Wednesday, January 6, 2010

14 A first step to consequentialism

Epicurus (341—271 B.C.) developed an unsparingly materialistic metaphysics, empiricist epistemology, and hedonistic ethics.

Epicurus taught that the basic constituents of the world are atoms, uncuttable bits of matter, flying through empty space, and he tried to explain all natural phenomena in atomic terms.

Epicurus rejected the existence of Platonic forms and an immaterial soul, and he said that the gods have no influence on our lives.

Epicurus also thought skepticism was untenable, and that we could gain knowledge of the world relying upon the senses.

It is almost unbelievable. More than 2000 years ago some man combined views on metaphysics, epistemology and ethics in a way, I try to do myself today. He saw an intrinsic relation between materialism, empiricism and hedonism.

If you know me philosophically because you've attended more than one lecture, you'll certainly know that I value the relation between materialism and empiricism.

What about hedonism. What is it? Epicurus’ ethics starts from the Aristotelian commonplace that the highest good is what is valued for its own sake, and not for the sake of anything else, and Epicurus agrees with Aristotle that happiness is the highest good.

Why elaborating on hedonism? The reason for this is, that it is the basic presumption of utilitarianism and later of consequentialism.

Or to quote Jeremy Betham 's (1789) ringing passage that opens his An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation:

“Nature has placed mankind under the governance of two sovereign masters, pain, and pleasure. It is for them alone to point out what we ought to do, as well as to determine what we shall do”

Thence, if we want to continue our planned route, we have to have a close look at this basic assumption of consequentialist theories of ethics.

We can distinguish between motivational hedonism and normative hedonism. Motivational hedonism is the claim that only pleasure or pain motivates us.

Normative hedonism is the claim that all and only pleasure has worth or value, and all and only pain has disvalue.

And then in 1863 we hear the words of John Stuart Mill, who was the founder of consequentialism:

begin quote -
Utility, or the Greatest Happiness Principle, holds that actions are right in
proportion as they tend to promote happiness, wrong as they tend to
produce the reverse of happiness.

By happiness is intended pleasure and the absence of pain; by unhappiness, pain and the privation of pleasure. Pleasure, and freedom from pain, are the only things desirable as ends;

and all desirable things are desirable either for the pleasure inherent in themselves, or as means to the promotion of pleasure and the prevention of pain. (…)

The utilitarian standard is not the agent’s greatest happiness, but the greatest amount of happiness altogether.
end quote-

Especially this last statement is important. Morally good is not just what creates individual happiness (motivational hedonism), but what creates the greatest amount of happiness altogether (normative hedonism).

We have before us a long and winding road, which we will have to follow to figure out what the basic concepts mean: what is pleasure? Can we calculate amounts of pleasure?

What consequence do we have to take into account? Foreseen, unforeseen, short term, long term and so on?

I think we'd better leave these issues for another lecture . Thank you.
And I wish that 2010 will be good year for all of us.

The Discussion

[13:19] herman Bergson: So far the start of 2010 ㋡
[13:19] BrainCrave OHare: i do not think you can consider the morality of pleasure without considering the pain it might infllict on someone else
[13:19] herman Bergson: You mean the pleasure of the sadist, Braincrave?
[13:20] BrainCrave OHare: to some extent - e.g., what brings pleasure to one might cause pain to another
[13:20] BrainCrave OHare: e.g., a terrorist who gets pleasure from hurting others
[13:20] Repose Lionheart: yes
[13:20] herman Bergson: Yes that might be one of the problems to face
[13:21] herman Bergson: But 'pleasure' as such isnt defined yet
[13:21] herman Bergson: is it a sensation, a mental state, a prolonged condition?
[13:21] BrainCrave OHare: pleasure is an individual feeling - not communial
[13:21] Jeb Larkham: come from desire
[13:21] herman Bergson: Yes Jeb...
[13:22] herman Bergson: Epicurus made a distinction between two pleasures
[13:22] herman Bergson: One is when you feel hungry and eat a hamburger...
[13:22] BrainCrave OHare: my point is that morality can't be looked at in terms of good or bad based on pleasure alone
[13:23] Repose Lionheart: Brain has a good point -- how is group pleasure or happiness determined?
[13:23] BrainCrave OHare: no such thing as group pleasure or happiness
[13:23] herman Bergson: The other is what he called the static pleasure...the satisfied feeling, the absence of hunger
[13:23] Repose Lionheart: if the goal is to maximize it?
[13:23] BrainCrave OHare: that's pure collectivist thinking
[13:24] herman Bergson: I can tell you that we'll have a tough time with the concept of pleasure.
[13:24] Repose Lionheart: necessary for a ultilitarian ethic, though?
[13:24] Gemma Cleanslate: it is all difficult lol
[13:24] herman Bergson: In my readings I almost drowned in a swamp of arguments about what pleasure is
[13:24] Repose Lionheart: !
[13:25] herman Bergson: In my next lecture I'll try to clarify on that concept
[13:25] Gemma Cleanslate: ok
[13:25] herman Bergson: It really is a chapter of its own
[13:25] BrainCrave OHare: i don't see a need to define it more than a personal preference from a morality standpoint
[13:25] itsme Frederix: pleasure is simple ... being content, falling together with your doings, play a piano piece (not being a master but still feel you mastered some things)
[13:25] Jeb Larkham: There is a series of documentaries by a guy called Adam Curtis called Century of the Self on this subject
[13:25] herman Bergson: I hope to give you arguments to reconsider that point of view Braincarve
[13:26] BrainCrave OHare: i will look forward to it
[13:26] herman Bergson: There is the short term pleasure and the longterm pleasure
[13:27] herman Bergson: and the greatest happiness for the greatest number, not just private pleasure
[13:27] BrainCrave OHare: now that's pure collectivism right there herman
[13:27] itsme Frederix: that greatest happiness divided by the greatest number might be a very small piece - considered to less for an individual => there is the problem
[13:28] herman Bergson: Up to this moment I did not get any further that pondering about the pleasure/pain assumption
[13:28] Jangle McElroy: Sounds Vulcan (Hi all, apologies so late)
[13:28] Repose Lionheart: might just be the initial development of a social ethic, brain ㋡
[13:28] Repose Lionheart: IDIC
[13:28] BrainCrave OHare: no such thing repose - pure orwellian if you ask me :)
[13:28] herman Bergson: I a starting point it is plainly assumed that we are just driven by pleasure/pain motives
[13:29] herman Bergson: Is that the right assumption about the human organism?
[13:29] Jeb Larkham: driven by desires that come from the marketing companies :)
[13:29] BrainCrave OHare: i think it is
[13:29] herman Bergson: Well, Jeb...desire is indeed another feature
[13:30] itsme Frederix: maybe we are to human to find a pleasure in such thoughts
[13:30] herman Bergson: Are desires just motivated by the pleasure / pain mechanism?
[13:30] Repose Lionheart: no
[13:30] BrainCrave OHare: n
[13:30] Jangle McElroy: Doesn't explain the drive of Curiosity perhaps?
[13:30] herman Bergson: Take for instance self sacrifice to save your friends?
[13:31] herman Bergson: Yes Jangle, you could say that
[13:31] herman Bergson: But hedonists try to reduce all other drives to a pleasure motive
[13:32] herman Bergson: so they translate self sacrifice also as actually motivated by the pleasure to be a hero (be it only for a second)
[13:32] herman Bergson: I am still not ready with these ideas
[13:33] herman Bergson: On the one hand I am willing to accept that we are pleasure/pain driven organisms
[13:33] herman Bergson: and on the other hand I have a feeling that I miss something in this picture
[13:33] Gemma Cleanslate: well that is one of the tenents of religious life
[13:33] itsme Frederix: .. be it only for a second .. might give the clue - no history or future .. just being there .. falling together with your own ideas
[13:33] Repose Lionheart: yes agree
[13:34] Laila Schuman: self sacrifice is a pleasure to many mothers
[13:34] Gemma Cleanslate: that is true too
[13:34] Laila Schuman: and it is not momentary
[13:34] herman Bergson smiles
[13:34] Repose Lionheart: but is "pleasure" the primary motivation of such mothers?
[13:34] herman Bergson: you got a point there Laila...what about the fathers?
[13:34] Gemma Cleanslate: no but its effect
[13:34] itsme Frederix: mmm or maybe a lack of momentary, just given up
[13:34] BrainCrave OHare: self-sacrifice i driven by low self-esteem and thedesire to reduce the pain caused by low self-esteem. ergo, it's pain avoidance
[13:35] herman Bergson: that is very quick psychology, Braincarve
[13:35] herman Bergson: Kind of begging the question
[13:35] Laila Schuman: i shall let men speak for themselves... although i know some fathers or even just men...who sacrifice for or not
[13:35] Laila Schuman: soldiers for example...
[13:36] Repose Lionheart: true
[13:36] Laila Schuman: not so sure that is a pleasure tho
[13:36] herman Bergson: Well...we'll keep this idea of self sacrifie in mind for the next lecture....
[13:36] BrainCrave OHare: it's not a sacrifice - a parent values the child more than the other preference
[13:36] herman Bergson: Is it reducible to pleasure/ pain avoidance?
[13:36] Repose Lionheart: no
[13:37] herman Bergson: If you say 'no' repose, that is another quality in a human that plays a role in morality
[13:37] Jeb Larkham: Speaking as a farther, if my kids are happy... I'm happy
[13:37] itsme Frederix: mmm in a way, life ends, but children just propagate life, the selfish gen idea
[13:38] Repose Lionheart: got to think about what it might be ㋡
[13:38] Laila Schuman: not just values the child... hold a baby to your breast and have it fall asleep in your arms..... it is also great pleasure that you are getting for making that choice
[13:38] herman Bergson: We really need a detailed analysis of this concept of pleasure
[13:38] Repose Lionheart: yes
[13:38] herman Bergson: On Thursday I'll have it ready
[13:38] Gemma Cleanslate: :_)
[13:39] itsme Frederix: Laila I know, but it seems yourself just does not exist anymore, self reduction. But indeed grat moments
[13:39] Repose Lionheart: "Love," I think
[13:39] Repose Lionheart: and its many analogs
[13:39] Laila Schuman: isn't that part of pleasure... those great moments
[13:40] Repose Lionheart: i resist reducing "love" to "pleasure"
[13:40] herman Bergson: thing that is missing in the utilitarian idea ....well not missing exactly is the concept of virtue
[13:40] herman Bergson: courage, prudence....things like that
[13:40] itsme Frederix: sure, but these are holy moments where the universe just collapses to a point of all and nothing (whow that not philosophical but I meant it)
[13:40] Repose Lionheart: yes!
[13:41] herman Bergson: To be honest,
[13:41] itsme Frederix: so Herman try to get that in a philosopical consistent logical rational idea
[13:41] herman Bergson: in the reading for preparing this lecture I was surprised by the abundance of complex argumentations on pleasure and consequences
[13:42] herman Bergson: It was not really encouraging...
[13:42] itsme Frederix: because its not complex, ist just one whole undivided thing
[13:42] herman Bergson: for every point of view there was an argument against it ㋡
[13:43] Repose Lionheart: Ockham's Razor?
[13:43] herman Bergson: Might help Repose...
[13:43] herman Bergson: For now I am only thinking about this basic assumption of hedonism as startingpoint of consequentialism
[13:43] Repose Lionheart: or maybe "pleasure" can't bear the weight?
[13:44] herman Bergson: yes Repose.... that feeling of missing something....
[13:44] herman Bergson: Thursday I'll come up with some ideas... ㋡
[13:45] Gemma Cleanslate: :_)
[13:45] Qwark Allen: ;-^)=)
[13:45] Qwark Allen: nice
[13:45] Repose Lionheart: can't wait ㋡
[13:45] herman Bergson: Besides that..... implicitely...this your homework too of course !
[13:45] Gemma Cleanslate: lol
[13:45] Repose Lionheart: hehe
[13:45] Qwark Allen: loool
[13:45] Qwark Allen: lol
[13:45] Gemma Cleanslate: ohoh
[13:45] Abraxas Nagy: lol
[13:45] herman Bergson: You mean I should do all the work myself, while you sit back???
[13:46] herman Bergson: That is not how 2010 gonna work ㋡
[13:46] Abraxas Nagy: if thats possible
[13:46] Abraxas Nagy: lol
[13:46] Repose Lionheart: lol
[13:46] itsme Frederix: I guess the point is that hedonism tells you you have to have pleasure and avoid pain, so askes for a move. I'm convinced we have to move BUT only in the moment the motionesless (differential) is the pleasure found
[13:47] itsme Frederix: so if we do some calculus we are there
[13:47] herman Bergson: That was Jeremy Benthams idea...he had elaborate pleasure calculations
[13:48] herman Bergson: Which brings up the next pleasure measurable? Can it be quantified
[13:48] itsme Frederix: Herman be aware calculus has the mythical limit idea in it
[13:48] Gemma Cleanslate: that seems very personal
[13:48] Abraxas Nagy: nope cuz its relative
[13:48] Gemma Cleanslate: yes
[13:48] herman Bergson: Pleasure can also be a quality
[13:49] itsme Frederix: the same idea behind the tortue and Achilles running
[13:49] Gemma Cleanslate: but incividual don't you think????
[13:49] BrainCrave OHare: i don't think you can look at hedonism excusively. a man standing on tracks watching an oncoming train does not move just to avoid pain. it's survival
[13:49] herman Bergson: like redness is a quality
[13:49] itsme Frederix: turtle
[13:49] Jangle McElroy: Surely pleasure can;t be measured accurately, as we all experience different triggers and intensities for pleasure? :)
[13:49] Abraxas Nagy: but can it be a quantity to?
[13:49] herman Bergson: That is the problem of the utilitarian point of view...
[13:50] itsme Frederix: as soon as you try to quantize pleasure you talk about ... "fun"
[13:50] herman Bergson: I mean ..what means the greatest happiness....what is the zero point for instance?
[13:50] Abraxas Nagy: wow there is none
[13:50] itsme Frederix: thre is no greatest happiness, you are happy or you are not
[13:51] herman Bergson: You also can be more happy Itsme
[13:51] Abraxas Nagy: exactly
[13:51] itsme Frederix: greatest happiness implies more happiness and so a lacjk of happiness - so a disere not fullfilled - contradiction to happiness
[13:51] herman Bergson: a kid is happy with one candy, but more happy with two ㋡
[13:52] herman Bergson: Ok...thank you all for the good first discussion in 2010...good start
[13:52] itsme Frederix: a kid is not more happy with two candies if he knows he can get three, and after that he is sick!!
[13:52] herman Bergson: Next class is for Pleasure and Happines ㋡
[13:52] Repose Lionheart: true
[13:53] Repose Lionheart: a psychological element here
[13:53] BrainCrave OHare: ty herman
[13:53] Abraxas Nagy: ah
[13:53] herman Bergson: Class dismissed ㋡
[13:53] Gemma Cleanslate: ♥ Thank Youuuuuuuuuu!! ♥
[13:53] Repose Lionheart: thank you, Professor!
[13:53] Gemma Cleanslate: see you thursday
[13:53] Adriana Jinn: thank you
[13:53] bergfrau Apfelbaum: byebye gemmaaa
[13:54] Gemma Cleanslate: Bye
[13:54] Adriana Jinn: i did not talk tonight not so evident for me in english
[13:54] Jeb Larkham: thks Herman...
[13:54] Adriana Jinn: but i will try nex time
[13:54] herman Bergson: That is Ok Adriana
[13:54] Jangle McElroy: Apologies I arrive late and have to leave. Time online much reduced. Be good and thanks Herman
[13:54] Qwark Allen: cya tomorow
[13:54] Qwark Allen: ˜*•. ˜”*°•.˜”*°• Bye ! •°*”˜.•°*”˜ .•*˜ ㋡
[13:54] itsme Frederix: Adriana .. there is a greater virtu in listening (i've to learn a lot more)
[13:54] herman Bergson: Ok jangle ㋡
[13:54] Qwark Allen: happy new year
[13:54] herman Bergson: I appreciate your presence anyway
[13:55] Qwark Allen: abraxas
[13:55] Qwark Allen: m8
[13:55] Qwark Allen: ;-)
[13:55] Adriana Jinn: yes i would like to explain myself also
[13:55] Abraxas Nagy: ty prof hey my friend :D
[13:55] Abraxas Nagy: oops
[13:55] Adriana Jinn: have a good evening all
[13:55] Qwark Allen: so tired today from work, omg
[13:55] herman Bergson: Well Adriana..reread the blog
[13:55] Abraxas Nagy: hey my friend
[13:55] Qwark Allen: going to bed soon
[13:55] Qwark Allen: tomorrow again
[13:55] Adriana Jinn: yes i will
[13:55] Qwark Allen: soon to work
[13:55] Abraxas Nagy: u better do that yes m8
[13:55] herman Bergson: Maybe then you can prepare a question
[13:55] Qwark Allen: drives me mad
[13:55] bergfrau Apfelbaum: I must also go, see you thursday
[13:56] bergfrau Apfelbaum: DANKE herman
[13:56] Abraxas Nagy: c ya m8
[13:56] Adriana Jinn: the next course is on thursday is it ?
[13:56] Abraxas Nagy: sleep well
[13:56] herman Bergson: Bitte Bergy ㋡
[13:56] Laila Schuman: i don't talk much either Adriana
[13:56] Adriana Jinn: i am not sure to have the blog herman
[13:56] bergfrau Apfelbaum: byebye class :-))
[13:56] herman Bergson: You are free to participate here the way you like
[13:56] Laila Schuman: but listening to herman has taught me a lot
[13:57] itsme Frederix: Laila but if you do you speak
[13:57] Adriana Jinn: surely
[13:57] Abraxas Nagy: bye bye guys c ya all next time
[13:57] Adriana Jinn: i will come for sure
[13:57] herman Bergson: you are most welcome Adriana
[13:57] Adriana Jinn: the next course is on thursday is it
[13:57] herman Bergson: yes..same time ...1 PM PST
[13:57] Adriana Jinn: can you give me the blog herman
[13:57] itsme Frederix: well it was a pleasue being here, see you next time
[13:58] herman Bergson:
[13:58] Laila Schuman: nice to have you Adriana
[13:58] Adriana Jinn: ok thanks

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