Friday, April 29, 2016

Desirism Book - Part 0011 - Socrates, the Pig, and the Unbiased Observer

It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied. And if the fool, or the pig, is of a different opinion, it is only because they only know their own side of the question. (John Stuart Mill, Utilitarianism)
As I continue to examine what is true in a universe with one person (Alph) with one desire (to gather stones), I want to turn my attention to another famous example from the history of philosophy. This is John Stuart Mill's quote provided above.

In the full context of this quote, Mill was arguing that some pleasures were better than others - intrinsically better.

To determine this, we need to only ask those who can experience both which they would prefer. This is how he came to the conclusion that poetry is better than pushpin as discussed in an earlier post.

Here, the question is asked of somebody capable of experiencing a life as Socrates dissatisfied and imagining the life of the fool which he would prefer. Clearly, such a person would select the life of Socrates dissatisfied over the life of the happy fool, suggesting that the happiness of the fool is of a lower quality.

The account we are looking at here will deny this claim in a particular sense. I am not going to argue that the life of the fool is to be selected. I am not going to argue that it is a tie. I am going to argue that the question is incomplete - like asking if Jim is taller. Taller than whom?

I am going to start by comparing a world that contains Alph, where Alph has a desire to gather stones, and Alph is gathering stones to a world containing Alph with his desire and no stones. Which world has the greater value?

We can't answer the question without answering "to whom?"

The first Alph prefers his universe - the universe within which Alph has is gathering stones. It is a universe within which the proposition, "I (Alph1) am gathering stones" is true.

The second Alph is indifferent between the two worlds. In neither world is, "I am gathering stones" true, so he has no reason to choose one over the other.

What about some impartial observer? If an impartial observer truly was impartial, she would have no reason to choose one world over the other. If, instead, we give this impartial observer some desires, then we look for the world within which the propositions that are the objects of those desires are true.

Now let us look at two world where one contains a human dissatisfied and the other contains a pig satisfied.

Here, too, we need to identify the desires the agent has, the strengths of those desires, the propositions that are the objects of those desires, and whether those propositions are true in either world. we will identify the universe she has the most and strongest reason to choose by identifying the one that fulfills the most and strongest of those desires.

The same procedure applies to determining if it is better to be Socrates dissatisfied or a fool satisfied. I think it is safe to assume that if we take the desires of Socrates as our starting point, such a person would have many and strong reasons to choose against being the lucky fool. Even the fool may have more or stronger reasons to be Socrates dissatisfied, but, being a fool, incapable of figuring this out.

Once again, the decisions of an impartial observer will depend on the desires we give this imaginary person, in which case the world to choose in the world in which the propositions P of the most and strongest desires will be made true.

This, then, is how these comparisons among possible worlds are to be made. What matters are the desires of the person making the choice. The desires that the being the chooser becomes are relevant only to the degree that they directly or indirectly make true the propositions that are the objects of the chooser's desires.

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