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jacoblyles comments on Purchase Fuzzies and Utilons Separately - Less Wrong

75 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 01 April 2009 09:51AM

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Comment author: jacoblyles 18 July 2012 08:59:02PM 1 point [-]

I follow the virtue-ethics approach, I do actions that make me like the person that I want to be. The acquisition of any virtue requires practice, and holding open the door for old ladies is practice for being altruistic. If I weren't altruistic, then I wouldn't be making myself into the person I want to be.

It's a very different framework from util maximization, but I find it's much more satisfying and useful.

Comment author: thomblake 18 July 2012 09:10:47PM 2 points [-]

I've realized that my sibling comment is logically rude, because I've left out some relevant detail. Most relevantly, I tend to self-describe as a virtue ethicist.

I've noticed at least 3 things called 'virtue ethics' in the wild, which are generally mashed together willy-nilly:

  1. an empirical claim, that humans generally act according to habits of action and doing good things makes one more likely to do good things in the future, even in other domains
  2. the notion that ethics is about being a good person and living a good life, instead of whether a particular action is permissible or leads to a good outcome
  3. virtue as an achievement; a string of good actions can be characterized after the fact as virtuous, and that demonstrates the goodness of character.

There are virtue ethicists who buy into only some of these, but most often folks slip between them without noticing. One fellow I know will often say that #1 being false would not damage virtue ethics, because it's really about #2 and #3 - and yet he goes on arguing in favor of virtue ethics by citing #1.

Comment author: jacoblyles 18 July 2012 09:21:21PM 1 point [-]

This is a great framework - very clear! Thanks!

Comment author: SusanBrennan 18 July 2012 09:48:14PM *  1 point [-]

It's a very different framework from util maximization, but I find it's much more satisfying and useful

And if it wasn't more satisfying and useful, would you still follow it?

Comment author: thomblake 18 July 2012 09:02:20PM 1 point [-]

The acquisition of any virtue requires practice, and holding open the door for old ladies is practice for being altruistic.

That's an empirical question. Would you still subscribe to virtue ethics if you found out that humans don't really follow habits of virtue? If so, why? If not, what would ethics be about then, and why isn't it about that now?