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Morality

October 13th, 2006 (09:53 am)
thoughtful

current mood: thoughtful

From an article that siderea mentioned:

Morality [...] is the wisdom that prevents sacrificing long-term happiness for short-term happiness. [...] Morality fails, though, when it congeals into rules whose purpose has long been forgotten.

An interesting definition...might even be accurate.

Comments

Posted by: goldsquare (goldsquare)
Posted at: October 13th, 2006 03:14 pm (UTC)

I'm not sure I like that definition. Didn't when I first read that essay.

And while it was a good essay, and I like Gerald Weinberg's work very much - he gets too much credit for rambling on "mens sana in corpore sano", as if he invented it. :-)

Posted by: Who, me? (metageek)
Posted at: October 13th, 2006 03:26 pm (UTC)
Gerald Weinberg

I'm not sure I like that definition.

I'm not sure either, but it makes some sense. Honesty is moral because telling lies bites you in the long run; murder is immoral because the victim's family will take revenge; chastity was once a moral requirement because there was no good birth control.

he gets too much credit for rambling on "mens sana in corpore sano", as if he invented it. :-)

Agreed. This is the first time I've read it, and much of what he's saying seems pretty obvious to me. However, I have to remember that, when he started programming in the 1960s, you didn't have people coming into the workforce who were already the habit of programming all night at their home machines.

I found the opening clause really bizarre: "Many DP professionals aspire to executive careers". DP professionals must have been very different from modern geeks...

Posted by: C. Virtue (cvirtue)
Posted at: October 13th, 2006 03:47 pm (UTC)
Re: Gerald Weinberg

It's a typo. Aspire = expire.

Posted by: goldsquare (goldsquare)
Posted at: October 13th, 2006 04:17 pm (UTC)
Re: Gerald Weinberg

Honesty is not, defacto, moral. Combined with tact and subtlety, it goes closer.

But, frankly, I consider the ability to postpone short term for the long term to be the definition of intelligence, not morality.

Back to the definition. Pretend I am an evil genius. And that I am a very very clever bright evil genius. Surely I can use honesty for my own nefarious ends, postpone short term gratification for purposes of amassing power and my evil empire, and in general be a very brilliant psychopath? :-)

As for the opening, well, I think that is often true. Modern geeks are, well, the exceptions. :-) :-)

Posted by: Who, me? (metageek)
Posted at: October 13th, 2006 05:12 pm (UTC)
Re: Gerald Weinberg

But, frankly, I consider the ability to postpone short term for the long term to be the definition of intelligence, not morality.


Mmm, it's certainly a component of intelligence.



Maybe morality is when you expand your definition of your own interest to include things that are good primarily for other people...which, as it happens, turns out to include a lot of things that are good for you, too, indirectly.

Posted by: Lowell Gilbert (be_well_lowell)
Posted at: October 13th, 2006 08:53 pm (UTC)
Re: Gerald Weinberg
heart of gold

I don't think that it's really intended as a definition. It describes a characteristic, but in context, may not be meant as the only characteristic.

There are a number of issues that arise if you try to apply it as a definition.

One complication is that it isn't far from here to "no harm, no foul." Not many people would go along with the idea that if you knew, absolutely, that no one would ever find out about an action, then said action was automatically immune from being immoral. I'm not really bothered by that, because it doesn't come up in practice.

The other end of the ledger has a symmetrical issue. Under this definition, true altruism is only as good as it makes you feel. Again, this isn't much of an issue in practice: you can never be sure that you won't benefit from a good deed.

[I'm amused to realise that I used the American spelling of "practice" without even thinking about it...]

Posted by: Who, me? (metageek)
Posted at: October 14th, 2006 10:21 am (UTC)
Re: Gerald Weinberg

Not many people would go along with the idea that if you knew, absolutely, that no one would ever find out about an action, then said action was automatically immune from being immoral.

What's the problem with that? If something has no effect on others, how is it immoral?

Posted by: Lowell Gilbert (be_well_lowell)
Posted at: October 14th, 2006 02:14 pm (UTC)
Re: Gerald Weinberg
heart of gold

You just jumped from "no one knows about it" to "no one is affected by it." Not the same thing.

Posted by: Who, me? (metageek)
Posted at: October 15th, 2006 10:37 am (UTC)
Re: Gerald Weinberg

I think I was going from "no harm, no foul" to "no one is affected by it".

Or maybe I was extending "no one knows about it" to "no one can know about it".

Posted by: Lowell Gilbert (be_well_lowell)
Posted at: October 14th, 2006 02:17 pm (UTC)
Re: Gerald Weinberg

Oh, yes, one other thing: this calculation has to be considered before the fact: risking harm to others can be immoral even if the possible harm doesn't come to pass.

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