The Morality of Getting Punched in the Face
Failure of Politics in the Modern Era
Has it failed? How do we define failure?
Clearly 1992-2008 is a failure, considering where we could have been and where we are.
What is the role of government? Is it appropriate for government to
a) provide for the education of the youth?
b) provide for the comfort of the elderly?
c) provide an affordable health care option for all citizens?
d) provide for the common defense?
e) insure a supply of affordable housing?
f) provide the basics of survival to individuals within its borders who would die without the help of government?
We all live plugged into the system to various degrees. Can we unplug? WE HAVE TO. Katrina highlighted those who could take care of themselves (people with cars) and those who could not.
People with cars however could only escape from New Orleans as long as there was gas to power those cars and roads to ride on. (Of course, individuals could have made provision for this — stockpiling gasoline and buying offroad vehicles — still –)
It was moreso a various degree of independence. But we are all dependent on our Complex Society. Having grown addicted to the enhancements we get from the drug of Complex-Society, we die if we are taken off of it (to varying degrees — maybe we don’t die, but maybe life as we know it comes to an end)
Why is this so? Because the Natural State cannot support the number of human individuals that we’ve created. Having invented society that allows greater human populations, we have expanded to realize that potential. We cannot go back.
Of course, the more of us there are, and the greater and more complex our society, the less the danger of total societal collapse. See: the Great Recession, the Great Depression, and World War II. These were all fairly bad and disruptive, and yet our civilizations managed to survive more or less intact. Even if WWII had gone the other way, its hard to gauge how long Nazi Domination would have lasted, but one doubts that it would have lasted 1000 years. Chilling as that thought is. Totalitarianism had all the tools — and yet it lost. If it had become a monoculture, would it still have lost, or was the Dialectic necessary to its ultimate defeat.
Not knowing what our utopia looks like, we know enough to be wary of utopia, since it is so often accopmanied with men doing the goosestep.
Since the Renaissance, human society (especially in the West) has become more organized and more complex and more adept at managing and organizing that complexity. This has been accelerating at both ends — the Information Revolution is now becoming manifest to the populace. We can sense what we are on the cusp of. Something new. Something different.
Can government handle this change? this complexity?
The answer has to be yes. Anarchy is no better than totalitarianism. Anarchy leads to decay, corruption — South America. We need a strong and flexible government that is responsive to its citizens and compatible with the enterprise of its citizens.
Proposition: The Goal and Meaning of Life for Beings is to Pursue their Self-Defined Good.
Juxtapose that aginst a different proposition of the Goal and Meaning.
The Goal and Meaning of Life for Beings is to Do the Will of God >>>
but >>> what is the will of God?
The Goal and Meaning of Life for Beings is to Identify the Will of God and Do it.
God is the perfect conception of the Good (true? or do we just move away from God and towards the Good)
To Identify God is to Identify the Good (The Good is what God wants);
Why pursue the Good?
well … what other goal could we have?
We could pursue the Evil. We would have to be Utilitarian Monsters, and gain some pleasure from the suffering of others. There is some pleasure in that, sure, due to the intensity of the emotions involved, the trust-showing function of suffering, the dramatic and narrative beauty of tragedy — The Tragedian Who Causes His Characters to Suffer.
(The Joker, in the Dark Knight. The Problem with the Joker in the Dark Knight is that Batman was not a sufficient argument against the Joker’s Nihilism.)
However such a view is monstrous, and takes no account of what the other person wants, only what the Tragedian wants.
Why should the Tragedian care what the other person wants? Not for personal reasons of protection, not for fear that the other person will fight back. THe Tragedian wants the other person to fight back, that makes it all the more aesthetically pleasing.
“I kill them just to see their faces change.”
Not out of sympathy — perhaps the Tragedian causes pain in order to provoke his own sympathy, so he can feel with the sufferer.
(However, the Tragedian need not create the suffering to feel sympathy with the Sufferer. Life is full of suffering as it is. The Tragedian need merely watch and wait.)
Clearly, the Tragedian prefers creating Suffering in others.
The other person would prefer that the Tragedian not act against him. Why does the Tragedian care? Life is not fair — the preferences of Beings have no final say on the World.
Why should the Tragedian care about the wishes of others?
Perhaps because pursuing this path is inimical to a long life? Perhaps the Tragedian does not like to suffer himself, only to watch and cause the suffering of others. If this is the case, he cannot pursue evil because others will cause him to suffer in order to make him stop.
But what if the Tragedian can make sure he does not get caught, does not suffer? Then he will pursue the evil.
(Or what if the Tragedian believes that Suffering leads us closer to God and/or Understanding Ourselves? (Then that is not Evil but Good – a Wrong Good, maybe, but a Good.))
Is the Sociopath Evil? Or does he stand above and reject morality? But why should any of us accept morality? Because we’re not Grand Tragedians, but Cows who prefer to minimax our chances of suffering? Hating to Suffer far more than we enjoy making others suffer, we do not cause others to suffer, for we know that they will try to stop us. Then we are faced with the prospect of both WANTING/NOT WANTING to act in a specific way, which causes mental anguish/suffering. Therefore, by choosing not to WANT TO CAUSE OTHERS TO SUFFER, we can assuage our anguish and alleviate that suffering. By identifying this new convenient PREFERENCE with a transcendant principle of RESPECT FOR OTHERS, we feel even better about ourselves, as we are now refraining not out of FEAR but out of a CONCEPTION OF THE GOOD. We tell ourselves I DO NOT DESERVE TO SUFFER, BECAUSE NO BEING DESERVES TO SUFFER.
HOwever, it’s a circular argument. The Argument of Sheep — it’s not that we don’t deserve to suffer, it’s that we don’t want to suffer. Ultimately, we are Good because we fear being punched in the face.
We find that we do not need to cause others to Suffer to achive pleasure. Though that would be a source of pleasure, there are other sources of pleasure — the usual hedonistic pleasures, and perhaps imagining or watching other imaginations of suffering. We can SUBSTITUTE the Tragedian for tragic presentations.
We have Better and Worse. Any child can play this game. Offer him a piece of candy. Better or worse? Two in one hand, one in the other. Better of Worse? Make the child watch us play the game with a different child. Better or worse, we ask the first child. For me or for him? is the reply. For him, you say. The child can answer, using the In-Someone-Else’s-Shoes Theory of Mind.
Is the the Good “Better for Me, Not Worse For Him”? Why isn’t it Better for Me, Worse For Him? (Is it that? moral intuition says no, that taking without compensation is not teh Good)
Is it because of the pragmatic argument outlined above? That Better THan Me, Worse For Him is not actually in the long run Better For Me? Because it will provoke a counterresponse from him that might be Worse For Me? That in addition to the actual counterresponse, I also suffer from the uncertainty of the counterresponse? That I am less anxious if I am not making someone worse off? That “Better For Me, Not Worse For Him” is always a happier personal strategy than Better For Me, Worse For Him? That “Better For Me, Better for Him,” is an even nicer outcome, since that lowers the risk of a negative counterreponse even more?
Does the Good then become the pursuit of the best personal strategy? Does it also assume that we don’t want to get punched in the face?
So. That’s one reason to pursue the Good as opposed to the Evil. We can also then see why the Good becomes at least partially a personal decision, or rather an end that is ripe for disagreement. What is Better for any given individual? One person likes chocolate, another likes being thin.
However, that only applies to your half of the equation. Does it make sense to apply your conception of Better-Worse to the other half of the equation, whether the other person is better or worse? Not if your goal is to avoid being punched in the face. The punch won’t be arrested merely because you think the other person is better off (“Hey, at least you’re not fat.” KAPOW.) So His Better-Worse is defined by him, not by you.
What about when you don’t know what his Better-Worse basket is? Or what if you don’t know the externalities of your action? (i.e., whether your action will leave someone else better, worse, or the same?)
In the first case, in order to pursue the Good, you’ll have to hypothesize about what the other person’s Better-Worse Basket is.
In the second case, you’ll have to hypothesize about the externalities.
Both cases, leads to an Uncertainty about whether any action is particularly Good.
What about the Prude? What about when values conflict? As an opening rule, “Worse for Me, Better for You” can’t be very highly ranked on strategies that pursue the Good.
(But is it Good to move from Worse for Me, Better for You >> Better for Me, Worse For You? Not from a facepunch view. You can however attempt to move the world to “Better for Me, Same for You.”)
What is the position of the Prude? It is possible he lies outside our conception (i.e., he is making some fundamental mistake about morality. Our moral intuition (liberal) tells us that he is, that he is not allowed to care about the personal decisions of others that don’t effect him, that he should not be a busybody; c.f., failed arguments about how same-sex marriage is bad for society, i.e., them).
The Prude’s Good requires him to stop Me from reading Lady Chatterly’s Lover. But why? Is my reading LCL worse for the Prude? Or does he wish to stop me because he considers it worse for me? If the Good is avoiding getting punched in the face, is the Prude afraid of Me punching him the face if I read LCL?
(Are we allowed to move to “Same for Me, Better for You” without the permission of You when we use our own conception of Better-Worse? Don’t we run the risk of actually moving to “Same for Me, Worse for You” and thereby risking a facepunch?)
If the Prude does nothing, then he may consider the arrangement “Same For Him, Worse for Me.” In this case, he may reasonably expect a counterpunch from me if I blame the Prude for this state of affairs (i.e., if I say “How come the Prude didn’t stop me from reading LCL? He’s making me worse through his inaction.”) (Which moves the world to “Worse For Him, Worse for Me”).
Or he thinks that because I am worse, I may start throwing random wild punches (being worse off, I may punch randomly due to my general poor position — perhaps I feel that since I am so bad off, someone else must be to blame, and by punching randomly, I improve my chances of getting that person) (which raises another question: why, when we are worsened, do we punch? The answer has to be to stop the Worsening from continuing)
By getting me to stop reading LCL, I will be Better Off, I will eventually thank him for this, and the risk of a punch in the face will go down. The world will move to >> “Same for Him, Better for Me” >> “Better for Him, Better for Me.” (This is the same argument for altruism & correction of injustice — making things better for others make them better for me by lowering my risk of getting punched in the face.)
However, this argument fails if I a) do not subjectively rank myself as worse off by reading LCL, and therefore I’m not looking to punch anyone in the face or b) even if I was looking to punch someone in the face (why would I want to do that? see below), I would be extremely unlikely to punch someone in the face who had not bothered me (why might I be unlikely to do so? Because doing so would be a case of “Same for Me (or Better for Me), Worse for Him” which increases my risk of a face-punch) (but see above, about a negative situation leading to random or general facepunching).
OTOH, if I believe that not reading LCL will cause me to be worse off (even if I’m wrong), then there will be the strong possibility of me punching whoever stops or tries to stop me from reading LCL. Therefore, the Prude’s actions will result in a higher risk of him getting punched in the face, and therefore cannot be the Good. (This risk is alleviated if the Prude attempts to get me to mend my ways and give up Lawrence not through force but through persuasion — once I see that I actually Worse Off, not Better Off, I will have no desire to punch the Prude in the face > this speaks to the Prude’s strategy for getting me to give up LCL.)
What if two things are going on at once? What if I believe reading LCL is good for me and therefore am likely to punch anyone who tries to stop me BUT at the same time, reading LCL is not good for me, and it lowers my situation to the point where I become likely to start throwing random punches. If the Prude thinks that the single punch from stopping LCL is less damaging the risk of wild punches from allowing LCL to continue, his Moral View will tell him it is right to try to ban the reading of LCL so as to minimize the total number of facepunches.
Can we get back to a point where there are side constraints, where it is wrong for the Prude to decide for himself that reading LCL is bad for me?
This goes back to the problem of uncertainty.
On what basis does the Prude conclude that reading LCL leaves me worse off to the point where I may begin throwing random punches to get the suffering to stop. Shall we say that if the Prude’s process of making this determine is strong enough, we shall allow the ban? (c.f., banning heroin).
This is not merely an issue of externalities. Externalities that leave the externalizer better off should be dealt with with some form of compensation (in order to not make the externalizer worse off and thereby encourage the externalizer to punch someone in the face.)
But what about the person who is worse off but does not know it. The issue goes to responsibility. If someone is making that person worse off, then that person is opening themself up to getting punched in the face. Therefore, actions that make Him better off by stopping someone else from hurting Him can be justifiable as reducing the risk of facepunches in society and the risk of stray facepunches. But if the person is hurting themself, then as long as the person is aware that no one else is causing his suffering, society is not at risk of a justifiable facepunch.
(The idea of how to protect against unjustifiable and mistaken facepunches is an important one)
If the Good is only the minimization of justifiable facepunches, then making someone better off by stopping their own bad self-directed behavior is not Good because it does not reduce facepunches. In a world of uncertainty, and other Beings, are only interest is in avoiding getting punched in the face.
“We only act on others when it lowers the risk of getting punched in the face”
ALTRUISM — lowers the risk of an unjustified face-punch
CORRECT PATERNALISM — increases the risk of an unjustified face-punch
INCORRECT PATERNALISM — increases the risk of a justified face-punch
RESTITUTION — lowers the risk of a justified face-punch
HARM — increases the risk of a justified or unjustified face-punch
EXPLOITATION — increases the risk of a justified face-punch
INDIFFERENCE — no change
Harm we Cause – Our action makes the other worse off.
Harm We Allow – Our inaction allows the other to become worse off.
Harm We Witness – We have no effect on the other becoming worse off.
We think we make the other better off, and the other agrees.
We think we make the other better off, and the other disagrees.
(while there is a formal difference between COrrect Paternalism and INcorrect Paternalism, in practice its probably too hard to tell)
We correct a previous action that made another worse off
We become better off while someone else makes worse off.
THE PRUDE AND SELF-DEFENSE
As an alternative view, what if the Prude is trying to get me to give up LCL not because he wants to make me Better Off (since making someone better off is not the first move made in avoiding a punch in the face) but because he believes he is Worse Off from my reading it. How would this work? Perhaps the Prude believes that my reading LCL raises the risk of him getting punched in the face to an unacceptable level (because my morality is compromised and I may now “sleep with his wife” [another form of getting punched in the face]).
In other words, I’m making him Worse off to make myself Better Off. (I can and should expect a punch in the face for this.) The Prude then lobbies to make me stop reading LCL in order to make himself Better Off, and me Worse Off — but in a special way. The Prude is saying “He’s increasing the risk of me getting punched in the face. He needs to stop doing this.” Or perhaps we need to rewrite the metaphor as well — in addition to getting punched in the face (retribution for actions), we also fear slipping on banana peels (unintentional externalities). Sometimes, the risk of slipping on banana peels is so great that we are willing to risk being punched in the face.
The Prude, seeing banana peels all over the place, stops me from reading LCL. He is Better Off, I am Worse Off (on the subjective Better-Worse scale, which is the one that is relevant to getting punched in the face.) He now risks getting punched in the face. But his total risk has gone down, since now he won’t slip on any banana peels.
To the extent that I’m aware of the banana peels I’m causing, his risk of getting punched in the face is even lower, as I myself am trying to minimize these banana peels so I won’t get punched in the face.
So … “Better for Me (2), Worse for Him (-1)” is Good when “Worse for Me (-2), Same for Him (1)”???? Isn’t that just utilitarianism? What about the Banana Peels? Difference between Retribution for change and Negative Externalities?
How many options do we have?
(1) Same for Me, Same for Him : No facepunch (3RD IF I’M AN ASS) – (INACTION)
(2) Better for Me, Same for Him : No Facepunch (2ND BEST) – (PERSONAL GAIN)
(3) Better for Me, Better for Him : No Facepunch (BEST) – (MUTUAL GAIN)
(4) Same for Me, Better for Him : No facepunch (3RD IF NOT AN ASS) – (HIS GAIN)
(5) Same for Me, Worse for Him : Facepunch on Me – (HURTING)
(6) Worse for Me, Same for Him : Facepunch on Him? (Constrained)
(7) Better for Me, Worse for Him : Facepunch on Me – (EXPLOITATION)
(8) Worse for Me, Better for Him : Facepunch on Him? (Constrained)
Results of moves:
Every activity has an internal good, an external good, an internal bad, and an external bad. Every activity has internalities and externalities.
Internals are self-subjective. Externals are other-subjective.
Reading LCL causes me net 5 internal goods. I believe that it causes 1 external bad, which I think is justifiable. However, because I live next to a prude, he believes it causes 6 external bads. The Prude also does not think I actually get anything from reading LCL, but accepts my utility ranking.
Therefore, I think the U(LCL) = 5,-1, where U(f) = X,Y, f is the activity, X is the internal net benefit and Y is the external net benefit.
Not wanting to be involved in a “Better For Me, Worse for Him” situation, I pay the Prude 1 to offset the negative externality. I now believe I am in a “Better For Me, Same for Him” Situation of U(LCL) = 4,0.
However, the Prude’s view of the situation is very different. His utility function of U(M(LCL)) is U(M(LCL)) = -5, 5. To him, the situation is clearly “Worse For Me, Better for Him.” The Prude now has a great desire to punch me in the face so that he can stop suffering. If the Prude tried to buy me off, by paying me the +5 internal goods it would take to make me happier to stop, he would be in as equally poor position as if he did nothing (U(M(Deal))= -6,6), and it would still be a “Worse for Me, Better For Him.” There’s no room to trade. If however I can ban LCL, then the U = 0,0.
Up until this point, the logic seems fair. Why should the Pervert get to benefit while the Prude suffers?
Clearly, the measurement of Externalities cannot rest with the creator of Externalities, but rather upon those whom the Externalities fall.
However, when the issue is not Actual Damage, but Expected Damage, the issue becomes murkier. WHo sets these prices?
There are two separate issues that come into play with LCL. The first is the proper measurement of the externalities. The second is whether it is just to say that the reader of LCL has created the externality.
Let’s say that the Prude believes that reading LCL increases the risk that the Pervert will rape his wife, daughter, or self. The future rape is a second offense, requiring a separate decision (Do we believe humans make decisions or are decisions come to?) We also don’t know by how much the reader has actually increased the risk. (We may know the average increased risk, but we don’t know the actual. Is it just to make the Pervert pay for the average risk, when the actual risk may be lower or higher?) (would it be just to have the reader pay for the insurance policy/precautions on the open market?)
Should the Prude be compensated for the increase in risk and any additional insurance/precautions he might have to pay for?
However, the Prude’s ranking is
(what kind of external bads are there? The only one relevant here is that LCL will make me harm someone else; so the bad is that I will (or increased % risk) harm someone without realizing I will harm them)