Wiki Contributions


Morality is Scary

Great post, thanks! Widespread value pluralism a la 'well that's just, like, your opinion man' is now a feature of modern life.  Here are a pair of responses from political philosophy which may be of some interest 

(1) Rawls/Thin Liberal Approach. Whilst we may not be able to agree on what 'the good life' is, we can at least agree on a basic system which ensures all participants can pursue their own idea of the good life.  So,(1) Protect a list of political liberties and freedoms and (2) degree of economic levelling. Beyond that, it is up to the individual what concept of the good they pursue. Scott Alexander's Archipelago is arguably a version of this theory, albeit with a plurality of communities rather than a single state. Note it is 'thin' but not nonexistent - obviously certain concepts of the good, such as 'killing/enslaving everyone for my God', are incompatible and excluded. 

(2) Nussbaum 'Capacity' Approach. Bit like Liberal+ approach. You take the liberal approach then beef it up by adding some more requirements: you need to protect the capacity of people to achieve wellbeing. Basically - protect life, environment, health/bodily integrity, education (scientific & creative), practical reason, being able to play, hold property, form emotional and social attachments. The main difference with (2) is that it is a thicker conception of the 'good life' - it will deny various traditional forms of life on the basis they do not educate their children or give them critical thinking skills. Hence, Nussbaum champions the notion of 'universal values.'

Going from (1) to (2) depends on how comfortable you are with an objective notion of flourishing. IMO it's not totally implausible given commonalities across cultures of values (which Nussbaum points out - moral relativism is often exaggerated) and various aspects of human experience. 

Is Legal Reasoning Fundamentally Irrational?

If I understand right, your first point is that it makes sense for officials to follow the law because parliament and the courts are better placed to alter it.  Another point is then that it makes sense to limit your activity for the benefit of the group ('individual placing themselves above the group')

These are fairly sensible reasons to obey the law. Does that mean law loses its force when parliament and courts are sufficiently incompetent or crooked? Likewise when acting for a small minority rather than the group? 

Not sure officials think of law this way. Further, an open question whether a system could function with this kind of clause being widely accepted by lawyers and legal officials. 

Can you control the past?

Great post! I wonder if the 'weirdness' be partially due to intuitions about human freedom of choice. For instance, it seems nonsensical to ask whether unicellular organisms could alter their behaviour to modify models predicting said behaviour, and thus 'control' their fate. Are humans in the same boat?