Tag Archives: Utilitarianism

What Is and What Should Be

During the ongoing Rabid Puppies fun (join now), Vox’s many critics have taken to falsely accusing him of approving of the Taliban throwing acid in girls’ faces and ashooting them through the use of out-of-context quotes.

What Vox has actually said is that maybe the Taliban are not just insane, but may have a rational reason for their behavior:

Ironically, in light of the strong correlation between female education and demographic decline, a purely empirical perspective on Malala Yousafzai, the poster girl for global female education, may indicate that the Taliban’s attempt to silence her was perfectly rational and scientifically justifiable.

And that according to strict utilitarianism, acid-throwing might benefit women as a whole and the scientific attitude would be to test this rather:

Because female independence is strongly correlated with a whole host of social ills. Using the utilitarian metric favored by most atheists, a few acid-burned faces is a small price to pay for lasting marriages, stable families, legitimate children, low levels of debt, strong currencies, affordable housing, homogenous populations, low levels of crime, and demographic stability. If PZ has turned against utilitarianism or the concept of the collective welfare trumping the interests of the individual, I should be fascinated to hear it.

The scientific attitude would be to develop a hypothesis and test it as best one is able. But it’s quite clear that PZ doesn’t want to consider the possibility of anything beyond his philosophical commitment to the unicorn of so-called “equality”. Wilson is right to observe that PZ’s behavior with regards to these matters is entirely unscientific, indeed, one might even surmise that it is outright anti-scientific.

Given that Vox is neither part of the Taliban nor a utilitarian, it is obvious to anybody who’s not a brain-dead liberal that this is not vouching support of said policies. I’m not writing this as a defence of Vox, he can defend himself better than I can, rather I want to point out something that is probably obvious to most reading my blog, but I’ll state anyway.

The base assumption Vox’s critics is that rational and scientifically justifiable are equivalent to right. Because Vox says something may rational and scientifically justifiable, he must therefore approve of it. This is, of course, stupid.

Rationality is morally neutral, as is science. Neither have moral value in themselves, they can only be used as tools discover, elucidate, or develop pre-existing truths.

Just because something is does not mean it that it ought to be. Vice versa also stands, any ought should fully take into consideration what is. Confusion of is for ought leads to a moral-stuntedness, confusion of ought for is leads to inhumanity.

We can see the former in extreme utilitarianism: Yudkowsky’s specks of dust specks vs. torture argument is the substitution of reason for moral value. Only someone morally broken can think the mathematical comparison of units of pain and pleasure can be substitutes for morality.

A ‘good’ case of the latter is communism: the left thought man is not what he is, but rather what he ought to be, leading to the failure of their inhuman system designed for their idealistic and false conception of man.

Is and ought are distinct and must remain so.