Jemist's Shortform

by Jemist31st May 20219 comments
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There's a court at my university accommodation that people who aren't Fellows of the college aren't allowed on, it's a pretty medium-sized square of mown grass. One of my friends said she was "morally opposed" to this (on biodiversity grounds, if the space wasn't being used for people it should be used for nature).

And I couldn't help but think, how tiring it would be to have a moral-feeling-detector this strong. How could one possibly cope with hearing about burglaries, or North Korea, or astronomical waste.

I've been aware of scope insensitivity for a long time now but, this just really put things in perspective in a visceral way for me.

For many who talk about "moral opposition", talk is cheap, and the cause of such a statement may be in-group or virtue signaling rather than an indicator of intensity of moral-feeling-detector.

You haven't really stated that she's putting all that much energy into this (implied, I guess), but I'd see nothing wrong with having a moral stance about literally everything but still prioritizing your activity in healthy ways, judging this, maybe even arguing vociferously for it, for about 10 minutes, before getting back to work and never thinking about it again.

To me it seems more likely that this person is misreporting their motive than that they really oppose this allocation of a patch of grass on biodiversity grounds. I would expect grounds like "I want to use it myself" or slightly more general "it should be available for a wider group" to be very much more common, for example if I had to rank likelihood of motives after hearing that someone objects, but before hearing their reasons. I'd end up with more weight on "playing social games" than on "earnestly believes this".

On the other hand it would not surprise me very much that at least one person somewhere might truly hold this position. Just my weight for any particular person would be very low.

Getting rid of guilt and shame as motivators of people is definitely admirable, but still leaves a moral/social question. Goodness or Badness of a person isn't just an internal concept for people to judge themselves by, it's also a handle for social reward or punishment to be doled out. 

I wouldn't want to be friends with Saddam Hussein, or even a deadbeat parent who neglects the things they "should" do for their family. This also seems to be true regardless of whether my social punishment or reward has the ability to change these people's behaviour. But what about being friends with someone who has a billion dollars but refuses to give any of that to charity? What if they only have a million dollars? What if they have a reasonably comfortable life but not much spare income?

Clearly the current levels of social reward/punishment are off (billionaire philanthropy etc.) so there seems an obvious direction to push social norms in if possible. But this leaves the question of where the norms should end up.

I think there's a bit of a jump from 'social norm' to 'how our government deals with murders'. Referring to the latter as 'social' doesn't make a lot of sense.

I think I've explained myself poorly, I meant to use the phrase social reward/punishment to refer exclusively to things forming friendships and giving people status, which is doled out differently to "physical government punishment". Saddam Hussein was probably a bad example as he is also someone who would clearly also receive the latter.

The UK has just switched their available rapid Covid tests from a moderately unpleasant one to an almost unbearable one. Lots of places require them for entry. I think the cost/benefit makes sense even with the new kind, but I'm becoming concerned we'll eventually reach the "imagine a society where everyone hits themselves on the head every day with a baseball bat" situation if cases approach zero.

Just realized I'm probably feeling much worse than I ought to on days when I fast because I've not been taking sodium. I really should have checked this sooner. If you're planning to do long (I do a day, which definitely feels long) fasts, take sodium!