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In response to Circular Altruism
Comment author: George_McCandless 22 January 2008 07:28:34PM 0 points [-]

I'm sorry, but I find this line of argument not very useful. If I remember correctly (which I may not be doing), a googolplex is larger than the estimated number of atoms in the universe. Nobody has any idea of what it implies except "really, really big", so when your concepts get up there, people have to do the math, since the numbers mean nothing. Most of us would agree that having a really really lot of people bothered just a bit is better than having one person suffer for a long life. That has little to do with math and a lot to do with our preception of suffering and a feeling that each of us has only one life. Worrying about discontinuities in this kind of discussion seems almost puerile.

A more interesting discontinuity that we run into quite frequently is our willingness to make great efforts and sacrifices to save the lives of children and then decide that at the age of 18, young men cease to be children and we send them off to war. What happens in our brains when young men turn 18? Sure these 18 year olds are all testosterone fired up and looking for a fight, but the discontinuity of the moral logic is strange. Have you talked about this at all?

(By the way, one of the saddest museums in the world is in Salta, Argentina, where they display mummies of children who were made drunk and buried alive to placate a now long forgotten god, but that is getting off the point.)