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Rationality Quotes November 2014

It seems like half your complaints are that Russian doesn't make some distinction that English does and the other half are that Russian forces you to make distinctions that English doesn't. It strikes me that you're simply more comfortable thinking in English.

A bit of word-dissolving in political discussion

But then you've already lapsed into consequentialism, and thus stuck yourself with a mandate to consider the trade-offs between desirable and undesirable consequences.

Yes, and deontologists and virtue ethicists consider trade offs between different principles or virtues.

This is not what deontological and virtue-theoretic politicians actually do.

This is not what consequentialists actually do either. In particular, I've never seen an actual utility function, much less using one to compute trade-offs.

"Look how morally brave I am for being willing to let this sort of thing happen out of pure principle!"

Well, this is also what consequentialists talking about trolley problems sound like.

A bit of word-dissolving in political discussion

I would guess that they don't exist in some communist countries.

Yes, and those countries' economies aren't doing to well.

A bit of word-dissolving in political discussion

If I understand all of someone's logical arguments for believing what they believe, and I have the knowledge and processing power needed to evaluate those arguments,

Outside of math you also need the relevant evidence, i.e., observations, which requires you to trust that they have been accurately reported.

A bit of word-dissolving in political discussion

As mentioned above, be very, very sure about what ethical framework you're working within before having a political discussion. A consequentialist and a virtue-ethicist will often take completely different policy positions on, say, healthcare, and have absolutely nothing to talk about with each-other. The consequentialist can point out the utilitarian gains of universal single-payer care, and the virtue-ethicist can point out the incentive structure of corporate-sponsored group plans for promoting hard work and loyalty to employers, but they are fundamentally talking past each-other.

Um, "hard work and loyalty to employers" can also be interpreted as desirable things that raise total utility in the long run. (Also note: the above is not at all an accurate description of any political position that I know off, I was just going with eli's example.)

This is a broad point in favor of consequentialism: a rational consequentialist always considers consequences, intended and unintended, or he fails at consequentialism. A deontologist or virtue-ethicist, on the other hand, has license from his own ethics algorithm to not care about unintended consequences at all, provided the rules get followed or the rules or rulers are virtuous.

Except, as I mentioned above in practice the conventionalist dismisses any consequences he can't or doesn't want to measure as "irrelevant virtue-ethical considerations". And that's not getting into his license to define the utility function however he sees fit.

A bit of word-dissolving in political discussion

So by that standard almost no politicians believe in global warming.

Notice how all the rich actors who show up at charity events to "fight global warming" are also lining up to buy beach front property. (They also tend to fly around in private jets, but that's a separate issue.)

Edit: The reason I didn't use politicians in the above example is that not all politicians can afford beachfront property and the ability to do so correlates with other things that may be relevant to whether you want him in power.

A Rationalist's Account of Objectification?

Men are allowed to be short or tall, fat or thin, strong or weak.

The traits that make men attractive aren't primarily based on appearance. Thus it matters less what the traits are like. And men in movies and games frequently display them in large amounts. People will they're heroes to have unusually positive traits, thus men are unusually strong, courageous, cool under fire, etc. and women are unusually beautiful, as well as unusually pure, nurturing, etc. It is of course possible (but not necessary) to give women high levels in the masculine traits (and conversely). However, removing the positive masculine traits from men, or the positive feminine traits from women will lead to a product no one wants to watch/play.

Amita from Far Cry 4, for instance, is one of two leaders of a terrorist group fighting against an oppressive dictatorship. You'd expect that she'd have scars. You'd expect she'd be too busy to maintain long hair. You'd expect muscles. You'd expect powerful body language. You wouldn't exactly expect her to have turquoise earrings, wear eyeliner, have immaculately plucked eyebrows, have skin as smooth as marble, and wear a pouty / concerned expression half the time.

I agree this is unrealistic, then again the whole concept of warrior women fighting on par with men is itself completely unrealistic. Audiences tolerate this lack of realism because she at least displays (some) possitive feminine traits. They would also tolerate the more realistic option of having no warrior women. If you made female characters that realistically depict what it would take for women to fight on par with men (i.e., women who look like the Eastern block's doped Olympic athletes) you'll find that no one will want to watch/play them.

Open thread, Dec. 1 - Dec. 7, 2014

Sarah Hoyt isn't quite NRx, but her recent (re)post here seems relevant.

In particular, the old distinction between deserving and undeserving poor.

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