On Rationality.

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Ormurinn
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On Rationality.

Postby Ormurinn » Wed Dec 19, 2012 6:00 pm UTC

I'm hoping this could be a thread to talk generally about the implications of rational and irrational elements of various worldviews and the effects they have.

I also have some thing's i'm curious about, and this seems like the kind of place to ask questions about them.

- Is rationality a good thing?

This seems like a given, rationality being, in my fuzzy headspace "making the best decision based on empirical evidence available at a particular time" with a particular emphasis on avoiding cognitive biases or emotional decision making. I wonder though, if assuming that rational thought will always lead to the best outcome is in itself irrational (Recursion!) - I can think of plenty of times and situations where I was rewarded for "going with my gut" rather than thinking things through logically. It's also occurred to me that cognitive biases probably exist for a good reason, otherwise we wouldn't have them.

- Does Rationality inevitably lead to Utilitarianism?

I was once asked to participate in a thought experiment. I was told I was clinging to a ledge with one child holding on to my shoulders and holding another with my free hand. I was told I would fall, and all three of us die, if I didn't allow the child I was holding in my hand to fall to their death. If I did release that child, Myself and the child clinging to my shoulders would survive. On being asked what the moral choice to make was, I responded that it was better not to let the child go, and for all three of us to die. This seems irrational, as in this case I have perfect information and can get a better outcome if I ignore my deontological impulse not to kill an innocent child.

Does being rational necessarily lead to taking on a utilitarian worldview? Or at least admitting that in a world of perfect information, utilitarianism would maximise positive outcomes?

- Is religion compatible with rationality?

and finally

- Does rationality affect your place on the Left/Right spectrum?

"Reality has a well-known liberal bias" is a quote I've heard bandied around with regards to american politics, and there seems to be a similar feeling amongst the "champagne socialist" set in the U.K

In my own life I've seen a split - If tuition fees were reduced or abolished, I'd stand to benefit a great deal, and yet I seem to be one of very few students who is against the idea of the taxpayer footing the bill for university education. Similar things spring up in a lot of cases - people actively voting against their own best interests in a whole range of issues. Is it irrational to vote against your own best interests? What about voting against your own, and the majority's best interest (I'm thinking specifically here of reforms which lead to worse outcomes at a greater cost)?
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Re: On Rationality.

Postby induction » Wed Dec 19, 2012 6:13 pm UTC

Ormurinn wrote:I wonder though, if assuming that rational thought will always lead to the best outcome is in itself irrational (Recursion!) - I can think of plenty of times and situations where I was rewarded for "going with my gut" rather than thinking things through logically.


Assuming that rational thought will always lead to the best outcome is indeed irrational, and just plain wrong. Even limiting the discussion to cases where 'best outcome' is well defined and universally agreed upon, there is often an element of chance involved in real-world outcomes. Perfect strategy doesn't always lead to a win if there's randomness involved.

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Re: On Rationality.

Postby The Great Hippo » Wed Dec 19, 2012 6:19 pm UTC

The inherent problem with discussions like this is the conflation with what is rational with what is true. In one sense, what is rational is what is true; rationality is merely a system by which to pursue truth! And certainly, being rational is very rational from the perspective of rationality.

That being said, there are ways to be 'irrationally rational'--because while we can observe some basic rules for how best to pursue what is true, if we are truly rational, we can also imagine under what cases those rules fail. So if you pursue what is true only using formal rules of rationality--you are left with situations where your rules will fail and what is true will elude you. So, here is a bit of awkwardly phrased wisdom I have noticed in my attempts to get a grasp on how best to understand rationality:

The most rational people tend to be those who do not claim to be the most rational people. The least rational people tend to be those who claim to be the most rational. Genuinely rational people wonder if they are genuinely rational; genuinely irrational people are not bothered by such trivialities.

This is not always true, of course. I have met many highly rational people who claim to be highly rational, and many irrational people who never discuss rationality at all. But: If I thought any rule was always true, I wouldn't be thinking very rationally!

(Then again, I seem to think I am thinking rationally--so perhaps you should assume I am not!)

EDIT: It is, perhaps, a bit unfair for me to discuss this in terms of 'rational people' and 'irrational people'--I do not think it kind nor accurate to describe someone wholly as 'rational' and 'irrational'. Suffice to say, however, that when I describe someone as 'rational' or 'irrational', I only mean that from what I see, they tend to make decisions I see as rational/irrational.

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Re: On Rationality.

Postby Fire Brns » Wed Dec 19, 2012 6:56 pm UTC

Ormurinn wrote:- Is rationality a good thing?
It can be if results are positive. However for example it leads to a colder society: it is irrational to waste 5 seconds to hold a door open for a stranger but sign of kindness which is inherently irrational has a different form of payoff.
A rational person with insufficient data can easily reach an irrational conclusion.
Additionally observation bias would obviously skew what "rational" priorities are.
Ormurinn wrote:- Does Rationality inevitably lead to Utilitarianism?
Depending on the scale of utilization, yes. It also relies on access to information and the ability to construct multiple scenarios with all available data.
I prefer Utilitarianism to an extent, going to the railway scenario:
you have a railway worker on a section of track that trains cannot pass over and a group of people walking along a parallel track which trains can pass over. A train is approaching the group but if you pull a lever you can save their lives at the expense of diverting the train into the railway worker.
Here most people would rationalize that one dead is better than multiple dead. I rationalize that the railway worker was in the right and was on a safe track and as such should not be killed. To kill him is to punish his safe action while allowing people taking an unsafe action to be rewarded.
Ormurinn wrote:- Is religion compatible with rationality?
It could hypothetically be compatible, depending on interpretation. I would argue yes under very narrow circumstances.
Ormurinn wrote:- Does rationality affect your place on the Left/Right spectrum?
Anyone who prescribes to one party's doctrine over another is completely void of rational thought. Siding with a party inherently goes against rational debate.
Going back to observation bias, people will assume their priorities and conclusions are rational and that anyone who disagrees is irrational. This type of assumption is inherently irrational but at the same time the other option of assuming that half of your opinions are correct and half are incorrect without any knowledge of which one is and isn't is equally as irrational.
Ormurinn wrote:""Reality has a well-known liberal bias""
Humanity has a well-known moral bias. People mistake morality for reality. Morality is irrational and it has a stronger grip on society than any fact and it will always be that way. Say something is right or wrong and you can easily raise an army to support an constructed idea rather than facts. This is the reason wars are fought over opinions.
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Re: On Rationality.

Postby Puppyclaws » Wed Dec 19, 2012 7:01 pm UTC

Is rationality a good thing?


Total information is impossible to have in nearly all cases, thus why some things work out better for you when you use a gut reaction than if you take the more rational action. Theoretically, if you could know everything about a situation then you could know the outcome of all situations, and then behaving rationally would always make sense (i.e. lead to the outcome that you desired from the options granted to you).

Does Rationality inevitably lead to Utilitarianism?


Well, no. Rational self-interest would be an excellent example of a starting point that is based in rational thought and not utilitarian.

Is religion compatible with rationality?


Many "rational" people are also religious (or "spiritual," as it is hip to say these days), if that means something to you as far as "compatibility." This topic has in general been done to death on this forum and I would hesitate answering the question directly for that reason.

Does rationality affect your place on the Left/Right spectrum?


Anecdotally, it's been my experience that people who regard themselves as particularly rational embrace the middle while saying they're on the left (that is, they embrace liberalism).

I don't think that any one position can be the only rational position; people who think this must assume that everyone has the same goals. In my mind, it is for the best that we as a society take care of everybody's basic needs. Other people do not see that as a great end goal. I don't think that there is a single knockdown argument for any particular position as the only rational one (although there are plenty of irrational policies that do not do what they set out to do).

It's sort of silly to talk about other people's own best interest. I mean, there is an argument that if a wealthy individual votes for the democrats here in the US, they are voting against their best interest. But there are a lot of other issues besides economics that may be more important to them. Anyway, who really knows what anyone's best interest is? Your own statement about students and tuition fees is, for example, loaded with unstated premises, as are most statements that presume to know what is best for somebody else.

If you want solid answers to these questions, I recommend reading some Feyerabend; he spent a good portion of a lifetime writing about this problem.

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Re: On Rationality.

Postby JayS » Wed Dec 19, 2012 7:03 pm UTC

- Is rationality a good thing?

This seems like a given, rationality being, in my fuzzy headspace "making the best decision based on empirical evidence available at a particular time" with a particular emphasis on avoiding cognitive biases or emotional decision making. I wonder though, if assuming that rational thought will always lead to the best outcome is in itself irrational (Recursion!) - I can think of plenty of times and situations where I was rewarded for "going with my gut" rather than thinking things through logically. It's also occurred to me that cognitive biases probably exist for a good reason, otherwise we wouldn't have them.


I think Mr.(Ms?) Hippo may have already hit on this but making a rational, logical decision requires actually knowing all of the pertinent information. Perhaps "your gut" was taking into account information that hadn't made it's way to your concious mind, and that you did make the most rational decision that you could at the time.

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Re: On Rationality.

Postby TheGrammarBolshevik » Thu Dec 20, 2012 3:43 am UTC

Ormurinn wrote:I wonder though, if assuming that rational thought will always lead to the best outcome is in itself irrational (Recursion!)

It's probably wrong to make that assumption, yeah ("irrational" is not a synonym for "wrong"). But it's fallacious to infer from this that, in those situations where you can reasonably expect a better outcome from following your gut, that it's better to be irrational. All this shows is that sometimes the rational thing to do is to trust your instincts.

Ormurinn wrote:This seems irrational, as in this case I have perfect information and can get a better outcome if I ignore my deontological impulse not to kill an innocent child.

Well, yes, if you assume that the better outcome is the one preferred by utilitarianism and that the right thing to do is to pursue the best outcome, then you'll think that utilitarianism is rational.

You'll also think that neo-Kantianism is rational if you believe the claims of neo-Kantians that their moral principles are constraints of practical reason. Or that mereological nihilism is rational if you think that mereological nihilism has the balance of the philosophical evidence.

Ormurinn wrote:Or at least admitting that in a world of perfect information, utilitarianism would maximise positive outcomes?

What does this even mean? Of course a view that directs people to maximize positive outcomes will maximize positive outcomes if it is enacted. Maybe you're asking if positive outcomes would be maximized were people to actually adopt utilitarianism? In which case I'd say probably no, not without a few changes to human psychology.

Ormurinn wrote:Is religion compatible with rationality?

Is this really a question about rationality? Have your argument about religion. If the best arguments cut against religion, then clearly rationality is against religion. And vice versa.

The same goes for the utilitarianism and left/right politics questions, honestly.

Fire Brns wrote: it is irrational to waste 5 seconds to hold a door open for a stranger but sign of kindness which is inherently irrational has a different form of payoff.

Why is it irrational?
  1. I want someone to get through the door smoothly.
  2. I hold the door.
  3. They get through the door smoothly.
  4. High five, instrumental reason!
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Re: On Rationality.

Postby Tyndmyr » Thu Dec 20, 2012 4:34 am UTC

Ormurinn wrote:I'm hoping this could be a thread to talk generally about the implications of rational and irrational elements of various worldviews and the effects they have.

I also have some thing's i'm curious about, and this seems like the kind of place to ask questions about them.

- Is rationality a good thing?


Yes. Rationality offers a survival advantage in enough circumstances for us to have developed it to a decent degree. We are not perfectly rational, of course...but we can work out fairly complex problems in a rational fashion, better than any other animal can. Therefore, sure, it's useful.

- Does Rationality inevitably lead to Utilitarianism?


Yes. It may not lead only to that, though. In short, many different philosophies may embrace a solid degree of utilitarianism as a method, regardless of what their ends are. Not all utilitarian minded folks are on the same side, if you will.

Why? Well, if an ideal doesn't lead to the best outcomes, why is that ideal worth holding?

- Is religion compatible with rationality?


This is theoretically possible, yes. However, not all beliefs in the subset of religion are compatible with rationality. Some are actively anti-rational.

- Does rationality affect your place on the Left/Right spectrum?


It can. However, I have seen quite rational people on both sides of the spectrum who simply had different goals, and selected the platform that was more practical for achieving the goals they desired. Rational people can still have conflicts of interest, after all.

Now, rational people DO tend to have a much deeper understanding of their chosen side, and often also have at least an acceptable understanding of the other side. This is not true of all people, as many rely on a very simplistic model for the "wrong side".

Is it irrational to vote against your own best interests? What about voting against your own, and the majority's best interest (I'm thinking specifically here of reforms which lead to worse outcomes at a greater cost)?


This depends on how you're defining things, and your personal morals. For instance, a narrow view of "your own interests" that does not include the benefit you receive as part of improving society may incorrectly value things.

Note that voting against the majority best interest is not necessarily irrational. If the majority gains only a little from a given measure, but the minority loses a very great deal, then opposing the majority may indeed be very logical, even if you are in the majority. One such example would be slavery.

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Re: On Rationality.

Postby HungryHobo » Thu Dec 20, 2012 1:48 pm UTC

Ormurinn wrote:- Does Rationality inevitably lead to Utilitarianism?

I was once asked to participate in a thought experiment. I was told I was clinging to a ledge with one child holding on to my shoulders and holding another with my free hand. I was told I would fall, and all three of us die, if I didn't allow the child I was holding in my hand to fall to their death. If I did release that child, Myself and the child clinging to my shoulders would survive. On being asked what the moral choice to make was, I responded that it was better not to let the child go, and for all three of us to die. This seems irrational, as in this case I have perfect information and can get a better outcome if I ignore my deontological impulse not to kill an innocent child.


Rationality is a means, not an end.

lets imagine that you were an AI rather than a human.
A rationalbot which always attempts to persue it's goals in a rational manner.

You are given the task of creating chairs. You are not given the goal of providing the most good to the most people.
You can be perfectly capable of persuing your goal in a rational manner without caring in the slightest about utilitarianism.

now on the other hand some things may not be very compatible with rationality. If someone asked you what your goal was would it be "to save as many kids as possible" or would it be "to have the best intentions about saving kids as possible".

Indeed in the example you cite it doesn't really seem to satisfy your stated goal (to never sacrifice an innocent child) becuase you effectively sacrifice 2 innocent children for the sake of meeting some other goal.

Put another way if you list your goal and your constraints and then pick the course of action which violates your costraints the least while meeting your goals the most that's rational. nothing says those goals or constraints have anything to do with utilitarianism but it just happens that many people tend to settle on goals and constraints compatible with some form of utilitarianism.
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Re: On Rationality.

Postby Red Hal » Thu Dec 20, 2012 2:06 pm UTC

The problem with the cliff example being cited, and many other similar ones, is that they present a falsely black and white picture which people try to evaluate using a set of heuristics that they have built up over years of dealing with the fuzzy nature of real life.
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Re: On Rationality.

Postby Iceman » Mon Dec 24, 2012 3:00 pm UTC

HungryHobo wrote:You can be perfectly capable of persuing your goal in a rational manner without caring in the slightest about utilitarianism.


So would it be possible to Rationally determine what your goal is? If you rationally decided what to do, might you rationally decide that your goal itself is to maximize your own usefulness in some way?

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Re: On Rationality.

Postby capefeather » Thu Dec 27, 2012 3:50 am UTC

Rationality is like any finite resource. It would be great to use it if it never came at the expense of anything. Yet, rationality takes time and effort, which is not necessarily affordable in a quick thinking situation like running away from predators or solving a puzzle in five minutes. We have to be able to know the difference between a rational decision and instinct, though.

I don't believe that rationality leads to utilitarianism.

For one thing, TheGrammarBolshevik put it pretty well; you are perfectly free in your own mind to define what you consider "good". As long as you don't contradict yourself, there's no logical problem. It's just that different people disagree with each other on what "good" should be. At that point, claiming that your views are somehow more rational than your opponents' is the furthest from rational you can get. (This answers the religion question as well.) Rationality is merely a means to an arbitrary goal that you have in mind.

For another thing, if we're defining utilitarianism as the maximization of some quantity, I don't think that rationality in terms of goals like "saving the most people" leads to maximizing happiness or whatever. I'm always wary of philosophies that aim to maximize the total of some quantity, whether it be total purchasing power or total "utility" or whatever. I have to wonder if such a philosophy would lead to killing people at random, or enslaving everyone under a few de facto dictators, for the purpose of maximizing a quantity. It's a bit amusing to me that people tend to try to avoid that by defining a list of disallowed actions. In my view, not only does that destroy the elegance of the philosophy (i.e. the whole point), but it just allows people to hurt each other through the worst means that *is* allowed.

Rationality affects my place on the left/right spectrum insofar as I believe in rewarding political parties for honesty and punishing them for dishonesty. Obviously, every side lies, but some lies are just so blatant and ridiculous I could never feel right in voting for a party that allows such bullshit to occur. This is basically why I'd probably be a Democrat voter if I were an American. It's also why I prefer the idea of multiple parties over two parties - those extremists can go represent themselves!

As for voting for/against my best interests, I'd be fine with voting against small interests in favour of large ones. I often find that people don't account for scale at all, and consequently follow their pet philosophical rules to the point of ridiculousness. For what it's worth, I'd consider government putting money into something like postsecondary education as an investment, and largely a good one. Now, I also think that investing in every subject equally is a waste, but those are details and have nothing to do with the morality of taxes.

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Re: On Rationality.

Postby FierceContinent » Thu Dec 27, 2012 7:29 pm UTC

Ormurinn
You don't *really* have a choice.
you're a human, basically a blob of reason.
some people have smaller or more warped blobs than others but they are all made of reason.
Its possible this is wrong, but how would we know?

I agree with most of what capefeather said though personally i'm fine with maximising happiness
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Re: On Rationality.

Postby TheGrammarBolshevik » Fri Dec 28, 2012 12:57 am UTC

capefeather wrote:For one thing, TheGrammarBolshevik put it pretty well; you are perfectly free in your own mind to define what you consider "good". As long as you don't contradict yourself, there's no logical problem. It's just that different people disagree with each other on what "good" should be. At that point, claiming that your views are somehow more rational than your opponents' is the furthest from rational you can get. (This answers the religion question as well.) Rationality is merely a means to an arbitrary goal that you have in mind.

Well, no, I didn't say any of this. I was just making the very limited point that Ormurinn's argument in the OP is trivially circular.
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Re: On Rationality.

Postby Caledonian » Sun Dec 30, 2012 7:44 pm UTC

Ormurinn wrote:It's also occurred to me that cognitive biases probably exist for a good reason, otherwise we wouldn't have them.


Nope. Some we have because they're natural tendencies of neural networks and countering them is difficult and expensive in ways that previous natural selection wasn't particularly concerned about. Sort of like how sickle-cell anemia is an unfortunate side-effect of malaria resistance genes, only moreso.

Human beings aren't designed to be rational, they're designed to maximize their reproductive fitness in an environment that no longer exists. Our general defectiveness proceeds from that reality.

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Re: On Rationality.

Postby Puppyclaws » Mon Dec 31, 2012 1:08 pm UTC

Caledonian wrote:
Ormurinn wrote:It's also occurred to me that cognitive biases probably exist for a good reason, otherwise we wouldn't have them.


Nope. Some we have because they're natural tendencies of neural networks and countering them is difficult and expensive in ways that previous natural selection wasn't particularly concerned about. Sort of like how sickle-cell anemia is an unfortunate side-effect of malaria resistance genes, only moreso.

Human beings aren't designed to be rational, they're designed to maximize their reproductive fitness in an environment that no longer exists. Our general defectiveness proceeds from that reality.


That, and the complexity of human interaction is learned and most complex behavior and thought is not a direct product of evolution.

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Re: On Rationality.

Postby Iceman » Mon Dec 31, 2012 3:29 pm UTC

Caledonian wrote:
Ormurinn wrote:It's also occurred to me that cognitive biases probably exist for a good reason, otherwise we wouldn't have them.


Nope. Some we have because they're natural tendencies of neural networks and countering them is difficult and expensive in ways that previous natural selection wasn't particularly concerned about. Sort of like how sickle-cell anemia is an unfortunate side-effect of malaria resistance genes, only moreso.

Human beings aren't designed to be rational, they're designed to maximize their reproductive fitness in an environment that no longer exists. Our general defectiveness proceeds from that reality.



I think that environment still does exist. You may not be eaten by a Tiger, but the general state where irrationality, emotioal appeal, biases in decision making and rejection of too mcuh new information still provides you an advantage in many ways.

That's still how people relate to one another, you're at a very big social disadvantage if you really were a much more rational person than others.

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Re: On Rationality.

Postby morriswalters » Mon Dec 31, 2012 3:33 pm UTC

If what I have been reading is to be believed cognitive biases are mechanisms to speed processing in a lot of cases. We trade accuracy for speed. Rationality could be an after the fact rationale. For instance in picking a new piece of technology, say between Apple and Samsung devices, how much is the rational choice and how much the emotional?

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Re: On Rationality.

Postby Tyndmyr » Mon Dec 31, 2012 10:29 pm UTC

Caledonian wrote:
Ormurinn wrote:It's also occurred to me that cognitive biases probably exist for a good reason, otherwise we wouldn't have them.


Nope. Some we have because they're natural tendencies of neural networks and countering them is difficult and expensive in ways that previous natural selection wasn't particularly concerned about. Sort of like how sickle-cell anemia is an unfortunate side-effect of malaria resistance genes, only moreso.

Human beings aren't designed to be rational, they're designed to maximize their reproductive fitness in an environment that no longer exists. Our general defectiveness proceeds from that reality.


A nitpick, perhaps, but I prefer the term "adapted" over "designed".

However, the thrust of your argument is of course correct. Society has changed greatly over just a few generations, and evolution works on multi-generational timescales. Therefore, it is extremely probable that we are changing society faster than society is changing us genetically. This is a bit of a tough thing to change, though, as shortening generations is widely considered undesirable(and indeed, would pose evolutionary challenges of its own). I suppose we'll have to muddle through as best as we can with our cognative biases until we get to point of properly designing our offspring to be more rational.

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Re: On Rationality.

Postby gmalivuk » Fri Jan 04, 2013 11:06 pm UTC

capefeather wrote:I'm always wary of philosophies that aim to maximize the total of some quantity, whether it be total purchasing power or total "utility" or whatever. I have to wonder if such a philosophy would lead to killing people at random, or enslaving everyone under a few de facto dictators, for the purpose of maximizing a quantity. It's a bit amusing to me that people tend to try to avoid that by defining a list of disallowed actions.
Really? Can you direct me to something written by such a person, because I haven't encountered this sort of reasoning.

Rather, utilitarians in my experience tend to point out the much simpler and less ad hoc fact that killing people at random or being enslaved by dictators wouldn't actually be a particularly happy situation for most people. It's wrong to harvest organs from one person to save five people, on a typical realistic utilitarian account, because a world in which going to the hospital might get you cut up for your organs has less total utility than one in which going to the hospital is in general a safe thing to do.
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Re: On Rationality.

Postby Whammy » Sat Jan 05, 2013 6:12 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:
capefeather wrote:I'm always wary of philosophies that aim to maximize the total of some quantity, whether it be total purchasing power or total "utility" or whatever. I have to wonder if such a philosophy would lead to killing people at random, or enslaving everyone under a few de facto dictators, for the purpose of maximizing a quantity. It's a bit amusing to me that people tend to try to avoid that by defining a list of disallowed actions.
Really? Can you direct me to something written by such a person, because I haven't encountered this sort of reasoning.

Rather, utilitarians in my experience tend to point out the much simpler and less ad hoc fact that killing people at random or being enslaved by dictators wouldn't actually be a particularly happy situation for most people. It's wrong to harvest organs from one person to save five people, on a typical realistic utilitarian account, because a world in which going to the hospital might get you cut up for your organs has less total utility than one in which going to the hospital is in general a safe thing to do.


Yep, pretty much *considers himself a utilitarian following primarily in the John Stuart Mill sense of the word*. This is a pretty common thought-experiment when discussing utilitarianism though. Tends to get rather annoying sometimes XD.

Anyway, on the issue of rationality, I'll admit that I don't put as much emphasis on rationality; I just see it as a tool of the human mind to think about the world. But as a tool, how it's going to be used is going to change based on the motivation of the user, which in this case would be your base principles and assumptions. Sure, you can justify those, but eventually you'll reach a point where you're basically choosing your assumptions due to some emotional reasoning. Even utilitarianism has this with pleasure or utility being the primary good because, well, that's about the only thing that can't be reduced; happiness is good because it makes you feel good, and so we should be trying to maximize that and reduce things that make you feel bad/pain.

This of course doesn't even get into a discussion on cognitive biases and heuristics and all that stuff that while good for everyday use but can prove quite problematic if you're discussing a bigger issue like politics. The only time you're going to get people to actually act like rational beings in that case is if you can disrupt their habits to such a large degree as to cause an emotional stirring in them which causes them to think and act. I might not have explained that well, but if you're interested George E. Marcus's The Sentimental Citizen is a good read on the subject.

capefeather
Posts: 98
Joined: Sun Dec 14, 2008 4:23 am UTC

Re: On Rationality.

Postby capefeather » Wed Jan 09, 2013 4:10 am UTC

Weeks late, but I'll apologize for perhaps miscommunicating when referencing TheGrammarBolshevik's post. It just seemed like you were generally addressing the implicit assumption that there is somehow an objective "right" or "rational" or whatever, and I was expanding on that.

@ gmalivuk and Whammy: Yes, I'm aware of how people who identify as utilitarians generally think about matters like this. From what I understand, people tend not to define utility in a precise manner by picking out one thing or another. Otherwise, the focus would go to that specific definition at the expense of other factors. My objection has been with people who pick out a precise quantity to maximize, e.g. some notion of wealth and/or purchasing power. The reasoning seems to be the same, but the focus on that one quantity is what I think is dangerous and leads to nontrivializing absurd scenarios like (as was said a few times in a different thread) bears being released into public schools. From what I understand, "real" (for lack of a better word) utilitarians tend to understand all of this.

Basically my problem is with the train of thought that goes, "Killing [or maiming] people is bad due to reason X, but doing the next worst thing is perfectly fine for the sake of maximizing quantity Y." I feel it's a ham-fisted way to pretend that legitimately hard problems are easy.


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