Monday, August 31, 2015

Prospective vs. Retrospective Judgements & What Oughtn’t Happen

Should modernists treat rightness and shouldness interchangeably? What about praiseworthiness and goodness; any interchangeability taking place there?

To answer appropriately, the first step is to deflate the longstanding polarity between deontological and teleological accounts of wrongdoing. Much of this gets inflated by the arguers’ misstep in not homing in on ultimatums modeled after many-worlds thought experiments, ideally the sort I’ve set up here:


  •  World A: Tom has been boozing it up throughout the day. Aggravated that his final two-six has run dry, he chucks it out the window despite the intense likelihood of it falling on a random passerby and causing serious harm. Tom lives on the 20th floor of a high-rise in the heart of a metropolis, so the infliction of risk here is weighty. Dozens of passersby saunter by his building on a minutely basis, but he pays no mind to this. Impulsiveness has a way of getting the better of him whenever he’s agitated. Blowing off steam is all he cares for at the moment. By sheer luck, his irresponsibleness ends up harming no one. The two-six lands straight into a dumpster nearest to his building. No one saw or even heard the two-six clash with the squishy items in the dumpster, as the collision coincided with a short-lived lull in pedestrian presence and vehicular traffic. Tom is one lucky bastard. His act was inexcusably inconsiderate, despite not having harmed –– or so much as perturbed –– anyone. Even so, Tom’s unconcern for others ran so deep that he couldn’t have even bothered peeking out the window to check if the bottle had maimed someone’s cranium.


  • World B: Tom is enjoying an ordinarily relaxing evening on his balcony. Looking to unwind from a hard day’s work, he pours himself a drink from the same two-six, but is startled by an aggressive crow. The crow charges speedily at him and he instinctually swings his arms upward to protect his face, losing grip of the two-six in the process. The bottle flies past his balcony’s barricade and, after picking up considerable freefall momentum, collides with a random passerby’s exposed cranium. This lands the passerby in the intensive care unit with permanent disfigurements and brain damage. The accident effectively ruins this person’s life. Tom wastes no time following up and feels tremendous guilt once informed of the man’s condition.


These are useful for particularists or anyone fatigued by introductory “What is morality?” discourse. Once the moral agent/patient interplays are spelled out as plainly as above, consensus around normativity ceases to be illusive and attempts to puncture it come across as moral residue.

Theorists of the modernistic bent should be able to agree that, all else being equal, World A ought to have happened. That is, we should strive to bring about A if the only alternative is B, ceteris paribus. Taking this route doesn’t entail shying away from the fact that A carried all the makings of wrongness as pointedly as it did (with B carrying none). Recall that, after chucking the two-six in A, Tom goes about his business free of regret. His carelessness constitutes a moral blameworthiness of sorts, and yet, in and of itself, it tells us nothing about where A stands in relation to the moral fortunateness vs. unfortunateness axis. Traditionalistic ethicists have too often been incurious about the moral worth of this axis, whereas I allege that its displayed spectrum is what ultimately matters more.

You can refer to textbook-style thought experiments which are more intriguing and complex, but then you’d be obfuscating my endpoint. No one disputes that Tom acted improvidently in A, and blamelessly in B. Notable point being; the deployed ultimatum shares few (if any) characteristics with the breed of moral dilemmas that boomed in use around the Enlightenment, and now seem tritely prototypical. Seeing as not every telic vs. deontic vs. aretaic schism makes for a crowd-splitting moral dilemma, we can formulate rightness (praiseworthiness) and shouldness (goodness) separately and situationally.
Talks of “rightness” or “praiseworthiness” would still be gleaned by the acts, motives and characterological tendencies of the human agent privy to reason, compassion, deliberation, forethought, et cetera. I've no bones to pick with this, insofar as it only sets out to establish rightness or praiseworthiness at a practical, non-normative ground-level.

Goodness vis-à-vis shouldness, meanwhile, is to be discerned per the introduced fortunateness vs. unfortunateness axis. Once this takes hold, the modernist can actually start being modernistic with her ethical theorizing, noting that the “moral gridlocks” we keep hearing about (applied even to A vs. B) can be averted once the arguer explains how folk-judgements establishing “wrongness” and sentiocentric-judgements establishing events that “ought not have occurred” may function as isolated verdicts.

Just reflect on how rarely you’ve seen an "introduction to ethics" lecture astutely structured after examinations of many-worlds ultimatums. I’m still waiting on one to pop up in scholarly settings exported online, or even in middle-brow YouTube videos. If you’re a few steps ahead of me and have seen it, please link to some examples in the comments. I'll be right here, not holding my breath. We instead get lectures on (the triteness of) moral edifices and their (prognosticator-problem endowed) species of thought experiments where rightness/praiseworthiness/goodness/shouldness are lockstep and claims to the contrary are perceived as being distillatory of rightness, praiseworthiness, goodness and shouldness (or are simply unheard of).

In addition to downplaying the criterial role of moral fortunateness vs. unfortunateness, the trouble with rank-and-file introductions to ethics is their tendency to invite polemicists and disinvite conversationalists. Regular readers are already familiar with how disparagingly I view these presentations, so I won’t belabour the gripe. There’s reason to be confident in the conceivability of a “Master Key” presentation that sets out to reach modernist sensibilities regarding normativity (now centering on shouldness/goodness, not rightness/praiseworthiness). Nothing stops the modernist from conceiving prospective and retrospective wrongdoings as classificatory rather than as eliminatory. From there, the theorist is afforded the requisite room to tolerate more wrongness/blameworthiness under a state of affairs that ought to have occurred and less rightness/praiseworthiness under a state of affairs that oughtn’t have occurred (not unlike with A vs. B). This only sounds self-contradictory because, confusingly, moral verdicts have always been portrayed as eliminatory instead of classificatory, without justification. Because prospective and retrospective judgements have the cognitive capacity to operate as twofold judgements without the call for mutually-cancelling overridingness, we can ensure against catastrophic outcomes per sentiocentric overviews while accommodating innocuous components of folk morality into those same overviews. (Note: My use of sentiocentric is not a placeholder for Moral Naturalism any more than my use of folk is a plug for non-naturalism, but more on that in a future post.)

It should go without saying that consequentialists presented with A vs. B are concretely on board with the “B oughtn’t occur” adjudication. The ideal consequentialist arrives at this by stressing B’s moral unfortunateness overwhelming whatever shred of unfortunateness arose in A, while openly acknowledging the Tom-directed wrongness in A.

This is where absolutist theories latch onto outdated worries about the character of consequentialist thought, and how its grounding stands to undermine the role of prospective sordidness apparent in A. I see no basis for such inferences. Shouldness inciting A into effect doesn’t translate to a whitewash of the accompanying ill-will on the part of the agent, given the earlier point about classificatory (contra eliminatory) judgements.

Tom is quite the moral fool in A, but a lucky fool at that. He is 100% fool-proof in B, but unfoolishness here comes with the baggage of a mangled skull… surely there’s no slippery slope deluging that which privileges fortunateness over rightness through telic evaluations. I suppose one way to take umbrage with this is by believing that the central role of morality lies in agent-relative procurements of self-idolatry, which is as dubious as any Divine Command Theory. Third-person judgments run afoul of such setbacks and mesh with the 'equal-concern' practices of modernity.

So then, what of the non-consequentialists (or worse, those who identify as anti-consequentialists) and their treatment of an ultimatum like this? So far every deontologist –– or traditionalistic ethicist of aretaic persuasions –– I’ve encountered, when presented with A vs. B, did not push back against the “B oughtn’t occur” ruling despite emphasizing the prospective maleficence beamingly present in A. Wise move, but is it indicative of how most deontologists or aretaic traditionalists think about the ultimatum being toyed with? It could easily be true that the trend I speak of is just down to my not having had the opportunity to engage the big boys in the non-consequentialist tradition. I’m iffy on that though. It may be undue optimism on my part, but I’m unable to wrap my head around even the gratuitously ardent anti-consequentialist being presented with A vs. B and actually uttering something along the lines of: “Yes, World B contains no wrongdoing and should swing into effect if weighed against World A where the wrongdoing actually betides. Prospective and retrospective verdicts are eliminatory, not classificatory, and particularistic attempts to parse them are nonsensical. It’s moral ineptitude to even try.

By taking exception to final shouldness rulings in favour of A, one saddles one’s judgement with B as the follow-through, which should seem baffling to everyone. Can the reader point to anyone in the anti-consequentialist camp –– past or present –– who’d cite the lack of intentional agentic wrongdoing in B as the basis for why B should actually materialize… intensive care unit and all? I can’t, and this attests to the strength of consequentialist theories whenever noxiousness looms on account of unfortunateness.
Maybe I’m mistaken to think that inconveniencing deontologists or aretaic traditionalists with B’s fallout suffices in giving them cause to pause. If this is indeed my error, I’ll nod along to all charges of callousness levied at them going forward. I don’t consider this to be in the cards, because anecdotally, emphasis on B’s injurious outcome has led the ones I’ve bickered with to retreat from the catchall framing of deontology, in the vein of “It’s about the moral status of the act itself, not the consequences of the act”. Instead, the interlocutor, when put on the spot, adopts the refreshingly cautiousThat’s a straw man of deontology; deontologists can be pluralists and take into account some consequences”. (Examples @ 1:04:45 & 1:07:30 & 1:10:00 & 1:11:30).

If reverting to pluralism is as common as anecdotes suggest –– and as the hyperlinked podcast shows –– then pluralistic deontologists need to stop self-identifying as non-consequentialists (and esp. as anti-consequentialists), for if this newfound caveat is taken seriously, it severs ties with Kantian absolutism, which in turn earns them a title like quasi-consequentialist. I can’t in good conscience object too harshly to a quasi-anything, as I’m still heavily drawn to particularism, meaning quasi-consequentialism is fine in my book. Avoidance of absolutism and monism is what I’m really after, and new&improved deontic theories allowing for a give-and-take between outcomes and duties can manage this.

This give-and-take, however praiseworthy, does pose a potentially unanswerable question; where exactly on the continuum does a “deontic” theory with some telic adjustments blend into an otherwise “telic” theory with some deontic adjustments? The trickiness with planting such a flag in non-arbitrary ways only flatters the particularist’s framing of ethics, as I’ve come to find.

Whether a definitive line –– superior to all other lines –– is illusory or not, parting ways with absolutism remains an “all or nothing” move if I’ve ever seen one. There’s no such thing as “a little bit pregnant” and there’s no such thing as quasi-absolutism in ethics. Acts like murder, torture, rape are unwaveringly impermissible and should never be carried out irrespective of extenuating circumstances (absolutist view), or they are globally justifiable as a lesser-of-evils based on the morally understandable goal of securing against even more unfavorable outcomes (non-absolutist view). What can possibly be worse than murder, torture, rape? Well, the occurrence of murder, torture and rape tenfold, for starters. If ethicists are going to be serious about reconciling telic and deontic theories, the project will only takeoff by applying non-absolutist iterations of the latter. Absolutists objecting to this are moral fetishists looking to roadblock the project by tarnishing the consequentialist catalog altogether. Fuck ‘em.

As for the hyperlinked podcast; it's sophistic of Tamler to kvetch about straw while in the same breath drawing from absolutist versions of deontology –– which by definition disallow any weighing of negative outcomes against deontological commitments, no matter the severity of the outcome. Pluralism my foot. Guy wants to have his straw man accusation and eat it too.

Even when deontic theories are irreligious from head to toe, their traditionalistic advocates will not view, say, natural disasters luridly impacting sentient beings as events ripe for normative boos. This is our history in ethics, and it's why you get so many people who to this day cannot conceive of normative yays vs. boos unless “free will” (indeterminism/libertarianism) is embraced from the outset. “Ought implies can” and so on. The theorist who looked beyond Humancentrism 101 was the aberrant.

Enter determinism, and the Folk formulations begin to seem suspect (at least by modernists). Posit incompatibilism, and they look profoundly amiss, to the point where moral absolutism –– casting certain acts as verboten regardless of context weight –– is on par with DCT in its zealotry.

The explosion of sentiocentric consequentialism’s popularity as a rival theory to humancentric common-sense morality correlates with determinism gaining ground in public arenas. That’s not to say that determinism is a prerequisite for consequentialism (or indeterminism for non-consequentialism, for that matter) but to deny the correlative effects is to sport a blindfold.

I’m exultant over sentiocentric theories making headway in vital quarters; recognizing animals as moral patients in and of themselves, rather than as accessories through which we humans get to flaunt our moral merit or lack thereof. But the more folky attributions of wrongness can be preserved –– determinism and all –– even if they come at a cost to some categories of undesirable outcomes. I am in rare company when it comes to this, but viewed from an altered A vs. B ultimatum where the difference in B is that the two-six only startles the passerby (falling right in front of him rather than colliding with his head), it seems somewhat credible to contest “B ought not occur” as a ground-level given. Thus we can allow for some overridingness flattering to non-consequentialist theories if the consequence entails trivial levels of hardship (i.e. being startled) and never non-trivial levels (i.e. landing in the intensive care unit). There are admittedly epistemic issues with this, at least if we try hair-splitting the trivial and non-trivial.

So, to appropriately answer the original question with a resounding “No”, I'll freely remind myself that ethical value was traditionally measured not by establishing how the world ought to be for moral patients (sentient beings) and then endeavoring to bring about such a world. Rather, it was about the motives and virtues of moral agents (human beings). Accordingly, wrongdoings and concomitant oughtn't rulings could only be hurled at something a human said or did. Obviously this reads like moral myopia today, as non-human caused hardship (i.e. wildlife predation) is still hardship worthy of stoppage. Thus my pluralistic modernism and promulgation of “rightness =/= shouldness” reasoning.
[Add on 2015-09-23: The same is commonly referred to as Dual Consequentialism, already hyperlinked above]

Make no mistake, formulations of rightness [under Dual Consequentialism] would still be rooted in praiseworthiness, just as wrongness would remain rooted in blameworthiness. My purpose here was to explain how none of that has any bearing over goodness overlapping with fortunateness per se and badness with unfortunateness per se (dictated deterministically). This needs to be the baseline because goodness and badness are used, at least on my readings, to refer to general states of affairs, disconnected from agents' actions or motives. When discussing the latter, we'd do well to continue tracking rightness and wrongness as a sort of moral know-how. So even when causality is the name of the game, the case for social censure still holds, thus rightness merits praiseworthiness and wrongness merits blameworthiness. After all, we need to be dissuaded against acting improvidently, seeing as we're seldom bestowed with the sort of moral fortune Tom takes for granted in World A.

And no, this was not about Act vs. Rule Consequentialism, since Rule Consequentialism can either be:

  • (2) A rule so rigid to the point where it’s as uncompromising as moral absolutism. Rule Consequentialism that’s absolutist is hardy consequentialist; it’s crypto deontology.

Every “act vs. rule” debate I’ve seen has centred on moral tactfulness; a cost/benefit analysis regarding rigidity and flexibility in decision making. Strictly a “Human beings aren’t prognosticators, so how do we act?” scuffle, nothing more. And even this might not be a problem due to the oft-excluded middle; Two-Level Consequentialism. Some think that this synthesis makes the case for non-consequentialism operating as a refuter of unmodified Act or Rule consequentialisms, but at most it's an expander.


Endnote: Contrary to the vibe the post gives off early on, I wasn't trying to suggest that we can panoramically assert the existence of vindicatory moral dilemmas; conundrums wherein rightness, praiseworthiness, goodness and shouldness all happen to line up under solitary verdicts (contrary to overused ones about organ transplants or trolleys… telltale signs that, should a final ruling be paraded around a large enough swath of ethicists, bifurcation will follow and resolvability will die. Rinse and repeat. Yawn and repeat).

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Implicit Pluralism Starring Truth Valuing Monists

Despite best efforts to spend my online time wisely, I’ve fallen back into the habit of keeping tabs on YouTube videos dabbling in ethics. Nothing new there, but it got me thinking about a string of contradictions that continues to evade participants, capped off by the frequency with which metaethical irrealists are now accused of harboring ulterior motives. This is the stuff of conspiracy-mongers, and though it's not exactly a new phenomenon, it was never this common in the past. I’ll take a stab at pinpointing why caricaturing non-realists in this way only ends up hurting the caricaturist. 

The irrealist position being reachable through uncontaminated motives should register with you regardless of whether you yourself hold the contrary position, or any other position available on the continuum. As a former robust realist turned quasi-realist, I am not here to counter the realist view as advanced by its top-tier exponents (i.e. non-YouTubers), because the relevant literature is prodigious to the point where nobody can do it justice in a single post, and because I don't take umbrage with metaethical realists who stray from wild accusations; who never ascribe ulterior motives to others.

Theorists and Activists = Apples and Oranges

Consider how the friction between value monism and value pluralism squares with the issue of first-order (normative) ethical analysis and second-order (meta) ethical analysis, and how it further implicates my italicized breakdown of activism vs. theory:

Theorists who aren’t activists: Rightly concerned with normative and metaethical affairs.

Activists who aren’t theorists: Should be concerned with normative ethics only.

Simple question for readers: Are you here for activism (i.e. suffering alleviation) or are you here to be the best analytical thinker you can be? 

In a perfect world, one would go hand-in-hand with the other, so it’s pretty ironic to see people who pride themselves on their understanding of how profoundly imperfect the world is, being the very same people who unwittingly lap up idealistic mergers of activism and theory, where sound theory equals good activism.

Daydreaming aside, it’s clear that these are mutually exclusive pursuits, and this entry will relay the levelheadedness behind keeping the two compartmentalized. Note that you can still be an activist in the morning and a theorist in the evening, but trying to juggle the two symbiotically will only worsen your performance on both fronts. 

This may be noteworthy insofar as how we (as moral agents) choose to spend our free time. I'm a value pluralist, so I have no reservations about allocating my free time to both ventures, separately of course.

The case for compartmentalization targets select value monists who insist that qualia is the lone source of intrinsic value, but who nonetheless care deeply about the true/false status of their metaethical position. By caring about this, they let theory-based quests for truth sidetrack them from pursuing optimal activism. From the standpoint of monistic qualia-welfarism, having a vested interest in whether something is per se true or per se false is cart-before-the-horse thinking. A belief being correct or incorrect doesn’t itself impact anyone’s welfare, so when someone goes quietly from a belief in realism to a belief in irrealism, this is nothing more than a cognitive endeavor, one which doesn’t ipso facto cause harm to any sentient creature. Sticking a nail in someone’s eye on the other hand does cause harm, but pointing this out is a conversational derailment since we’re evaluating a process of belief (transitioning from metaethical realism to irrealism) separate from any act. That is, if you’re committed to responsible use of the English language, where beliefs and actions are different words which carry different definitions. 

It’s just as feasible for an agent to be a metaethical realist (belief) and to stick a nail in someone else’s eye (act) for no good reason, as it is for me to have the impulse to type “1+1=3” while being cognizant of how 1+1=2 in actuality. Regardless of the discipline we’re discussing, mere knowledge isn’t enough to paralyze behavior incongruent with said knowledge. The causal-chain behind our motives to act ethically or unethically is a separate subject, and is not built into the very fabric of ethics. This is precisely why immorality and amorality were sundered from the get-go. Just by existing, amoralists demonstrate that moral knowledge doesn't ipso facto drive moral action, solidifying the framework of morality as not inherently motive-inducing. With this in mind, if value monists’ exclusive concern for sensations is to be internally consistent, it must render innocuous all talks of truth vs. falsehood, as those guidelines are disconnected from the properties of first-order sentiocentrism.

The conflation of theory and activism, and the subsequent conflation of belief and action, is what shifts this debate away from "realism vs. irrealism" and morphs it into a debate over Moral Internalism vs. Moral Externalism. I will get to this a bit later, but for now let's just assume for argument's sake that the above paragraph is inaccurate and that Internalism is accurate. If so, moral convictions do indeed give way to moral motivations. In that case, it makes perfect sense to ask: How could any metaethical realist possibly stick a nail in someone else's eye for selfish reasons? The answer is dirt simple; ethical egoism is compatible with metaethical realism. In fact, most ethical egoists have historically been metaethical realists. So whenever someone criticizes "Nihilism" on the grounds that it creates an excuse for people to be selfish, this is not a charge against "Nihilism" at all since the critic is actually objecting to the underpinnings of ethical egoism (first-order position) only.

Think of it this way; would you rather live in a world where everyone shares your particular take on metaethics (everyone is a robust realist) while disagreeing with your normative position (everyone is an ethical egoist) or would you prefer a world where you enjoy full agreement on the normative side (everyone is an anti-egoist) and full disagreement on the metaethical side (everyone is a non-realist)? I'd much rather see a world filled with anti-egoists who happen to be irrealists. I can't be alone in picking that over the alternative where I'm stuck with seven billion normative egoists who happen to be metaethical realists (big whoop). So an ultimatum like this should go a long way in helping us reach a level of clarity over unwarranted alarmism.

Comprehending this while clinging to theory (non-activism) and monistic qualia-welfarism (anti-pluralism) without demarcating between first-order and second-order theories of ethics, makes for some contradictory practices. I am referring specifically to Inmendham and co. here. To this day, Inmendham gets animatedly indignant over people’s metaethical positions, even when those people are fully on board with his first-order prescriptions 100% of the time. Worse yet, he’s taken to claiming that any departure from metaethical realism disqualifies the speaker from justly advancing her normative stance. If said stance cannot be true (or false, for that matter), we are told that the advocate has no business trying to convince others of it. As I’ve noted a few times before, this is on par with telling fervid film critics to shut the fuck up because cinema realism doesn’t pass ontological muster. Bizarre stuff. 

The only way to make sense of this activism><theory symbiosis façade is to out Inmendham as a value pluralist who latently cares about truth for truth’s own sake. I’ve tried to get this admission out of him in the past and was met with fervent pushback the moment it became obvious what its implications are for his monistic value superstructure. To be fair, positing truth as a non-instrumental value wouldn’t devastate qualia-oriented superstructures, it would just show that no theory of ethics attains supremacy over the others without succumbing to some level of pluralistic concessions. Inmendham wants no part of this, because rightness and wrongness must fit into a neat little package. This is, again, idealism posturing as pessimism. 

Reputable ethicists understand that boundaries between first-order and second-order theories are paramount. Their conclusions are hardly contestable, as first-order theories are in the business of prescribing what ought to happen in any given scenario. Second-order theories deal with moral semantics, moral epistemology, moral psychology, moral diversity, moral ontology, moral naturalism vs. non-naturalism, and lesser abstractions in general, so they are divorced from imparting insight onto moral dilemma based verdict-fishing. None of the positions within the second-order catalog are intended to influence how we view the first-order status of a moral act. So embracing some form of consequentialism or non-consequentialism (first-order / normative positions) while settling on some form of metaethical irrealism (second-order / non-normative positions) is cogent and in no way internally inconsistent.

Nevertheless, concerted efforts have been made to delegitimize the barriers, mainly by Efilists. But why? Why have hapless efforts to blur the normative with the meta been so enduring on this corner of YouTube? What’s the underlying motive here? As mentioned, the answer could be fairly straightforward: Efilists don’t just value harm-reduction, they also value being correct about things. Big picture things. If not, Inmendham wouldn’t continually throw fits over anyone’s second-order views, nor would fellow Efilists commend him for it every step of the way. Since caring about axiological correctness constitutes a value of its own, Inmendham and co. are value pluralists without even realizing it. This is the crux of what I’m getting at and have tried to get at the last time around. If they weren’t pluralists, they’d be content with any activist who, like a proper monist, is driven exclusively by the reduction of suffering and is unperturbed by not being a truth-teller. Cure-minded philanthropists come from all ideological backgrounds, and there are no correlations pointing to higher charitable spending coming from those who are more attuned to reality. Clearly, not being versed in truth doesn’t interfere with efficiently alleviating harm. Apples and oranges.

Since Inmendham is bent on being a truth-teller on top of being a harm-eliminator, his fierce monism collapses into covert pluralism. What else can it do? That this continues to escape him is a testament to his unwillingness to lucidly examine the finer points of his idiosyncrasy. If I’m wrong here, he will have no qualms with choosing between the following: 

  • Being a propagandist who reduces plenty of harm through non-stop activism (offline) 
  • Being a truth-teller who reduces less harm by devoting much time to theory (online) 

Fanciful notions of activism><theory symbiosis need to be stamped out before the conversation can even get off the ground. Theory = apples, activism = oranges. Easy does it.

I suspect that this will be handwaved, because the moment you accept it, it will dawn on you how bootless a platform YouTube is for anyone striving to be a productive reducer of harm. For the record, this applies equally to YouTubers who aren't Efilists, but who think they're doing a public service by uploading videos on serious issues. Leaving YouTube is difficult for some people, since they’ve formed friendships there, but they also dislike the prospect of having to admit that they're on there for social or cathartic reasons only, and would prefer to perceive themselves as martyrs for a great cause. So they cling to the aforementioned (and unfounded) vision of a symbiosis between activism and theory. With some Efilists, this is penetrated even further by the insistence that monistic value is plainly defensible when you get down to it and any talk of first-order and second-order theories being kept separate amounts to pedantry. 

I also suspect that their stonewalling will be followed by claims of me being “lost in minutia” per norm. This is a flagrant copout employed by people who are unable to differentiate justified vs. unjustified hair-splitting. 

Hair-splitting is unjustified whenever it’s used as a cover to intimidate newcomers into silence or intellectual subordination. Scholastic power-trippers have a tendency to resort to this. I on the other hand boisterously support autodidacts who see the stark contrast between education and schooling. Normally, an inability to distinguish first-order and second-order analyses is something I’m willing to chalk-up to informal thought-pattern bias, no different from thought-pattern biases in favour of formal wavelengths (shaped by schooling). 

I value education, but I also disvalue schooling, so I’ve never been one to back pedantically motivated dismissals of non-scholastic pursuits when it comes to any field. It is only when one camp’s agenda centers on the claim that metaethical irrealism (“Nihilism”) roadblocks all attempts to thoughtfully construct normative positions, that ignorance of minutia becomes more than a foible. Since my “activists =/= theorists” point is grotesquely overlooked on YouTube, this is not one of those cases where the pedant is being pedantic for the hell of it.

Inmendham has uttered the phrase “the devil is in the details” numerous times in the past, so the contextual noteworthiness of minutia is not beyond his comprehension. It just needs to be weeded out, primarily in the moments when it ends up being unflattering to his token monism. 

Could it be that Efilists are intermingling theory with activism for reasons I’ve overlooked? The rationale might go something like; Truth is vital because speaking truth-to-power ruffles traditionalist feathers, which brings in more recruits, which furthers the harm-elimination agenda. This approach turns irredeemably naive if we accept Inmendham’s view that people don’t want to hear the truth deep down, because the truth is “ugly” or something to that effect. I'm not swayed by these one-dimensional accounts of people’s belief systems, so this is only an internal problem if you happen to agree with that. 

Still, “truth-to-power” based arguments for the telic value of truth are unfounded because, historically, the most effective activists weren’t particularly good at refuting their respective opposition’s best arguments. MLK’s mass appeal was almost entirely down to poetic feel-goodness; worlds apart from scientifically minded counters to race-realism emerging during the same period. This doesn’t mean MLK was a poor activist; it just means he wasn’t in the business of being an intellectual heavyweight who cut to the core of what his top-tier opponents believed. He had countless opportunities to rebuke the alleged facts promulgated by segments of the segregationist troupe, but opted for the sort of mawkish approach he figured would resonate with more people. He was right. No one should be surprised by this, as proficient activists have to be people who never surpass their lightweight status, and who therefore never provide sufficient counterarguments to their top-tier objectors but still appear convincing enough to fence-sitters who eventually become their backers. 

To sufficiently handle one’s top-tier opponents, one must earmark ample time to the inactivity of reading (non-activism). I’m not suggesting that reading isn’t a cognitive activity; it’s just not the sort of thing dyed-in-the-wool activists would consider productive. As long as you possess the basic reading/writing skills to interpret slogans, you've got everything it takes to be a kosher activist. This goes twice for the alarmist strand of activism I’m targeting in this post; activism so repulsed by the continuation of suffering that its wavelength runs on unabashed urgency. Consequently, said wavelength loses any hope of identifying where impassioned activism ends and where sober analysis begins. All the indignation in the world over the horrors of suffering, flung at people due to their metaethical positions, becomes unintelligible the moment you section off activism from theory. Inept theorists and non-theorists are often top-notch activists, and this is the only thing that should ultimately matter if you hold a monistic outlook on value.

If you’re dedicated to both activism and theory, it's counterproductive to undertake the two while on the same channel, blog, podium, etc. The next time someone remarks on how “Suffering doesn’t matter” know that the statement is made outside the bounds of activism, and is therefore inconsequential. It should be reassuring to know that uttering a few words in a given sequence doesn't cause harm, and increasingly hostile reactions to those words reek of alarmist psychology.

If you’re a genuine value monist, your sole interest will be rooted in some kind of hands-on activism, since accurate descriptions of reality do nothing to prevent suffering. As truth itself has zero intrinsic value to you, the prospect of badgering unreceptive people with endless response videos won't be conflated with activism. No, you will recognize these response videos for what they are; a vulgar yearning for intellectual submission from people whose worldviews aggravate the uploader; a desire to see the other tap-out to the uploader's will. 

Inmendham isn’t burdened with extra responsibility in light of his metaethical realism. Uploading videos is not a burden for him. It’s catharsis, and it will continue being pseudo-activism for as long as random vloggers’ potential submission to his worldview doesn’t translate to harm reduction. If Inmendham keeps accusing disagreeable parties of running away from responsibility, the bull's-eye needs to revolve around how those people actually spend their free time, not what their metaethical position happens to be. By refusing to accept this as the criterion, Inmendham ends up convincing himself that it’s physically impossible for metaethical irrealists to be activists or philanthropists, or for metaethical realists to be gluttons or egoists, when bountiful evidence to the contrary exists.

Furthermore, if people embrace metaethical irrealism simply because they're trying to come up with rationalizations with which to run away from moral responsibility, why would they subject themselves to all these counterarguments on the internet? If you just want to do what you feel like doing, you'll stay offline and simply do it. How the hell does some stranger uploading videos in favor of robust realism do anything to prevent you from carrying on with your selfishness offline, in your private life? If you want to be selfish, you'll be selfish. It just doesn’t follow that you'd feel compelled to "justify it" to a few dozen strangers on YouTube who will never have any power over you. This is well-poisoning, pure and simple. Metaethical irrealists are here because they want to defend their genuine take on second-order ethics, just as the realists do. 

Now, vlogging might turn out to be a deflationary form of activism if: 

  • (1) The vloggers you’ve selected to respond to are influential enough to bring about change, once convinced of your views. 
  • (2) Moral Internalism is correct. 

We know Inmendham avoids meeting the demands of # 1, given how uninfluential (and unworthy of response) the users he's spent years responding to are (Hythloday71, Anekantavad, etc). These people have no societal sway whatsoever, so Inmendham's perpetual responses to them are fueled by personal animus, not messianic commitments to fix the world. I’ve already gone over the tips activists can utilize in order to become popular on YouTube, or the ways to ingratiate oneself into the social graces of YouTube superstars. It's been over 18 months now since Inmendham read my input on all this. We can safely say that he remained uninterested in applying those tips, because he doesn’t want to put on the clown-shoes and is too prideful to try currying favor with trendy vloggers who have a larger platform. So much for the so-called burden of moral responsibility I keep hearing about. He's not inconveniencing himself, and that's fine. Just don't pretend that realism in ethics creates behavioral burdens that people can't deal with, which is why they contrive a belief in "Nihilism". It's borderline conspiratorial. 

As for # 2, Moral Internalism contends that ethical convictions necessarily morph into ethical motivations. I’m a Moral Externalist, so I think internalistic linkage between one’s beliefs and behavioral justificatory force is hogwash. For instance, I believe a vegan diet is more ethical than a vegetarian diet, yet I’m never compelled to give up dairy in my day-to-day life. According to Inmendham, I should be struggling with this, so much so that I’ll resort to pretending that veganism is no better than vegetarianism, that way I can rationalize an excuse to not “take responsibility for the truth”. Last I checked, Inmendham is also not a vegan, and loses no sleep over that fact, just as I don't. This is because moral convictions don't significantly drive behavior, regardless of how tightly held they are.


If you earnestly believe metaethical non-realism entails normative nihilism (aka fatalism or defeatism), this only speaks to your dormant valuing of truth as an end unto itself. We usually pursue realness-over-falsehood beyond an appreciation for its instrumental benefits, but must this guide our construction of ethics, from A to Z no less? I say it mustn't. Just as promise-breaking shouldn't be verboten in all imaginable scenarios, neither should a given ethic be saddled with the impossible task of grounding itself in robust truth. If you only valued popping delusion-bubbles with regard to how this stands to mitigate harm, then people’s metaethical positions wouldn’t matter to you in the slightest. Your concerns would start and end with people’s normative positions, as those carry the blueprints establishing what we ought to value (and how we ought to act, if you're a Moral Internalist).

Unless you’re networking with YouTube superstars, policymakers, celebrities, assorted influential figures, etc... your engagements via response videos have nothing to do with “making the world a better place”. If changing ordinary minds doesn’t improve the world the way changing influential minds does, as is the case, it follows that anyone who wants their participation to be more than “intellectual wankery” will focus all efforts on changing the minds of people with large audiences. Yet seldom few do this. Go figure.

If you have no appetite for social networking tactics and the like, odds are you're here for the same reasons I am; to offer commentary on interesting topics despite an awareness of how inconsequential your contribution is sure to be. The sooner you embrace this, the sooner you will rid yourself of the misplaced alarmism that muddles your thinking in relation to first-order / second-order ethical analyses.

It will also make you less of an idealist, more of a pessimist. From what I recall, Efilists are supposed to be all about that morbidness; the stuff ordinary folk just can't deal with. Right?

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Particularistic Utilitarianism Demystified

My post on the infighting within contrastive utilitarian theories was an attempt to salvage a principled or generalized handle on heterodox conceptions of utilitarianism, siding decisively with Average, Negative and Preference antidotes to Total, Positive and Classical orthodoxies. The result was a rather spirited endorsement of one system; Negative Average Preference Utilitarianism. This would be fine were it not propped up under the guise of Moral Principlism. Given subsequent forays into Moral Particularism, I averred –– albeit latently –– that any isolated system of ethics cannot be reconciled with Principlism in good conscience, as the machinery of Principlism is itself worrisome. This naturally extends to NAPU’s compliance to Principlism, meaning aspects of that (otherwise dandy) entry could benefit from modification. As usual, I'd rather just do a new post and not addend old ones.
Indicators of tension between NAPU and Principlism/Generalism arise in that very write-up though, per my encouraging swift, unapologetic abandonments of NAPU in favor of Classical Negative Average Utilitarianism whenever the moral patient is a non-human animal. If NAPU is abandonable on this score, it follows that CNAU would be as well for the obverse reason. This blog's oft-discussed compartmentalization of human vs. non-human moral patients animated a garish undercurrent of particularism in refusing to hold the Preference side hostage to normative invariability. Having grown fonder of variability in the months that followed, I was pleased to see glimmers of it in the post now under refinement. Problem is, the post dealt with the three keystones of internal disputation enclosed by utilitarian ethics, with particularism open-for-business in just one of those (Preference vs. Classical). This makes it easy for readers to gather that Negative and Average utilitarianisms are unfailingly wiser than Positive and Total utilitarianisms. They aren't. What I should have argued is that they are wiser arguably more often, not in principle, as I intend to show.
On an informal account, the post was susceptible to variability early on, but ended up losing the plot once I broached the chasm between Total and Average Utilitarianism. This is where insusceptibility to particularism takes hold, as I mount a stalwart defense of the average view, banishing the total view full throttle. Here my regretful departure from variability seemed doable thanks to the all-too-favorable configurations I posed as hypotheticals; awfully accommodating configurations under which per capita metrics can't help but look superior. Of course, indulge enough many-worlds type ultimatums and you will have envisioned as many unbefitting configurations for Average Utilitarianism as were displayed for Total Utilitarianism.
Assuredly, a world containing one hundred people whose individual suffering level is a trivial -1 makes for a state of affairs that's glaringly more preferable compared to a world containing one person whose suffering level is a hellish -99 and where no other being suffers in the slightest. Numerically, the discrepancy in outcomes is evident; one state of affairs reaches a sum total of -100 utils and the other a sum total of -99 utils, but a net effect couched in these underpinnings is hardly the whole story. Only a backer of bog-standard utilitarianism would conclude that this alone is enough to dub the -100 world a temporally worse one. A less atomistic, more empathetic onlooker will not ignore the granularity of distribution-insensitivity present in the -99 world, with all negatives befalling one individual. Even still, a theorist wed to the total view must insist upon strict aggregation at all times, irrespective of configurations, lest she be "unprincipled" or "inconsistent" as the wavelengths of traditional moral theory would have it. One such wavelength is the pro tanto breed of Principlism arrived at by the alleged atomism of logic. Not only is this a fetishistic take, it can lead to even more nauseating conclusions. Consider how pro tanto establishments of true principles still work strictly arithmetically in hypotheticals with seven billion people who endure trivial -1 suffering levels respectively, accumulating to -7,000,000,000 utils overall, versus a state of affairs with just one person who endures a suffering level of -6,999,999,999 utils on her lonesome. If totality-minded tallies aren't foiled by the separateness of persons in the first ultimatum, they won't be foiled by it in the second ultimatum. Illustratively, we can just keep upping the ante so as to make the total view's distribution-insensitivity more lopsided, but none of it will faze the calculatedly holistic & anti-atomistic lens of the Total Utilitarian. In this sense, being taken in by utilitarian-themed Principlism via logical atomism can prove as disastrous to sentience as being eminently beholden to the absolutism hawked by deontological ethics.
This is not to say that zeroing in on notoriously unflattering scenarios altogether obliterates the total view. Rather, it shows that staunchly aggregative metrics shouldn't be thought of as right-marking features across the board, and should only be off-limits when badgered by the sort of configurations I chose to employ. But there is a disconcerting flipside here, one I have not taken into account in previous posts; the average view's proneness for being just as vulnerable to select irredeemable configurations –– polar opposites of the sort I used to undermine the total view. One such unpleasant configuration is a world with seven billion people resulting in a state of affairs where the average suffering level is a hellish -100. The suffering is distributed evenly across the entire population, meaning each individual is left to endure -100 respectively. Contrast this with a world containing just ten people, resulting in an average suffering level of -101 distributed evenly across the population. Neglecting the total view on this tally, so as to cleave to the average view, seems as pathological as doing the opposite in the first set of global hypotheticals. In this case, one should not hesitate to clamor for Total Utilitarianism in order to bring about an outcome where only ten people suffer at -101 each, as opposed to seven billion at -100 each. The takeaway being; allow for salubrious oscillation when it comes to aggregative vs. per capita measures. Allow for the context-attentiveness of particularism.
Now, what of the maximization vs. minimization discord? Any room for particularism there? I think so, but it must be a highly deflationary particularism in this case.
Negative Utilitarianism, properly understood, disallows any maximization of utility if the way to proceed entails having disutility-reduction used as a bargaining chip. Positive Utilitarians (who are honest) will fess up to their disinclination for delineating above-neutral and below-neutral welfare states, leading to deleterious trade-offs like the US-led syphilis experiment with unsuspecting Guatemalan citizens used as guinea pigs. A streamlined example of other trade-offs along such lines:
Adam and Bob exist in a stagnantly neutral state. No ups, no downs. Neither of them will enjoy any happiness should things remain unaltered. The only way to evoke non-neutral welfare states is with a trade-off between the two. Say the possibility presents itself, and the ideal observer acquires an ability to lift Adam into a blissful +100 state by dragging Bob into a hellish -99 state. Because the net-effect here is a surefire +1, intellectually honest exponents of positive-minded utility formulas should bite the bullet and validate the arrangement. Someone like me will be quick to scold them for it, as I hold the maximization of above-neutral welfare states to be a matter of beneficence and supererogation, rather than non-maleficence or equity. On this view, acts which increase neutral or above-neutral states are strictly beneficent or supererogatory, whereas acts which inversely decrease below-neutral states (bringing them closer to zero) qualify as just or equitable. If benefiting Adam serves supererogatory ends, as it does here, the reasoning behind the mistreatment of Bob will be difficult to account for relative to the reasoning behind trade-offs that see Adam dragged back to a blandly neutral state, so that Bob can be lifted back to the same neutral state. With the latter trade-off, Bob would be the willing participant and Adam the unwilling apparatus, but this is not maleficence nor inequity as it simply restores the initial monotonic neutrality. For as long as Adam's benefits rest on Bob's non-trivial harms, I will regard the package-deal as impermissible. A monist NU could further argue that it is immaterial whether Adam attains his +100 advantage through wrongful interference or through actual deservingness over Bob, citing the initial harmless state of the universe coupled with incompatibilistic determinism. This add-on, however, makes formulating a pluralistic brand of Negative Utilitarianism much more strenuous, perhaps even impossible, so I wouldn't recommend it. Point being, interpersonal trade-offs which employ "pluses cancel out minuses" rationale must go by the wayside.
Beclouding my stance are the so-called Negative Utilitarians who believe that positive welfare states don't really exist. In a remarkably absurd twist, the uninitiated Efilist will also scold Positive Utilitarians for the above package-deal, even though okaying the arrangement is a perfectly sensible thing to do according to the Efilist's own "Zero-Sum Game" worldview. When frustrationists genuinely believe that experiencing optimal bliss only brings the experiencer up to zero, and no further, there can be no line of demarcation between above-neutral and below-neutral welfare states, as anything above water would be a misnomer in the first place. If you buy into the idea that above-neutral experiences cannot even arise, you are left with the crudeness of early utilitarian orthodoxy wherein utility-maximization and disutility-minimization are indistinguishable as right-making features. The only way around this is by acknowledging the presence of authentically positive welfare states, such as mania, and promptly condemning interpersonal trade-offs wherever positive states stand to benefit through the worsening of negative states. This barricade is the saving grace of NU, but salient though it may be, it is made unintelligible the moment you subscribe to the zero-sum view of life, where prolonged mania is the only attainable neutral state. Sidestepping this peskiness denotes one of two things:
(1) Intellectual deceptiveness.
(2) Breathtaking inability to grasp anything a few notches above rudimentary concepts.
Hence the humdrum objections from other ethicists, many of which may ring true when tailored to positive utilitarians and so-called negative utilitarians who are really just deprivationalists in sheep's clothing.
Even (the usually levelheaded) Harris can be guilty of this, as illuminated by his last appearance on the Very Bad Wizards podcast (Episode # 63, minute 91). According to Harris' axioms, in his own words:
"I suffer the Utility Monster problem; if an alien being came to earth and drew so much pleasure from consuming us that it completely swamped all the pleasure –– and not just pleasure, but all the wellbeing in every relevant sense –– that we would accrue by persisting as a civilization, then, viewed from above, the right thing to happen is to have us sacrificed to this Utility Monster. Now that's not to say that I think I would run willingly into its jaws, but globally, I would succumb to that argument".
But this is textbook moral myopia. Harris would just have to drop utility-maximization and apply the bulwark of disutility. No moral tragedy would unfold by doing so. An intergalactic creature would merely have to go about its business without consuming the human race, the way it managed to do before stumbling upon planet earth. But alas, Harris has hitherto been reluctant to draw a line on this. Is he unable distinguish between mandatory and supererogatory components of ethics? Does he not ponder Act vs. Rule manuals? Or could it be that he is simply unaware of the minimization-only clause? Perhaps he's not willing to see it through. I'd like to leave open the possibility for additional nuance, given the number of readers and listeners Harris may feel the need to placate by not overcomplicating things. Then again, the guy straightforwardly admitted that we ought to curry favor with the interests of a monster at everyone else's expense, so in all likelihood, this is me being unduly optimistic about his receptiveness to disutility-only.
All that said, what if particularism was invoked to allow for a permanent maximization of above-neutral states in outliers where the cost to below-neutral states amounts not to a consumption of all living organisms at the hands of one Utility Monster, but to a "speck of dust being caught in someone's eye for a few seconds" degree of triviality? If the worsening effect is indeed this innocuous, a positive utilitarian might actually have an argument for the minimalistic agitation of the eye. Reluctantly, I confess that it'd be unwise to deny the utmost betterment of a supermajority on the basis of not piling on ever so slightly to a below-neutral state of one person who's already right beneath zero. I’ll stress that this wiggle room doesn't carry over to macro overviews in the here and now, as the type of package-deals acceptable to contemporary positive utilitarians are anything but benign. Ditto for most other renowned moral theorists, like Kant.
I'll always stand in awe at the intellectual acrobatics of Kantians who convince themselves that deontology always treats individuals as ends and never as means, only to turn around and slavishly accept Kant’s dense arguments for why suicide is always wrong. Kant actually believed that all suicidal individuals would be committing a wrongdoing by following through on their unwillingness to wait for death by natural causesIntrapersonal life-taking was the paragon of wrongness, no matter the severity of the suicidal person's plight. If this isn't a refusal to view individuals as ends unto themselves, I don't know what is. The arguments are closet consequentialism 101, but that never stopped Kantians from posturing moral purity before, so why expect anything different now? The interpersonal intrusiveness inherent in Kant's condemnations of suicide cannot be overstated. Bemoaning the non-absolutism of consequentialism (specifically with negative-minded theories which don't always treat every individual as an end) entails eschewing this element of Kantianism. That no concerted efforts are made to expose this duplicity does not bode well for the state of moral discourse, whether online or in academia.
Returning to maximization and outliers; Strictly speaking, benign trade-offs are possible in micro contexts, which often involve a benefactor who is consensually participating. In macro talks however, the wall between positives and negatives should not be torn asunder, as those discussions engender cases with higher volumes of hardship and with many participants not giving consent for their role in the package-deal (like a suicidal person who'd rather not be used as a means to Kant's moralistic ends).
At any rate, the micro contexts are prevalent enough to give us sufficient cause to disengage Principlism on this front as well.
Now that I have remedied the unnecessary resoluteness behind the Average and Negative verdicts, I'll intensify my justifications for seesawing between Classical and Preference touchstones.
Considering that transgressions against a preference or dispreference are brought about by an act itself, rather than the ensuing consequences of an act, it's crucial to note Preference Utilitarianism's unique capacity to operate under non-consequentialist guidelines. This as far as I know has not been explored in the literature on Preference Utilitarianism (its purveyors seem to consider it a token consequentialism, as do its critics). Once we grant that preferences or dispreferences can be contravened without the wronged party being experientially impacted, we must acknowledge Preference Utilitarianism as both consequentialist and non-consequentialist in character, and therefore as ripe for particularism.
It can be expected of any traditionalist to push back with incessant; how can any type of utilitarianism be non-consequentialist in character? The answer is best understood by familiarizing oneself with the categorical distinctions between Preference and Classical constituents. Generally, to commit a wrongdoing against a human is to violate said human's preference or dispreference regardless of whether the violation disturbs qualia, whereas to wrong an animal is to cause it physical harm in some way, and nothing else. One is qualia-neutral, the other qualia-specific. Pouncing on these differences, the post's theme surrenders normative weight to configurations of morally relevant features, discerned on a piecemeal basis, thereby devastating Principlism and its lofty goals of having a single utility criterion shoehorned into all cases.
I can write volumes on the widespread intuitiveness behind a Classical/Preference one-two punch strategy, in recognition of how commonplace animal welfare concerns are in the west as of late. Just recall the backlash against Michael Vick over his ownership of an interstate dog-fighting ring; capitalizing on animalistic barbarity in the interest of gambling and –– one can safely assume –– unabashed entertainment for him and fellow canine-exploiters.
Dogs fought. It's what they'll do, unless trained/conditioned otherwise. The scandal is noteworthy because Vick didn't just get into legal trouble –– he had his reputation permanently tarnished as a result of the broader culture's belief in the unethicality of allowing/training dogs to fight. It's true that many of Vick's critics still internalize carnism, or view it in an anodyne light, but their outrage over the mistreatment of some animals is still a step up from the common attitudes of just a century back.
Compare this outrage to the very same culture's growing appetite for UFC; watching humans in octagons battering each other into stupefaction. Surely, owning and operating dog-fighting rackets begs for condemnatory feedback because the competitors harm each other without an ability to comprehend the purely instinctual driving forces fueled by natural endowments. But why should this (particular) verdict inform our judgment on the UFC as an organization? The UFC enables introspective humans to cause immense harm and injury to other introspective humans without legal ramifications, period. Rightfully calling foul on dog-fighting doesn't open the door to moral wisdom in reaching an identical verdict when analyzing human competitors who do considerable damage to opponents in an organized yet equally savage environment. The human participants suffer physically during bouts just as the dogs do, but their informed willingness to sign up –– despite an awareness of inevitable physical toil each self-aware subject continually reflects on –– serves as the premier factor behind the asymmetrical features of the two cases. Monistic Classical Utilitarianism extended to humanity would beg to differ, since it crassly regards all sentient organisms as nothing more than repositories of value. A moral system that reduces you to a repository of value is a system that rallies behind having your well thought-out interests paternalistically subverted whenever said interests are inharmonious with qualia-welfarism. We're talking intrapersonal risk-stifling by outside forces, not interpersonal risk-stifling by outside forces. Key difference.
If one were to arrive at NAPU (or other versions of Preference Utilitarianism) through pro tanto principles, the formula would have to maintain evaluative interchangeability across human and non-human patients, and likewise with CNAU (or other versions of Classical Utilitarianism) once acclimated to the same pro tanto Principlism. I've yet to encounter an argument detailing the unsoundness of holding the monistic qualia-welfarism offered by token Classical Utilitarianism as ill-suited to humans, and one explaining why the qualia-absent foundations of token Preference Utilitarianism would ever be suited to animals. Principlism is rightly roadblocked the moment the ethicist envisions catchall axioms with a tinge of askance, prioritizing features-over-principles. Though I didn't recognize them as such –– at least not formally –– while promulgating Negative Average Preference Utilitarianism last year.
  • Total Utilitarianism vs. Average Utilitarianism
  • Positive Utilitarianism vs. Negative Utilitarianism
  • Classic Utilitarianism vs. Preference Utilitarianism 

All three keystones of disputation fail to withstand particularistic scrutiny from a pragmatic standpoint, thus a conscientious utilitarian will not stick to one-over-the-other 100% of the time. The strongest case against Principlism is seen with the Classical vs. Preference schism, followed by the Total vs. Average schism. Finally, a highly deflationary particularism is observed within the Positive vs. Negative schism, given enough "speck of dust" outliers. Ultimately, there are no invariable verdicts.
Now that I've nitpicked my earlier works to pieces, note that there will be no more posts on consequentialism or non-consequentialism in the foreseeable future. I plan to move on from normative theories and to offer some thoughts on metaethical theories. This doesn't mean I'll never do first-order ethical analyses again, it just means that I'm a bit burned out on normative ethics right now and would prefer to explore the challenges of second-order theories.
Managed to keep this relatively short. Hope to get into the habit of doing the same with every new post. Or shorter.