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  #41  
Old 04-26-2010, 04:38 AM
bjkeefe bjkeefe is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Sex, Pleasure, and God (Jesse Bering & Neil Sinhababu)

Quote:
Originally Posted by AemJeff View Post
Shorter anybody reading this post:

"Huh?"
I think it's a plausible Shorter, if a little exclusive. He forgot, for example:

Additional shorter Bloggingheads:

* Lower taxes and less regulation solve all problems. Oh, and incremental change. That, too.

* Conservatives don't get enough respect.

* The Republicans have great ideas, but the Democrats won't listen to them.

* Obama is ruining everything.

(Maybe he only listens to the diavlogs where both diavloggers are not from the right, is the point.)
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  #42  
Old 04-26-2010, 07:20 AM
Florian Florian is offline
 
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Default Re: From push-pin to sex with dogs

As bloggin noggin observes above, psychological hedonism (or egoistic hedonism) needs to be distinguished from the ethical doctrine, usually called utilitarianism, which identifies the good with the pleasant or the pleasurable. It may be true that human beings are driven mainly by the desire to maintain or "increase" their pleasure (utilitarians never explain what increasing pleasure means, and for good reason: it means nothing), but even if psychological hedonism were true, it by no means follows that a pleasurable state of consciousness, such as the state of consciousness which sexual intercourse with dogs might induce, tells us anything about whether sexual intercourse with dogs is good or right. Even if I felt no disgust at such an act, I might still regard it as wrong on other grounds---for example that it is beneath the dignity of a human being to seek sexual pleasure without the consent of his partner (we call this rape when it involves another human being). The analogy between the sensation of pleasure and the perception of color that Sinhababu draws (lifted from G E. Moore?) breaks down because interactions, even with animals, involve more than one consciousness--obviously--and have real consequences, even today when sex has become for many people a harmless recreation or a neurotic compulsion. (By the way, how do we know that dogs would enjoy sexual intercourse with human beings?).

Jeremy Bentham famously wrote: "Prejudices apart, the game of push-pin is of equal value with the arts and and sciences of music and poetry." J.S. Mill tried to ennoble utilitarianism by suggesting that there are higher and lower pleasures. It is clear, however, that Bentham has won and that f...... your dog has become the equivalent of push-pin.

Last edited by Florian; 04-26-2010 at 07:33 AM..
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  #43  
Old 04-26-2010, 09:00 AM
Bloggin' Noggin Bloggin' Noggin is offline
 
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Default Re: From push-pin to sex with dogs

Quote:
Originally Posted by Florian View Post
As bloggin noggin observes above, psychological hedonism (or egoistic hedonism) needs to be distinguished from the ethical doctrine, usually called utilitarianism, which identifies the good with the pleasant or the pleasurable. It may be true that human beings are driven mainly by the desire to maintain or "increase" their pleasure (utilitarians never explain what increasing pleasure means, and for good reason: it means nothing), but even if psychological hedonism were true, it by no means follows that a pleasurable state of consciousness, such as the state of consciousness which sexual intercourse with dogs might induce, tells us anything about whether sexual intercourse with dogs is good or right. Even if I felt no disgust at such an act, I might still regard it as wrong on other grounds---for example that it is beneath the dignity of a human being to seek sexual pleasure without the consent of his partner (we call this rape when it involves another human being). The analogy between the sensation of pleasure and the perception of color that Sinhababu draws (lifted from G E. Moore?) breaks down because interactions, even with animals, involve more than one consciousness--obviously--and have real consequences, even today when sex has become for many people a harmless recreation or a neurotic compulsion. (By the way, how do we know that dogs would enjoy sexual intercourse with human beings?).

Jeremy Bentham famously wrote: "Prejudices apart, the game of push-pin is of equal value with the arts and and sciences of music and poetry." J.S. Mill tried to ennoble utilitarianism by suggesting that there are higher and lower pleasures. It is clear, however, that Bentham has won and that f...... your dog has become the equivalent of push-pin.
I suspect that NS would regard appeals to "dignity" as based in reactions of disgust and would have a relatively easy time discounting this.
The importance that we accord to consent is not something that a hedonist can recognize. (He can recognize that something is less pleasant without consent, but a full-fledged concern for autonomy and informed consent is not something that the hedonist can recognize. And this seems to me to count as a powerful argument against hedonism. Jesse actually raises this issue, but NS wierdly doesn't seem to see it as relevant.
(In the case of a dog, of course, there are limits to consent and autonomy. Dogs cannot really be autonomous and a hedonist's picture of consent might fit dogs pretty well.)
Above I pointed out that you could believe bestiality was OK based on other views of the good than hedonism. I should also have pointed out that the hedonist could well support our rejection of bestiality -- using the kind of long-term arguments NS uses against masturbating on BHtv etc.

There are goods that can arise for people who enter into sexual relations with other people that are not available to humans who enter into such relations with dogs (and these goods may arise even if one enters the relationship casually). The hedonist account of these goods (intimate mutual love and respect) is probably not the most plausible account of them, but a hedonist who doesn't try to account for this value is thereby making his view much less plausible. If a feeling of disgust keeps people from entering into certain sorts of dead-end relationships with animals at the expense of more open-ended sexual relations with humans AND it prevents certain forms of mistreatment of animals, the hedonist can regard such disgust as ethically justified.

Just one more point, I don't think classical utilitarianism is just the same as what I called evaluative universal hedonism. To get classical utilitarianism, you need to add consequentialism. Utilitarianism is usually understood not as simply a theory of what is intrinsically good, but of what one ought to do. For hedonism (a theory of the good) to become utilitarianism, you need to add some claim about how the good relates to what one ought to do. (And then, many current utilitarians reject the classical utilitarian's assumption of hedonism in favor of a more liberal (but in some sense still somewhat subjective notion of the good -- e.g., preference satisfaction).

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  #44  
Old 04-26-2010, 12:37 PM
claymisher claymisher is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Sex, Pleasure, and God (Jesse Bering & Neil Sinhababu)

I've been reading the werewolf's blog since the 1970s. Nice to see him on BH.
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  #45  
Old 04-26-2010, 12:57 PM
Ocean Ocean is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Sex, Pleasure, and God (Jesse Bering & Neil Sinhababu)

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Originally Posted by claymisher View Post
I've been reading the werewolf's blog since the 1970s. Nice to see him on BH.
1970's?
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  #46  
Old 04-26-2010, 04:54 PM
Neil Sinhababu Neil Sinhababu is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Sex, Pleasure, and God (Jesse Bering & Neil Sinhababu)

Hi guys! I've been reading the comments, and I thought I'd jump in and say a few things.

First, I have to express my appreciation to anyone who watched the whole thing. I'm still kind of surprised that people thought it would be a worthwhile use of an hour to hear me and another guy talk about stuff. I'm flattered.

During the hedonism discussion, I was just trying to answer whatever question Jesse was putting to me at the time. So my answers didn't properly lay out the whole structure of the view, and a whole lot of stuff didn't get cleared up. To deal with up two issues that have been raised:
-I am defending a form of evaluative hedonism, and I think motivational hedonism and rational egoistic hedonism are false.
-I definitely don't think all our anti-hedonistic intuitions are grounded in disgust. I think a bunch of other emotions are involved. But the general form of argument I was running with disgust applies there.

Just now I've finished some big revisions to the paper where I argue for hedonism. Jesse saw an earlier version of this. I think this one will make some things a bit clearer. If you want to take a look, I've posted it here (I don't know if links work in comments, so just copy the HTML):
http://sites.google.com/site/neiladr...edirects=0&d=1

On the walking babies thing: I'm trying to criticize the explanatory power of the fact that a particular psychological feature would be adaptive. I read Chapter 6 of Jesse's book, and it seemed that the fact that something would be adaptive was playing a heavier role in explanations than I thought was warranted. The idea was that putting as much weight on adaptive advantage in explanation as Jesse does would generate false predictions (like: walking babies).

Finally, let me sympathize with the people who were kind of dissatisfied with the way that some of the presentation went. I'm new to this format, and I'll have to think more about how to do it better.

If people have any further questions or comments, feel free to ask. I'll be back.
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  #47  
Old 04-26-2010, 06:46 PM
Meng Bomin Meng Bomin is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Sex, Pleasure, and God (Jesse Bering & Neil Sinhababu)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ocean View Post
And preferably don't use a Science slot.
And I'll provide a second endorsement of this.
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  #48  
Old 04-27-2010, 02:47 AM
Florian Florian is offline
 
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Default Re: From push-pin to sex with dogs

Bloggin' Noggin writes....

Psychological hedonism is a theory about motivation---that all actions aim at maintaining or "increasing" the pleasure of the agent. I have never understood how Bentham's "felicific calculus" could be the basis for an ethical theory. The duty to promote "the greatest good of the greatest number" cannot be derived from the fact, if it is a fact, that all men seek pleasure. One could just as easily derive from this so-called fact a justification for sadism---as the Marquis de Sade did. There is no scientific way of calculating, measuring or evaluating pleasures. Pleasures are subjective, variable and unquantifiable. But both classical utilitarianism and its more recent variants assume that pleasures can be measured and evaluated.

Last edited by Florian; 04-27-2010 at 02:52 AM..
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  #49  
Old 04-27-2010, 03:05 AM
listener listener is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Sex, Pleasure, and God (Jesse Bering & Neil Sinhababu)

Thanks, Neil, for your comments, clarifications and openness to criticism.
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  #50  
Old 04-28-2010, 02:24 AM
hamandcheese hamandcheese is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Sex, Pleasure, and God (Jesse Bering & Neil Sinhababu)

Quote:
Originally Posted by listener View Post
Thanks, Neil, for your comments, clarifications and openness to criticism.
Seconded.

Your reply really cleared up the walking baby comment for me, however I still think its a non-sequitur. Any aspect of human psychology that comes hardwired is either there for an adaptive purpose or is white noise. The criterion of its adaptiveness is thus not only a good criterion, but perhaps the only, or at least root criterion.

The reason a walking new born is not logical is because a walking new born is not particularly well adapted to its environment. Its being born into an environment of care and nurturing where immediate mobility is nearly insignificant. The truth in this should be obvious if only for the fact that walking babies didn't evolve in humans. If it was a good adaptation it would have evolved.
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Last edited by hamandcheese; 04-28-2010 at 02:31 AM..
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  #51  
Old 05-01-2010, 02:52 PM
Bloggin' Noggin Bloggin' Noggin is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Sex, Pleasure, and God (Jesse Bering & Neil Sinhababu)

Thank you for commenting here, Neil. I certainly see how the medium takes some getting used to. My apologies for the harsher parts of my own comments.
It's taken me about a week, but I've finally read the paper (as posted when the diavlog aired). Its argument is certainly more intelligible than what we were able to glean from the diavlog.
But the argument of the paper still strikes me as being a kind of non sequitur in the debate over hedonism.

Most philosophical accounts of morality treat it as an impartial balancing of different people's interests. Your own view of morality falls within this tradition. You yourself regard our interests as reducing to pleasure and the absence of pain; other philosophers would recognize that our interests can extend beyond that. You cite a case or two from Jonathan Haidt's work where people have "moral" intuitions that they cannot justify based on anyone's interests. (More sophisticated types could put together better defenses in these terms, of course, but I agree that such Thomist natural law accounts are also implausible at least as a general rule.) Just about any philosophically sophisticated account of morality will agree that where moral intuitions are inexplicable in terms of people's interests, they are mistaken and unreliable. Once we have put aside the intuitions that don't make sense even to the people who have them, are we left with enough fundamental moral disagreement (not accounted for by different non-moral beliefs) to argue against the objectivity of moral "perceptions"? It's certainly open to skeptics to think so, though I am inclined to disagree, and your examples of intuitions that are hard to explain within the framework of interests and impartiality) do nothing to show that fundamental disagreement remains. This is the first non sequitur.

But there's another, and a worse one. Within the actual subject matter of morality as philosophers have understood it for just about forever, there remain two sources of disagreement: we might disagree about what people's interest really are (the theory of the good) or they might disagree about how to balance people's interests impartially (theory of the right).
Your argument that our moral intuitions are unreliable would show AT BEST that our intuitions are unreliable about one or the other (the right or the good). Yet you seem fallaciously to conclude that the source of disagreement must be either our intuitive sense of the good or BOTH our sense of the good and our intuitive sense of impartiality.

Yet if only one of these were the source of disagreement, we'd really have to expect it to be our sense of impartiality and the right. We'd have to expect that (though we are far from infallible at this) we would be better at judging our own good than at judging how to balance one person's good against another (especially when we or our friends are involved). You yourself invoke a version of this point in your case for hedonism. Introspection ought to give us a good idea what fulfills us and what doesn't, while introspection about how to balance people's interests might remain pretty unreliable.
But when we introspect about cases like the experience machine, we find that we value other things besides conscious states -- actually benefiting humanity, loving actual other people and actually being loved back, actually being admired etc.. (Introspection shows us that pleasant conscious states are A good, but introspection about the Experience Machine seems to show that we value other things as well.) Insofar as we are regarding introspection about what satisfies us to be reliable, it counts against hedonism at least as much as it counts for it.

You never take up the EM or really ANY of the standard arguments against hedonism in your paper -- your whole argument apparently rests on the double non sequitur of the argument I attribute to you above.

But apparently you would respond that introspection on what satisfies us is itself based on emotion and (therefore) unreliable except where the goods in question are themselves conscious states, but this is entirely undefended. When I consider the experience machine and introspect whether I would prefer to have exactly the same experiences (same pleasures, same disappointments etc.) as a result of the EM or as a result of real life, I see very clearly that I prefer the latter. You can insist that I must be swayed by my emotions -- really I couldn't care one way or the other. But this is begging the question.

And can we for a second admit that Haidt's assumption that emotions are intrinsically unreliable is deeply unsophisticated -- ignorant of things philosophers since Plato and Aristotle have understood. Emotions are certainly not infallible, but they do seem often to be more reliable guides to the social world than unaided reason would be. Autistic people don't lack emotion, but there's a great deal they don't directly perceive about the way others are disposed toward them. Very smart autistic people can eventually work use reason to achieve a theoretical approximation of what most of us can sense emotionally in an instant, but it's likely that this approximation remains less reliable than the kind of direct emotional perception of what others are feeling that most of us have.
There's no doubt that emotions can lead us astray -- as sense experience can as well (optical illusions, the sense that the Earth is not moving, but the sun is etc.). A sophisticated approach to sense experience doesn't just take it at face value, but it equally doesn't just dismiss everything that sense experience tells us on the grounds that it sometimes leads us astray. A more sophisticated approach to emotion would first recognize that some people are better emotional perceivers than others -- Bill Clinton and Barack Obama are both much better at grasping emotionally what's going on in a group of people and of responding to that reality in an emotionally appropriate way than I am. A more outgoing person has a better sense than the shy person of the danger of social encounters. The shy person fears the outcome of such encounters far more than is really warranted. The next step would be to get a bit more fine-grained about what makes for unreliable emotional perception. If you want a reasonable judgment about whether someone is telling the truth, you might try to find a person to make the judgment who didn't have racial prejudices against the people he's meeting. If you want a reliable judgment about the moral badness of certain actions, maybe you shouldn't put people in a room with a disgusting smell. And finally, you can demand that the perceptions be rationally coherent and explicable -- something like the attitude of science toward sense experience.

Sense experience is "unreliable" (i.e., far from infallible) but if we are careful, we can make use of it to get a better understanding of the world. Emotional "perception" is similarly "unreliable", but it doesn't follow that, if we use it with care, we can't come to a better understanding of the social world.

It's clear from the moral dumbfounding cases that people we should be suspicious of judgments that we can't make sense of -- it's a very long way from that point to the refusal to credit all moral intuitions or all emotional perceptions. People are reasonably reliable at detecting fake smiles (they do considerably better than chance but they are not infallible). When people say why the smile was fake, they say that the person wasn't "smiling with his eyes", but they can't do much better than that in explaining what they were attending to. Scientists have studied how we do it and have found an explanation -- in genuine smiles the orbicularis oculi and the pars orbitalis muscles contract, crinkling the area around the eye in a way that we can't achieve at will. Our emotional sense of the 'warmth" of the smile was onto something, and scientific study can lead us to greater clarity about what this something was. This rational understanding can make us better detecters of fake smiles, but we wouldn't get anywhere if we just noted that our detection wasn't infallible and concluded that therefore it was "unreliable" and therefore not ever to be trusted.
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  #52  
Old 05-03-2010, 06:58 PM
SkepticDoc SkepticDoc is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Sex, Pleasure, and God (Jesse Bering & Neil Sinhababu)

This is another example of why bestialism is a forbidden abomination
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  #53  
Old 08-09-2010, 02:58 PM
NChen NChen is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Sex, Pleasure, and God (Jesse Bering & Neil Sinhababu)

Bering seems like he was completely lost. He is clearly out of his league and could not produce coherent and well reasoned responses to Neil's points.
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