Re: Another Take on Ethical Concerns (was The role of consciousness)

From: Samantha Atkins (
Date: Sun Apr 13 2008 - 01:28:29 MDT

Lee Corbin wrote:
> Samantha writes
>> > Do you really expect us to believe that it's identically the
>> > same to you whether they do it to you or do it
>> > some random African? You really don't believe
>> > that there is a fact of the matter?
>> I hear that. It would certainly make a difference to me.
> Well, at least you and I (and I think the vast majority)
> agree on that.
> To add on, suppose that you love X, and right
> before an extremely painful operation, you express
> sympathy for X and tell her so. Would you be lying
> if you then added "of course, whether it's you who
> undergoes the pain or some random African is
> actually indifferent to me"? Or would that be the
> truth (however hurtful the statement itself might be)?
What the heck does "love" mean if it does not mean that I esteem the
person I love more than random other persons that I may not even know?
And why would I say such a thing? What pain is not handled by
anesthesia and by drugs and other means afterwards was unavoidable in
reality. Why should a hypothetical that is far removed from reality or
relevance in the circumstance even come up?

>> Even if I want to degrade someone I would want
>> them to remember that also. Otherwise, whatever
>> is the point?
> Well, as you know, some people wish to degrade
> others for sexual gratification. There are probably
> other people who you and I would equally condemn
> who might wish to degrade others in various ways.
> That is the point. To these people, it may in fact
> be very convenient that the victim remembers nothing.
That it is convenient to some types of molesters makes what point exactly?
> I suggest that though (agreeing with Matt) it would
> be better for them to not remember some hideous
> thing that happened to them, that by *no means*
> removes (a) the fact that something terrible did happen to them and
> (b) *your* evident concern
> that the *act* itself of so degrading them was
> despicable. I agree with you, but your (b) was
> not the point Matt and I were discussing (and
> I think agreeing upon).
OK. It is better not to remember things that are just stupid [without
real meaning] painful incidents as a generality.

> One of Matt's next questions was
>>> 2. Is it ethical to rape someone and then erase
>>> their memories completely (or fix them
>>> afterwards so that they believe it never
>>> happened, or they have a blackout)?
> and I wrote
>> Likewise, it is not ethical (by which, as I have said,
>> I mean little more than "I disapprove" or "we
>> customarily disapprove or we should disapprove").
> and Samantha says
>> I mean a great deal more than that. To force the will
>> of another intelligent being in such a brutish fashion
>> makes one obviously unfit for society.
> That's a claim that depends on your particular society.
> In some societies, exactly the reverse made people unfit.
So what. I am not talking about what some "society" held. I am talking
about [or trying to] what is and is not conducive to humans living
together well.

> Recall the Viking who refused to pinion English
> babies on the end of his sword and swing them about.
Not relevant to what I was attempting to point out.

> The other Vikings thought this very strange, and it probably lessened
> his status among them. But I think
> that I agree totally with the general sentiment of what
> you are saying. But very objectively speaking, it comes down to
> little more than you and I and almost
> everyone in our society today disapproving most
> strenuously.
I disagree.

> Matt's subsequent query:
>>>> 5. Would you be upset if someone started torturing
>>>> you and then said "don't worry, I've made a backup
>>>> of your brain and I will use it to make an exact copy
>>>> of you on my home planet, as soon as I figure out
>>>> how to do so... which should only take a few years.
>>>> I'm not going to torture your copy when it wakes up,
>>>> so it's fine if I torture you now. In fact, I'm going to
>>>> kill you soon so it won't matter at all. Your
>>>> copy won't remember any of this."?
>>> Naturally [I, Lee, responded] , that would be terrible.
>>> The proper way to look at it is to sum over all
>>> instances of your runtime, and try to evaluate
>>> preferences accordingly.
>> WHAT?? I don't need to sum over any instances to
>> condemn such behavior toward or by any and all of
>> my instances.
> But someone might ask you "why?". It seems to me that
> your most logical response---since you and I do certainly
> and heartily agree on the answer---would be along the
> lines that "overall benefit for me (Samantha)" would be
> greatly lowered by such an outcome.
> But honestly, it seems to me that you are more interested
> in *condemning* the act itself rather than the outcome of
> the act. Of course, the two are indeed normally tied
> together, so I don't blame you. It's just that it's interesting
> for me to note that the righteousness of behavior appears
> to be much more important than the evaluation of the
> actual results of actions. You might be interested in
> Socrates' ancient question:
Ethics is about acts themselves or at least what I think of as ethics is.

> Would it be better to be perfectly unjust and
> yet be regarded by everyone in society as
> perfectly just, or better to be perfectly just
> and yet be regarded by all as perfectly unjust?
It would be better to have something more fruitful to do with our time.

- samantha

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