Trolley Problems, Utilitarian Logic, Liberty, Self-Defense & Property

As originally linked:

From Darwinian Conservatism-‘Trolleyology & Rawlsian Moral Grammar

For a Kantian utilitarian like Singer, the relevant moral principle in the trolley problem–that five deaths are worse than one death–is the same in both cases, and therefore Singer would pull the switch and push the fat man. For Singer, the 10% of the people who would push the fat man are rightly following pure moral reason, while the other 90% are allowing their emotions to override their reason, because from the viewpoint of pure reason, there is no morally relevant difference between the two cases.’

How far will utilitarian logic go?

A few more links:  From Tomkow.com ‘Trolley Problems:’

‘Then too, according to many accounts of self-defense, the right self-defense entrains the right of “other-defense”; so that if someone is permitted to defend themselves against an action then others are likewise permitted to intervene to help them prevent it. Perhaps, when folks express qualms about pushing the Fat Man they are sensitive to the fact that it may be permissible for third parties to forcibly restrain them.

Or, maybe, folks see a moral difference between, on the one hand, saving the lives of five people and, on the other, forcing someone else to save those lives.’

From the comments:

‘This is why I’ve always used the trolley problem simply as an illustrative guide, one which clearly points out the difference between comission and omission. The point about utilitarianism is not that it gets the answer to this particular problem wrong, but rather that it cannot make sense of this distinction. -‘

From another post at Tomkow.com on property:  The Origins Of Property II, which finds the typical Hobbes-Locke-Nozick libertarian defense of private property inadequate:

‘An “absolutist” about property rights is someone who says that — freezing or not—it is morally impermissible for the hiker to use the cabin without the owner’s permission and that if the owner had been around he would have been within his rights to kick the hiker out to die in the snow or shoot him like a common burglar. Because the hiker violates the owner’s property rights he is morally obliged to pay the owner compensation in full for all damage done –

I had an interesting discussion with a Kantian about the coming abolition of property rights…

A Few Thoughts On The Stanford Encyclopedia Of Philosophy Entry: Nietzsche’s Moral And Political Philosophy..A Few Thoughts On Allan Bloom–The Nietzsche ConnectionDinesh D’Souza And Daniel Dennett at Tufts University: Nietzsche’s Prophesy

Here’s Nietzsche scholar J.P. Stern on Nietzsche’s anti-Christian, anti-secular morality (Kant, utilitarians), anti-democratic, and anti-Greek (except the “heroic” Greek) biases…See the comments Repost-Camille Paglia At Arion: Why Break, Blow, Burn Was SuccessfulUpdate And Repost: ‘A Few Thoughts On Allan Bloom–The Nietzsche / Strauss Connection’

James Delingpole At Richochet: ‘Adios Scientific Method’

Podcast here (~37.00 min long).

Delingpole, a British libertarian and anti-environmentalist, interviews Jim Steele, a conservationist who’s worked in the Sierra Nevada who has come to doubt the motives, science and incentives of many people claiming to speak for nature and science.

A heretic?

That’s probably too strong a word and there’s some hyperbole and some ideological rigidity on Delingpole’s part during the interview, but I found myself agreeing with both men often.

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As this blog likes to point out, there are many ideological discontents to whom green is a good fit apart from the natural world and the sciences:  It’s become a touchstone for many secular humanists, statists and collectivists (including some extreme anti-humanists and radical activists). I’ve come across some anti-theists as well as ex-nihilists and rationalists who want to see (R)eason enthroned while flirting with dangerous totalitarian impulses. At environmental protests, it’s not hard to find your garden-variety anti-industrialists and anti-corportatists either.

The list is long.

I’m guessing there’s a large pool of sentiment that drives many to align their pre-existing emotional and ideological commitments to green causes. Some of these people knowingly or unknowingly seek to supplant even science in the name of progress and their ideology.

Whatever you may think about conservation and your relationship with the natural world (beyond value judgments?), the environmental movement has become big business, big politics, and big money.

 

Wednesday Quotation: John Locke

If a man in the state of nature be so free, as has been said; if he be absolute lord of his own person and possessions, equal to the greatest, and subject to nobody, why will he part with his freedom?  Why will he give up this empire, and subject humself to the dominion and control of any other power?  To which ’tis obvious to answer, that though in the state of nature he hath such a right, yet the enjoyment of it is very uncertain, and constantly exposed to the invasion of others.  For all being kings as much as he, every man his equal, and the greater part no strict observers of equity and justice, the enjoyment of the property he has in this state is very unsafe, very insecure.  This makes him willing to quit this condition, which however free, is full of fears and continual dangers: and ’tis not without reason, that he seeks out, and is willing to join in society with others who are already united, or have a mind to unity for the mutual preservation of their lives, liberties and estates, which I call by the general name, property.

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*Locke, John.  Two Treatises Of Government.  London: Everyman, J.M. Dent, Orion Publishing House.  1993.