Social Thread

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Re: Social Thread

Postby Keirador » 17 Apr 2018, 20:46

shadowface wrote:
Keirador wrote:. . . and, really this is mostly how liberal democracies conduct their business. The problem with admitting that the math on utility is hazy and we're looking more at general principles to promote welfare than feeding numbers into the Felicific Computer and loyally following the Commands of Maximal Utility in order to know what to do in any instance isn't that it's unreasonable or indefensible, it's just that it looks an awful lot like liberalism, and strips utilitarianism of a lot of its philosophical uniqueness. You've taken a philosophy that is supposed to be a fully developed, self-contained system, and amended it into generalities because some of its specific conclusions (hospital chop shop, baby farms) don't seem to fit our moral intuitions. Well wait a minute, how did our moral intuitions enter into a fully developed self-contained system? We're not so pure after all anymore, we're just winging it based on gut. Which is pretty much what justice/fairness liberals and progressives are already doing, just way more honestly.

The big difference, I would argue, is that in countries like America, what gets weighed is not necessarily the desires of individuals. It's the desires of individuals or corporations roughly multiplied by the wealth of those individuals or corporations. And this is not a good platform for ethics.

American justice/fairness liberals and progressives don't believe that, it's just that we lose elections to an unholy combination of libertarians, self-interest-seeking "libertarians" who are just plutocrats in disguise (or not even bothering with disguise), and white supremacists.

shadowface wrote:But overall I understand exactly what you're saying K. I agree I am largely arguing for liberalism via act utilitarianism, but I did not know it was called that.

Rule utilitarianism, but yeah. You seem to be assessing a just act as one that conforms to a just rule, and a just rule serves the greatest good for the greatest number as compared to any other possible rule (or no rule). Act utilitarianism is where you evaluate each individual act as just or unjust directly on the basis of doing the greatest good for the greatest number, and where you end up with some goofiness.
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Re: Social Thread

Postby Keirador » 17 Apr 2018, 20:51

Parabellum wrote: Hume will question whether human nature even exists, but he'd probably argue for rights on similar grounds that you (Keirador) would use. They're not something knowable by reason, but we feel like they're true, and they're useful for the way we feel like we want to live.** Either way, discussion of rights doesn't belong to metaphysics.

**I am super sorry if this isn't an accurate description of your view. I'm not trying to misrepresent or diminish it... in our conversations I don't think you've used the word "feel", you've spoken of "intuition"... but really, what's the difference? Your ideas seems pretty Humean to me, correct me if I'm wrong.

Nope, that's fair. I'd just add that something also requires internal coherence with all the other things you believe as true to get that special "true!" sticker.
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Re: Social Thread

Postby shadowface » 17 Apr 2018, 21:01

Keirador wrote:Rule utilitarianism, but yeah. You seem to be assessing a just act as one that conforms to a just rule, and a just rule serves the greatest good for the greatest number as compared to any other possible rule (or no rule). Act utilitarianism is where you evaluate each individual act as just or unjust directly on the basis of doing the greatest good for the greatest number, and where you end up with some goofiness.

Yeah, that's what I meant! Just used the wrong word.
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Re: Social Thread

Postby Parabellum » 17 Apr 2018, 22:54

Keirador wrote:@ Para, the people who believe in rights as real metaphysical objects or as real metaphysical characteristics of human persons would mostly not be considered to be part of "American liberalism," they'd be right-libertarians, neo-conservatives, and some religious thinkers: broadly speaking, the American right. They may pay passing lip service to Locke, but only by badly misreading him ("at least where there is enough, and as good, left in common for others" may be the most deliberately and maliciously overlooked line in all political philosophy), but insofar as they're grounded in a legitimate and honest philosophical tradition at all, I'd point to, say, Robert Nozick's idea of radical self-ownership and the promotion of rights as the only legitimate domain of the state. Anybody who is saying something like "the effects of gun ownership on society do not matter, I have an inalienable right to own guns that the government may not abridge that is outside the concerns of broader society, this is MY RIGHT and that is the end of the discussion" is essentially asserting rights as independent metaphysical objects or properties. They're still "liberals" in the philosophical definition, as they are concerned with liberties, and really on economic matters they're not too far from early British liberals who are more embraced on the American left than the right nowadays, but yeah, not "liberals" in the American political vernacular.


By "American liberalism", I was actually referring to the liberalism of the Founding Fathers, not "liberalism" as it is used in political discourse today.

I do see what you're saying; many people on the political right believe that rights are these immutable attributes of human nature. I still object to the metaphysics label, though. "Immaterial" and "metaphysical" are not the same thing. Before you start the etymological argument, I'll just defend that statement by saying that "physical" and "material" do not mean the same thing, either, even for many atheists (John Searle, for one... I've read his philosophy of mind stuff, but I don't remember anything on metaphysics... but I'd guess he'd toe the line in saying metaphysics is a bunch of nonsense). Classical metaphysics is closer to contemporary ontology than to any other contemporary field, but it includes things contemporary ontology does not. I just don't think it's all that fair to ascribe to a political position an actual philosophical term if there's no corresponding philosophy.

None of that really matters, I'm just quibbling over how terms are used, but I think we understand each other anyway. Your use of the term is probably sufficient to convey your meaning to non-philosophy circles, but I still think it's a bit unfair to the philosophers who do believe in metaphysics to lump the "rights" of the American right into their field.
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Re: Social Thread

Postby Parabellum » 17 Apr 2018, 23:57

Keirador wrote:
Parabellum wrote: Hume will question whether human nature even exists, but he'd probably argue for rights on similar grounds that you (Keirador) would use. They're not something knowable by reason, but we feel like they're true, and they're useful for the way we feel like we want to live.** Either way, discussion of rights doesn't belong to metaphysics.

**I am super sorry if this isn't an accurate description of your view. I'm not trying to misrepresent or diminish it... in our conversations I don't think you've used the word "feel", you've spoken of "intuition"... but really, what's the difference? Your ideas seems pretty Humean to me, correct me if I'm wrong.

Nope, that's fair. I'd just add that something also requires internal coherence with all the other things you believe as true to get that special "true!" sticker.


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Re: Social Thread

Postby Keirador » 18 Apr 2018, 00:10

Oh I'm absolutely talking about contemporary ontology, and what sorts of things are real in the sense that true or false claims can be made about them. That's a branch of metaphysics, not a separate entity for which it would be a mistake to confuse them. People like Nozick believe that rights are literally real, even if immaterial, to the extent that one can make true or false claims about their promotion and/or violation that would make no sense to a social contract theorist with a less expansive ontology. The existence of rights is a basic part of his ontology, and he did not shy away from writing on metaphysics generally and ontology, particularly ontology of the self, specifically, even when it had quite little to do with the political philosophy he's more famous for.

As far as the extent to which the Founding Fathers believed in the independent existence of rights. . . honestly, they're a squirrely bunch. Jefferson cribbed extensively from Locke, but did he personally believe all of it, or even most of it, or was he a hypocritical opportunist? Hamilton managed to balance being an ardent believer in the social contract while also believing in divine right, which is a pretty sticky ontological wicket. I don't feel nearly qualified to either hold forth on what most of the Founding Fathers said they believed, nor offer analysis on what seems likely they actually believed in private. I will say that a deist view that humans have rights because God commanded it to be so doesn't look terribly different from an ontological perspective than the view that rights simply exist and are ends-unto-themselves: rights either Are or Derive From an entity that exists in a real, though perhaps immaterial, way, such that one can make true claims about rights.
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Re: Social Thread

Postby Parabellum » 18 Apr 2018, 00:39

Keirador wrote:Oh I'm absolutely talking about contemporary ontology, and what sorts of things are real in the sense that true or false claims can be made about them. That's a branch of metaphysics, not a separate entity for which it would be a mistake to confuse them. People like Nozick believe that rights are literally real, even if immaterial, to the extent that one can make true or false claims about their promotion and/or violation that would make no sense to a social contract theorist with a less expansive ontology. The existence of rights is a basic part of his ontology, and he did not shy away from writing on metaphysics generally and ontology, particularly ontology of the self, specifically, even when it had quite little to do with the political philosophy he's more famous for.


Ok. I don't know him at all, but after some quick fact-checks I'll concede this point.

My strength is in ancient and medieval philosophy (with a good dash of early-modern to modern continental stuff), I really don't know contemporary stuff that well. It seems contemporary philosophy has stretched the meanings of some words. Sorry for arguing in ignorance. I just have to laugh at the idea of "ontology of self". That makes very little sense in the (admittedly outdated) philosophical perspectives I'm used to.

As far as the extent to which the Founding Fathers believed in the independent existence of rights. . . honestly, they're a squirrely bunch. Jefferson cribbed extensively from Locke, but did he personally believe all of it, or even most of it, or was he a hypocritical opportunist? Hamilton managed to balance being an ardent believer in the social contract while also believing in divine right, which is a pretty sticky ontological wicket. I don't feel nearly qualified to either hold forth on what most of the Founding Fathers said they believed, nor offer analysis on what seems likely they actually believed in private. I will say that a deist view that humans have rights because God commanded it to be so doesn't look terribly different from an ontological perspective than the view that rights simply exist and are ends-unto-themselves: rights either Are or Derive From an entity that exists in a real, though perhaps immaterial, way, such that one can make true claims about rights.


Their personal beliefs concern me less than their writings in the Declaration, etc. If you insist on maintaining that distinction, then I was referring to the liberalism of the founding documents, which is clearly Lockean.
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Re: Social Thread

Postby kimpossible » 18 Apr 2018, 00:58

Ok, this whole conversation is making me want to post about something I'm good at, since philosophy ain't it. And absolutely carry on the conversation! It's fun to watch even if a lot of it's over my head.

But here's why I have rehearsal all the time. This is us taking 4th place at last year's international competition.

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Re: Social Thread

Postby Keirador » 18 Apr 2018, 01:28

Parabellum wrote:
Keirador wrote:Oh I'm absolutely talking about contemporary ontology, and what sorts of things are real in the sense that true or false claims can be made about them. That's a branch of metaphysics, not a separate entity for which it would be a mistake to confuse them. People like Nozick believe that rights are literally real, even if immaterial, to the extent that one can make true or false claims about their promotion and/or violation that would make no sense to a social contract theorist with a less expansive ontology. The existence of rights is a basic part of his ontology, and he did not shy away from writing on metaphysics generally and ontology, particularly ontology of the self, specifically, even when it had quite little to do with the political philosophy he's more famous for.


Ok. I don't know him at all, but after some quick fact-checks I'll concede this point.

My strength is in ancient and medieval philosophy (with a good dash of early-modern to modern continental stuff), I really don't know contemporary stuff that well. It seems contemporary philosophy has stretched the meanings of some words. Sorry for arguing in ignorance. I just have to laugh at the idea of "ontology of self". That makes very little sense in the (admittedly outdated) philosophical perspectives I'm used to.

It does appear our only overlap is Enlightenment thought. My philosophical knowledge even there is thin on the ground, and virtually non-existent beforehand, apart from some Church thinkers I read in Catholic school. My program was extremely focused on contemporary philosophy. I have literally no idea what the ancients considered ontology; but I like Quine's brief explanation: ontology is the question "what is there?" and the answer "everything." It captures the fundamentally infuriating and pedantic nature of contemporary ontology quite well I think. ;-)

The non-ridiculous aspects of modern ontology as practiced by Quine, Kripke, Putnam, Lewis, etc., are largely a continuation of the kinds of questions Betrand Russell was famous for raising and are concerned with math, linguistics, logic, decision theory and machine learning. Like, it actually matters if things like sets are things which true claims can be made about, in a way that it doesn't really matter if Santa Claus is a thing that true claims can be made about. I'd actually say it super matters whether rights are things which true claims can be made about it, and I'd even go so far as to say that the phenomenon of most moral intuitions coming to similar conclusions could well be taken for evidence that they do exist (albeit immaterially) and true claims can be made about them. . . but since I have no ability to persuade an interlocutor by just asserting that rights exist, I'm going to end up arguing about moral intuition, empathy, and fairness, so I may as well build my foundation there anyway and be content I'm respecting rights as well I can given my limited knowledge.

Parabellum wrote:
As far as the extent to which the Founding Fathers believed in the independent existence of rights. . . honestly, they're a squirrely bunch. Jefferson cribbed extensively from Locke, but did he personally believe all of it, or even most of it, or was he a hypocritical opportunist? Hamilton managed to balance being an ardent believer in the social contract while also believing in divine right, which is a pretty sticky ontological wicket. I don't feel nearly qualified to either hold forth on what most of the Founding Fathers said they believed, nor offer analysis on what seems likely they actually believed in private. I will say that a deist view that humans have rights because God commanded it to be so doesn't look terribly different from an ontological perspective than the view that rights simply exist and are ends-unto-themselves: rights either Are or Derive From an entity that exists in a real, though perhaps immaterial, way, such that one can make true claims about rights.


Their personal beliefs concern me less than their writings in the Declaration, etc. If you insist on maintaining that distinction, then I was referring to the liberalism of the founding documents, which is clearly Lockean.

Sure. That's not a "liberal" tradition I'm awfully proud of, though. The only thing more selective and hypocritical than slave-owners reading of Locke was Locke's behavior himself. To my eye these writings as interpreted by the men who wrote them look a lot less like philosophy and a lot more like self-serving propaganda.
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Re: Social Thread

Postby Keirador » 18 Apr 2018, 02:07

kim, that's awesome!
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