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Scope of Ethics in General
Electric Sheep One
Member # 3431
Profile #32
The GR is not 'it's okay to do unto others anything you want, as long as you wouldn't mind it being done to you'. It's stated in terms of what you actively want others to do to you. And what you want to do to others does not come into it at all. So its prescriptions are unaffected by sadism or high pain threshold. The scenario in which the GR might seem to advocate hurting other people is masochism, not nerveless sadism.

A nerveless sadist might well hurt others while fulfilling the CI, however, if they were willing to endorse as universal the principle that anyone can do anything they want to anybody else, as long as they wouldn't mind it being done to themselves.

As far as I can see, any principle whatever can fulfill the CI, as long as you're willing to have it apply to everyone. The CI is a rule for making any principle of individual action moral (according to Kant), by adding the codicil 'and that goes for everyone.' So no particular principle of individual morality can ever be deduced from the CI alone.

Neither the GR nor the CI, nor anything else I can think of, can provide a closed formulation of morality whose interpretation for all possible cases is both unambiguous and unobjectionable.
As Wittgenstein undertook 'with the help of an intelligent joiner [carpenter]' to frustrate any general definition of 'chair', I think any of us could come up with bizarre scenarios which would make any such formula prescribe abominations. And if pressed, I bet one could invoke Gödel's theorem, with actions formalized as propositions and morality as the well-formed property, to prove that sufficiently powerful morality theories will always leave the morality of some actions undecidable.

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Posts: 3335 | Registered: Thursday, September 4 2003 07:00
Scope of Ethics in General
Electric Sheep One
Member # 3431
Profile #28
quote:
Originally written by Diprosopus:

You misunderstand. I'm saying that the GR is a crappy formulation that's best understood as part of the CI-- namely, contradiction in the will.

Anyway, the golden rule is such a blithely ineffective moral code that it's no longer worth discussing, and religion is a total non-starter for any discussion about ethics, so this tangent is over.

Heh. Try this sort of response as the professor in an undergrad seminar, and it might actually work.

Not in a graduate seminar, though.

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Posts: 3335 | Registered: Thursday, September 4 2003 07:00
Should there be a big battle at the end of geneforge 5? in Geneforge 4: Rebellion
Electric Sheep One
Member # 3431
Profile #25
As the end of semester approaches, I have the tedious task of fixing up the last of my lecture notes to post for the students. My procrastination factor is spiking.

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Posts: 3335 | Registered: Thursday, September 4 2003 07:00
Should there be a big battle at the end of geneforge 5? in Geneforge 4: Rebellion
Electric Sheep One
Member # 3431
Profile #21
Interesting analysis of Jeff's game history. The way I think it goes, though, is like this:

In E1, A1 and G1 Jeff was introducing a whole new engine, and in E1-A1 and G1, a new world. So the attention was on developing the setting and on implementing a lot of isolated set-pieces with the engine.

In E2-A2 and G2, Jeff was refining an established engine, and expanding on established settings and themes. He goes half-way from the big sprawl to the tight plot arc, by making a few major multi-step quests, and a few world sectors each dominated by a different group.

In E3-A3 and G3, Jeff was working on a three-quel and wanting to do something different with an established world. In E3-A3 he went bigger, going topside, and made one long quest series. But I think he must have felt afterward that E3-A3 was really just going more towards standard FRPG, that it wasn't really going to have original legs enough to keep his company going. So he started on Geneforge, which was quite different. Having to build up a new world again brought him back to a more A1-like game structure.

Jeff's Great Divide was really G3, I think. He tightened up the plot a lot, offering only one major choice to the player (though many opportunities to make and unmake it). He channeled the setting into a chain of small islands, and gave you explicit motivations to move along it. For the first time, he really subordinated the game world to the plot.

He overdid it, at least from a commercial standpoint, and G3 was not as popular as it needed to be. In A4 he backed off a bit, taking from E2-A2 the structure of medium-sized 'chapters' within which players could wander freely. The A4 sections were tiny compared to the wide spaces of A1, but they were much less confining than the little islands of G3. As in A2 the A4 chapter areas were separated by gateways that could only be passed by advancing the main plot. The basic nature of the main plot was clear from the beginning, however, rather than being a series of out-of-the-blue surprises, as in A2.

Having now been used in the successful A4, G4, and A5, I think the chapterized plot-dominated game is the new Spiderweb style. And I think it's here to stay. You can wander around within chapters, but you'll do so with a clear goal in mind, that will lead directly to the next chapter, and move you closer to the overall game goal. I think it must be so much easier to design a game this way, that Jeff just can't go back to the old sprawl style. But I think he has struck a good balance, by including enough freedom within each chapter that players stay happy and keep buying. And at least as far as I'm concerned, the plot-driven games have something big that G1 and A1 lacked: a story that's always in sight, rather than briefly flashing into view in occasional hints. So I'm happy with the change.

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Posts: 3335 | Registered: Thursday, September 4 2003 07:00
Scope of Ethics in General
Electric Sheep One
Member # 3431
Profile #18
I don't quite follow the logic of this hypothetical nerveless sadist situation. He can't be hurt, so he can hurt other people? But the GR does not say 'it's okay to do unto others anything they cannot do unto you'. It's about what you would like them to do to you, whether or not they actually can do it.

So you could invent a different scenario, with a masochist. Then to me the point would be that the masochist ought to figure out that getting hurt isn't actually the same thing for others as it is for him.

The New Testament does not record any comments by Jesus to or about nerveless sadists. (The closest thing, perhaps, is his prayer on behalf of the probably desensitized soldiers who were crucifying him: forgive them, for they know not what they do.) It's not at all clear that Jesus intended those words of his that were passed down to apply, unmodified or without reinterpretation, in all conceivable contexts. He liked parables more than abstract formulations, he took for granted a lot of contemporary Jewish thought as context, and he emphasized that the real meaning of words would show up only in action. He doesn't seem to me to have had much faith in universal formulas in general: he clearly believed in words, but I think his style shows that he recognized that they need context and they need content, neither of which they can supply for themselves.

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Posts: 3335 | Registered: Thursday, September 4 2003 07:00
Scope of Ethics in General
Electric Sheep One
Member # 3431
Profile #15
I'm a Christian, but just because of that, I figure Jesus can look out for himself if he wants. I try not to defend him any more than anyone else.

Most moral rules would involve everybody if everybody obeyed them. The categorical imperative forces you to think about everybody, though, just in order to obey it yourself. The Golden Rule doesn't.

I'm not really sure why one shouldn't judge others; I'm just saying that that was what Jesus said. 'Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what measure ye mete, it will be meted unto you.' (I'm sorry for the King James English, but it's the version that sticks in my head, more or less.) As far as I can tell, what he meant was that if we refrain from judging other people, God will go easy on us; but if we presume to lay down the law to others, God will hold us to the same standard. Jesus doesn't seem to have explained this policy, but he emphasized it quite a bit.

You are of course right that Jesus and his followers have certainly pursued big long-term goals. But what I said is also true, that he discouraged big-picture thinking, at least of a certain kind. How to reconcile these two things is one of the main things I think I'm missing. Without rambling too much, one guess I have is that he considered it a duty to pursue big or long term goals if they were imposed on you by God, but felt that if you weren't aware of having been assigned any such mission, then you shouldn't try to invent one for yourself.

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Posts: 3335 | Registered: Thursday, September 4 2003 07:00
Scope of Ethics in General
Electric Sheep One
Member # 3431
Profile #12
The traditional scope of ethics is, of course, universal. But what that means can vary considerably. Is ethics about principles or about consequences? Is it about individuals, or about everyone?

quote:
Originally written by Immanuel Kant:

You should always act according to principles that you believe should apply to everyone else as well.
This so-called 'categorical imperative' is a kind of more abstract variation on the 'Golden Rule' as endorsed by Jesus of Nazareth, which is also universal in scope, of doing unto others as you would have them do unto you.

But the two rules are different in interesting ways. The Golden Rule only needs you to have an idea about how you wish other people to act towards you; you don't need to formulate any views on how they should act towards each other. Jesus in fact strongly discouraged all judgement of other people, saying that to judge others was to be judged oneself, and was therefore to be avoided. The categorical imperative in effect says that you must judge others, because that is how you should judge yourself. This is arguably either an ethical advance, or a catastrophe, because it introduces social as opposed to individual morality. In this sense the Golden Rule is bilateral while the categorical imperative is multilateral, in their contexts.

Both rules are of course unilateral, however, in the sense that they insist you act a certain way, based on how you think other people should act, regardless of how other people actually do act.

The Golden Rule also speaks only about acting and wanting, not about principles. Although it is not necessarily practical in the usual sense — it can get you killed — it is expressed in practical terms. This is perhaps in line with Jesus's moral empiricism: "judge the tree by its fruit." The categorical imperative speaks in the first place about principles, and rather assumes that making events actually follow principles is trivial. In this sense Jesus and Kant are diametrically opposed: Jesus judges principles by their practical consequences, and Kant judges actions by the principles on which they are based.

Kant did also introduce the notion of 'imperatives of skill', meaning that you are morally obligated to enable yourself to implement your principles successfully in practice. So Kant was by no means so naive as to assume everyone was an ideological giant robot, always fully willing and fully able to put their principles into action successfully. But I believe it is one of the standard criticisms of Kant's ethics, that its primary emphasis on principles rather than consequences makes it too easy to justify bad consequences on the grounds of good intentions.

Kant also argued that human beings had to be considered morally as 'ends in themselves'. He was anti-utilitarian, as I understand him, and would not countenance any weighing of means against ends where human beings were concerned. But even this formulation tends to leave human beings only on the same level as other ends, such as ideological goals, and so arguably makes it easier to let ideology trump human rights and claim it as moral high ground.

Jesus's ethics, on the other hand, is local and quietistic, at least as I understand it. It's about individuals and their neighbors rather than societies or states, today rather than tomorrow, turning the other cheek and accepting suffering rather than employing hard means to better ends. It explicitly discourages moral thinking about the distant future, or distant places, or bigger pictures. I have a feeling my Christian ethics is missing something here, but this post is already long enough, so I won't include rambling speculations about what it might be.

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Posts: 3335 | Registered: Thursday, September 4 2003 07:00
Spiderweb Demographics 2008 in General
Electric Sheep One
Member # 3431
Profile #134
I'm not sure one can really get away with just dropping something that was the heart of socialism, for most of the history of socialism, and carrying on as though the rest of the ideology is fine.

For instance, socialism without the vanguard theory has a much harder time refuting the criticism that it is just another utopian pipe-dream.

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Posts: 3335 | Registered: Thursday, September 4 2003 07:00
Nothing's gonna change my world... in General
Electric Sheep One
Member # 3431
Profile #44
I'm not sure what level of practicality is needed, here, but there are a lot of big new windmills in other places. In the US Northeast there is a huge anti-windmill NIMBY factor: people don't like how they look. Admittedly, we're talking about dense grids of many giant towers with huge three-armed rotors, not a single picturesque farm windmill. But I think they look cool.

They are all over Germany, which is hardly the windiest land in the world. Nobody expects them ever to generate all the country's energy, but they are projected to supply a decent fraction eventually, something like 15%. Every bit helps.

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Posts: 3335 | Registered: Thursday, September 4 2003 07:00
shorthand in verbal conversation in General
Electric Sheep One
Member # 3431
Profile #22
If you read the full article I linked to, you see that it kind of did. That is, the 'Oll Korrect' version was already current when Martin van Buren's 1840 presidential campaign turned his 'Old Kinderhook' nickname (he was from Kinderhook, NY) into a punning slogan. OK was OK, or something like that. The OK campaign slogan made no sense unless at least some people already new OK meant okay, but the theory is that Old Kinderhook's campaign boosted the expression out of hipster cant into common slang.

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Posts: 3335 | Registered: Thursday, September 4 2003 07:00
shorthand in verbal conversation in General
Electric Sheep One
Member # 3431
Profile #20
From The Straight Dope by Cecil Adams:
quote:
The etymology of OK was masterfully explained by the distinguished Columbia University professor Allen Walker Read in a series of articles in the journal American Speech in 1963 and 1964.

The letters, not to keep you guessing, stand for "oll korrect." They're the result of a fad for comical abbreviations that flourished in the late 1830s and 1840s.

Read buttressed his arguments with hundreds of citations from newspapers and other documents of the period. As far as I know his work has never been successfully challenged.

The abbreviation fad began in Boston in the summer of 1838 and spread to New York and New Orleans in 1839. The Boston newspapers began referring satirically to the local swells as OFM, "our first men," and used expressions like NG, "no go," GT, "gone to Texas," and SP, "small potatoes."

Many of the abbreviated expressions were exaggerated misspellings, a stock in trade of the humorists of the day. One predecessor of OK was OW, "oll wright," and there was also KY, "know yuse," KG, "know go," and NS, "nuff said."

Most of these acronyms enjoyed only a brief popularity. But OK was an exception, no doubt because it came in so handy. It first found its way into print in Boston in March of 1839 and soon became widespread among the hipper element.
I can't tell whether 1840 hipsters actually spoke 'NS' or 'KG', or whether they only wrote them in newspapers. But obviously at some point people were saying 'OK', so the rest are at least plausible.

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Posts: 3335 | Registered: Thursday, September 4 2003 07:00
Should there be a big battle at the end of geneforge 5? in Geneforge 4: Rebellion
Electric Sheep One
Member # 3431
Profile #3
Have to make sure, though, that you don't end up spending too long simply running in combat mode. With 7 creations, that would be misery. But a long running battle, where you can pick your ground and ambush your pursuers, or sacrifice a couple of creations as a rearguard, or spread your creations out ahead to find the short escape route ... that would be interesting.

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Posts: 3335 | Registered: Thursday, September 4 2003 07:00
Episode 4: Spiderweb Reloaded. Something like that anyway. in General
Electric Sheep One
Member # 3431
Profile #661
Yes, 'facehooved' is a perfect last word. And things are certainly happening now.

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Posts: 3335 | Registered: Thursday, September 4 2003 07:00
Nothing's gonna change my world... in General
Electric Sheep One
Member # 3431
Profile #37
And they're recyclable.

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Posts: 3335 | Registered: Thursday, September 4 2003 07:00
Spiderweb Demographics 2008 in General
Electric Sheep One
Member # 3431
Profile #88
It's arguably more important to elect a good personality. For most voters in the rich countries right now, no policies are really all that important. Government by any of their mainstream parties would leave them with roofs over their heads and chickens in their pots.

In such circumstances, you can decide to be just as passionate about a 1% difference in income tax rates as you would be about ending famine or civil war. Or you can vote for a personality that seems most likely to keep your roof up and your chicken simmering, in the event of an unforeseen crisis.

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Posts: 3335 | Registered: Thursday, September 4 2003 07:00
Nothing's gonna change my world... in General
Electric Sheep One
Member # 3431
Profile #11
The problem with fossil fuels and the atmosphere isn't that we're tossing coal dust into the sky. It's that burning produces carbon dioxide, whether you're burning Texaco or Mazola. The CO2 you release is pretty much going to be directly proportional to the energy you extract, whatever kind of fuel you extract it from.

Biodiesel might be a way to stop importing fuel from the Middle East, but it's no solution to global warming.

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Posts: 3335 | Registered: Thursday, September 4 2003 07:00
Vacation in General
Electric Sheep One
Member # 3431
Profile #16
Belgium is to Cuba as beer is to rum.

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Posts: 3335 | Registered: Thursday, September 4 2003 07:00
Heath Ledger in General
Electric Sheep One
Member # 3431
Profile #28
quote:
Originally written by Actaeon:

[T]he classical composers would probably failed to land so much as a debut for their pieces.
Exactly. Some of those older guys were only woodcuts, for heaven's sake. Maybe a sharp Daguerrotype would have a chance, but they'd have to have a heck of an agent (at least an MP4).

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Posts: 3335 | Registered: Thursday, September 4 2003 07:00
Homeland : The Stone of Night is now officially a freeware game in General
Electric Sheep One
Member # 3431
Profile #74
We invented the secret order based in RWG, but it got out of our control. That's just because we imagined it getting out of our control, of course. But once we postulated an order so secretive that no-one could possibly know what it was really doing, we had to face the fact that getting made up on a message board would be entirely in character for them IF THEY WERE REAL!!!

So mite it be.

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Posts: 3335 | Registered: Thursday, September 4 2003 07:00
Heath Ledger in General
Electric Sheep One
Member # 3431
Profile #25
For most artists today, pixelation is a career-ending condition. (Black Mage is a token figure, boosted by the media so we can all show how liberal we are.) At 1960's resolution it didn't matter, because no-one could tell the difference anyway, so Paul McCartney had a fine career. He'd never make it today.

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Posts: 3335 | Registered: Thursday, September 4 2003 07:00
SimCity: the greatest evil? in General
Electric Sheep One
Member # 3431
Profile #37
All you defenders of SimCity are obviously in denial. I mean, really: if SimCity were not evil, would it really have included the option to zone a subdivision for Necromancy? Did you never notice what happened when a zombie swarm hit the commuter train? Come on.

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Posts: 3335 | Registered: Thursday, September 4 2003 07:00
Maxfield of Mertis in Avernum 4
Electric Sheep One
Member # 3431
Profile #4
But what if you look for non-hordes, to confirm that they are all non-raveners?

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Posts: 3335 | Registered: Thursday, September 4 2003 07:00
Spiderweb Demographics 2008 in General
Electric Sheep One
Member # 3431
Profile #19
(There's a bizarre wireless sweet spot in this hotel room in London. It only works if I sit right here; two meters over there, the link dies. I suppose I'm pirating from someone, but my conscience is assuaged, perhaps wrongly, by the consideration that the wireless payment hub here is not working.)

Not believing in things is indeed different from believing that things are not so. But in another sense it is just as much a firm metaphysical bet as a firm belief one way or another. What I mean is:

It's all very well to try to go through life without drinking anyone's Kool-Aid. But the problem is that once you get past the next 24 hours, at any given time, one's instinctive urges don't usually provide enough guidance for how to direct one's life. And living for the next 24 hours pretty much guarantees that one will not accomplish anything of more lasting significance. So if you want to accomplish anything of lasting significance, you pretty much have to buy into some notion of what constitutes lasting significance. And beyond the 24 hour time scale, inborn instinct does not seem to provide such a notion.

So if you want to have longer term meaning, you have to drink some Kool-Aid. There's an existentialist-agnostic Kool-Aid that makes some sort of transcendent virtue out of authentically living the life of uncertainty. But accepting that as a meaningful significance is chugging down some Kool-Aid nonetheless. Can you say Amen to that?

Perhaps you can. I'm not arguing, here, just saying how it seems to me.

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Posts: 3335 | Registered: Thursday, September 4 2003 07:00
ACS - TNG in General
Electric Sheep One
Member # 3431
Profile #36
If the SCA counts as out of the nest for you, then you're still in a somewhat bigger nest.

For which there is a lot to be said, of course. Wackiness past a certain point just gets banal.

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Posts: 3335 | Registered: Thursday, September 4 2003 07:00
ACS - TNG in General
Electric Sheep One
Member # 3431
Profile #33
In Quixote's day, thick books of romantic epic verse were the closest they had to the true ambrosia that is CRPG shareware. He was our spiritual ancestor, and all the more appropriately so for having been fictional himself.

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Posts: 3335 | Registered: Thursday, September 4 2003 07:00

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