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New Cat's Eye
Inactive Member


Message 76 of 115 (658352)
04-04-2012 11:14 AM
Reply to: Message 74 by Perdition
04-03-2012 4:39 PM


Re: The value of human life - Atheist version
As I said, I'm a Utilitarian (sort of). That sort of is there because I think formal Utilitarianism, as espoused by John Stuart Mill, demands more of us than is reasonable.

I guess that's pretty much what I was getting at; It looks good on paper but I don't see it actually working.

A quick glance at wiki shows "Utilitarianism is an ethical theory holding that the proper course of action is the one that maximizes the overall "happiness".

Now, regarding the treatment of particularly horrible criminals; if the people get happiness out of the vengence against the perpetrator, then couldn't it be argued for vengence to be demanded under Untilitarianism?


This message is a reply to:
 Message 74 by Perdition, posted 04-03-2012 4:39 PM Perdition has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 77 by Wounded King, posted 04-04-2012 11:43 AM New Cat's Eye has acknowledged this reply
 Message 78 by Rahvin, posted 04-04-2012 11:50 AM New Cat's Eye has responded
 Message 83 by Perdition, posted 04-04-2012 3:23 PM New Cat's Eye has responded

  
Wounded King
Member (Idle past 2174 days)
Posts: 4149
From: Edinburgh, Scotland
Joined: 04-09-2003


(1)
Message 77 of 115 (658360)
04-04-2012 11:43 AM
Reply to: Message 76 by New Cat's Eye
04-04-2012 11:14 AM


Re: The value of human life - Atheist version
Regarding this utilitarian outlook I would direct readers to the recent Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal cartoon, here.

TTFN,

WK


This message is a reply to:
 Message 76 by New Cat's Eye, posted 04-04-2012 11:14 AM New Cat's Eye has acknowledged this reply

    
Rahvin
Member (Idle past 1266 days)
Posts: 3964
Joined: 07-01-2005


Message 78 of 115 (658362)
04-04-2012 11:50 AM
Reply to: Message 76 by New Cat's Eye
04-04-2012 11:14 AM


Re: The value of human life - Atheist version
A quick glance at wiki shows "Utilitarianism is an ethical theory holding that the proper course of action is the one that maximizes the overall "happiness".

Now, regarding the treatment of particularly horrible criminals; if the people get happiness out of the vengence against the perpetrator, then couldn't it be argued for vengence to be demanded under Untilitarianism?

That's a specific brand of utilitarianism - preference utilitarianism.

But utility can be determined by other factors aside from majority preference - the core of general utilitarianism is the idea that ethical considerations can be determined in a consistent fashion and that the net utility of an action after all consequences are considered determined its morality in relation to alternative courses of action.

I don't use preference utilitarianism. I calculate utility based on the reduction of suffering and death. Vengeance never reduces suffering, it [i]increases[i] it.


“The human understanding when it has once adopted an opinion (either as being the received opinion or as being agreeable to itself) draws all things else to support and agree with it.”
- Francis Bacon

"There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old's life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs." - John Rogers


This message is a reply to:
 Message 76 by New Cat's Eye, posted 04-04-2012 11:14 AM New Cat's Eye has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 79 by New Cat's Eye, posted 04-04-2012 11:58 AM Rahvin has responded

  
New Cat's Eye
Inactive Member


Message 79 of 115 (658364)
04-04-2012 11:58 AM
Reply to: Message 78 by Rahvin
04-04-2012 11:50 AM


Re: The value of human life - Atheist version
That's a specific brand of utilitarianism - preference utilitarianism.

But utility can be determined by other factors aside from majority preference - the core of general utilitarianism is the idea that ethical considerations can be determined in a consistent fashion and that the net utility of an action after all consequences are considered determined its morality in relation to alternative courses of action.

I don't use preference utilitarianism. I calculate utility based on the reduction of suffering and death.

Roger, thanks for explaining.

Vengeance never reduces suffering, it increases it.

I'm not sure about that. Lets say a town was terrorized by a mass murderer and they catch him. Couldn't venegence upon the purpetrator reduce the suffering that the town would, presumably, have if they didn't get their vengence? (assuming the venegence does reduce the town's suffering after they catch him). I mean, isn't that possible?


This message is a reply to:
 Message 78 by Rahvin, posted 04-04-2012 11:50 AM Rahvin has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 80 by Rahvin, posted 04-04-2012 12:23 PM New Cat's Eye has responded

  
Rahvin
Member (Idle past 1266 days)
Posts: 3964
Joined: 07-01-2005


(1)
Message 80 of 115 (658368)
04-04-2012 12:23 PM
Reply to: Message 79 by New Cat's Eye
04-04-2012 11:58 AM


Re: The value of human life - Atheist version
I'm not sure about that. Lets say a town was terrorized by a mass murderer and they catch him. Couldn't venegence upon the purpetrator reduce the suffering that the town would, presumably, have if they didn't get their vengence? (assuming the venegence does reduce the town's suffering after they catch him). I mean, isn't that possible?

Highly improbable, as after the murderer is caught, the town is no longer increasing in suffering - they have whatever emotional distress they already have from losing the victims, but no more victims can be killed after he's in custody. Killing the murderer will not bring any of the victims back, the town will not suffer less for their vengeance, the murderer will simply suffer more.

What you're trying to get at is closure, and there are other, more effective ways to get closure than torturing the perpetrator of a crime and lowering yourself to that level. Torturing or killing a murderer doesn't heal psychological scars, it simply reinforces the urge to respond to suffering with more suffering...and that's not a cycle we should want to encourage.


“The human understanding when it has once adopted an opinion (either as being the received opinion or as being agreeable to itself) draws all things else to support and agree with it.”
- Francis Bacon

"There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old's life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs." - John Rogers


This message is a reply to:
 Message 79 by New Cat's Eye, posted 04-04-2012 11:58 AM New Cat's Eye has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 81 by New Cat's Eye, posted 04-04-2012 1:50 PM Rahvin has responded

  
New Cat's Eye
Inactive Member


Message 81 of 115 (658380)
04-04-2012 1:50 PM
Reply to: Message 80 by Rahvin
04-04-2012 12:23 PM


Re: The value of human life - Atheist version
the town will not suffer less for their vengeance, the murderer will simply suffer more.

That's what I'm propsing: the town could suffer less if they get their vengence than if they don't.

What you're trying to get at is closure, and there are other, more effective ways to get closure than torturing the perpetrator of a crime and lowering yourself to that level.

I suppose, but its just about reducing suffering, which you say is impossible with venegence. I think its possible that it could reduce the suffering caused by the lack of closure that might come from them not getting their vengence.

Torturing or killing a murderer doesn't heal psychological scars, it simply reinforces the urge to respond to suffering with more suffering...

Oh, I dunno about that.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 80 by Rahvin, posted 04-04-2012 12:23 PM Rahvin has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 82 by Rahvin, posted 04-04-2012 2:39 PM New Cat's Eye has responded

  
Rahvin
Member (Idle past 1266 days)
Posts: 3964
Joined: 07-01-2005


Message 82 of 115 (658385)
04-04-2012 2:39 PM
Reply to: Message 81 by New Cat's Eye
04-04-2012 1:50 PM


Re: The value of human life - Atheist version
the town will not suffer less for their vengeance, the murderer will simply suffer more.

That's what I'm propsing: the town could suffer less if they get their vengence than if they don't.

Again: not a single victim will be brought back by vengeance. Not a single crime will be undone. You can't "make it right," the past is already done. Allowing the expression of anger is not the same as reducing suffering.

If executing the murderer would bring back all of his victims and erase all of the trauma he inflicted, I'd put on the executioner's mask myself. Unfortunately, the Universe doesn't work that way.

What you're trying to get at is closure, and there are other, more effective ways to get closure than torturing the perpetrator of a crime and lowering yourself to that level.

I suppose, but its just about reducing suffering, which you say is impossible with venegence.

I said highly unlikely. Small but significant difference.

I think its possible that it could reduce the suffering caused by the lack of closure that might come from them not getting their vengence.

I don't recognize lack of closure as suffering on the same level as likely forms of vengeance like torture or unnecessary execution. Part of utilitarianism is also determining the actual amount of utility gained and lost, and I would rather have a hundred people be very sad and angry than have one person be tortured for a week, and I'd rather have a thousand people be sad and angry than have one person be killed.

I'm sure you'd agree that not all suffering is the same. I'd rather stub my toe than be horribly depressed for a week, and I'd rather be horribly depressed for a decade than lose a leg. Net utility must consider such relative values.

Those numbers, btw, are not intended to be extremely accurate, but simply intended to give you a sense of the relative values I place on different forms of suffering.

Torturing or killing a murderer doesn't heal psychological scars, it simply reinforces the urge to respond to suffering with more suffering...

Oh, I dunno about that.

Perhaps you should read a bit more about psychology. Were you aware that "working out frustration" through violence like using a punching bag will over time increase your tendency to respond to frustration with violence when the target is not an inanimate object?

If vengeance actually healed psychological scars, wouldn't you expect therapists and psychologists and psychiatrists to have an awful lot less work? If you kill the killer of your child, your child was still killed, and you will still feel the pain of that loss and outrage at the crime long after the perpetrator is dead.


“The human understanding when it has once adopted an opinion (either as being the received opinion or as being agreeable to itself) draws all things else to support and agree with it.”
- Francis Bacon

"There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old's life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs." - John Rogers


This message is a reply to:
 Message 81 by New Cat's Eye, posted 04-04-2012 1:50 PM New Cat's Eye has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 84 by New Cat's Eye, posted 04-04-2012 3:54 PM Rahvin has not yet responded

  
Perdition
Member (Idle past 1317 days)
Posts: 1593
From: Wisconsin
Joined: 05-15-2003


Message 83 of 115 (658405)
04-04-2012 3:23 PM
Reply to: Message 76 by New Cat's Eye
04-04-2012 11:14 AM


Re: The value of human life - Atheist version
I guess that's pretty much what I was getting at; It looks good on paper but I don't see it actually working.

I guess that depends on what you mean by working.

We can set up our laws to conform to Utilitarian principles, then when people inevitably fall short of those principles, we can correct them.

If we set up laws and morals that everyone can easily meet, then our morals are going to either be very general or impossible to enforce.

A quick glance at wiki shows "Utilitarianism is an ethical theory holding that the proper course of action is the one that maximizes the overall "happiness".

This is where I disagree a bit with the formal Utilitarian doctrine. I think there are multiple proper courses, any that increase happiness are proper, though some can be better than others.

The course that maximizes happiness is the best course, but we don't always have to be the best in order to be proper, or good, or moral.

Now, regarding the treatment of particularly horrible criminals; if the people get happiness out of the vengence against the perpetrator, then couldn't it be argued for vengence to be demanded under Untilitarianism?

This is where the calculation of "happiness" gets kind of odd. Maximizing happiness isn't a moment to moment calculation. If it were, doing drugs would always be the moral position, because at the moment of taking it, you're going to be pretty damn happy, right? Of course, we also know there is a downside after the drugs have been taken. So, while drugs (or rape, torture, vengeance) may offer a momentary increase in happiness, they tend to end up causing a net deficit.

Why? Well, in some cases, peolpe will feel regret over their vengeful actions, and this will counter the happiness they felt during the actions. Others may not feel regret, but they don't need to either. The people who have permitted their vengeful actions will end up back where they normally are, mood wise. Again, the happiness is fleeting. The person who was affected, however, will not go back to where they were, they'll have resentment, fear, maybe even paranoia from their ordeal, so averaged over a long time, the people's happiness will even out, but the victim's unhappiness will just continue to accumulate.

So, doing the vengeance thing, ends up in a net decrease in happiness. Especially if it is an institutional act that occurs over and over.

There is also the calculation that death is the ultimate in happiness decreasing, because all of the happiness that person would have felt is now subtracted from the total.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 76 by New Cat's Eye, posted 04-04-2012 11:14 AM New Cat's Eye has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 85 by New Cat's Eye, posted 04-04-2012 4:00 PM Perdition has not yet responded

    
New Cat's Eye
Inactive Member


Message 84 of 115 (658414)
04-04-2012 3:54 PM
Reply to: Message 82 by Rahvin
04-04-2012 2:39 PM


Re: The value of human life - Atheist version
Again: not a single victim will be brought back by vengeance.

Can you not imagine a way to reduce their suffering without bringing a victim back? I don't see why that was worth repeating.

I said highly unlikely. Small but significant difference.

You said "vengence never reduces suffering".

I don't recognize lack of closure as suffering on the same level as likely forms of vengeance like torture or unnecessary execution.

Oh, well I wasn't considering different "levels" of suffering. But its still suffering, right?

I'm sure you'd agree that not all suffering is the same. I'd rather stub my toe than be horribly depressed for a week, and I'd rather be horribly depressed for a decade than lose a leg. Net utility must consider such relative values.

So then there could be a case were vengence did reduce suffering?

If vengeance actually healed psychological scars, wouldn't you expect therapists and psychologists and psychiatrists to have an awful lot less work?

Not healing scars, reducing suffering.

Were you aware that "working out frustration" through violence like using a punching bag will over time increase your tendency to respond to frustration with violence when the target is not an inanimate object?

Yeah, but isn't that because it works? That's not a good side-effect, but still.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 82 by Rahvin, posted 04-04-2012 2:39 PM Rahvin has not yet responded

  
New Cat's Eye
Inactive Member


Message 85 of 115 (658416)
04-04-2012 4:00 PM
Reply to: Message 83 by Perdition
04-04-2012 3:23 PM


Re: The value of human life - Atheist version
So, doing the vengeance thing, ends up in a net decrease in happiness.

That's debatable...

What I was trying to get at was a townfull of people being unhappy about not getting the vengence they felt they were due. It could haunt them the rest of their lives.

Maybe a less gruesome example could help: like a CEO who indirectly steals a group of people's money, say a Ponzi scheme or something, and then gets busted and gets 5 years in jail.

All those people could be pissed off forever because they don't feel like he got what he deserved. In a Utilitarian model, I could see punishing the guy more harshly to reduce that suffering of all those other people. And I think that would be "vengence".


This message is a reply to:
 Message 83 by Perdition, posted 04-04-2012 3:23 PM Perdition has not yet responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 86 by Taq, posted 04-04-2012 4:13 PM New Cat's Eye has responded
 Message 88 by Rahvin, posted 04-04-2012 4:54 PM New Cat's Eye has acknowledged this reply

  
Taq
Member
Posts: 7673
Joined: 03-06-2009
Member Rating: 2.6


Message 86 of 115 (658417)
04-04-2012 4:13 PM
Reply to: Message 85 by New Cat's Eye
04-04-2012 4:00 PM


Re: The value of human life - Atheist version
What I was trying to get at was a townfull of people being unhappy about not getting the vengence they felt they were due. It could haunt them the rest of their lives.

If the murder of another person is the only way to reduce suffering then we are in real trouble as a society.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 85 by New Cat's Eye, posted 04-04-2012 4:00 PM New Cat's Eye has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 87 by New Cat's Eye, posted 04-04-2012 4:15 PM Taq has responded

  
New Cat's Eye
Inactive Member


Message 87 of 115 (658418)
04-04-2012 4:15 PM
Reply to: Message 86 by Taq
04-04-2012 4:13 PM


Re: The value of human life - Atheist version
No, not murder him. I didn't mean to imply that.
This message is a reply to:
 Message 86 by Taq, posted 04-04-2012 4:13 PM Taq has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 91 by Taq, posted 04-04-2012 5:54 PM New Cat's Eye has responded

  
Rahvin
Member (Idle past 1266 days)
Posts: 3964
Joined: 07-01-2005


Message 88 of 115 (658421)
04-04-2012 4:54 PM
Reply to: Message 85 by New Cat's Eye
04-04-2012 4:00 PM


Re: The value of human life - Atheist version
Maybe a less gruesome example could help: like a CEO who indirectly steals a group of people's money, say a Ponzi scheme or something, and then gets busted and gets 5 years in jail.

All those people could be pissed off forever because they don't feel like he got what he deserved. In a Utilitarian model, I could see punishing the guy more harshly to reduce that suffering of all those other people. And I think that would be "vengence".

I suppose you could see it that way.

Personally, my goal would be to reduce the number of people who want to set up Ponzi schemes, not necessarily to visit retribution on an individual perpetrator. If punishment would effectively act as a deterrent (hint: it doesn't generally, which is why Texas still has a high murder rate despite having the most executions) then harsher punishment would be worthwhile.

That said...from a utilitarian perspective it is rather odd to say the least that white-collar crime can ruin so many lives and yet receives such small penalties, while stealing a few hundred dollars from a 7-11 can be punished so much more severely. If we assume for the sake of argument that the length of a prison sentence does have utility in reducing the incidence of crime, then the white-collar criminal who ruins a thousand retirement funds should be punished more harshly than a 7-11 thief who may have been armed but didn't physically hurt anyone.

But the real core of this argument is that the suffering of the victims will not be alleviated by punishing the perpetrator. Being really pissed off isn't the same as suffering. Having your life savings disappear creates suffering; it's the infliction of suffering that causes the anger, the anger itself is just a symptom of the disease. The best way to alleviate the suffering of those victims is to return what was stolen, which is a lot less difficult with money than it is with human lives or trauma.


“The human understanding when it has once adopted an opinion (either as being the received opinion or as being agreeable to itself) draws all things else to support and agree with it.”
- Francis Bacon

"There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old's life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs." - John Rogers


This message is a reply to:
 Message 85 by New Cat's Eye, posted 04-04-2012 4:00 PM New Cat's Eye has acknowledged this reply

Replies to this message:
 Message 89 by 1.61803, posted 04-04-2012 5:31 PM Rahvin has not yet responded
 Message 90 by Coragyps, posted 04-04-2012 5:54 PM Rahvin has not yet responded

  
1.61803
Member
Posts: 2817
From: Lone Star State USA
Joined: 02-19-2004


Message 89 of 115 (658429)
04-04-2012 5:31 PM
Reply to: Message 88 by Rahvin
04-04-2012 4:54 PM


Re: The value of human life - Atheist version
All is suffering.
To have attachments causes suffering
To alleviate suffering, relinquish attachments
Live right.

now if I could just employ this wisdom.


"You were not there for the beginning. You will not be there for the end. Your knowledge of what is going on can only be superficial and relative" William S. Burroughs

This message is a reply to:
 Message 88 by Rahvin, posted 04-04-2012 4:54 PM Rahvin has not yet responded

  
Coragyps
Member
Posts: 5377
From: Snyder, Texas, USA
Joined: 11-12-2002


Message 90 of 115 (658433)
04-04-2012 5:54 PM
Reply to: Message 88 by Rahvin
04-04-2012 4:54 PM


Re: The value of human life - Atheist version
then the white-collar criminal who ruins a thousand retirement funds should be punished more harshly than a 7-11 thief who may have been armed but didn't physically hurt anyone.

The 7-11 thief is unlikely to wear a necktie and is likely to have more melanin in his epidermis than the Big Thief. American Justice works under odd rules.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 88 by Rahvin, posted 04-04-2012 4:54 PM Rahvin has not yet responded

    
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