GyantSpyder t1_jegco5x wrote

MacIntyre is super important IMO and not nearly enough people know the ideas he was getting at. Think about all the time people spend arguing on the internet - what are they actually doing? Concepts like "blue lies," "concern trolls," and other social behaviors around rhetoric that undermine discourse as debate - if you have some MacIntyre handy it makes a lot more sense than if you don't.


GyantSpyder t1_jegbns6 wrote

This is pretty basic freshman year philosophy stuff. If you're finding it really crazy and eye-opening then this is probably an area where you could blow your mind a lot!

It's long, but it's reasonably well-organized and I think it makes straightforward sense. I didn't make up the terminology.

None of this depends on free will or karma - at least not in the sense that it requires there to be an external punisher who enforces compliance with moral rules or a externally verifiable sense that things could have happened in ways other than they did. A lot of ethics does involve seriously thinking about why anyone would want to be ethical, and it doesn't start and stop with just the supernatural or speculative.

Something can be "the right thing to do" because, for example, it leads to you becoming the person you want to be. And whether you have free will or not does not matter. It can be the right thing to do because it's what you would want people to do for you, which also isn't an exotic concern.

In general this sub is way too obsessed with speculative questions of free will, sentience, determinism, consciousness, and "nihilism" and not really concerned with or interested enough in what life is actually like and how philosophy as a broad literature might give you a systematic way of speaking about it and making some sense of it. Of course you could accuse philosophers of the same thing but that's not always the case.

I just think your initial question in this comment thread isn't really a "free will" question - because whether you have free will or not I think if you're talking about change over time there is a role for random chance as a retroactive explanation that has a role in grasping moral situations.


GyantSpyder t1_jef9iyn wrote

I'd call it "the moral luck of the initial condition."

As in, when we begin to consider whatever question we are considering, if we have two people who are trying to "do" the same thing, the moral value of them doing it will often appear/be (depending) different based on how they happen to have arrived at where they are, which is often a product of, at best, a great deal of random chance if not other factors.

And, since to an embryo the actions of their parents before they develop are unknowable, the condition at which an embryo becomes a fetus becomes eventually a person leads to the person then relating to something like "how they were genetically engineered" as equivalent to randomness.

Here's an example -

Two mountain climbers who don't know each other have each rented a cabin near the base of a mountain they both plan to climb tomorrow. But tonight, it is cold, and there is a snowstorm. They show up at the office at the same time, and they each get a key to their cabin, and they have to walk up some steep dirt roads to get to their cabins. When they got the cabins, neither of them knew of any sort of details about which cabin was which, they just reserved the one the system said was available at the time.

So they go up the road together, and it turns out the first cabin is only a quarter mile up the road, which is great. But the other cabin is up the hill further, let's say another mile up, in the dark, alone, during a snowstorm.

But then the person with the key to the close cabin puts their key in the lock and it breaks.

So, here's the situation -

If the person who rented the closer cabin forces a window open and goes into the cabin anyway, especially if they don't break it, that's fine. They reserved the cabin, it's their cabin - it's not ideal but given the situation it seems fine.

If the person who didn't rent the closer cabin does the same thing, it is not only bad, it's a terrible crime - even though the person who rented this cabin has never seen it before in their life, this is now their cabin, and forcing the window and going into it is breaking and entering, it violates that person's consent, it might be arguably assumed to be a personal threat, it might cause trauma that will be passed down to future generations, all sorts of stuff.

The point is not that the person who rented the farther away cabin would force their way in - they probably wouldn't! But the situation wherein each of them forcing their way into the window has profoundly different moral implications has come about mostly just by chance.

So yeah, there are a lot of ways you could change this situation, especially for future reference- you could check the cabins in the future to see where they are, you could do a better job of checking the weather report and arrive before the storm blows in, you could bring multiple people and rent a cabin together rather than rent it alone, you could bring a snowmobile with headlights, all sorts of stuff. Some people might even say you should burn down the whole campsite and build one fat concrete tower where everybody has to stay in an identical room.

But none of that helps you now. In this initial condition where you find yourself.

And from there there is an interesting ethical conversation to be had about what "the right thing to do" is for each person, if we assume the second person walking up to the farther cabin alone in the dark in the snowstorm is very dangerous,

For example, you could say that the person who rented the closer cabin really ought to invite the other person in at least until the storm blows over a bit for their safety - that they will call the front desk on the telephone and see if there's a Snocat that can take you up or something.

And you could frame that as either a good thing they should do, or as an obligation they really must do, and then discuss how all that works.

Or, you could also say the person in the second cabin, because of the moral luck of their initial condition, should be excused if they insist on coming into the cabin also even if the first person doesn't want them there - that there is no valid ethical basis for excluding them from doing this because the differences in moral luck are more important than, say, the right of the person who rented the closer cabin to consent to who comes into it or not.

And then what follows is a sequence of events with their own moral significance depending on the situation.

So yeah, I would say

initial condition

moral luck

and then "path dependence" wherein the same events can have different relationships with things like consent, free will, etc., depending on the order they happen in.


GyantSpyder t1_jef3v86 wrote

Is there anything worthwhile or interesting to the theory of Ethics of Care in a philosophical sense? Or is more of a literary/cultural/political "hey this might be a good idea that sounds good to me" kind of "philosophical" thing?

I guess another way of asking the question would be - is there anything to Ethics of Care as theory that operates in a different way than other moral theories, or is it mostly casting itself as separate because the ends it advocates are separate ends than those generally associated with older society and culture, regardless of whether older society actually operated by the ethical theories associated with it? Sort of like how medieval and ancient virtue theory was often different because the virtues were different, but in the compelling sense of what a virtue is it was not as different.

As in, "we have new morals, so even though the old ethics still work, we're going to come up with new names for our ethics because the old ethics are so culturally associated with the old morals." Something like that? Or is there an idea in it different from other ideas worth familiarizing yourself with?


GyantSpyder t1_je1jyuw wrote


GyantSpyder t1_jdnde6q wrote

Very common in some professions not in others. The bad weather, staggered school and daycare start times and unreliable public transit meant a lot of people in the professions worked from home 1-3 days a week.

It’s one of the reasons so many people went fully remote so fast- the tech and logistics were in place at least partially in a lot of places.


GyantSpyder t1_j8ocisi wrote

It’s buses. Unlike most other states, in Massachusetts the individual school districts bear the full cost of school buses (and manage their own vendor contracts), so districts stagger the school start times so the same buses can do multiple pickups and drop offs.

Look at the very big difference we have between high school and elementary school start times. At least some districts that tried to change start times in the last few years have run into huge problems with buses. As is often the case with buses in Massachusetts, it’s not even how fast the bus can complete the route, it’s how fast it can get back to the start of the route to do it again.

When I grew up in New Jersey, my school bus to middle and high school was a regular public bus with a school voucher that ran its route all day. It started in New York City and ended 100 miles away. My town didn’t pay for the same bus to come to my street to pick me up then come by again to pick up my younger siblings.

But Massachusetts has a lot of densely populated areas with no state bus service and the major road routes that aren’t highways are old and chaotic. The bus drives out from the depot to the school district and runs its routes within the district.


GyantSpyder t1_j2si7wo wrote

Okay, so, to be nicer and try to organize it a bit better, here are the issues for rural Massachusetts the writer mentions in this op-ed, leaving out the vague rhetoric that says nothing -

  1. They don't have enough high-speed internet
  2. Less populated towns have small town office staffs that can't complete the paperwork the state requires them to complete
  3. No members of the Legislative Rural Caucus are going to be given control of any powerful state committees (is this really a problem anyone else cares about? Nobody is holding a gun to your head and forcing you to caucus only with each other if it's hurting you. Go do some politics or something.)
  4. They need more dentists, doctors, and mental health professionals
  5. They want more people from the city to go apple picking and leaf peeping and stuff

These seem like decent issues to advocate for, sure.

Thinking about these, the one that makes obvious sense to tackle in this way (by the creation of a new state executive office) would be an ombudsman position for towns that have difficulty with their paperwork. I'm not sure if this position already exists or doesn't, and as a problem it certainly isn't limited to the rural parts of the state.

But also, it's a deceptively tricky issue - we had a situation where a consultancy was hired to do a revision of the town bylaws - like a pass to make them all one current version because it had all become a bit disorganized - and the version they presented to town meeting for approval even after being paid for like a year of work was full of new, obvious errors and problems (like obvious changes to the bylaws that had been voted in the previous year were just not in the draft, so it was unclear if approving the draft was repealing the last year of bylaws - but how would any of these consultants know what was voted in the previous year? Etc.) so it wasn't approved, meaning it had to wait for another year. This kind of work is boring and difficult and even professionals fuck it up frequently.

The article seems to use the word "bureaucrat" with the classic empty rhetorical contempt but it sounds like a big part of what they need are better bureaucrats, and that can be a hard sell because it's not free.

Also using the word "bureaucrat" with veiled contempt while asking for the creation of a new bureaucratic office is a bit hypocritical, but what are you going to do? Rhetoric dies hard.


GyantSpyder t1_j2scin6 wrote

This opinion piece is mostly a political consultant who specializes in rural issues arguing that there should be a new government job created for a political consultant who specializes in rural issues. It's a bit transparent.

Also all these rural "nobody listens to us" political operatives are always light on details for what issues they actually care about - and whether it's legitimately a concern of the people who live in rural areas or just some random niche interest claiming to have popular support because there aren't many people living in the area so nobody else is stepping up to "be the voice."

Like this article mentions "protecting our working landscapes of the agriculture and forestry sector" -- what does that even mean? What is a working landscape? If what you mean is "abolish all environmental regulations so I can cut down more trees without doing paperwork" or "Stop the minimum wage hikes because I don't want to pay farmhands that much" then just say it.


GyantSpyder t1_j14g88i wrote

Why historical traditions frame things in a certain way tends to be unrelated to whether that framing has truth value, and is definitely unrelated to whether it's good or right.

John Hobson was very influential and the way he thought and wrote about imperialism has a lot of influence to this day. Through Lenin his ideas became the basis for an entire new form of international relations.

He also thought the advanced nations of the world should all get together one day and create a commission to exterminate or sterilize all people in the world from inferior races.

People say a lot of things.


GyantSpyder t1_j146mjd wrote

A combination of timing and reductionism. Modern theories of historical critique and analysis that claim to be predictive based on looking at the past generally came into vogue while European colonial empires were a really big deal.

They are tied to a notion of historical progress that takes its example from science, industrialization, and mechanization - that human institutions and behaviors are like machines and have parts and purposes that work to do different things. If you let them work over time they will do these things over time and change the world, and if you change how they work you will change what happens in the future (as opposed to past ideas that were them existing in the context of a natural or supernatural order, being cyclical, consisting of mystical or mystical-adjacent ideas, always getting worse, etc.).

It is not a foregone conclusion in all of historical thought than an empire exits in order to "do" something. You have to get to the point that people are thinking that way in order to arrive at a modern theory that includes what empires "do," and it just so happens that when people got around to that, colonial empires were a really big deal.

And from there you run into a big problem with modern predictive theories, especially about biology and the humanities as opposed to chemistry and physics - which is that there is a lot of noise and chaos and not a lot of signal in observing how these systems work, but that this isn't obvious from somebody writing historical analysis - they often suffer from massive availability and representativeness bias because the sources of information they have to work from are not randomly selected. So it takes a while to arrive at the idea that human systems are pretty chaotic - and even when you do, people don't want to hear it and it's not a very compelling or attractive idea - you get more cred as a thinker for presenting either polemics tearing down something specific or proactive affirmations of some new thing than for ambiguous, skeptical findings.

Anyway - the gist of it is that most people when they build predictive models are very focused on how their model predicts the present from the standpoint of the past. If you were looking at physics, this would be how you would prove that your model reflects reality and that your predictions will come true. You do not have the opportunity to test your theory with future information because the future hasn't happened yet and often takes a long time to get around to happening and you need to do your job. When you're talking about gravity and orbits this is not a problem, because the future resembles the past very closely, and you can even do controlled experiments. In history, this is not the case, and even getting around to tackling the implications of that gap takes a long time.

The present is already bad at predicting the future for humans, we know that. But the past is _also_ bad at predicting the present for humans, it just doesn't feel that way. We get this illusion of confidence in our information because we mostly pay attention to things that seem like they have a point or purpose and have culled out things that seem extraneous or pointless. Because history (or dumb luck that looks like purpose) has done the work of culling out what seems important, we can sift through that to look for the "important" information not realizing what we're sifting through.

Adding to that is the deeper problem that because empires are big and important people assume everything they do has a big and important cause or a sum of sufficiently many different, smaller causes, which is an attractive but flawed way of looking at causality in both history and science.

And sure enough, most models that look to predict the future from the present and validate themselves by predicting the present from the past don't work out. But they sure can be persuasive. This is especially obvious in investing.

So, going back to empires - empires are a really big deal. They are usually among the biggest human things going on at any given time. Because they are big they seem important, and they seem to work like machines, with purposes and parts and ways they can be tweaked or changed or broken.

It would seem not only viable, but critically important, for any modern predictive theory of history to first and foremost explain, from the standpoint of the past, how these empires came to be what they are.

This is such an important part of making the core argument to justify the predictive system, and it seems so unlikely that empires are big beneficiaries of dumb luck and nonsense since they themselves seem on the surface to be so orderly and sensible - that the retroactive explanation for colonial empires can easily become axiomatic for the modern historical critique/analysis models.

  1. My predictive theory needs to explain how or why empires came into being in order to be seen as valid about the future, and right now it doesn't.
  2. So I go back and look at the evidence available to me about empires, and build out my theory around the evidence so that it's valid and persuasive.
  3. What does my theory predict about empires in the future? Well, my theory now explains it!
  4. Everybody ignore steps 1 and 2.

But yeah, by a series of coincidences, colonial empires are at the Great Divide in modern historical theory between that which we think we understand about the past and that which we want to be able to predict about the future. So information about them tended to be very selectively framed in any model that saw the light of day, and thus they tend to have extremely different purposes and functions depending on the historical analytical theory you happen to be talking about, very closely linked to the core propositions of the theory, because of the pressure they apply as the "test case" for new theories - more than usual for human institutions and groups, which is already a lot.

And one of the casualties of this is a popular understanding of empires other than modern European colonial empires - the theories are so closely linked to what they say about empires that empires that don't quite fit the theory get arbitrarily in-grouped or out-grouped based on this or that circular axiomatic argument at the heart of the theory.


GyantSpyder t1_iz2tl4n wrote

I don’t think it would be difficult to follow but it wouldn’t exactly be a place to start. Emil Cioran was a philosophy academic who eventually rejected philosophy and became more of a poetical essayist. He's primarily known for his beautiful and dark literary writing style. Read him if you want, sure (though if you're depressed maybe skip it - taking care of yourself and manage your own resources and ability to cope with dark thoughts is important to living with such things) - but I don't think he provides a jumping-on point for other philosophy, nor do I think he would want to. He’s his own thing.


GyantSpyder t1_iwslgmv wrote

Our desire to see animals as like humans is a discourse of power - it comes from a yearning for absolution for our guilt for what we frame for ourselves as our exploitativeness - but it is common enough to find that claims of human-like animals are ultimately fraudulent (such as Koko the gorilla) to deconstruct the relationship between the Bambi-fication of animals in culture and the hard consequentialism of calculating animal suffering. The former is not a result of the latter.

Furthermore culturally we don’t just see that animals are like people, we rather see that they are like children. And there have been enough experiments on animals-as-children or children-as-animals that have ended catastrophically or have had to be stopped because the observed outcomes were so drastically different than what was anticipated that we should not trust this impulse when we encounter it in our thinking.

And in fact observing the correlation of human political purity movements, we find correlation between ideological vegetarians/vegans, anti-vaxxers, religious and new age purity movements and ultimately cults and theocratic fascism.

So I think we should see the movement to subordinate human dietary habits - which are economic and behavioral systems within systems and are certainly not entirely consciously controlled - under a social concern for animals-as-children - and in turn under the authority of a political movement, especially one that seeks to use the state to further its ends - as totalitarian rather than utilitarian.

Animals of course cannot liberate themselves, though that doesn’t stop broad artistic and cultural fantasizing that they can, which should further suggest that claims that this movement is scientific to the exclusion of power discourse are not credible.

The moral mandate that people at large need to be ethically perfected - and in particular that you are causing social ills by not willing yourself to be perfect and should be ashamed of it - does not serve ethical ends but is a means of domination and exploitation and is an enemy of an open society.

Finding yourself in the situation where you eat animals, I can understand attempting to foster an ethically motivated desire to reduce it or change how or how much you do it, but it is okay or even preferable for the difficulty of doing this, the seldomness with which it sticks, and how you then go about from there to inform your understanding of your own situation, to hold more sway with you than the social pressure to be either morally pure and perfect or ashamed of yourself.

If you want to stop eating meat, go for it, but just practically speaking it doesn’t take all that often so if it doesn’t take for you don’t be too surprised and don’t try to propagandize too disingenuously for it.