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Sep 8, 2022Liked by Richard Y Chappell

I have a research project in the same vein as "Bleeding Heart Consequentialism".

My undergraduate thesis was largely a description of the psychology of utilitarian agents. Far from being cold moral calculators, I argued that they possess a composite virtue I called "universal sympathetic love." Adopting the moral point of view involves the cultivation and expression of this virtue. In particular, I argued that the phenomenal content of universal sympathetic love FOR THE AGENT HERSELF is so transcendently, mystically pleasurable that becoming a utilitarian agent is in the present interest of selfish people. I focused a lot on first-person accounts of mystical experiences. Mysticisim and utilitarianism have underrecognised commonalities: both mysticism and utilitarianism view the boundaries of selfhood as irrelevant for assigning moral status, both are inclined to view beings as mere vessels for value. Also, I cited you :)

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Sounds interesting! If you end up publishing anything on this (or have done so already), please do share the link!

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I think its good to be careful with outreach and persuasion. Champions of utilitarianism may view their own cause as so useful (since based on their own calculations, its the most useful thing anyone could be doing) that it could lead to outlandish behavior and vitriol towards "others."

Look at many animal rights activists. For some extremists, their mission to reduce widespread animal suffering justified all sorts of wild, irrational behaviors on their part that ultimately did more harm than good. Especially for public favor towards the movement.

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I think there's a big difference between philosophers and activists here, with the former being (at least) less inclined towards counterproductive tactics. I think animal *ethicists*, including those doing significant public outreach (e.g. Peter Singer), have been a force for good in the world.

But yes, I certainly agree it's worth being "careful" here, and bearing those kinds of reputational risks in mind.

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I agree that animal rights activists have probably done more good than harm. But from a utilitarian perspective, how many animals suffered and died because they created a "holier than thou" image of themselves, alienating the public and preventing their ideas from growing at scale? And that becomes a risk since EA is more effective with more people. It can't stay weird. Part of the goal is expansion.

I suppose long-term, would EA turn into the New Atheists movement or would it find a PR model that is able to convince more people and keeps the possible smugness at bay?

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I said *ethicists*, not *activists*. They're different!

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What I mean is that ideas will lead to action. Ethicists will pursue activism, which leads to more converts, and more activism (Singer was a major influence on activists, so the two can't be too separate). EA can't be stuck in academia as a thought experiment and preaching is part of it. My comment is just about the quality of that preaching and the possible need for strategy going forward.

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Sep 7, 2022Liked by Richard Y Chappell

Since utilitarianism concerns itself with the well-being of conscious beings, I think philosophy investigating the well-being of animals and computers is likely very important. Of course it sounds odd, but if animals like nematodes or brain emulations experience qualia, I think this has important implications in ethics. Discovering this and persuading others of it soon rather than later may be good for value lock in even though it seems really weird.

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Agreed! I know Jeff Sebo is doing good work in this area, but I'd love to learn more about others. https://jeffsebo.net/research/

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Sep 7, 2022Liked by Richard Y Chappell

Regarding research, I think it would be good to promote more non-utilitarian theory-building. I think more people (including philosophers) would be more willing to engage with moral theory if they felt it wasn't restricted to utilitarian views.

Currently there is a shortage of theory-building among non-utilitarians. It doesn't have to be one-liner grand theories. It can be more modest, circumscribed, mid-level principles. Eyal Zamir, John Roemer, John Rawls, Campbell Brown, Larry Alexander, are some people doing good work here I think, but we could use much more.

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Sep 7, 2022·edited Sep 7, 2022Author

Given that only a minority of normative ethicists are even consequentialists, I don't think it's an accurate impression for anyone to hold that moral theory is "restricted to utilitarian views". What maybe does happen is that, because other traditions aren't developed as systematically (not sure why this is), systematic puzzles in decision theory, infinite ethics, population ethics, etc., get coded as "utilitarian" when in fact the questions are much more general than that. (I've an upcoming post planned on this issue.) So I agree it'd be good for the non-utilitarian majority of ethicists to get more systematic in their theorizing!

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