Sunday, 4 May 2008

Why have I chosen Desire Fulfillment?

4 comments
Introduction
This post is a follow up to A Brief Introduction to Desire Fulfillment, as promised, just it was not a day later :-) Sorry about that, I have been busy moving but plan to update my blog more regularly from now on.

Double Standards
The underlying theme of this blog is to identify, reduce and prevent double standards, this being one of the main problems I see across all societies. There are two aspects to this, the first is the direct effect it has on different segments of a society's citizens, which is a residue of discrimination and worse, that has existed throughout human history. The second aspect is that fighting these double standards that still exist absorbs a huge amount of time of bloggers and opinion makers, time that could be better spent on dealing with all the other real-world challenges that are not so easily - theoretically - fixable.

Prescribing Solutions?
Now this is an ethical stance and is this a problem? One can take a single issue, as a particularist, and look for any sound and valid justification for the proposed or actual double standard, where each situation and it relevant arguments can stand on its own. The common connection between these situations is that the arguments are, hopefully, logical and empirical and intended, if successful, to debunk any false justifications for such standards. Still it is another step to recommend or prescribe what is to be done. Based on the lack of justification for such standards, is it just my opinion that this should be changed or can one do better than that? Surely if the argument for such double standards - existing or new ones - are false, then it is unethical to make them, and those who do are to be condemned? Following Hare, such an ethical judgment is universally prescriptive so that, arguably, a double standard is, by definition, immoral and the reasoning behind condemning these is entirely logical. The ethical imperative is therefore - at this point of discussion - "don't endorse double standards without sound and valid justification".

The Problem with Enlightenment 2.0
I have also been reviewing the Beyond Belief: Enlightenment 2.0 lecture series and noticed that even with, or because of, the than many different disciplines represented there, there still is much confusion and dispute over ethics and values and how this relates to Enlightenment thinking in the 21st century. Now I have not finished reviewing that series, which I plan to, but even so, it is clear, based on audience questions - including the future speakers I have not yet reviewed - that there is no real consensus on these issues, certainly at least given the otherwise mostly empirical focus of this lecture series. What I started writing yesterday will not resolve those types of issues at that level - yet.

Empirical Ethics
As a naturalist, specifically for our purposes here only a methodological one, I have wondered about an equivalent empirical basis to ethics to that of science. This would be an approach that would best - in terms of eliminate errors and minimize mistakes - and provide an epistemologically objective analysis of the facts. The main barrier to this has been Hume's Is-ought problem and, as a consequence of this, science is only descriptive not prescriptive. If this is so , then we can still be left the (non-moral) facts of the matter and logic as as in Universal Prescriptivism in order to proceed anyway. However I wonder if we can do better than that. Another objection to such an approach is primarily from Moral Relativism , specifically Normative Relativism - that one cannot judge other societies by one's own standards, that there is no "privileged" standard to judge others, that such an approach is absolutist and dogmatic and so on and so forth. There are many issues here but if it were the case that there is, in fact, some form of moral objectivity then these emotive objections fail. More relevantly these are objections to a straw man for the any solution that I am looking for that is compatible with methodological naturalism. There is much here that will be explored in future posts.

Anyway in my searching I have looked at and discarded many approaches, the ones that did appeal, included R.M. Hare's Universal Prescriptivism, J. L. Mackie's error theory and James Griffin's Informed Desire Fulfillment - all can be considered within the broad framework of Preference Satisfaction. Still I had issues with all of these that did not compel me over a simpler Proscriptive Golden Rule and Sophisticated Tit-for-Tat approach. However the conjunction of reviewing the Enlightenment 2.0 series together with critically examining Alonzo Fyfe's Desire Utilitarianism - who also was the catalyst in my choosing to review the Enlightenment 2.0 itself - has led me to take this further step as in my last post.

Desire Fulfillment
Well my time is almost up for this post. I wanted to note that I attempted to write the previous post without using any of the typical moral terminology - "moral speak" as I call it. There were no "good", "bad", "oughts" and so on. I did not quite succeed as there are "recommend" and, arguably, "interest". "Encourage" and "discourage" are of course prescriptive to but not usually considered part of "moral speak". Anyway I will explore this ethically natural and moral realist approach in future posts both writing, quite deliberately, to a non-technical audience, as well as dealing with some of the more technical issues. This deliberate approach is reflective of another stance in this blog, translated here that if one needs to study moral philosophy in order to be ethical we are all in a lot of trouble!






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4 comments:

Db0 said...

translated here that if one needs to study moral philosophy in order to be ethical we are all in a lot of trouble!

This is my greatest problem with the current ethical systems you and others promote. They just so damn complicated. If me, who have a genuine interest in ethics and are generally considered smart, have problems with understanding what you are saying and tranferring it to real life examples, I image that the random Joe Sixpacks will not even bother.
Also I find that just looking at the issue for a plain ethical point of view or unpractical. I prefer to discover a complete life philosophy that will encompass these kind of ethics witout forcing the person to understand them. Indeed, we need a way to make people who embrace this philosophy follow these ethical values even without realizing it, similar to how an animal eats, not because it wants to live, but because it is hungry.
Making the correct moral choices should become a subconsciour matter that flows from the life philosophy you have.

martino said...

Hi db0

This is my greatest problem with the current ethical systems you and others promote. They just so damn complicated.
Well part of the appeal to DU to me apart from its objective basis, is its surprising simplicity compared to other approaches.

If me, who have a genuine interest in ethics and are generally considered smart, have problems with understanding what you are saying and tranferring it to real life examples, I image that the random Joe Sixpacks will not even bother.
Most of the issue here are to do with "bad" habits acquired from learning and arguing for and against problematic moral apporaches.

Without these issues just explaining DU is straightforward. The simplest version of DU could be expressed in three words "Discourage Desire Thwarting". Cannot get much simpler than that, can it?


Also I find that just looking at the issue for a plain ethical point of view or unpractical. I prefer to discover a complete life philosophy that will encompass these kind of ethics witout forcing the person to understand them. Indeed, we need a way to make people who embrace this philosophy follow these ethical values even without realizing it, similar to how an animal eats, not because it wants to live, but because it is hungry.
But this is exactly what appealed to me about DU, before I criticaly examined it to see if it stood up. Really it is "desire fulfillment virtue consequentialism" which means getting people to have the right rather than wrong desires and not needing much deliberation to decide what to do most of the time.

Making the correct moral choices should become a subconsciour matter that flows from the life philosophy you have.
As I said DU does this but does not provide a complete worldview. You might want one but unless you have one, this is just wishful thinking.

camilla said...

I'm with you on the no double standards motif.

Now, I read that the desires and aversions discussed are couched in functionalist and evolutionary theory terms, as obvious requirements for survival. This is quite a neat sidestep to having to measure values, such as trying to compare some personal degree or other of comforting, exciting or repulsive judgements with another's, objectively, since the replacement necessary process descriptions are binary, simply off/on.

I had been going to ask how you proposed to surplant scientific empiricism with measurements at its core, to assess correctness in this tyep of question. However, I think what has happened so far is that no measuring, just there or not there as a quality, is the answer. As outlined above, since the proposed definition is to avoid destroying desires, those actions with intent that do appear would seem to be necessary conditions to strive for or avoid for living, so we must apparently accept that they really are there, really are a right, just are being acted out.

Do you see it completely differently to this?

On another point, I'm not sure why we can't strategise from experience and imagination to improve ethical results? Probably I shouldn't use values like improve. Your remark opposite is if we have to study philosophy or I take it think very much to understand morality we're doomed! Since ethical behaviour is a process of actions, it's not clear why this area can't just be a skill which we can refine both individually and in groups through planning and review for optimum results.

martino said...

Hi Camilla

Now, I read that the desires and aversions discussed are couched in functionalist and evolutionary theory terms, as obvious requirements for survival. This is quite a neat sidestep to having to measure values, such as trying to compare some personal degree or other of comforting, exciting or repulsive judgements with another's, objectively, since the replacement necessary process descriptions are binary, simply off/on.
The real world has more detail but one can look at stereotypic situations in such a simplistic manner. Values are the relation between the desire and the states of affairs that are the target of the desire, and these relational values are objective but not intrinsic (mind-independent).

I had been going to ask how you proposed to surplant scientific empiricism with measurements at its core, to assess correctness in this tyep of question.
All in good time when I look at applying this to real world, hopefully topical situations.

However, I think what has happened so far is that no measuring, just there or not there as a quality, is the answer.
No, one is checking the material effects of a desire being fulfilled versus its absence. So this is measurement in the sense, at this stage, that this is no different to a scientist isolating the variable of interest - the independent variable - to see its effects - on the dependent variable(s).

As outlined above, since the proposed definition is to avoid destroying desires, those actions with intent that do appear would seem to be necessary conditions to strive for or avoid for living, so we must apparently accept that they really are there, really are a right, just are being acted out.
Hmmm this is a little unclear to me as to what you are saying. Social forces - emotive/psychological/social forces such as praise, commendation, honor, status and condemnation,dishonor, ridicule; material/economic forces such as reward and punishment, operate behaviouristically to modify - amplify and reduce appropriate desires. Failure for this to occur brings about second tier legal processes for those who persist in desire thwarting behavior.

Do you see it completely differently to this?
Dunno if the above answers this.

On another point, I'm not sure why we can't strategise from experience and imagination to improve ethical results?
We can certainly analyze past situations and make up dilemmas for edification.

Probably I shouldn't use values like improve.
I can see using improvement. This is an empirical and provisional approach, new cases and insights can improve it. This is a meta-ethical position.

Your remark opposite is if we have to study philosophy or I take it think very much to understand morality we're doomed!
Well for most people they won't analyze it this way. Just have a society where they are consistently encourage and, in turn, encourage others to maximize desire fulfilling desires.

Since ethical behaviour is a process of actions, it's not clear why this area can't just be a skill which we can refine both individually and in groups through planning and review for optimum results.
I agree.