Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Desire Consequentialism - The story so far

This is a brief recap of me taking on board Alonzo Fyfe's desire utilitarian ethical naturalism, what I am calling desire consequentialism here. Now there is no major difference between the two, I prefer to call it desire consequentialism because it avoids simplistic confusions with other forms of utilitarianism; "consequences" is a more user and familiar friendly term than "utilitarian", in my opinion anyway; and finally any differences are more likely, than not, to be my errors.

Two Rounds and Counting
I have worked through some of key concepts in two rounds and plan to stop, for now at least. Still I have not yet fully expressed this approach in the most precise, concise, clear and effective that I would like. There is still work to be done on this and on dealing with both catering to those well versed in moral philosophy/theory and the majority who, more or less, care nought about theory and want an approach that just works - a large part of this latter group having settled for a highly inadequate and dubious Divine Command Morality or equivalent. I want to complete this second phase by catering to this latter group by writing a number of theory free posts just painting a general picture of the implications in terms that would be familiar to those exposed just to Divine Command...

Round One
Well I started with these posts that I consider my first attempt or o to express this model in my own words.

A Brief Introduction to Desire Fulfillment
Why have I chosen Desire Fulfillment?
Are there ethical substantive principles?
The Naturalistic Fallacy Fallacy
Hume's Is-Ought Problem
The Problem with Utilitarianism
Facts and Values

Many of these ideas were inadequately stated or argued for, particularly points over the naturalistic fallacies, is-ought and fact-value. These are improved in the second round listed below. Where this is done one can consider that my second attempt is an abrogation over my first. This is work in progress. Others are, I think good enough for now and incorporated in two the second round or will be used in the future.

The Second Round
This was seven posts over the last couple of weeks:

Objections to Ethical Naturalism
The Evolutionary Basis of Desire and Beliefs
The Cultural basis of Desires and Beliefs
The Unified Basis of Desires and Beliefs
Science and Ethics 1 : A Theory of Value
Science and Ethics 2: A Theory of Prescription
Ethics and Law

I also include the following post, even though this was developed in the first round, this is still a key post from which I want to develop further ideas
Morality is a physical process

And Finally
There is much more to develop but I am now ready to revisit the first post that triggered this all off A Brief Introduction to Desire Fulfillment. I see now there is still too much theory there and want to paint an even simpler picture deliberately along the lines of and equivalent to Divine Command morality such as through something like the Ten Commandments, the seven Virtues and Vices and Golden Rules. That is I want to create the equivalent but grounded in Desire Consequentialism and this is my project for the rest of this week.


Alonzo Fyfe said...

Just a note: I am impressed with your work on this and think it is better than my own.

martino said...

Hi Alonzo

Thanks for this but I beg to differ! :-) I would greatly appreciate critiques any points on which you disagree.

Still I think I have sufficiently booted up Desire Consequentialism in my brain to start applying to topical issues, as an addition toolkit,along with reasoning against double standards, naturalism and enlightenment in the 21st century.

Alonzo Fyfe said...


Beg all you want. You will find that I am impervious to such things.

Since you started this series, I have been looking for an opportunity to ask you some questions that I have in my own mind regarding desire utilitarianism.

For example, if beliefs are truly non-motivational, then how do they have any effect on actions? Am I missing something about the nature of beliefs?

martino said...

Hi Alonzo

I think the issue over motivational beliefs was the key issue between you and Richard Carrier. I have thought about this and have found no convincing argument for motivational cognitivism (MC), yet. Still there appear to be two versions of MC.

This was related to my question I asked some time ago over promises - based on a John Searle approach - who is trying to make an argument for MC, I think. Still he holds that any intention has to have a desire as well as belief. The question is what is the trigger. It is not whether there are desire-independent reasons to act, even Searle says there are not, but how these are initiated or activated (I would say).

Now can a belief on its own motivate? My first Science and Ethics post attempted to say that unless there was a primed(?) desire then a belief would not motivate (the Dodo example). If one accepts this type of MC, then DU is relatively unaffected, certainly in the DF value stage, the prescriptive stage would highlight more the capacity to reason rather than just persuade.

In other words, my current view is that moral statements are morally cognitive and motivationally expressive. If MC is correct, the cognitive component has more power but that is it.

Now if MC implies that there are desire-independent reasons to act then this is more serious, as it affects the DF theory of value. I have yet to see any convincing argument for this version of MC.

martino said...

woops I meant Richard Chappell not Carrier.