Former LWDC organizer. Hikikomori. Trans woman - she/her or ze/zir pronouns.

Wiki Contributions



Belatedly: some more vivid examples of "hope":


I continue to endorse being selective in whom one spends time arguing with.


Is the long form also unclear? If so, could you elaborate on why it doesn't make sense?


I didn't propose that you should engage in detailed arguments with anyone - not even me. I proposed that you should accompany some downvotes with an explanation akin to the three-sentence example I gave.

Another example of a sufficiently-elaborate downvote explanation: "I downvoted your reply because it mischaracterized my position more egregiously than any responsible person should." One sentence, long enough, no further argument required.


I may have addressed the bulk of what you're getting at in another comment; the short form of my reply is, "In the cases which 'heroic responsibility' is supposed to address, inaction rarely comes because an individual does not feel responsible, but because they don't know when the system may fail and don't know what to do when it might."


I think I see what you're getting at. If I understand you rightly, what "heroic responsibility" is intended to affect is the behavior of people such as [trigger warning: child abuse, rape] Mike McQueary during the Penn State child sex abuse scandal, who stumbled upon Sandusky in the act, reported it to his superiors (and, possibly, the police), and failed to take further action when nothing significant came of it. [/trigger warning] McQueary followed the 'proper' procedure, but he should not have relied upon it being sufficient to do the job. He had sufficient firsthand evidence to justify much more dramatic action than what he did.

Given that, I can see why you object to my "useless". But when I consider the case above, I think what McQueary was lacking was the same thing that Hermione was lacking in HPMoR: a sense of when the system might fail.

Most of the time, it's better to trust the system than it is to trust your ability to outthink the system. The system usually has access to much, much more information than you do; the system usually has people with much, much better training than you have; the system usually has resources that are much, much more abundant than you can draw on. In the vast majority of situations I would expect McQueary or Hermione to encounter - defective equipment, scheduling conflicts, truancy, etc. - I think they would do far worse by taking matters into their own hands than by calling upon the system to handle it. In all likelihood, prior to the events in question, their experiences all supported the idea that the system is sound. So what they needed to know was not that they were somehow more responsible to those in the line of fire than they previously realized, but that in these particular cases they should not trust the system. Both of them had access to enough data to draw that conclusion*, but they did not.

If they had, you would not need to tell them that they had a responsibility. Any decent human being would feel that immediately. What they needed was the sense that the circumstances were extraordinary and awareness of the extraordinary actions that they could take. And if you want to do better than chance at sensing extraordinary circumstances when they really are extraordinary and better than chance at planning extraordinary action that is effective, determination is nice, but preparation and education are a whole lot better.

* The reasons differ: McQueary shouldn't have trusted it because:

  • One cannot rely on any organization to act against any of its members unless that member is either low-status or has acted against the preferences of its leadership.
  • In some situations, one's perceptions - even speculative, gut-feeling, this-feels-not-right perceptions - produce sufficiently reliable Bayesian evidence to overwhelm the combined force of a strong negative prior on whether an event could happen and the absence of supporting evidence from others in the group that said event could happen.

...while Hermione shouldn't have trusted it because:

  • Past students like James Potter got away with much because they were well-regarded.
  • Present employees like Snape got away with much because they were an established part of the system.

I confess, it would make sense to me if Harry was unfamiliar with metaethics and his speech about "heroic responsibility" was an example of him reinventing the idea. If that is the case, it would explain why his presentation is as sloppy as it is.


No, I haven't answered my own question. In what way was Harry's monologue about consequentialist ethics superior to telling Hermione why McGonagall couldn't be counted upon?

Load More