The worst-possible-misery-for-everyone: it can’t be…

 
TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher
 
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21 July 2018 05:31
 

Harris has repeatedly stated that his worst-possible-misery-for-everyone hypothetical is the only “foundation” he needs to establish an objective basis for morality.  From this hypothetical he derives his moral landscape metaphor: if one admits the worst-possible-suffering is “bad,” then finding the “good”—well-being—becomes a navigation problem, one with multiple peaks and multiple valleys, with the goal of finding the peaks and avoiding the valleys.  Additionally, Harris says an imperative to find these peaks and avoid these valleys follows logically from this admission.  In other words, from the fact of the worst-possible-suffering follows the ought that it ought to be avoided, and this ought is guided by objective determinations of well-being as either “right” or “wrong,” depending on whether one is on a peak or in a valley.  In short, Harris’ worst-possible-misery hypothetical provides the sine qua non of his moral theory.  In effect it gives him “all the justification he needs” for the moral claims he wants to make. 

Except (as far as I can tell) the hypothetical does nothing of the kind.  All it does is establish a tautology and call that tautology a “foundation” for morality.  For consider: “worst” by definition is an asymptotic degree of “bad,” so admitting the worst-possible-misery-for-everyone is “bad” amounts to saying that “the most extreme degree of bad is bad,” or just that “bad is bad.”  But how does admitting “bad is bad” get morality off the ground?  What foundational justification could it possibly provide?

Harris has an answer in the form on an implied argument.  For him, admitting “bad is bad” establishes that “good” is a way to alleviate it.  Once “good” is established, there an imperative to pursue it and avoid the bad.  Additionally, embedded in this imperative is the idea that “well-being” is the summum bonum, the highest good, i.e. that towards which all moral striving aims.  Hence the navigation problem: if “bad is bad,” then there must be “good,” so the question becomes: how do we navigate to the good?  Parsed in terms of the hypothetical, the argument goes like this: 1) if “bad is bad” (the worst possible suffering), then there is “good” (less suffering); 2) where there is “good” there is an imperative to navigate to it (the ought from the is); 3) although there is good, the ultimate good is “well-being”—that good which subsumes all the others, one that can be measured objectively (the conclusion he wants).  But nothing in this “argument” leads to the conclusion Harris wants—an objective foundation for morality.  “Bad is bad” is just “bad is bad,” end of story, and none of the implications that allegedly follow as links in the argument actually follow from the tautology.  They are merely imposed by fiat in the conceptual oblivion that comes with admitting the obvious, namely that “bad is bad.”

It’s astonishing that anyone would think this hypothetical and its implied argument provides a foundation for morality.  It’s equally astonishing that people who hear it don’t call Harris out on it.  I suspect this “error” is either so obvious that it just slides right under the radar, or it’s so silly that everyone else is embarrassed on Harris’ behalf against pointing it out.  For nothing follows from the tautology that “the highest degree of bad is bad” other than the fact than “the highest degree of bad is bad,” or just that “bad is bad.”  From this there is neither a necessary “good” nor an imperative to find it.  Even less is there is an imperative to find the good—well-being—as the ultimate aim of all moral striving.  Bad is just bad, and the “worst” bad is still bad.  Admitting that starts nothing interesting in the engine of moral reasoning—nothing, at least, that I can see.

If anyone has thoughts on what I am missing here, I’d sure like to hear them.  This problem with Harris’s “foundation” seems so obvious that I’m having doubts that it could be right…

[ Edited: 23 July 2018 04:10 by TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher]
 
nonverbal
 
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21 July 2018 05:56
 
TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher - 21 July 2018 05:31 AM

. . .

If anyone has thoughts on what I am missing here, I’d sure like to hear them.  This problem with Harris’s “foundation” seems so obvious that I’m having doubts that it could be right…

You’re missing nothing at all.

Harris seems to bring up this tired illustration-that-illustrates-nothing any time he philosophizes on morality. His voice, when introducing the non-illustration into a discussion, is expertly tuned to describe a syllogism. So when something other than a valid syllogism arrives, the point still sounds valid to an intellectually flawed listener or reader, even if that reader or listener has an M.D. or a Ph.D. in a seemingly related subject, since practically no one seems to have any idea how to dress down an effective communicator. And philosophy is the only relevant subject here.

It’s an incredible trick, showing us that communication skills can actually outweigh “make-sense” skills when it comes to forming a convincing argument.

 
 
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21 July 2018 14:07
 
nonverbal - 21 July 2018 05:56 AM

You’re missing nothing at all.

Harris seems to bring up this tired illustration-that-illustrates-nothing any time he philosophizes on morality. His voice, when introducing the non-illustration into a discussion, is expertly tuned to describe a syllogism. So when something other than a valid syllogism arrives, the point still sounds valid to an intellectually flawed listener or reader, even if that reader or listener has an M.D. or a Ph.D. in a seemingly related subject, since practically no one seems to have any idea how to dress down an effective communicator. And philosophy is the only relevant subject here.

To your point, my doubt (at least in part) stems from the communicative force, the sincerity, and the frequency with which he makes this claim.  I mean, given the way it’s packaged and presented, it just sounds like it can’t be as flawed as it (apparently) is…

It’s an incredible trick, showing us that communication skills can actually outweigh “make-sense” skills when it comes to forming a convincing argument.

It is at that.

 

[ Edited: 21 July 2018 14:09 by TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher]
 
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21 July 2018 15:14
 

What about the other part of Harris’s argument, the purpose of morality? I’m not sure if this argument is intended to complement the worst-possible-misery argument or as an additional, separate argument, but it goes like this. We observe that people across geographic, ethnic, religious, etc. lines all agree that the purpose of morality is to maximize the well-being of conscious creatures. They may not state it that way explicitly, but when we look at behavior that is considered “right,” it always increases perceived well-being; and when we look at behavior considered “wrong,” it always decreases perceived well-being. Apparent exceptions can be explained in terms of misapprehensions about the afterlife. For example, homosexuality doesn’t appear to decrease the well-being of conscious creatures unless you consider the ramifications in the afterlife (burning in hell for all eternity). Therefore, homosexuality isn’t perceived as wrong for some reason other than maximizing the well-being of conscious creatures, it’s mistakenly perceived as wrong because of a mistaken belief in the afterlife.

This may not lead to “objective” wrongness, but in conjunction with Harris’s claim that individual well-being can be objectively quantified, it allows him to claim that certain behavior objectively leads to a decrease in well-being and is therefore wrong. If Behavior X results in a decrease in the well-being of conscious creatures, then it must be wrong. We know that anyone claiming otherwise must be mistaken, since their claim contradicts their own purpose of morality.

Does combining this argument with the worst-possible-misery argument make the problem with Harris’s foundation any less obvious?

 
 
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22 July 2018 02:40
 
Antisocialdarwinist - 21 July 2018 03:14 PM

What about the other part of Harris’s argument, the purpose of morality? I’m not sure if this argument is intended to complement the worst-possible-misery argument or as an additional, separate argument, but it goes like this. We observe that people across geographic, ethnic, religious, etc. lines all agree that the purpose of morality is to maximize the well-being of conscious creatures. They may not state it that way explicitly, but when we look at behavior that is considered “right,” it always increases perceived well-being; and when we look at behavior considered “wrong,” it always decreases perceived well-being. Apparent exceptions can be explained in terms of misapprehensions about the afterlife. For example, homosexuality doesn’t appear to decrease the well-being of conscious creatures unless you consider the ramifications in the afterlife (burning in hell for all eternity). Therefore, homosexuality isn’t perceived as wrong for some reason other than maximizing the well-being of conscious creatures, it’s mistakenly perceived as wrong because of a mistaken belief in the afterlife.

This may not lead to “objective” wrongness, but in conjunction with Harris’s claim that individual well-being can be objectively quantified, it allows him to claim that certain behavior objectively leads to a decrease in well-being and is therefore wrong. If Behavior X results in a decrease in the well-being of conscious creatures, then it must be wrong. We know that anyone claiming otherwise must be mistaken, since their claim contradicts their own purpose of morality.

Does combining this argument with the worst-possible-misery argument make the problem with Harris’s foundation any less obvious?

I don’t think so, for these reasons.

I don’t mean to imply that Harris can’t be right about well-being as an end, or even the highest end, of morality just because his worst-possible-misery argument is so obviously flawed, or that this flaw, as obvious as it is, means there is an obvious flaw in any other arguments to that point.  I think he shows that well-being is a valid moral end, and therefore, in so far as well-being can be quantified, reasonable arguments can be made (and he implicitly makes them) that moral acts, when viewed in light of well-being, are “objectively” right or wrong as means-adjusted-to-ends-questions (his navigation metaphor).  That is, in so far as well-being is the valid end of moral striving, certain means (specific moral norms) will be better than others at attaining it, and “better” in an empirical, verifiable cross-cultural sense.  But I think that claim is separate from the foundations claim of the worst-possible-world hypothetical.  In that latter claim, he is attempting to find an ultimate justification for all the other arguments—a bedrock, if you will, upon which all the other arguments rest, bedrock to which all other justifications trace.  That is the obvious flaw I see—that the foundation, not the superstructure he erects, is flawed.  The superstructure as he builds it makes some sense independently of its foundation, if that makes any sense…

I don’t recall a cross-cultural, anthropological consensus-observation argument for well-being as the ultimate moral end in The Moral Landscape.  But it’s been a while since I read the book.  I do remember him more or less asserting that well-being is the ultimate moral end, the one to which all others reduce, but I don’t remember an observational basis for it.  If there is one, I think that would be a reasonable and separate claim from the worst-possible-misery foundation, but I also think it would be a weaker foundation than the one Harris wants.  Harris wants a logical—or even an ontological—foundation, not an empirically derived one subject to refutation from further observations.  That is, if his foundation were observationally based—based on an invariant consensus we see across all cultures—nothing would preclude another culture from devising a moral system that wouldn’t see well-being as the ultimate aim.  If it did, the only recourse against it on the observational foundation would be: all other cultures agree to this, you should too.  That is weaker than what Harris wants.  He wants to be able to say that well-being is the true basis, agreement or not, and anyone who doesn’t agree is just ignorant.  So he wants the independent truth first, not the consensus; in fact he wants any consensus to depend on the independent truth, not the other way around.  And like I said, I don’t remember a consensus argument.  But if there is one, it would be a sensible “foundation” for saying that maximizing well-being is a valid moral principle, albeit it not a valid moral foundation.  Observing it as a valid principle would be different than seeing it as a foundation, and it’s the foundation Harris wants.  The observational-consensus foundation you suggest would be flawed, I think, but not obviously so like the worst-possible-misery hypothetical.

So as it stands, I still think the problem with the foundation is obvious, even if aspects of the superstructure are less obviously flawed (and I’m not even asserting here that they are flawed, just that the bedrock is cracked.  Very cracked.  Obviously pounded sand, even).

[ Edited: 22 July 2018 10:53 by TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher]
 
Destination Immortality
 
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22 July 2018 16:32
 

i experienced a similar phenomenon learning the idioms of another language. when it comes down to it, a lot of them make no sense at all, having been passed down through history as brief (twitter-like) extrapolations, usually from daily life in the ancient past, which are then more generally applied to a variety of circumstances as a “stand in” for more precise or circuitous explanations / definitions / comments. there’s no reason ancient asia’s sayings should be anything like ancient europe’s. and they are occasionally embedded into the greetings or farewells or meal-related sayings of any language, how people ask each other how one is doing, and so on. japan’s phrase for “good morning” is basically “it sure is early, isn’t it!”

then when i ran into english phrases later, i found myself wondering how difficult it would be for foreigner to understand. “fit as a fiddle.” what does it mean? “death warmed over” is almost self-explanatory in context, but many of these sayings aren’t. even plain language that isn’t a “saying” per se, like if you were to remark “well his handshake was soft,” might get muddled in translation, due to cultural differences. many of us take it as a given that firm handshakes are better, but there is no rule written this must be so. it is simply learned assumptions, handed down through life experience or various context clues, and much of what we think, or think we know, is taken for granted.

my theory for sam’s theory is that he just assumes we all take it for granted that “the worst bad” is something to be avoided. and he probably assumes also it is self-evident, or easily defended if the call ever came to do so. “bad is bad” doesn’t really get anywhere, but i don’t think he’s trying to get anywhere from there, he’s trying to get to morality, apparently objective morality, from the local understanding that “bad” things tend to cause suffering, and suffering generally makes people unhappy, and generally causes them to perform behaviors that will help them avoid the same, or other, suffering in the future. so, i would think its just one of those things that, for him, is SO obvious, so taken for granted, that he forgot to explain it thoroughly piece by piece, as often happens. i think these sorts of “taken for granted” logics are more obvious to those who have tried to teach something complex to another person, or recently tried to learn something complex, as such a process often helps to reveal things we rarely or never explicitly reason out word for word.

[ Edited: 22 July 2018 16:38 by Destination Immortality]
 
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22 July 2018 19:06
 
Destination Immortality - 22 July 2018 04:32 PM

i experienced a similar phenomenon learning the idioms of another language. when it comes down to it, a lot of them make no sense at all, having been passed down through history as brief (twitter-like) extrapolations, usually from daily life in the ancient past, which are then more generally applied to a variety of circumstances as a “stand in” for more precise or circuitous explanations / definitions / comments. there’s no reason ancient asia’s sayings should be anything like ancient europe’s. and they are occasionally embedded into the greetings or farewells or meal-related sayings of any language, how people ask each other how one is doing, and so on. japan’s phrase for “good morning” is basically “it sure is early, isn’t it!”

then when i ran into english phrases later, i found myself wondering how difficult it would be for foreigner to understand. “fit as a fiddle.” what does it mean? “death warmed over” is almost self-explanatory in context, but many of these sayings aren’t. even plain language that isn’t a “saying” per se, like if you were to remark “well his handshake was soft,” might get muddled in translation, due to cultural differences. many of us take it as a given that firm handshakes are better, but there is no rule written this must be so. it is simply learned assumptions, handed down through life experience or various context clues, and much of what we think, or think we know, is taken for granted.

my theory for sam’s theory is that he just assumes we all take it for granted that “the worst bad” is something to be avoided. and he probably assumes also it is self-evident, or easily defended if the call ever came to do so. “bad is bad” doesn’t really get anywhere, but i don’t think he’s trying to get anywhere from there, he’s trying to get to morality, apparently objective morality, from the local understanding that “bad” things tend to cause suffering, and suffering generally makes people unhappy, and generally causes them to perform behaviors that will help them avoid the same, or other, suffering in the future. so, i would think its just one of those things that, for him, is SO obvious, so taken for granted, that he forgot to explain it thoroughly piece by piece, as often happens. i think these sorts of “taken for granted” logics are more obvious to those who have tried to teach something complex to another person, or recently tried to learn something complex, as such a process often helps to reveal things we rarely or never explicitly reason out word for word.

I confess I’m a bit bemused here.  Are you saying that instead of founding morality on a tautology and logical non sequiturs he founds it on a self-evident platitude, and the meaning of this platitude is taken for granted like colloquialisms in a native language, therefore it’s hard to see; that the platitude is something he didn’t think to reason out word for word, but could have, as though he were teaching a complex idea?  If so, this sounds to me like another way of stating as big a problem.  But you might be right, I guess.

Also, I get that the point is about suffering, not just the bare tautology, as it were, meaning it’s “bad suffering is bad,” not just the ‘logical’ form I stripped it down to, “bad is bad”.

It might be noteworthy that one could make a Harris-style argument about justice being the ultimate value, in that the-worst-possible-injustice-for-everyone is bad, and therefore some justice is good; therefore justice is both an imperative and the highest moral aim, in that there could be no maximized well-being in an unjust society.  What prevents that argument once Harris opens the door with his kind of reasoning?  Couldn’t one put just about any moral value in there and make it imperative, if not the imperative?

 

[ Edited: 23 July 2018 04:00 by TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher]
 
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22 July 2018 20:47
 

Harris has had his feet held to the fire many times on this topic and has come away somewhat scorched on occasion. I think Sean Carrol did it in their last exchange and was totally civil while doing so. Some people resent Sams “tone” of reasonableness,etc. and that’s totally on them. Anal-lytic,  I appreciate what you bring to the table around here, even as I grasp maybe 60 to 70 percent of these conversations.

 
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23 July 2018 01:37
 
brazen4 - 22 July 2018 08:47 PM

Harris has had his feet held to the fire many times on this topic and has come away somewhat scorched on occasion. I think Sean Carrol did it in their last exchange and was totally civil while doing so. Some people resent Sams “tone” of reasonableness,etc. and that’s totally on them. Anal-lytic,  I appreciate what you bring to the table around here, even as I grasp maybe 60 to 70 percent of these conversations.

Thanks brazen4. 

To your point on being scorched, Patricia Churchland has her own book on neuroscience and ethics, and in her Partially Examined Life appearance she mentioned that The Moral Landscape has been widely criticized and that she had nothing to add to those criticisms.  She also noted that she felt bad saying that because Harris gets “cross”—her word—when criticized.  He wasn’t in the Carrol exchange, and I was wondering what she was referring to, but she said she is “a friend of his,” so presumably she would know.  In any case, I usually appreciate his tone, but at times I think he steps over the line on being reasonable.  But only at times…

If there is any way I could be more clear in any conversation, even if only in your opinion, please let me know.  I am acutely aware there is always room for improvement in expressing ideas, and the sensibilities of the reader is an essential part of that process.

[ Edited: 23 July 2018 02:19 by TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher]
 
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23 July 2018 19:49
 

I feel that pure hypotheticals are always weak arguments. They gain strength when they can map onto real events in some way.

In the case of TML, it’s a total mess as I’ve said before. It’s premise is a tautology. The idea of ‘the worst possible misery for everyone’ seems roundly defeated, to me by merely surveying some simple facts about the world.Suffering is not rational quantity. Human preferences vary dramatically and are often in inverse proportion.

The book invokes all sorts of hyperbolic examples to, I can only assume force the issue of moral realism with emotional blackmail… pardon me if I miss something here.

I can’t really add much clarity but I can echo the confusion. Sam still defends this book. He would do better to recant and start again.

 
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24 July 2018 00:41
 
Brick Bungalow - 23 July 2018 07:49 PM

I feel that pure hypotheticals are always weak arguments. They gain strength when they can map onto real events in some way.

In the case of TML, it’s a total mess as I’ve said before. It’s premise is a tautology. The idea of ‘the worst possible misery for everyone’ seems roundly defeated, to me by merely surveying some simple facts about the world.Suffering is not rational quantity. Human preferences vary dramatically and are often in inverse proportion.

The book invokes all sorts of hyperbolic examples to, I can only assume force the issue of moral realism with emotional blackmail… pardon me if I miss something here.

I can’t really add much clarity but I can echo the confusion. Sam still defends this book. He would do better to recant and start again.

Recurring to Churchland again, in that same podcast she did say that Harris should have taken 2 to 3 years more to write the book—more or less the same idea as needing a rewrite now.  I agree.

Ditto on the use of hypothetical arguments.  In Harris’ case, how can one derive an ought from an is when the “is” one starts with isn’t?  At best, all one has done is derive an ought for the hypothetical world, not the world we actually life in.  And right, the pointlessness of that is only magnified when the worlds don’t map onto each other, as in Harris’ case.  To be persuasive, they need to map on in some way.

As I mentioned in another thread, as far as I can tell these hypothetical starting points only load the premise one needs into the argument one wants, creating the illusion that the contestable premise is not just asserted but actually validated.  To me this is about as bad as starting with a tautology and “deriving” from it the steps one needs to get to a conclusion.  Both moves amount to ‘argument by fiat’ that gets obscured by the effective communication nonverbal mentions. I admit for my part it took some time to see through the confusion that creates…

[ Edited: 24 July 2018 05:13 by TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher]
 
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24 July 2018 04:43
 

With this in mind….

I feel that pure hypotheticals are always weak arguments. They gain strength when they can map onto real events in some way… The idea of ‘the worst possible misery for everyone’ seems roundly defeated, to me by merely surveying some simple facts about the world.

...and as a second installment along the line started in this thread…

I was re-listening to the third VBW podcast with Harris as a guest, and there he brought up what might be (for him) the main implication of his worst-possible-misery-for-everyone hypothetical: the derivation of the moral imperative to pursue well-being, or his derivation of an ought from an is.  In this podcast Harris clarified that the imperative to avoid the worst-possible-misery-for-everyone necessarily follows from the fact of that misery because, as he says, there is “no place to stand” from which to say anyone would want to do anything else; there is no “conceptual room,” as it were, to assert one would not want to avoid it.  As he later clarifies in his Sean Carrol episode, the issue boils down to an intuition about what “should” has to mean.  In the case of the worst-possible-misery, it can only mean avoid it.  For Harris, it simply makes no sense to say that one’s priority would be anything else; it makes no sense to say that one could think of any other “should”; therefore that one should avoid the worst-possible-misery follows inevitably from the fact of it, and how one avoids it—achieving well-being—becomes the ultimate moral aim.  So not only is admission that “the worst-possible-misery-for-everyone is bad” a tautology from which Harris “derives” the logical steps he needs for the conclusion he wants (objective morality); this hypothetical is also the key to his derivation of an ought from an is.  As long as the worst-possible-suffering-for everyone exists, there is an imperative to avoid it by pursuing well-being, and in this way Harris claims he’s derived an ought to pursue well-being from a “fact” about the world—the fact of the worst possible misery for everyone. 

But there are two problems with this derivation, problems perhaps somewhat less “obvious” than the tautology, though like the tautology they are more or less hidden in plain sight. 

In the first place, the worst-possible-misery-for-everyone isn’t a ‘factual state of the world’ from which to derive an ought about anything; it’s only a fiction—or to put it charitably, it’s only a possibility.  So whatever his claims otherwise, technically speaking Harris isn’t even deriving an ought from an is: he’s deriving an ought from an isn’t, and this has implications for the existence—or not—of the imperative he derives.  Specifically, if the worst-possible-misery exists, then the imperative to avoid it might exist as well (“might” because an ought may or may not be derivable from an is).  But as long as this world doesn’t exist, any imperative derived from it doesn’t exist either, at least not in any sense that matters to us.  Simply put, by postulating a purely hypothetical fact, Harris only derives a purely hypothetical imperative.  As long as there is no reason to think this hypothetical world exists, there is no reason to think the imperative exists either.  And there is every reason to think this hypothetical world will never exist…

In the second place, let’s assume the possibility of the worst-possible-misery-for-everyone is real enough that an imperative to pursue well-being can exist, and let’s assume for the sake of argument that one can derive an ought form an is in the way Harris wants—that some intuition about “should avoid” follows.  Under these stipulations, the imperative to avoid the worst-possible-misery-for-everyone could be derived from that hypothetical state of the world but—and this is the key point—it would only apply to the hypothetical world from which it is derived.  It wouldn’t apply to the real world, one where the conditions of its derivation in fact don’t exist—i.e. one where there isn’t the worst possible suffering for everyone, only varying degrees of suffering and well-being.  To put it simply, the ought Harris derives from the hypothetical fact of the worst-possible-suffering-for-everyone doesn’t apply to the real world because the conditions for its derivation—the worst possible suffering—don’t exist, and without that existence, the imperative “should” he inserts loses all its force.  If the worst-possible-misery-for-everyone existed, then using the imperative “should” to derive an imperative to avoid it might be possible; “should” might only mean “avoid it,” and that means aspiring to well-being.  But that possibility says nothing about the same imperative “should” existing under an entirely different set of conditions, conditions that are no longer the ones necessary for the derivation of the imperative.  In the conditions of the real world, another meaning of “should” applies, one far more variable than the sole imperative to maximize well-being.  With his worst-possible-misery thought experiment, then, Harris at best only derives a moral imperative that might exist for that hypothetical world, not the real one we live in, and in this respect his derivation of well-being as the only real moral aim fails .

And that’s about it.  In a world with varying degrees of suffering and well-being, it simply does not follow that “should” can only mean “promote well-being as the ultimate moral aim” in the same sense that this follows when nothing but suffering exists.  In the latter case, yes, there is an obvious imperative to aspire to well-being, just like when dying of thirst or dying of starvation there is an obvious imperative to drink or eat before doing just about anything else.  In those case, if “should” means anything, it at least means “should” drink or eat or aspire to well-being; that anything one does should lead to, not away, from that.  But those unilateral conditions don’t obtain in the real world.  In the real world there are varying conditions suggesting varying moral imperatives; therefore the inevitable force of “should” Harris wants with respect to the pursuit of well-being doesn’t obtain either.  In a world where well-being and suffering are widely and unevenly distributed, there is no more obvious an imperative for well-being as the ultimate moral aim than there is an obvious imperative for justice, or for health, or for social harmony—and so on and so forth.  As long as the conditions leading to “should” as an imperative vary—as they do—the worst-possible-misery-for-everyone is a moral non-starter.  It simply makes no sense to derive a “should” from a world that doesn’t exist and then say it necessarily applies to an entirely different world that does.  Since he is not even deriving his moral imperative from real circumstances, and since the unique circumstances of his derivation don’t map onto the real world in any sensible way, Harris’ derivation of an ought to maximize well-being from an is of the world fails.

As far as I can tell, this second bullet kills that worst-possible-misery hypothetical.  As a derivation of an ought from an is, it fails, and as a tautology it is empty of any logical, much less moral, implications.  Any one know of any other uses Harris gets out of it beside these two—this derivation and the admission of “bad” that he wants…

[ Edited: 24 July 2018 08:57 by TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher]