Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Mutuality, parasitism, independant standing and happiness

In my previous post, I made the assertion that

All agents desire the satisfaction of at least their higher order desires*. (This we can call happiness, if for no other reason than lack of a better term. Some argument may be needed to satisfactorily conclude that this is indeed what we commonly mean when we talk about happiness. However successful that argument, desire satisfaction is what I mean when I talk about happiness from now on.
I would like to reword this. Generally speaking, we are happy when our desires are satisfied. But not all desires, I would be less happy if my desire for a chocolate heavy exercise free lifestyle were satisfied, than if it were frustrated because I've got a second order desire to suppress this first order desire. So, I think I should amend it to: I would be happy if I managed to satisfy my first order desires such as they would be if they were correctly ordered by second order desires. Note that this is yet again different from welfare, which is what is desirable for my own sake. It would be somewhat false to say that we all happen to desire what is actually desirable for our own sake. It is not necessarily the case that I desire what is good for me. e.g. smokers desire what is bad for them.

It is happiness in this sense that it becomes an analytical truth that all agents  necessarily have their own happiness as an end.

Another issue that came up is the following:

However, it is not necessarily the case that all these candidates are actually reasons to act. i.e. those considerations are not necessarily sufficient to determine what right action is. It is even possible, that one particular set of reasons may be the only game on the table, though it is not certain that this is the case. But even if it were to be the only available set, being a candidate for REAL reasons to act would require that it be possible that everyone adopt those reasons.

This is false. The possibility that one set of reasons could be the only possible set of reasons only sets up the possibility that it may have to be universalisable. That approach does not yield a necessary universalisation requirement.

Let us look at what we have. We do know that a society of ideal agents is possible. however, we cannot simply sneak in conditions that actually force the conclusion that all these ideal agents act from the same reasons. That is the conclusion that we are trying to show: that there are indeed common reasons that apply to all agents. Therefore we must accept that there will be a heterogeneity among these ideal agents.

Before continuing on, it should be noted that unpacking the concept of ideal agency illuminates a concept of efficacy. I previously noted that an action is fitting with respect to an agent in-so -far as it is expressive of his/her agency. But, what do we mean by agent? An agent is an autonomous actor. With regard to the issue of the slave, we addressed the issue of fittingness with respect to agent qua autonomy. An additional criterion of fittingness would also have to be with respect to agent qua actor. A person is an agent in so far as he is an actor i.e. in so far as he is potent. An impotent actor is a contradiction. Our ideal agents have to be maximally potent i.e. they must be maximally successful in pursuing their ends and responding appropriately to reason.

We know that all agents hold their own happiness as an end. This doesn't entail, in itself anything much about the content of reasons and ends that are consistent with their own happiness. We could have "Nasty" ends as well as "nice" or "neutral". The terms are used in this context as evaluatively neutral. No judgements are made as to whether these are good or bad. (at least not yet. Calling something nasty is just a way to label reasons and ends that are destructive, enslaving etc) Considered from the agent's point of view, there doesn't seem to be anything wrong with me killing and raping if this is what is consonant with my own pleasure. The fact that it reduces someone else's happiness does not give the nasty agent a reason to desist. However, if we consider the society as a whole, we see a problem. Fulfilling the nasty person's happiness requires the diminishing of the happiness of the victim (We can even specify that the victim does not share the same type of reasons and ends as Nasty ). Fulfilling the happiness of the putative victim requires frustrating the happiness and other ends of Nasty. i.e. whatever the actual status of these sets of reasons, both cannot be real reasons for acting (either one, the other or neither). If both are present not all the agents in the society can be described as ideal. Some are non-ideal as they are incapable of maximally securing their happiness.

There is also a possibility that the "victim's" happiness is served by being preyed upon by Nasty. Let's call this one Sucker. Sucker, however is an impossibility. We have already decided that it is contrary to what it means to be autonomous that agents desire to do things that they do not desire. (This is not some strange screed against BDSM. BDSM is not real slavery as it is just a game. Both parties desire what is happening to them and safe-words etc ensure that they never cross the line. Remember kids, Keep it Safe, Sane and Consensual.)

Now, given that both Nasty and its victim cannot both be real reason because they each interfere with each other's happiness We should try them out individually. We could separate all the Nasty types from the non-nasty types. If among the Nasty types, there are still some that are victims, we can iteratively separate them out until there are no conflicts of interest or there is only one set left. Consider that nasty is such that it aims to have victims. If there are no victims left, because all appropriate targets are gone, then the their happiness is frustrated and the agents cannot be said to be ideal. If there are no restrictions on who gets to be victims, they target each other and their happiness is frustrated in doing so. This is not an ideal society either.

On the face of it, this rules out all maleficent goals. i.e. We have a duty of non-maleficence.

Note: the process whereby, I iteratively separated out the Nasties and  checked to see if the society they formed was ideal simply is checking to see if they were universalisable i.e. the categorical imperative.

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