Monday, September 8, 2008

Utilitarianism and Sympathy

It is considered normal healthy human behavior for a person to have feelings of sympathy toward those around them. The lack or disregard of such feelings is considered a symptom of antisocial personality disorder. People who suffer from this disorder often inflict harm on those around them, manipulating them or using them egoistically to one's own advantage.

When discussing utilitarianism, many critics make the assumption that all parties involved are people with antisocial personality disorder. Never in their theoretical ethical calculus do they consider the negative utility of "feeling bad about hurting people." The fact is, all healthy people should feel bad about hurting people. It is also in our society's best utilitarian interest to maximize this sympathy between its citizens in order to maximize the amount of happiness felt by everyone. If we're all looking out for each others feelings, we're likely to work together toward greater mutual happiness, and thus the greater good is served.

It is also in society's best interest to (humanely) limit those suffering from antisocial personality disorder from hurting those around them, whether it be imposing persuasive consequences for such actions in the form of fines or other inconveniences, or in limiting their contact with others by way of incarceration.

Any rational ethical system based on the idea that people are all sociopaths is likely to appear fairly bleak. The criticism of utilitarianism from people holding to such assumptions is unfair. A rational ethical system need only operate with the assumption of mental health, with provisions for dealing with the occasional aberration.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Everyone Has Their Breaking Point

As a young Lieutenant Commander, Senator John McCain suffered more for his country than most can ever imagine. He suffered great injuries when his plane was shot down, and he ended up in the hands of a band of brutal interrogators that used what we would euphemistically call "Enhanced Interrogation Techniques" today, but which was, without a doubt, torture -- above and beyond anything that takes place even in Guantanamo Bay. They withheld medical treatment, they brutally beat and tortured him.

Those sick bastards only kept him alive so that they could use him against his Admiral father. They ruthlessly allowed men with similar wounds to die. John McCain was tortured for years, and used to aid the North Vietnamese propaganda machine. They tried time and time again to get him to do things that were against the military code, and time and time again, he resisted. I am not sure I could have resisted as long as he had. In fact, I am fairly certain I would not.

No one could hold out forever. In his own words, "I had learned what we all learned over there: Every man has his breaking point. I had reached mine." Make no mistake, I do not blame him -- not even the tiniest bit. In fact, I admire him tremendously for holding out as long as he did. I admire him for making such a magnificent come-back after the war, of becoming a Senator and in serving his state of Arizona and the nation. He possesses a strength of will and character that I so admire and for which I am thankful that it brings me to the edge of tears.

John McCain is running for President this year, and there is no doubt that his heart is committed to doing what he feels is right for the country. He is, as he admits, not a very smart man, but that's not a requirement to be President. He has a lot of support from the very smart advisors in his party.

Unfortunately, these guys are the same shady group of characters that advised President Bush (another admitted not very smart guy) and his administration, and who took us to where we are today. I have nothing against Senator John McCain, quite the opposite. I admire him and consider him a hero. In order to have a chance in this election, however, he has aligned himself with the same right-wing partisan Swift Boat crew that dirty-dealed him out of the nomination in 2000. I do not understand why he's compromising himself that way, it seems out of character for him. I wish someone could explain it to me.

Senator Obama's positions on health care, education, and the economy have earned my support for his candidacy, and I imagine this is the case for most of his supporters. In all fairness, even if Senator McCain hadn't embraced the fringe elements of the Republican party, I would likely still vote for Senator Obama. But because McCain has embraced the dirty politics crowd, I am compelled to energetically volunteer and contribute to his opponent.

Unless someone can explain to me what is going on.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

McCain Recruits Palin for Culture War

McCain Recruits Palin for Culture War

Republican Presidential Nominee Senator John McCain has appointed Sarah Palin as his Vice Presidential running mate. Sarah Palin is, no doubt, an excellent governor of Alaska, and if something should happen to McCain and she becomes President, she'll have all the help she needs from the usual back-room Republican movers and shakers -- the same Republicans that have been handling George W. Bush for the past 8 years. But any politician with a few years of state-level political experience could likely be handled just as well.

Not every state-level politician, however, is as staunchly socially conservative as Sarah Palin. She promotes government discrimination against homosexuals, the revocation of women's reproductive rights, and in having public schools teach creationism as part of their curriculum. Such radical conservatism will serve only to polarize America during this election season. John McCain, someone who claims to be interested in uniting America, has made a very peculiar decision in choosing Sarah Palin as his running mate.

A Definition of Terms

"The beginning of wisdom is a definition of terms." -- Socrates
"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." -- "God"

In order to fully understand what I'm talking about, it would help to define some terms, as I understand them. When I use the following terms in any of my posts, I am referring to them in the context illustrated below.

One who does not believe in God or gods.

A political philosophy that highly values the cultural tradition of a nation, even placing it over the individual rights and welfare of its citizens.


A being who is believed to possess all of the following characteristics.
  1. Is the creator of Life, the Universe, and Everything
  2. Omnipotence
  3. Omnipresence
  4. Omniscience
  5. Is worshipped by members of the Abrahamic religions
Gods (of the lowercase variety)
Beings who are believed to possess all of the following characteristics.
  1. Magical powers
  2. Innate superiority to mankind
The philosophy of social liberalism -- a political philosophy that focuses on individual rights and equal opportunities. The liberal philosophy has a focus on improving the nation by improving the education and health of its citizens, while also supporting the concepts of free enterprise and entrepreneurship.

Something in which religion, or lack thereof, is not a critical factor.

Sky Daddy

See God, above.

One who does believe in God or in gods.

A secular philosophy where the moral value of an action can be determined by whether it brings greater happiness than it inflicts harm. Most people use utilitarianism to guide their own personal actions every day. On a societal or governmental level, however, this is subject to much deliberation, discussion, and debate, and thus requires an open democratic government with an educated citizenry.