That's...kinda extremely horrifying. And exactly what C. S. Lewis in The Magician's Nephew and over 70 years later, Susana Clarke in Piranesi warn us about: "You mean that little boys ought to keep their promises. Very true: most right and proper, I’m sure, and I’m very glad you have been taught to do it. But of course you must understand that rules of that sort, however excellent they may be for little boys—and servants—and women—and even people in general, can’t possibly be expected to apply to profound students and great thinkers and sages. No, Digory. Men like me, who possess hidden wisdom, are freed from common rules just as we are cut off from common pleasures. Ours, my boy, is a high and lonely destiny.”

To which we, like Digory, should retort angrily: "That just means you think you can do whatever you want."

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You know having just lived through a pandemic where authorities obviously lied to the public on what they believed were noble utilitarian grounds and it turned into a completely counter productive clusterfuck, I think we would all understand the potential issues with the noble lie.

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I keep hitting like on your comment, and it keeps not making a little heart...

But yes, one needs to be damn sure of that noble lie being good and necessary, a level of surety well beyond what is given to humans. It seems to me that if ones justification for doing something hinges on other people not knowing that you did it, even with the fact that they might think you a horrible person if they found out, you have failed some basic ethical threshold. It seems much more likely to be an issue of rationalization.

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Eh. I'm not convinced. Yes, government did engage in noble lies. And yes, it had deadly consequences. But that is not necessarily reason to think that noble lies in general are bad. When it comes to government, specifically public health agencies, even when they were being honest, they still made terrible decisions that led to deaths. The fact that their actions led to deaths when they lied nobly is not necessarily an argument against noble lies, if their honest efforts were also destructive.

When it comes to someone like Singer, ostensibly his overt actions like charitable giving are actually beneficial, so there is more reason a priori to think that his covert actions would be similarly beneficial.

If the question is the utility of some hypothetical noble lie, our a priori assessment may be influenced by the apparent utilities of the noble liar's truths.

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I'm not convinced that everyone thinks it was a terrible mistake, sadly. There are still people who live in fear because the experts told them to.

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By all known accounts, Singer has been living a modest, vegan and ethical life while advocating for animal rights and helping the global poor. He’s not known to be any sort of law breaker or a dick in his personal interactions with others.

If the seemingly most horrifying thing about him is that he’s not entirely upfront about how radical his beliefs about helping the poor are, I have a hard time being as angry about it as you are.

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Of course, by his own writing above about the brain surgeon, if he had done anything more radical, he would only do it "if perfect secrecy can be expected"

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If what he advocates becomes normalized, he will be ground zero of great, great evil. And that is very deserving of horror.

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By what he advocates for, I assume you don’t mean animal rights and charitable giving. If you mean his surgeon thought experiment, that reads as more abstract philosophizing than advocacy. If he ever starts writing to physicians or in mainstream outlets that doctors should kill their patients to save others, then I will join you in horror then.

All this is besides the main point that I was trying to make, which is that it’s silly to look at Singer’s actual life and angrily denounce him as someone who thinks he can do whatever immoral thing he wants.

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As we are debating the matter at hand, the noble lie, I think it reasonable to debate if that particular aspect of his philosophy is indeed noble.

All of us I think have to balance deontological believes with utilitarianism, and we don't always tell the truth. When one advocates a kind of extreme utilitarianism that warrants extreme lying by a special class of "enlightened" people...well that's Lenin buddy.

I don't think lying about how 10% charity is good enough is that bad (in part because I think 10% charity is probably better than extreme charity), the noble lie concept itself is far more dangerous.

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Does your framework have any connection to eudaemonism/virtue ethics? Because I don't really accept either utilitarianism or deontology.

That being said, I do agree with you completely that the noble lie is, at best, mixed in impact, and most likely always counterproductive or harmful.

How I square this with my belief that common faith in instituations made up of people who are always, always warped by the power they seek and hold...I'm not entirely sure.

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I'm just shorthand trying to say that having a single philosophical framing system tends to end in some kind of absurd failure mode, so nobody actually acts that way.

I can of course imagine a noble lie that makes sense, but it usually doesn't take on the kind of importance of letting someone die on the operating table on purpose.

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In fact, I do mean animal rights, in so far as Singer advocates for them to be morally equal to humans. Which I view as of a piece with his views on abortion and medical ethics in general.

Are you arguing that you cannot denounce someone's ideas as morally horrifying if Singer, for whatever reason, doesn't happen to personally go around murdering people?

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Denounce the ideas all you want. The part of your post I found silly was that we should angrily denounce the man himself as someone who thinks they can just do whatever horrible thing they want. When you look at Singer’s life, that’s clearly not the case. From what I know, I expect he lives a much more ethical life than any of us in this comments section.

As for Singer’s views on animals, I can tell you that I am far more concerned about the current situation of 65 billion animals suffering in factory farms today with most of society assigning them zero moral value, than I am about a theoretical future where large numbers think they have equal moral weight.

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In so far as you can take anything directly about Singer from my post, which was an analogy using fictional characters, it is that I denounce what he THINKS.

As for "lives a much more ethical life than any of us"...you seem to have a serious inferiority complex. Don't project that on everyone else.

The future of human life being devalued isn't theoretical. It's here right now. And it's been here forever. That's why I am very militant against those who try to develop permission structures to continue to devalue it.

Edited because I became too heated in my response. Apologies.

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i get the diagreement about singers thoughts on abortions, but why do you view His views on Animal rights as immoral? have i misunderstood something?

Personally, if someone has ideas i disagree with but acts in ways that promote good things, that serves as weak -to- medium evidence that the beliefs are good: "Know someone by the fruits of his labour" and all that.

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There is a lot of nuance in how and what he says here, but fundamentally, he seems to think that humans are roughly morally equal to animals. And says that it might not be right to save a brain damaged person from a burning building.

I'm not convinced that what Singer views as good and what he promotes would match up with mine. For example, Population Services International is very active in promoting abortion. And I'm sure that Singer would find my donations to pro-life groups equally abhorrent.

So I do think that his ideas have an impact on actions he takes that I think have a mixed impact on the world.

Now, in terms of him being kind, respectful, etc - I think those are all good. But have no relevance on whether I think his ideas are good, and I think we should condemn ideas that are bad whether the people who advocate them are good or bad themselves.

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Maybe reread the post. The radicalism of his utilitarianism likely extends well beyond helping the poor but even to killing innocent people to harvest their organs. Even that aside, one can easily be so radical in one’s desire to help the poor that it is horrifyingly, if you can imagine it.

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I can imagine it fine. I am just saying judge Singer by what he actually does in his life, rather than by what you think he might do and what he advocates for in thought experiments.

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Petey nails it again. Singer has done more to make the world a better place than everyone on this page combined (myself included). Sniping at him just shows the petty jealousy, insecurity, and greed of the "intellectual" mob.

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So are you are in complete agreement with the ideas quoted here? Or is there context you would like to add?

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The way you phrased it makes it sound like you plan to "trap" someone who is willing to state that they agree with Singer, with the underlying strategy being that if no one is willing to say that they agree with Singer, you will have "won" the debate.

I'm basically in agreement with Singer's position. I suspect that you and I are reading different connotations out from Singer's position, and I think it would be educational (for me at least) to explore what these differences might be. On the assumption that I am "in complete agreement with the ideas quoted here, with no context to add," what weaknesses have I opened myself up to?

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I have no intent to "trap" anyone, though I will admit that in my interactions with Mr. Ball, he's seemed to me to favor nasty tactics and strawmanning. And this post continues that trend - accusing myself and I assume Dr. Caplan of "sniping" and being insecure, jealous, greedy, and fake intellectuals. Namecalling in place of any substantive engagement with any arguments.

My question was more about the idea of whether one can criticize the ideas of someone who lives a (theoretically, at least) morally upright life. Because I believe the uprightness or lack thereof of a person's life has no bearing whatsoever on the truth of the ideas they say they believe. In terms of persuading a community to believe them, it's helpful - you might say it has utility! - but it has nothing to do with whether those ideas are true or not (assuming the correspondence view of truth).

When you say you agree with Singer's position, I'm not quite sure which position? A specific animal rights or other policy position? Or Singer's seeming advocacy for two sets of rules - one for "most people" and one for the, for lack of a better term, "Philosopher kings" such as the theoretical surgeon. Or all of them? I'd be happy to explore differences, but am not quite sure in what direction your interest lies.

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> My question was more about the idea of whether one can criticize the ideas of someone who lives a (theoretically, at least) morally upright life.

I think that yes, you can criticize those ideas -- but that's a very low bar. You can criticize anyone for anything. I guess what you mean is something more like "If someone seems very moral, and they make claims about morality, should we ascribe a higher likelihood to those claims being true than if someone very immoral made similar claims?"

And my answer to that is also "yes", but it's a weak signal. To me, it's analogous to the idea that if Einstein made a claim in physics, we should think it more likely to be true than if some person who is "known to be bad at physics" made the same claim -- but if we are able to directly evaluate the truth of the claim, and we find it to be wrong, then we should probably think it's wrong no matter who said it.

> When you say you agree with Singer's position, I'm not quite sure which position?

To be honest, I'm not sure which positions I'm agreeing to either. You wrote "So are you are in complete agreement with the ideas quoted here?" and I had assumed you mean Singer's positions, as they were quoted in the original post and perhaps in various places in this thread.

I don't know for sure the exact set of Singer's positions that were quoted, so I was not sure exactly what I was agreeing to. But I knew that I "generally agree with Singer", so I felt like it was a safe place to start the conversation.

> Or Singer's seeming advocacy for two sets of rules - one for "most people" and one for the, for lack of a better term, "Philosopher kings" such as the theoretical surgeon.

This is the one I'm most interested in.

So I think Singer is a utilitarian, not a deontologist. So if you frame the issue was "There are two sets of rules... etc.", then I think you're already in the wrong mental framework for understanding Singer's position.

I suspect Singer's position is more like "There is one 'rule' (if it can be called that) which applies to everybody, which is to try to do the most good you can, given the situation you find yourself in."

In so far that there exists situations where lying to people leads to the most good, then in those situations, you should lie. And this is not restricted to philosopher kings or surgeons. Everyone should lie precisely in the situations where lying leads to the greater good -- and everyone (including philosopher kings and surgeons) should NOT lie, in the situations where not lying leads to the greater good.

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CS Lewis nails it again.

It is kind of amazing how much serious application of utilitarian consequentialism seems to lead to cults of "The wise and initiated do as they will, while lying to the little people, the foolish masses who must be kept in darkness with their own, very separate, rules."

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Exactly. And this result is exactly why I've always had a really strong negative reaction - hatred, even - of Plato's Noble Lie in the Republic. Because if something isn't right, it isn't right.

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You say he has *appeared* to change his mind about it being morally obligatory to give to the point of marginal utility. But I don’t see that. It just seems that he has stopped emphasizing the obligatory, and instead emphasized the points of greatest leverage.

A utilitarian doesn’t think that doing what is obligatory matters in any distinctive way beyond any other equivalent improvement.

Non-utilitarians might think that the obligatory is all that matters, but utilitarians think that every improvement matters in proportion to how big it is, with the last improvement being no more important than others.

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I think this is clearly right. The demandingness objection is not something that Singer or other consequentialists think matters when describing what is the ultimate good, but it certainly matters when encouraging other people. Bryan's claim is that he is intentionally being secretive about the stronger claim- I think that's a testable hypothesis, and my hypothesis is that if asked whether he still believes the stronger version of the claim, he would say that he does indeed endorse it, but that practically the world is better if he encourages 10% donations. He's not hiding anything, he's just prioritizing his message.

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Oct 21, 2022·edited Oct 21, 2022

While I tend to agree with you here, I think we'd have to at least concede that Kant himself uses lots of absolutist language, e.g. this line from the most commonly cited passage concerning the infamous "murderer at the door":

"To be truthful in all declarations is therefore a sacred command of reason

prescribed unconditionally, one not to be restricted by any conveniences."

Of course you might argue that he just happened to be an extremist as well as a deontologist, but extremism seems to be woven much more deeply into his reasoning.

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Very interesting. I get why Singer thinks he shouldn't lay out all the implications of his extreme utilitarianism. But how does that absolve HIM from acting in accordance with his own strongly held philosophical views? Isn't THAT hypocritical?

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It's hypocritical unless he reasons (as he probably does) that giving away everything he doesn't absolutely need to survive would reduce his effectiveness in spreading his philosophy.

Seems kind of...monstrous.

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This blogpost is pretty interesting as a response to that https://rychappell.substack.com/p/caplans-conscience-objection-to-utilitarianism

"This rests on the same mistake as the demandingness objection, namely, the assumption that utilitarianism is a theory of moral “wrongness” in the ordinary (mustn’t-be-done) sense. Really, no utilitarian thinks that failing to act optimally is wrong in the way that most people think of murder as being wrong (a semi-mystical status of objective prohibition that would properly threaten one’s social standing, and that one ought to feel terrible about violating). We just think you have most moral reason to do the optimal thing, that’s all. Far from being “crazy”, this claim is nearly trivial—who would deny it?"

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I agree that seeing ethics in this way renders utilitarian claims quite trivial.

But I’m not sure that’s the point you wanted to end on.

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i think this post is kinda conspiratorial and overly suspicious.

I have three issues with this mindset

(bad grammar here, have a cold, so a bit groggy)

1: failure to imagine people having different views of moral obligations (ie, how one must act if they see something as moral). Morality for me here would be more like "have more of good thing" rather then "if i don't do X thing im a monster". If you think that view of moral obligations is wrong, well, thats that i suppose: but its not being hypocritical in the classic sense.

2: Viewing that if someone endorses giving all surplus money to charity as optimal(A), but encourages people to give 10% in public(B), as being dishonest, or concealing counciously. My view is unless im lying and saying i dont think A is moral, but B is, then that isnt dishonest at all. It just normal human social savyness.

Im a pescitarian (health issues mean i need fish, otherwise 90% vegitarian), but i know most people wont give up 100% of their meat consumption even though i think that would be the most moral thing. so instead i encourage people to try meatless mondays.

Is that dishonest?

ps: in the "people i mostly admire" episode with peter singer, im pretty certain that peter singer says giving 10% is less than the most good people could do, but its still very good to give and its actionable. if people decide to give more then that then even better!

3: Feels like brian thinks that if a philosopher thinks of a hypothetical scenario and what would be optimal in that scenario, and then concluding that those philosophers would apply that to anything vaguely looking like that scenario, and thus, they are immoral and untrustworthy, even if they say that the scenario is super unlikely and not useful to act on most of the time

i think that if the surgeon dilemma happened, and you KNOW with 100% that it has the consequences that it is posited to have, that its moral right and good to kill the one person to save 5. But Practically speaking, those conditions never happen like that, and its much better to focus on growth or improvement. and since the human mind has a strong tendency for biases, you either need absurd certainty for the killing of the one to be correct, or much much higher numbers of people saved with high certainty.

i suppose you can argue that utilitarians with these caveats are still gambling with the devil and being overconfident, or that in practice help Genocides or political catastrophes happen.

a last note: brian seems to have high certainty in commense sense morality/ Intuitionism being the best way to deduce what is moral: so if an intuition says X Utilitarian conclusion is repugnant, then that is super strong evidence that utilitarianism is wrong. I think intuitionism is interesting and useful as a tool for reasoning about morality, but i think Brian and michael Huemer Strongly overestimate its validity, partly i suspect because the have different personality traits then a lot of people.

perhaps this makes me a monster, but honestly my intuition is super weak, so intuitionism is sorta useless to me, while utilitarianism serve a good guide to moral behaviour as long as you add uncertainty to it. "it feels wrong" doesnt compel me much at all, while "X amount of Utility" reads much more convincingly to me. I then just remodel peoples "Its wrong" into different levels of Anti-utility for that individual. Maybe its antisocial, but it helps my autistic brain be better and help people

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Isn't Singer's publicly presenting this argument itself a violation of the argument?

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Yes, the first-order act-utilitarian argument for harvesting the organs just invites the second-order rules-utilitarian rebuttal: the claim of 'total secrecy' may in fact be *impossible* given that other people are rational reasoning creatures. If you endorse the act under any circumstance of secrecy, because it being publicly known would have bad consequences, then people will simply statistically infer that the act is happening in secrecy even if they do not, by definition, know which specific secret act is happening; and then the bad consequences start to happen. So not only would discussing it exoterically appear to negate it, it could actually be outright immoral - utilitarians must not only be good, they must seem good.

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"Some things are better when secret, so let's make a rule to keep those things secret" is a pretty deontological mindset.

Presumably Singer's mindset is more along the lines of "Some things are better when secret, so we should tend to keep them secret unless we find ourselves in situations where talking about them might yield better consequences."

As for some general handwavy evidence for why this might be one of those situations:

1. There's probably positive value in getting people who are "utilitarian, but haven't figured out the value of keeping things secret" to learn about the value of keeping things secret.

2. The likelihood of "non-utilitarian people" (or more precisely, the people to whom this should be kept secret) reading this particular Singer paper (prior to Caplan signal boosting it) is pretty low.

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As further evidence, see Singer's conversation with Tyler Cowen from 2009 where he is fairly direct on this issue, foreshadowing his eventual adoption of a Noble Lie:

"TC: You think a Utilitarian has to be a kind of Straussian and embrace certain kinds of public lies to incentivise people?

PS: I think that's a really interesting issue. Yeah, I would say he has to be a Sidgwickian. I prefer being a Sidgwickian to a Straussian, just because Straussians have a rather bad flavor to it after they were used in the Bush administration. You could say that the Iraq War conspiracy was kind of Straussian. But, of course, Henry Sidgwick talked about that, he said that for a Utilitarian it is sometimes going to be the case that you should do good, but you need to do it secretly because if you talk publicly about what you're doing this would set an example that would be misleading to others and would lead to bad consequences. I think that's true, and I think for a Utilitarian it's inevitable that there will sometimes be circumstances in which that's the case."


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It is well-known that utilitarian theorists often hold that it is a good thing for most people to reject utilitarianism. It is a good thing for most people to embrace and abide by principles which must be false if utilitarianism is true.

I have maintained that this explains why the arguments that those theorists offer for utilitarianism are so bad. As utilitarians they want those arguments to be rejected. The sillier the arguments, the better their consequences!

Presumably, those theorists think that there really are some good arguments for utilitarianism. But those must never be revealed. For revealing them would have the awful consequence of converting people to utilitarianism.

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I say that consequentialism and deontology are to be mutually sustained and developed so as to be brought into correspondences with one another.

I elaborate in a video here (watch at 1.75x speed):


The presentation is about 15 minutes at 1.75x speed.

The bifurcating or fundamentally demarcating of consequentialism and deontology is a huge and tragic error.

I think Singer & Lazari-Radek get consequentialism wrong when they say:

"We agree that the consequentialist must accept that, in these circumstances, the right thing for the surgeon to do would be to kill the one to save the four..."

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The Noble Lie is in itself a good utilitarian remedy if you think that your reason is to feign moderation in expectancy of good results from that lie.

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Although I'm proud to be a member of the "foolish masses," I did graduate with Honors from Princeton, and like many of my fellow alumni, was quite unhappy that, after searching the world for a professor to round out a new position on "moral behavior" in the philosophy department. the powers that be chose Peter Singer. Right from the start, Singer came on strong, spouting some crazy and eugenic ideas which shocked almost everyone.

Since those early days of his tenure, Singer may be feigning a degree of moderation to calm down his detractors. He may believe that a professor can only go so far to stimulate discussion and debate. And, most likely, he may realize that his superiors could end his stay at the college if he foments too much controversy.

Shortly after his arrival at Princeton, he was promulgating the concept that a healthy new born pig was more valuable than a new born human with disabilities---That the unhealthy human should be euthanized rather than the pig---That newborn babies could reasonably be aborted/killed for a brief time period post-delivery. These positions were not presented as questions for debate: "Do you think that it is moral to kill a dysfunctional new born baby?" Instead they were stated and supported as perfectly moral positions by Professor Singer and they were met with considerable horror by many.

But there was little that could be done--Princeton had already begun to distance itself from its religious roots that dated back to John Witherspoon, the pastor from Scotland who was drafted to come over and accept the presidency of the College in the 18th century. I suspect many of the alumni scaled back their financial contributions to the college, but that did little to decrease the meteoric increase in their endowment from many big-donors and the many givers of more moderate amounts.

Like most colleges in the country, ninety percent of the employees, from the President on down to the instructors, are on the left side of the political spectrum and teach accordingly. Singer may be A-Political, but he is certainly a radical on "ideas." While it can be argued that all ideas, of every nature, should be presented for debate, the real hypocrisy at Princeton, and most every other college, is that opposing, or conservative ideas are rarely available. And when a rare conservative does visit, their speech is usually disrupted by protesters who obviously have no interest in debating ideas that differ from their own notions.

The utilitarian arguments that Caplan and Singer engaged in are more ethically moderate than Singer's ideas on life and death but they are still overly abstract--as most philosophers like to have them. I suggest that there is no "perfect" dollar amount that can govern charitable contributions. The real question is to whom are the gifts made, what do those recipients do with the money, what is the real-world impact of the gift, and how much should the donor and his family suffer from the loss? Obviously, some gifts to some organizations do more harm than good, and there is no reason to believe that a person on minimum wages should give away the same percentage as a wealthy individual, and finally, is there any reason to give anything to those colleges with vast endowments that cannot even teach why some nations succeed more than others or why the Industrial Revolution "happened" in Europe?.

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The noble lie also makes politicians much better than they first appear.

They almost all seem to lie all the time, but they have to hold power in our system, and they all probably think someone whose will come along if they becoming unwilling to lie.

Of course this mea s from the outside it's impossible or very difficult to tell the noblieblie politicians from the lie for personal gain and lolz politicians

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I think the theory of the noble lie explains a surprisingly high percentage of elite discourse.

I think at least two other popular intellectuals engage in the noble lie

1. Daniel Dennett on free will (his argument seems to be wink wink nudge nudge we have to pretend it exists as a useful social construct)

2. Jordan Peterson also seems to not beleive in free will but he never spells it out.

He says things like "predominently leftist" silicon valley billionaires are not responsible for their IQ and hard work ethic, which seems to suggest no free will, yet I think he knows his audience would like him less if he said that.

I also wonder about his christainity, both because it's pretty rare for an overnight conversion from atheism and it's extremely rare for a Christian not to believe in free will.

I'm personally undecided about free will.

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If the Lie is really Noble, it is wrong for you to expose it as a lie.

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Well, you can expose it to *me*: I am sophisticated. But you should not expose it to the unsophisticated masses. (You may reply that *they* don’t read your Substack.)

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Caplan, I'm surprised you would "expose" Singer like this. Here are my set of beliefs which led me to being surprised. Can you clarify which of these beliefs is wrong, and/or why you wrote this post?

1. Caplan is also a utilitarian (though does not share exactly the same beliefs as Singer)

2. Caplan understands, and is sympathetic to Singer's "secrecy argument".

3. Caplan evaluated that it would be wrong from a utilitarian perspective (do more harm than good) to signal boost Singer's secrecy argument to subscribers to his substack.

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Caplan has multiple times said that he thinks utilitarianism is a terrible philosophy: he just uses the Reasoning sometimes when analyzing certain policies where people disagrees and previous arguments havent convinced people

He thinks that no one really believes in utilitarianism, and that ones conciense can come up with a ton of counterexamples of it where your intuition says its ovviously wrong


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Thank you!

On a different topic, I find the argument you linked to criticizing utilitarianism to be a little weak (not necessarily an argument you endorse, I know. Just making conversation here):

1. The fact that our intuitions don't always match what utilitarianism prescribes is not necessarily evidence that utilitarianism is wrong -- it could be that our intuitions are wrong.

2. If utilitarians only stole from their wealthy children in situations where they would never get caught, we would expect to observe the world exactly as we see it today; i.e. seeing no evidence of the utilitarians only stealing from their wealthy children in situations where they would never get caught.

3. I don't think we should necessarily prefer moral philosophies that are the most PR friendly, but rather the ones that (if adopted by the vast majority of people) would do the most good (and I guess by the way I phrased that, you can probably infer I lean utilitarianism). If stealing from your grandma turns out to be the morally best action, but *telling* this to people leads to bad outcomes (e.g. by pushing people towards less optimal moral philosophies where, over their lifetime, they end up doing less good), then the fact that utilitarians do not going around telling people to steal from their grandmas does not seem to be evidence against the claim that utilitarianism (if adopted by the vast majority of people) is optimal. In fact, once utilitarianism becomes a super majority, we might start to see more people be willing to tell other people to steal from the grandmas in the specific situations where doing so would lead to the most good.

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I mean, the fact that so many people in the USA consider the theft of so many tax dollars from people to pay for college for other people to be a "moral" position indicates, at least to me, that utilitarianism, perhaps an extremely stupid version of it, is very popular.

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I don't think many people consider government subsidies for college to be a "moral position". Rather, I think people simply don't think about the topic.

I think most people are "deontologists by default", because that's how they were raised as children, and then they are never introduced to any alternatives.

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I dunno. The rhetoric around "free college" or "cancel student debt" is very much moral rhetoric. Maybe none of them mean it, but I don't think that's the case.

I was raised a eudaimonist, but I would definitely say that I am more sympathetic to deontology than utilitarianism, because of the functional, if not fundamental, two-tiered morality system.

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I could be completely wrong, but I suspect that for the layperson (most of whom don't publish any rhetoric at all), whether they are for or against free college is a tribal signalling thing. If the social or political group they associate is for it, then they are for it, and if the group is against it, then they are against it.

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Helpful link, thanks for providing!

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It will always be easier to use other people instrumentally than to do the work to come up with solutions that don’t require their human sacrifice. When we restrict that sacrifice we have to look elsewhere for answers. Isn’t that how we develop brain surgery in the first place?

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As I recall Plato's Gorgias, Soc. argues that the worst of all evils is to intentionally put error into another person's mind.

A danger in interpreting someone's work esoterically is (as I have seen among some U of C Straussians) to take things one agrees with as straight and things one disagrees with as esoteric, and then finding arguments to make it so. I do not see that error here, however. But it seems undeniable that this is the right way to read many authors; see Arthur Melzer, Philosophy Between the Lines.

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