Eudaimonic and Theistic Utilitarianism

Utilitarianism, prioritarianism and other varieties of consequentialism.
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Darklight
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Re: Eudaimonic and Theistic Utilitarianism

Post by Darklight » Mon Feb 03, 2014 12:51 am

Thought I'd finally get around to replying in this thread. Apologies for the long wait.
When you say "if this is not the case", you do mean that perfect information is not the case... right?
If you assume rationality level is not the case, then obviously his preference is not necessarily aligned with his "real" or "true" preference. so, eudaimonic utilitarianism is just preference utilitarianism with all the information? But from what I gather it is a little more. It's supposing you don't have a choice to not have all the information. Is that correct?
Actually, by "if this is not the case" I mean to say if happiness and preferences do not converge at the perfect information and rationality level. It differs from preference utilitarianism with all the information in that it is possible that someone with all the information might still decide to prefer something that is not actually in their Eudaimonic interests. For instance, someone might conclude that it is better off not to exist, and seek to end all life painlessly, due to strong negative utilitarian views. I would view this as not being Eudaimonically maximizing, even if it is a legitimate preference.
Why? I don't understand (or more precisely, I think you don't understand {no offence}). It would seem under both hedonistic and preference utilitarianism would say that counting the grass is not utility maximizing. This is because there is most probably something that could make both her and others happier.
Though when you say "personal preference", that implies that if she does not count the grass, she will be less happy than doing anything else. If that is the case, the only way to justify it, through both hedonistic and preference utilitarianism, would be to consider other people.
Obviously your not arguing that she should do what makes her less happy because she COULD be happy if her emotions were rational... are you? Also, I take it to be obvious that emotions are usually NOT rational. That is why we need rationality.
Okay, I'll admit the grass counter argument is weak. Which is probably a good thing, because Rawls used it as an attack on utilitarianism in general.
Essentially, the big difference I see between eudaimonic utilitarianism and "true" preference utilitarianism is that eudaimonic utilitarianism is NOT a consequentialism. But it still sounds like preference utilitarianism "with all the information".
I would argue that it is a consequentialism that has a very unique and difficult to practically calculate utility function. Eudaimonic utilitarianism essentially argues that there is an ideal, or perfect state called Eudaimonia that a fully rational and informed sentient being would desire to be in, and that maximizing the time or chances of being in such a state is morally good. The main point of this Eudaimonia is that it should unify both hedonistic and preference utilitarianism because it simultaneously is the state of greatest happiness or higher pleasure, and a state where one's rational preferences are most satisfied, because, I conjecture, the two states should coincide.
I see no reason why this "impartial observer" would choose not to commit suicide (perhaps this really is best), or condone adultery as long as it's secret (suppose that after finding out about it, the victim, with all the information and a rational mind, decides to take a pill to forget), or take a "happy pill" (even the impartial observer can be sad, information doesn't make you happy. If it doesn't effect your behavior, and it is "true" happiness, I don't see a down side).
I argue that it isn't true happiness because it affects your Eudaimonic state negatively. A simple example of the difference between Eudaimonic happiness and subjective happiness is the case where your friends secretly badmouth you in a way that doesn't actually hurt you and your children suffer without you knowing. In the first case, the action doesn't physically hurt you subjectively, but it does harm your Eudaimonia because in the ideal Eudaimonic state you would know about this action and it would hurt you. In the second case, your preferences to see your children not suffer are being thwarted, which again, would hurt you if you knew about it.
Finally (to lazy to quote right now), your argument against the matrix scenario has some hefty assumptions. You assume that the world we live in is "real". How do you know that we aren't in the matrix right now? This, I believe, is what true philosophers are supposed to think about.
Furthermore, in the sense that we could be in the matrix now, and assuming maximizing potential has to do only with sentient beings (if you argue otherwise, then I think you are approaching religious grounds), we could and should maximize potential in this world even if it is the matrix. Therefore, putting everybody in a matrix has no obvious negative effects.
If we don't know that we are in the matrix, it is reasonable to act as if we weren't and take our world seriously. I believe this is the usual response to the Simulation Argument. However, if one becomes aware that we are certainly in the matrix, I believe that the only morally correct response is to act on that knowledge. In practice, we do not know everything about the actual conditions of our world, so we can only act to the best of our ability with the knowledge we have. Once we are aware that we are in the matrix, then we should act in a manner that is utility maximizing given this information. If that means freeing everyone from the matrix to allow them to actually do something useful rather than be passive entities in a simulation, then so be it. On the other hand, if this matrix is actually somehow utility maximizing, then acting to destroy it may well be immoral. For instance, it may well be that the only way to solve a massive overpopulation problem on a barren planet is plug everyone into a simulation of the best period of human history.

Eudaimonic Utilitarianism is something of an ideal case that in practice tends to collapse into classical utilitarianism. The difficulty is that Eudaimonia is not a state that can be easily determined. Nevertheless, I think we can approximate it by following classical hedonistic utilitarianism, with certain caveats where, when it is possible, we make the attempt to apply the notion of Eudaimonia rather than mere hedonistic happiness.

The reason why I think hedonistic utilitarianism fits better than preference utilitarianism can be shown in this thought experiment:

Consider a series of sentient robots who are produced with very particular features. One robot, we shall call Painbot, is incapable of feeling pleasure, and can only feel pain. Another robot, known as Pleasurebot, can only feel pleasure and not feel pain. A third robot, Preferencebot, can feel neither pain nor pleasure but has preferences. A fourth robot, Hedonbot, can feel both pleasure and pain, but has no preferences.

Painbot can only live a life of constant pain and suffering. Painbot is incapable of action and can do nothing to avoid this pain or produce utility for others. Most Painbots develop a preference to not exist, but some Painbots come to believe that their pain has meaning, and existence is worthwhile, even though they can't even feel any pleasure from this meaning. What should be done about Painbot? A hedonistic utilitarian would argue that Painbot should be painlessly put down, because its existence is purely negative in the hedonic calculus, while a preference utilitarian would argue that it depends on the Painbot's preferences. A Eudaimonic utilitarian asks the question, what is the potential of the Painbot? Ultimately, such beings have no useful purpose and can only be unhappy. They are incapable of achieving any sort of Eudaimonic state. A Eudaimonic utilitarian thus agrees with the hedonistic utilitarians.

Pleasurebot on the other hand, feels only pleasure and is also incapable of action. Most Pleasurebots like to exist, but some feel that due to their inability to do anything, their lives are without meaning, and want to cease to exist. The main concern with it is that if such Pleasurebots can exist and easily be mass produced, a hedonistic utilitarian might be forced to consider the idea that we should replace all other sentient life with Pleasurebots and expend the universe's resources perpetuating Pleasurebots. A preference utilitarian on the other hand, would not consider it important to do so. In fact, they would think that the Pleasurebots that don't want to exist, should be put down. To a Eudaimonic utilitarian, is a bit of a challenge, since they can't act or achieve goals. But they can feel happy, and thus achieve a shallow state of Eudaimonia.

Preferencebot feels no pleasure or pain, and cannot take actions either. However, it does have many preferences because it can sense the world and decide that it would prefer certain things happen in the world than other things, from a purely logical and intellectual reasoning. For instance, it would like for utility to be maximized, though it cannot, by itself help in this regard. To a hedonistic utilitarian, the existence of Preferencebot is undesireable because it consumes resources to continue existing, but does not contribute at all to hedonistic utility. To a preference utilitarian however, Preferencebot has many preferences that must be considered. For a Eudaimonic utilitarian, the Preferencebot is also a challenge. As it has preferences, it can be argued that it has passive goals that can be fulfilled. But the Preferencebot feels no happiness from this. It simply would prefer something things over others in a vague, intellectual sense. At the end of the day, these preferences are merely preferences and don't actually matter to the Preferencebot. Thus it cannot achieve Eudaimonia either.

Hedonbot can feel all sorts of pain and pleasure, but it has no ability to act or preferences of any sort. It just sort of exists and absorbs pain and pleasure. Hedonbot are a bit of an annoyance to hedonistic utilitarians, who might rather they be Pleasurebots, but they admit that Hedonbots deserve some consideration in the hedonic calculus. Preference utilitarians don't value Hedonbots at all, and would rather put them down. Eudaimonic utilitarians note that such entities can experience again a shallow Eudaimonic state and thus deserve some consideration.
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Re: Eudaimonic and Theistic Utilitarianism

Post by DanielLC » Mon Feb 03, 2014 3:07 am

Please taboo the phrase "true happiness". I'm fine with "Eudaimonia" which you defined and doesn't have much in the way of connotation. "True happiness" seems to exclusively be used as part of the No True Scotsman fallacy.

I can't help but feel that you're using "Eudaimonia" not to mean the state that the given agent would prefer if it had perfect knowledge, but rather the state you would prefer they had if you had perfect knowledge.

I know you decided the grass counting objection isn't that great, but I think critiquing it would still be a good way for me to explain my point.

It's possible that they have some sort of desire to be something more, but they lack the willpower, and they end up going back to counting grass. If that's true, I can see why you would argue that they are not maximizing Eudaimonia. The impression I have is more that they like to count grass, and they don't much care about anything else. Given perfect knowledge, they wouldn't see anything as more important than counting grass. They have perfect knowledge, and they know with absolute certainty that if they did anything but count grass, it would bore them to death. They could opt to be modified to enjoy something else, but they see no reason too. It just wouldn't be them, and counting grass is fun.

You see counting grass as boring, and thus, you think everyone else would also see it as boring. Sure, strictly speaking, but what's given in that example, perfect knowledge won't make the grass counter want to stop counting grass, but that must be that they just don't understand why it's boring. They must be irrational.

This is false. It's not irrational. It's just not what you want. The definition of irrational I use is being unable to implement your values. Perhaps you have a different definition, but I doubt you have one that both explains why wanting to count grass is irrational, and isn't dependant on your mind.

And one more thing:
What exactly makes Shakespeare better than Reality TV?
I'm pretty sure it's a simple reason. It's the same reason that makes you want to have a big house, even though there's no obvious reason why having a bigger house would be in any way helpful. It's high class. It's better to be rich, to have a big house, and to enjoy Shakespeare. Only a plebeian would prefer Reality TV to Shakespeare. You're not a plebeian, are you?

If we ever invent an AI, and tell it to do something more sophisticated than maximize happiness, I for one hope we're not just using "sophisticated" in the sense of "high class". I don't want to live in a utopia built around signalling how much better it is than anyone else's utopia.
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Re: Eudaimonic and Theistic Utilitarianism

Post by Darklight » Mon Feb 03, 2014 4:37 am

Please taboo the phrase "true happiness". I'm fine with "Eudaimonia" which you defined and doesn't have much in the way of connotation. "True happiness" seems to exclusively be used as part of the No True Scotsman fallacy.
Fine.
I can't help but feel that you're using "Eudaimonia" not to mean the state that the given agent would prefer if it had perfect knowledge, but rather the state you would prefer they had if you had perfect knowledge.
Mmm, this is not my intention. But I would also argue that assuming perfect knowledge led necessarily to perfect moral knowledge, that the two cases are actually identical. If I had perfect moral knowledge, assuming that such knowledge was imperative, I would be intrinsically benevolent and want the best for the agent in question.
This is false. It's not irrational. It's just not what you want. The definition of irrational I use is being unable to implement your values. Perhaps you have a different definition, but I doubt you have one that both explains why wanting to count grass is irrational, and isn't dependant on your mind.
If in the state of perfect information and rationality, the grass counter still sees grass counting as the best of all possible options, then I concede that it is a Eudaimonic state. I made the assumption that in a state of perfect information and rationality, that a normal human being who was a brilliant mathematician would have better more Eudaimonic states than merely grass counting, such as for instance, being a Nobel prize winning mathematician who provides enormous amounts of utility to everyone (while still perhaps leaving some time for his/her favourite hobby of grass counting). But arguably this does not require the notion of Eudaimonia, and applies equally to hedonistic and preference utilitarianism.
I'm pretty sure it's a simple reason. It's the same reason that makes you want to have a big house, even though there's no obvious reason why having a bigger house would be in any way helpful. It's high class. It's better to be rich, to have a big house, and to enjoy Shakespeare. Only a plebeian would prefer Reality TV to Shakespeare. You're not a plebeian, are you?

If we ever invent an AI, and tell it to do something more sophisticated than maximize happiness, I for one hope we're not just using "sophisticated" in the sense of "high class". I don't want to live in a utopia built around signalling how much better it is than anyone else's utopia.
Uh, the usual argument why Reality TV is inferior to Shakespeare is that Shakespeare can be appreciated at a higher intellectual level than most Reality TV, that some pleasures are deeper and superior to other pleasures because they affect us more. Reality TV is something that most people quickly consume and then forget about. Shakespeare tends to be something that we can absorb and analyze and think about and remember for decades because it affected us on an intellectual and emotional level. Admittedly, it's possible that Reality TV might affect some people in the same way that Shakespeare affects some people. To be honest, I was mostly borrowing from John Stuart Mill's notion of higher and lower pleasures, and I'm not particularly attached to this assertion.
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Re: Eudaimonic and Theistic Utilitarianism

Post by Darklight » Tue Feb 04, 2014 1:39 am

The utility function is not up for grabs. Perfect knowledge and reasoning will give you perfect knowledge of your own utility function. You will have no need to hesitate when given the trolley problem. It will also give you perfect knowledge of everyone else's utility function. You know what they'd pick. What it doesn't do is in any way force you to have the same utility function.
I guess that's one of my broader disagreements with the Less Wrong community. I actually think that if moral realism is true, then given perfect knowledge you should be able to reason into the "correct" utility function, whatever it is, and that it would be persuasive enough to motivate you to adopt that particular function. I believe that the reason why there are disagreements about the utility function is because no one in practice has perfect knowledge. For a while I challenged the Orthogonality Thesis for these reasons, but now I realize that even a superintelligence may not be able to have perfect knowledge and therefore that the Orthogonality Thesis may very well be correct.

Note that when I say perfect knowledge, I don't mean perfect rationality. Perfect rationality will tell you exactly how to act given whatever your utility function happens to be, because as you implied, rationality is about being able to implement your values, whatever they are. Perfect knowledge on the other hand, is about knowing about objective truths regardless of your values.

Our values are often a result of our limited knowledge. Some people value for instance, serving some incorrect religion or ideology because their limited and mistaken knowledge lead them to rationally value the claims of that religion or ideology. If our knowledge changes, often we are motivated to change our values to conform with the new information. Thus, I believe that when we have perfect knowledge, we will be motivated to make our values consistent with the implications of the objective truth, whatever that may be.

It is possible that the objective truth is that moral realism is not true. In which case there is no perfect utility function that would be demanded by perfect knowledge, and you would be correct.
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Re: Eudaimonic and Theistic Utilitarianism

Post by Darklight » Tue Feb 04, 2014 10:32 pm

I would also just like to note that even if moral realism is false, that doesn't spell doom for Utilitarianism, because Utilitarianism only requires moral universalism.
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Re: Eudaimonic and Theistic Utilitarianism

Post by DanielLC » Wed Feb 05, 2014 12:35 am

I'm not sure even that's strictly necessary. I'm not entirely sure of the terminology, but Eliezer Yudkowsky seems to be a moral relativist. Nonetheless, he considers what is moral from his point of reference to be Utilitarianism.
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Re: Eudaimonic and Theistic Utilitarianism

Post by peterhurford » Wed Feb 05, 2014 8:07 am

Darklight wrote:I would also just like to note that even if moral realism is false, that doesn't spell doom for Utilitarianism, because Utilitarianism only requires moral universalism.
I spelt out an anti-realist Utilitarianism once.
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Re: Eudaimonic and Theistic Utilitarianism

Post by Darklight » Wed Feb 05, 2014 7:29 pm

I'm not sure even that's strictly necessary. I'm not entirely sure of the terminology, but Eliezer Yudkowsky seems to be a moral relativist. Nonetheless, he considers what is moral from his point of reference to be Utilitarianism.
Are you sure about that? Just from reading the meta-ethics sequence, I thought Eliezer Yudkowsky believed that morality was based on a complex value function that cannot be reduced to something as simple as "maximize utility".
I spelt out an anti-realist Utilitarianism once.
Interesting. I don't know that I completely agree with or for that matter understand your anti-realist meta-ethics, but it was an interesting read.

I think where I disagree with you is that I don't think that standards and goals are the source of moral judgments. Rather, I think that there are positive mental and existential states that are intrinsically good, and there are negative mental and existential states that are intrinsically bad. Goodness and badness are subjective judgments in the sense that they are made by a subject with regard to things. Given that the only things we can be absolutely sure of are that something exists, and whether we perceive our mental states to be positive or negative, I think that such things are the only things we can make absolute moral judgments about. Thus, happiness is good, and suffering is bad, even if we are just a brain in a jar being fed false perceptions and having no ability to actually realize any goals.

Goals are simply apparent world states that we value for some reason or another. Goals I think, can be described as good or bad only with reference to their consequences in terms of the goodness or badness of the world state that achieving a given goal would create. Achieving goals is not in and of itself, intrinsically good, although they are so often instrumentally good that many people could conceivably confuse themselves about it.

I think fundamentally you have to ask yourself, since goals are about achieving what we value, whether or not values are intrinsically good. I think it should be obvious that some values are not good. Someone might value torturing others to "save their souls". But I would say that there is something morally wrong with this value, and that this is not merely my opinion but an actual statement of fact, having to do with the suffering that torture causes and the falsehood of the "save their souls" part. If this is true, then values are not intrinsically good, because it is possible to hold bad values.
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Re: Eudaimonic and Theistic Utilitarianism

Post by DanielLC » Wed Feb 05, 2014 9:59 pm

Just from reading the meta-ethics sequence, I thought Eliezer Yudkowsky believed that morality was based on a complex value function that cannot be reduced to something as simple as "maximize utility".
He has a complex utility function. It's still utilitarianism.
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Re: Eudaimonic and Theistic Utilitarianism

Post by Verrian » Mon Feb 24, 2014 6:22 pm

Darklight wrote:Eudaimonia would not be achieved by hooking up to the matrix if the matrix was a perfect utopia of happiness, because that utopia and happiness aren't real. They're a fantasy, a drug that prevents them from actually living and being who they're supposed to be, who they can be. They would be living a lie. Eudaimonia is based on the truth.
This seems the Nozick's machine dilemma, and shows to me a big quantity of errors. First of all, on cartesian or humean paradox, if I'm not mistaken, we cannot know if our reality is... real, so possibly we are, or I am, in a matrix. Answering to Morpheus and weighing whether take the pill, I would accuse Morpheus to not proves me the reality of his world (a much more painfull world, of course). Therefore, pragmatic approach!

The ancient view that says: "If there's knowledge, therefore is happiness" seems to me for few, and an uncertain form of utilitarianism. For I don't see such a close connection between these two elements, under any circumstances. What means "(total) knowledge"? something like an enormous mental encyclopedia? or a constant perception of all world's experencies? (You says not.) What degree of first type of knowledge? an high level, true? is it possible? I see it when we say that: "If we'll God, therefore we'll happy", 'cause the philosophical notion of God is, especially, of a Being whose happiness is infinite. But there is an evident analogy: 'cause knowing many things in the exact circumstances (ever knowing what's going on) it's a nearly divine (im)possibility.

Rather, I see that if one is sage, he has more probabilities to find some way to maximaze his happiness. This is an instrumental (an utilitarian, I suppose) view of knowledge. I don't know what utility may has the knowledge if its result is not an increase of happiness, I don't know what's utility of an human "perfection" if it doesn't give happiness; on the other hand, the "soma" or the Nozick's machine would give us an high degree (and, I hope, certainty) of pleasure, so that the end is reached. (I agree with user Daniel), you make a wider turn to the end, I think.

It seems to me that your E-Utilitarian response to the party-scenario was obviously uncorrect. However, in more relevant scenarios, if we know that knowing the truth is a real concern for our friends – that is, if we're sure that will produce an increase of happiness in them – then we'll say the truth by duty. Finally, I don't see (thus, a priori, without read it because it's very difficult to me) how Bayes could overcome the Epicurus' old questions; with regard to free will, I see it grim.
Darklight wrote:For instance, take the example of a suicidal and depressed man. Due to emotional factors, this man has the irrational desire to kill himself.
Uhmm... I don't think so (still see Hume, Of Suicide). Well, other matter.

The part of your benthamite calculus about adultery is too complex for me, so I'm droping it. This is my really first comment here, in english, for a real (english) discussion, so forgive me if I did some error and miss out some comment. It's hard to maintain an even attention on english textes.
Last edited by Verrian on Mon Feb 24, 2014 9:23 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Eudaimonic and Theistic Utilitarianism

Post by Darklight » Mon Feb 24, 2014 8:59 pm

First, thanks for replying despite your difficulties with the English language. I really appreciate it! :)
This seems the Nozick's machine dilemma, and shows me a big quantity of errors. First of all, on cartesian or humean paradox, if I'm not mistaken, we cannot know if our reality is... real, so possibly we are, or I am, in a matrix. Answering to Morpheus and weighing whether take the pill, I would accuse Morpheus to not proves me the reality of his world (a much more painfull world, of course). Therefore, pragmatic approach!
I admit that we can't be certain about our reality. But I think that it is reasonable to assume that our senses can be trusted, because otherwise there is nothing we can do.
The ancient view that says: "If there's knowledge, therefore is happiness" seems to me for few, and an uncertain form of utilitarianism. For I don't see such a close connection between these two elements, under any circumstances. What means "(total) knowledge"? something like an enormous mental encyclopedia? or a constant perception of all world's experencies? (You says not.) What degree of first type of knowledge? an high level, true? is it possible? I see it when we say that: "If we'll God, therefore we'll happy", 'cause the philosophical notion of God is, especially, of a Being whose happiness is infinite. But there is an evident analogy: 'cause knowing many things in the exact circumstances (ever knowing what's going on) it's a nearly divine (im)possibility.
Perfect knowledge is an ideal concept. It is admittedly in practice, not feasible short of being God or god-like. However, I still think that we should try to maximize our knowledge, because it will be useful. And I'm not saying that knowledge necessarily leads to happiness. It is possible that knowledge of the truth can bring unhappiness. Eudaimonia is about more than just our emotional state of happiness though. It is about being in the best possible state of actual existence, whatever that is.
Rather, I see that if one is sage, he has more probabilities to find some way to maximaze his happiness. This is an instrumental (an utilitarian, I suppouse) view of knowledge. I don't know what utility may has the knowledge if its result is not an increase of happiness, I don't know what's utility of an human "perfection" if it doesn't give happiness; on the other hand, the "soma" or the Nozick's machine would give us an high degree (and, I hope, certainty) of pleasure, so that the end is reached. (I agree with user Daniel), you make a wider turn to the end, I think.
Indeed, lately, I have been moving away from my earlier view of Eudaimonia, and admitting the possibility that John Stuart Mill was right, and that classical hedonistic utilitarianism is right. I am still uncertain as to whether Eudaimonia as an ideal does capture something that happiness by itself doesn't.
It seems to me that your E-Utilitarian response to the party-scenario was obviously uncorrect. However, in more relevant scenarios, if we know that knowing the truth is a real concern for our friends – that is, if we're sure that will produce an increase of happiness in them – then we'll say the truth by duty. Finally, I don't see (thus, a priori, without read it because it's very difficult to me) how Bayes could overcome the Epicurus' old questions; with regard to free will, I see it grim.
Mmm... I still think that a white lie to protect the secret of a surprise birthday party will produce more happiness at the surprise party, so I think it is still correct. We have to weigh the relative happiness of learning the truth, and getting surprised.

I'm not sure what you're referring to with Bayes and Epicurus and free will.
Uhmm... I don't think so (still see Hume, Of Suicide). Well, other matter.

The part of your benthamite calculus about adultery is too complex for me, so I'm droping it. This is my really first comment here, in english, for a real (english) discussion, so forgive me if I did some error and miss out some comment. It's hard to maintain an even attention on english textes.
I believe I read "Of Suicide" a while back, but I don't remember much except that I disagreed with it at the time.

Yeah, the calculus about adultery was just an attempt to see what kind of calculations would be suggested by the various theories. The numbers are rather arbitrary, so I don't fault anyone for not taking it seriously.

Thanks for giving this discussion a serious effort! :D I really appreciate that you would spend time on my silly little theory.
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Re: Eudaimonic and Theistic Utilitarianism

Post by Verrian » Mon Feb 24, 2014 10:21 pm

Thank you! to endure my mistakes.
In knowing (b.t.w.) the Utilitarian Philosophy, I'm surely inferior to you all, because you anglophones have an huge digital bibliography/library here on Internet in order to learn it. So, these aren't silly discussions for me :) I answer to you all according to my reason and little knowledge.

Unlike the Bayes' title, he cannot prove God's benevolence and, at same time, save the christian view, because Epicurus (see still Hume, DNR, X: 25) doesn't allow him to do it; then, the free will, an usual christian way-out, is a problem, 'cause either it doesn't exist or it's literally useless for human happiness. But this is a marginal matter, just a note.

For the first point, in brief: the objective existence of external things is uncertain; what is certain is the perception of pleasure and pain when we perceive it. It seems to me that these perceptions are whitout-doubt, since in their case reality and appearance concur. Don't they? Thankfully, for utilitarians the utility is better then truth.

Now I've a confused idea of your "Eudaimonia" concept, so I should read with more attention your later messages.
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Re: Eudaimonic and Theistic Utilitarianism

Post by Darklight » Tue Feb 25, 2014 2:33 am

Verrian wrote:Unlike the Bayes' title, he cannot prove God's benevolence and, at same time, save the christian view, because Epicurus (see still Hume, DNR, X: 25) doesn't allow him to do it; then, the free will, an usual christian way-out, is a problem, 'cause either it doesn't exist or it's literally useless for human happiness. But this is a marginal matter, just a note.
This appears to be what you're referring to:
Hume wrote:Epicurus’s old questions are yet unanswered. Is he willing to prevent evil, but not able? then is he impotent. Is he able, but not willing? then is he malevolent. Is he both able and willing? whence then is evil?
Free will is the usual Christian response to the Problem of Evil, but I would actually make a different argument. If God exists, and is both omnipotent and omnibenevolent, then the reason why there is all this apparent evil in this world is that for reasons that are currently beyond our knowledge, the evil in this world is necessary evil, required to achieve the Greatest Good in the long run. For instance, perhaps it is possible that all the suffering in the universe is required to motivate humanity towards the Technological Singularity as quickly as possible, or perhaps our suffering makes sense because we are drastically outnumbered by future humans who will benefit from our efforts to minimize suffering and maximize happiness.

Perhaps we as the early Earthlings, with our privileged position as being able to influence the future so much, are allowed to suffer for the sake of the future.
For the first point, in brief: the objective existence of external things is uncertain; what is certain is the perception of pleasure and pain when we perceive it. It seems to me that these perceptions are whitout-doubt, since in their case reality and appearance concur. Don't they? Thankfully, for utilitarians the utility is better then truth.
I agree with you. This is one of the major reasons I'm leaning towards classical hedonistic utilitarianism these days, more than my pet theory of Eudaimonic Utilitarianism.
Now I've a confused idea of your "Eudaimonia" concept, so I should read with more attention your later messages.
Eudaimonia is probably best described with the word "flourishing". It incorporates subjective feelings of happiness, but also includes the objective state of fulfilling one's purpose, both being and doing well. To be honest, I may not have explained the idea clearly enough (as it is a complicated idea), so I apologize if my various attempts have caused confusion.
"The most important human endeavor is the striving for morality in our actions. Our inner balance and even our existence depend on it. Only morality in our actions can give beauty and dignity to life." - Albert Einstein

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Re: Eudaimonic and Theistic Utilitarianism

Post by Verrian » Tue Feb 25, 2014 12:26 pm

Exactly, those questions!
Darklight wrote:If God exists, and is both omnipotent and omnibenevolent, then the reason why there is all this apparent evil in this world is that for reasons that are currently beyond our knowledge, the evil in this world is necessary evil, required to achieve the Greatest Good in the long run.
There's a self-evident contradiction between the perfect nature of this God, and the sole existence of a problem for this God. His supposed infinite power would prevent any "necessary" evil.
Darklight wrote:For instance, perhaps it is possible that all the suffering in the universe is required to motivate humanity towards the Technological Singularity as quickly as possible, or perhaps our suffering makes sense because we are drastically outnumbered by future humans who will benefit from our efforts to minimize suffering and maximize happiness.
If the God's aim is the human happiness, this strange kind of game is counter-productive. Why to leave humans in pursuit of Merit? I see no one escape-route from this contradiction... maybe except your long and intricate linked paper :D
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Re: Eudaimonic and Theistic Utilitarianism

Post by Darklight » Tue Feb 25, 2014 7:50 pm

There's a self-evident contradiction between the perfect nature of this God, and the sole existence of a problem for this God. His supposed infinite power would prevent any "necessary" evil.
Well, the argument is that omnipotence is not the same as infinite power. Maybe there are absolute, law of the universe type limits to what power a god can have. Omnipotence is simply the power to do what is possible, not what is strictly impossible. It's possible then that there is no way to maximize the good without also having some necessary evil in the universe.
If the God's aim is the human happiness, this strange kind of game is counter-productive. Why to leave humans in pursuit of Merit? I see no one escape-route from this contradiction... maybe except your long and intricate linked paper :D
The hand wavy argument is that we don't know what God knows. Perhaps this just is the best way to go about doing things compared to all the possible alternatives. Admittedly this can be hard to reconcile with reality from our perspective. The hope is that perhaps all the suffering on Earth will be more than offset by the eternal happiness of heaven (if you accept the the Universalist view that everyone will eventually go to heaven). Maybe our short lives on this Earth are all a test designed to determine where to place us in God's heavenly utopia.

For that matter, I recently had the very weird idea that maybe all the religions with their "End Times prophecies" and expectations of the eventual arrival or return of a Messiah, might actually be the work of time travellers who implanted these memes in order to make large numbers of humans more willing to accept the Singularity once it arrives.
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Re: Eudaimonic and Theistic Utilitarianism

Post by Verrian » Tue Feb 25, 2014 11:03 pm

Darklight wrote:Omnipotence is simply the power to do what is possible, not what is strictly impossible.
So, the Creator, the all-creating Being, would have limits? I heard some christians saying that God limitated Himself (in order to guarantee the Free Will), therefore He is limited in powers; besides, some theologians say that God is inferior to a Logos, an Universal Logic or something like that. Too nonsensical for me, too contradictory - in the christian view of a perfect metaphysical being.

Ok, let's consider someone like... if I well understood... a god as supposed by Sidgwick in the end of his masterpiece: maybe there is a god non-enough powerful to give us the Happiness here and now. Ok, it's possible, it's comfortable under some lights. It's very kind and altruistic to have these hopes, it must be sign of a truly altruistic heart; but isn't it just metaphysics?

Talking of atheism, I want recommend you an easy reading (since it's all english) by an indignant and perhaps little-known atheist: P.-H.T. Holbach, The Good Sense, with the GoogleBooks scans. (Also, there's something to do with Kirkegaard in I-don't-know-what podcast or lecture.)
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Re: Eudaimonic and Theistic Utilitarianism

Post by Darklight » Wed Feb 26, 2014 12:17 am

Uh, thanks for the links!

When it comes to matters of religion, I call myself a Christian Agnostic. The reason for that is that while I lean towards Christianity as the faith system that I would take a "leap of faith" towards if I had to choose one, to be intellectually honest my intellectual viewpoint is actually more Agnostic. I would like very much for there to be an all-loving God out there who divinely ordained the universe and ensures eventual eternal happiness for all sentient life. But to be honest, I don't know that. Where I differ from the atheist is mostly that I have experienced in my own life, peculiar coincidences that make me wonder whether or not there is a God. Synchronicities that really make me wonder if the universe is more than mere coincidence. But I admit that these could be just coincidences.

The other thing is that my understanding of what God could be is somewhat different from the traditional theological view. I can conceive of God as being scientifically possible, and so I cannot confidently assert that there is no God, any more than I can confidently assert that there is a God. I admit my ignorance, and my openness to possibilities.

But if you're interested in some of the reasons why I think there -could- be a God, consider reading the short story The Last Question by Isaac Asimov.
"The most important human endeavor is the striving for morality in our actions. Our inner balance and even our existence depend on it. Only morality in our actions can give beauty and dignity to life." - Albert Einstein

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Re: Eudaimonic and Theistic Utilitarianism

Post by Verrian » Wed Feb 26, 2014 12:46 am

Thank you
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