September 25th, 2001


Ethical Compatibility

My results:

1. Mill (100%)
2. Bentham (93%)
3. Sartre (87%)
4. Kant (84%)
5. Epicureans (67%)
6. Prescriptivism (65%)
7. Rand (63%)
8. Aquinas (46%)
9. Hobbes (45%)
10. Noddings (43%)
11. Aristotle (39%)
12. Cynics (39%)
13. Spinoza (37%)
14. Stoics (34%)
15. Nietzsche (30%)
16. Hume (26%)
17. Plato (25%)
18. Ockham (23%)
19. Augustine (22%)

Revisited to write more:
I had trouble with the 'how important is this question' part of the questions. I left almost all of them as medium.

I don't have a coherent theory of morality of my own. I have some notions about what a theory of morality should look like, and some paradoxes that a theory of morality has to handle.

So, as a geeky CS theory type, I'm defining a "morality" as a function that takes a situation in which one might find oneself, and returns a set of actions one could morally take in that action. Within this definition, I introduce a bunch of other ideas:

A valid morality should have the following properties:
- a valid morality should be complete. It should cover every situation in which one might find oneself, and there should always be at least one moral alternative. (When all you have is two evils, choosing the lesser one needs to be morally valid.)
- a valid morality should be computable. If people can't figure out what the moral thing to do is in a situation, the morality is not useful. (This same idea leads to the idea that simplicity is a virtue for a morality.)
- a valid morality should be--I don't know what word to use here--balanced, perhaps? What I mean here is that if you are following a morality, you should never be outraged or egregiously screwed by someone else following the same morality.

I think that an idealistic (I'm not sure this is the right word) morality would be one such that the world would be optimal if everyone followed that strategy. (Note that I haven't defined "optimal"). This might be a consequence of being balanced; I'm not quite sure. I do lean towards utilitarianism. I also happen to believe that "the greatest good for the greatest number" and enlightened self-interest often coincide. (For example, I remember a measles outbreak in Dallas, during which I heard on the radio that the cost of treating the kids without insurance who had caught measles was ten times greater than the cost of immunizing every kid for free would have been.)
(A tangent and/or a question for Monica: is Judaeism an idealistic morality in this sense? With elements like the sabbatical year, I wonder whether Judaeism would work if all the world followed Jewish law.)

A practical morality would be one that catches on and thrives in the world of other moralities. Therefore, followers of a practical morality must not be too badly screwed by non-followers.

Here are some of the paradoxes and problems that a morality should cope with, which I don't really know how to deal with:

* I do not believe that there is a defined morality specified by God/the universe/whatever. Therefore, a component of a good morality needs to be an awareness that one's current morality may not be perfect, and therefore needs to include an avoidance of fanaticism and some tolerance for other moralities. On the other hand, some things really are wrong, so a morality that blithely accepts every other morality is not right either.

* I believe that a perfect morality needs to be both idealistic and practical, in those narrow senses I defined above. A perfect morality needs to work for everyone, but it also needs to work when you're the only one being moral.

* I believe that there are moral actions of the state that are not moral actions of individuals. For example, I feel that war can be moral when mass murder is not, and the incarceration of criminals can be a moral thing for a state to do when it is not moral for individuals.
Yet I also believe that the state is an aggregation of individuals, and the actions of the state are aggregations of individual actions. And putting these two together seems to create a paradox.

I think I've blithered enough for now.

I Succumb to Media Hype

I was late getting to work today. I woke up somewhat late, putzed around on the net a bit, then cleaned the cat box and put dinner in the slow cooker before heading off to work at nearly lunchtime.

I've been intrigued by the commercials I've been seeing for KFC's popcorn chicken, so I decided to try that out.

Verdict: it's pretty good. The little bites of chicken are pleasantly crisp and spicy. I would happily get it again.

(no subject)

Last night, Mike invited us to dinner; it was a very pleasant simple meal of a beef and veggie stir-fry over rice.

I had gone to Phantom of the Attic and picked up Chez Dork, so we played that. It seems like a decent game. The cards are much funnier than Chez Geek, IMHO. I think we need to have a lot more deals and auctions to make the game really fun.


This morning, I was thinking about an explanation for magic that I might try to use in a more intellectual RPG campaign than my current D&D campaign. This might fit into a style of magic (or a meta-style of magic) for Unknown Armies, for example.

The basic idea is that magical power comes from meaning. It's the sentient process of seeing stars and turning them into meaningful constellations that makes magic possible. (And thus doing magic is only possible for sentients. Being magical might be possible for non-sentients--not quite sure.) But the magical power of a meaning gets shared among the people who are using that meaning.

Some consequences:
* In settled areas, magic might be common but weak, since there are lots of people around to attribute minor meanings to things. But there are also likely to be other mages around to bleed off these minor charges. And in fact, doing magic on people (illusions and so forth) is probably easier than doing magic on things, because people tend to carry a lot of meaning on their own.
* On the other hand, this also provides an explanation for remote places of power. Much of the wilderness is more or less meaningless "white noise", but if you find something like Ayer's Rock in the middle of the desert, or a cliff that look's like the Devil's Face, there's a lot of meaning there that other people haven't used--so this can be big magic.
* Ceremonies and great events create meaning. So burial grounds can be magical from the meaning they contain. Any place that gets referred to as "the place where <X> happened" is probably carrying some power of meaning.
* The sorts of magic you can do are influenced by the meanings that power that magic. So if you're using Gettysburg as your source of meaning, for example, the magic you create will tend to be magic of death and war.
* This notion of meaning fosters a certain secretive tradition; if you have words whose meaning carries magic, you get more power from them if you share those words.

All in all, this theory of magic seems to explain a lot of the ways magic tends to behave in stories. I like it.

So I was toying with this idea as I drove into work, and thinking about writing a journal entry on it. And then I came up with a twist on this notion that turned it into a conceptual Pyramid article with an emotional twist that brought a lump to my throat.

Now I feel that I've got to write this up as a Pyramid article. And so I don't want to pre-publish it in my journal, at least not publicly, since I don't want to damage the chance that Pyramid will buy it.

Any of y'all want to read a first draft (if/when I manage to get one done) and comment on it?

LJ Quirk

When I go back to my friends page, it always goes back to the state of the friends page at a particular time. (At this time, it looks like it goes to about noon today.) If I refresh it, it shows me fresh new entries, but then if I go to a page and come back, I see old stuff again. This is kind of frustrating.

Any of y'all know what's going on here and whether/how I might fix it? I'm using MSIE 5 on a Win2000 system.

(no subject)

It's gotten colder here--today's high was about 54. Unfortunately, I was wearing a t-shirt today.

It felt really nice to come home and come in out of the cold to a hot bowl of chili. Yay, slow-cooker!

Quirk Update

Netscape 6.1 doesn't have this problem with going back to the friends page. Does that rule out the chance of proxy problems?

I was using MSIE 5.0 on both home and work computers. Which is the right one to upgrade to?