Morality in the Real World 04: The Scrooge Problem

by Luke Muehlhauser on October 5, 2010 in Ethics,Podcast

In episode 04 of Morality in the Real World, Alonzo Fyfe and I answer the question: What can we do with people who just don’t care about morality, nor about other people – people like Ebenezer Scrooge?

Download Episode 04

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Every five episodes we answer audience questions, so please do post your questions and objections below. Make sure your questions address the topics of this episode only. If we plan to address the subject of your question in later episode, we will not answer it in the next Q & A episode. You can also leave your question in audio and we will play it back during the Q & A episode and respond to it: call 413-723-0175 and press 1 to leave a voicemail.

Transcript of episode 04:

LUKE: Alonzo.

ALONZO: Luke.

LUKE: Listen to this.

MUPPET: Now then sir, about the… donation?

SCROOGE: Well now, let’s see. I know how to treat the poor. My taxes go to pay for the prisons and the poor houses, the homeless must go there.

MUPPET: But some would rather die!

SCROOGE: If they’d rather die, then they’d better do it! And decrease the surplus population.

MUPPET: Oh dear, oh dear.

ALONZO: Hey! That sounds like Beaker!

LUKE: Yes, but I want to talk about Michael Caine.

ALONZO: Ebenezer Scrooge.

LUKE: Ebenezer Scrooge.

ALONZO: A paradigm case of an immoral person who doesn’t care about anything but his bank account.

LUKE: Here’s why I bring this up. A lot of people, when you tell them that some theory of morality demands they should care about other people, will say, like Scrooge, “Yeah, but why should I care about morality? Why should I care what other people want?” So what I want to know is, what can we say to Scrooge? Why should he care about other people?

ALONZO: I’m not saying he should. Maybe he shouldn’t. Even if he should, talking to him probably won’t do any good, at least not in the short term.

LUKE: Alonzo! What do you mean, “Maybe Scrooge shouldn’t care about other people”?

ALONZO: Well, a lot of people seem to think that morality is concerned with finding some magic phrase or syllogism that will automatically turn somebody like Scrooge into a nice person. They look at a theory like desirism and ask, “What is your magic phrase?” When they don’t see a magic phrase that works – and they won’t, because there is no magic phrase that works – they say that the theory fails.

Desirism actually says that there is no magic phrase that works. You won’t find one. Not here. Not anywhere.

LUKE: Okay, so, you’re not gonna give us a magic phrase for making Scrooge a nice person, but what are you doing, then?

ALONZO: Well, since we don’t have a magic phrase for getting Scrooge to at least act like a nice person – even if he isn’t a nice person – what tools do we have?

LUKE: Well… how about a nice two-by-four to the side of the head?

ALONZO: Okay, that will work. We can threaten him – and make good on our threats if he tests us. We can say, “Scrooge, if you don’t act like a nice person, we will thwart some of your desires. To keep those desires from being thwarted, you now have a reason to act like a nice person.”

All forms of punishment – fines, imprisonment, execution, branding, whipping, caning, detention, time-out – all of them deprive a person of the ability to fulfill their desires. All of them give a person a reason to act in ways that will avoid punishment.

LUKE: I think I can think of some problems with that option, though. I mean, first, we have to catch him in the act. I can imagine that Scrooge might be pretty good at covering his tracks, like the guys at Enron. And if Scrooge thinks he can get away with it, then our threats won’t give him much of a reason to act nicely.

And second, what if Scrooge has a bigger weapon than we do? What if we’re not powerful enough to carry through with our threats, because he bribes the police, or something?

ALONZO: So, okay, Scrooge is avoiding our threats either because we do not know what he is doing or we do know but we are not powerful enough to threaten him successfully.

So, it seems what we really need is an all-knowing, all-powerful invisible judge of some sort that Scrooge cannot hide from, and who he can’t beat. We will tell Scrooge that our invisible judge will always know when he is not acting like a nice person. We will tell him that our judge will punish him mercilessly – say, burning him alive forever or something like that. And our invisible judge is so powerful that there is nothing Scrooge can do to avoid punishment. Now, Scrooge has a reason to act like a nice person all the time.

LUKE: That might work if we can convince him of all that. But, it’s a lie. Our invisible judge doesn’t exist.

ALONZO: That’s just a technicality. We convince ourselves that he does exist – then we’re not lying. People convince themselves of useful fictions all the time. Or, maybe, we can convince our children that this invisible judge is real, then they can pass the story onto their children and they will not be lying. They are going to think that we told them the truth.

LUKE: Okay, but, what’s to stop Scrooge from making up his own invisible judge who thinks that being mean to people is okay? And Scrooge isn’t the only one who can make up an invisible judge. I mean, John the Fish Monger can say that the invisible judge wants all of us to eat fish every day, and Bob the Wheat Farmer can say the invisible judge wants us all to eat bread every day, and Sally the Marketing Executive can say the invisible judge wants us all to watch 4 hours of TV every day, and Tom the Slave Owner can say that the invisible judge thinks it is okay to own slaves as long as you don’t treat them too badly. Or Fred, who thinks gay sex is gross, can say that the invisible judge thinks homosexuality is an abomination.

ALONZO: Enough already! I get the point.

LUKE: Okay.

ALONZO: Do you think something like that might actually happen?

LUKE: It’s possible.

~~moody music~~

ALONZO: Well, listen, here’s something that I noticed. If you leave a kid alone, unwatched, in a room with a spinach souffle, and he hates spinach souffles, and he knows that this is a spinach souffle, he’s not going to try to sneak a taste.

LUKE: No, he won’t.

ALONZO: Because he doesn’t like it.

LUKE: Yes, you are very perceptive.

ALONZO: So, we can get Scrooge to act like a nice person if we can get him to like to do the things that nice people do, and not like to do the things that nice people won’t do.

Here. You leave something valuable at your desk at work. One good way to make sure other people don’t walk off with it is to make it so that they hate walking off with things that belong to you. They will be like the kid with the spinach souffle. People who do not like the “taste” of walking off with your stuff aren’t going to do it, even when you aren’t watching them.

It works better than the two-by-four because you don’t have to catch them and you don’t need to be more powerful than them. And you aren’t inventing invisible judges.

LUKE: Hmmm. So giving someone a distaste for walking off with your stuff is actually more effective than threats or invisible judges.

ALONZO: Right.

LUKE: But how do you get somebody to have a distaste for stealing?

ALONZO: Well, the short answer is that this is done by praising people who don’t steal and by condemning those who do steal. Praise tends to cause people to want to do the types of things that are praised, while condemnation tends to cause people to have an aversion to the things that are condemned. And not just the person praised or condemned, it works on those who witness the praise or condemnation. It even works if they hear it in a story.

It’s not perfect, but it tends to work that way.

LUKE: You know, you’re right about that. I mean, think about slavery. For thousands of years, most people thought slavery was okay – it was just how things were. But then all of a sudden, in the space of just a few generations, a lot of people changed their minds about slavery. And why? It was not because the laws changed. Obviously the people’s feelings about slavery had to change before they started to change the laws.

And the reason I don’t own slaves isn’t because it’s illegal, it’s because I don’t want to own slaves. I mean, the very idea of owning another person is just ~ughlhh~ to me.

ALONZO: And the question is, where did that ~blek~ come from.

LUKE: Actually, it was more of a ~ughlhh~

ALONZO: Okay. Still, whatever it is, people living 300 years ago didn’t feel it – unless they were slaves. And that distaste for slavery makes it so that we would not want to own slaves today even if somebody managed to make it legal.

LUKE: Yeah.

ALONZO: We don’t have to be threatened to prevent us from enslaving others, and we don’t need stories of invisible judges.

LUKE: Yeah. And here’s a more personal example, to me. Back when I was a Christian, I actually signed a petition against gay marriage in Minnesota – because that’s what I thought God wanted. But when I went to college I ran into a lot of really cool, smart people who served up a lot of condemnation against people like me who were prejudiced against homosexuals. They also had a lot of praise for people who let others live the way they wanted as long as they weren’t hurting anyone.

All that praise and condemnation really had an affect on my feelings toward homosexuals, and it’s part of the reason I don’t object to homosexuality or gay marriage or any of that. Praise and condemnation changed my desires, and the same thing is happening to millions of people across the country. Support for gay marriage is more widespread today in America than it was even 5 years ago, according to the polls.

ALONZO: If we’re confessing our moral failings, it used to be the case that I didn’t care about making others wait for me. I would take my good, sweet time and I’d get there when I got there. That’s something I got soundly condemned for, and now I’m only late when I really can’t help it.

LUKE: Yeah.

ALONZO: So, we have three tools for getting Scrooge to act like a nice person. There is the two-by-for method – the option of punishment and reward – we can call that the “law” option. There is the “religion” option – inventing an all-knowing invisible judge. And then there is this third option of using praise and condemnation to cause people to want to do nice things, and have an aversion to doing not-so-nice things.

LUKE: There’s still a problem with that third option, though. Scrooge is already a mean person. He’s going to do mean things. If you condemn him, he’s probably just gonna shrug and keep being mean to people. So, now, how are you going to get him to act like a nice person?

ALONZO: Well, unfortunately, there are no more options. In that case, Scrooge is going to act like . . . well . . . Scrooge. You can threaten him and, if he thinks your threats have weight then that would work. You can lie to him and tell him about your invisible judge – or maybe use some less exotic lie, like saying that he can get richer through niceness than through meanness. If you can convince him of that, your lie then that could work. Or, you can try praise or condemnation, but those are only rarely going to work overnight – well, unless you have three ghosts handy with magic powers and a gift for knowing exactly what to say.

In the absence of ghosts and magic words, threats will require knowing when he does evil and the power to make good on the threats, lies about invisible judges can be hijacked, and praise and condemnation will take some time to have an effect. Like I said at the start of this episode, if you’ve turned to desirism to discover the magic words that will cause anybody to do good and avoid evil, then you might as well be looking for the fountain of youth.

LUKE: But maybe, if we had been using praise and condemnation on Scrooge for 20 years, maybe by now he would want to do the nice thing.

ALONZO: Or if those who knew Scrooge when he was younger and more susceptible to the effects of praise and condemnation had done so, and he was not under the influence of people teaching him selfishness and hatred for those who are poor, maybe then he would be a nicer person today.

LUKE: But Alonzo, I want magic answers!

ALONZO: But, Luke, I want that fountain of youth! However, this podcast is about morality in the real world, not an imaginary world with magic words that will make anybody nice.

LUKE: Fine. So are we talking about morality yet?

ALONZO: Well, actually, yes we are. But we’re trying to ignore that for now. Remember, we’re trying to explain desirism without moral terms first, because moral terms bring with them all kinds of baggage from 10,000 years of people using them who had lots of wrong ideas about morality.

In this episode, we’re discussing three ways to get somebody to act like a nice person: Threats and rewards, stories about invisible judges, and the use of praise and condemnation to get them to want to act like a nice person.

LUKE: Okay, so we’ve looked at desirism through the lens of Alph and Betty on the distant planet, and through the lens of what we can do with Ebenezer Scrooge. What’s next?

ALONZO: Well, let’s make sure we’re making sense to people so far. For our next episode, we’ll be answering questions from our listeners.

LUKE: Okay. So if you want to ask a question about what we’ve discussed so far, you can leave that question in the comments on the website, or you can call 413-723-0175 and leave your question in the voicemail, and then we’ll play it back on the air and respond to it.

ALONZO: Hold on. What was that number again? I wasn’t ready.

LUKE: 413-723-0175.

ALONZO: Okay, Luke. See you next time when we face the inquisitors.

LUKE: See you then.

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{ 59 comments… read them below or add one }

rvkevin October 5, 2010 at 4:47 am

I’d like to get something clarified. When you say that a good desire is a desire that tends to fulfill other desires, do you really mean or could it be more specifically stated that a good desire is a desire that tends to fulfill non-malleable desires or other desires that tend to fulfill non-malleable desires?

I think the first introduces confusion about what desires you are considering when talking about desirism’s application, while the latter starts with a base set of non-malleable desires and aims to build up from there a set of desires that tends to fulfill them. If so, it might be worthwhile to identify what desires are non-malleable.

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Garren October 5, 2010 at 5:29 am

Question for the podcast:

“What would you say to a theist who claims atheism can only offer a lesser form of morality in which doing evil may be in a person’s best interest?”

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Alonzo Fyfe October 5, 2010 at 7:06 am

rvkevin

I’d like to get something clarified. When you say that a good desire is a desire that tends to fulfill other desires, do you really mean or could it be more specifically stated that a good desire is a desire that tends to fulfill non-malleable desires or other desires that tend to fulfill non-malleable desires?

Well, to start, I’d like to note that you’re getting a bit ahead of the podcast.

In this episode our concern is with establishing that there are three ways of molding another agent’s choices: (1) threates and promises, (2) altering beliefs, and (3) altering desires.

Eventually, we will start to talk about “good desires”, but we want to build up to it.

(Though, I have to admit, there is a chance that we may slip the term “good desires” into an episode before we are ready.)

But, no, all desires that exist are reasons for action that exist. And as such they are reasons to act so as to promote or inhibit other (malleable) desires.

The issue with non-malleable desires is that, even though we may have reason enough to change them, we can’t do so, so it is irrational to try. It is irrational to call for social forces to be employed in making modifications to desires that cannot be made.

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Tshepang Lekhonkhobe October 5, 2010 at 7:11 am

You guys were supposed to bury the God-theory in (the boring) Episode 2. It’s important but hardly needed for your argument here, and only serves to piss off your theist readers. I think it was enough to mention 2 forms of influence, reward-punishment and praise-condemnation. God-theory is just one form of reward-punishment among others.

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MichaelPJ October 5, 2010 at 7:35 am

I have a question. Sorry if this is a bit too soon in the series, since it actually mentions morality (which we aren’t talking about yet). Feel free to leave it for the next Q&A if you think it would be out of place now.

“There is a strong tradition in moral philosophy that regards moral discourse as objectively prescriptive (that is, there are “actions that you have to do, regardless). This is also dovetails nicely with our normal use of moral language. However, you claim that there are no “magic words”, and things you’ve said elsewhere, suggest that you don’t think there can be such objectively prescriptive discourse. Would you therefore say that your position is arguably a form of moral error-theory?”

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MichaelPJ October 5, 2010 at 7:35 am

Ooops, I missed a ” after “regardless”.

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Alonzo Fyfe October 5, 2010 at 7:40 am

Tshepang Lekhonkhobe

You guys were supposed to bury the God-theory in (the boring) Episode 2. It’s important but hardly needed for your argument here, and only serves to piss off your theist readers.

Actually, the reason for bringing it up here is to show that it actually has a purpose.

The motivation for inventing an all-knowing, all-powerful judge does not come out of left field, as they say. It serves a very real purpose. It aims to solve a real and significant moral problem. It explains not only the invention of the invisible judge but the intimate link between its invention and morality.

Thus, I consider it a mark in favor of desirism that it can offer this type of explanation.

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Alonzo Fyfe October 5, 2010 at 7:45 am

Garren

“What would you say to a theist who claims atheism can only offer a lesser form of morality in which doing evil may be in a person’s best interest?”

For me, only in the sense that if one person offers you a used car that gives you 30 miles per gallon and sometimes has trouble starting, while a second person offers you an imaginary car that never runs out of gas, fits conveniently in your pocket, and never fails to work, that the first person is offering you a “lesser car”.

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Tshepang Lekhonkhobe October 5, 2010 at 7:57 am

@Alonzo, I just felt that it was over-stressed, distracting us from the more interesting issue of morality. Mentioning it is okay, but it seems to take center-stage too often. Since it was covered in Episode 2, it would be nice if it was laid to rest (except maybe a passing mention).

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Alonzo Fyfe October 5, 2010 at 8:06 am

MichaelPG

There is a strong tradition in moral philosophy that regards moral discourse as objectively prescriptive (that is, there are “actions that you have to do, regardless). This is also dovetails nicely with our normal use of moral language. However, you claim that there are no “magic words”, and things you’ve said elsewhere, suggest that you don’t think there can be such objectively prescriptive discourse. Would you therefore say that your position is arguably a form of moral error-theory?

This issue will dominate the discussion in Episodes 6 and 7 and is answered explicitly at the end of Episode 7 (at least as they are written so far – episodes are subject to change until posted).

The short answer is:

If it is true that moral discourse is “intrinsically prescriptive” in the sense you describe, then desirism is a form of error theory – because it says that all “intrinsically prescriptive” statements are false.

However, I think we will show that the claim that moral discourse is “intrinsically prescriptive” in the sense you describe is false. Thus, desirism is not a form of error theory.

But we will not get into the discussion of whether moral discourse is, in fact, “objectively prescriptive” in the sense described for a long time. In the mean time, we are sticking with what is true, and “objectively prescriptive” claims of the type I think you have in mind are not true.

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MichaelPJ October 5, 2010 at 8:09 am

Alonzo,

Thanks, that’s pretty much what I thought. I look forward to those episodes, then :)

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Alonzo Fyfe October 5, 2010 at 8:09 am

Tshepang Lekhonkhobe

@Alonzo, I just felt that it was over-stressed, distracting us from the more interesting issue of morality.

Well, I may be wrong, but I do not recall any more discussion of the topic in future episodes.

Though I think that the fact that desirism can account for the invention of a visible judge, how it is employed, and even with how it is defended, is “interesting”.

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Charles October 5, 2010 at 8:21 am

Great podcast guys!

I just wanted to mention there is a “fourth way” that works for small children based on attachment parenting theory. The idea that children will do what their parents want or say because of an innate desire to please their parents. We don’t use any praise, condemnation, rewards, or punishment. We do however spend a lot of time working on attachment.

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lukeprog October 5, 2010 at 8:34 am

Thanks for the questions, all.

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Steven October 5, 2010 at 9:06 am

I fully understand desirism, but I still have a question, although I strongly suspect it will be addressed later on. How can desirism work on someone who is apathetic to what others think or in a position of such power as to be able to shrug off any praise or condemnation from those of a lower rank? And what if those people who are in a higher rank, out of a desire to please the Big Man, praise his moral flaws, and thus perpetuate immorality?

What I’m getting at is that although Desirism perfectly explains human behavior towards morality, I just don’t see how it can help us determine the state of morality itself.

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cl October 5, 2010 at 11:29 am

Lots to say, but I’ll keep it short for now:

[desirism] says that all “intrinsically prescriptive” statements are false. [Alonzo]

Okay, that is clear as can be. Then, how do you reconcile that statement with this one:

[desirism] prescribes in favor of those desires that tends to fulfill other desires, and against those desires that tend to thwart other desires. [Short List Theories of Morality, September 2, 2010]

The latter seems like an intrinsic prescription to me. Would you say it is? If not, what makes that prescription “not intrinsic?”

Steven,

…although Desirism perfectly explains human behavior towards morality, I just don’t see how it can help us determine the state of morality itself.

You are not alone. Commenters frequently voice this objection. To date, I haven’t seen it met – but it sounds from this thread like Luke and Alonzo intend to get around to it [cf. MichaelPJ's questions].

Luke,

Steven here is a perfect example of what I alluded to at the end of my first comment in the post about deblogging your conversion.

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Adito October 5, 2010 at 12:26 pm

Steven, “How can desirism work on someone who is apathetic to what others think or in a position of such power as to be able to shrug off any praise or condemnation from those of a lower rank? And what if those people who are in a higher rank, out of a desire to please the Big Man, praise his moral flaws, and thus perpetuate immorality?”

From what I understand it’s not really meant to be intrinsically binding to everyone everywhere. Desirism would likely say that those in a higher rank are committing an immoral action by perpetuating the desire thwarting ways of the Big Man and everyone under the Big Man has a reason for action to stop him. The Big Man himself has no intrinsically present desire to be morally good.

cl, “The latter seems like an intrinsic prescription to me. Would you say it is? If not, what makes that prescription “not intrinsic?””

Desirism seeks to describe all reasons for action that exist. Once they are so defined and you accept it you can then say “I have reason to do X.” It’s prescriptive in that if you decide doing things for reasons that exist you will have a reason for action. It’s just not an intrinsic reason because it’s predicated on entirely human properties and not some fundamental property of the universe.

This is desirism 101 and it’s comments like this that lead people to think you don’t know much about it.

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Garren October 5, 2010 at 12:35 pm

Alonzo,

For me, only in the sense that if one person offers you a used car that gives you 30 miles per gallon and sometimes has trouble starting, while a second person offers you an imaginary car that never runs out of gas, fits conveniently in your pocket, and never fails to work, that the first person is offering you a “lesser car”.

An alternative response which doesn’t rely on the non-existence of God would be that any theory of the good and right which goes no farther than informed, rational self-interest is the lesser form.

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Alonzo Fyfe October 5, 2010 at 12:53 pm

Garren

An alternative response which doesn’t rely on the non-existence of God would be that any theory of the good and right which goes no farther than informed, rational self-interest is the lesser form.

First, it must be said that there are elements of desirism that do not conform to what is typically understood as “rational self-interest”. Namely, it does not limit all interest to “self-interest”. In fact, it does not limit the range of interests at all. Our range of possible interests include self-interest, other-person-regarding interests, other-thing-regarding interests, and even potentially self-harm-interests.

Second, in order to make sense of “greater” and “lesser” forms of value, one needs a theory of value. One needs a theory of what it takes for a “theory of the good and right” to be “greater” or “lesser” than another.

It is quite relevant that any statement that says that one theory of value is “intrinsically” better than another or “selected by God as” better than another is false.

It may well be true that an agent has a desire for a theory that has particular qualities, and a particular theory (if true) would fulfill those desires better than others. However, this does not DISPROVE a desire-based theory of value. It does not follow that, “This theory is TRUE simply because it has qualities that I desire whereas that other theory is FALSE because it lacks qualities that I desire.”

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Garren October 5, 2010 at 1:41 pm

Alonzo,

First, it must be said that there are elements of desirism that do not conform to what is typically understood as “rational self-interest”.

Well, sure. I meant “interests of self” not just “interests in self” as you’ve distinguished them on your blog.

One needs a theory of what it takes for a “theory of the good and right” to be “greater” or “lesser” than another.

How about a correspondence theory to our linguistic practices?

To rephrase what I said earlier, I would contend that most users of the terms “good” and “right” in a moral sense mean something that must have the potential to conflict with any individual’s own interests. A Theist who looks down on Desirism (for example) because it admits the possibility of incorrigible Scrooges would then be insisting on a moral theory out of step with what people generally mean when they use moral terms.

Admittedly, I haven’t thought much about what makes one theory better than another in general. I certainly don’t mean intrinsically better, since I agree that value does not exist without the act of evaluation.

Can anyone here direct me to some theories of theorizing? ;)

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Kip October 5, 2010 at 1:42 pm

I just wanted to mention there is a “fourth way” that works for small children based on attachment parenting theory. The idea that children will do what their parents want or say because of an innate desire to please their parents. We don’t use any praise, condemnation, rewards, or punishment. We do however spend a lot of time working on attachment.

I think I would combine this with “praise & condemnation” into a broader category of “social approval and acceptance”. In reality, people don’t always use verbal “praise and condemnation” to shape the desires of others. It can be as simple as just not wanting to hang out with those people who don’t “play nice”. Because most of us desire social interaction, approval, and acceptance, we learn how to interact with people in the way that they want us to interact with them.

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cl October 5, 2010 at 2:24 pm

I think the claims of this post can be summed up thus:

1) No magic word exists that can make a person care about morality who otherwise doesn’t;

2) We can threaten people to get them to do what we think they ought;

3) 2 can entail varying degrees of difficulty, and ultimately, usefulness;

4) We can use the idea of final judgment to get people to do what we think they ought;

5) 4 – although useful – is objectionable because Alonzo and Luke believe that God doesn’t exist;

6) Giving people distaste for certain actions is more effective than threats or final judgment;

7) The tools of praise and condemnation will not always work, in which case we’re Scrooged.

Personally, I have no qualms with 1. When it comes to desirism, I’m not looking for a magic word, just a theory that makes true claims and can justify them. 2 is trivial, and 3 along with it. 4 is true, but 5 is laughable and has no place in the discussion. 6 is a claim about the real world that has not been justified, and 7 seems trivial as well. So, when Alonzo says that we’re talking about morality, I disagree strongly. We’re talking about motivation. In my opinion, we’re talking about morality when we are talking about which desires we ought to use praise and condemnation on.

Tshepang Lekhonkhobe,

You guys were supposed to bury the God-theory in (the boring) Episode 2. It’s important but hardly needed for your argument here, and only serves to piss off your theist readers.

Kudos to you for speaking up. While their assertions don’t piss me off, I find their willingness to make knowledge claims sans knowledge quite discouraging. Even more discouraging is that certain people who are prone to calling knowledge claims sans knowledge remain silent. This leaves the impression that atheists need not justify their claims. Personally, I don’t think it’s fair to simply handwave a debate that’s been raging for millennia, but I’ve already accepted that I’m in the minority in that regard.

Adito,

This is desirism 101 and it’s comments like this that lead people to think you don’t know much about it.

That’s a bit disingenuous given our last conversation in the Pigliucci thread, but I’ll let that slide.

It’s prescriptive in that if you decide doing things for reasons that exist you will have a reason for action.

No offense, but since you jumped in, that’s not even a well-formed sentence let alone a coherent answer to the question I asked Alonzo. If you’re going to speak for him, at least come correct. It’s comments like this that lead me to think you haven’t the slightest concern for clarity or even an idea of what I’m asking.

Alonzo,

If you’ve got a second, your answer could help me understand things. I’d rather not judge your theory based off of Adito’s explanation of it – whether that explanation is accurate or not. To clarify:

[desirism] prescribes in favor of those desires that tends to fulfill other desires, and against those desires that tend to thwart other desires. [Short List Theories of Morality, September 2, 2010]

That seems like an intrinsic prescription to me. Would you say it is? If not, what makes that prescription “not intrinsic?”

I just want to be able to judge desirism as you see it.

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Alonzo Fyfe October 5, 2010 at 3:05 pm

cl

I find answering your questions to be generally a waste of time, because you routinely ignore the answer and ask the same question again, asserting that I have never answered it.

However, in this case, I suspect that others might find the answer useful and will likely remember that I had answered it.

[desirism] prescribes in favor of those desires that tends to fulfill other desires, and against those desires that tend to thwart other desires. [Short List Theories of Morality, September 2, 2010]

That seems like an intrinsic prescription to me. Would you say it is? If not, what makes that prescription “not intrinsic?”

Desires are the the only reasons for action that exist. A desire motivates an agent to realize that which is desired. It is false to say that an agent has a reason to do something that does not, directly or indirectly, fulfill a desire that that agent.

Each agent has reason to promote in others those desires that tend to fulfill his desires. Those “reasons to promote” are the desires that the agent has and that would tend to be fulfilled.

There are, of course, individual differences in the desires that each agent has reason to promote. However, there are some desires that a substantial number of people have a substantial number strong reasons to promote.

In other words, there are desires that “people generally” have many and strong reasons to promote.

But “people generally” does not mean the same thing as “every person individually”. People generally have two arms, two legs, two eyes, etc. This does not imply that each person individually has two arms, two legs, two eyes, etc.

Desires that people generally have many and strong reasons to promote can be prescribed for people generally. Not for each person individually, but a strong prescription can be made for a substantial portion of them. It is consistent with this to note that people generally have reason to employ social forces such as praise and condemnation in molding those malleable desires. These claims both reflect the same basic fact.

Desirism prescribes [for people generally, based on the many and strong desires that are thwarted by the practice of lying] in favor of an aversion to rape. There is no ‘intrinsic prescription’. There is simply a statement of fact that people generally would fulfill more and stronger desires in a society of people who have a strong and widespread aversion to rape.

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cl October 5, 2010 at 3:57 pm

Alonzo,

I find answering your questions to be generally a waste of time, because you routinely ignore the answer and ask the same question again, asserting that I have never answered it.

Well, since we’re being honest, I often find asking my questions to be generally a waste of time, because you and Luke routinely ignore them and then assert that you’ve provided coherent answers weeks later. If you’d like, I can provide you with a list of questions from these threads that you’ve failed to provide coherent answers to, but really, I’d rather just have a decent conversation without the polemic if that’s okay. Along those lines, I would be more than happy to apologize if you can show me an instance of a question you answered that I’ve carried on about.

Desires are the the only reasons for action that exist. A desire motivates an agent to realize that which is desired. It is false to say that an agent has a reason to do something that does not, directly or indirectly, fulfill a desire that that agent.

I’ve not doubted any of that. That is all easily understandable from the intro.

Each agent has reason to promote in others those desires that tend to fulfill his desires. Those “reasons to promote” are the desires that the agent has and that would tend to be fulfilled.

I’ve not doubted any of that, either. What you’re saying here is trivial and obvious to the point that cavemen figured it out eons ago, i.e., “hey that other tribe has food, and we’re hungry, so we have reason to go over there, kill them, and take their food.” As MichaelPJ and who-knows-how-many-others have pointed out, you’re describing a theory of motivation. The moral question is, should they? Why or why not?

There are, of course, individual differences in the desires that each agent has reason to promote. However, there are some desires that a substantial number of people have a substantial number strong reasons to promote. In other words, there are desires that “people generally” have many and strong reasons to promote.

Again, this is trivial, and not being disputed. Anyone with a brain already knows that something like a “majority of desires” exists. What I’ve been wondering this whole time is how you can proffer prescriptions based on this “majority of desires” concept. For example, not everyone shares your convictions that trash TV is bad, that creationist belief leads to death and maiming, that pederasty is “probably wrong,” or that parents of fat children ought to be condemned.

So, who are you – or at least on what grounds – can you condemn these things?

*******

Regarding my original question, you simply denied that there is an intrinsic prescription, but didn’t really explain. Maybe it would help if you give me an example of an intrinsic prescription? I would say that something like “rape is wrong and therefore nobody should do it” is an intrinsic prescription. Would you consider that an intinsic prescription? If so, well… it seems that you are saying “rape is inherently desire-thwarting and therefore nobody should do it.”

What do you see as the salient difference?

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Steven October 5, 2010 at 4:32 pm

Cl, I do believe you’re getting ahead of yourself. I know I practically raised the same objection you did, but you seem to be attacking Desirism before it is fully developed. Perhaps you and I have already established the basis of Desirism, but a surprising amount of people haven’t–I remember talking about this very subject (how desires affect our perception of morality) with my family during dinner, and they were all surprised at the idea.

It’s more than obvious that this podcast is merely establishing some basic premises and setting itself up (notice how the option of praise & condemnation is seen as the most effective), and it’s too early to say that what is being said is trivial. Moral Theories are notoriously complex, and I only wish more books and theories about morality would take the time to outline the basic observations of morality that will guide the book.

Not that I don’t agree with your objection (with all the information about desirism that I already have), but that it just seems to be attacking a position that hasn’t even been fully presented yet.

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cl October 5, 2010 at 4:51 pm

Steven,

How long have you been following the meta-discussion on desirism? I’ve been doing so for one full year this month. So, when you say that I,

…seem to be attacking Desirism before it is fully developed[,]

..while sympathetic, I feel the need to point out that this is now Luke and Fyfe’s third ongoing campaign to explain this theory clearly. So, I’m not getting ahead of the discussion. I’m asking how the alleged emendations square with past statements in hopes of figuring out which ones to discard. In the context of our meta-discussion, Alonzo’s replies to me most certainly are trivial because they cover ground we already agree on, and they fail to address the salient question(s).

Agree or disagree, but at the very least I hope you have a better idea of where I’m coming from.

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MichaelPJ October 5, 2010 at 4:58 pm

cl,

I’m inclined to agree with Steven on this one. Luke and Alonzo have laid out a reasonable timeline for this podcast series, and they’re pumping posts out pretty regularly. I have many of the same reservations as you, but I’m happy to leave them until the point where they fit most naturally into this series of posts. And I think it’s quite reasonable for Luke and Alonzo not to want to discuss them until then, since they’ve already planned to discuss these things later, and they may not want to repeat themselves too much. We’ve seen desirism a bit before, so it’s tempting to jump ahead, but I think it’s courteous to let Luke set the pace for this one.

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cl October 5, 2010 at 5:07 pm

MichaelPJ,

I have many of the same reservations as you, but I’m happy to leave them until the point where they fit most naturally into this series of posts.

You seem to be implying that my original question did not fit naturally into this installment. If so, I disagree. My question was focused on a specific statement from this episode, so, why do you feel I’m getting ahead of things?

I think it’s quite reasonable for Luke and Alonzo not to want to discuss them until then, since they’ve already planned to discuss these things later, and they may not want to repeat themselves too much.

I agree, and that’s why I limited mine to a single question about a specific comment Alonzo made in this episode. So, again, why do you feel I’m getting ahead of things?

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MichaelPJ October 5, 2010 at 5:20 pm

cl,

Because you’re bringing in material from other posts, not in this series.

In particular, given that Alonzo said this to me:

But we will not get into the discussion of whether moral discourse is, in fact, “objectively prescriptive” in the sense described for a long time.

it seems pretty clear that discussion of prescriptions etc. is going to come later.

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cl October 5, 2010 at 5:31 pm

MichaelPJ,

I guess we have to agree to disagree, because, the way I see it, I asked Alonzo one specific question related to a claim he made in this episode. That’s why I opened with, “Lots to say, but for now I’ll keep it short.” That should have been your first clue that I’m respecting the timeline. That I asked how that claim squares with a past claim doesn’t constitute jumping the gun IMHO.

…it seems pretty clear that discussion of prescriptions etc. is going to come later.

Which is why I wish Alonzo would have eschewed all the trivial stuff from past posts in his reply to me, and instead explained how “[desirism] prescribes in favor of those desires that tends to fulfill other desires, and against those desires that tend to thwart other desires” is NOT an example of an intrinsic prescription.

That I reminded Alonzo of the moral question shouldn’t be taken as a demand that he answer it here and now. I’m more than respectful of their timeline, which is why I’ve more or less minimized my comments in these first four episodes.

Either way, you and Steven have now taken to criticizing me for “improperly criticizing” Alonzo, and I disagree. I asked my question, he chose to answer it the way he did, and I’m not going to push the matter. I’ll simply wait with patience and maintain attempts to square new statements with old ones.

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MichaelPJ October 5, 2010 at 5:41 pm

cl,

You contrasted it with something he said about desirism and prescriptions in another post. He hasn’t said anything about desirism and prescriptions so far.

I understand that you were aiming to be on the timeline, and I apologise if I came off as overly critical. The intent was more of a friendly “Whoa there, cowboy” than a “WTF do you think you’re doing?” :P

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James October 5, 2010 at 6:56 pm

Desirism calls some desires good and some bad, but wouldn’t it be more accurate to say that “Alonzo and Luke desire that desires not be thwarted, and Scrooge doesn’t care.” If there are no intrinsic values, then thwarting desires isn’t bad, and desires that thwart other desires aren’t bad desires. It’s just something that happens, and some people desire that it happen less. No one can argue with that observation, but it sure doesn’t seem like an improvement over subjectivism.

Alonzo says that desirism talks about reasons for action for “people generally” but it is individuals who are out there having all the desires and making all the choices, not “people generally.”

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cl October 5, 2010 at 7:02 pm

James,

Desirism calls some desires good and some bad, but wouldn’t it be more accurate to say that “Alonzo and Luke desire that desires not be thwarted, and Scrooge doesn’t care.”

I think that’s more accurate, and I find a certain confirmation in the fact that multiple people keep voicing the same objections.

If there are no intrinsic values, then thwarting desires isn’t bad, and desires that thwart other desires aren’t bad desires.

I agree wholeheartedly. This is why I often remark that it seems like Alonzo wants to have his cake and eat it too. If there are no intrinsic values, this is all “Boo!” and “Yeah!” theory, and it has no business being touted as realism IMHO.

Alonzo says that desirism talks about reasons for action for “people generally” but it is individuals who are out there having all the desires and making all the choices, not “people generally.”

Again, yes. When Alonzo says “people generally,” he invokes the temperament of the majority. Yet, he also denies that his theory is majoritarian. Personally, I see that as inconsistent.

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Joel October 6, 2010 at 4:10 am

Cl,

“As MichaelPJ and who-knows-how-many-others have pointed out, you’re describing a theory of motivation. The moral question is, should they? Why or why not?”

Fyfe has already made it clear that he does not believe that intrinstic value (and categorical imperatives) exists. Therefore, only instrumental value (hypothetical imperatives) exist. Therefore, the question “why ought I” or “why ought I not” can only be answered in reference to instrumental value (i.e. desires in relation to state of affairs).

I agree that there is scant evidence for beliving in the existence of intrinsic value, and thus it seems that only desires can be appealed to when we discuss motivation.

I sympathize with the frustration here, since, as I think you and the other posters appreciate, desirism as a theory is not what we call a system of morality. Luke takes the question of “Are moral statements cognitivist?” to be a descriptive problem, with the answer derived from how people in fact use moral statements. I extend this descriptive approach to the definition of morality; and most people mean, by morality, how you ought to act regardless of your own desires; id est, categorical imperatives based on intrinsic value. So if intrinsic value does not exist, morality as most of us understand it does not exist. It is up to Fyfe, not just to show that desirism as a description of the world is correct, but that it is a meaningful theory of morality.

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AlonzoFyfe October 6, 2010 at 5:25 am

Joel

So if intrinsic value does not exist, morality as most of us understand it does not exist. It is up to Fyfe, not just to show that desirism as a description of the world is correct, but that it is a meaningful theory of morality.

On this issue, I have to ask, “Why?”

Let’s say that you are correct. Morality requires intrinsic values.

If intrinsic values do not exist, no meaningful theory of morality can exist. We should toss out all moral terms and condemn all people who make moral claims as if they are making claims about Santa Claus or ghosts. “We live in a post morality world where we no longer speak of things being ‘right’ or ‘wrong’.”

If that’s the direction you want to go, then how does that affect me? Desirism, on that account, is not a moral theory. It is NOT something to be dismissed but, instead, remains a theory that refers to real relationships in the world, guiding the use of praise and condemnation to promote desires that tend to fulfill other desires. A “post morality world” on this option is not a “post desirism world”.

The only difference is that “desirism” is not called “a moral theory”. But, on your model, that’s a good thing, because causing desirism “a moral theory” is a bad thing anyway. It suggests that “desirism” is concerned with intrinsic values, which it is not.

So . . . I fail to see how it is that you are identifying a problem that is really worthy of a lot of discussion and debate. As I have said before, it’s merely a debate over which language to adopt – over whether an essay on desirism should be written in French or English.

Specifically, a dispute about whether to use moral terms to refer to intrinsic value, or whether to use the term “moral” to refer to what we can say about things like murder, rape, theft, fraud, abortion, capital punishment, homosexuality, incest, genocide, war, self defense, freedom of speech, separation of church and state, democracy, conscription, trial by jury, ex post facto laws, slavery, negligence, abuse, recklessness, vandalism, and these types of issues without making stuff up.

Because all we would be doing in that debate is arguing over which language is correct. And it is absolutely absurd to get into a long detailed discussion over whether “English” is “the one proper and correct language” or over whether “French” is more correct than “English.”

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Tshepang Lekhonkhobe October 6, 2010 at 5:35 am

@Alonzo, that’s a superb answer. You keep stressing the overrated importance of definitions, and you do it so well here.

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Alonzo Fyfe October 6, 2010 at 7:09 am

James

If there are no intrinsic values, then thwarting desires isn’t bad….

Stay tuned for Episode 7, where Luke and I defend the thesis that thwarting desires isn’t (intrinsically) bad.

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Alonzo Fyfe October 6, 2010 at 7:20 am

Steven

It’s more than obvious that this podcast is merely establishing some basic premises and setting itself up (notice how the option of praise & condemnation is seen as the most effective)….

If that is the impression you got from this article, we need to make an adjustment.

We stated that praise and condemnation had its own failings – namely, that it fails to work in the short term and, in some cases, can fail entirely, leaving us with no choice but to use one of the other two options. Which, in those circumstances, are the “most effective” options.

Each has a realm in which it is most effective. If you are on the street seeing somebody dragging a child into a vehicle against her will, that is NOT the time to draw upon praise and condemnation as the most effective option. I would suggest the two-by-four option in that circumstance. It is more effective at bringing about change in the short term.

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Charles October 6, 2010 at 8:53 am

Alonzo makes some good points about language. Over time, meanings change. Languages evolve. There is a similar discussion going on right now in the debate over determinism versus free will. When we say, “The sun rose,” we don’t literally mean the sun revolves around a stationary earth, and when we care, we can talk about what is really happening, but the shorthand is still useful.

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Steven October 6, 2010 at 9:57 am

Alonzo:

No, you made that perfectly clear. When I addressed Cl, I had long-term morality in mind, not the idea that praise & condemnation were always the way to go.

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Eneasz October 6, 2010 at 11:14 am

Just wanted to say that these are getting better and better, and this is the best episode yet. Thank you both for putting this together. :)

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MichaelPJ October 6, 2010 at 12:59 pm

So . . . I fail to see how it is that you are identifying a problem that is really worthy of a lot of discussion and debate. As I have said before, it’s merely a debate over which language to adopt – over whether an essay on desirism should be written in French or English.

Now, all this is fine, as long as you’re really, really clear about which language you’re using. While semantic discussions can become overwrought and irrelevant, they stem from the very important fact that if you’re allowed to redefine words at will, you can show anything you want to be true.

The argument is that “morality” already has a meaning, and that “morality” as you’re defining it will have lost something of that meaning. Now as I understand it, you’ve said that you’re going to argue that this isn’t the case (our moral discourse isn’t objectively prescriptive etc.). And that’s great. But I just hope you’re aware that it can look like you’re trying to commit the fallacy of equivocation: define something straightforward to be “morality”, and then claim that it was what we were looking for all the time because it has the same name. You need to have a good argument that your newly defined concept really does line up with our existing one. Otherwise you will have a kind of “schmorality”, which, while it may be a perfectly interesting and useful normative concept, won’t be morality.

As I said, I’m sure you’re going to deal with this later, I just think that it deserves acknowledgement as a real need that has to be met.

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lukeprog October 6, 2010 at 1:25 pm

Eneasz,

What was it in particular that worked just a bit better in this episode than even before? The content? The acting? The sound production and music?

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AlonzoFyfe October 6, 2010 at 4:50 pm

MichaelPJ

Otherwise you will have a kind of “schmorality”, which, while it may be a perfectly interesting and useful normative concept, won’t be morality. As I said, I’m sure you’re going to deal with this later, I just think that it deserves acknowledgement as a real need that has to be met.

I do not acknowledge it as a real need that has to be met.

As I see it, there are two options.

(1) I am right and desirism is a moral theory.

(2) You are right, moral theories make a necessary reference to things that do not exist and have no relevance in the real world, and desirism IS NOT a moral theory.

As far as I can tell, I have no reason to give more than passing concern to the question of which of these two options are ultimately correct.

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cl October 6, 2010 at 6:15 pm

I do not acknowledge it as a real need that has to be met.

Well, I guess that settles it, eh? Methinks this is going to be a long, uphill battle, MichaelPJ. In recovery programs, one of the first steps is getting the addict to realize he or she has a problem. At any rate, I welcome your feedback on my most recent post [pinged above].

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Joel October 6, 2010 at 10:06 pm

Alonzo,

So I am accused of ignoratio elenchi? I think I make a valid in point in that desirism is not what people mean to be a moral system, so a moral system on this account does not exist.

Someone made a good point on how language evolves, but my exactly was the you need to show us how desirism is meaningful, so we can change our definition of morality.

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mkandefer October 7, 2010 at 6:51 pm

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cl October 8, 2010 at 10:22 am

Joel,

I think I make a valid in point in that desirism is not what people mean to be a moral system, so a moral system on this account does not exist.

I wholeheartedly agree. You are not the first commenter to raise this objection. It comes up in nearly every thread about desirism.

[Alonzo needs] to show us how desirism is meaningful, so we can change our definition of morality.

See, that’s just the thing. Alonzo often replies to these types of criticisms by accusing the one making them of engaging in semantics. I disagree with that, and would cite Alonzo’s oft-repeated example of the atom. In the case of atom, science proved that the original definition was inadequate: what we called atoms were in fact “cuttable”. However, neither scientists nor Alonzo have proven that the original definition of morality is inadequate. In the case of morality, Alonzo simply disregards the matter, and asserts without justification that “morality” should no longer refer to intrinsic rightness or wrongness because there are “too many problems” with that idea, all the while, claiming that he uses moral terms “substantially the same way they’ve been used.” Yet, that leads me to wonder, if that was true, why is everybody so confused? Why does intelligent commenter after intelligent commenter get the impression Alonzo is simply equivocating and redefining terms?

This is not a matter of the same essay in English vs. French. This is a matter of two different essays presented confusingly with the same title.

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James October 8, 2010 at 1:37 pm

cl,
I’m eager to hear the rest of Alonzo’s case, but I think I see where he is headed.
The reason people desire “truth” (apart from the sheer pleasure of finding things out) is because knowing the truth gives us the power to predict the future, which reduces our anxiety and increases our power to get what we want. Morality doesn’t work the same way as truth. It tells us which future should happen, not which future will happen. So accurate prediction is not what makes a theory of morality satisfying.
There are two things that make a theory of morality satisfying for people:

It allows them to confidently rank their options
It gives them the power to persuade everyone else to rank the options the same way.

I think Alonzo is in effect saying that desireism accomplishes those two goals as well as possible without lying to yourself.

Desirism says that when ranking your options, only your desires matter, but emphasizes that life is full of tradeoffs and you must think carefully if you are going to get what you desire the most.
Desirism speaks clearly about what you can do to persuade other people, and what won’t work. Unfortunately for you, there are no moral theories that will persuade people just by hearing them.
As a hypothetical bonus, if everyone adopted desireism, society would function much better than it does now.

Traditionlly, the “intrinsic property” hypothesis has been a feature of moral theory, but it is a false premise. Desirism is the best we can do without using it, and fortunately, desirism achieves the traditional end-goals of morality.

I think the remaining discomfort with the theory people experience comes from the fact that they are nervous about the idea of everyone discovering that there are no intrinsic values.

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Alonzo Fyfe October 8, 2010 at 2:03 pm

James

It gives them the power to persuade everyone else to rank the options the same way.

Often it is not wise to persuade everyone else to rank the options the same way.

Look at Alph and Betty in episode 3. Alph did not cause Betty to rank the options of gathering and scattering stones the same way. Instead, it worked out better for Alph to cause Betty to rank things differently from him – the red pill, rather than the blue pill.

There will be a lot more on this in (what is currently shaping up to be) Episode 8.

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cl October 8, 2010 at 4:38 pm

James,

There are two things that make a theory of morality satisfying for people:

It allows them to confidently rank their options
It gives them the power to persuade everyone else to rank the options the same way.

It’s funny that you say “people” because I’m a person and neither of those are what makes a theory of morality satisfying for me. But yeah, we’ll see where this thing goes as it moves along..

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James October 8, 2010 at 5:03 pm

Cl,

What are you looking for in a moral theory?

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cl October 8, 2010 at 6:15 pm

James,

..well, to begin, I’d say that a prescriptive moral theory should entail a set of “should” statements. It should also be able to justify the set of “should” statements it entails. Further, I think a moral theory amounts to mere philosophical posturing if it “has nothing to say to an agent at the time of decision,” as Alonzo has said about desirism [cf. Short List Theories of Morality.

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James October 8, 2010 at 6:30 pm

cl,
Desirism is prescriptive in that it says that you should do the thing that will get you what you want most. You justify it by saying “because that will get me what I want the most.” If it won’t get you what you want most, it isn’t justified.

I was trying to address this earlier by saying that “It allows them to confidently rank their options…Desirism says that when ranking your options, only your desires matter, but emphasizes that life is full of tradeoffs and you must think carefully if you are going to get what you desire the most.”

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Gregg October 13, 2010 at 8:13 am

Question:

You mentioned in episode 4 that there are 3 ways of changing behavior: 1)Law, 2)Religion, and 3) Praise & condemnation. I’m not sure if this exhausts all the options. There are lots of psychological data on the science of persuasion (e.g. Robert Cialdini’s “Influence”). Can’t one use tactics of persuasion and rhetoric to change a person’s behavior instead of direct praise and condemnation?

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cl October 13, 2010 at 4:24 pm

James,

Desirism is prescriptive in that it says that you should do the thing that will get you what you want most. You justify it by saying “because that will get me what I want the most.” If it won’t get you what you want most, it isn’t justified.

I wonder to what extent Alonzo would endorse that characterization. Still, for me, the stated problem remains: I think a moral theory amounts to philosophical posturing if it “has nothing to say to an agent at the time of decision.”

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Patrick October 28, 2010 at 4:00 am

I’m at this point in the series, and *totally* lost. This episode seems to be about how to make people conform to your morality, but I don’t even know yet what desirism’s idea of morality is. Why is it, for example, “bad” to be a Scrooge?

Using praise and condemnation seems to me, simplistic – I have been convinced by arguments to act a specific way, or accept that specific actions are morally okay. It also seems to me that the idea of establishing rules and enforcing them (“punishment”) doesn’t hold much water with you, whereas I think institutionalized ethics are a very important way to police behavior.

And as for the behavior, how *do* you end up with what actions are obligatory, permissible, or forbidden? From what you’ve said so far, anybody should just follow their desires and influence other people in accordance to them. So my desire to, say, exploit workers means I should to that.

I assume that you go about aggregating desires some time in the future, but I desperately needed that step here, in this episode. And if you do so, you will have to make judgements on which desires are more important. And then we’re on a very rocky path, in my opinion. Because a) if you just say, the action that fulfills the most desires / negates the fewest desires is moral – then how is this not utilitarian? And b) if you go about making value judgements on which desires are better than others, I need to know how you are making that choice since in the first podcast Luke referred to how he couldn’t understand why happiness was supposed to be good – but if I call it a desire for happiness, isn’t that just what’s going on here?

I’m really interested in desirism but the podcast give me nothing to hold on to. I’ll listen to the interviews on the Pale Blue Dot podcast, maybe that will help, but so far despite my motivation to learn about it, my desire to listen more is waning.

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Patrick October 28, 2010 at 4:03 am

I’m not sure if this exhausts all the options.There are lots of psychological data on the science of persuasion (e.g. Robert Cialdini’s “Influence”).Can’t one use tactics of persuasion and rhetoric to change a person’s behavior instead of direct praise and condemnation?

Yeah, that’s what I mean.

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Patrick October 28, 2010 at 4:04 am

Oh, and sorry for the triple post, but on a podcast, you don’t need to repeat voice mail numbers or the like. People can stop and rewind easily. :)

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