Copper Bezel wrote: Coyoty wrote:
Samik wrote:I have a question. What do people think is the purpose of thought experiments?
Manipulation. The questioner is examining the answerer's responses to find what pushes the answerer's buttons and how to manipulate the answerer. Also, the experiments themselves are a means of manipulation, for getting the answerer to change his mind from one conclusion to a different one. By proposing value judgments in different orders, the questioner can get the answerer to question his own values and be manipulated to the questioner's goal.
Also known as the Socratic Method.
So, after presenting a thought experiment to a subject, and hearing their response, we then alter the parameters of the experiment, according to their response, to see if we can achieve a different response.
1.) For the thought experiment to have the greatest chance of being informative, our changes should try to address the main points of the subject's response as directly as possible.
I.E. if we present the Fat Man Trolley Problem, and they say they wouldn't push because they would be afraid of getting arrested, we don't respond, "Ok, what if there were ten people on the tracks instead of five?" We respond, "Ok, what if you somehow knew there was no chance of getting in trouble?"
The subject then gives the modified problem further consideration, eventually makes a response, and we repeat the process.
2.) An ideal subject would be willing and able to embrace any parameter, no matter how abstract or arbitrary.
I.E. it's not necessary to explain the exact mechanism by which you were certain you wouldn't get in trouble. The purpose is simply to ask, "Does your intuition remain if that possibility were removed?" Ideally, the subject is willing to play along and give the problem further consideration with the new condition(s).
While precision is important, too much detail can actually introduce noise to the response. For example, the subject who wonders how the people got tied
to the track, and concludes that they bear some responsibility for being there, when the problem hasn't said anything about that, and being "tied" to the tracks was just the arbitrary mechanism by which their inability to escape was established as certain.
So, Copper Bezel says:
Copper Bezel wrote:at some point, it becomes less about what was "right" and more about what I could live with.
I then add the parameter that there is no chance of you having to "live with" your action. Perhaps you die, with certainty, in any possible scenario. Perhaps your memory is wiped. Perhaps, [insert some other arbitrary mechanism here].
Copper Bezel responds that that is "too abstract or dodges the point".
My question is: Why is that too abstract?
The parameter: [You have certainty that you will not live to be able to reflect on your decision] is no more or less abstract than [you have certainty you will not get in trouble], or [You have certainty the victims cannot escape] or [you have certainty pushing the fat man will stop the trolley] or [you have certainty pushing the fat man is the only way to stop the trolley].*I would characterize the process less as the "questioner" trying to "manipulate" the answerer towards the "questioner's goal" (though I'm sure some do try to use thought experiments for that purpose) and more just "examination" of the answerer.