Ask Tosomitu About Tumblr Drama

For the purposes of this article I will be using Tumblr drama to mean roughly “publicly calling out some entity’s ethical transgression (and ensuing discussions)”.

Starting with the obvious: not all Tumblr drama is created equal. In determining whether a particular contribution to the Tumblrdramasphere is positive or negative, I am concerned primarily with three classes of affected people and two classes of effects.

The first class of affected people is you (“the speaker”). What will the consequences of speaking be? How will speaking make you feel, and how would different possible responses (including hate speech and harassment) make you feel? You may or may not have the most at stake, but in either case you are a human being and how you feel matters. Consider doing a back-of-the-envelope expected personal utility calculation. (But if you do, throw it away immediately. It’s not accurate.)

Also consider how speaking will change you. Acts become habits.

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Ask Tosomitu About House Elves

I’m going to interpret Daniel’s first question narrowly (or else we’ll be here all day), as “Is it more or less ethical to create a house elf, relative to a human?” where by ‘house elf’ I mean a conscious, sentient being of approximately human intelligence with a psychology built around an essential need to serve humans and the enjoyment of doing so. (See Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.)

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Critiquing “Vulgar Morality”

Adam Gurri’s piece on rejecting what he calls “Telescopic morality” (also see here and here) has been on my mind a lot lately. I happened to come across this writing at a time when life was already forcing a near-mode orientation onto me (so on the outside view, this philosophy is rather self-serving). I will join in calling the philosophical/practical orientation under discussion “vulgar morality”.

What does it entail? In a nutshell: your ethical life would improve if you focussed your attention on local (i.e., close to you in time/space/relationship) & concrete questions, at the expense of global & abstract questions.

Examples:

  • Study basic personal finance before debating macroeconomics.
  • Join your condo board and change their pet policy before weighing in on geopolitics.
  • Help out a relative with their leaky toilet before trying to solve The Middle East.
  • Get out of the habit of snapping at your spouse before pontificating about optimal gender relations.
  • Make something someone is actually willing to pay you for, before saving the world for free.

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Local and Global and the Terrible Telescope, Part 1

In the comment thread for my previous post, I remarked that

I don’t know of a good theory that bridges the chasm between individual justice (where I think free association is an important fundamental right) and global justice (universal behaviors like [modes of systemic oppression]). I don’t pretend to have one.

What I’d like to do in this series is try to convince you that you probably don’t have one either.

  • Local and Global William Lane Craig is Terrible  Kant is Also Terrible
  • the Repugnant Conclusion is Neither Telescoping Considered Harmful
  • You Are Not God, You’re Not Even President of the Galaxy
  •  The Can’tegorical Imperative Further Reading

1. Local and Global

One hard lesson every student of advanced mathematics learns is that a construction that seems easy and obvious locally–for instance, in a small region of a space–can be very difficult, or outright impossible, to make meaningful globally–eg, over the whole space.

For example, think about the direction ‘North’.  Which way is north? Wherever you happen to be reading this, you probably know already; if you don’t, your phone can probably tell you. ‘North’ is an easy local concept–we can all check which way north lies. We can find ‘north’, no matter where we go. Right?

Wrong.

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