Poll: Would you consider becoming an "effective altruist"?
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viddy9
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Effective altruism is a philosophy and social movement which applies evidence and reason to determining the most effective ways to improve the world. Effective altruists consider all causes and actions, and then act in the way that brings about the greatest positive impact. It is this broad evidence-based approach that distinguishes effective altruism from traditional altruism or charity. Effective altruism sometimes involves taking actions that are less intuitive or emotionally salient. It is most commonly associated with the moral philosophy of utilitarianism, but plenty of other non-utilitarians are part of the movement.

Many effective altruists have been inspired by the moral philosopher Peter Singer, who expands on effective altruism in this TED Talk. In 1971, he published the essay 'Famine, Affluence and Morality' and one of the core arguments of this essay is that, if one can use one's wealth to reduce suffering — for example, by aiding famine-relief efforts — without any significant reduction in the well-being of oneself or others, it is immoral not to do so. As Singer notes, such inaction is clearly immoral if a child is drowning in a shallow pond and someone can save it but chooses not to.

In order to maximize the amount of suffering alleviated in the world, effective altruists use objective evidence to evaluate different charities, to see which are the most cost-effective - some charities can be up to 1,000 times more effective than others! One of the most prominent charity evaluators is GiveWell (although many of the following organisations also recommend similar or the same charities.) Giving What We Can is an organisation belonging to the Centre for Effective Altruism, based in Oxford, and its members pledge to give at least 10% of their income to effective charities. Other organisations include The Life You Can Save, which is more populist and whose members only have to pledge to give 1% of their incomes, Animal Charity Evaluators and 80,000 Hours.

So, thoughts? Would anyone here consider becoming an effective altruist? (The Life You Can Save address common objections to giving here.)
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zippity.doodah
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there's really no such thing as human altruism - if someone actually does something altruistic, it doesn't have rationality involved - why would you want to rationally calculate what is only good for other people and not yourself, for example, and then practice it? I don't understand that at all - it's like asking "how can I turn myself more into an unpaid servant?"
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viddy9
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(Original post by zippity.doodah)
there's really no such thing as human altruism - if someone actually does something altruistic, it doesn't have rationality involved - why would you want to rationally calculate what is only good for other people and not yourself, for example, and then practice it? I don't understand that at all - it's like asking "how can I turn myself more into an unpaid servant?"
Interesting viewpoint, but I think you construct a straw-man argument. It's not about making oneself an unpaid servant, but rather recognizing that, in terms of wealth, one is likely to be in the top 15% of the world's population. So, even if you give a certain percentage of what you earn to effective charities, you're not going to suffer much for it, but you'll improve many lives by doing so. And, most of us have ethical intuitions and the capacity for empathy - we believe that others should be taken care of - so it's not only rational to act on these beliefs, but it's just nice to help others from a personal point of view too. You benefit, others benefit. As Toby Ord, a moral philosopher at Oxford University who gives away more than a third of his income and lives on £18,000 a year said, most people's lives wouldn't suddenly become unlivable and if their boss deducted 5% off most people's income, so giving the same amount isn't going to turn you into a servant or someone living on very little. In fact, Ord has two laptops, an iPhone and eats out twice a fortnight.

In Peter Singer's pond analogy, you could save the drowning child but it would come at the cost of ruining your expensive pair of shoes. I think most of us would agree that not acting on the basis that it would ruin your expensive pair of shoes is wrong, so, equally, the argument goes, we should be donating the price of the pair of shoes to charity. This isn't servanthood, and nor is saving the drowning child.
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zippity.doodah
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(Original post by viddy9)
Interesting viewpoint, but I think you construct a straw-man argument. It's not about making oneself an unpaid servant, but rather recognizing that, in terms of wealth, one is likely to be in the top 15% of the world's population. So, even if you give a certain percentage of what you earn to effective charities, you're not going to suffer much for it, but you'll improve many lives by doing so. And, most of us have ethical intuitions and the capacity for empathy - we believe that others should be taken care of - so it's not only rational to act on these beliefs, but it's just nice to help others from a personal point of view too. You benefit, others benefit.
1) the wealth is likely to "be in the top 15% of the population"? the top 15% economically? well no ****, surely that's a tautological statement :lol:
2) you won't suffer "much" from it? not only would it cause some suffering to a person (and what's the point of *any* personal suffering without results?) but there's actually, from my point of view, no reason whatsoever for it whether it's to a great extent or a lesser extent - the principle is whether you should give your possessions to others for free, and I generally say that's an irrational thing to do, *especially* to strangers, because, again, it seems like a servant morality, and I wouldn't say deriving one's ethical meaning of existence from servitude towards others is particularly self-motivating...
3) "you benefit. others benefit"? how do I benefit from charity? but at least you're implying that I should have a self-serving reason to give to charity because otherwise why bother with charity when it hinders or harms you or your personal causes?

As Toby Ord, a moral philosopher at Oxford University who gives away more than a third of his income and lives on £18,000 a year said, most people's lives wouldn't suddenly become unlivable and if their boss deducted 5% off most people's income, so giving the same amount isn't going to turn you into a servant or someone living on very little. In fact, Ord has two laptops, an iPhone and eats out twice a fortnight.
his gain of fame, the reason you know him, would he the motivation behind this charitable giving, I reckon.

In Peter Singer's pond analogy, you could save the drowning child but it would come at the cost of ruining your expensive pair of shoes. I think most of us would agree that not acting on the basis that it would ruin your expensive pair of shoes is wrong, so, equally, the argument goes, we should be donating the price of the pair of shoes to charity. This isn't servanthood, and nor is saving the drowning child.
well, I wouldn't be essentially a factor or a cause to a person's needless suffering - and ruining my pair of shoes at least comes at the benefit of a big ego boost of being a child-saviour which, for my ego, is a rational benefit as opposed to absolutely no benefit at all; I wouldn't exactly *feel* like a saviour by putting money in a tin for a charity fund raiser. - that would make me feel respected, not just for doing it, but I'd see myself as important for doing it and maybe, again, I might get recognition for it. those are two reasons, however, and I'm not putting stress upon the latter reasoning. if a baby's drowning in a pound, I *could* just take off my shoes in a matter of seconds. depending on the kinds of trousers I'd be wearing I may be able to get them both off in seconds too. but assuming I *had* to dive in with the shoes - I don't have such a lack of any kind of human-level empathy that I'd not lift a finger to save a child's life. it's a one-time event and it's not like asking a person to live their life doing it every moment of their lives, e.g. paying taxation for everything these days...
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viddy9
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(Original post by zippity.doodah)
1) the wealth is likely to "be in the top 15% of the population"? the top 15% economically? well no ****, surely that's a tautological statement :lol:
No, I said that most people on this forum are probably in the top 15% of the world population in terms of wealth.

(Original post by zippity.doodah)
2) you won't suffer "much" from it? not only would it cause some suffering to a person (and what's the point of *any* personal suffering without results?) but there's actually, from my point of view, no reason whatsoever for it whether it's to a great extent or a lesser extent - the principle is whether you should give your possessions to others for free, and I generally say that's an irrational thing to do, *especially* to strangers, because, again, it seems like a servant morality, and I wouldn't say deriving one's ethical meaning of existence from servitude towards others is particularly self-motivating...
For many, the personal suffering is non-existent, because a) they believe that net suffering should be reduced in the world, and b) because what they give is something that would've probably spent on some consumer good that they didn't really need or want in the first place. For those who think about everything in terms of what benefits them, they won't engage in effective altruism, which is why I made a poll giving 'no' as an option.

So, is a fair summary of your position that there's no point in enduring any personal suffering and that reducing suffering of others is unimportant i.e. suffering is only bad for you, not for others?

(Original post by zippity.doodah)
3) "you benefit. others benefit"? how do I benefit from charity? but at least you're implying that I should have a self-serving reason to give to charity because otherwise why bother with charity when it hinders or harms you or your personal causes?
I was merely making an observation that if an action that one considers to be 'good' is taken, you'll feel good, naturally. If you think that reducing suffering is good, then you'll feel good if someone else has given to charity as well.

(Original post by zippity.doodah)
his gain of fame, the reason you know him, would he the motivation behind this charitable giving, I reckon.
That's a possibility, but he wouldn't have foreseen that he would become famous. Nor does it explain why so many others are taking similar (or better) actions.

(Original post by zippity.doodah)
well, I wouldn't be essentially a factor or a cause to a person's needless suffering - and ruining my pair of shoes at least comes at the benefit of a big ego boost of being a child-saviour which, for my ego, is a rational benefit as opposed to absolutely no benefit at all; I wouldn't exactly *feel* like a saviour by putting money in a tin for a charity fund raiser. - that would make me feel respected, not just for doing it, but I'd see myself as important for doing it and maybe, again, I might get recognition for it. those are two reasons, however, and I'm not putting stress upon the latter reasoning. if a baby's drowning in a pound, I *could* just take off my shoes in a matter of seconds. depending on the kinds of trousers I'd be wearing I may be able to get them both off in seconds too. but assuming I *had* to dive in with the shoes - I don't have such a lack of any kind of human-level empathy that I'd not lift a finger to save a child's life. it's a one-time event and it's not like asking a person to live their life doing it every moment of their lives, e.g. paying taxation for everything these days...
I see - so you see more of a boost to your ego if you save somebody directly. Well, I anticipated that some people would take the view that suffering isn't wrong in itself, and that it should only be reduced if one personally gets some benefit, hence why I made a poll. Although, living a life giving to charity every moment of one's life isn't exactly a burden - if you give 1% of your income, it's unnoticeable. But, for you, perhaps every penny counts.
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jb0001
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(Original post by zippity.doodah)
there's really no such thing as human altruism - if someone actually does something altruistic, it doesn't have rationality involved - why would you want to rationally calculate what is only good for other people and not yourself, for example, and then practice it? I don't understand that at all - it's like asking "how can I turn myself more into an unpaid servant?"
You missed the example. If you are a multibillionaire and give 100m to a charity you feel is worthwhile, you are hardly anyone's servant.

It seems you don't care much for charity?
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Nogoodsorgods
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(Original post by viddy9)
As Toby Ord, a moral philosopher at Oxford University who gives away more than a third of his income and lives on £18,000 a year said, most people's lives wouldn't suddenly become unlivable and if their boss deducted 5% off most people's income, so giving the same amount isn't going to turn you into a servant or someone living on very little. In fact, Ord has two laptops, an iPhone and eats out twice a fortnight.
Wow- two laptops, an Iphone and eating out twice a fortnight.

That's a few hundred pound and £10 a week minimum for the meal.

You can earn that over time on a paper round.

He lives with a doctor by the way who I'll bet isn't capping their earnings at £18-£20,000.
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Juichiro
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(Original post by viddy9)
Interesting viewpoint, but I think you construct a straw-man argument. It's not about making oneself an unpaid servant, but rather recognizing that, in terms of wealth, one is likely to be in the top 15% of the world's population. So, even if you give a certain percentage of what you earn to effective charities, you're not going to suffer much for it, but you'll improve many lives by doing so. And, most of us have ethical intuitions and the capacity for empathy - we believe that others should be taken care of - so 1.it's not only rational to act on these beliefs, but it's just nice to help others from a personal point of view too. You benefit, others benefit. As Toby Ord, a moral philosopher at Oxford University who gives away more than a third of his income and lives on £18,000 a year said, most people's lives wouldn't suddenly become unlivable and if their boss deducted 5% off most people's income, so giving the same amount isn't going to turn you into a servant or someone living on very little. In fact, Ord has two laptops, an iPhone and eats out twice a fortnight.

In Peter Singer's pond analogy, you could save the drowning child but it would come at the cost of ruining your expensive pair of shoes. I think most of us would agree that not acting on the basis that it would ruin your expensive pair of shoes is wrong, so, equally, the argument goes, we should be donating the price of the pair of shoes to charity. This isn't servanthood, and nor is saving the drowning child.
If he can afford that, then he is obviously not giving enough.

1. I call BS. The only thing that has a rational basis is egoism.
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viddy9
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(Original post by Juichiro)
If he can afford that, then he is obviously not giving enough.
How so? He's giving approximately 40% of his income to charity, amounting to over £1 million over his lifetime. That's a lot more than 99.9% of people give.

(Original post by Juichiro)
1. I call BS. The only thing that has a rational basis is egoism.
Unsubstantiated claim. Please expand upon it. To me, such a claim is an example of Randian nonsense. Derek Parfit found quite an interesting flaw in rational egoism as well: from the rational egoist point of view, it is rational to contribute to a pension scheme now, even though this is detrimental to one's present interests (which are to spend the money now). But it seems equally reasonable to maximize one's interests now, given that one's reasons are not only relative to him, but to him as he is now (and not his future self, who is argued to be a "different" person).

Secondly, please expand on why you "call BS". I made quite a clear argument, it seems to me. If we have in-built ethical intuitions which we have reflected upon, such as the intuition to save a drowning child from a pond, then it is rational that we apply these intuitions in similar circumstances that cannot be distinguished, say, from the drowning-child analogy.

I don't have the intuition that I should just continue on walking past the pond just because I don't want to get wet. I certainly don't have the intuition that I should always maximise my self-interest - I would rather keep all of my money and spend it on video games, for example. Or, perhaps I wouldn't seeing as I don't. In either case, it is in my self-interest to give to cost-effective charities.

In other words, if we have ethical intuitions to reduce other people's suffering, then it must be in our self-interest to do so. If one is a psychopath and wouldn't save a drowning child from a pond, then the argument doesn't apply, and I freely admit this. But to most of us who would save a drowning child from a pond, we would find that there is no rational distinction between this and saving a child's life by donating to a cost-effective charity, helping to contribute to reducing existential risks by donating to charities focusing on these risks, or helping to reduce the suffering of nonhuman animals, for example in the meat industry.
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Juichiro
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(Original post by viddy9)
How so? He's giving approximately 40% of his income to charity, amounting to over £1 million over his lifetime. 1.That's a lot more than 99.9% of people give.



Unsubstantiated claim. Please expand upon it. To me, such a claim is an example of Randian nonsense. Derek Parfit found quite an interesting flaw in rational egoism as well: 3.from the rational egoist point of view, it is rational to contribute to a pension scheme now, even though this is detrimental to one's present interests (which are to spend the money now). But it seems equally reasonable to maximize one's interests now, given that one's reasons are not only relative to him, but to him as he is now (and not his future self, who is argued to be a "different" person).

Secondly, please expand on why you "call BS". I made quite a clear argument, it seems to me. If we have in-built ethical intuitions which we have reflected upon, such as the intuition to save a drowning child from a pond, then it is rational that we apply these intuitions in similar circumstances that cannot be distinguished, say, from the drowning-child analogy.

I don't have the intuition that I should just continue on walking past the pond just because I don't want to get wet. I certainly don't have the intuition that I should always maximise my self-interest - I would rather keep all of my money and spend it on video games, for example. Or, perhaps I wouldn't seeing as I don't. In either case, it is in my self-interest to give to cost-effective charities.

In other words, if we have ethical intuitions to reduce other people's suffering, then it must be in our self-interest to do so. If one is a psychopath and wouldn't save a drowning child from a pond, then the argument doesn't apply, and I freely admit this. But to most of us who would save a drowning child from a pond, we would find that there is no rational distinction between this and saving a child's life by donating to a cost-effective charity, helping to contribute to reducing existential risks by donating to charities focusing on these risks, or helping to reduce the suffering of nonhuman animals, for example in the meat industry.
1. Lol Whether 99.9% of people give less than that is not an argument for giving less than you could. Could you imagine how good a slave trader would be if he only abused his slave 364 days per year rather than the usual 365 days per year? In practical terms, it is of course a good point. But in purely ethical terms it is not an argument. That is my opinion. Also he has a partner so he could give more than 40% and rely on his partner's income. But of course, in practical terms, the idea is that any amount is good enough.

2. Fulfilling the interests of others is not rational (i.e. it has not basis on rationality where rationality is that behaviour which gets you closer to your interests nor does it have a basis of rationality where rationality is the property of a valid sequence of logical arguments). Self-interested behaviour is rational in the sense that it is the behaviour that gets you closer to your interests.

3. What a nonsensical thing to say. It makes many assumptions (which are not true for all egoist agents): a) the pension scheme is the only way (or the quickest/safest way) to get financial certainty for retirement, all egoist agents are interested in the immediate spending of their money.

I don't think we have built-in ethical intuitions nor I believe that ethics is objective thus in my opinion that drowning child won't be saved in all situations. And even if it was saved I would not rule out self-interest (getting the child as a slave, selling the child to someone, etc). The basis of ethics is quite a hot debate but Peter Singer himself (just like Kant did before him) admitted in his epic book that ethics does not seem to have a basis (or at least not a rational one).

Moral inferencing is a tricky thing. While most people in the western world would get their clothes wet to save a drowning child, I don't know how many would get their £500 Iphone wet to save a drowning child. And even if they did, that would change their indifference towards the premature deaths of other children (this indifference is implied in the fact that they are happy to buy products made by children in conditions that will shorten their lifespans or that eventually kill them). So this ethical intuition is anything but reliable. I think logical reason is a better tool but as Singer and Kant realised, it has its limits when it comes to ethics.
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viddy9
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(Original post by Juichiro)
1. Lol Whether 99.9% of people give less than that is not an argument for giving less than you could. Could you imagine how good a slave trader would be if he only abused his slave 364 days per year rather than the usual 365 days per year? In practical terms, it is of course a good point. But in purely ethical terms it is not an argument. That is my opinion. Also he has a partner so he could give more than 40% and rely on his partner's income. But of course, in practical terms, the idea is that any amount is good enough.
Thank you for your reply. I do agree that they should be giving more.

(Original post by Juichiro)
2. Fulfilling the interests of others is not rational (i.e. it has not basis on rationality where rationality is that behaviour which gets you closer to your interests nor does it have a basis of rationality where rationality is the property of a valid sequence of logical arguments). Self-interested behaviour is rational in the sense that it is the behaviour that gets you closer to your interests.
You've just made a completely circular argument. If you rationality as 'behaviour that gets you closer to your interests', then of course self-interested behaviour is rational. But why is it rational to get closer to your interests in the first place, may I ask?

If I defined rationality as ensuring that the interests of every sentient being are maximised, then it would be rational to act in other people's interests.

(Original post by Juichiro)
I don't think we have built-in ethical intuitions nor I believe that ethics is objective thus in my opinion that drowning child won't be saved in all situations. And even if it was saved I would not rule out self-interest (getting the child as a slave, selling the child to someone, etc). The basis of ethics is quite a hot debate but Peter Singer himself (just like Kant did before him) admitted in his epic book that ethics does not seem to have a basis (or at least not a rational one).

Moral inferencing is a tricky thing. While most people in the western world would get their clothes wet to save a drowning child, I don't know how many would get their £500 Iphone wet to save a drowning child. And even if they did, that would change their indifference towards the premature deaths of other children (this indifference is implied in the fact that they are happy to buy products made by children in conditions that will shorten their lifespans or that eventually kill them). So this ethical intuition is anything but reliable. I think logical reason is a better tool but as Singer and Kant realised, it has its limits when it comes to ethics.
Many of us do have in-built ethical intuitions, though. Most people would say they have a conscience of some sort. Most people would certainly save a drowning child even if they ruin their clothes.

However, it is true that, when people are making ethical decisions without even knowing it, for instance buying products sourced from unethical workplaces or using money to buy non-essential things that they could give to charity instead, ethical intuitions don't always work.

But, that's exactly my argument. We should reflect on our ethical intuitions and construct a consistent moral code. If, and I say if, one has the ethical intuition that they should save the drowning child even if it cost them hundreds of pounds, then they should reflect upon that intuition and look at other similar scenarios which aren't different in any morally relevant way, i.e. giving to cost-effective charities and saving lives.

Egoism isn't rational and neither, strictly, is any form of morality. But, if the people who have ethical intuitions reflect upon their ethical intuitions, they can construct a logically consistent form of morality.
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(Original post by viddy9)
1. You've just made a completely circular argument. If you rationality as 'behaviour that gets you closer to your interests', then of course self-interested behaviour is rational. But why is it rational to get closer to your interests in the first place, may I ask?

2.If I defined rationality as ensuring that the interests of every sentient being are maximised, then it would be rational to act in other people's interests.

3.Many of us do have in-built ethical intuitions, though. Most people would say they have a conscience of some sort. Most people would certainly save a drowning child even if they ruin their clothes.

4.However, it is true that, when people are making ethical decisions without even knowing it, for instance buying products sourced from unethical workplaces or using money to buy non-essential things that they could give to charity instead, ethical intuitions don't always work.

5.But, that's exactly my argument. We should reflect on our ethical intuitions and construct a consistent moral code. If, and I say if, one has the ethical intuition that they should save the drowning child even if it cost them hundreds of pounds, then they should reflect upon that intuition and look at other similar scenarios which aren't different in any morally relevant way, i.e. giving to cost-effective charities and saving lives.

6.Egoism isn't rational and neither, strictly, is any form of morality. But, if the people who have ethical intuitions reflect upon their ethical intuitions, they can construct a logically consistent form of morality.
1. Yes, rationality is defined as the decision making or set of arguments which gets you closer to your goals/interests. This is the definition used in the behavioural/psychological sciences as well as in AI. I don't understand your question, basically I told you that the definition of A is B and you are asking me why it is the case that A is B? How is your question different from asking why a byte is defined as a collection of 8 bits? From the standpoint of the behavioural sciences I can just say that it makes sense to equate rationality with self-interest when that is the behaviour displayed by most life forms. Just like every form of behaviour can be described in deterministic terms, so does every behaviour of life forms can be described in terms of rationality (i.e. getting closer to certain self-interests).

2. If you change the meaning of a word (such as rationality), you should also change the meaning of all its related words (such as rational where "rational" is the trait of rationality) for the same reason that if I change the meaning of the word "physics" I would also have to change the meaning of words like "physical".

If your interest is ensuring the interests of every sentient being are maximised, then it is rational to act in other people's interests because in doing so you are getting closer to your own interest. Thus, you are still an egoist/self-interested agent. It does not seem to be logically possible for a life form not to be self-interested in so far as we assume that said life form has a will to act and freedom to do so (both of which are questionable seeing the developments in neuroscience but we can for the sake of the argument ignore neuroscience for now).

3. What do you mean by "ethical intuition"? A sense of what is right and wrong? If you look at the history of ethics (Peter Singer wrote a nice book on that) you can see that at different periods of time, what acts were considered wrong and which ones rights have changed. Even today, if you ask to the world population whether porn is right or wrong you won't get a consensus.

4. This is 21st century Europe. Most of us has at least once heard about the conditions of the workers that produce our products or the animals used to make our products. And we know the conditions are not right. But we do not care so we do not think about it. If your ethical "intuition" doesn't always work and you don't know when it works, it does not seem to be a very reliable source. Do you imagine not knowing when your electricity supply won't work knowing that you rely on the use of electrical and electronic appliances every day?

5. That's my point. I don't believe that ethics/morality is objective. And presumably Singer believes likewise (based on his epic book). Ideally, like Singer and Kant would love, there would be an objective morality whose truths could be derived in the same way you derive truths from mathematics in a logical fashion. This was Kant's dream. But this is only practical if you temporarily assume that the grounding for all ethics is moral absolutism and moral absolutism comes its own bag of problems which I happily elaborate on if you want me to.

6. Egoism is rational because of the definition of rational contains the notion of self-interest behaviour in it. Maybe I did not make myself clear, but egoism allows for the possibility of behaviours that externally appear to be altruistic. However, due to the subjective nature of interests, you can make a logically compelling case for others to do as you want them to do unless (a - it is the case that they want to do as you want them to do, b - you give them an incentive such that doing what you want them to do will get them closer to their interests).
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viddy9
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(Original post by Juichiro)
1. Yes, rationality is defined as the decision making or set of arguments which gets you closer to your goals/interests. This is the definition used in the behavioural/psychological sciences as well as in AI. I don't understand your question, basically I told you that the definition of A is B and you are asking me why it is the case that A is B? How is your question different from asking why a byte is defined as a collection of 8 bits? From the standpoint of the behavioural sciences I can just say that it makes sense to equate rationality with self-interest when that is the behaviour displayed by most life forms. Just like every form of behaviour can be described in deterministic terms, so does every behaviour of life forms can be described in terms of rationality (i.e. getting closer to certain self-interests).
I see where you're coming from now, but what this essentially means is that life-forms display behaviour dedicated to achieveing their interests - in other words, they have instincts, or intuitions, that they should achieve their interests. These intuitions have been hardwired into life forms by natural selection. But, at the same time, caring for others is also an intuition displayed not only by humans, but by some nonhuman animals as well.

(Original post by Juichiro)
If your interest is ensuring the interests of every sentient being are maximised, then it is rational to act in other people's interests because in doing so you are getting closer to your own interest. Thus, you are still an egoist/self-interested agent. It does not seem to be logically possible for a life form not to be self-interested in so far as we assume that said life form has a will to act and freedom to do so (both of which are questionable seeing the developments in neuroscience but we can for the sake of the argument ignore neuroscience for now).
This is essentially the argument that I made earlier, but you then said "[f]ulfilling the interests of others is not rational". However, if a being has a desire to fulfill the interests or others due to his/her sense of right and wrong, then, by your argument and by the argument I presented a few posts ago, it is rational.

So, is it fair to say that we agree on this point? I agree with you on free will, incidentally.

I agree that morality is not objective, too. However, it seems we disagree on how subjective morality really is and, by extension, how similar people's ethical intuitions are, as well as how much they care. Point of interest, though, Peter Singer may have changed to some kind of objective utilitarian viewpoint now - see his new book, The Point of View of the Universe.

Firstly, in different cultures over the millennia, many have included some version of the Golden Rule in them, and many advocated helping the poor and the vulnerable. Like today, we see that these cultures didn't implement their ethics particularly well on a large scale, but, individually, the instinct to help others has been present, generally, in the human species, for a long time.

You claim that the fact that people don't always take actions in their life that are 'ethical' demonstrates that they don't care. On the contrary, humans are, generally, irrational creatures. We have cognitive biases, and these have been written about in detail by psychologists and behavioural economists. Pertinent to this discussion are biases to do with ethics: people, for instance, are more likely to help others when they're alone and they see someone struggling than when other people are around and they see someone struggling. Humans seem to like to share responsibility, but, thinking about these situations logically, there's no relevant difference - the goal, helping the struggling person, should still be met. There are a number of other cognitive errors holding people back from acting upon their ethical intuitions - it's not that they don't care; it's more that they're unaware that situation z is an ethical situation.

You point out that we live in an information-filled society in which people are bound to know that what they're doing is wrong. But, it's not that people consciously ignore this information, it's simply that they subconsciously put it to the back of their minds. And, often, humans will make rationalisations to justify their actions - in the case of eating nonhuman animals, which you mentioned, they'll make fallacious arguments, such as the appeal to nature ("it's only natural"), or the ad hominem attack ("vegans are sanctimonious"). So, they don't even think that they're doing something wrong in the first place.
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(Original post by viddy9)
1.I see where you're coming from now, but what this essentially means is that life-forms display behaviour dedicated to achieveing their interests - in other words, they have instincts, or intuitions, that they should achieve their interests. These intuitions have been hardwired into life forms by natural selection. But, at the same time, caring for others is also an intuition displayed not only by humans, but by some nonhuman animals as well.



2.This is essentially the argument that I made earlier, but you then said "[f]ulfilling the interests of others is not rational". However, if a being has a desire to fulfill the interests or others due to his/her sense of right and wrong, then, by your argument and by the argument I presented a few posts ago, it is rational.

3.So, is it fair to say that we agree on this point? I agree with you on free will, incidentally.

4.I agree that morality is not objective, too. However, it seems we disagree on how subjective morality really is and, by extension, how similar people's ethical intuitions are, as well as how much they care. Point of interest, though, Peter Singer may have changed to some kind of objective utilitarian viewpoint now - see his new book, The Point of View of the Universe.

5. Firstly, in different cultures over the millennia, many have included some version of the Golden Rule in them, and many advocated helping the poor and the vulnerable. Like today, we see that these cultures didn't implement their ethics particularly well on a large scale, but, individually, the instinct to help others has been present, generally, in the human species, for a long time.

6. You claim that the fact that people don't always take actions in their life that are 'ethical' demonstrates that they don't care. On the contrary, humans are, generally, irrational creatures. We have cognitive biases, and these have been written about in detail by psychologists and behavioural economists. Pertinent to this discussion are biases to do with ethics: people, for instance, are more likely to help others when they're alone and they see someone struggling than when other people are around and they see someone struggling. Humans seem to like to share responsibility, but, thinking about these situations logically, there's no relevant difference - the goal, helping the struggling person, should still be met. There are a number of other cognitive errors holding people back from acting upon their ethical intuitions - it's not that they don't care; it's more that they're unaware that situation z is an ethical situation.

7.You point out that we live in an information-filled society in which people are bound to know that what they're doing is wrong. But, it's not that people consciously ignore this information, it's simply that they subconsciously put it to the back of their minds. And, often, humans will make rationalisations to justify their actions - in the case of eating nonhuman animals, which you mentioned, they'll make fallacious arguments, such as the appeal to nature ("it's only natural"), or the ad hominem attack ("vegans are sanctimonious"). So, they don't even think that they're doing something wrong in the first place.
1. Agree
2. "Fulfilling the interests of others is not rational". Sorry, I did not express myself properly.
3. Yep, it is fair indeed.
4. I will buy the book when its price drops. £25!
5. I agree too.
6. Good point. I wonder if ethics is some form of cognitive bias. That certain factors such as seeing someone's suffering, how close you are to that person, kinship or lack thereof affect the likehood of someone helping someone else makes me wonder if this ethical "intuition" you talk about is nothing but a hard-wired reaction to help others. And if it is a hard-wired reaction, doesn't the whole enterprise of altruism revolve around activating the "moral hard-wired reaction trigger" on people's brains whether it is with emotional images/sounds or (we haven't reached the point yet) with substances that alter people's brain's neural activity in the ways we want to? What are the ethics of changing someone's desires? Of making them do something that without someone actively switching on "their altruistic behaviour trigger" they would not do?

7. Some good points however, self-deception is not an excuse for unethical behaviour. People who do harmful things (such as rapists, murderers, bullies, among others) also tend to justify their actions and they might sub-consciously ignore the visual information they receive from their victims (that they are in pain) and might instead tell themselves that the victim wants/deserves it. I think there is only so much we can do with explaining unethical behaviour by resorting to cognitive biases or even neurobiology before we conclude that humans are not really capable of choosing what they do. This does not necessarily affect the goal diminishing people's suffering but it brings interesting problems of agency in the area of ethics, especially when it comes to pain intentionally caused by a human.
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