The More Good the Better?

05 March 2015

Suppose we know what all the goods are.  It doesn't matter whether we are hedonists or ideal utilitarians who want to include knowledge or virtue or instances of beauty or whatever as goods.  Perhaps we just think goods are satisfactions of wants--whether they produce pleasure or not.  For the moment, it doesn't matter.  Let's just suppose we know what they are.

Now, let us also leave aside issues of equality, justice, etc. or, perhaps we can consider them but assume that in all the situations or worlds we want to compare, we have perfect equality, and when we increase goods we increase them equally for everyone.  Is it the case that a world with more good (or goods) in it must be (perhaps by definition) better than a world with less?  We don't say that for portions of pie, for example. There isn't only marginal decreases in additional utility when we keep adding pieces of pie to our daily intake--there's clear decrement.  We might say that in the case of pie, at some point there isn't actually addition of good when more pieces are eaten, that we aren't adding goods at all.  But what about such reputed "intrinsic goods" as pleasure, or satisfaction of desires? Some philosophers have said that if one were addicted pleasure machines one is unlikely to do anything to improve one's own life or the lives of others in any (other) way.  But again, we can just rule that out by stipulation: we can agree that in the cases of the goods we are interested in increasing the situation is like neither pie--where one gets sick--nor like addition to crystal meth--where one is mostly concerned with getting more. 

What I want to know is whether even with all these (unrealistic) provisos it is true when we compare two worlds in which one has more equitably distributed good(s) in it than the other, the world with more good(s)  has got to be better.  What do people think about this?

Comments (23)


Earnest Irony's picture

Earnest Irony

Monday, March 9, 2015 -- 5:00 PM

Hi Walto. I have a question

Hi Walto. I have a question about your post. You write in your second paragraph that we should: "assume that in all the situations or worlds we want to compare, we have perfect equality, and when we increase goods we increase them equally for everyone." But then in your third paragraph, we're comparing two worlds in which one has more equitably distributed goods than the other.
So is the question: given two worlds, one of which enjoys a more desirable distribution of goods, is the world with more goods the better world? 

Walto's picture

Walto

Monday, March 9, 2015 -- 5:00 PM

Hi.  I put that badly.  I

Hi.  I put that badly.  I meant to say in the third graph that BOTH worlds have their goods equitably distributed.  If we assume that, are there any goods (and I mean intrinsic goods--not cherry pie slices) of which we are comfortable saying "the more of them, the better"?  Pleasure? Knowledge? Virtue? Happiness? Opportunity? Freedom?
Thanks.

Earnest Irony's picture

Earnest Irony

Monday, March 9, 2015 -- 5:00 PM

Oh I see it now. Well, I'm

Oh I see it now. Well, I'm not sure I have an answer, but I'm reminded of Moore when he considers two worlds, one of which is exceedingly beautiful, and the other is the ugliest world imaginable. Even if there were no conscious being who could derive pleasure of pain in either of these worlds, Moore says that the first is inherently better than the second. If that's true, then I would think that the same reasoning would apply to worlds in which there are conscious beings--the more good the better. 

Gary M Washburn's picture

Gary M Washburn

Tuesday, March 10, 2015 -- 5:00 PM

De Maistre sees good and evil

De Maistre sees good and evil in equilibrium, claiming that increasing the good in the world increases the evil as well. John Rawls, on the other hand, contrasts the 'minimax' to the 'maximin'. But the quantification of utility is futility. It is a simple economic fact that the wealth of the society is maximized by maximizing the lowest tiers. But it is a fundamental error to suppose that what each takes into his own private place of enjoyment is any measure of value or good. We may well do a lot of private consumption of goods, but we learn what it is and means by recognizing what others are in need of and responding. The response may not be in itself the engine of the goods in the world, but it is the teacher. This is why we cannot meaningfully discuss or quantify the good in the world unless we set the exchange of goods, the recognition of need and our response to need, as the context of our learning  what is good. This doesn't mean that deem good what others seem to want or need, just that we can only enjoy the goods of life as part of the drama of participating with others in determining what is good and providing it. If utility is an intrinsically selfish criteria it is pernicious. We discover what is good by exchanging with others what we need. Economists tout capital as a vast improvement over barter, but this is a deliberate distortion. Barter was almost certainly not a system of exchange so much as one of ongoing reassessment of need. People became deeply invested in each other through a constant revisiting of the worth of what has been traded amongst them and revising the account. A money economy truncates the exchange to no further part to be played in the needs and judgments of each other. Enjoying the good things of life becomes a private matter. Furthermore, it espouses obligation in the from of debt that has no personal character or investment in it. The more money there is in the world the less good we do each other, and the less we know the good in each other. We cannot quantify the difference, for the quantifier is the difference, and through it there is less good in the world.

Walto's picture

Walto

Tuesday, March 10, 2015 -- 5:00 PM

Gary, I get the sense from

Gary, I get the sense from your interesting comment that you might take KINDNESS or VIRTUE to be goods of which "the more, the better" is true, though of course a world in desperate need of kindness or virtue or exemplifications of them might not be so great. So, never mind stuff like money or pleasure or satisfactions; do you think that, all else equal, a world with more of one or both of kindness or virtue in it must be better than one with less?  Or what about Earnest Irony's (or G.E. Moore's) beauty suggestion?  Is a world with more beauty in it necessarily better than one with less if all else is equal?

Gary M Washburn's picture

Gary M Washburn

Wednesday, March 11, 2015 -- 5:00 PM

I mean I think you and Moore

I mean I think you and Moore don't know what it is you think you are quantifying. What does 'more' mean. I am not a sentimentalist. My point is that all the epistemic and formal means of measure and conception are flawed. I can speak at any length you wish on that point, but the pertinent implication is how this inadequacy in rational modes get recognized and incorporated into our reasoning processes? Time really is anomalous to factual and formal reasoning. But anomaly alone is meaningless. However, insofar as it enables a response, itself anomalous to antecedence causality and logical form, to meaningfully evidence the incompleteness of such premises then something 'more' completely unprecedented emerges into time. Time itself. How do we even recognize, let alone graduate such 'more'? Time is a community in contrariety to the concept of such an external measure of it. No one alone is anything to it. Quantification is void (cf. The Conquest of Abundance, by Paul Feyerabend).
The stark and isolated individualism of the West has a very specific source in the dogmatics of power. I could trace it if you wish. But quantifying private 'goods' is part of the dogmatism. So please do not accuse me of sentiment when I challenge it!

Gary M Washburn's picture

Gary M Washburn

Thursday, March 12, 2015 -- 5:00 PM

Walto, no time today, maybe

Walto, no time today, maybe tomorrow.
 
Grue? (green-blue?) Golyadkin color sense? Definitely! Maybe!
The answer is no. I am referring to the suppression of the historical truth about Western societies suppressed by history in an effort to grab authority in all things waged as a vicious dialectic between kings and religious leaders. Meanwhile, most people lived a village life so exquisitely democratic that we can hardly imagine how equitable life could be. Most others, aside from the central royal faction and the church, lived under the essential feudal status of a personal covenant. That covenant had no reach beyond the two men bound in it, and though one had land he conferred upon the other under the terms of the covenant, its conditions were not necessarily a settled matter, and did not set one man over the other. A feudal covenant was an accord between equals. Only when it came time to pass the covenant on to the next generation, or when the rivalry between crown and church imposed its hegemony upon it, did it become the hierarchical system we (wrongly) conceive of it today. The Reformation was an effort to defeat Roman/Latin domination by asserting religion as a personal covenant with the god (reminiscent of the personal relation in feudal contract). The equality, of course, was jettisoned. We are left with the asymmetrical relation with the universe we are burdened with today. The ramifications are extensive, but I think you can get a glimpse of it.  

Walto's picture

Walto

Thursday, March 12, 2015 -- 5:00 PM

Hi.  You write:

Hi.  You write:
My point is that all the epistemic and formal means of measure and conception are flawed. I can speak at any length you wish on that point
I encourage you to speak more on this topic. I'm interested, in particular, in Sen's questions about what, if anything, utilitarians are supposed to be counting.  I take it that consequentialism involves some sort of intuition that "the more good, the better"--but I wonder...are there any goods for which this is true?  So, sure, I'd love to hear more on this.
However, it would be more helpful to me (and I'm guessing some other readers too) if there were a bit less of this kind of thing:
 
However, insofar as it enables a response, itself anomalous to antecedence causality and logical form, to meaningfully evidence the incompleteness of such premises then something 'more' completely unprecedented emerges into time.
I don't mean to imply that this remark is not both true and deep, only that very few readers are likely to understand it.  I, at any rate, don't know what you are saying there, so I guess you'd need to bring it down to my level.  (That's what this "other" is in need of.)
Also, I'm not sure why you suggest that I agree with Moore about beauty. I was just asking if YOU do, pursuant to another comment (by Earnest Irony) which offered beauty as a possible candidate in this connection.  I've taken no position on anything--just asked a few questions. 
Finally, I'm happy to retract any implication of mine according to which you are a "sentimentalist": I likely took my cues from remarks like these:

The more money there is in the world the less good we do each other, and the less we know the good in each other.

and
we learn what [value] is and means by recognizing what others are in need of and responding.
 
Again, thanks for your comments!
 
 

 

Gary M Washburn's picture

Gary M Washburn

Friday, March 13, 2015 -- 5:00 PM

Walto,

Walto,
Thank you for the retraction.
I hope it's not wholly unwarranted to suppose that the author of a post taking a special interest in a given author is generally in agreement with him, without specifying the nature of his interest (I can, unfortunately, safely say he since so few women are involved in philosophy).
I hope I can assume you know what anomaly is? What Antecedence and causality mean, as a continuity between points in a rational or real progression? Well, if that progression is vicious in some sense, if it is lacking in a perfectable rigor, then something anomalous to it is not necessarily outlaw to it, though the law of continuity implied implies it outlaw, or at least negligible (i.e., neglectable). But if we overtly share in only the language of continuity, and yet recognize the incompleteness of that continuity, even if every intuition of it is, each to his own, just anomaly, the (however slight) difference each of us brings to that intuition liberates the other from his own neglect of it, and so opening up new opportunities for re-conceiving all the term of that supposed continuity. This is how we learn. And it is a drama of participation, not of ratiocination. That is why we get to know each other coincidentally to our getting to know our world. But insofar as we are committed to the notion of continuity of reason and time we use neglect of the anomalous origin of it as sop to our predilection for certitude. What is required, in other words, is a virtuous dialectic that undermines the viciousness of the quantifier, or the vicious one (ego).
To pee or not to pee? Well, that's not even a question. At my stage in life to pee is not to pee and not to pee is to pee. And there is not a hint of contradiction in this. The crutch of the conceit that the "law of contradiction" is intrinsic to our ability to reason forces us to collapse the qualifier into the quantifier. Quantification dominates our minds, but not our lives, unless, of course, we live in a world where it, the quantification of good, is used as a means of coercing compliance in a tyrannical rule. If more things in the world were red, would redness be redder? If we use concepts (the terms of propositions, as opposed to the formal regulators quantifiers are) as quantities they act as quantifiers, and so conserve the pretense of the "law of contradiction", but lose the meaning. And, more pertinently, completely derail our efforts to understand the origin of our understanding. That is, the entire career of Moore, the whole Anglo-American (logical positivist) tradition is no gooder than a stick.

Walto's picture

Walto

Friday, March 13, 2015 -- 5:00 PM

Gary, you ask,

Gary, you ask,

If more things in the world were red, would redness be redder?
 
And I take it most people would say NO to this.  But what I'm actually wondering about is this:
 
If more things in the world were red would the WORLD be redder?
 
I think most people would say YES to that (although I recognize that your complaint about the law of non-contradiction might push you toward opposition to Yes-No questions, generally).  Anyhow, this analogy between the color question and the same sort of question about "goods" (which, for all I know is contrary to Moore's take about the non-naturalness of goodness) may be helpful in thinking about whether people might also be prone to give the same affirmative answer with respect to  'goodness'--and, if so why (and what sort of "goodness items" might be consistent with such a response). 
So thanks for that.
 
 
 
 
 

Gary M Washburn's picture

Gary M Washburn

Saturday, March 14, 2015 -- 5:00 PM

No. Red would be muted.

No. Red would be muted.
If we deny that god exists the theist quickly retorts that the statement implies a belief in god. Is this the naturalistic fallacy? The ontological fallacy is that the fact of a thing or state implies a deontological necessity of it. But it is hard to see how we could fall into such error without desiring the consequence. But I am not advocating ambiguity or contrarian themes. There is a kind of contrariety which is more determinate than disambiguation. So much so it supplies the remedy to the incompleteness of formal or epistemic continuity. The contrariety of the infinitesimal is the most determinate term in math or logic. In the calculus, devised in the height of the Enlightenment Era to wrest temporality from the superstitious notions of the priests, the infinitesimal is that term of incalculable change rendered so small as to be negligible. But the mathematics of this is dubious (see The Analyst, by George Berkeley), and that final term is so far from negligible it is actually the most crucial and most rigorous term. But it is neither within nor without the calculation. It is neither one thing nor the other. But it is so in a sense so determinate that the meaning and rigor of the calculation is sealed by this determinate indeterminacy. Which one of us is us? Through which one of us is the good come into the world? Which one of us is the measure of it? Or of any term? Not this one! That is the determinacy of it. The good, or the meaning of any term, is not mine. That is how I know it is real. But my recognizing this is how it is real. That is, the idea of the good is not a possession, is not a private property or experience. More for me is always less what good is. The measure of how much good there is in the world is not how much each one would have of it.
 
In more concrete terms, the goods of the world are largely products of human effort. But whose are they? From time immemorial elites have left work to the workers, until one of a series of 'acts of enclosure' usurped the right of the villagers of England to elect their own supervisor, or reeve. When the Lords of England took away this ancient right they finally broke down the last wall the poor had against complete tyranny. This is analogous to the development of industry shortly thereafter, in which work was completely regulated, and its output completely in the hands of the owners of the manufactory. If this system produces more goods, does it produce more good? Whose? Whose the goods of the world if the people who actually produce them get a diminishing portion? For then, more goods in the world means, at least, a greater disparity of goods, and often, if not necessarily, less goods for those who actually produce them. In which case, more goods means less good in the world.

Walto's picture

Walto

Saturday, March 14, 2015 -- 5:00 PM

BTW, Gary.

BTW, Gary.
I find this remark very interesting and thought-provoking: 

The contrariety of the infinitesimal is the most determinate term in math or logic. In the calculus, devised in the height of the Enlightenment Era to wrest temporality from the superstitious notions of the priests, the infinitesimal is that term of incalculable change rendered so small as to be negligible. But the mathematics of this is dubious (see The Analyst, by George Berkeley), and that final term is so far from negligible it is actually the most crucial and most rigorous term. But it is neither within nor without the calculation. It is neither one thing nor the other. But it is so in a sense so determinate that the meaning and rigor of the calculation is sealed by this determinate indeterminacy.
 
Can you suggest some (not too technical!) reading material on this?  Much appreciated.
 

Walto's picture

Walto

Saturday, March 14, 2015 -- 5:00 PM

one of a series of 'acts of

one of a series of 'acts of enclosure' usurped the right of the villagers of England to elect their own supervisor, or reeve. When the Lords of England took away this ancient right they finally broke down the last wall the poor had against complete tyranny.
 
Right on.
Most of your last graph, (which I largely agree with), is a restatement of claims made against the idea of simply summing happiness or personal preferences as the the brass ring of welfarism. Such complaints have been brought by as diverse a bunch as Rawls, Nozick and Sen, (not to mention Pareto). So you make justice a good thing too. Bully for you. Pretty much everybody in philosophy and economics has done so for a couple of generations. It could even be (and has been) argued that Mill did so as well. You also have concerns about interpersonal measurement.  Well, so does everybody else. I mean, not just Arrow said the whole idea of that was meaningless, so did Schlick, nearly 100 years ago. So I agree with you, they agree with you, and the fat man above the trolley tracks likely does too.  
In the first graph you ask Which one of us is us. Based on your second graph I'd say you are.  You are us.

Gary M Washburn's picture

Gary M Washburn

Sunday, March 15, 2015 -- 5:00 PM

Solid liberality all around!

Solid liberality all around! Like Weber, Rand, Schumpeter, Strauss, and Friedman?
 
Douglas Joseph, Berkeley's Philosophy of Mathematics. It's a little daunting if you're not comfortable with math, but well explained. The basic theme is that the notion of the infinitesimal is the crux of the calculus, but that its value is positive through most of the justifying equations, but taken as zero as the clincher. A clear contradiction.
If the quantifier vitiates the good, and the value of all terms, then the quality of time articulates upon the determinacy of the infinitesimal as indeterminate between the calculated value and its opposite. That is, there is an incalculable range of values between is and is not, and so the universal qualifier the paring would be, if time were quantifiable, is not the hermetic divide it would need to be to warrant the reliance on formalism to settle value issues or even find or describe meanings. The quantifier is the void. There is no "one" time is. Nor is it found in its numbers. It is, rather, in the quality of the departed that the rest of time is found its realest term. Ready for some biology?
lorly?

Walto's picture

Walto

Sunday, March 15, 2015 -- 5:00 PM

Am I ready for some biology?

Am I ready for some biology? That depends. Will it be, like the math, vintage 18th Century?

Gary M Washburn's picture

Gary M Washburn

Monday, March 16, 2015 -- 5:00 PM

No, half-baked and home

No, half-baked and home-cooked, but very much twenty-first century. Though I rather suspect Newton's calculus, in physics classes around the world, is little the worse for wear. So much so that Berkeley's objection is hardly noticed, though philosophically profound, perhaps decisive. Even today, the efforts of physicists to track down the infinitesimal as the defining point of its negligence of its limits evidences the loss of that negligibleness at both ends of the scale of its extension. But if time is just the differing it is, this should not surprise.
The biological issue is differentiation. For replication in a real sense isn't life. Cells that merely replicate are not alive if, however ancient the cell mass or however many of its number has been destroyed or consumed, are nevertheless remnants if the ancient individual cells. That is, ancient bacteria alive today may have replicated millions of times, but are still, what is left of them, the same entities of the ancient era. If some portion never dies, though perhaps a bit evolved, can it be called life? Complex 'life' wins the name because it wins its complexity through a process of cell differentiation. But if that differentiation is incremental, if the cells of the zygote only very gradually alter into their ultimate role in the various tissues of the adult organism, then that differentiation cannot be determined genetically, but must entail a responsiveness in the organism as a whole, a sort of 'revaluation of all values', implicit to the genetic "code". Try this with a machine, mechanical or digital, and it would grind to a halt with each successive function required of it. But if there is good in the world the ability of each, if only in the least term, to revise all the meanings of the whole is the realest term of that good. But only if the community as a whole is articulated that good as the inestimable worth lost to it by the departure of that individual, as the greatest difference to the world its differentiation is, is there any world or any good in the world at all. Utilitarianism implies individualism, even as a kind of monsim. The monad counts itself a kind of constancy. Of one. What opens a way for good to enter the world through its departure is no such monad. In a way it is no 'one', as time itself is no 'one', and so cannot be identified by or traced to its ends. Person is the differentiation made real as the final term of a rigor meant to preserve it. To die anonymous is the most completed loss, as a wrinkle in time wholly anomalous to any extension of it is no beginning. But if there is a response entailing all of time in proving the notion of its extension incapable of completing even its beginning, then the ends of time is the act of differentiation (departure) so responded. Moment. Hence I can say with perfect seriousness that the least term of time is all the differing it is. We are biologically committed to differentiate, and so to die. We are psychologically committed to endure and to conceive of time as extension. But we are wrong to do so, as time will tell upon all. But in life, we can hardly build a world upon such anonymity as unrecognized death is. But what then creates a world is that despite the commitment necessary to it that we conceive the world as enduring and as a kind of completed time or count of time, we find that least term of time in a characterology of the conceit of enduring time, in personal reason or 'interior life', entailing a loss of that conceit, in some least term, as its extremity of rigor. We change our minds. But what entails that change is not that conceit, but the need each of us is of that freedom from that conceit the respondent needs to be responded in recognition of what good or worth it is in being proved that the ends of time is that the intimation, between that need and that freedom, is its moment.    
 
 
 
 
 

Walto's picture

Walto

Tuesday, March 17, 2015 -- 5:00 PM

"But what entails that change

"But what entails that change is not that conceit, but the need each of us is of that freedom from that conceit the respondent needs to be responded in recognition of what good or worth it is in being proved that the ends of time is that the intimation, between that need and that freedom, is its moment."
 
Hunh.
 

Gary M Washburn's picture

Gary M Washburn

Wednesday, March 18, 2015 -- 5:00 PM

Hmph! Harumph! The is a

Hmph! Harumph! The is a recently released movie in which the guy who played Wormtail in the Harry Potter movies plays an inarticulate artist. Turner, I think it is. He grunts his way through the picture, and critics rave about how much these grunts express. But I wonder what the 'linguistic scientists', like Chomski, make of them?
When we change our minds, isn't there something in this change, however infinitesimal, meant to emancipate others from our conceits? The Question I ask is, just how 'extensive' is this meaning? How extensive does it have to be? If it breaks the hermetic seal between is and is not, between antecedent and consequent, referent and intention, cause and effect, social power and its obligating us, how extensive does it have to be? If time is just the differing it is, how much differing is required of it to completely transform redefine and revalue what beginnings and ends are? Alone, a change of mind is idiolect. It can only engender a vicious dialectic in which its respondent is crushed or crushes it. And all the while this massive expanse of space and time (as extension) looms like an implacable monster effacing all we deem good or love. But if the continuity of that effacement is broken wherever minds act, even in some infinitesimal term, lost their prior convictions is a way freed their respondent of those convictions, then the revaluation of all values is a virtuous dialectic as encompassing as that revaluation is complete. If everything changes from then on, how much of a change does it have to be to bring more good into the world than it can count? Doesn't it suggest a much more powerful engine of meaning discourse and reasoning than static systems can generate? If so, then what does 'more' mean?
 
 
 
 

Gary M Washburn's picture

Gary M Washburn

Saturday, March 21, 2015 -- 5:00 PM

"The Vicar of Dibley: Animals

"The Vicar of Dibley: Animals (#1.6)" (1994)
[first lines]
"Alice: You know that stuff that they're selling now at the local shop?
Geraldine Granger: Which stuff?
Alice: I Can't Believe It's Not Butter.
Geraldine Granger: Oh, yeah.
Alice: Well, you know, I can't believe it's not butter.
Geraldine Granger: Yeah, well, I believe that is the idea, yeah.
Alice: Then yesterday I went to Kirkenden and I bought this other stuff, like a sort of home brand, you know.
Geraldine Granger: Yes?
Alice: And, you know, I can't believe it's not I Can't Believe It's Not Butter.
Geraldine Granger: Mmmm?
 [pause]
Geraldine Granger: I'm losing you now.
Alice: Oh, right. Well, you know I Can't Believe It's Not Butter?
Geraldine Granger: Yeah, yeah, yeah, you think it is butter.
Alice: No, no. I mean, you know the stuff that I can't believe is not butter is called I Can't Believe It's Not Butter?
Geraldine Granger: Probably, yeah, yeah.
Alice: Well, I can't believe the stuff that is not I Can't Believe It's Not Butter is not I Can't Believe It's Not Butter. And I can't believe that both I Can't Believe It's Not Butter and the stuff that I can't believe is not I Can't Believe It's Not Butter are both, in fact, not butter. And I believe... they both might be butter... in a cunning disguise. And, in fact, there's a lot more butter around than we all thought there was.
Geraldine Granger: Yeah. You see, I don't know what you're talking about, but I'm sure God does and is intrigued by the whole thing".
 
Or..., maybe there's a lot more good in the world than Moore believes, which rather vexes the question. More good than we know how to put to use, or derive any pleasure from? Or analyse? But some things are too many to be one and too much to be so many. How the good differs from such vexed quantification may be the Holy Grail.

Gary M Washburn's picture

Gary M Washburn

Wednesday, March 25, 2015 -- 5:00 PM

"What I want to know is

"What I want to know is whether even with all these (unrealistic) provisos it is true when we compare two worlds in which one has more equitably distributed good(s) in it than the other, the world with more good(s)  has got to be better.  What do people think about this?"
Does the good Moore writes about really provide a context for this question? Isn't it more up Bentham's street? Or Mead's (who, I must admit, I at first, mistakenly, thought you had in mind). For Moore, the good is the ineffable exoteric around or within which the great chain of rational entailments is shaped. It is the external term meant to clinch the deal to a system that cannot include its first or final term. It seems like the dress dummy on which the chain-mail of machine reasoning of the analytic tradition is built. But how does one quantify the ineffable? You see, the quantifier is the necessary form of contradiction, without which analysis cannot claim to be pertinent to the real world. But that pertinence is bought at the price of keeping secrets between the terms of propositions. When I call this conceit I do not mean some sort of ego trip, I mean a mind-set that can only sustain itself by putting some part of itself beyond enquiry. And what I was getting at in earlier posts is that this inadequacy in formal reasoning expresses itself in small alterations in that conceit that we call emotions, the ebb and flow of certitude inevitable in a conceit that cannot sustain itself as the real term, and which enables its respondent to free itself of that conceit not its own. That response itself develops its own dynamic of its own conceit, enabling its respondent freed of it. The result is a virtuous dialectic through which all that rigor and discipline of sustaining that conceit, and the secrecy it entails between the terms of the propositions it manipulates in thought, becomes breached between us as the unhidden dynamic through which that conceit is lost. The virtuous dialectic introduces between us that unhidden dynamic of rigor which entails as its extremity the loss of its prejudicial secrecy. In introducing ourselves to each other there is something (who we are) recognized unhidden in the dynamic of lost conceit and freedom enabled through that loss, though just recognized yet unknown. But as we grow in lost conceit and freedom enabled through it we learn of that unhidden though yet unknown term (who each of us is) as the most extensive term of time and person. The truth of predication is only real in that growing intimacy between my lost conceit and your being freed of it, and vice versa. It is the community in contrariety, as I tried to explain earlier. It is also the engine of the good. whereas the quantifier analysis relies upon is the engine primarily of secrecy.   
Can the goods of the world be maximized? I think it's ax stupid question, and implies a blazing conceit that some of us don't deserve to share in the goods of the world. This conceit is endemic in philosophy as it is in life. It is a stubborn injustice requiring some ineffable 'good' to keep us convinced of. Why is it, for instance, that Adam Smith refers to the maximum expectation of wage earners, and as a natural law consequnce, as "subsistance"? Don't the producers of the goods of the world deserve a better share in them? Is this a frivolous or impertinent question? Does truth really love to hide? Or do some of us love to hide it? I once goaded an economist to answer this. We were discussing the effects of raises of aging workers. "Do you think older workers become too well comfortable to sustain productivity?", I asked. "The trick is to keep the increments small enough!", he replied. I admit, I tricked the response out of him, but which trick is crueler? 

Walto's picture

Walto

Thursday, March 26, 2015 -- 5:00 PM

The Moore stuff is all

The Moore stuff is all orthogonal to my topic: I think it was the first comment that brought up Moore on beauty.  So I will let that poster respond. I don't care what the goods are conceived to be.  We can take them to be pleasures or satisfactions of desires or whatever. 
You also make the claim that "the more good the better"
implies a blazing conceit that some of us don't deserve to share in the goods of the world.
However, that claim ignores language you actually quoted from my initial post, viz., the "equitably distributed" in my question regarding whether "the more good the better" is true
when we compare two worlds in which one has more equitably distributed good(s) in it than the other.
so your stuff on that is largely off-topic as well. 
OTOH, I think it's an important point that increasing the number (or quality) of goods is not sufficient either for a maximin principle like Rawls' or even Pareto-optimality.  I don't want to downplay that fact--as I said, I think it's important.  I just note that if it is a defect of a summation of goods view, it's also true with respect to more common positions among welfare economists--like those of Sen or Arrow--where those positions (a) cannot really compare states at all (in the manner that the more good the better can) because of the impossibility theorem and the liberal paradox, and (b) also need any requirement for Pareto-optimality to be added as separate postulate.  That is, if we are worried specifically about unfair aggregations of goods all the methods for comparison (including yours if you have one) are in roughly the same boat unless, as I indicated in my initial post, fair distributions are simply taken as goods. That, however, is a bit of a cheat if you care about these things.

Gary M Washburn's picture

Gary M Washburn

Friday, March 27, 2015 -- 5:00 PM

Goods are not, as Locke would

Goods are not, as Locke would have us believe, just out there to pick up and make our own, with no impact on what others might obtain. So my question stands, why is it that Smith, an avowed ethicist trying to bring some rational ethical meaning to an insane system exchange, should, throughout his treatise, relegate the people who actually do the work to produce the goods, to subsistence? It's all well and good for the Stones to tell us that we get what we need (if we try, sometimes), but do we get what we deserve? You exclude this issue as outside the scope of the question. But this seems unfair, and maybe a touch dishonest, if it has the effect of neglecting an intrinsic flaw in distribution systems. Working people just can't be permitted to get ahead of the 'enclosure acts', an array of economic interests engineering the means to pick us clean of any "surplus". Doesn't the presence of a surplus (even equitably distributed) offer too many temptations to those who feel they have a right to more to disrupt the balance? I thought the New Deal had it about right, actually, allowing for the primitive social views of the time. It's problems arose from a too cozy relation between government and industry which ultimately left the people out, again. If a surplus for all does not succumb to such pernicious social forces a Pareto-option doesn't apply, it would be a win-win situation. The Pareto option, it seems to me, excludes this out of hand. The question is, like Smith's 'subsistence', why do economic theories so (almost) universally exclude the possibility of a (healthy) surplus for wage earners? I don't see how you can honestly exclude this question from your discussion. My answer is that it has to do with the difference between the semantic power of value and the formal power of the quantifier. I'm sorry if you regard my remarks about Moore as beside the point, but I thought them interesting anyway, and, as explained here, rather more to the point than you might suppose. 
 
 
 

Gary M Washburn's picture

Gary M Washburn

Tuesday, March 31, 2015 -- 5:00 PM

Well, I suppose Dr. Pangloss

Well, I suppose Dr. Pangloss would do a better job with your question than I did. I never could put much stock in alternative world scenarios. They play havoc with conservation of matter/energy. But the fact of the matter is that inequity is entropic. And the more goods there are in the world the more systematic the entropy. History proves this so plainly I don't know how you could ask your question. You cannot assume equity as goods increase. You must anticipate inequity, take countervailing measures, and then proceed. I think the world can get pretty good, but not if we think we can get there by fiat or Panglossian assumptions.

 
 

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