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Thread: Should we be responsible for the decisions others make?

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    Should we be responsible for the decisions others make?

    I’ve been all scattered about trying to make heads or tails of two kinds of cause. The first kind is physics related. If I forcefully throw a fragile wine glass down onto hard concrete and the glass breaks, I accept that I have caused the glass to break. Granted, there’s a myriad of things going on, how forceful, how fragile, and how hard the respective things are is relevant to the final outcome, but the main point is to characterize this scenario as a cause of the first kind.

    Now, you see me break that favorite glass of yours, and you decide to throw your dinner plate at me. You miss and it hits the person behind me. She gets shitten and throws her chair at you and your finger gets broke.

    It’s my general view that each person is responsible for the consequences of their subsequent actions up to the point there is an intermediary mind-bearing agent who is capable of processing a decision. So, in the scenario above, my responsibility is limited. Where does the buck stop? Right up to where you are making a decision.

    Now, I’ve come up with a lot of scenarios, and I realize this view screams to throw exceptions my way, but like I said, it’s a general view, and as the saying goes, it’s the exceptions that prove the rule.

    I’m flip flopping back and forth in my head thinking about responsibility on the one hand and the two kinds of cause on the other. Oh, the second cause (decision related) is where there is an intermediate decision maker. In the first sense, I did not cause you to throw the plate, but if you said I did, it lacks the physics present in the first.

    For example, an official with the authority to alter the interstate speed limit decides to increase the speed limits to 100 MPH. All other traffic laws, however, remain unchanged, so things like the prohibition of following too closely remain in effect. Let’s say accidents and fatalities subsequently and immediately shoot up like nobody’s business.

    We know what people are going to say. The official caused it, but because there are drivers making bad decisions, I would deny that the official is the cause in the first sense while it may be so that he is the cause in the second.

    If an officer shoots an unarmed and non-threatening black man and that triggers riots, is the officer responsible for the destruction caused by the protesters? If a cop chases a speeding car and the cop gets into an accident, the responsibility may be bestowed upon the speeder, but if he also caused the accident, it’s limited only to the second kind if the speeder played no part in the physics of the crash.

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    I do not think intelligent agents are beyond physics, so it's all physics related. But generally, I would say the morality of a behavior depends only on features of the mind of the agent who carries it out (it's debatable whether diachronically or synchronically, but that's another matter). This includes what the agent knew, but not what other agents do.

    Quote Originally Posted by fast
    If I forcefully throw a fragile wine glass down onto hard concrete and the glass breaks, I accept that I have caused the glass to break.
    Suppose the glass quantum-tunnels through the concrete and falls into a pool full of water. It does not break. Then, the morality of your behavior is just the same. It does not matter whether it actually breaks or not, even though that may be relevant to other people, who might or might not decide to take punitive action depending on whether the result negatively affects them.

    Quote Originally Posted by fast
    If an officer shoots an unarmed and non-threatening black man and that triggers riots, is the officer responsible for the destruction caused by the protesters?
    The morality of the behavior of the officer does not depend on whether there are riots. But then again, the morality of the behavior of the officer also (given same state of mind of the officer) does not depend on whether the unarmed and non-threatening Black man is killed by the bullet, or (say) the bullet hits a steel plate in his pocket and causes only a small injury. The morality of his behavior only depends on factors such as his intent, the information available to him, his beliefs (not the same, as he might assess the information irrationally), and generally, some facts about his mind.

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    The flip side is should others be responsible for the decions I make?

    If I go off in the wilderness and get lost should tax dollars be used to find me?

    If you smoke odds are otters will pay higher insurance premiums when you get sick from it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Angra Mainyu View Post
    Suppose the glass quantum-tunnels through the concrete and falls into a pool full of water.
    Then i’ll accept that I caused the glass to fall into a pool of water. I’ll accept all blame for each and every micro event that subsequently occurs as a physical result of what I set in motion. But, there’s a limit. Inject a person into the equation that makes a subsequent decision supposedly because I did what I did, then I draw the line.

    I want to be responsible for everything I do. I accept the consequences for what I have done. If I throw a bat that hits a chair that quantum tunnels to DisneyLand and pops out and knocks someone over, then oops, it’s all my bad—and I’m sorry. But, if that person decides to throw rocks through windows because he’s fed up and frustrated with all the quantum tunneling going around, then even though it may be the case that he would not have thrown rocks had I not initially threw the bat, I refuse to say that I caused him to throw rocks; however, if one refuses to accept my position that I am the cause, then fine, but know that that cause is not born of the same cloth as the other cause.

    My idea of cause doesn’t permeate through a decision. If I push you and you fall, I caused you to fall, and when you get up and push me back and I fall, anyone can say I got what was coming or that I deserved it, but I only take responsibility for my decision and everything that happened next but not anything that followed your decision. My responsibility ended at your fall. That’s all I caused. I didn’t cause you to push me. When YOU made the decision to retaliate, it’s then on you. I didn’t cause you to retaliate; that’s a function of your decision. I caused you to fall.

    Suppose I try (but fail) to incite a riot. Blame me for all that I did.
    Suppose I try (and succeed) in inciting a riot. Blame me for all that I did.
    But, blame me no different for the latter than the first since all harm that came originated from the rioters. They could have made a choice, and they did, and it’s their choice that ultimately caused the actual harm.

    You can argue that I am originally the blame, but that intermediary bunch of decision makers acted as they didn’t have to.

    I can pinch a hundred girls on their butts, and 40 might slap me, but there’s nothing in the pinches that determine which ones will and which ones won’t. Did I cause their decision? No, not physically, but yes, what I did is the reason they did, so in one way, no (not a function of any laws of physics), but in one way yes (a completely different kind of cause).

    “Cause” and “cause.” Same word but two very different animals.

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    Quote Originally Posted by steve_bank View Post
    The flip side is should others be responsible for the decions I make?


    If I go off in the wilderness and get lost should tax dollars be used to find me?

    If you smoke odds are otters will pay higher insurance premiums when you get sick from it.
    If laws are passed, I blame the law makers.
    If you get lost, and there’s no foul play (tricked with a bad map), I say you are the cause for what you cause.
    If people obey some law that says to look for you, you neither caused the law nor the search party.

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    Quote Originally Posted by fast View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by steve_bank View Post
    The flip side is should others be responsible for the decions I make?


    If I go off in the wilderness and get lost should tax dollars be used to find me?

    If you smoke odds are otters will pay higher insurance premiums when you get sick from it.
    If laws are passed, I blame the law makers.
    If you get lost, and there’s no foul play (tricked with a bad map), I say you are the cause for what you cause.
    If people obey some law that says to look for you, you neither caused the law nor the search party.
    So if I find you along a trail with a broken leg because you made a stupid mistake, then tough shit. Not my problem.

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    Mazzie Daius fromderinside's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by steve_bank View Post

    So if I find you along a trail with a broken leg because you made a stupid mistake, then tough shit. Not my problem.
    No. What she did is on her. That you came upon her after she broke her leg is your challenge. You are responsible for making the effort to recover her from the condition she's in. You have the opportunity to prevent more harm which is just another way of saying do no harm.

    Still think I'm one with whom you'd share drinks?

    I've been known to be a bit preachy.

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    Quote Originally Posted by steve_bank View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by fast View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by steve_bank View Post
    The flip side is should others be responsible for the decions I make?


    If I go off in the wilderness and get lost should tax dollars be used to find me?

    If you smoke odds are otters will pay higher insurance premiums when you get sick from it.
    If laws are passed, I blame the law makers.
    If you get lost, and there’s no foul play (tricked with a bad map), I say you are the cause for what you cause.
    If people obey some law that says to look for you, you neither caused the law nor the search party.
    So if I find you along a trail with a broken leg because you made a stupid mistake, then tough shit. Not my problem.
    If I find you along a trail with a broken leg because you made a stupid mistake, I can, would, and should assist in helping you. I can because i’m able, I would because I’m willing, and I should because it’s the right thing to do.

    If I walk into a room where there are two children and see crayon markings on the wall where there were no such markings before and say “who’s responsible for this (?),” would the answer really be all that different than if I had asked, “who did this?” I’m not trying to invoke some sense of moral obligation.

    You find me along a trail with a broken leg. Why would I think you were responsible for my predicament? Of course that’s not what you meant to suggest. You find me along a trail with a broken leg because I made a stupid mistake. So, if I didn’t make a stupid mistake, you wouldn’t have found me? That too is not what you meant. I can twist things and make it out as if you meant one thing when you really didn’t. Let me tell you what I meant. When you came along and found me with a broken leg because of a stupid mistake I made, another person came along just as you were standing over me with what appeared to be a sadistic glee. “What have you done (?!) the person exclaims in interrogatory tone. I come to your defense.

    I say that YOU didn’t cause this. You are not the one responsible for the predicament I am in. No blame should go to you for the position I got myself in.

    However, let’s say (just for the sake of argument) that you did in fact just so happen to come across me on that treacherous trail where I (and I alone) made a mistake and broke my leg. You notice me, look over, grasp the severity of the situation, and walk off to your favorite fishing hole. If I later say you caused the accident, that would be a lie. If I said you were responsible (!), that wouldn’t be true. Fact is, so I think, you didn’t in fact even have a responsibility to help. You had no legal duty to help (because of no involvement). A moral obligation? Maybe, recall I said I should help.

    At any rate, the distinction screaming out is between having a responsibility to help vs you being responsible. You were never responsible for my situation even if you have a responsibility to help. I hope that clears things up a bit.

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    Quote Originally Posted by fromderinside View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by steve_bank View Post

    So if I find you along a trail with a broken leg because you made a stupid mistake, then tough shit. Not my problem.
    No. What she did is on her. That you came upon her after she broke her leg is your challenge. You are responsible for making the effort to recover her from the condition she's in. You have the opportunity to prevent more harm which is just another way of saying do no harm.

    Still think I'm one with whom you'd share drinks?

    I've been known to be a bit preachy.
    Is that what you think I think?

    A little girl is sitting in class minding her own business. A little boy behind her tugs on one of her pig tails. She turns around and slaps the shit out of him. The teacher turns to see what the slap sound is as she witnesses the boy dropping to the floor. “What happened?,” with a look of astonishment.

    The girl says, “he made me do it!”

    I object to that answer. While I do agree that what he did plays a part in the reason for why she did what she did, there was nothing about what he did that forced her to make the decision she did.

    Again, there is reason on the one hand. There was a reason for doing what she did. Maybe not a good reason. Maybe not a justifiable reason. But in stating why when asked to answer what, she answers why she did what she did. She gives an explanation, a reason, and answers why she knocked the hell out of him.

    “He made me do it”
    That’s up the same alley as
    “He caused me to do it.”

    Did he? Did he cause her to hit him? The answer will tell me what sense or conception of “cause” you’re basing your answer to me on. If you say “no”, then like me, you understand that she should be held responsible for slapping him—because she’s the one who slapped him, not him! If you say, “yes,” then like me, you understand the excuse she’s giving for her actions. That’s regardless of our take on whether the reason was justified or not.

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    Social responsibility. Helping someone who is injured means that if you find yourself in that position that you are helped in turn regardless of fault. A kind of social no blame insurance policy, aid where aid is required no matter what the morality or ethical issues happen to be.

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