Wednesday, June 14, 2006

A slippery slope argument against G theories.

A theory is a G-theory iff:

  1. states of the world outside the subject's mind make a subject's life better, in the sense that the fact that they obtain explains why it is that one is better off. They can be the ground of prudential value. (More formally, if X is a state of the world = [the obtaining of P which is not a mental state of A; A's experience of P] and X is good/bad for A, then it can be in virtue of the obtaining of P that X is good for A)
  2. the theory endorses the Experience Requirement, namely: the impact on our well-being of some state of the world is entirely determined by features of the world the subject is conscious of.(More formally: if X is a state of the world, and X is good/bad for the subject A, and it is in virtue of P obtaining that X is good/bad for A (where P obtaning is not a mental state of A), then the state of the world X must include A's experience of P)

I think that although G-theories can be logically coherent, they cannot represent an authentic ethical alternative between Mental Statism (the view according to which the only things that are good for A are A's mental states) and welfare "externalism" (the view according to which states of the world of which the subject is not aware cannot intrinsically make a subject better or worse off.) I will argue that, whatever its details, a theory that qualifies as a G-theory boils down to a view that has, at most, the same ethical attractions of Mental Statism.

A defender of a G-theory will argue that one of the strongest arguments against Mental Statism is Nozick's Experience Machine argument. Since a G-theory may include goods that are not mental states (ex. agency, a functioning body, real achievements), a G-theory can stand the Experience Machine objection. (As I show at the end of this long post.)

First of all, like Mental Statism, the Experience Requirement imposes a strong constraint upon which things can be good for a subject and which cannot. For example, the Experience Requirement implies that accomplishing something in one's life does not make one's life better intrinsically (as I argue here). NOTE 1. But there is a bigger problem. The Experience Requirement produces a practical "far from the eye, far from the hearth" attitude that is responsible for the ethical convergence of G-theories and Mental Statism. Here is a SLIPPERY SLOPE for this claim.

Consider selective memory and biased perception (of the opinion of other people, of our strenghts and weaknesses, etc.) Psychologists tell us that our minds regularly indulge in these process, to a certain extent; and it may be a good thing that they do for the sake of our well-being. Selective memory and selective attention fall into the psychological cathegory of "self-deception." I think that "self-deception" is a good term for them, because to my eye it is clear that selective attention or memory can be as deceiving as real delusions.

A G-theory implies that one ends up better off by forgetting or failing to perceive facts that are bad for him (when the subject can be sure that the strategy will not be counterproductive.) This is because the Experience Requirement says that something cannot make us worse off if we don't know about it. But if we push this strategy too far, the subject ends up in a world that is not too different from a delusion. Consider the following EXAMPLE:

  • George suffers from great anxiety. One day he sees the advertisement of the the "Experience Machine" program, by the M.A.T.R.I.X corporation. He understand that they may offer him an alternative to his painful life, namely a life connected to a virtual reality lacking situations that could unleash his anxiety. He finds himself faltering about the perspective of connecting himself forever to the machine, so the experts of M.A.T.R.I.X. recommend him a different product, the Attention Deflection Machine. The Attention Deflection Machine consist in a scanner and a sound-synthetizer. The scanner examines the world around George looking for situations that may unleash his anxiety. The synthetizer creates sounds that are able to deflect George's attention away from the potential source of distress.
  • George finds this device much more agreeable than the Experience Machine. After all, he will be able to carry on in his life almost as before, inhabiting his own body, perceiving it, and perceiving reality. The only thing that differs is that this reality is not the whole reality, but who knows everything anyway?
  • George goes home, and the machine enables him to ignore the fact that his cat is dying, until he finally forgets about it (the maid brings away the dead body of the cat.) He also stops thinking about the fact that he was recently fired and had to find a job less paid than the previous one. He does not care anymore about signs that tell him that in his new work environment people don't like him. And he feels happier than before. Not that he positively believes his cat is healthy, his new job is good compared to the old one, and his collegues love him. He just fails to realize that the opposite is true.
  • Something similar happens with respect to George's perception of his own body. Of course, he does not get the sensations that he would get if he possessed a younger, stronger and more beautiful body. He does not cease feeling his body and the painful or annoying sensations that it produces. But he cannot understand their very existential meaning. For example, he does not realize his body is aging, getting weaker and less beautiful, also because he does not look at himself in mirrors. When pains are too strong, he cures the problem and forgets about them as soon as the pain is over.

In this example we have extreme forms of "selective attention", which from the point of view of G-theories are certainly good for him. (We may assume that George had no hope to improve his job situation, and the cat could not be helped.) I think that many of the reasons one can have not plug to the Experience Machine apply to the Attention Deflection Machine as well. The result of using both machines are very similar: one way or another, you end up living in a dream.

My own position is that, just as the Experience Machine, the Attention Deflection Machine would make a normal person's life a worse life for him, intrinsically, in that it fakes reality. In the case of the Experience Machine this is just more evident. (Moreover, one may dislike in particular the idea of loosing the control of one's body. But this is not all that is wrong with the Experience Machine.)

(Of course the Attention Deflection Machine can be overall in the interest of a person like George; in pathological cases, the advantage gained by depriving the person of full awareness of reality may compensate this loss, as it is the case with the drugs that are usually prescribed in pathological cases.)

Therefore the ethical objections against G-views and Mental Statism are analogous. Both theories deny the prudential value of living an authentic reality.Therefore I would conclude that, even if Mental Statism and G-views differ formally, from the ethical point of view they are substantially the same. G-theories do not deserve to be distinguished from Mental Statism as a relevant alternative in the ethical domain.

Notes
1. Summing up what I argue there: the notion of accomlishment has to be reworked to such an extent in order to be coherent with the experience requirement that we end up talking about something completely different. Although I have not examined the issue in detail, I guess that something similar is true of other "externalist" goods, such as truth, or control.

90 comments:

Eric Schwitzgebel said...

Nice thought experiment!

But now I want to know this: What one notices, knows, and thinks about surely has some bearing on the quality of one's life (apart from it's effects on the future success of one's actions) -- e.g., by affecting one's emotional state. How do you work that back in without falling into a G-theory?

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Michele said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michele said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Buy Levitra said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Payday loans said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Phentermine said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Phentermine said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonimous said...

Nice! Nice site! Good resources here. I will bookmark!

Anonimous said...

Excellent website. Good work. Very useful. I will bookmark!

Maxwells said...

I see first time your site guys. I like you :)

PaydayLoans said...

bg2LJM You have a talant! Write more!

Auto insurance company said...

6SKOmn Magnific!

Hydrocodone said...

FDyDWG The best blog you have!

indiana insurance said...

Rli57J Good job!

all that remains tour dates said...

Please write anything else!

buy the drug fioricet online said...

actually, that's brilliant. Thank you. I'm going to pass that on to a couple of people.

celebrex celexa effects side tiazac warfarin said...

Hello all!

insurance agents in marietta georgia said...

Magnific!

purchase phentermine said...

Thanks to author.

how to buy vicodin in canada said...

Magnific!

phentermine xenical che said...

Nice Article.

hydrocodone and xanax said...

Nice Article.

canadian pharmacy online phentermine online pharmac said...

Nice Article.

JohnBraun said...

nivGrV write more, thanks.

college station sex said...

Wonderful blog.

donkey sex girl said...

Magnific!

animal sex library said...

Hello all!

latina having sex said...

Good job!

her first anal sex vixxxen said...

actually, that's brilliant. Thank you. I'm going to pass that on to a couple of people.

sex act mpeg said...

Thanks to author.

epony stapon sex said...

Magnific!

pantyhose group sex said...

Thanks to author.

basic sex positions said...

Wonderful blog.

bbc health sex said...

Magnific!

dads friend sex said...

Wonderful blog.

hot sister sex said...

Wonderful blog.

prison sex videoa said...

actually, that's brilliant. Thank you. I'm going to pass that on to a couple of people.

mariska hargitay sex said...

Beam me aboard, Scotty..... Sure. Will a 2x10 do?

nudity sex pussy said...

Oops. My brain just hit a bad sector.

free hardcore porn downloads said...

What is a free gift ? Aren't all gifts free?

boy boy sex said...

All generalizations are false, including this one.

boob cum sex said...

Hello all!

aika miura sex said...

What is a free gift ? Aren't all gifts free?

japanese sex machine said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
hyperpigmentation aldara said...

Lottery: A tax on people who are bad at math.

buying cialis online said...

Calvin, we will not have an anatomically correct snowman!

loans said...

The gene pool could use a little chlorine.

japan sex lady said...

C++ should have been called B

better sex life said...

Suicidal twin kills sister by mistake!

ghetto reality sex said...

When there's a will, I want to be in it.

asian sex cumshot said...

Nice Article.

amateur jail sex said...

I don't suffer from insanity. I enjoy every minute of it.

sex building women said...

Suicidal twin kills sister by mistake!

dangerous sex date said...

Build a watch in 179 easy steps - by C. Forsberg.

old phone sex said...

I'm not a complete idiot, some parts are missing!

cocaine hotlines la said...

actually, that's brilliant. Thank you. I'm going to pass that on to a couple of people.

name said...

Give me ambiguity or give me something else.

forced sex free porn clips said...

What is a free gift ? Aren't all gifts free?

raw xxx porn said...

When there's a will, I want to be in it.

anal porn site said...

Energizer Bunny Arrested! Charged with battery.

lesund sex debut said...

Friends help you move. Real friends help you move bodies.

assistants having sex said...

The gene pool could use a little chlorine.

gallery hardcore porn free video said...

Wonderful blog.

completely free gay porn sites said...

actually, that's brilliant. Thank you. I'm going to pass that on to a couple of people.

gold porn pass said...

Beam me aboard, Scotty..... Sure. Will a 2x10 do?

bba black anal said...

When there's a will, I want to be in it.

free teachers sex said...

Suicidal twin kills sister by mistake!

porn star videos said...

All generalizations are false, including this one.

hardcore sex videos said...

A lot of people mistake a short memory for a clear conscience.

ibuprofen use said...

C++ should have been called B

cheap live sex said...

I don't suffer from insanity. I enjoy every minute of it.

phone sex job said...

The gene pool could use a little chlorine.

caledonia ontario sex said...

Calvin, we will not have an anatomically correct snowman!

capital mexico sex said...

Suicidal twin kills sister by mistake!

foreign sex video said...

Friends help you move. Real friends help you move bodies.

homemade reality porn said...

Lottery: A tax on people who are bad at math.

interracial sex illustrated said...

I don't suffer from insanity. I enjoy every minute of it.

watching porn bristol said...

Suicidal twin kills sister by mistake!

julia bond sex said...

I'm not a complete idiot, some parts are missing!

porn comics sex said...

Suicidal twin kills sister by mistake!

barley legal porn said...

Hello all!

teens sex sites said...

Friends help you move. Real friends help you move bodies.

brad stone porn said...

What is a free gift ? Aren't all gifts free?

teen boys anal said...

I don't suffer from insanity. I enjoy every minute of it.

paris nude sex said...

The gene pool could use a little chlorine.

cheapest phentermine no prescription said...

What is a free gift ? Aren't all gifts free?

phentermine without prescription said...

Build a watch in 179 easy steps - by C. Forsberg.

cheap phentermine online discount phentermine o said...

Good job!