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Offline Myshadow

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The Golden Principle Critique
« on: January 13, 2015, 02:32:25 AM »

Hi Bytemaster,
 
I must preface this critique with my most sincere thanks for your ongoing work in securing liberty and property through the bitshares platform, I think you’re doing an excellent job.
 
I Recently came across your Golden Principle post on your blog and noticed that there is a mistake made with your logic which renders the argument invalid. You have fallen into the trap that most people tend to when dealing with principles – in particular the non-aggression principle(NAP), the application of a principle that defines an action that takes place in the physical world to a concept instead of something that exists in the physical world.
 
This is incredibly common, and this propensity for most people to not differentiate between concepts and physical objects when thinking critically is (in my humble opinion) one of the things that allows the inexorable slide into tyranny, recognizing abstract human conceived concepts for what they are and correct application of principles is the only way to ensure we arrive at a result that is accurate and repeatable over time and applicable to all individuals.

It is the same neuropathway that allows a quick fight or flight response that gives humans a propensity toward this – as we evolved we needed to be able to very quickly judge whether a physical object is dangerous or not, the fastest way for us to do this is to attribute intentions(as opposed to higher level logical reasoning) to it, whether it is a rock or a predator. This is also why young children are angry at rocks when they stub their toes, their brains haven’t outgrown this duality born out of Darwinian necessity. I think it is this phenomena that causes most people to make the mistake of applying principles to abstract concepts.
 
It is empirically and logically impossible that the NAP or any principle that relies on taking(or not taking) physical action to be applied to a concept, it must be applied to something physical if it is to be logically consistent and repeatable. In reality, me attacking the “government” is the intellectual equivalent of me trying to squash Christianity with a large bowl of porridge. Objectively what I would really be doing, would be violating the NAP against a group of individuals I have subjectively determined to be “the government”.
 
Any principle based on “doing” which must occur in the physical universe, cannot possibly provide universally consistent results if people allow it to be applied to abstract or subjective concepts, it is for this reason that your golden principle is flawed as it is based in subjectivity not objectivity and therefore allows more ambiguity than the NAP it should replace. I agree wholeheartedly that the principles we build society on must be universal, however without objectivity the result of your principle will change depending on the interpretation at an individual level. This subjectivity is what we must strive against as it is by this mechanism we allow the same descent into collective delusion and tyranny that we are currently striving to prevent.
 
For example, you may want to be Taxed because you think it is right and just, you may want to delegate your rights to others if you feel insecure in your ability to secure them, you may even want others to hurt you because it’s what you know and what you’re used to, You may even want to die…  These preferences are not at all uncommon, in fact these preferences(with the exception of masochism and the last tragic example) are considered normal in western society. This does not mean that any of these things should constitute an ethically and morally just viewpoint as it is just an individual’s opinion. If it is validated by the golden principle then to universalize some of these actions as morally valid is to commit atrocious acts of evil.
 
This is a fundamental failure of the principle to uphold the freedoms It is intended to protect.

edit: Grammar :)
« Last Edit: January 13, 2015, 11:16:20 PM by Myshadow »

Offline bytemaster

Re: The Golden Principle Critique
« Reply #1 on: January 13, 2015, 02:42:25 AM »
This is a well reasoned response and has identified something that has been bugging me about the golden principle.   

I think it is fair to say that it does not supersede the NAP.   To be more specific, the NAP is a valid constraint.  GP further restricts the NAP it does not permit actions that are invalid under NAP. 
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Offline Myshadow

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Re: The Golden Principle Critique
« Reply #2 on: January 13, 2015, 03:10:57 AM »
If it is not a replacement and works in conjunction then its easy to apply and understand which is essential to getting people to follow it :) nice one!

Offline CLains

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Re: The Golden Principle Critique
« Reply #3 on: January 13, 2015, 05:35:54 AM »
Let me see if I understand the argument:

1. The Golden Principle (GP) is only valid for concrete actions in "the physical world."
2. BM applies GP to concepts like "government" that are non-concrete actors.
3. Therefore his use of GP is invalid.

To me it is an interesting observation that GP does not apply to concepts. The reason seems to be that people could apply it to reality carved in different ways, so one might see the concept "government," others might see "a group of people," and yet others would simply see individuals - and thus it seems that the principle could be applied differently, in virtue of the different concepts being used, while the "physical reality" is the same. So for instance if we treat Government as a single actor, The Other, then we should not do unto it what we would not want done unto us, e.g. destroy it; whereas if we treat the reality in question like million of people, we would have to consider all of them individually and ask if as each of them we would want this action done unto us.

The solution seems to be not to strive after more objectivity, to rid ourselves of Chimeras like "government" that one may blame subjectivity for introducing. For the introduction of concepts like "government" can easily be argued as being concrete and part of the physical world if we accept a broad scientific realism, and if we are stingy on our scientific ontology it is doubtful that our own nature as individuals will remain, rather than become a chimera that is ultimately just a sophisticated network of neurons, flesh and bone, and ultimately just molecular machinery which is ultimately just atoms, etc.

The only way to isolate the right level is to return to subjectivity, where we started: But do so in a scientific way. So on the one hand we accept that our consciousness is irreducibly, ontologically subjective, but on the other hand we affirm that consciousness is epistemology objective, subject to scientific inquiry of the highest order. This leaves us with the right level of analysis in the Golden Principle:

"Do not do unto conscious entities what you do not want conscious entities doing unto you."

In this sense "conscious entities" is both irreducibly subjective, while being epistemology objective. This means that it transcends the distinction between concept and object, in that like concepts it is not reducible to the physical world, but like objects it is open to investigation by everyone equally. Anyway, I am not sure sure I reconstructed the argument in the way you intended it, I just got all these thoughts from reading it.

Offline Myshadow

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Re: The Golden Principle Critique
« Reply #4 on: January 14, 2015, 12:47:07 AM »
Hi Clains,

My argument was as follows provided we accept that a valid universal principle must produce consistent and desirable results at all times in all places for all people. What constitutes desirable and how to arrive at an objective definition is an interesting one, though for this case i think we're all on the same page so a few pages of clarification isn't necessary:

1: BM asserts that the Non-Aggression Principle(NAP) is too ambiguous to serve as the sole foundation of society and proposed the Golden Principle(GP) as an alternative.
2: BM explains the NAP's ambiguity by applying it the concept of Government and correctly deduces that when applied to a concept, the principle can produce undesirable results.
3: Therefore application of Principles that require action or inaction in the physical world to concepts is invalid.

BM updated his GP post with an objective clarification which helps to solidify his position, however something still doesn't sit right with me. I'll go away and have a think about it and come back :)

Offline starspirit

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Re: The Golden Principle Critique
« Reply #5 on: January 15, 2015, 11:34:23 PM »
Suppose a friend was about to suicide. According to the Golden Principle, should you let them go (because if you made the choice to die, you would not want somebody to forcibly stop you) or should you save them (on the basis that at some future time they may come to be grateful, and you would want somebody to give you that opportunity if they felt you were not of a clear state of mind, even though you may be)?

Suppose you had to choose which of two lives to save, but your loved one says calmly to save the stranger, and the stranger is pleading desperately for rescue. According to the Golden Principle, what path should you choose?

If somebody is about to do something that they really want to do, but your opinion, contrary to theirs, is that this thing will be stupid and harm another, should you let them do it? Whose shoes should you put yourself in when applying the Golden Principle?

I'm asking such questions as these, because I'm wondering if not only is the Golden Principle not clear-cut, but that it may be missing an element regarding the weighing up of consequences.

Offline bytemaster

Re: The Golden Principle Critique
« Reply #6 on: January 16, 2015, 01:52:51 AM »
Suppose a friend was about to suicide. According to the Golden Principle, should you let them go (because if you made the choice to die, you would not want somebody to forcibly stop you) or should you save them (on the basis that at some future time they may come to be grateful, and you would want somebody to give you that opportunity if they felt you were not of a clear state of mind, even though you may be)?

Suppose you had to choose which of two lives to save, but your loved one says calmly to save the stranger, and the stranger is pleading desperately for rescue. According to the Golden Principle, what path should you choose?

If somebody is about to do something that they really want to do, but your opinion, contrary to theirs, is that this thing will be stupid and harm another, should you let them do it? Whose shoes should you put yourself in when applying the Golden Principle?

I'm asking such questions as these, because I'm wondering if not only is the Golden Principle not clear-cut, but that it may be missing an element regarding the weighing up of consequences.

The golden principle does not compel action.  It is not a "positive" obligation, but a negative one.   Meaning you cannot violate the golden principle by doing nothing where as you can violate the golden rule by doing nothing.

So the answer to all of your questions is... "do nothing" and "chose nothing".   
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Anything said on these forums does not constitute an intent to create a legal obligation or contract between myself and anyone else.   These are merely my opinions and I reserve the right to change them at any time.

Offline bytemaster

Re: The Golden Principle Critique
« Reply #7 on: January 16, 2015, 01:56:54 AM »
Suppose a friend was about to suicide. According to the Golden Principle, should you let them go (because if you made the choice to die, you would not want somebody to forcibly stop you) or should you save them (on the basis that at some future time they may come to be grateful, and you would want somebody to give you that opportunity if they felt you were not of a clear state of mind, even though you may be)?

Suppose you had to choose which of two lives to save, but your loved one says calmly to save the stranger, and the stranger is pleading desperately for rescue. According to the Golden Principle, what path should you choose?

If somebody is about to do something that they really want to do, but your opinion, contrary to theirs, is that this thing will be stupid and harm another, should you let them do it? Whose shoes should you put yourself in when applying the Golden Principle?

I'm asking such questions as these, because I'm wondering if not only is the Golden Principle not clear-cut, but that it may be missing an element regarding the weighing up of consequences.

The golden principle does not compel action.  It is not a "positive" obligation, but a negative one.   Meaning you cannot violate the golden principle by doing nothing where as you can violate the golden rule by doing nothing.

So the answer to all of your questions is... "do nothing" and "chose nothing".

If someone *ASKS* for help then you can give it.   If someone does not want help and you give it anyway then whether or not it is "OK" depends upon whether or not it is NAP. 

The ONLY opinion that matters for GP is your opinion when deciding what YOU will do while remaining compliant with the NAP.   

The GP cannot be applied to others or to create a universal "right choice" where as NAP can get much closer to providing an "OBJECTIVE" right choice.   

When choosing between two equally "Objectively Right Choices" one should use the Golden Principle.   
For the latest updates checkout my blog: http://bytemaster.bitshares.org
Anything said on these forums does not constitute an intent to create a legal obligation or contract between myself and anyone else.   These are merely my opinions and I reserve the right to change them at any time.

Offline toast

Re: The Golden Principle Critique
« Reply #8 on: January 16, 2015, 02:21:29 AM »
Why call it the "golden principle" when it is already widely called the "silver rule"?  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silver_Rule

Nobody will pick up on the fact that your definition of "golden principle" doesn't mean "golden rule"
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Offline bytemaster

Re: The Golden Principle Critique
« Reply #9 on: January 16, 2015, 02:24:10 AM »

Why call it the "golden principle" when it is already widely called the "silver rule"?  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silver_Rule

Nobody will pick up on the fact that your definition of "golden principle" doesn't mean "golden rule"

Because I didn't know about that.  I will update my writings to reference that.   
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Offline starspirit

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Re: The Golden Principle Critique
« Reply #10 on: January 18, 2015, 01:52:51 AM »
Suppose a friend was about to suicide. According to the Golden Principle, should you let them go (because if you made the choice to die, you would not want somebody to forcibly stop you) or should you save them (on the basis that at some future time they may come to be grateful, and you would want somebody to give you that opportunity if they felt you were not of a clear state of mind, even though you may be)?

Suppose you had to choose which of two lives to save, but your loved one says calmly to save the stranger, and the stranger is pleading desperately for rescue. According to the Golden Principle, what path should you choose?

If somebody is about to do something that they really want to do, but your opinion, contrary to theirs, is that this thing will be stupid and harm another, should you let them do it? Whose shoes should you put yourself in when applying the Golden Principle?

I'm asking such questions as these, because I'm wondering if not only is the Golden Principle not clear-cut, but that it may be missing an element regarding the weighing up of consequences.

The golden principle does not compel action.  It is not a "positive" obligation, but a negative one.   Meaning you cannot violate the golden principle by doing nothing where as you can violate the golden rule by doing nothing.

So the answer to all of your questions is... "do nothing" and "chose nothing".

If someone *ASKS* for help then you can give it.   If someone does not want help and you give it anyway then whether or not it is "OK" depends upon whether or not it is NAP. 

The ONLY opinion that matters for GP is your opinion when deciding what YOU will do while remaining compliant with the NAP.   

The GP cannot be applied to others or to create a universal "right choice" where as NAP can get much closer to providing an "OBJECTIVE" right choice.   

When choosing between two equally "Objectively Right Choices" one should use the Golden Principle.

For what its worth, at least based on my views right at this point in time, I would save my suicidal friend even if I had to physically harm them to stop them. In my view, the consequence is less harm than choosing or doing nothing. In any case, I don't think they would reasonably hold it against me, because it ought to be their expectation that if they tried this in my presence that I would indeed try to stop them. Whether or not I would like it, it would be my expectation that somebody else would do the same for me, and I should have to factor that into my decision and methods if I decided to try it.

On the second choice, I would save my loved one. The fact they are more gracious than the other person is irrelevant. Selfishly I have more to gain from saving my loved one than the other person, and in any case there is no way really to judge the emotional impact on each of them at the point of rescue or death, or thereafter.

And I would stop the person who was about to do harm even if they disagreed and I had to harm them to some degree (limited by the level of harm they were about to inflict themselves) to stop them, because based on my belief (subjectively the only one that counts) the consequences are more beneficial in doing so rather than letting them proceed.

I'm still not clear if any of these choices are in breach of NAP or GP...?

Offline Myshadow

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Re: The Golden Principle Critique
« Reply #11 on: January 21, 2015, 12:20:24 AM »
For what its worth, at least based on my views right at this point in time, I would save my suicidal friend even if I had to physically harm them to stop them. In my view, the consequence is less harm than choosing or doing nothing. In any case, I don't think they would reasonably hold it against me, because it ought to be their expectation that if they tried this in my presence that I would indeed try to stop them. Whether or not I would like it, it would be my expectation that somebody else would do the same for me, and I should have to factor that into my decision and methods if I decided to try it.

On the second choice, I would save my loved one. The fact they are more gracious than the other person is irrelevant. Selfishly I have more to gain from saving my loved one than the other person, and in any case there is no way really to judge the emotional impact on each of them at the point of rescue or death, or thereafter.

And I would stop the person who was about to do harm even if they disagreed and I had to harm them to some degree (limited by the level of harm they were about to inflict themselves) to stop them, because based on my belief (subjectively the only one that counts) the consequences are more beneficial in doing so rather than letting them proceed.

I'm still not clear if any of these choices are in breach of NAP or GP...?

I'd say that saving your friend is in violation of the NAP, but the other example is not in violation. If we accept you have self ownership then you're well within your rights to make your own decisions about what to do in this case.

That said, though you saving your friend could be argued as objectively immoral, I for one would understand that you'd do this (and would probably do it myself) I think most would do the same if the conditions were right ie: if they were not terminally ill and in constant pain.

Just as stealing is objectively immoral, most would steal to feed their family if they thought there were no other options available to them. Just as murder is immoral most would kill if it were kill or be killed and there are very few people who would not understand this.

The biological incentive to survive and protect your family(genes) will override conceptual principles any day of the week, however that doesn't mean that the luxury of logically consistent moral principles won't provide vastly better results in situations where they are able to be adhered to.

« Last Edit: January 21, 2015, 12:26:58 AM by Myshadow »

Offline starspirit

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Re: The Golden Principle Critique
« Reply #12 on: January 21, 2015, 06:44:01 AM »
For what its worth, at least based on my views right at this point in time, I would save my suicidal friend even if I had to physically harm them to stop them. In my view, the consequence is less harm than choosing or doing nothing. In any case, I don't think they would reasonably hold it against me, because it ought to be their expectation that if they tried this in my presence that I would indeed try to stop them. Whether or not I would like it, it would be my expectation that somebody else would do the same for me, and I should have to factor that into my decision and methods if I decided to try it.

On the second choice, I would save my loved one. The fact they are more gracious than the other person is irrelevant. Selfishly I have more to gain from saving my loved one than the other person, and in any case there is no way really to judge the emotional impact on each of them at the point of rescue or death, or thereafter.

And I would stop the person who was about to do harm even if they disagreed and I had to harm them to some degree (limited by the level of harm they were about to inflict themselves) to stop them, because based on my belief (subjectively the only one that counts) the consequences are more beneficial in doing so rather than letting them proceed.

I'm still not clear if any of these choices are in breach of NAP or GP...?

I'd say that saving your friend is in violation of the NAP, but the other example is not in violation. If we accept you have self ownership then you're well within your rights to make your own decisions about what to do in this case.

That said, though you saving your friend could be argued as objectively immoral, I for one would understand that you'd do this (and would probably do it myself) I think most would do the same if the conditions were right ie: if they were not terminally ill and in constant pain.

Just as stealing is objectively immoral, most would steal to feed their family if they thought there were no other options available to them. Just as murder is immoral most would kill if it were kill or be killed and there are very few people who would not understand this.

The biological incentive to survive and protect your family(genes) will override conceptual principles any day of the week, however that doesn't mean that the luxury of logically consistent moral principles won't provide vastly better results in situations where they are able to be adhered to.

Thanks for your thoughts Myshadow. As you infer, we all naturally understand that others can justifiably act from different moral codes. For our own spiritual peace we must act consistent with our own principles, but we also fully expect the consequences of those actions to depend on the moral norms and reactions of others. Is it even possible for a community to form a consensus on any moral principle that will always dominate in any choice? If not, can there ever be a consensus on the true nature of freedom?

Offline Myshadow

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Re: The Golden Principle Critique
« Reply #13 on: January 21, 2015, 11:36:41 PM »
Thanks for your thoughts Myshadow. As you infer, we all naturally understand that others can justifiably act from different moral codes. For our own spiritual peace we must act consistent with our own principles, but we also fully expect the consequences of those actions to depend on the moral norms and reactions of others. Is it even possible for a community to form a consensus on any moral principle that will always dominate in any choice? If not, can there ever be a consensus on the true nature of freedom?

My pleasure! Thank you also :) I'm not sure that someone who was in a situation where it was kill or be killed and killed someone would be at spiritual peace if they survived. I can understand that people will act certain ways due to emotional responses, however I would not try and label their actions whilst in heightened emotional states or crises as a justified moral code or principle.

I don't think that adherence by everyone to a principle is possible or required for a principle to be valid. Does someone starving themselves to death invalidate the principle that humans need food to survive? I know its not a principle per-say, but this fact is consistent with scientific principles and will continue to be consistent unless the laws of physics change.

Just as the above example doesn't invalidate the laws of physics, neither does someone acting immorally in a time of crisis invalidate universal moral principles. With that in mind I think there can be consensus on these principles only if they are logically consistent, objective and results are repeatable.

If we define freedom as doing anything you like that doesn't violate the NAP or property rights then I think its definitely possible.

 

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