James Aitchison

169 karmaJoined Welwyn Garden City, UK


I am researching philosophy and EA ideas after a career in finance and real estate. See my website http://jamesaitchison.co.uk


I find the 'market' analogy helpful.  There is a range of possibilities from centrally lead to radically  pluralistic, and your free market suggestions show how a pluralistic approach may be implemented.  The market analogy highlights several ideas  - some central management should be cause neutral, competition can be helpful, the culture should be open to a marketplace of ideas. There is a role for leaders, but they need to be respectful of those working towards different views of how to do good. 

I recommend the audio version on Joe Carlsmith Audio.  For me, the reading by the author made this essay very engaging and conveyed additional meaning, with the final section very strong.  

You conclude that there is a degree of Easterlin Paradox - that happiness increases less with growth over time than would be expected from how happiness increases with income within a country and how it increases with income levels between countries.

To what extent do you think that the remaining Easterlin effect is due to status levels being an important aspect of happiness so we don’t benefit much if our neighbours get richer with us?  Or do respondents adjust  life satisfaction scales as life expectations advance with incomes over time, so that happiness improves but  is not measured?

Richard - Thank you for a super post. A great statement of the view that problem cases held against utilitarianism would also be problems for any other theory that aimed to be systematic.

I don't entirely agree that to stop systematic theorising is to stop thinking.  Thinking can still be applied to making good decisions in particular cases and the balance between the particular and general principles can be debated.   

I totally support your arguments in your post and your replies against neutrality on creating positive lives.  I think this blog post by Joseph Carlsmith also makes the case against neutrality very well.

Thank you also for the  recent series of fine articles on your blog, Good Thoughts.  I would strongly recommend this to anyone interested in moral philosophy, utilitarianism and EA. 

Thank you, an important one to include.  It shows that you can certainly make longtermism look bad if you add together all the crazy train things that have been said.  To my mind, shows the wisdom of MacAskill concentrating on presenting an inclusive and commonsensical approach to longtermism In WWOTF and his media appearances.

Any others to add to the list?

This post and reply are quite a triumph for the connectivity of the EA Forum!

Thank you for telling your story.

I agree that 'obligation' is an optional,  man-made concept.  Altruism can be framed in different ways, for example as an opportunity.  

It is also possible to separate the normative question of 'What is best from a universal perspective?' from the personal, psychological question of 'What am I going to do?' The individual can then put working for the general good  in its place as only one amongst several personal goals.  

I also found  MacAskill’s discussion of ethics on the January 2018 80k podcast fascinating, so thank you for setting out the key extracts and for your analysis.  

It is particularly useful to see Korsgaard’s argument against Parfit on personal identity put so clearly. 

I strongly agree that metaethical starting points influence the choice of normative theories.  A Kantian focus on individual agency is a possibility, to be considered with other ways of conceptualising practical reason and morality.

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