Against value systems

Time and time again I engage in some sort of dialogue lately - it becomes apparent within minutes my interlocutor and I have a big inferential distance. Pretty much any disagreement boils down to the fact that we don’t use same assumptions and same methods for deriving our conclusions.

It is apparent that vast majority is still using a value ethical system - a system where a list of values, such as diversity, tolerance, gender-equality, gay-friendliness are good things. And they are good things. However, the scary thing is that they haven’t always been considered good things. Doesn’t a mere idea that you could have been homophobic, racist, intolerant or sexist had you been born and raised in some different time or some different place scare you greatly? It gives me goose bumps. The following example resonates with me greatly because it highlights that our moral intuitions shouldn’t be trusted:

“It is traditional to attribute this to “people being immoral”, but in fact people are generally very moral: they feel intense moral outrage at the suffering in the world, they are extremely generous in response to certain obvious opportunities for generosity like the Haitian earthquake, and many people will, in an emergency that calls for it, sacrifice their lives to save others with only a split second’s thought. And even things that are in fact repulsive, like the intensity with which people oppose gay marriage, derive from a misplaced sense that they are doing the right and moral thing; people will devote their entire careers to opposing gay marriage even though it does not hurt them personally because they feel like they should. The problem isn’t that people aren’t trying to be moral, it’s that they’re no good at it.”

I really wish we could all agree that value systems are rubbish - they failed humanity so many times and they are still failing humanity in so many places around the world.

My favourite moral system is consequentialism: it’s a system which says that a moral, right belief is the one which makes the world better. Gay-friendly society is good because it greatly increases the well-being of gays and it is harmless to everyone else. It sounds like such an obvious moral system - but it’s not the most adopted moral system, the value system is. Go figure.

Have you heard the kind of arguments where people admit that action X might be good, but it is just not right? My favourite bit about consequentialism is that it kills the distinction: good is right. There are no more “it ain’t right” statements that could convince me - but it is a gigantic effort to explain why such arguments shouldn’t be used.

The best intro into consequentialism I found is below. It is long, but even if you read parts of it - you will find something interesting.

Read it here