Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Desirism Book - Part 0018 - Introducing Bett

We have a universe with one person (Alph) and one desire (to gather stones).

Recall that his desire to gather stones is a motivating reason for him to make or keep true the proposition "I am gathering stones."

Let us assume that there is a limited number of stones such that Alph has to spend half of his time scattering stones so that he can gather stones again (return to making true the proposition "I am gathering stones").

Now, I am going to plop a second person down on this world - Bett.

Bett has no desires.

However, we are going to give Alph two syringes; a syringe of red serum, and a syringe of blue serum. The red serum will cause Bett to have a desire to gather stones – making Bett like Alph. The blue serum will cause Bett to have a desire to scatter stones.

I would like to repeat that Alph has only one desire – a desire to gather stones. Furthermore, we are using Williams’ concept of reasons:

There is a reason for A to φ iff there is some desire the satisfaction of which will be served by his φ-ing.

This means that Alph has a reason to give Bett the red serum if and only if this will serve his desire to gather stones. The same is true of injecting Bett with the blue serum.

Alph’s desire to gather stones provides him with no reason to inject Alph with the red serum. The red serum will actually put Bett in competition with Alph for gathering stones – effectively leaving Alph with half as many stones to gather. When it comes to scattering stones, both Alph and Bett will have a reason to wait for the other person to scatter stones and then gather the stones the other scattered.

On the other hand, Alph’s desire to gather stones does provide him with a reason to give Bett the blue serum, giving Bett a desire to scatter stones. Under this arrangement, assuming that both work at the same speed, Alph will no longer have to spend time scattering stones in order to gather stones again. Bett will be scattering stones for him, allowing Alph to spend all of his time gathering stones. In other words, Alph will be able to do a better job of keeping the proposition “I am gathering stones” true if he gives Bett the red serum.

There is an important fact here that I want to shine a light on.

Alph has no sense of altruism or fellow feeling. Alph has no interest in Bett's welfare or the quality of Bett's life. Nor does Alph has any interest in cooperation for its own sake, no love of fairness, and no sense of duty or obligation. Alph's interest in Bett is limited to Bett's usefulness - his ability to scatter stones so that Alph can gather them.

Nor is it the case in this example that Alph is giving Bett any sense of empathy or sympathy, no interest in Alph's welfare, nor any sense of duty or obligation.

Yet, Alph's desire alone is enough to give him a reason to establish a cooperative system with Bett whereby Alph gathers the stones, and Bett scatters them.

It will turn out that empathy, sympathy, communal interests, and altruism, and distinctly moral sentiments are all unnecessary when it comes to establishing a system of morality. They may be put to good use where they are present. However, morality can exist even where they are absent.

Those who equate the discovery of altruism or empathy or a sense of fairness or justice in humans with the discovery of the foundation of human morality are mistaken.

I am going to continue to leave these types of sentiments out of this equation for a while, just to show what we can accomplish without them. I will eventually come to argue that the only things necessary for morality are (1) intentional agents with (2) some malleable desires where (3) those desires can be molded through rewards and punishments.

I also want to note that, while Alph is, in a sense, treating Bett as a means only (which is all he can do), he is not forcing Bett to do anything that Bett does not want to do. That is to say, he is not sacrificing Bett's interests for his own ends. He is, instead, giving Bett ends that compliment his own ends.

We do not have a moral system yet. At this point, Alph’s action of giving Bett an injection of blue serum more comfortably fits under the institution of medicine. No praise or blame, no rewards or punishments, are due to Bett in virtue of his lack of interest in either gathering or scattering stones. Instead, Alph merely has a reason to give Bett an injection.

Even here, one may argue that we do not even have a reason to claim that Bett has any type of illness, for which the injection of red serum may be thought of as a “cure”. However, we will discover that in our own larger and more complex society we will tend to talk about situations much like this in medical terms.

However, my interest is in morality. In the next post on this subject, I will take another step in that direction.

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