To Dr. Jonathan Miller's Transcriptions of Examples in the Musical Themes Book

Home

Robert's Translation of Kholoruuf's "Notes on Goodness"


“Notes on Goodness”


The diagram-like figure below is a sentence and not a diagram. It describes a special kind of relation:

causation notation

The figure says, “A causes B, with a probability of about 75 percent.” The markings above the “B” are meant to convey the probability of about 75 on a scale of 0 to 100.

Choice

We can describe a situation in which a person has a set of choices (including nonaction, which is a choice). He or she must choose one and only one of them.

CEANA notation

This complex statement describes the possible results of each alternative, and the probabilities associated with each possible result. We call this complex kind of statement a CEANA (cause, effect, action, nonaction) statement.

We can add a vertical dimension to the horizontal probability scale. The vertical axis indicates the amount of happiness that is expected to result from the choice.

causation notation

The following states that if action A is done, there is a 75 percent chance that happiness in the amount of 30 will result.

causation notation

The rectangle represents the product of probability times happiness; call it “probable happiness.”

The following states that if action A is done, there is a 50 percent chance that happiness in the amount of -20 (i.e., unhappiness in the amount of 20) will result.

causation notation

Here, since the rectangle that represents probable happiness is black, we know it represents the probability of unhappiness.

The Goodness-Template Project

When one opens the Goodness Box, which is kept inside the ivory Truth Box in the Grand Truth Engine, he or she will find only one template slide there. But I keep six more Goodness-template slides on hand. Why?

I am the director of the Grand Truth Engine. If I could know with clarity what the prime directive or directives (which surely are exactly like the directives within the consciences of good people in general) of my conscience are, then I would maintain only a single template slide for the projector.

But the nature of our conscience is hidden even from ourselves. There are a number of respected theories, and until it becomes clear which theory is correct, I have directed that templates that represent the thought of each of the following seven kinds of dialecticians be kept here and that the slide that the third director placed inside the Goodness Box (the utilitarian slide) remain there. Here are the seven kinds of dialecticians.

1. The utilitarian [Atl: kashjanehr—literally “smile maker”) believes our conscience contains only this one fundamental directive:

“Maximize the probable happiness of all people.”


2. The radical altruist [Atl: petehrbat—literally “sufferer”] believes our conscience contains only this one fundamental directive:

“Maximize the probable happiness of all people except yourself.”


3. The egalitarian (Atl: kezhtankk—literally “balancer”) believes our conscience contains only this one fundamental directive:

“Maximize the equality of the distribution of probable happiness among all people.”


4. The utilitarian egalitarian (Atl: Shomash—literally: ?) believes our conscience contains only this one fundamental directive:

“Maximize everyone’s probable happiness, and maximize the equality of its distribution.”


5. The conscientious egoist (Atl: Tahettke—literally “self alone”) believes our conscience contains only this one fundamental directive:

“Maximize the potential happiness of yourself.”


6. The radical libertarian (Atl: Mekhatshar—literally “unencumbered”) believes our conscience contains only this one fundamental directive:

“Do not harm innocent people.”


7. The deontologist (Atl: Alekattuparu—literally “here-now theorist”) believes our conscience contains at least one “nonconsequentialist” directive (that is, one directive that does not have to do with results of the action). For instance some deontologists might believe our conscience contains this set of directives:

“Be beneficent. Don’t lie. Don’t steal. Keep your promises. Don’t kill.”

In this case only the first directive is consequentialist.

Arguments


Here’s an argument against the radical altruist: If we have a conscience as shown in 2 above, we wouldn’t feel that we ourselves count. But we do feel that we ourselves count. So it’s false that we have a conscience as shown in 2, above.

Here’s an argument against the deontologist: Suppose an innocent person, being hunted by a murderer comes to your house for protection. You hide the person in your house. The murderer comes to your door and asks if you’ve seen the person he’s after. “Don’t lie” is typically claimed by deontologists as being one of the conscience’s directives. So if we have a conscience of the kind that the deontologist typically claims we do, then either we would not lie to the murderer, or we would lie and feel guilty about it. But in reality we would lie to the murderer and feel no guilt about it. Therefore we don’t have such a deontological conscience.

Here’s an argument against the utilitarian: Consider the following CEANA statement.

CEANA notation

Action 1 produces a potential happiness of 3,200; action 2 produces a potential happiness of 3,201. Even though action 2 produces slightly more potential happiness overall, we would choose action 1.

Here’s another argument against the utilitarian: You promise your dying grandfather that you won’t sell his property. After he dies, if you sell the property, you’ll feel guilty.

Here’s an argument against the egalitarian: Consider the following statement.

CEANA notation

If our conscience were egalitarian, we’d choose action 1; but of course we’d choose action 2. Therefore our conscience is not egalitarian.

I feel that the radical altruist, the egalitarian, and the conscientious egoist cannot be correct, but I included their corresponding template slides in the Goodness box because these theories have some respectability.

I am an advocate of the utilitarian-egalitarian view, but work must be done to discover precisely how the probable happiness and the equality of distribution are to be balanced against each other. I also believe potential happiness should be thought of as potential fulfillment. This actually appears to turn the utilitarian element into a deontological system.

An Argument against Moral Relativism

Considerations deriving from our faith demolish moral relativism. But even a secular argument, to be rational, must deny relativism. If I were to disregard for the moment what we know of the ways of heaven, I would say, “The directives found in my conscience are fundamental desires and are in no way justified any more than is my desire to eat a shehe berry. My faculty of reason neither supports nor invalidates the content of my conscience.

“My conscience directs my actions to achieve a certain result (even a deontologist’s conscience—if such exist—will include consequentialist directives). Speaking is an action. Thus my telling someone, ‘It’s wrong’ must be directed toward the same result; my aim is to accomplish that result via influencing, using mere speech, the will of another person. On the other hand, if I were to say ‘It’s wrong for me,’ I would be less likely to accomplish that result, so it cannot be something that my conscience wants me to say.”


To Dr. Jonathan Miller's Transcriptions of Examples in the Musical Themes Book

Home