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

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    Quote Originally Posted by DBT View Post
    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.
    I think ambiguity has reared its head again. Suppose I do have a responsibility to help, that responsibility is of a different kind. If people see me do something such that it’s obvious I did it and shouldn’t have, there’s no wonder people will say that I am the cause, to blame, at fault, and responsible for what happened. That’s a use of “responsible” that has a different meaning. Saying I have a responsibility to help isn’t to say I was responsible for the situation.

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    Quote Originally Posted by fast
    Quote Originally Posted by Angra Mainyu
    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.
    That's not what I was going for. But in any case, suppose the glass quantum-tunnels through the concrete and hits a baby in the head, seriously injuring her. Would you accept that you caused the glass to hit a baby in the head, and accept the blame for it?

    Any any rate, why do you think a person's action is not a "physical result"?

    Quote Originally Posted by fast
    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.
    I disagree. It's not your bad (though as before, this is not what I was going for, either).
    Consider this alternative scenario: you are playing soccer. You kick the ball, trying to score. The ball quantum-tunnels and hits a kid in the head, killing her. Your bad? I do not think so.

    Quote Originally Posted by fast
    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 you push a terminator, who decides to push back - or to kill a bunch of people. What then? The terminator made the decision. But it's a computer, so it seems the decision is also the result of physical causes (but isn't the same with a human brain, instead of a computer; how is a human choice not physical?).


    Quote Originally Posted by fast
    Suppose I try (but fail) to incite a riot. Blame me for all that I did.
    Sure, I blame you for that (assuming I have enough info to make that assessment). Unless it was justified to incite a riot. In which case, I do not blame you.

    Quote Originally Posted by fast
    Suppose I try (and succeed) in inciting a riot. Blame me for all that I did.
    Sure (assuming info, etc.). But I do not blame you more than I do if you fail, given the same actions. Or maybe I do because I got hurt in the riot so that peaked my interest, whereas I did not even register your failed attempt to incite a riot. But my point is that if I fairly assess both your failed and your successful attempts, at least given the same state of mind on your part (including intent, information, beliefs, etc.), I blame you to the same extent in both cases.

    Quote Originally Posted by fast
    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.
    Sure, I blame you no different for the latter than the first, but not for that reason.
    First, imagine instead of rioters, you try to get a couple of Rottweilers. In the first case, you are unsuccessful: they just run away, without attacking anyone. In the second one, you are successful, and they attack people. Do you deserve more blame in the second case? I do not think so. You did not make any different decisions. It just happened that the dogs chose differently. I don't blame you differently.

    Second, imagine instead of rioters, it's armed drones. Suppose Muhammad and Omar both want to murder civilians, in the service of IS. They both make bombs following online IS instructions, buy the materials in the same way, etc. It turns out that a vendor sold Omar a faulty component, and then his bomb - unlike Muhammad - does not go off. But their intent, information, beliefs, etc., are the same. Then I blame both to the same extent. There might be practical reasons for the law to punish successful attempts more than unsuccessful ones in general, but I say they deserve the same amount of blame.

    I do not blame people differently because of what other people do, or because of what dogs do, nor because of any other consequence of their actions. Consequences are useful tools to ascertain what the actions were (i.e., intent, beliefs, available information), but the blame is because of their decisions (intent, beliefs, etc.), not for their results and/or anything anyone else does.

  3. Top | #13
    Contributor DBT's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by fast View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by DBT View Post
    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.
    I think ambiguity has reared its head again. Suppose I do have a responsibility to help, that responsibility is of a different kind. If people see me do something such that it’s obvious I did it and shouldn’t have, there’s no wonder people will say that I am the cause, to blame, at fault, and responsible for what happened. That’s a use of “responsible” that has a different meaning. Saying I have a responsibility to help isn’t to say I was responsible for the situation.
    I didn't say that the person helping someone is responsible for the actions or errors of the one in trouble, just that offering aid is a social responsibility regardless of blame or fault.

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

    Is that what you think I think?
    Not about what I think you think is it. It's about what I think about a situation where I find one lying along the road with a broken leg. My statement is inelegant but essentially reflects what I think I should do as a person with my set of ethics.

    I presume you wrote what you think you are entitled to do when you encounter the situation with or without taking into account previous behavior by the one who now has a broken leg. It's not your responsibility. Fine. I won't do something stupid which results in me getting a broken leg when you are about to come along.

    Notice now we have two improbable situations. Neither you nor I can ascertain prior or future conditions.

    That is why I responded as I did to your silly proposition. It's only silly because you put stuff into it that is beyond and outside what is needed for one to resolve an ethical question.

    As DBT says many may believe it profitable to pay it forward so they assist disregarding finding reasons for why the leg became broken.

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    Typing a long ass post on a cell phone (one letter at a time) can be so easily ruined by a single inadvertent click. Grrr

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    Quote Originally Posted by fast View Post
    Typing a long ass post on a cell phone (one letter at a time) can be so easily ruined by a single inadvertent click. Grrr
    Yeah, that's annoying.
    I suggest either not writing posts on cell phones, or try to install an app that saves the text after an interval one can choose (and then, choose something like 2 minutes or so). Personally, I choose the first one.

  7. Top | #17
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    I’m not saying there’s no underlying internal physical cause that allows our brains to function. I’m saying the macro events that occur outside the body prior to micro event decision making doesn’t cause the subsequent macro events that are put in motion outside our bodies afterwards.

    Consider a series of events where no rational agents are involved: the wind blows. Tree branch sways. Pine cone falls. It splashes in water below. Sound emits. Possum is startled. These causal events trickle along with nothing to alter the course of events. The possum being startled can be traced all the way back to the wind.

    Falling is not something we do; it’s something that happens to us. If I come up behind you, you might become startled and flinch; you might even involuntarily jerk and inadvertently break your finger. Those events (under the sense of “do” I’m using) is not something you do. Did you break your finger? Yes, but it wasn’t a function of your deliberation. I did do something if I came up behind you.

    Now, be it as it may, I am not including animals (at least not at this time) in the group that I am regarding as intelligent rational agents with moral culpability.

    Let’s say the possum runs after becoming startled.
    Then you notice possum run.

    If you go get a gun, then regardless of any buzz words one might use (blame, praise, fault, justified), I will not in anyway invoke the wind as being in the same series of unimpeded events. Every human action that results after thinking starts a new chain. You had a choice, and it’s that choice that severs the seeming unending chain of events that occur.

    If you shoot the gun, that’s a choice you made.
    Sound emits.
    Neighbor hears.
    Neighbor sees what you did.
    Neighbor goes back to watching tv

    If the neighbor had called the police instead, we don’t blame the wind.
    I wouldn’t even blame the shooter. Blame is obviously not the right word, but as far back as I would go to use whatever word I should is the neighbors decision.

    That’s why if I push you and you fall, a new chain hasn’t begun. When you decide what to do next, those will be events attributable to you since you made the decision, no matter how I might have influenced your decision.

    If you break a rib as a result of the fall and decide to go to the hospital, I’m not saying there are no ties to moral responsibility on my part, but I did not cause you to go to the hospital—not in the sense of “cause” I’m using—which is a different sense of cause if you say I did—in which case would be a reason.

    If you thought you were fine and went to the movies instead, that too would have been an action that resulted as a consequence of your decision.

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    Quote Originally Posted by fast
    I’m not saying there’s no underlying internal physical cause that allows our brains to function. I’m saying the macro events that occur outside the body prior to micro event decision making doesn’t cause the subsequent macro events that are put in motion outside our bodies afterwards.
    But why do you think that?


    Quote Originally Posted by fast
    Consider a series of events where no rational agents are involved: the wind blows. Tree branch sways. Pine cone falls. It splashes in water below. Sound emits. Possum is startled. These causal events trickle along with nothing to alter the course of events. The possum being startled can be traced all the way back to the wind.
    And the human being startled cannot? How about the chimp?

    Quote Originally Posted by fast
    Now, be it as it may, I am not including animals (at least not at this time) in the group that I am regarding as intelligent rational agents with moral culpability.
    My objection isn't about that (though one could be raised), but about causality. It's a weird and improbable picture of the world: consider our latest common ancestor with chimps: no causality, all traceable to the wind. Now, consider her offspring, and their offspring, etc., up to the present. You seem to be positing a radical change in causality while there seems to be continuity and gradualism in minds. It's odd.

    Quote Originally Posted by fast
    Let’s say the possum runs after becoming startled.
    Then you notice possum run.

    If you go get a gun, then regardless of any buzz words one might use (blame, praise, fault, justified), I will not in anyway invoke the wind as being in the same series of unimpeded events. Every human action that results after thinking starts a new chain. You had a choice, and it’s that choice that severs the seeming unending chain of events that occur.
    Yes, I had a choice. So did the chimp. But why would you think that somehow my choice severs the chain of events? Why not the chimp's choice? It's weird.

    Quote Originally Posted by fast
    If you break a rib as a result of the fall and decide to go to the hospital, I’m not saying there are no ties to moral responsibility on my part, but I did not cause you to go to the hospital—not in the sense of “cause” I’m using—which is a different sense of cause if you say I did—in which case would be a reason.

    If you thought you were fine and went to the movies instead, that too would have been an action that resulted as a consequence of your decision.
    I don't see why you are linking moral responsibility to causality in that way. Looks like some sort of weird contra-causal free will.
    At any rate, I would raise the moral objections I made in my previous post independently of the causal discussion.

  9. Top | #19
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    There is a substantive and meaningful causal difference between events with no interceding decision than it is between events with an interceding decision. For instance, if after loading the car up with groceries, I simply shove the empty shopping cart out into the parking lot and it rolls, changes direction and slams into your car, there was absolutely no interceding decision between the point I made the decision to shove the cart and the point you noticed the cart hit your car.

    There is a clear causal connection between all of that including my decision to shove the cart, it rolling, it changing direction, it hitting your car, a dent forming, and you reflexively noticing what had happened.

    If you get out and shoot at me, it’s ludicrous to say I caused you to shoot me. An explanation for why you may do so doesn’t carry the same causal weight as the preceding causal events.

    I’m not saying that all events that do occur are necessary events, but lacking any contingent events, we should be able to fully predict everything that occurred once I shoved the buggy up to you noticing it, but the buck stops there (and that’s what makes the substantive difference). I can’t turn to science or physics and predict the guarenteed outcome of your actual decision. You could have simply yelled at me; that too is a decision you could have made.

    So, a causal connection of the first type is purely physics related and carries the potential of full guarenteed predictability. The buggy didn’t have free will, so it’s changing of direction was dependent on non-mental factors like the curvature of the ground, resistance of the wheels, gravity, force of the buggy, etc. In that instance, I’m fine with taking the blame (or credit) for my decision and the consequences of it (from the shove to the dent). Hell, i’ll even take credit for your noticing what I did since it’s like falling, not something you do (but rather something that happens to you).

    But, as soon as you start thinking about what to do next, I take no part in accepting blame. If you get out the car to check for damage, that (getting out the car) was not caused by me. I didn’t cause you to get out the car. Your decision is the culprit behind that.

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    Quote Originally Posted by fast
    There is a substantive and meaningful causal difference between events with no interceding decision than it is between events with an interceding decision. For instance, if after loading the car up with groceries, I simply shove the empty shopping cart out into the parking lot and it rolls, changes direction and slams into your car, there was absolutely no interceding decision between the point I made the decision to shove the cart and the point you noticed the cart hit your car.

    There is a clear causal connection between all of that including my decision to shove the cart, it rolling, it changing direction, it hitting your car, a dent forming, and you reflexively noticing what had happened.
    Imagine that what caused the shopping cart to change direction was that Joe pushed into a completely different direction from the one you pushed it towards. Is there still a clear causal connection? Now imagine Joe is 4 years old. Is there still a clear causal connection? Now let's say that Joe is a lion that escaped from a zoo. Still a clear causal connection? Now suppose that the cart changed direction because it was hit by a piece of debris coming from a nearby meteor hit.

    My point is that in all of those cases, you caused some event, and then other causes played a role in diverting the cart. The causal connections are still there. The question is what causes one cares about.

    Quote Originally Posted by fast
    If you get out and shoot at me, it’s ludicrous to say I caused you to shoot me. An explanation for why you may do so doesn’t carry the same causal weight as the preceding causal events.
    Your decision was one of the causes, but the expression 'I caused you to shoot me' is interpreted by many as excluding moral responsibility, so it's better not to use it.
    But that aside, what if my dog gets out and bites you? Would you say that you caused the dog to bite you?


    Quote Originally Posted by fast
    I’m not saying that all events that do occur are necessary events, but lacking any contingent events, we should be able to fully predict everything that occurred once I shoved the buggy up to you noticing it, but the buck stops there (and that’s what makes the substantive difference). I can’t turn to science or physics and predict the guarenteed outcome of your actual decision. You could have simply yelled at me; that too is a decision you could have made.
    Why should we be able to predict that?
    We have no means of predicting where the debris of the meteor hit will go, or whether Joe the chimp will push the cart.

    Quote Originally Posted by fast
    So, a causal connection of the first type is purely physics related and carries the potential of full guarenteed predictability.
    Physics does not seem to carry that potential. But if it did, it seems it would also apply to the whole system, including the particles in your brain, my brain, etc.

    Quote Originally Posted by fast
    The buggy didn’t have free will, so it’s changing of direction was dependent on non-mental factors like the curvature of the ground, resistance of the wheels, gravity, force of the buggy, etc.
    Joe the lion did not have free will, but its choice to push the cart dependent on mental factors too. Unless you say Joe the lion did have free will, in which case, the person/non-person involvement dychotomy is not tenable, either, and it's mental/non-mental instead. Now I do not believe there are sufficient reasons to believe that somehow minds are not determined by previous events involving particles and the like. But assuming they are not, that still does not seem to make a difference in terms of moral blame.


    Quote Originally Posted by fast
    In that instance, I’m fine with taking the blame (or credit) for my decision and the consequences of it (from the shove to the dent). Hell, i’ll even take credit for your noticing what I did since it’s like falling, not something you do (but rather something that happens to you).
    You are to blame for your decision (given intent, knowledge, beliefs, available information), not for what happens afterwards. That might not be apparent because what happens afterwards is what we use as information to figure your intent, beliefs, etc. But you don't get more blame because a meteor hit, or Joe (the adult human, or the kid, or the lion).

    Quote Originally Posted by fast
    But, as soon as you start thinking about what to do next, I take no part in accepting blame. If you get out the car to check for damage, that (getting out the car) was not caused by me.
    There is a difference between blame for your behavior and the compensation you are obligated to pay later. In terms of blame, consequences do not matter. You do not deserve more punishment in one case than the other. But in some cases other people get hurt, or their stuff gets damaged, etc., whereas in others, that does not happen. It seems in the former case, you are also obligated to pay for the damages, but that's not punitive (or it should not be, if it is).

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