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Rob_Spear comments on The Third Alternative - Less Wrong

55 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 06 May 2007 11:47PM

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Comment author: Rob_Spear 07 May 2007 02:02:12PM 0 points [-]

The problem with examples like Santa Claus is that human culture is highly complex, so that the actual effects of Santaism are hard to fathom, and harder to compare to possible alternative beliefs: if you came up with an alternative to Santa, how would you prove that it is better?

For example, I would say that Santa is less about "encouraging children to behave better in hope of receiving presents", which, as you say, sounds like bribery, and more about starting to build a sense of conscience within the child by introducing the idea of an entity which is a moral judge, and which is always observing. Civilization rests upon the internalization of such ideas - without a broad cultural morality, we are back at traditional human pastimes like feuding and lynch-your-neighbor. Are you sure that praise'n'spaceships will work as well? Am I sure that my Santa-analysis covers everything important that Santaism provides?

Comment author: pnrjulius 27 May 2012 03:23:43AM 0 points [-]

I guarantee you that if your children grow up reading John Stuart Mill, they will become well-rounded moral individuals (at least as well as kids who grow up hearing about Jesus and Santa).

So there; it's not even hypothetical. There are like, actual books you could read to them; On Liberty and Utilitarianism. Pretty advanced reading I suppose... maybe we should be working on children's book versions?

(Actually, as far as children's book versions of moral philosophy, you can do worse than Dr. Seuss.)