will result in everyone having the greatest expected happiness. According to Rachels, the best way to maximize overall happiness is to maximize your own. I disagree, but that's not really the point. My main contention is that Social Contract Theory leads to Utilitarianism.

MTGandP said:
I am presuming that it's impossible to know beforehand whether your happiness would be increased or decreased.

You can come up with a pretty good estimate. I'm planning on going to medical school, so I can reasonably expect to be better off in a libertarian society than Joe Schmoe who flips burgers at McDonald's. Ergo, I would not agree to your contract.

But it's possible that you would be even better off under my contract. Besides, maybe you'll be economically better off, but will you be happier?

Also, you'd need some pretty harsh (fascist?) punishments for slackers, otherwise your system would be killed by the free rider problem. Most people probably wouldn't consent to that sort of punishment when signing a voluntary contract.

That's more of a problem with Social Contract Theory than with my theory.

At 9/13/2010 10:20:24 PM, Sam_Lowry wrote:
MTGandP wrote:
Isn't that a criticism of social contract theory in general?

No, just ones that are inherently ridiculous. There is good reason to believe that if everyone agrees not to murder each other, and enforced sanctions are placed on murderers, that you will be less likely to be murdered in such a society. There is absolutely no reason to believe that people will actually follow through and do everything that they can in order to help everyone else. They will obviously only do the least amount of work as possible as to not be caught. You're [sic] own premise confirms this.

That's a fair criticism. I think the main reason why people don't murder is because it goes against our instincts, so it's arguable whether a society that punishes murder will actually have a reduced murder rate. But your point about the unenforceability of my contract does make sense.

If people determine that the best way to maximize overall happiness is for everyone to focus on their own personal happiness, then they will do that.

In other words you admit that your initial premise was unjustifiable. You're [sic] argument rests on the idea that people will realize that the best way to maximize their self interest is to leave their self interest in the hands of other people who's [sic] only concern is their own self interest. If they don't do that, then social contract theory does not inherently lead to utilitarianism.

People are not leaving their happiness in the hands of other people. They are partially leaving their happiness in the hands of other people. Other than that, I'm not sure I understand your argument.

At 9/13/2010 11:54:21 PM, Puck wrote:
Social Contract Theory leads to lols?

Um, what?
Danielle
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9/14/2010 6:45:54 AM
Posted: 6 years ago
When I learned about the SC, I was taught that it simply referred to people agreeing to abide by various laws; in other words agreeing that the formation, implementation and upholding of laws can make for a more prosperous and functional society. By that standard, isn't libertarianism a type of social contract? After all, "don't steal"
would be a law that people expect enforced, amirite?
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LaissezFaire
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9/14/2010 8:22:33 AM
Posted: 6 years ago
At 9/14/2010 6:06:12 AM, MTGandP wrote:
At 9/13/2010 7:58:08 PM, LaissezFaire wrote:
No, you were arguing that it would be rational for an individual wanting to maximize their own happiness to sign this contract. And even if everyone was perfectly rational, since value and happiness are completely subjective, no amount of rational objective thought could reach a consensus on this issue.
Then perhaps people will vote, under the assumption that the result will be at least what makes the majority happy. Either way, I think it's obvious that if everyone is working towards overall happiness then the overall happiness will be at least as great -- and almost certainly greater -- than if people work towards only their own happiness.
Setting aside the fact that democracy doesn't actually make the majority happy, why should I care what makes the majority happy? You said it would be rational for an individual wanted to maximize their own happiness to sign this utilitarian contract. That claim is wrong.


At 9/13/2010 7:51:20 PM, MTGandP wrote:
At 9/13/2010 7:44:54 PM, LaissezFaire wrote:
I couldn't possibly be a better judge of everyone else's happiness than I am of my own.
. . .
It doesn't matter what the % is. My point is valid with any %. No one is a better judge of other people's happiness than they are of their own happiness.
That's true, but it doesn't follow from that that people will best be able to maximize happiness by being completely self-interested. There are plenty of things we can do that can be reasonably expected to make others happy, which often take less effort than what's required to make ourselves happy. If you don't have at least a pretty good idea of what will make people happy, then you just don't know people well enough.

Then, if someone was a utilitarian, they would do those things to help other people to maximize total happiness. Since they are a utilitarian, they would place a high value on other people's happiness, so they would also be acting in their own rational self interest. This doesn't justify a government forcing people to act a certain way to maximize total happiness, which is what a utilitarian social contract would imply.

Specialization doesn't require a social contract, it's just what naturally happens with everyone trying to maximize their own happiness.

Perhaps so. I was using it to explain how it's possible to maximize overall happiness without focusing all your efforts on yourself.
OK, but it has nothing to do with a government.
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: At 6/22/2011 6:57:23 PM, el-badgero wrote:
: i didn't like [Obama]. he was the only black dude in moneygall yet he claimed to be home. obvious liar is obvious liar. i bet him and bin laden are bumfvcking right now.
LaissezFaire
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9/14/2010 10:14:33 AM
Posted: 6 years ago
At 9/14/2010 6:45:54 AM, theLwerd wrote:
When I learned about the SC, I was taught that it simply referred to people agreeing to abide by various laws; in other words agreeing that the formation, implementation and upholding of laws can make for a more prosperous and functional society. By that standard, isn't libertarianism a type of social contract? After all, "don't steal"
would be a law that people expect enforced, amirite?

Perhaps by that standard, although that isn't really what a social contract is. A social contract isn't an agreement to abide by various laws, it is an agreement to set up a government that those who sign the contract are bound to support. It's not an agreement over any specific rules, it's an agreement over who gets to create, interpret, and enforce the rules.

Anyway, libertarians don't expect people to not steal. What you're referring to is that libertarians think that theft is wrong, and that theft should be punished, not that people won't do it. The idea that theft is wrong and should be punished isn't a social contract.
Should we subsidize education?
http://www.debate.org...

http://mises.org...

http://lewrockwell.com...

http://antiwar.com...

: At 6/22/2011 6:57:23 PM, el-badgero wrote:
: i didn't like [Obama]. he was the only black dude in moneygall yet he claimed to be home. obvious liar is obvious liar. i bet him and bin laden are bumfvcking right now.
belle
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9/14/2010 4:46:32 PM
Posted: 6 years ago
At 9/13/2010 6:42:42 PM, MTGandP wrote:
This is one of those times when it would be nice to have a Philosophy forum. Anyway. . . .

Consider taking interpersonal social contract theory to its extreme. Everyone wants to maximize his own happiness. So the smartest social contract to sign is one with a society in which every person agrees to try to maximize everyone else's happiness. That way, each individual person will on average have the highest happiness possible -- that is, a person's expected happiness is maximized. A rational, self-interested person who is following social contract theory would certainly sign such a contract. If everyone signs it, the result is a world in which everyone's goal is to maximize overall happiness. So the logical result of social contract theory is Utilitarianism.

Thoughts? Criticisms?

this may have already been addressed, but not adequately to my understanding. imagine two people who both want to maximize my happiness, because they are bound to do so by the social contract and because they would presumably expect me to do the same for them. even taking what i personally think is in my best interest out of the picture (which is in itself a pretty big deal; implying that other people know better what will make me happy than i do) these two individuals could well have very different ideas of what will make me happy. they would then end up working at cross purposes and maybe even undoing one another's work. and i would be left with no net benefit while they would both be left with a loss in effort that could have been better spent. even if one of them is right, no good is done for me because it is undone by the other person. or they could both be completely wrong about what will make me happy. it seems like such a broad co-responsibility on the part of everyone towards everyone else would require some sort of coordination, and someone to decide which strategies for happiness are to be prioritized over others... and someone to make sure no effort is wasted... etc. or, everyone could just be put in charge of their own happiness and be instructed (constrained by law :P) to not interfere with others.... which way do you think would be more efficient?
evidently i only come to ddo to avoid doing homework...
TheSkeptic
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9/14/2010 5:14:33 PM
Posted: 6 years ago
Among many other meta-ethical considerations, you're going to have to demonstrate the premise that helping to maximize the happiness of everyone around you will, in turn, lead to your happiness being maximized.
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9/14/2010 5:50:39 PM
Posted: 6 years ago
At 9/14/2010 4:46:32 PM, belle wrote:
this may have already been addressed, but not adequately to my understanding. imagine two people who both want to maximize my happiness, because they are bound to do so by the social contract and because they would presumably expect me to do the same for them. even taking what i personally think is in my best interest out of the picture (which is in itself a pretty big deal; implying that other people know better what will make me happy than i do) these two individuals could well have very different ideas of what will make me happy. they would then end up working at cross purposes and maybe even undoing one another's work. and i would be left with no net benefit while they would both be left with a loss in effort that could have been better spent. even if one of them is right, no good is done for me because it is undone by the other person. or they could both be completely wrong about what will make me happy. it seems like such a broad co-responsibility on the part of everyone towards everyone else would require some sort of coordination, and someone to decide which strategies for happiness are to be prioritized over others... and someone to make sure no effort is wasted... etc. or, everyone could just be put in charge of their own happiness and be instructed (constrained by law :P) to not interfere with others.... which way do you think would be more efficient?
If people would end up reducing your happiness (and, by extension, overall happiness -- since what you describe could happen to many people) then that would not be a Utilitarian state. If people are legitimately trying to maximize happiness, they will coordinate in such a way that happiness is maximized. Since the scenario you propose is clearly forseeable (since you just foresaw it), people in a Utilitarian society would find a way around it.

This gets a separate paragraph, because it's important: I contend that if everyone is truly interested in maximizing overall happiness, then overall happiness will be maximized more than if people are not interested in maximizing it. I think this is self-evident.

At 9/14/2010 5:14:33 PM, TheSkeptic wrote:
Among many other meta-ethical considerations, you're going to have to demonstrate the premise that helping to maximize the happiness of everyone around you will, in turn, lead to your happiness being maximized.
Why? I don't see how that's relevant. What maximizes your happiness isn't you working towards the happiness of others -- that's what maximizes their happiness. What maximizes your happiness is others working towards the happiness of you.