Devin Kalish

1658 karmaJoined Jan 2022New York, NY, USA


Hello, I'm Devin, I blog here along with Nicholas Kross. Currently working on a bioethics MA at NYU.


-Response to "Welfare and Felt-Duration"

I seriously doubt I'll have anything ready for this by draft amnesty week (maaaaybe a rough outline if I can post that), but it could be one of the most useful things for me to get feedback on, as it is what I'm planning to write for my thesis (not with that title, though if I adapt and shorten it into a blog post after writing it, it might have a title like that in the way this earlier post does):

Essentially, it's on the topic of the issues subjective experience of time give to aggregative theories of well-being, and will especially use this preprint:

As a jumping off point. The basic idea will be to argue that theories of wellbeing that view individuals as the fundamental subject of morality, and moral value just being about doing what is good for these subjects, have a viable route to accommodate subjective time as opposed theories which view individuals more like containers which are filled with a certain amount of universal value, and views this value as the basic subject of morality. Essentially this will take on the "speed of thought" view Mogenson discusses, and views the wellbeing contribution of a given stimulus as relating to the "amount of subject" it impacts, and not just the raw amount of good or bad feeling the time period contains. I will also spend a good deal of time on objections to this suggestion, such as skepticism of the idea of personal identity, theories of consciousness that make feeling and thought relatively inseparable even in principle such as illusionism and phenomenal intentionality theory, and the objection that we have as much (or more) reason to identify with our feelings than our thoughts.

-Existentialist Currents in Pawn Hearts

Unlike the others here, I probably won't post this one, either for draft amnesty, or on the forum, at all, as it isn't sufficiently relevant (though I did make a related post on the forum which uh, remains my lowest karma post):

But it's a post I am strongly thinking of putting on my own blog. Like my most recent blog post:

This is one that I would be adapting from an undergrad essay, this one on the connections between existentialist thought and the Van Der Graaf Generator album "Pawn Hearts". There are ways I like this essay even more than my last one, but I think it in even rougher shape.

-The Case for Pluralist Evaluation

This is another one I started and never finished. I actually specifically started it as an intended draft amnesty entrant last year, but I think it is in even rougher shape, and I also haven't looked at it in a long time. Basically this was inspired by the controversy a little while ago over ACE evaluating their movement grants on criteria other than impact on animal welfare. I don't defend this specific case but rather make a general argument against this type of argument. Basically the idea is that most EA donors (especially the great majority who claim to be somewhat "cause neutral") care about things other than the impact of charities within their intended causes. Insofar as a charity evaluator is looking at charities that could have impacts in other cause areas, evaluators have a reason to take this into account if they can. Global Health and Longtermist charity evaluators probably aren't ranking the charities ACE is at all, so it's up to ACE to incorporate their impacts in other areas into their ranking (and then be clear about the priorities/decisions that went into this).

-Against National Special Obligation

I started a draft on this one a while ago, but haven't looked at it again for a while, and probably won't post it. The idea is pretty simple and I think relatively uncontroversial amongst EAs: we do not have special obligations to help people in the same country as us. This is not just also true, but especially true in political contexts. I see the contrary opinion voiced by even quite decent people, but I think it is an extremely awful position when you investigate it in a more thorough and on-the-ground way rather than noticing where it matches common sense.

(Sorry I don't know how to do formatting very well, so I can't make one of those great big titles others are using here):

-Appendices to: Some Observations on Alcoholism:

Appendix posts are post I write on my blog sometimes like these:

which essentially respond to things I now disagree with in the original post, or expand on ideas I didn't get to cover very thoroughly, or just add on relevant ideas that I feel don't deserve their own separate article. This one would be to my recentish article on my struggles with alcoholism:

It hasn't been all that much time, but lots has happened since then, and since it is one of the most salient things in my life right now, that I think and talk about a huge amount due to my treatment, it is hard not to have takes I want to write out about it. I don't have much yet, but it is most likely to be the piece I post, if anything, for draft amnesty week. I would especially appreciate commentary from people with experience in recovery, and especially with better knowledge than me about addiction to: marijuana, kratom, ketamine, and stimulants. I have drafts for the firs two already, but they are pretty spare, and I don't have anything for the other two yet.

On the topic of hopepunk (and to an extent Secular Solstice since that came up in another comment), I want to mention the Mary Ellen Carter by Stan Rogers, which is quite important to me for similar reasons.

Oh my god I am so excited for this, I've been trying to put together a thesis paper on this exact subject! I have had such a hard time finding prior relevant work.

Fair, fair, and fair. I do think there are mitigating responses to all of these points as well, but I’ll concede the point that these are cases on the fringes of convenience for him. I was personally more thinking about IQ if I had to think of an example - he seems to place more importance on it than most people, but as I think he pointed out in a blog post I can’t find now, this leads just an awful lot of people to really statist and quasi or outright fascist views, so even if it doesn’t actually imply fascism, it’s an area where adopting a view closer to the average would be more convenient, provide an additional reason he could give against such people.

Thanks, these are interesting examples (and if I’m commenting too much someone please tell me, I can do that sometimes I think), but I range from somewhat to very skeptical on them as counterexamples:

  1. This is the most plausible one I think, it really does seem like it lends support for greater intervention on certain views. However, it’s hard to find a view of population ethics/population sciences that does not have some population it prefers, or that gives a good account of why incentives will produce it naturally. My impression is that most people either have quite implausible views that are completely neutral, or just, as with Caplan, think this isn’t a road we want to go down.

  2. I think Caplan thinks education would be pretty fine if you took away the public funding/subsidies, it would just naturally become much less common (though he does make note of the issues with a market quickly optimizing “conformity” signals specifically, which might be the greatest source for market inefficiency here for him)

  3. He seems to think humans are primarily irrational in the areas where anarcho-capitalism takes away our power and primarily rational where it would leave us power, see his arguments about for instance how much people are willing to spend in rent to live in immigrant free neighborhoods versus what they actually vote for in immigration policy, or more broadly his work on the irrational voter. His views aren’t always convenient in this area, but some amount of human irrationality is very hard to plausibly deny, and the version he believes in is pretty convenient for him imo.

I think any question that attempts to get at the heart of the strongest objection to a public figure's worldview is going to sound like an accusation, because in a way it is, mostly I hope it's taken as an ultimately good natured, curious, and productive accusation. On the point of libertarianism being a "good lens", I mean libertarianism as a policy suggestion. I am voicing suspicion that there isn't a plausible lens behind this policy view that generalizes so well in both philosophy and the real world that it doesn't leave Caplan's slate of opinions looking suspicious, but for what it's worth my second question was basically asking him to propose one.

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