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What is Morality?

10/22/2010

Page 21:

What is Moral Value? Morality is concerned with reasons for actions. Reasons for actions to feed the poor, etc. But we’ve had a tough time finding reasons for actions that really exist. Intrinsic value doesn’t seem to exist. Neither do duties or gods. So are there any reasons for action that actually exist?

Yes.
Desires exist.
In fact, as far as we know, desires are the only reasons for action that do exist. If the poor did not desire to be fed, there would be no reason for action to feed them. If children did not desire to avoid torture, there would be no reason for action to avoid
torturing children. If we all had desires not to eat food but to soak up sunlight, then we would have no reason for action to feed the poor. Instead, we’d have reasons for action to give them access to sunlight. Desire is the source of all moral value.
Wow. This is amazing. This is exactly what I tried to outline before. Even if God exists, it’s our desire for heaven, perfection, ‘goodness’ that leads to the answers for the ‘ought’ questions. The only reasonable way to answer an ‘ought’ question is to appeal to desires.
Page 23:
For now, just notice that the above statements about Johnny and the rapist are objectively true. If you say that it is “good” for the victim to be raped, relative to her desires to not be raped, you are objectively wrong. Her desires to not be raped are reasons for action that exist in the real world, and it is objectively true that her being raped thwarts her desires to not be raped.

Aha, so this is where objective morality is being pulled from. Desires objectively exist. What violates these desires is an empirical question. If you think that something is ‘good’ for someone relative to their desire not to be raped, boom- wrongness! This is persuasive, and much better explained than what goes on in my own head.

Page 24:
So when talking about universal morality, “the desires in question” are all desires. So, “morally good” means “such as to fulfill more and greater desires than are thwarted, among all desires.” And “morally bad” means “such as to thwart more and greater desires than are fulfilled, among all desires. For there is no reason to exclude certain desires from the evaluation. We cannot even exclude the rapist’s desires to rape. No desire is intrinsically better or worse than any other desire, because intrinsic value does not exist. Instead, we must evaluate the moral value of desires in the exact same way we evaluate the moral value of everything else! We ask, “How well does this desire fulfill or tend to fulfill other desires?
Gosh. This is way too genius. I’m reading this over, and writing too much at each point, but each paragraph is such a gem of clarity. I’m perplexed I haven’t come into contact with this before. Morality concerns all desires. Ah, but what is a desire? That sounds like a tough question. I wonder if it can be defined.
Page 31:

Say there are 20 sadists who desire to torture a child, and one child who desires to not be tortured. Desire fulfillment act utilitarianism would say it is good for the sadists to torture the child, because that is the act that would maximize desire fulfillment. In contrast, desire utilitarianism evaluates desires themselves, based on their tendency to fulfill or thwart other desires. The desire to torture children tends to thwart more and greater desires than it fulfills, so it is a bad desire. A person with good desires would not torture children, so torturing children is a wrong action to perform

This is an example that I have trouble following. I can see someone poking a hole in my understanding of desire utilitarianism pretty freakin quickly. I guess before she’s ready to take a roll in the real world, it’ll take more than just a 43 page intro. I gotta read a book suckaaa.

Page 37:

A good desire is one that tends to fulfill more and greater desires than it thwarts, considering all desires.

Okay, so the reason that 20 molesters shouldn’t molest one child is that their desire to molest that child tends to thwart more and greater desires than it fulfills. Since each act of molestation thrwarts many more desires than it fulfills, that desire to molest is not a good one. Hmm. It’s still that part that I’m having trouble getting. I guess this is the difference between pure utilitarianism and desire utilitarianism. It’s also the response to say sacrificing a child to harvest their organs to save 5 children. I still need to understand this more.

Page 38:

It’s very easy to slip into thinking that “the right act is the one that fulfills the most desires,” which is false. The right act is not the one that fulfills the most desires. The right act is the one that a person with good desires would perform, and a good desire is one that tends to fulfill more and greater desires than it thwarts (think of the knobs).

Okay, I think I’m getting this now. The reason that we call rape wrong is that, even if it were to satisfy 20 rapists, and harm 1 woman in one case, it would still be the case that if more people had the desire to rape, more desires would be thwarted in the long run. The reason that it’s wrong for each act of molestation to occur is that if that desire were turned up, it would thwart more desires in the long run. Sooooooooo. . . the question, the uncomfortable question is: If 20 molesters and one child are the only living creatures on the planet, then it would seem that yes, turning that molesting desire knob up would lead to more desires fulfilled than desires thwarted. Still, there’s the idea of ‘greater’ desires. And I wonder what that may mean.

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