Archive for November, 2012

Life’s real value « The Philosophical Primate

Thursday, November 29th, 2012

Life’s real value « The Philosophical Primate.

Since I see no external source of value in the world, I do have to consider value as something assigned by humans rather than existing independent of human opinions. And I see its purpose as to provide a lever for influencing the behaviour of humans (including myself) in such a way as to contributes to a state of affairs that all appropriately enlightened humans consider “good”.
But since I am unable to find a well defined concept of overall benefit to maximize over all possible options according to the utilitarian prescription, I have to assign value on some other less computable basis. (And I also have to accept that others may assign value differently and that my own assignments of even relative value may not be consistent over time.)
Assuming (as I do) that the “value” of something is due to the extent to which expecting people to protect it contributes to a state of affairs that all appropriately enlightened humans consider “good”, it seems to me that there may be some value in a mindless human life because having a knee-jerk protective reaction on the basis of life itself may be useful in contexts where an attempt to compute some kind of aggregate utility would either cause undue delay and/or might even end up in a some kind of infinite loop.

By this I mean that encouraging a respect for all human life – even the mindless kind – may lead to better action in situations of uncertainty (such as when the mindfulness of an individual is not apparent and we have every reason short of absolute certainty to believe that there is no mind involved). Yes, it amounts to relying on ethical “gut reactions” as a heuristic short-cut in moral thought, but I don’t really believe that we have any other option.

Of course even the utilitarian might also see value in protecting mindless human life in order to avoid the distress that abandoning it might cause to mindful beings who have an emotional attachment to that mindless one. My child’s doll may feel no pain itself but it’s preservation has value to the extent that its destruction would cause her pain. Similarly, a fetus whose existence has been advertised may have value as a result of the emotional attachment of complete strangers even if that attachment has no rational basis. We may well judge that value to be negligible in comparison with that of respecting the mother’s wishes but it exists nonetheless.

Bungee-Jumping Over the Fiscal Cliff

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

Robert Reich is right about this and if Obama screws it up I’ll move to Canada and never vote for him again.

The Quickest Path to Palestinian Independence ?

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

Jeffrey Goldberg at The Atlantic has what seems at first like a good idea. But what percentage of UN reps would endorse the principle that every person has the right to voting citizenship in some state?

What’s with this silly “fiscal cliff” image?

Saturday, November 10th, 2012

As a number of people have pointed out, the US’s fiscal “cliff” is no such thing. The ending of the Bush tax cuts on Dec 31 might perhaps slow down the recovery a bit and require budget rollbacks in a number of areas, but only until a suitable alternative plan is put in place. It might be preferable to have that plan in place ahead of time, but the impact of not doing so would only be proportional to the length of time between Dec 31 and the establishment of a revised system of tax cuts.

I Am Malala

Saturday, November 10th, 2012

Is anything more important than this?