RE: American Humanists Association 2004 conference report - complete!

From: Pablo Stafforini (
Date: Thu May 13 2004 - 06:06:33 MDT

> I'm not sure I follow.
> People who gamble made an act of volition. Surely we
> should offer them more gambling opportunities, since
> gambling is obviously what they want, and according to
> Eli: 'People should get what they want'?

Michael has made his point very clearly and convincingly:

"Most of the people who lose money in
Vegas do not have huge salaries - they are the multitudes of working
middle-class people who come to Vegas just to have a little "fun". But
they are hopelessly clueless about statistics, addicted to the rush of
gambling, and it is straightforward for the casinos to coax away their
life savings, resulting in their long-term suffering. "

To concentrate on the present act of volition made by the gambler when
he gambles and ignore the frustration of his future volitions is not
warranted by the volitional morality in which you rest your case. Sure,
I want to go to the casino. But I also want, as a person who exists over
time, to have medical attention, to send my kids to college, or to buy a
better house. All these volitions are frustrated by my acting upon the
gambling volition. When an agent has inconsistent preferences --as all
gamblers who share basic human desires and whose gamble-to-wealth ratio
exceeds a certain amount are--, you can't simply take one of them as a
sign that that is what the agent truly wants.

> Both prostitutes and their clients are engaging in
> volitional consensual actions. Surely we should be
> aiming to set up harems all over the place, since sex
> is obviously what they and according to Eli: 'People
> should get what they want'?

It doesn't follow at all from Eliezer's maxim (which I share) that we
"should be aiming to set up harems all over the place". An unattractive,
compulsive, and smelling 55 year-old is clearly *not* what prostitutes
want. A better description of the situation is to say that they are
*forced by the circumstances* they find themselves in to sell their body
in the marketplace so that they can earn a living. What we volitionists
should be aiming at is to set a framework where no woman finds herself
in such a desperate situation. If prostitution still emerges *then*, I'm
all for it.

> Actually, if we believe volitional morality we should
> all become drug dealers, because there's a huge demand
> for hard drugs, a serious lack of supply, and
> according to Eli: 'People should get what they want'?

Ought implies can. People can't get what they want if they have
contradictory "wants". As Isaiah Berlin once said, "a contradiction
cannot be conceived, let alone exist". Thus, the Eliezerean maxim must
not be understood in such a narrow way. What people should get is,
rather, what they MOST want.


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