Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Where Morality Steps In

" makes me feel good. Doesn't it make you feel good? I don't know for sure but I think a lot of other humans feel good when their fellow humans get what they want and don't suffer."

"I want you to be happy. Really. That is what I want. That is what I have said, that I want people to act in accordance with their desires. I have said that I would like to do the same thing. If your desires include commiting acts that would cause suffering to someone else, that would be a problem, and then I'd want to stop you. But as long as you're not doing something that violates that, than no, I don't want you to what I want you to do, I want you to do what you want to do."

Those two are not necessarily the same. People often desire things which _do not_ make them happy. Drug addicts are a perfect example. Which is what you are after? Fulfilling desires or creating pleasure (happiness)?

But anyway, it appears to me that your will for the world is your own happiness. That is, after all, how you justified wanting people to act on their own desires. Because that made you happy. People's wills then, by your justification of why you desire the world to be, are constrained by what makes you unhappy.

But what if things that make others happy - makes you unhappy? By how you justified your desire of the world they should not do it! If it makes you unhappy then you must desire for them not to do it.

You go shopping and you're badly craving chocolate ice cream. You go into the supermarket and see that there's just one bucket left. You start walking over to get it and someone gets there before you and takes that ice cream. Obviously such an action would displease you since you are no longer getting that ice cream. So, according to your justification of what you desire, you must desire for him to bend to your will and give you the ice cream.

If you do not will your will to be dominant and you care for his happiness over yours then you are contradicting your very reason for why you will anything at all. It is obvious that there is something beyond your simple pleasure which drives you to desire an egalitarian society.

And *that* is morality.

1. Happiness drives your will.
2. You will all wills be equal.
3. It makes you happy if all wills are equal.
4. Not all wills will agree.
5. Your will will not always agree with others'.
6. Resolution of competing wills will mean that one will will remainundone.
7. A will remaining undone will lead to unhappiness.
8. Your will will sometimes remain undone.
9. This will lead to your unhappiness.
10. If your will for equal wills be carried out it will lead to yourbeing unhappy.
C1: Thus, since your will is decided by your happiness, you mustconclude that you do not will for all wills to be equal.
C2: If you continue to will equal wills then you must admit that youwill it for a reason other than your own happiness.

Even if you don't like it, you do desire your will to be more powerful than other's. Why should the other guy get the parking spot? Of course you want what you want. What you want will often be mutually exclusive of what others want. Since all wills are equal, you won't always get what you want. Not getting what you want will make you unhappy. And since it will make you unhappy this "equal wills" business _cannot_ be what you want.

This is why I said earlier that I did not believe you when you said that you really want others to be happy and not for your own power.By your own admission, you only want others to be happy so that you can be happy. But with equal wills - it must sometimes make you unhappy too. What you want then is "equal wills" for everyone else but your will to be above them all. That just makes you human. If you still want equality knowing that it will make you unhappy then you must becalling on a power besides your own happiness for why you want it.

And that's where morality steps in.


Vilda Chaya said...

It is not morality that causes you to delay your gratification or to give the ice cream to the other person, it is the social construct that we live in.

You have a heirarchy of desires. you want the ice cream, you want to think of yourself as a person who shares, you want to be liked by others, etc... There is a whole host of desires at play. Maybe even you don't want the other guy to hit you. Maybe he is bigger than you. The thing here is that you have a great big brain and you can make decisions. You can say I'd really like the ice cream, but there are other things I'd like more, distant things, long range things. You can plan. You can think in terms of yourself as a social being. That doesn't mean one act is "right" and another is "wrong". It just means that you can think ahead and within a social context.

Orthoprax said...


A person may have a long list of competing desires but why do you desire what you desire?

You told me that you desire what brings you the most pleasure or happiness. But you not getting what you want and prefering others to be happy in your stead contradicts the whole "I desire what makes me happy" justification.

If others being happy is more powerful a drive than your own happiness why don't you give away all the luxuries in your life? Other less fortunate people would probably be more happy with them than you are now.

There's something else besides your own happiness at stake here and that is what makes you come to these more selfless ideals. Your own happiness is part of it but it's not the whole story.

Benevolist said...

Yaw. Happiness is not the whole story. There's also RELIEF. Happiness is the gratification of desire. Relief is the gratification of aversion. Together, desire and aversion constitute a wider concept called "motivation".

Therefore, arguing for non-moralism requires that we talk not just about desire and happiness, but also aversion and relief.

Drug addicts, for example, may not seek out happiness, but relief.

Benevolist said...

Eemie has a good point about the big brain capacity we got. Using our big brains, we can take mental steps back into self-awareness and deal with conflicting motivations (plan).


We have conflicting motivations within ourselves.

The conflict is “resolved” by taking a step back into self-awareness and applying desire to our conflicting motivations by asking: “Which of these motivations would I rather have gratified. Hmm. Think of the consequences for each. Do I want the consequences?” (Negotiating Freud’s pleasure principle verses reality principle…)

We also have motivations that conflict with the motivations of other folk.

And again we step back to discover which we would rather have gratified. Sometimes we want to bow out to the other person'’ gratification. Sometimes we want our own gratification to prevail.

Then, we can step back even further to discover our motivation about social conflict in general and possibly say “I want there not to be such social conflicts. I wish we all our motivations could be gratified.”

Of course, we know this isn’t (currently) possible. But our wanting it constitutes benevolence.

We can possess such benevolence and still live in the real world of social conflict. We just understand that our benevolence can only occasionally be gratified. Even benevolent people get stick in “win-lose” situations where they desire to win at another’s expense. They just wish it were otherwise.

Hence, self-aware motivations about our motivations can resolve a lot of issues surrounding conflicts. There’s no need to bring in morality to do this resolving.