Comment author: jayquigley 08 August 2018 10:23:49PM 3 points [-]

Amazing idea! I'll be thinking and talking more about this, including with the animal-issue lobbying organizations I've worked with here in the US and California.

Comment author: jayquigley 23 May 2018 05:14:57PM 5 points [-]

For the animal advocacy space, my anecdata suggest that the talent gap is in large part a product of funding constraints. Most animal charities pay rather poorly, even compared to other nonprofits.

Comment author: Lukas_Gloor 22 May 2018 10:49:57PM *  1 point [-]

The idea is that morality is the set of rules that impartial, rational people would advocate as a public system.

Yes, this sounds like constructivism. I think this is definitely a useful framework for thinking about some moral/morality-related questions. I don't think all of moral discourse is best construed as being about this type of hypothetical rule-making, but like I say in the post, I don't think interpreting moral discourse should be the primary focus.

Rationality is understood, roughly speaking, as the set of things that virtually all rational agents would be averse to. This ends up being a list of basic harms--things like pain, death, disability, injury, loss of freedom, loss of pleasure.

Hm, this sounds like you're talking about a substantive concept of rationality, as opposed to a merely "procedural" or "instrumental" concept of rationality (such as it's common on Lesswrong and with anti-realist philosophers like Bernard Williams). Substantive concepts of rationally always go under moral non-naturalism, I think.

My post is a little confusing with respect to the distinction here, because you can be a constructivist in two different ways: Primarily as an intersubjectivist metaethical position, and "secondarily" as a form of non-naturalism. (See my comments on Thomas Sittler's chart.)

People can be incorrect about whether a thing is harmful, just as they can be incorrect about whether a flower is red. But there's nothing much more objective or "facty" about whether the plant is red than that ordinary human language users on earth are disposed to see and label it as red.

Yeah, it should be noted that "strong" versions of moral realism are not committed to silly views such as morality existing in some kind of supernatural realm. I often find it difficult to explain moral non-naturalism in a way that makes it sound as non-weird as when actual moral non-naturalists write about it, so I have to be careful to not strawman these positions. But what you describe may still qualify as "strong" because you're talking about rationality as a substantive concept. (Classifying something as a "harm" is one thing if done in a descriptive sense, but probably you're talking about classifying things as a harm in a sense that has moral connotations – and that gets into more controversial territory.)

The book title "normative bedrock" also sounds relevant because my next post will talk about "bedrock concepts" (Chalmers) at length, and specifically about "irreducible normativity" as a bedrock concept, which I think makes up the core of moral non-naturalism.

Comment author: jayquigley 23 May 2018 05:55:00AM *  1 point [-]

Thanks for your engaging insights!

this sounds like you're talking about a substantive concept of rationality

Yes indeed!

Substantive concepts of rationally always go under moral non-naturalism, I think.

I'm unclear on why you say this. It certainly depends on how exactly 'non-naturalism' is defined.

One contrast of the Gert-inspired view I've described and that of some objectivists about reasons or substantive rationality (e.g. Parfit) is that the latter tend to talk about reasons as brute normative facts. Sometimes it seems they have no story to tell about why those facts are what they are. But the view I've described does have a story to tell. The story is that we had a certain robust agreement in response toward harms (aversion to harms and puzzlement toward those who lack the aversion). Then, as we developed language, we developed terms to refer to the things that tend to elicit these responses.

Is that potentially the subject of the 'natural' sciences? It depends: it seems to be the subject not of physical sciences but of psychological and linguistic sciences. So it depends whether psychology and linguistics are 'natural' sciences. Does this view hold that facts about substantive rationality are not identical with or reducible to any natural properties? It depends on whether facts about death, pain, injury, and dispositions are reducible to natural properties.

It's not clear to me that the natural/non-natural distinction applies all that cleanly to the Gert-inspired view I've delineated. At least not without considerably clarifying both the natural/non-natural distinction and the Gert-inspired view.

you can be a constructivist in two different ways: Primarily as an intersubjectivist metaethical position, and "secondarily" as a form of non-naturalism.

This seems like a really interesting point, but I'm still a little unclear on it.

Rambling a bit

It's helpful to me that you've pointed out that my Gert-inspired view has an objectivist element at the 'normative bedrock' level (some form of realism about harms & rationality) and a constructivist element at the level of choosing first-order moral rules ('what would impartial, rational people advocate in a public system?').

A question that I find challenging is, 'Why should I care about, or act on, what impartial, rational people would advocate in a public system?' (Why shouldn't I just care about harms to, say, myself and a few close friends?) Constructivist answers to that question seem inadequate to me. So it seems we are forced to choose between two unsatisfying answers. On the one hand, we might choose a minimally satisfying realism that asserts that it's a brute fact that we should care about people and apply moral rules to them impartially; it's a brute fact that we 'just see'. On the other hand, we might choose a minimally satisfying anti-realism that asserts that caring about or acting on morality is not actually something we should do; the moral rules are what they are and we can choose it if our heart is in it, but there's not much more to it than hypotheticals.

Comment author: jayquigley 22 May 2018 05:23:21PM 1 point [-]

One thought is that if morality is not real, then we would not have reasons to do altruistic things. However, I often encounter anti-realists making arguments about which causes we should prioritize, and why. A worry about that is that if morality boils down to mere preference, then it is unclear why a different person should agree with the anti-realist's preference.

Comment author: jayquigley 22 May 2018 05:35:16PM 2 points [-]

So you know who's asking, I happen to consider myself a realist, but closest to the intersubjectivism you've delineated above. The idea is that morality is the set of rules that impartial, rational people would advocate as a public system. Rationality is understood, roughly speaking, as the set of things that virtually all rational agents would be averse to. This ends up being a list of basic harms--things like pain, death, disability, injury, loss of freedom, loss of pleasure. There's not much more objective or "facty" about rationality than the fact that basically all vertebrates are disposed to be averse to those things, and it's rather puzzling for someone not to be. People can be incorrect about whether a thing is harmful, just as they can be incorrect about whether a flower is red. But there's nothing much more objective or "facty" about whether the plant is red than that ordinary human language users on earth are disposed to see and label it as red.

I don't know whether or not you'd label that as objectivism about color or about rationality/harm. But I'd classify it as a weak form of realism and objectivism because people can be incorrect, and those who are not reliably disposed to identify cases correctly would be considered blind to color or to harm.

These things I'm saying are influenced by Joshua Gert, who holds very similar views. You may enjoy his work, including his Normative Bedrock (2012) or Brute Rationality (2004). He is in turn influenced by his late father Bernard Gert, whose normative ethical theory Josh's metaethics work complements.

Comment author: jayquigley 22 May 2018 05:23:09PM 3 points [-]

What do you think are the implications of moral anti-realism for choosing altruistic activities?

Why should we care whether or not moral realism is true?

(I would understand if you were to say this line of questions is more relevant to a later post in your series.)

Comment author: jayquigley 22 May 2018 05:23:21PM 1 point [-]

One thought is that if morality is not real, then we would not have reasons to do altruistic things. However, I often encounter anti-realists making arguments about which causes we should prioritize, and why. A worry about that is that if morality boils down to mere preference, then it is unclear why a different person should agree with the anti-realist's preference.

Comment author: jayquigley 22 May 2018 05:23:09PM 3 points [-]

What do you think are the implications of moral anti-realism for choosing altruistic activities?

Why should we care whether or not moral realism is true?

(I would understand if you were to say this line of questions is more relevant to a later post in your series.)

Comment author: Khorton 04 May 2018 09:22:18AM 3 points [-]

Several of your assumptions - for example, about taxes - are country-specific. Property tax for owners, closing costs, and tax breaks for homeowners vary from country to country. You also didn't include time or money costs from maintenance, which I expect to be substantial. Your core argument - young EAs should build up savings - could be right, but has already been discussed at length. For example, see http://globalprioritiesproject.org/2015/02/give-now-or-later/

Comment author: jayquigley 04 May 2018 10:50:11PM 2 points [-]

Just want to second that interested readers visit Khorton's very helpful link. It's a great article with a very helpful decision tree produced by 80,000 Hours & the Global Priorities Project.

Comment author: turchin 19 April 2018 08:48:09PM 2 points [-]

I am puzzled by the value of non-born animals in this case. Ok, less chicken will be born and later culled, but it means that some chickens will never be born at all. In extreme case, the whole species of farm chicken could go extinct if there will be no meet consumption.

Comment author: jayquigley 21 April 2018 05:31:21PM 2 points [-]

The idea behind trying to end factory farming for animals' sake is that animals who spend their whole lives on factory farms are enduring lives that are not worth living. It is better not to bring creatures into existence who would live net negative lives.

You're right that extinction is a (very) extreme case. It's more likely that even with a drastic reduction in factory farming, a small fraction of descendants of farmed species would be preserved--either for farming, or in zoos or similar institutions. After all, they're easy to domesticate, having been bred over the centuries for precisely those purposes.

Comment author: jayquigley 20 April 2018 10:42:40PM *  3 points [-]

Another useful, well-writtten statement of this argument is in Brian Tomasik's "Does Vegetarianism Make a Difference?":

Suppose that a supermarket currently purchases three big cases per week of factory-farmed chickens, with each case containing 25 birds. The store does not purchase fractions of cases, so even if several surplus chickens remain each week, the supermarket will continue to buy three cases. This is what the anti-vegetarian means by "subsisting off of surplus animal products that would otherwise go to waste": the three cases are purchased anyway, so consuming one or two more chickens simply attenuates the surplus.

What would happen, though, if 25 customers decided to buy tempeh or beans instead of chickens? The purchasing agent who orders weekly cases of chickens would probably buy two cases instead of three. But any given consumer can't tell how far the store is from that cutoff point between three vs. two cases. The probability that any given chicken is the chicken that causes two cases instead of three to be purchased is 1/25. If you do avoid the chicken at the cutoff point, you prevent a whole case -- 25 chickens -- from being ordered next week. Thus, the expected value of any given chicken is (1/25) * 25 = 1 chicken, just like common sense would suggest.

Comment author: jayquigley 28 August 2017 04:31:45PM 5 points [-]

Joey, do you think you would adjust this for different circumstances---say, if living in a more expensive region, facing medical hardship, or having to support an elderly family member? For example, assuming you're renting a room for $440 USD, rents in the Bay Area would be anywhere from 200% to 500% more. If for some reason you wound up here, would you take the price difference into account, or still try to go with the global average?

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