RE: Volitional Morality and Action Judgement

From: Pablo Stafforini (
Date: Thu May 13 2004 - 20:15:05 MDT



> You seem to be arguing that a being's volition should not be
> respected if another being has more information, or a better
> model of reality. I would strongly object to this argument.

No, this is not what I'm saying. I probably wasn't clear enough.

I'm arguing at the theoretical level; I'm not saying that gambling or
prostitution should be banned. Remember that Michael's original
complaint, which triggered this discussion, was about the undesirability
of gambling/prostitution, not about the desirability of prohibiting it.

An analogy may perhaps be of help. Suppose I'm considering whether a
human foetus has interests. Suppose I conclude that (s)he/it has, that
it has a strong interest to live, and that this interest outweighs the
mother's interest in having control over her own body. Well, I may
nevertheless refuse to make abortion illegal. From the fact that
something is wrong it doesn't follow that it should be prohibited.
Prohibition, unlike moral wrongness, is something which has real
consequences --consequences that may not be morally desirable.
Prohibiting abortion may actually make matters worse. That's why I'm in
favor of legalizing drugs, prostitution, and (here in Argentina, where
it is illegal) abortion.

> It goes against the very essense of volitional morality, an
> idea to which I subscribe (at least until something better
> comes along ;) When beings of substantially different levels
> of intelligence interact (Eg: Human<==>FAI), the one with
> higher intelligence will almost always have more information
> and a better model of reality than the lesser. Should then
> the higher intelligence ignore the volition of the lesser -
> or respect it?

See last paragraph.

> I would not wish to live in a society where my wishes about
> my own actions were disallowed. Better to have society with

Wait. *Your* wishes are the wishes of a *person*, not of a *temporal
phase*. To repeat: When you say that gambling is OK because that's what
the person wants you are ignoring that the very same person will also
want other things that are inconsistent with his having gambled. So
unless you say that the present preference for gambling outweighs the
future preference for financial security (or whatever), you cannot claim
to be speaking in the name of a person when you say that he wants to

> the opportunity to learn more information, and gain better
> models **if one so chooses**. The point: beings of lesser
> intelligence should get to choose their own path - to live or
> die as they prefer.

I may or may not agree with this statement (it poses interesting
philosophical questions to which I haven't given enough consideration);
in either case, it is not, I think, relevant to the point I was trying
to make, which is not about how we ought to handle people who act in a
way we deem contrary to their own interests, but rather about what can
be said to be in a person's interest in the first place. My point is
simply that to say that what is in a person's interests is what the
person presently wants is not a sound criterion, for it ignores the
person's future wants, which are also *her* wants.


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