"Moral Luck" vs. "intentional responsibility&

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ialdabaoth
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27 Mar 2012, 2:32 am

So, Moral Luck is a wonderful term for something that I've been trying to explain for years.

For me, moral luck is an absolutely intuitive concept - in fact, I have no intuitive connection between "blame" and "responsibility" - in my mind, the less control you have over a situation, the more to blame you are for that situation's outcome, because the more you're going to have to suffer its consequences without any escape, and the more incentive those who can control that outcome have to deem you morally culpable so that they do not have to expend effort to change it.

Can someone explain why most people intuitively desire that lip-service be made to a connection between intent, responsibility and blame, rather than advocating the "shoot the messenger" / "blame the victim" / "the weak suffer what they must" morality that everyone seems to actually follow anyways?



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27 Mar 2012, 3:21 am

The consequences of an action do not determine the ethical nature of that action.

Say you steal a pack of gum from your friend. It's wrong whether your friend notices and gets angry at you, whether you accidentally saved him from choking on the gum, or whether he simply doesn't notice and nothing happens. And it's the same "wrong" whatever consequence you get from the act.

You're responsible only for the actions you yourself control.

When we judge things like this, we use our first gut instinct--our feelings. Feelings are good for making quick decisions; they keep you from being caught in an intellectual deadlock when you try to make a choice. But they aren't as accurate as sitting down and thinking about something carefully and thoroughly. The quick judgment, the one that uses feelings, is the one where you are prone to making the mistake of judging a an action by its consequences rather than its intent. Think longer and more carefully, and you won't make this mistake. But we have to have the ability to make those decisions quickly; otherwise we'd be stuck in indecision all the time. The "moral luck" effect comes from the fact that we live in a world where we do have to decide quickly, and sometimes speed comes at the expense of accuracy.

There are morally good actions which have bad consequences (for example: Standing up for your friend and getting you both beaten up by the bully). There are morally evil actions which have good consequences (for example: Cheating on a test to pass a class).

You don't do the right thing because it makes life easier for you. If it always did, then "doing the right thing" could be reduced to "doing the pragmatic thing" and there'd be no sense in talking about morality at all.

This is part of why I think high-schoolers ought to take a philosophy class. Learning to think carefully and logically is very useful, however slow it is. Without that ability, you can only ever make those quick, feelings-oriented judgments, and you're at the mercy of your impulses even when they lead you astray.


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Last edited by Callista on 27 Mar 2012, 3:28 am, edited 1 time in total.

Declension
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27 Mar 2012, 3:26 am

Callista wrote:
"doing the right thing" could be reduced to "doing the pragmatic thing"


I actually think that this reduction is possible. It has always seemed to me that "evil actions" are generally also very foolish actions. They might give you pleasure in the short-term, but they dehumanise you and reduce your ability to enjoy life in the long term. Even sacrificing one's life to save somebody else can be thought of as pragmatic, if you think of yourself as part of a community as opposed to simply an individual.



Callista
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27 Mar 2012, 3:30 am

Declension wrote:
Callista wrote:
"doing the right thing" could be reduced to "doing the pragmatic thing"


I actually think that this reduction is possible. It has always seemed to me that "evil actions" are generally also very foolish actions. They might give you pleasure in the short-term, but they dehumanise you and reduce your ability to enjoy life in the long term. Even sacrificing one's life to save somebody else can be thought of as pragmatic, if you think of yourself as part of a community as opposed to simply an individual.
In a way, yes, even the act that nobody sees, that you yourself don't enjoy, and that nobody ever finds out about can be thought of as "pragmatic", but by that point pragmatism has turned into "I do what is best in the long-term and on a wide scale and for a large group", at which point it might as well be called altruism.


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Declension
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27 Mar 2012, 3:39 am

Callista wrote:
pragmatism has turned into "I do what is best in the long-term and on a wide scale and for a large group", at which point it might as well be called altruism.


I guess that's a fair point. But if pragmatism covers "caring about your future self", why shouldn't it cover "caring about other people"? I mean, you are neither your future self nor another person; they're both very abstract concepts. What is a true pragmatist supposed to do, overdose on heroin?



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27 Mar 2012, 7:03 am

Blame is something bestowed by oneself or others in response to either a deliberate wrong doing, or something done wrong unintentionally, but that the person should have had the sense ahead of time to not do. Robbing a bank or committing murder are deliberate wrong doings. Leaving a kid or pet unattended for hours in a hot car is a blame worthy event, as the person leaving the kid or pet in the car should have had the sense not to do that. If you don't intend wrong, and it is not something where you should have known better, but just a matter of circumstances going against you, then you have not earned any blame, although there might be people who might choose to blame you for something that went wrong any way.


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TallyMan
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27 Mar 2012, 8:35 am

(Thread moved from Autism discussion to PPR)


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27 Mar 2012, 10:02 am

Declension wrote:
Callista wrote:
pragmatism has turned into "I do what is best in the long-term and on a wide scale and for a large group", at which point it might as well be called altruism.


I guess that's a fair point. But if pragmatism covers "caring about your future self", why shouldn't it cover "caring about other people"? I mean, you are neither your future self nor another person; they're both very abstract concepts. What is a true pragmatist supposed to do, overdose on heroin?


maybe that suggest something about "true pragmatism"?

usually i find most "pure" ideologies suffer from fatal flaws,


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