Friday, January 5, 2018

The Necessity of Being Guided By Principles


I finished the last entry, ‘Rational Hedonism Explained’, without fully explaining the last categorical distinction between hedonistic ethics and the hedonistic attitude. Of particular interest is an explanation for the necessity of being rooted in a discernible ethical principle rather than estimations of future costs and benefits (i.e.pains and pleasures) or reliance on good intentions.

Experience has taught us that every action or choice has not only an immediate and intended effect, but several distant and unintended effects. This is true of isolated incidents and even more so of habits that form when the same actions are repeated often enough over time. Since the human mind often succumbs to various cognitive biases, prejudices, and logical fallacies, it more often than not fails to account for some or all of the distant effects of its choices and thus makes calculation errors in estimating costs relative to benefits. Without an objective frame of reference, the mind chooses whatever happens to be the most expedient and immediately gratifying. To a great extent, people have been programmed to seek immediate gratification by a consumer culture that demands quicker services and the elimination of more inconveniences, but also it is a result of our base nature or Id. Errors in reasoning (e.g. cognitive biases, prejudices, and logical fallacies) can only be avoided by basing our judgments in discernible principles drawn from consistent observations. For instance, in science these errors in reasoning are avoided by deferring to a uniform scientific method and adhering to a number of basic principles such as studies must be replicable (i.e. uniformity of nature), hypotheses must be falsifiable (i.e. empiricism), that the influence of variables that are not of interest should be controlled for or diminished to the greatest extent possible (i.e. scientific validity), that the best explanation for a phenomenon is usually the one which makes the least number of assumptions (i.e. law of parsimony) etc. Therefore, a hedonistic ethics (or any other theory) is only practicable when guided by discernible principles such as the cardinal virtues.