Eudaimonic and Theistic Utilitarianism

Utilitarianism, prioritarianism and other varieties of consequentialism.
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Darklight
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Re: Eudaimonic and Theistic Utilitarianism

Post by Darklight » Tue Feb 04, 2014 10:32 pm

I would also just like to note that even if moral realism is false, that doesn't spell doom for Utilitarianism, because Utilitarianism only requires moral universalism.
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Re: Eudaimonic and Theistic Utilitarianism

Post by DanielLC » Wed Feb 05, 2014 12:35 am

I'm not sure even that's strictly necessary. I'm not entirely sure of the terminology, but Eliezer Yudkowsky seems to be a moral relativist. Nonetheless, he considers what is moral from his point of reference to be Utilitarianism.
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Re: Eudaimonic and Theistic Utilitarianism

Post by peterhurford » Wed Feb 05, 2014 8:07 am

Darklight wrote:I would also just like to note that even if moral realism is false, that doesn't spell doom for Utilitarianism, because Utilitarianism only requires moral universalism.
I spelt out an anti-realist Utilitarianism once.
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Re: Eudaimonic and Theistic Utilitarianism

Post by Darklight » Wed Feb 05, 2014 7:29 pm

I'm not sure even that's strictly necessary. I'm not entirely sure of the terminology, but Eliezer Yudkowsky seems to be a moral relativist. Nonetheless, he considers what is moral from his point of reference to be Utilitarianism.
Are you sure about that? Just from reading the meta-ethics sequence, I thought Eliezer Yudkowsky believed that morality was based on a complex value function that cannot be reduced to something as simple as "maximize utility".
I spelt out an anti-realist Utilitarianism once.
Interesting. I don't know that I completely agree with or for that matter understand your anti-realist meta-ethics, but it was an interesting read.

I think where I disagree with you is that I don't think that standards and goals are the source of moral judgments. Rather, I think that there are positive mental and existential states that are intrinsically good, and there are negative mental and existential states that are intrinsically bad. Goodness and badness are subjective judgments in the sense that they are made by a subject with regard to things. Given that the only things we can be absolutely sure of are that something exists, and whether we perceive our mental states to be positive or negative, I think that such things are the only things we can make absolute moral judgments about. Thus, happiness is good, and suffering is bad, even if we are just a brain in a jar being fed false perceptions and having no ability to actually realize any goals.

Goals are simply apparent world states that we value for some reason or another. Goals I think, can be described as good or bad only with reference to their consequences in terms of the goodness or badness of the world state that achieving a given goal would create. Achieving goals is not in and of itself, intrinsically good, although they are so often instrumentally good that many people could conceivably confuse themselves about it.

I think fundamentally you have to ask yourself, since goals are about achieving what we value, whether or not values are intrinsically good. I think it should be obvious that some values are not good. Someone might value torturing others to "save their souls". But I would say that there is something morally wrong with this value, and that this is not merely my opinion but an actual statement of fact, having to do with the suffering that torture causes and the falsehood of the "save their souls" part. If this is true, then values are not intrinsically good, because it is possible to hold bad values.
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Re: Eudaimonic and Theistic Utilitarianism

Post by DanielLC » Wed Feb 05, 2014 9:59 pm

Just from reading the meta-ethics sequence, I thought Eliezer Yudkowsky believed that morality was based on a complex value function that cannot be reduced to something as simple as "maximize utility".
He has a complex utility function. It's still utilitarianism.
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Re: Eudaimonic and Theistic Utilitarianism

Post by Verrian » Mon Feb 24, 2014 6:22 pm

Darklight wrote:Eudaimonia would not be achieved by hooking up to the matrix if the matrix was a perfect utopia of happiness, because that utopia and happiness aren't real. They're a fantasy, a drug that prevents them from actually living and being who they're supposed to be, who they can be. They would be living a lie. Eudaimonia is based on the truth.
This seems the Nozick's machine dilemma, and shows to me a big quantity of errors. First of all, on cartesian or humean paradox, if I'm not mistaken, we cannot know if our reality is... real, so possibly we are, or I am, in a matrix. Answering to Morpheus and weighing whether take the pill, I would accuse Morpheus to not proves me the reality of his world (a much more painfull world, of course). Therefore, pragmatic approach!

The ancient view that says: "If there's knowledge, therefore is happiness" seems to me for few, and an uncertain form of utilitarianism. For I don't see such a close connection between these two elements, under any circumstances. What means "(total) knowledge"? something like an enormous mental encyclopedia? or a constant perception of all world's experencies? (You says not.) What degree of first type of knowledge? an high level, true? is it possible? I see it when we say that: "If we'll God, therefore we'll happy", 'cause the philosophical notion of God is, especially, of a Being whose happiness is infinite. But there is an evident analogy: 'cause knowing many things in the exact circumstances (ever knowing what's going on) it's a nearly divine (im)possibility.

Rather, I see that if one is sage, he has more probabilities to find some way to maximaze his happiness. This is an instrumental (an utilitarian, I suppose) view of knowledge. I don't know what utility may has the knowledge if its result is not an increase of happiness, I don't know what's utility of an human "perfection" if it doesn't give happiness; on the other hand, the "soma" or the Nozick's machine would give us an high degree (and, I hope, certainty) of pleasure, so that the end is reached. (I agree with user Daniel), you make a wider turn to the end, I think.

It seems to me that your E-Utilitarian response to the party-scenario was obviously uncorrect. However, in more relevant scenarios, if we know that knowing the truth is a real concern for our friends – that is, if we're sure that will produce an increase of happiness in them – then we'll say the truth by duty. Finally, I don't see (thus, a priori, without read it because it's very difficult to me) how Bayes could overcome the Epicurus' old questions; with regard to free will, I see it grim.
Darklight wrote:For instance, take the example of a suicidal and depressed man. Due to emotional factors, this man has the irrational desire to kill himself.
Uhmm... I don't think so (still see Hume, Of Suicide). Well, other matter.

The part of your benthamite calculus about adultery is too complex for me, so I'm droping it. This is my really first comment here, in english, for a real (english) discussion, so forgive me if I did some error and miss out some comment. It's hard to maintain an even attention on english textes.
Last edited by Verrian on Mon Feb 24, 2014 9:23 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Eudaimonic and Theistic Utilitarianism

Post by Darklight » Mon Feb 24, 2014 8:59 pm

First, thanks for replying despite your difficulties with the English language. I really appreciate it! :)
This seems the Nozick's machine dilemma, and shows me a big quantity of errors. First of all, on cartesian or humean paradox, if I'm not mistaken, we cannot know if our reality is... real, so possibly we are, or I am, in a matrix. Answering to Morpheus and weighing whether take the pill, I would accuse Morpheus to not proves me the reality of his world (a much more painfull world, of course). Therefore, pragmatic approach!
I admit that we can't be certain about our reality. But I think that it is reasonable to assume that our senses can be trusted, because otherwise there is nothing we can do.
The ancient view that says: "If there's knowledge, therefore is happiness" seems to me for few, and an uncertain form of utilitarianism. For I don't see such a close connection between these two elements, under any circumstances. What means "(total) knowledge"? something like an enormous mental encyclopedia? or a constant perception of all world's experencies? (You says not.) What degree of first type of knowledge? an high level, true? is it possible? I see it when we say that: "If we'll God, therefore we'll happy", 'cause the philosophical notion of God is, especially, of a Being whose happiness is infinite. But there is an evident analogy: 'cause knowing many things in the exact circumstances (ever knowing what's going on) it's a nearly divine (im)possibility.
Perfect knowledge is an ideal concept. It is admittedly in practice, not feasible short of being God or god-like. However, I still think that we should try to maximize our knowledge, because it will be useful. And I'm not saying that knowledge necessarily leads to happiness. It is possible that knowledge of the truth can bring unhappiness. Eudaimonia is about more than just our emotional state of happiness though. It is about being in the best possible state of actual existence, whatever that is.
Rather, I see that if one is sage, he has more probabilities to find some way to maximaze his happiness. This is an instrumental (an utilitarian, I suppouse) view of knowledge. I don't know what utility may has the knowledge if its result is not an increase of happiness, I don't know what's utility of an human "perfection" if it doesn't give happiness; on the other hand, the "soma" or the Nozick's machine would give us an high degree (and, I hope, certainty) of pleasure, so that the end is reached. (I agree with user Daniel), you make a wider turn to the end, I think.
Indeed, lately, I have been moving away from my earlier view of Eudaimonia, and admitting the possibility that John Stuart Mill was right, and that classical hedonistic utilitarianism is right. I am still uncertain as to whether Eudaimonia as an ideal does capture something that happiness by itself doesn't.
It seems to me that your E-Utilitarian response to the party-scenario was obviously uncorrect. However, in more relevant scenarios, if we know that knowing the truth is a real concern for our friends – that is, if we're sure that will produce an increase of happiness in them – then we'll say the truth by duty. Finally, I don't see (thus, a priori, without read it because it's very difficult to me) how Bayes could overcome the Epicurus' old questions; with regard to free will, I see it grim.
Mmm... I still think that a white lie to protect the secret of a surprise birthday party will produce more happiness at the surprise party, so I think it is still correct. We have to weigh the relative happiness of learning the truth, and getting surprised.

I'm not sure what you're referring to with Bayes and Epicurus and free will.
Uhmm... I don't think so (still see Hume, Of Suicide). Well, other matter.

The part of your benthamite calculus about adultery is too complex for me, so I'm droping it. This is my really first comment here, in english, for a real (english) discussion, so forgive me if I did some error and miss out some comment. It's hard to maintain an even attention on english textes.
I believe I read "Of Suicide" a while back, but I don't remember much except that I disagreed with it at the time.

Yeah, the calculus about adultery was just an attempt to see what kind of calculations would be suggested by the various theories. The numbers are rather arbitrary, so I don't fault anyone for not taking it seriously.

Thanks for giving this discussion a serious effort! :D I really appreciate that you would spend time on my silly little theory.
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Re: Eudaimonic and Theistic Utilitarianism

Post by Verrian » Mon Feb 24, 2014 10:21 pm

Thank you! to endure my mistakes.
In knowing (b.t.w.) the Utilitarian Philosophy, I'm surely inferior to you all, because you anglophones have an huge digital bibliography/library here on Internet in order to learn it. So, these aren't silly discussions for me :) I answer to you all according to my reason and little knowledge.

Unlike the Bayes' title, he cannot prove God's benevolence and, at same time, save the christian view, because Epicurus (see still Hume, DNR, X: 25) doesn't allow him to do it; then, the free will, an usual christian way-out, is a problem, 'cause either it doesn't exist or it's literally useless for human happiness. But this is a marginal matter, just a note.

For the first point, in brief: the objective existence of external things is uncertain; what is certain is the perception of pleasure and pain when we perceive it. It seems to me that these perceptions are whitout-doubt, since in their case reality and appearance concur. Don't they? Thankfully, for utilitarians the utility is better then truth.

Now I've a confused idea of your "Eudaimonia" concept, so I should read with more attention your later messages.
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Re: Eudaimonic and Theistic Utilitarianism

Post by Darklight » Tue Feb 25, 2014 2:33 am

Verrian wrote:Unlike the Bayes' title, he cannot prove God's benevolence and, at same time, save the christian view, because Epicurus (see still Hume, DNR, X: 25) doesn't allow him to do it; then, the free will, an usual christian way-out, is a problem, 'cause either it doesn't exist or it's literally useless for human happiness. But this is a marginal matter, just a note.
This appears to be what you're referring to:
Hume wrote:Epicurus’s old questions are yet unanswered. Is he willing to prevent evil, but not able? then is he impotent. Is he able, but not willing? then is he malevolent. Is he both able and willing? whence then is evil?
Free will is the usual Christian response to the Problem of Evil, but I would actually make a different argument. If God exists, and is both omnipotent and omnibenevolent, then the reason why there is all this apparent evil in this world is that for reasons that are currently beyond our knowledge, the evil in this world is necessary evil, required to achieve the Greatest Good in the long run. For instance, perhaps it is possible that all the suffering in the universe is required to motivate humanity towards the Technological Singularity as quickly as possible, or perhaps our suffering makes sense because we are drastically outnumbered by future humans who will benefit from our efforts to minimize suffering and maximize happiness.

Perhaps we as the early Earthlings, with our privileged position as being able to influence the future so much, are allowed to suffer for the sake of the future.
For the first point, in brief: the objective existence of external things is uncertain; what is certain is the perception of pleasure and pain when we perceive it. It seems to me that these perceptions are whitout-doubt, since in their case reality and appearance concur. Don't they? Thankfully, for utilitarians the utility is better then truth.
I agree with you. This is one of the major reasons I'm leaning towards classical hedonistic utilitarianism these days, more than my pet theory of Eudaimonic Utilitarianism.
Now I've a confused idea of your "Eudaimonia" concept, so I should read with more attention your later messages.
Eudaimonia is probably best described with the word "flourishing". It incorporates subjective feelings of happiness, but also includes the objective state of fulfilling one's purpose, both being and doing well. To be honest, I may not have explained the idea clearly enough (as it is a complicated idea), so I apologize if my various attempts have caused confusion.
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Re: Eudaimonic and Theistic Utilitarianism

Post by Verrian » Tue Feb 25, 2014 12:26 pm

Exactly, those questions!
Darklight wrote:If God exists, and is both omnipotent and omnibenevolent, then the reason why there is all this apparent evil in this world is that for reasons that are currently beyond our knowledge, the evil in this world is necessary evil, required to achieve the Greatest Good in the long run.
There's a self-evident contradiction between the perfect nature of this God, and the sole existence of a problem for this God. His supposed infinite power would prevent any "necessary" evil.
Darklight wrote:For instance, perhaps it is possible that all the suffering in the universe is required to motivate humanity towards the Technological Singularity as quickly as possible, or perhaps our suffering makes sense because we are drastically outnumbered by future humans who will benefit from our efforts to minimize suffering and maximize happiness.
If the God's aim is the human happiness, this strange kind of game is counter-productive. Why to leave humans in pursuit of Merit? I see no one escape-route from this contradiction... maybe except your long and intricate linked paper :D
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Re: Eudaimonic and Theistic Utilitarianism

Post by Darklight » Tue Feb 25, 2014 7:50 pm

There's a self-evident contradiction between the perfect nature of this God, and the sole existence of a problem for this God. His supposed infinite power would prevent any "necessary" evil.
Well, the argument is that omnipotence is not the same as infinite power. Maybe there are absolute, law of the universe type limits to what power a god can have. Omnipotence is simply the power to do what is possible, not what is strictly impossible. It's possible then that there is no way to maximize the good without also having some necessary evil in the universe.
If the God's aim is the human happiness, this strange kind of game is counter-productive. Why to leave humans in pursuit of Merit? I see no one escape-route from this contradiction... maybe except your long and intricate linked paper :D
The hand wavy argument is that we don't know what God knows. Perhaps this just is the best way to go about doing things compared to all the possible alternatives. Admittedly this can be hard to reconcile with reality from our perspective. The hope is that perhaps all the suffering on Earth will be more than offset by the eternal happiness of heaven (if you accept the the Universalist view that everyone will eventually go to heaven). Maybe our short lives on this Earth are all a test designed to determine where to place us in God's heavenly utopia.

For that matter, I recently had the very weird idea that maybe all the religions with their "End Times prophecies" and expectations of the eventual arrival or return of a Messiah, might actually be the work of time travellers who implanted these memes in order to make large numbers of humans more willing to accept the Singularity once it arrives.
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Re: Eudaimonic and Theistic Utilitarianism

Post by Verrian » Tue Feb 25, 2014 11:03 pm

Darklight wrote:Omnipotence is simply the power to do what is possible, not what is strictly impossible.
So, the Creator, the all-creating Being, would have limits? I heard some christians saying that God limitated Himself (in order to guarantee the Free Will), therefore He is limited in powers; besides, some theologians say that God is inferior to a Logos, an Universal Logic or something like that. Too nonsensical for me, too contradictory - in the christian view of a perfect metaphysical being.

Ok, let's consider someone like... if I well understood... a god as supposed by Sidgwick in the end of his masterpiece: maybe there is a god non-enough powerful to give us the Happiness here and now. Ok, it's possible, it's comfortable under some lights. It's very kind and altruistic to have these hopes, it must be sign of a truly altruistic heart; but isn't it just metaphysics?

Talking of atheism, I want recommend you an easy reading (since it's all english) by an indignant and perhaps little-known atheist: P.-H.T. Holbach, The Good Sense, with the GoogleBooks scans. (Also, there's something to do with Kirkegaard in I-don't-know-what podcast or lecture.)
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Re: Eudaimonic and Theistic Utilitarianism

Post by Darklight » Wed Feb 26, 2014 12:17 am

Uh, thanks for the links!

When it comes to matters of religion, I call myself a Christian Agnostic. The reason for that is that while I lean towards Christianity as the faith system that I would take a "leap of faith" towards if I had to choose one, to be intellectually honest my intellectual viewpoint is actually more Agnostic. I would like very much for there to be an all-loving God out there who divinely ordained the universe and ensures eventual eternal happiness for all sentient life. But to be honest, I don't know that. Where I differ from the atheist is mostly that I have experienced in my own life, peculiar coincidences that make me wonder whether or not there is a God. Synchronicities that really make me wonder if the universe is more than mere coincidence. But I admit that these could be just coincidences.

The other thing is that my understanding of what God could be is somewhat different from the traditional theological view. I can conceive of God as being scientifically possible, and so I cannot confidently assert that there is no God, any more than I can confidently assert that there is a God. I admit my ignorance, and my openness to possibilities.

But if you're interested in some of the reasons why I think there -could- be a God, consider reading the short story The Last Question by Isaac Asimov.
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Re: Eudaimonic and Theistic Utilitarianism

Post by Verrian » Wed Feb 26, 2014 12:46 am

Thank you
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