Saturday, January 13, 2018

On Constitutionalism and Consequentialism



It is better to risk sparing a guilty person than to condemn an innocent one.
                Voltaire

            Using forensic linguistics as evidence for a search warrant to be issued, which ultimately lead to Ted Kaczynski’s arrest, was never before done in the history of Western law.  From a Constitutionalist perspective, if similarities in language, spelling and beliefs are not compelling evidence of a crime, then Ted Kaczynski should never have been arrested.  And allowed to continue his bombing activities until evidence that reaches the threshold of the burden of proof be met.
            The purpose of this essay is not to argue for shoulds.  Not to argue that it is right or wrong to follow Constitutionalism or Consequentialism, only that they are at odds with each other.  Any Consequentialist system which has health and safety as two main priorities would allow any police officer to enter your home at any given moment as long as those police officers are well trained (which many in America aren’t) and will not do harm to you or your belongings unnecessarily.  We could even establish that the only things which are to be illegal in this hypothetical country be things which directly harm other people – harm being the “bad” consequence we are trying to avoid.  Theft, rape, murder, forgery, filming child pornography and so on.  Creating a “Libertarian” but non-Constitutional government, where human freedom is valued but not at the expense of even the off chance that you committed a crime because your language is similar to Ted Kaczynski (which is certainly a possibility, albeit an unlikely one).
            We must accept that our Founding Fathers were Constitutionalists – not Consequentialists.  That they valued human freedom, the right to say, “you will not enter,” more than they valued human life or well-being.  Classical Liberalism, such as the kind seen in Kant and Voltaire, is starkly non-Consequentialist.  It is not until John Stuart Mill in the 19th century that Liberalism and Utilitarianism are argued to be happy bed-fellows.
            But someone could argue that the above quote from Voltaire is a Consequentialist statement – or at least one that is not in stark opposition to Consequentialism.  The consequences of a Liberal system with a high burden of proof for convicting criminals is superior than a illiberal system where men can be convicted on hearsay or circumstantial evidence.  Regardless of whether this is true, this is certainly a position one can hold.  But it is the burden of proof of search and seizures which is starkly non-Consequentialist.  For what are the bad consequences of a man entering your home, if, as I previously said, he is cordial and professional. At worst a loss of an afternoon and accusing looks from the neighbors.  But what are the bad consequences of not searching a man’s home because the burden of proof is not met?  Potentially more murders, rapes, theft, or whatever crime a man can commit can continue.
            A Constitution as an absolute document of rights a man has is in essence non-Consequential.  For the very notion of rights as we understand them is non-Consequential. Consequentialist rights are privileges which can be removed whenever they cease to be convenient for the community that you live in.  If the main goal of a Consequentialist system is to promote happiness (as it is in Utilitarianism), and you are saying something that creates far more unhappiness than happiness – then the argument is your voice should be censored.
            The Utilitarian will remark that in this hypothetical, although it is true that the Utilitarian does not want the man to speak, because he does not want unhappiness, it is wrong to assume he will then necessarily censor the man.  Why is this you may ask?  Because censoring a man creates a precedent that produces more suffering than allowing him to speak.  This argument has been made on drug use – rather effectively I might add.  That though a Utilitarian does not want more suffering, even if he believes drug use leads towards suffering, he can still be adamantly opposed to incarcerating drug users because putting them in jail creates even more suffering.  But let’s more closely examine the free speech case again.
            John Stuart Mill argues we will all suffer the consequences of ignorance if we don’t allow others to speak and to consider their opinion.  And while this might be true in a nation of injustice and ethical insanity, in an absolutely just nation if one speaks out against a theoretically perfect system and convinces others of an evil nature it does not possess it would undoubtedly do more harm than good.  In a Technocratic society, where an all-wise machine makes all of our life choices and administers everything for our benefit many will likely rebel and wish to maintain their absolute human autonomy through rebellion.  And while this point of view can be sympathized with, it cannot be on Utilitarian grounds – assuming this system does in fact create more happiness than all possible alternatives.  To cling to absolute freedom, is to cling to priorities that are non-consequential. 
All discontent that exists in this system (and some must if there is rebellion against it) would either be seen as from those who are unable to adapt to the system, as simply those who are different, or as mentally ill people who need to be adjusted.  Those who would be seen as not merely different but sick.  This is something French philosopher Foucault speaks of that Ted Kaczynski would empathize with. Kaczynski himself wrote that a technological society is eager to label all criticism with it as madness to disinvalidate it without having to make legitimate rebuttals to said criticism.  Totalitarian societies such as Saudi Arabia, which labels Atheism as a mental illness clearly is an example of this tactic of authoritarian dismissal of criticism.
As a brief aside, the Technocratic society I outlined is what Hobbes should have been arguing for instead of the Absolute Monarchism of his day.  For one can easily argue that it is moral to rebel against the King if his law is unjust, since it is indeed possible to create a more perfect union.  Let alone arguments that it is moral to rebel for rebellions sake.  Hobbes main retort would be to say that the King creates what is to be determined as justice, that neither justice nor injustice can create outside of the Social Contract, which is an antiquated notion that few social and political philosophers have found convincing.

In conclusion, freedom can indeed be easily supported on Consequentialist grounds, but not the absolute freedom that appears in early Classical Liberal thought and is the starting premise of the American government.  Despite the fact that American history is rife with horrendous violations of it.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

P.U. 343434

Sorry, it's been more than two and a half months since I've posted guys.  Was busy with my last semester of school.  I might take some of my essays and post them here.

Have a final honors paper, I'll probably go into that later.

Yeah... I think that's good for a return post.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Yoshi’s Island DS



Finished Yoshi’s Island DS about a week ago and just beat Pikmin for the third or fourth time today.  Yoshi’s Island was incredibly easy until the last world.  I didn’t bother getting a perfect score in every level as I tried to do in Yoshi’s New Island.  As easy as this one was the one for the 3DS was even easier.  This one I beat the first round of secret levels but didn’t bother unlocking the second round for each.  It’s very generous with lives but I did end up getting a game over because I am awful at skiing.

Maybe I’ll post more for you guys soon.  I have papers due in a bit.  Fingers crossed I won’t procrastinate too hard.



Saturday, August 26, 2017

Science and Morality - revised ed.


Recently there have been some who have proposed that morality should be treated like a science.  Anyone who has taken anything from an introduction to ethics or is truly reflective on the subject of ethics knows why this is patently absurd.  Science, though not metaphysically sound, is reliable because human beings agree on the sensory data of the external world we share.  If I see a purple bottle, you are very likely to see the same.  Also, the bottle will act the same way regardless of if you or I act upon it.  But morality in the descriptive sense is the science of intuitions which vary widely based upon cultures and individuals.  And not only this, there is nothing from the impressions of moral feeling that tell us that something is right or wrong, just as there is absolutely nothing about any “fact” of science that can tell us whether this is the real world or not, and therefore what constitutes reality which is the domain of metaphysics.  This is why Skepticism seems the most honest response humans have come up with in regards to both the problems of knowledge (science) and the problems of living (applied ethics).
The moral realm of humanity is much alike the aesthetic realm.  People who like science fiction movies often think that Terminator 2 is great, but people who don’t like the genre are less likely to like the film.  People who have the moral intuition that what ought to be is a world of maximized happiness will promote policies that produce this; people who instead feel that what is right, what ought to be is utmost respect for human autonomy will instead promote a low tax rate and mention of the human suffering from laize-faire economic policies will not affect them unless their hearts can be stirred to change their implicit ought.  When we “reason” with a person’s morality, unless we are showing errors in their logic, we are really arguing with their hearts, not their minds, for the premises of morality come from the heart, the intellect being unable to produce premises of ethics that follow from reason.
Another distinction between the descriptive accounts of science (sense data) and moral intuitions is the former is not malleable while the latter is.  A person’s attitudes towards universal health care, abortion or a litany of other topics is in part based on their genetics but largely based on their upbringing and life experiences.  People are both inculcated into identifying with certain views and are likely to have the experiences to have certain viewpoints based on their geography, socioeconomic status and other factors. 
Unless an ethical system begins with a premise that is necessarily true all ethical systems constructed by Man begin with premises that do not follow from reasoning but from moral intuition or some other passion of the human animal.  Humans become convinced of their views as definitively correct, not because they are reasoning improperly, but because they believe they are acting with reason when they are instead acting upon their sentimental convictions.  Like a man of faith who believes he knows there is a God, when instead he has faith.  There is nothing wrong with faith, but it’s my conviction that we should be honest and know when we are acting upon reason and when we are acting upon sentiment. 
While skepticism of metaphysics produces no qualms for the lives of people living their daily lives, the reality of ethical skepticism does.  Reason can only give us conditionals, and which premise we accept we can have nothing but sentiment to choose from.  But we have to make a choice; normative knowledge is something we literally lack in entirety and yet it is the thing that is the most imperative for humans to have.  This acknowledgement allows people the freedom to see their sentiments as they are.  Just as a man of faith who sees his belief as unfounded by reason yet retains it.
That is not to say that logic is not used at all in ethical reasoning.  But rather, like almost all knowledge we have, it is a series of conditionals, or “if, then” statements that at their best are logically valid but the premise is still unproven.  That is to say, though the premise of Utilitarianism is ungrounded, if we accept it through our moral intuitions, it does follow that we should ban forced labor if we also have knowledge that it creates immense suffering and in the process removes actual and potential happiness.  Reason is invaluable to guide us to our goal but what our goals in life are only the passions can dictate.  A moral sentiment, one that guides us away from our most pressing inclinations for selfishness and instead follow a higher code or law, a premise that requires restraint is for humans equivalent to faith. 
It takes a kind of strength to believe what is not seen, just as it is a kind of strength to act on a premise that provides no immediate reward.  But while the Christian acts as if there is a God and Heaven, he assumes Heaven to be good and the divine order to be just.  The Moral Skeptic goes one further then the Agnostic Christian, for while the Christian is unlikely to have speculated if there ought to be a Heaven, the Moral Skeptic does not even know if his ethics are correct but must act as if they are.  Skepticism in the descriptive realm and skepticism in the ethical are as different as not knowing if there is a man behind the curtain and not knowing whether the man that may or may not be behind the curtain is your father.  The psychological implications, though not rational, is immediately understood by all.  Because being a human means we both feel and must act on sentiment.  Otherwise we could not live.

It was once said that humans are half-beast and half-divine, and there is no better example of this than the normative inclination.  Humans feel the world should be other than it is but can never demonstrate why, just as the beast feels its belly should be full but cannot provide an argument as to why.  If the divine in Man is His ability to reason, then the action of any logically valid source is in him the divine.  But what course he takes is a matter of faith.  It is not the same as the animals’ actions on sentiment however for the purely animal never considers if what it is doing is right.  The Ethical realm is the purely “divine” or above animal inclination realm for Man, for it is this realm where he ponders what he should do and must have the strength to either choose the moral path or live knowing he could have chosen a moral code but instead chose the path of self-indulgence.

Skepticism and Question of Universals


Recently I’ve thought of what a Skeptic would say of whether universals exist.  To the extent that we don’t know if the world is real is to the extent we cannot use our sensory experience as evidence confirming or denying its existence.  But if we take this into account and talk of the world we inhabit, regardless to whether it is metaphysical reality, then it appears that the moderate realist position is the one that follows.  For something to be a universal is to have a shared quality, something that does not exist in any one particular thing but is an attribute of something shared within a host of objects.  We see a tree and see it has yellow and green leaves.  To the extent it has green leaves is the extent it does not have yellow leaves or any other color of leaves, for to talk about something being green is to exclude it being any other color.  This must mean we know something about green.  Not how it manifests in something, or even if it really exists, but simply that it is a property that excludes other colors to the extent that it exists.
We see many things out in the world.  More than one of them is green.  Kant and other Idealists argue that universals exist only in the minds of beings.  It’s how we construct our perceptions of the world. But if this is the case then particulars must only exist in the mind as well.  For green is not a construct of reason, but of empirical sense data, as is every particular we see, taste, smell and so on.  A bird could be trained to prefer a green ball over a blue ball through pavlovian conditioning.  Therefore, it exists in their minds as well.  Since we’ve given skepticism assumption here, we don’t know the ontological status of any objects.  But to the extent we know the appearance of the tree and the ball, we know it shares the property “green.”  And we know that all corporeal objects have to share the properties of weight, height, density and so on.  A box with no height is not a box.  It is something which cannot exist as we understand what is a “box.”  Therefore, universals have to exist for any particular to be a coherent idea.
To Kant’s argument that it exists in the mind of the rational being (although seeing similarities does not seem to be a product of reason), I would bring up Hume’s argument of a new born not knowing what seems self-evident to us.  Just as a child would not know if a ball can bounce until it observes it, so no one would have knowledge of the concept of a certain texture until they experience it.  Over the person’s life they observe that many foods have the same or similar texture and through conversation with others learns a name for the experience.  Many universals exist on a sliding scale.  Like height.  Colors are a good example when one is discussing what is green or red.  Of course, we have specific colors like forest green and brick red, and to the extent that it’s one specific color it cannot be another, but color is something that can be mixed seen in leaves that are a mixture of primary colors whether homogenous or spotted throughout the leaf.  But the case remains, that to the extent that something is lime green is to the extent it cannot be tangerine.

The world may or may not exist only in our minds, and we have no way of verifying which is the case.  But the status of universals is not distinct from particulars, so though I would consider myself an Anti-realist, in the Nominalist-Realist-Idealist debate of universals the Moderate Realist position, or Aristotelian Realism, seems the most sensible.

Friday, August 25, 2017

On Science and Morality (work in progress)


Recently there have been some who have proposed that morality should be treated like a science.  Anyone who has taken anything from an introduction to ethics or is truly reflective on the subject of ethics knows why this is patently absurd.  Science, though not metaphysically sound, is reliable because human beings agree on the sensory data of the external world we share.  If I see a purple bottle, you are very likely to see the same.  Also, the bottle will act the same way regardless of if you or I act upon it.  But morality in the descriptive sense is the science of intuitions which vary widely based upon cultures and individuals.  And not only this, there is nothing from the impressions of moral feeling that tell us that something is right or wrong, just as there is absolutely nothing about any “fact” of science that can tell us whether this is the real world or not, and therefore what constitutes reality which is the domain of metaphysics.  This is why Skepticism seems the most honest response humans have come up with in regards to both the problems of knowledge (science) and the problems of living (applied ethics).
Another distinction between the descriptive accounts of science (sense data) and moral intuitions is the former is not malleable while the latter is.  A person’s attitudes towards universal health care, abortion or a litany of other topics is in part based on their genetics but largely based on their upbringing and life experiences.  People are both inculcated into identifying with certain views and are likely to have the experiences to have certain viewpoints based on their geography, socioeconomic status and other factors.  The moral realm of humanity is much alike the aesthetic realm.  Humans share similarities in their tastes but also differ greatly.  People who like science fiction movies often think that Terminator 2 is great, but people who don’t like the genre are less likely to like the film.  People who have the moral intuition that what ought to be is a world of maximized happiness will promote policies that produce this; people who instead feel that what is right, what ought to be is utmost respect for human autonomy will instead promote a low tax rate and mention of the human suffering from laize-faire economic policies will not affect them unless their hearts can be stirred to change their implicit ought. 
When we “reason” with a person’s morality, unless we are showing errors in their logic, we are really arguing with their hearts, not their minds, for the premises of morality come from the heart, the intellect being unable to produce premises of ethics that follow from reason.

Unless an ethical system begins with a premise that is necessarily true all ethical systems constructed by Man begin with premises that do not follow from reasoning but from moral intuition or some other passion of the human animal.  That is not to say that logic is not used at all in ethical reasoning.  But rather, like almost all knowledge we have, it is a series of conditionals, or “if, then” statements that at their best are logically valid but the premise is still unproven.  That is to say, though the premise of Utilitarianism is ungrounded, if we accept it through our moral intuitions, it does follow that we should ban forced labor if we also have knowledge that it creates immense suffering and in the process removes actual and potential happiness.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Confusing Every and Only


I’ve thought about starting making videos on Youtube.  I don’t know how to edit and I know making a “theatric” or visually appealing video is time consuming, but I think I might start just to make introduction to logic videos.  My first idea was to explain a very basic concept in logic.  And that is that every x and only x are very different things.

POP QUIZ:  If I were, in theory, a racist, and as two Australian men walked by my house I remarked, “only Australian people are criminals.”  Would this, were it to be true, be sufficient to know whether they were criminals?

A – Yes
B – No

The answer is No.  For the statement, “only Australian people are criminals,” says nothing about these two Australian gentleman.  It only indicates that they could be criminals.  Not that they necessarily are.  If I saw two Arabic gentlemen walk by my house, and if the proposition “only black people are criminals,” were true, then I knew they couldn’t be criminals because they weren’t black.  In theory, there could be only one criminal in the world.

Now, remove the above statement and replace it with, “all black people are criminals.”  If the statement were true then what would we know about a black man and a white man walking past us?

A – Neither are criminals
B – Both are criminals
C – We know the black man is a criminal but know nothing of the white man
D – We know the white man is a criminal but know nothing of the black man

The answer is C.  For if the statement were true, and if the man is black, then to have the statement both be true and the black man not be a criminal is a logical impossibility.  However, just knowing all black people to be criminals (in theory of course) says nothing about the criminality of people of different races.  Every black and white person could be a criminal.  Every black person and all white people save one could be criminals.

Now, take the statements above and combine them.  All black people are criminals, and only black people are criminals.  Apply this to the same scenario as above and answer the same question:

A – Both are criminals
B – We know the black person is a criminal but don’t know if the white person is
C – We don’t know if either are criminals
D – We know the black person is a criminal and the white person isn’t

The answer is D.  For if both statements are true then we not only know that any black person is a criminal (from the all statement), we know that any other person who is non-black cannot be a criminal (from the only statement).


Adam from YMS, Ben from the Drunken Peasants and numerous others commit the logical error of mistaking “all” and “only” statements.  Logic is important.  Though I can’t ground that statement in pure logic to know that it’s necessarily true.