Is there a significant difference in the outcomes of consequentialist ethical theories in most cases?

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Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz
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Is there a significant difference in the outcomes of consequentialist ethical theories in most cases?

Post by Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz » Mon Mar 18, 2019 1:51 pm

So in this post I'm either going to be stating something that is painfully obvious to most people here, or I'm going to be stating something which is so wrong that it is laughable.

So the major strands of consequentialism are utilitarianism (good consequences for maximum amount of people), altruism (good consequences for the maximum amount of people, excluding oneself) and egoism (good consequences for oneself).

It seems to me that the outcome a utilitarian's actions should, in most cases, be the same as the outcome of an altruist's actions due to the fact that both of them will consider the majority's happiness. The only difference would be in a situation where you can either sacrifice your happiness to benefit another person or sacrifice their happiness to benefit yourself. A utilitarian would say that either could be moral, however, an altruist would say to sacrifice your own happiness.

Now we come to egoism. Egoism is acting in one's own interest rather than in the interest of society at large. However, I would argue that the outcome of egoism would be similar to the outcome of utilitarianism or altruism. The reason being that people have a conscience which can weigh on them when they commit acts which are not in the interest of the greater good, and therefore to act in the interest of society at large is to act in one's own interest. Not only does this make egoism similar to utilitarianism and altruism, but in turn it makes utilitarianism itself similar to altruism itself.

So that's why I think altruists, utilitarians and egoists, if they follow their philosophy to its logical conclusion, will act similarly. What do you think?
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Post by brimstoneSalad » Wed Mar 20, 2019 7:37 am

Utilitarianism and altruism come out very similarly, since yes there are billions of people and only one of us, so there are only a few small-scale cases where there are different outcomes.

In terms of the egoists: What you conveyed is the model of egoism that egoists advocate to argue that the consequences aren't as repugnant as one might assume.
It does NOT translate that well into practice. Of course, it's possible that's because people who choose to be egoists are just shittier people than utilitarians or altruists, so it's biased toward being populated by psychopaths.
You're asking an empirical question of how real people act under the system, and it's hard to look at that because we have a bunch of self-selecting samples.
So: It may just be that fundamentally good people become altruists and shitty people become egoists, and the effects of their innate characters make the outcome of egoism terrible.

But let's run with the idea, and make a thought experiment where a mix of fundamentally good and bad people are randomly assigned to follow egoism or altruism so that half of each group are assigned to each system.

The good people end up doing almost exactly the same thing whether they're egoists or altruists because, just as you described, it's in their interest.
...But the bad people... well, that's another story. As altruists they are compelled to not be bad, whereas as egoists they're congratulated for their self interest at any cost.

So, whether you think egoism results in hell on Earth or is only slightly worse than altruism depends on what you believe the fundamental ratio of good to bad people is.

And now let's flush that thought experiment down the toilet and consider actual psychology of ethics and self-identity. Few people are fundamentally good or bad, but rather there's an interplay and feedback between beliefs (and beliefs about our own identities through our self-narratives) and our actions. In a very significant way, "fake it til you make it" is a rule of reality. We become the roles we adopt. Doing good things changes who you are at your core and makes you a better person. It's VERY likely that acceptance of moral frameworks like altruism actively make people better human beings, whereas frameworks like egoism actually make us shittier regardless of how we started out by shouting down that little voice saying something is wrong and amplifying selfish impulses as the right thing to do.
So the fact of egoists being worse human beings in practice *may* not just be self-selection, it may also be egoism doing its job and changing the person who holds the belief to be fundamentally more selfish, self-absorbed, and less empathetic.

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Post by Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz » Wed Mar 20, 2019 1:17 pm

@brimstoneSalad Thanks for the response. I agree that it would be a bad idea to encourage people to become egoists, regardless of whether it is egoism that leads to selfishness or vice versa.

I'd think that another factor which would count to whether egoism could have similar consequences to altruism and utilitarianism in theory would be whether it is usually in most people's self interests (even if they are a bad person) to act to the benefit of others (e.g. You might help others out only because you know that they will return the favour).
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Post by Jebus » Wed Mar 20, 2019 2:02 pm

Wow! Blizzy has become quite the intellectual thinker.

@brimstoneSalad Excellent reply, particularly where you touched on self-perception theory. Nothing to add.
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Post by Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz » Wed Mar 20, 2019 3:29 pm

Jebus wrote:
Wed Mar 20, 2019 2:02 pm
Nothing to add.
I think that sums up the entirety of your post in a nutshell. Although a better way of describing it would be "Full of sound and fury and signifying nothing".

You would be better off doing what you said you would do in the Senate thread:
Jebus wrote:
Wed Sep 05, 2018 6:55 am
@Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz I won't be replying to anymore of your posts.
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Post by brimstoneSalad » Wed Mar 20, 2019 5:51 pm

Thanks @Jebus
Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz wrote:
Wed Mar 20, 2019 3:29 pm
I think that sums up the entirety of your post in a nutshell. Although a better way of describing it would be "Full of sound and fury and signifying nothing".
Zzzz, please do not not drag this grudge around to other (and new) threads.
Maybe just remind people that you aren't Blizzy (and that even if you *were* dead-naming is uncool). Beyond that Jebus paid you a sort of compliment. This was a pretty insightful thread and an important question.

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Post by brimstoneSalad » Thu Mar 21, 2019 2:31 am

Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz wrote:
Wed Mar 20, 2019 1:17 pm
I'd think that another factor which would count to whether egoism could have similar consequences to altruism and utilitarianism in theory would be whether it is usually in most people's self interests (even if they are a bad person) to act to the benefit of others (e.g. You might help others out only because you know that they will return the favour).
That's part of the egoists' argument, that treating others badly is bad for you too, but that one has some major holes in it: the disadvantaged who won't be able to pay you back. That's where the egoists presume humans will help them out of the kindness of their hearts (and economically sanction those who torture others for fun). Charity is supposed to fill that hole left after game theory promotes mutually beneficial relationships among the powerful.

Nice thought, but it just doesn't work. People are bad at effective charity even when they do care, and egoism congratulates them for not caring.

There will always be classes of people, and even classes of sentient being generally, where there's no reasonable expectation of payback or consequence for mistreating them; particularly where there's less expectation than the benefit gained from exploiting them.
Slavery actually can be economically beneficial to the slave holders, and at least historically humans have been very bad at punishing those behaviors economically (all the while protesting slavery and wearing clothing made with the sweat and blood of slaves). We're seeing a *little* more awareness with things like veganism in actual economic protest of animal agriculture, but for every vegan or vegetarian there are ten or so people who may not like it but who don't care enough and are still willing to support it. It helps a little, but if we resist legal reform we're handicapping ethics in a big way.

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Post by Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz » Thu Mar 21, 2019 2:53 am

brimstoneSalad wrote:
Wed Mar 20, 2019 5:51 pm
Thanks @Jebus
Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz wrote:
Wed Mar 20, 2019 3:29 pm
I think that sums up the entirety of your post in a nutshell. Although a better way of describing it would be "Full of sound and fury and signifying nothing".
Zzzz, please do not not drag this grudge around to other (and new) threads.
Maybe just remind people that you aren't Blizzy (and that even if you *were* dead-naming is uncool). Beyond that Jebus paid you a sort of compliment. This was a pretty insightful thread and an important question.
Understood. I think I got a bit carried away there. Very sorry about that.
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Post by Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz » Thu Mar 21, 2019 3:01 am

In summary:
- Fuck egoism.
- What happens in the Senate thread stays in the Senate thread.
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