I just wanted to know if any of you are Anarchists or Communists. If you are I would like to add you to my friends and ask you to join my Anarchist group. If you aren't either then talk to me anyway so I can make you one. ;)

Tags: Anarchy, Communism

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The most desired policy is not the most moral one.

First, this seems to be equivocating the distinction between what is desired as an end and what is desired as a means.

Certainly, there are things that we can desire as an end that are not good for us (chocolate). And we can dislike things that are good for us (exercise). However, neither of these discredit the idea that value depends on desires. It simply means that what we desire as an end might have additional effects that thwart other desires - like over-eating. Or there are things that we do not like themselves but still have the effect of fulfilling other desires (exercise, visiting the dentist). In both cases, value still depends on desire.

Well, perhaps we do not disagree by much, then. But if we are training people only to disregard their desires and focus only on the harm and benefit that result from their actions, I do not see that desires are important for ethical training.

How is that possible. If I tell you that X harms P, how is it that I can get this fact to influence your actions?

I would argue that the fact that X harms P is only going to be relevant to you if either (1) you have a desire that P not be harmed, or (2) you have a desire that cannot be fulfilled if P is harmed - that is to say, P is useful to you in some way. Either way, if I do not relate P's harm in some way to your desires, you have no reason to consider it. You would be indifferent to his harm.

if the greatest good resulted from training people to believe that moral right is declared by a god who will torture you forever if you break his rules, then that would be a better system than utilitarianism.

Technically, this is incoherent. If belief in theory T produces the best consequences, this does not make theory T better than utilitarianism. This makes belief in theory T better than belief in utilitarianism. There is a difference here. Utilitarianism, in this case, remains the best theory - it simply cannot be taught as the best theory.

This is what Plato called the Noble Lie.

Still, I would hold that teaching people about the consequences of actions is irrelevant unless they are also taught to care about those consequences in particular ways. Teaching people to care is not about affecting their beliefs. It is about affecting their desires.
Alonzo Fyfe wrote on August 4
(George Kane wrote) The most desired policy is not the most moral one.

(Alonzo Fyfe replied) First, this seems to be equivocating the distinction between what is desired as an end and what is desired as a means.

Certainly, there are things that we can desire as an end that are not good for us (chocolate). And we can dislike things that are good for us (exercise). However, neither of these discredit the idea that value depends on desires. It simply means that what we desire as an end might have additional effects that thwart other desires - like over-eating. Or there are things that we do not like themselves but still have the effect of fulfilling other desires (exercise, visiting the dentist). In both cases, value still depends on desire.


This is a lower level ethical question. You cannot arrive at the question of how to get someone else to behave ethically until you answer the question “what is the ethical thing to do?” Eating nutritious foods and exercising is a good thing to do because I will live longer and in better health, whether I desire it at all. Your argument runs in a circle. Something is good because it is desired. If it is not desired, then the desire is defective. But you need something objective to distinguish between proper and defective desires.

Let’s take a concrete case. Let us consider the case of Mary and Jody, the conjoined twins that Maltese parents brought to England for medical attention. The physicians found that Mary’s internal organs were weak, and that she was being kept alive by Jody’s. Mary was a parasite, and keeping them conjoined would lead before long to the death of both twins. But, if they were separated, Mary would die within hours, but Jody had good prospects to lead a normal life. The parents were devout Catholics, and believed that there is an absolute moral prohibition against taking an innocent life. The doctors took the parents to court for the right to separate the twins to save Jody’s life.

If you are the judge, what analysis do you go through to decide on the ethically correct decision?

Alonzo Fyfe continued
(George Kane wrote) Well, perhaps we do not disagree by much, then. But if we are training people only to disregard their desires and focus only on the harm and benefit that result from their actions, I do not see that desires are important for ethical training.

The two great obstacles to moral improvement are indoctrination into biases, as by religion; and the disdain for moral action by people who are concerned only with self-gratification. My proposal for ethical education is not to indoctrinate the young as in catechism. Rather, it is to present difficult moral conflicts, and to present the students with analyses from differing theories of ethics. They may never themselves confront any of the subject moral conflicts in their own lives. The purpose is to open up for them models of analysis.

How is that possible. If I tell you that X harms P, how is it that I can get this fact to influence your actions?

I would argue that the fact that X harms P is only going to be relevant to you if either (1) you have a desire that P not be harmed, or (2) you have a desire that cannot be fulfilled if P is harmed - that is to say, P is useful to you in some way. Either way, if I do not relate P's harm in some way to your desires, you have no reason to consider it. You would be indifferent to his harm.

You seem to believe that all action is selfish, which is both false and dismissive of ethics as an exercise in futility. Moral action is only possible when the moral agent recognizes that his own interests are of no greater importance than anyone else’s.

In fact, it is not at all unusual for people to reach this realization, and to base their ethical reasoning upon altruism.

If you are able to prove to someone, that X harms P, this will be a fact that he should include in his moral calculation, but it cannot be definitive. He must decide the magnitude and distribution of that harm, and weigh that against the magnitude and distribution of improvement that X causes in peoples’ lives. This is the responsibility of the moral agent.

I would hold that teaching people about the consequences of actions is irrelevant unless they are also taught to care about those consequences in particular ways. Teaching people to care is not about affecting their beliefs. It is about affecting their desires.

As I said earlier, techniques of persuasion are too far down the line to worry about. The issue of ethics is to decide whether an action is good or bad.
I caught this too late. In the above post, the following words are from Mr. Fyfe, not from me:

How is that possible. If I tell you that X harms P, how is it that I can get this fact to influence your actions?

I would argue that the fact that X harms P is only going to be relevant to you if either (1) you have a desire that P not be harmed, or (2) you have a desire that cannot be fulfilled if P is harmed - that is to say, P is useful to you in some way. Either way, if I do not relate P's harm in some way to your desires, you have no reason to consider it. You would be indifferent to his harm.
This is a lower level ethical question. . . . Eating nutritious foods and exercising is a good thing to do because I will live longer and in better health, whether I desire it at all.

Actually, this involves a prior ethical question - what is value? Moral value is a type of value, so moral value must be a species of the genus 'value'.

All value exists in the form of relationships between states of affairs and desires. So, moral value must exist in the form of relationships between states of affairs and desires. The question is: which relationships?

Your argument runs in a circle. Something is good because it is desired. If it is not desired, then the desire is defective.

The formal term for this type of relationship is ‘recursive’ or ‘virtually circular’. It is the type of circularity that is applied to our understanding of language (each term being defined in terms of other terms which are, in turn, defined by their relationship to yet other terms, and so on). It also is used in coherentist epistemologies (beliefs are justified by their relationship to other beliefs which are, in turn, justified by their relationships to still other beliefs).

However, you must be careful. There are a lot of different types of relationships between states of affairs and desires, and lots of different types of goodness. ‘Instrumental goodness’, for example, refers only to the capacity of an object to fulfill other desires indirectly – its usefulness as a means or as a tool. ‘Health’ is a type of goodness that refers only to changes in physical and mental functioning. Moral goodness refers to relationships between desires and other desires, while good acts are those acts that a person with good desires would perform.

Desires are not intrinsically defective. It is simply the case that if a malleable desire tends to lead to the thwarting of other desires, then those who would be harmed have reason to inhibit the formation of that desire. We have reason to give our neighbors an aversion to blind violence, simply because we do not want to become the victim of that violence (or for those we are about to become a victim.)


But you need something objective to distinguish between proper and defective desires.

If all value exists in the form of relationships between states of affairs and desires, then the value of a desire must exist in the form of relationships between that desire and (other) desires.

You cannot arrive at the question of how to get someone else to behave ethically until you answer the question “what is the ethical thing to do?” . . .

The answer to the question, "What is the ethical thing to do?" is "That action that a person with good desires would perform."

Let’s take a concrete case. Let us consider the case of Mary and Jody . . .

First, if I were a judge, I would be limited in my decision to deciding the case according to the law. To at least some degree, a judge cannot decide the issue on moral grounds, but on legal grounds. He may be working under a system of unjust laws.

Second, I do not think that it makes sense to apply ethics to hard cases, until we have a theory that can handle the easy cases.

Third, one of the implications of Desire Utilitarianism is that it suggests that there are genuine moral dilemmas - dilemmas where it all options are wrong. Parents ought to love and care for their children equally - so killing a child is something that a good parent is simply going to have a hard time doing. Any moral theory that casts one option as being 'clearly right' in the sense that the parent ought to feel no regret over the other option is a bad theory. A better theory supports the conclusion that you kill off the one child to save the other - but that it should be psychologically very difficult to do the right thing in this type of case.

You seem to believe that all action is selfish, which is both false and dismissive of ethics as an exercise in futility.

I deny that all action is selfish. However, I do require that all actions have a cause that is within the brain of the person who acts. Each person acts to fulfill the most and strongest of their desires. However, those desires can (and do) include desires for the well-being of others. They do not care for others as a mere means for their own happiness. They care for others as an end in itself. Because that is what desires do - desires identify our ends.

I deny that it is possible for an agent to act on a desire that is not his own - and that, if it were possible, then it would not be his action. If you hooked up a machine whereby your desires controlled the movement of my body, then those actions would be your actions, not mine. I would not be responsible for them in any way. It is only when the actions of my body spring from my own desires that they are legitimately called my actions.

So, "Each person acts to fulfill the most and strongest of his desires, given his beliefs" is not a claim that all actions are selfish. It is a statement that all actions that belong to an agent must spring from his desires - even altruistic (other regarding) desires.

By the way, desire utilitarianism defines a selfish desire as a desire that contains a self-referencing indexical in its object. "I desire that I am free of pain" or "I desire that I have $1 million" are self-referencing (selfish) desires. Whereas altruistic desires have an other-referencing subject. "I desire that Jim is free of pain" or "I desire that Jim has $1 million" would be an altruistic desire. As long as the state desired is one that also fulfills the desires of the the subject (either 'I' or 'Jim' respectively).


If you are able to prove to someone, that X harms P, this will be a fact that he should include in his moral calculation, but it cannot be definitive.

Should . . . but how do you get it so that he does what he should do? I hold that, without desires, anything you do to a person’s beliefs are irrelevant. It is not enough that an agent can calculate a particular outcome. The agent has to be made to care about that outcome.

He must decide the magnitude and distribution of that harm, and weigh that against the magnitude and distribution of improvement that X causes in peoples’ lives. This is the responsibility of the moral agent.

Your 'moral agent' is not human. People act so as to fulfill the most and strongest of their desires, given their beliefs. An agent can have a aversion to the harm suffered by others and the benefit acquired by others. However, these desires are going to be necessarily mixed in with his own aversion to pain, his desire for sex, his affection for his own children, his affection for his friends, his enjoyment of football.

Even when we come to harm and improvement, few (if anybody) has the capacity to make these types of calculations. There are too many variables involved - too much uncertainty at stake.

As I said earlier, techniques of persuasion are too far down the line to worry about. The issue of ethics is to decide whether an action is good or bad.

In answer to your concern about right actions, a right action is the action that a person with good desires would perform.
I've opened a new thread for this debate as this is, I think, in the wrong place. I invite you both to move this discussion over there :)

http://www.atheistnexus.org/forum/topic/show?id=2182797%3ATopic%3A7...
We are soon to become "bands of broken rabble ruled by ruthless warlords".

Did a nuclear war happen while I wasn't looking?
anrchary cant work until everyone is extremly educated and we have developed nano technology to the extent anyone anywhere can make anything they wish so long they have the raw atomic material (eg: caborn copper etc.)
I'm not an anarchist, and don't like isms in general. "Atheism" is more of a misnomer since it doesn't really imply a program or complete philosophy, just a belief (or knowledge) that organized religion is nonsense and there are no gods or god. But I am a leftist and against capitalism and authoritarian rule. I hope that helps. Thanks, Eddie
Currently, I'd consider myself a much more moderate socialist than I was at an earlier age. History and virtually all economic evidence makes it very clear that it is impossible to determine prices without markets.

Fundamentally, we need markets to allocate resources with some semblance of efficiency and a certain kind of justice.

As a former memer of the International Socialist Organization (USA) I experienced the intellectutal dirth and emotional utopianism of the radical left in the United States. I'm in favor of a large government to essure a just distribution of resources with a very small military that remains aloof to peoples private lives.
Sorry, no. I believe anarchy and communism are both flawed ideas. If you have people share all property, or be forced to stay equal, you get a) a ton of bad stuff happening because people are flawed, and will abuse each others trust, and b) unhappy citizens.

I was born (luckily not raised) in a "people's republic" (yeah I know, a tautology), and all I can tell you that their recipe for equality was to take the lower class and get everyone else down to its level.

My idea of equality is that, though having different amounts of $, we are all worth the same as people.
And if that's still not enough, equality should be achieved by leveling up, not leveling down.
What is it with atheists who are into to communism anarchism? Have they never read Nietzsche?
Nietzsche is entitled to his own opinions, though this is not meant to say whether he is right or wrong. But you may have a point.

The thing is that religion in of itself is authoritarian, hence religion is contradictory to anarchism. Also people who have learned that morality is possible without religion are also more likely to think of the possibility of not having authority to plan.

And many do read Nietzsche.

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