Saturday, June 23, 2012

Invitational Ethics #6

In the previous video I began revisiting the examples of coercive ethics applications. In this video I'll finish revisiting those examples in the light of invitational ethics. I think I've caused some confusion with these examples. I think they're coming across as my proposals for shaping a new society. That's not the case. I'm not really proposing anything except that you renounce coercive ethics in favor of science. These examples are simply for illuminating the different emphasis of the two ethical systems. One emphasizes the protection of rights, waits for a crime to be committed, then punishes the criminal. The other emphasizes the prevention suffering and looks for ways to prevent it ahead of time, not by pre-punishment, but by the methods recommended by science, which will often have no direct effect on potential lawbreakers.
Consider the captain who abandoned his drowning passengers. Did he cause any suffering? Perhaps not directly, but let's ask the more general question in case there's a class of suffering we can prevent: is suffering likely to result if a captain abandons his sinking ship? I won't venture an answer, because we'd ask the question of science, not of me. The important thing is to consult science instead of religion. As for duty, that's another coercive concept based on an imaginary foundation; he wouldn't have any duty to go down with the ship, or to risk his life to save anyone. You might want to ask, "What if he signed a contract?" A good question, but outside the scope of this discussion. I'm not trying to shape a new society. I'm inviting you to give up religion. My musings on how the world might be different are just that: musings, not proposals.
Let's say that he abandoned ship well before the accident, and the ship could not be operated properly without him. His abandonment then would have been a direct cause of suffering. What shall we do to prevent such suffering in the future? We could change the rules for being a ship's captain, requiring psychological screening, perhaps, to detect applicants likely to abandon ship. We could train the crew in ways to cope with a missing captain, or better yet, look into ways to operate the ship without requiring the presence of one special person. Punishing the captain, either by law or by social sanction, would not even be among the top ten most effective ideas for preventing that kind of suffering in the future.
Finally, reconsider society's response to a burglar. Maybe the police do have to attack him. Maybe they have to cause him some pain. But they're trained to use the most effective methods for subduing him, not in the most effective methods for causing him to suffer. He has to be confined for a while, but under humane conditions. The legal system looks for the causes underlying the crime. Does the burglar have a drug problem? Is he chronically underemployed? Does he live in grinding poverty? Is he mentally ill? The legal system would ask such questions and let the answers inform their judgment. Under no circumstances would he ever be sent to a place where he is cut off from his friends and family and degraded, not even for a little while.
I'd love to see a world where every single person, from birth to death, with no exceptions, is treated as humanely as possible and has proper health care, nutrition, education, clothing; and a safe place to live. I don't imagine a world where these conditions are forced on everyone in the name of invitational ethics. I imagine a world that naturally progresses to that pinnacle as more and more people use science to think about human behavior, rather than imaginary concepts.
I can imagine plenty of other awesome goals humanity could pursue, but it's not likely they could be achieved in my lifetime. I'll leave the really cool stuff for the people of the future to work out. For now, I think that these ideas could bring improvements long before we'd ever talk about lofty concepts like global health care. This is an important point, because for some people, imagining a different kind of ethics involves shifting the entire world over to the new system abruptly. If invitational ethics really is what I think it is, we wouldn't need any immediate changes in our law or public policy. Just a few people walking around perceiving each other more accurately would improve our society dramatically.
Consider how the experience of one kid in school might change if just one teacher addressed the reasons for the kid's so-called undesirable behavior, supportively, rather than taking the shortcut of coercing him into stuffing down his feelings. Consider how the experience between you and your own kid might change if you explored the reasons for her undesirable behavior rather than just punishing her to get her to stop. Or if you explored the reasons and found out that the reasons you consider her behavior undesirable turn out to be inside yourself. This one in particular has significantly improved my relationship with my daughter.
I've personally benefited from these ideas. I've observed improvements in the lives of some of my friends when they simply tried to look past coercive judgments. Even if this isn't some world-changing philosophy, it apparently has benefits at a personal relationship level. I think it would benefit us at higher levels too, but I don't have to become a dictator to find out. All I have to do is make sure I express the ideas clearly and then wait to see whether people start applying them. If enough people do, then we'll find out what effect invitational ethics has on society.

In this series I have attempted to reach three primary goals. First, to describe the concept of coercive ethics and show some examples of its results on society. Second, to describe various fatal weaknesses in coercive ethics, to demonstrate why I'm bothering to propose an alternative. Third, to propose the alternative and contrast it against our current system. I leave it to you to decide whether I've met those goals. I invite you to renounce coercive ethics in favor of facts and science.
That's #6, and the end of the series. Thanks very much for watching.

1 comment:

  1. I'd like your opinion on something. My wife lives in Thailand. I want to support her, but I don't make a lot of money. She drinks a lot, and every time she gets drunk she spends too much money. She lives in Bangkok, which is obviously not the cheapest place to live in Thailand. I want her to go back to her home village and live with her parents, but she says she doesn't want to go live there because it's too boring. But if I have to send her extra money every month, because she's not able to live a frugal life, I won't have enough money to go back to Thailand and be with her next year. I explain this to her, but still she refuses to go. So I resort to coercion. I tell her that I wont send her any more money and I'll find a new wife. So now she promises to go. Within your system of ethics, was there a different path that I might have followed? I know that your system of ethics isn't completely non-coercive as such.