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The Important Focus of Ethics: The Consequence

December 11, 2011 3 comments

consequentialismI am currently focusing my first book on the lack of free will. This is for a number of reasons. One important reason is that I want my next philosophical book to be on the topic of ethics. Understanding the lack of free will is an important base understanding for any ethical system. It needs to come prior.

In this post I want to briefly talk about why the consequences of our actions should be the primary focus of any ethical system. Ethics that focus on the consequence are called… take a guess… you guessed it… consequentialist ethics. The consequence is the output of the action. In other words, what will happen if you do something. It is this that needs to be the focus.

Some would think this obvious, but there are different types of ethics with different focus’s. Some are “rule based” ethics (called deontological ethics), in which rules or “duties” are the focus, regardless of the consequence. Some are virtue based ethics, where as the character of the person is the focus (and what an action means for that character), regardless of the consequence. These ethical systems, for the most part,  place the consequence as secondary.

I am certainly not suggesting virtue is unimportant, or that rules and duties should not be part of an ethical system. I am saying that those should always be contingent on the potential consequence of the action. On our predictive ability and output of what may or will happen later given a certain action.

I would argue that rules or duties make no rational sense outside of what they lead to. Outside of the consequence. One might say that it is always unethical to lie. That may be their rule: One ought not lie. And in general, this may be a good rule. What makes it a good rule is the consequence. A world of constant liars is a world where trust is impossible. But when something happens where the consequence outweighs the rule, such as a Nazi asking a person if another person is hidden and if so where, certainly it is not the ethical thing to tell the truth.

The consequence should always trump any rule based system. Likewise with virtue, it may be a virtue to tell the truth, but the consequence should always trump such “virtue”.

This simplistic example makes the point. The end output is more important than if someone is “virtuous” or if someone  holds a rule or duty. Rules, duties, and virtue should point to action that lead to the best consequence. This is by no means an elaborate argument for consequentialism and my second book will go into great detail about this. This is just a lil’ something to get a person thinking about where their own ethics are focused.

The question to ask someone that gives you a moral or ethical rule is, why is such rule ethically important? Or why is an action virtuous?  I bet they will have a hard time justifying it without pointing to an actual consequence.

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Protesting Against Inequality (‘Occupy’ X)

October 16, 2011 Leave a comment

freewillscaleThe big news recently is the ‘Occupy’ protests which first started out as Occupy Wall Street and have become a larger global movement. These are demonstrations “mainly protesting against social and economic inequality, corporate greed, and the influence of corporate money and lobbyists on government, among other concerns”.

Without getting into too much depth as to why such protests are important, I want to focus on something a little more at base. Something that should be at the heart of such protests but that is hardly ever thought about. The understanding of the lack of free will.

There seems to be this belief by some who are against the protests that: if there is inequality, it is because those that do not have are to blame and those that do have are more deserving.

I explain in detail within the book I am writing that: without free will, these notions of “blameworthiness” and “more deserving-ness” need to be abandoned. People are at the position they are in life due to events that were and are entirely out of their control.

This is one reason (of many) why the topic of free will is so important and why the belief in free will is not a benign belief. The belief in free will creates this allowance of inequality. It allows people to blame others for their lack of wealth and to condone excess wealth of others who are deemed deserving of such wealth.

Understanding that free will cannot (and hence does not) exist is the great equalizer. It strip away the ego that creates such an imbalance in wealth and quality of life. It is a base subject that is given little consideration.

And without free will, the implications are gigantic.

Regardless, these ‘Occupy” protests are not asking for complete equality nor is the world ready to accept that. Most people still think free will exists. The protesters are only asking that we curve the extreme side of the inequalities. These inequalities that make the game so ridiculously unfair that only a teenie tiny percentage of the population can play.

Given that free will does not exist (which is the point of the book I am writing), and that we should be asking for much more in regards to equality, I don’t think reducing the extreme unfairness is too much to ask at all. Do you?

“Free Will” is Incoherent

October 11, 2011 4 comments

Free Will is IncoherentIn the book I am currently writing titled Breaking the Free Will Illusion for the Betterment of Humankind I not only argue that we do not have free will, but I argue that free will is logically incoherent. That it is nonsensical. That it is something that cannot coexist with reality.

I show that thoughts are events, and that there are only two possibilities for events. I show why these possibilities are entirely incompatible with free will.

I also explain why compatibilist notions of free will, which basically is a redifining of the term ” free will” in such a way that it fits in with one of these possibilities, misses the point entirely. That these notions of free will are not helpful in any way, and that they just allow people to contrive their own notion of free will that does not relate to the compatibilists notion.

In other words, the book I am writing is not one of those books that do not take a side. It is not one that suggests that there is any possibility what-so-ever that we can or do have free will. It is a firm stance on one side of a controversal issue.

But just because the book only takes one side does not mean it is not for everyone. The book is for both people that already understand that free will is impossible as well as people that hold a belief in free will.

For those that already disbelieve in free will, the arguments will strengthen their conviction or give them some new ways to think about the topic.

For those that believe in free will, the book is a challenge. It is a challenge for them to see if, after reading the book, their belief in free will still holds water. Maybe they will be able to. Maybe they have a good argument I have missed. I doubt it, but who knows? So I throw the challenge out to them.  Prove me wrong. And who isn’t up for a challenge?

If they fail the challenge, which I think they will, it is my hope that the book changes minds. That people begin to understand this important fact about reality. The book goes into depth of why this is so important. Hence the second part of the title “… for the Betterment of Humankind”.

I invite people with dissenting  points of view to read my book once it is out.

And if you are one of those with a dissenting point of view, do me a favor. After you read the book:

Send me an email.
In it explain how “free will” really is logically coherent.

I betcha can’t. 😉

‘Trick’s Brain Teaser #1 – The Deterministic Universe

For this brain teaser, imagine the universe is such that every event that happens in it occurs due to a cause.

Event H causes a series of events that eventually cause event P.
Event P causes a series of events that eventually cause event Z.

If we were to rewind time to when event H happens or before and hit play, could event Z not happen the second time around (could the causes lead up to a different event instead of event Z)?

Hints to ponder:
Can the same cause lead to more than one possible effect?
Can a cause be the cause for J over K and the same cause be the cause for K over J?
If not, what does that mean for Z?

Poll on “Free Will”

(Note: This was initially posted in April 2011, but am republishing it under the current date every now and again so it is visible. I am looking to get more responses as I build readership. I am truly interested in people’s answer to this.)

The Belief in Free Will Rocks!

That is right. Believing in free will is great.

You know, free will, that odd ability to, of my own accord, choose to eat a muffin instead of a bagel or a bagel instead of a muffin. That special ability that makes both of these possible and the choice of one of them stem from me rather than something external of me. That magical ability that allows me to eat that bagel by my own volition. What power. What awesomeness. What a load of…

Err…umm. As I was saying. Belief in free will. It gives us such totally cool things like:

  • Allows us to blame people who are not to blame. Isn’t that super? Who wouldn’t want to put the smackdown on an undeserving person?
  • Allows us to be more deserving than others. Who wouldn’t want to put themself above others? Sweet! A great excuse to horde everything for yourself.
  • Allows us to make unfair laws. Fairness is for suckers anyway.
  • Allows us to disregard causes. We can just blame the person instead of look for a cause. Trying to find causes is way too much work. Think of the energy we save.

I can go on and on about the pure awesomeness that the belief in free will grants us.

Too bad I don’t believe in free will.

My name is ‘Trick Slattery, and I am an incompatibilist.

A hard incompatibilst to be precise (go ahead, feel the muscles). This means that I believe free will is incompatible in both a deterministic universe as well as an indeterministic universe. That it is a logical impossibility. I explain why in the book
Breaking the Free Will Illusion for the Betterment of Humankind coming to future near you. Why would I put out such a book with all of the awesomeness that the belief in free will entails? Hmmm, good question.

My First Blog Post

I figure it is time to blog about things in my head during my journey of writing my first non-fiction book: Breaking the Free Will Illusion for the Betterment of Humankind (tentative title). I have been writing this book for quite a number of years in my spare time. Mostly during my lunch hour at work and break. Due to this it is a slow going process. I am over 54,000 words in on my first draft. I am thinking it will end up at around 60,000 or so words. Then it is time to edit and polish it(translation: rewrite it). I intend to illustrate the book myself. Two of my fortes are art and philosophy, so I figure they will make for a good combination in my book.

The book itself is a work of passion. I am passionate about this topic, and I debate it often. It is a topic that I have been thinking about for over fifteen years now. I am what, in philosophical terms, is called a hard incompatibilist. This means that I believe free will is incompatible in both a deterministic universe as well as an inderministic universe. That free will is logically impossible.

The book goes into why this is the case, and in my opinion, the case is undeniable. But the intention of the book is not just to explain why this is so in laypersons terms, but to explain what it all means and why it is so important. It IS important. It is also my intention to explain why the psychology that the notion of free will has imposed is harmful. One that has been keeping humanity down.

Of course this will be controversial, so I expect backlash. Especially from those that do not give the book a chance. My blog posts will be sort of sporadic, quick thoughts as I write my book. They may be about philosophy, about book writing, about publishing, or just about some off topic subject I have been thinking about.