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I think Clifford was wrong to say the shipowner was sincere in his belief. In the situation he describes, the belief is insincere - indeed such situations define what I think "insincere belief" ought to mean.

what are you going to do about, basically, stupid people who quite sincerely do not anticipate the consequences of their actions?

Good question. Ought implies can, so in extreme cases I'd consider that to diminish their culpability. For less extreme cases - heh, I had never thought about it before, but I think the "reasonable man" standard is implicitly IQ-normalized. :)

That would be a posterior, not a prior.


completely ignoring the actual outcome seems iffy to me

That's because we live in a world where people's inner states are not apparent, perhaps not even to themselves. So we revert to (a) what would a reasonable person believe, (b) what actually happened. The latter is unfortunate in that it condemns many who are merely morally unlucky and acquits many who are merely morally lucky, but that's life. The actual bad outcomes serve as "blameable moments". What can I say - it's not great, but better than speculating on other people's psychological states.

In a world where mental states could be subpoenaed, Clifford would have both a correct and an actionable theory of the ethics of belief; as it is I think it correct but not entirely actionable.

I don't know what a "genuine extrapolated prior" is.

That which would be arrived at by a reasonable person (not necessarily a Bayesian calculator, but somebody not actually self-deceptive) updating on the same evidence.

A related issue is sincerity; Clifford says the shipowner is sincere in his beliefs, but I tend to think in such cases there is usually a belief/alief mismatch.

I love this passage from Clifford and I can't believe it wasn't posted here before. By the way, William James mounted a critique of Clifford's views in an address you can read here; I encourage you to do so as James presents some cases that are interesting to think about if you (like me) largely agree with Clifford.

Yay for personal finance, boo for ethics, which is liable to become a mere bully pulpit for teachers' own views.

Possible that they understood the question, but hearing it in a foreign language meant cognitive strain, which meant they were already working in System 2. That's my read anyway.

Given to totally fluent second-language speakers, I bet the effect vanishes.

I don't really get this. It seems like both types of prediction matter quite a bit.

The only way I can interpret it that makes sense to me is something like:

Thinking really hard about the infinity of things that might happen this week is an unproductive way to generate predictions, because the hypothesis space is too large and you're just going to excessively privilege some salient hypothesis.

Is he giving advice about making correct predictions given that you just randomly feel like predicting stuff? Or is he giving advice about how to predict things you actually care about?

If traditional marriage is a sparrow, then marriage with no-fault divorce is a penguin, and 5 college kids sharing a house is a centipede. Type specimen, non-type specimen, wrong category.

Social expectations are mutable, yes - what of it? Do you think it's desirable or inevitable that marriage just become a fancy historical legal term for income splitting on one's tax return? Do you think sharing a house in college is going to be, or ought to be, hallowed and encouraged?

This framing is marginally saner, but the weird panicky eschatology of pop-environmentalism is still present. Apparently the author thinks that using up too many resources, or perhaps global warming, currently represent human extinction level threats?

To my mind, the giving of tax breaks etc. to married folks occurs because (rightly or wrongly) politicians have wanted to encourage marriage.

I agree that in principle there is nothing wrong with 3 single moms or 5 college students forming some sort of domestic partnership contract, but why give them the tax breaks? Do college kids living with each other instead of separately create some sort of social benefit that "we" the people might want to encourage? Why not just treat this like any other contract?

Apart from this, I think the social aspect of marriage is being neglected. Marriage for most people is not primarily about joint tax filing, but rather about publicly making a commitment to each other, and to their community, to follow certain norms in their relationship (e.g., monogamy; the specific norms vary by community). This is necessary because the community "thinks" pair bonding and childrearing are important/sacred/weighty things. In other words, "married" is a sort of honorific.

Needless to say, society does not think 5 college students sharing a house is an important/sacred/weighty thing that needs to be honoured.

This thick layer of social expectations is totally absent for the kind of arm's-length domestic partnership contract you propose, which makes me wonder why anybody would either want to call it marriage or frame it as being an alternative to marriage.

Just to clarify, you figure the optimal relationship pattern (in the absence of societal expectations, economic benefits, and I guess childrearing) is serial monogamy? (Maybe the monogamy is assuming too much as well?)

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