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I for one am definitely worse off.

  1. I now have to read Scott on Substack instead of SSC.
  2. Scott doesn't write sweet things that could attract nasty flies anymore.

Very helpful comment!

Upon further reflection my example was ill-chosen. The flashlight clobbering example doesn't trigger double-effect considerations, because there is only one immediate effect of the action - an unconscious intruder.

I wanted to use a simple example that had two effects , but I think you rightly point out that claiming the home-owner didn't intend to make the guy unconscious is specious sophistry. His unconsciousness and the safety of the home are two aspects of the same effect. The unconscious intruder entails the safety of the home.

If we claim they are different effects, then we would have to imagine that can be separated, but the safety of the home in the example requires the incapacitation of the intruder. There is no significant difference between claiming "I intended to knock the intruder out" and "I intended to do actions that make my home safe." 

But do notice that if we use the definition of intention from OP, which I will stick to, that our intention was to achieve a safe home by using force to incapacitate the intruder with the attitudes appropriate, no gleeful pleasure-taking in finally getting the chance to clobber someone. I think everything in your final paragraph is correct about attitude and steps taken minimize unnecessary harm.

Our intention is the goal and will (which includes attitudes) to perform the acts to achieve that goal.

If we go to the terrorist compound case, then there are multiple effects: the deaths of the civilians and the death of the terrorist. These are separable in that the death of the civilians does not cause the death of terrorists nor vice versa. The same missile launch causes both. Because they are separable effects, it is possible to intend/will one effect, without willing the other effect.

My original example of the home intruder failed to identify two separable effects, but only a logical entailment of the clobbering. In that case, the considerations are simple proportionality, not DDE. Obviously, if I knock someone unconscious, I can't then beat him to death. I have already achieved the goal. If I shoot him, he might die. But that may still be proportional. If I shoot him and then unload two magazine rounds into him, that would be disproportional.

What the SEP article means by "the good effect is not achieved through the bad effect" is not well-defined. But generally people in the lit interpret it to be the abstraction of "No capturing civilians to perform useful medical experiments." I might rephrase the abstraction to, "No doing an action that has bad effects, in order to do a separate action that has good effects." (But that's tentative).


Thanks for commenting. Welcome.

You right on both accounts. 

There are some agreed upon universal principles that societies do develop. "No ****ing the young. No randomly killing people."

Categorical imperative is exactly what I what I had in mind. However, the CI is not based upon what's acceptable to the actor or to the society at large, but rather according to reason. "Act only on the maxim which you can at the same time will that it should be universal law."

Your action only makes your home safe by means of knocking him out. This is in fact a nice clean example of something that is not permitted by traditional formulations of the doctrine of double effect, at least not if knocking the intruder out is considered bad.

It is precisely this instance for which DDE was formulated: to explain why it is permitted!

Flashlight clobbering produces the good effect and the bad effect. They are coterminous events, even though one is logically necessary for the other. As you say, "a safe home by means of an unconscious intruder."

You are also right. I shouldn't have used "Thomistic" in the first place. But because real discussion of this gets started in Thomas' work (his account is unclear and too curt), I introduced the term, and thereby introduced a lot more confusion than I intended! 

Double-effect is a broad term, not every moral philosophy has discussion of double-effect. Xunzi's Confucianism, Kant's Groundwork, Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics, Plato's Republic all of which I have read recently do not have such a discussion. Kant, I guess, kind of does, but for Kant consequences, allegedly, don't bear on the morality of an action at all.

Of course, you and I whom I presume both hold utilitarianism in at least somewhat high regard expect ethical systems to deal with these questions in detail.

[1] I am not exactly sure what you think I think is meant by intent. Intent means goal. It is debated whether the specific actions taken by the agent should be considered part of intent or not. In the OP, I said it did, especially for epistemic reasons. I argued that specific actions chosen reveal the intent and that is why we should care about "the act itself." 

Am I making any headway here?

I would like to find our cruxes, if we in fact have any.

BTW: double-effect discussion is not an RCC thing. It is used in hospital system decision-making, reformulated by professors at Harvard School of Medicine, and used as a framework by military professionals and international law courts. 

Like, despite our internet space having a lot antipathy towards these types of discussions. Crafting a better and clearer framework is a worthy project and one I wish to do, at least for my own benefit if not others.

Standard modifies Thomistic, it's not normative as in "this is the standard", it's descriptive, as in "this is how the philosophy books and articles on it generally work".

I use that as a starting point, because it is the one which has discussion of double-effect. I privilege "double-effect" as a concept because it is the term which describes thinking through actions which have both positive and negative consequences, and also takes account of common sense things people care about like intent, means, and circumstances. Unless a person is a moral purist, one needs some account of double effect. Greater good benthamite utilitarianism would be one such account. I find such an account insufficient for guiding or analyzing action, but I'm not a priori beholden to any particular interpretation of what should be contained within an account of double-effect.

I think you misunderstood what is meant by intent. It's not a statement one makes to oneself about what one is doing. That'd just be self-deception.

There are interesting questions about self-deception, though. As Bryan Caplan(?) recently wrote, "You never see politicians talk about 'acceptable rates of human tragedy.'" To what extent do we play-act morality in order to generate the feeling of "clean hands?" When is that necessary? When, if ever, is it beneficial?

What is the best way to build a liquid market of DACs?
For these to be and competitive a lot of people need to see them.

An excellent quote: "a market-based society that uses social pressure, rather than government, as the regulator, is not [the result of] some automatic market process: it's the result of human intention and coordinated action."

I think too often people work on things under the illusion that everything else just "takes care of itself."
Everything requires effort.
Efforts in the long-run are elastic.
Thus, everything is elastic.

Don't take for granted that industry will take care of itself, or art, or music, or AI safety, or basic reading, writing, and arithmetic skills. It's all effort - all the way down..

What has more elasticity - birth rates or institutional and educational quality of the sort that leads to innovation? Clearly both are fairly inelastic in the short run (the shorter the run, the closer to perfect inelasticity), but in the long run a lot might be possible along both axes.

Metascience should focus on the institutional and educational quality questions (including creating better idea discovery processes!). Insofar as metascience depends on fertility, it is a heavily intermediated causal pathway, both by time, by generational differences and culture, by immigration policy, and by educational opportunities. All of which probably have greater elasticity in the short run than fertility. So I disagree with the broad brush used here.

Immigration's effect on metascience is moderated by types of skilled immigration in the short run, not immigration as such. This is not a nitpick and not merely important practical political reasons. Conceptually, immigration is a big broad concept that should be broken down into its constituent mechanical parts, which includes admission of people based upon some quality, whether it be genius, family ties, lottery, bribe, or "points."

Natalist and Immigration public policy people should work on their issues without much regard for 3rd order or 4th order effects for metascience. I think keeping these separate is conceptually important, even if they do ultimately causally bear on one another. Everything correlates with everything else.

The best we might do on the public policy level is nudge toward subcultures that are both scientifically advanced, epistemologically healthy, technologically cutting edge, and reproducing  themselves at some above replacement rate through both education and children. If we nudge each part of the causal chain a bit towards greater fertility, high skilled immigration, and better institutions it could entirely counteract the trends you describe. 

We don't want to Canticle for Leibowitz and Children of Men ourselves to death. But I think the world model being proposed around fertility and technology by, say, Robin Hanson, is missing a good causal diagram that includes the elasticity of countervailing forces. I'm not saying the issue is not a big one, perhaps the biggest one. But I am terribly unimpressed with most thinking on this topic so far.

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