2
   

Hey buddy, can you spare some morality?

 
 
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Mon 23 Aug, 2004 08:13 am
Thomas wrote:
Yes. From a moral point of view, the purpose of donating the money is to make Mr. Rags happy, not to give Mr. Rich a warm fuzzy feeling about himself. If, in Mr. Rags' judgment, getting drunk is the best way for himself to get happy on a few dollars, it is still moral for Mr. Rich to give Mr. Rags the money.

So as long as Rags is happier with the dollar than without it, Rich is morally justified in giving him the dollar?

Thomas wrote:
Mr. Rich gets to either give Mr. Rags the dollar and make him happy on Mr. Rags' terms, or to spare the money. Mr. Rich doesn't get to keep his money and the moral high ground. In ethics as in economics, you can't eat your cake and have it too.

I'm not sure I follow you here. Are you suggesting that if Rich keeps his money, he is doing something immoral?
0 Replies
 
Chuckster
 
  1  
Reply Mon 23 Aug, 2004 08:25 am
Gala: People in that circumstance only think they think. This thread is still waiting for understanding and compassion of a subject that only drunks see humor in. Who indeed has the right to think that alchoholism is anything other than living death not just to the individual but also to the souls of family members and others whose lives are invariably destroyed by the experience. Have a happy day.
0 Replies
 
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Mon 23 Aug, 2004 08:27 am
JLNobody wrote:
Joe, no matter what your dad, Chuckster, says. You'll never end up like Dan Quayle. Of that I'm certain.

Thanks very much, JLN. It is difficult, however, to take it seriously when someone who seems to have difficulty forming even a simple English sentence warns someone else that he risks ending up like Dan Quayle. It is indeed ironic that the most dedicated practitioners of irony are incapable of recognizing it.
0 Replies
 
Piffka
 
  1  
Reply Mon 23 Aug, 2004 08:27 am
Who, indeed, has the right to tell other people how to live?
0 Replies
 
Gala
 
  1  
Reply Mon 23 Aug, 2004 09:09 am
chuckles, what are you talking about? a subject that only drunks see humor in? have a happy day? what the...?
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Mon 23 Aug, 2004 09:33 am
A good deal of the moral uncertainty can be obviated. I worked in a family shelter when i first arrived in Ohio. There were two shelters for homeless men in the immediate vicinity. I used to get hit up for change--"i'm sick, i need to eat"--all of the time. I used to offer to get them a sandwich, and pointed out that there were twelve pages of food pantries and hot meal service locations listed in the Calvac directory, and that i'd be happy to get the information for them.

I would be invariably turned down. The obvious conclusion was that they did not want a dollar for food, and that, with forty ouncers of Blatz selling for 99 cents, this was their object.

As for a "moral issue" being involved in drinking and alcoholism, i'd point out that one's self-righteousness is not likely to reform anyone. I rather think that providing the dollar for the forty ouncer, or refusing to do so, neither one constitute moral nor immoral behavior.
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Mon 23 Aug, 2004 09:34 am
Joe, does your dad play ball for the Cubbies, too?
0 Replies
 
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Mon 23 Aug, 2004 09:42 am
joefromchicago wrote:
So as long as Rags is happier with the dollar than without it, Rich is morally justified in giving him the dollar?

According to my own moral sentiments, yes. I'm a utilitarian, so technically, I should make the following disclaimer: If the thought of Mr. Rags drinking makes Mr. Rich more unhappy than the money makes Mr. Rags happy, it is moral for Mr. Rich to keep his money. But in practice, I guess it's safe to ignore this qualification.

joefromchicago wrote:
I'm not sure I follow you here. Are you suggesting that if Rich keeps his money, he is doing something immoral?

No I'm not. I'm only trying to suggest that Mr. Riches doesn't get to walk through Chicago, past a few dozen beggars, and think to himself: "Look at all these potential drunks -- they should all be grateful to me because I do them the favor of keeping money out of their hands!" Sure, that's not the scenario you outlined, but I think the exaggeration makes my intended point clearer.
0 Replies
 
Piffka
 
  1  
Reply Mon 23 Aug, 2004 10:29 am
Thomas wrote:
I'm only trying to suggest that Mr. Riches doesn't get to walk through Chicago, past a few dozen beggars, and think to himself: "Look at all these potential drunks -- they should all be grateful to me because I do them the favor of keeping money out of their hands!"


That's funny.

There's an interesting article in here, called "How the Beggar Economy Promotes Growth" that I thought you might enjoy, Thomas, if you have the time.
0 Replies
 
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Mon 23 Aug, 2004 11:47 am
Setanta wrote:
Joe, does your dad play ball for the Cubbies, too?

My father is a White Sox fan. That I grew up to be a Cubs fan is, for him, a blemish on the family honor and a source of unending shame.
0 Replies
 
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Mon 23 Aug, 2004 11:48 am
Piffka wrote:
There's an interesting article in here, called "How the Beggar Economy Promotes Growth" that I thought you might enjoy, Thomas, if you have the time.

Thanks a lot for that link Piffka! The article is interesting, I did enjoy it a lot, and I had never thought about the beggar economy this way. I owe you for five minutes of thought-provoking reading.
0 Replies
 
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Mon 23 Aug, 2004 12:04 pm
Thomas wrote:
According to my own moral sentiments, yes. I'm a utilitarian, so technically, I should make the following disclaimer: If the thought of Mr. Rags drinking makes Mr. Rich more unhappy than the money makes Mr. Rags happy, it is moral for Mr. Rich to keep his money. But in practice, I guess it's safe to ignore this qualification.

That is not what I would have expected from a utilitarian. Judged on a utilitarian basis, Rich's action is only moral insofar as it contributes to social utility. In terms of the hypothetical, one must ask if Rich's dollar adds to or detracts from the general good, or whether it could be spent in a fashion better designed to contribute to that good. It is not enough, from a utilitarian standpoint, to state that Rich's dollar makes Rags happy -- or happier, at any rate, than he would have been without that dollar -- since the general good is not simply the sum total of everyone's happiness, or even the mean average thereof. Rather, the measure of social utility is "the greatest good for the greatest number."

In this case, however, it is doubtful that a drunk (but happy) Rags is of more social utility than a sober one. Indeed, it is quite likely that promoting Rags's alcoholism is an example of social disutility, in that society would, on the whole, be better served by having fewer drunk beggars on the streets. And if that is the case, then we can confidently state that Rich's donation is not simply amoral, but immoral.

Thomas wrote:
No I'm not. I'm only trying to suggest that Mr. Riches doesn't get to walk through Chicago, past a few dozen beggars, and think to himself: "Look at all these potential drunks -- they should all be grateful to me because I do them the favor of keeping money out of their hands!" Sure, that's not the scenario you outlined, but I think the exaggeration makes my intended point clearer.

If Rich were a strict utilitarian I think he would be entitled to do just that.
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Mon 23 Aug, 2004 12:18 pm
joefromchicago wrote:
Setanta wrote:
Joe, does your dad play ball for the Cubbies, too?

My father is a White Sox fan. That I grew up to be a Cubs fan is, for him, a blemish on the family honor and a source of unending shame.


I am a native of the Bronx. My paternal grandfather seems to have experienced the same horror upon learning that i am a Giants fan.
0 Replies
 
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Mon 23 Aug, 2004 12:23 pm
joefromchicago wrote:
It is not enough, from a utilitarian standpoint, to state that Rich's dollar makes Rags happy -- or happier, at any rate, than he would have been without that dollar -- since the general good is not simply the sum total of everyone's happiness, or even the mean average thereof. Rather, the measure of social utility is "the greatest good for the greatest number."


That's a fair objection. To explain my answer to your question, it isn't enough for me to state that I'm a utilitarian; I also have to state my guesses about how the transaction would affect aggregate happiness. As it happens, I guess that in your scenario, Mr. Rich is a teeny bit unhappier for the loss of his money. But this loss is small enough to be ignored in practice. Mr Rags gets drunk, which makes him substantially happier. For the rest of society, the transaction is more or less neutral. Advocates of compulsory puritanism may insist that drunks harm society, but I'm not buying this.

Therefore, I guess that Mr. Rich giving Mr. Rags the money is a utilitarian progress over Mr. Rich not doing so. My conclusion might change if I consider the possibility that Mr. Riches might find an even worthier investment for his money than booze for Mr. Rags. But I am too lazy to consider this possibility at this moment.
0 Replies
 
nimh
 
  1  
Reply Mon 23 Aug, 2004 02:08 pm
Setanta wrote:
I would be invariably turned down. The obvious conclusion was that they did not want a dollar for food, and that, with forty ouncers of Blatz selling for 99 cents, this was their object.

There's a homeless girl that recognizes me cause Stasia and I once (late night, coming home from a club), instead of giving her the money she asked "for the sleep-inn" - we told her, sleep-inn is long-closed, what do you mean, she says, no, there's another place still, also puts up homeless people for 10 euro - we walk her up there, and yes it is indeed there, and we ended up paying for her room. Next time I saw her, she went on about how well she'd slept that night. Anyway, ever since she invariably hits on me for a buck, but does so with incidental disarming honesty. One time, skipping the food/sleep-inn stuff, she just goes - do you have something for me, I want to have an ice cream!
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Mon 23 Aug, 2004 04:48 pm
Her honesty was refreshing, Habibi, but those with whom i dealt were neither interested in ice cream, nor a square meal--they wanted the beer.
0 Replies
 
dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Mon 23 Aug, 2004 07:28 pm
joefromchicago wrote:
dlowan wrote:
Hmmm - question is - what is "good"?

Is giving Rags some pleasure bad?

You are presuming, of course, that alcohol actually gives Rags pleasure. But what if Rags's preferred form of pleasure is actually bad for Rags. Considering that Rags may not be in the best position to judge his own best interests, is Rich necessarily justified in taking the attitude that "it's his life, he can do with it what he will?"


Well, I don't have a lot of access to Rags' internal workings - but, since he apparently pursue alcohol assiduously, I would deduce that it holds an attraction for him - I have acknowledged that it is likely deleterious to his physical health, but, since he is an adult who appears to have been doing this for years, I bow to his decisions. I am not in a position to judge his best interests, either.

dlowan wrote:
Ok, his pleasure is not "good" for him in the sense of enhancing his physical health. One assumes that he is drinking himself to death, in fact. However, who has the right to decide that his chosen means to happiness, or numbness, or whatever it is, is wrong for him? if it causes him to hurt other people, then I accept it is "bad" - however, I think it rather puritanical to say drink=bad while food, or investment on the stock exchange, or paying for a bus to get to church, or whatever is your personal definition of what would be "good" for Rags = "good".

I find this a rather curious position. Who has the right to decide that alcoholism is bad? Well, I suppose all the people who insist that alcoholism is a disease, that's who. You might as well ask who decided that cholera was bad.[/quote]

As it happens, I am very sceptical of the opinions of the people who insist that alcohol is a "disease" - this is certainly a current piece of pseudo-medical chatter and hence of folk wisdom - who knows if it is true?

However, whether it is a "disease" or not, I accept from long observation that, for many, the cluster of behaviours known as alcoholism is deleterious to their physical health - for some it also appears to have a "bad" effect upon their relationships, work success and ability to keep themselves tidy and well-behaved.

However, Rags appears well set upon his alcoholic course - I have no evidence that he will harm others with his drinking, I suspect he has few pleasures, and that he is unlikely, at present at least, to change. Let him enjoy what he can.

dlowan wrote:
However, the people who DO work effectively with Ragses here strongly advocate assisting them with sleeping, eating and food when they wish - and making rehab available - but respecting their decisions as to whether they take them up or not. Interestingly, that is where government policy in my state is going re homeless folk - similarly to harm minimization strategies re drugs.

I suppose they take the same approach with people who suffer from all other potentially fatal diseases?[/quote]

Well, they do not chase people down the street with medicines and lifestyle changes, but these are offered to them - pretty much how homelessness and alcoholism is treated, yes. What are you saying should be their approach? What is you rpoint? (Even if we accept the "disease model" for alcoholism.)

dlowan wrote:
I think giving Rags a drink is fine. If it increases Rags' happiness, even temporarily, I see that as a good - I would temper that by saying I am talking about confirmed Ragses - I would hesitate to give a nouveau Rags the means to increase his chances of becoming a confirmed rags - I would rather give that money to a proven program for prevention or rehab.

Why?[/quote]

Foolishnes, probably. I distinguish between habitual Ragses, and people on the brink - whose behaviour is much more susceptible to intervention, and whose situation is often much more flexible.

In the actual event, I prolly might well give them some money - but my belief is that I do more "good" by funding those who might be able to offer an alternative life to such folk, than I do by giving them a drink - at this stage of things .
0 Replies
 
john-nyc
 
  1  
Reply Mon 23 Aug, 2004 08:38 pm
Thomas wrote:
joefromchicago wrote:
It is not enough, from a utilitarian standpoint, to state that Rich's dollar makes Rags happy -- or happier, at any rate, than he would have been without that dollar -- since the general good is not simply the sum total of everyone's happiness, or even the mean average thereof. Rather, the measure of social utility is "the greatest good for the greatest number."


That's a fair objection. To explain my answer to your question, it isn't enough for me to state that I'm a utilitarian; I also have to state my guesses about how the transaction would affect aggregate happiness. As it happens, I guess that in your scenario, Mr. Rich is a teeny bit unhappier for the loss of his money. But this loss is small enough to be ignored in practice. Mr Rags gets drunk, which makes him substantially happier. For the rest of society, the transaction is more or less neutral. Advocates of compulsory puritanism may insist that drunks harm society, but I'm not buying this.

Therefore, I guess that Mr. Rich giving Mr. Rags the money is a utilitarian progress over Mr. Rich not doing so. My conclusion might change if I consider the possibility that Mr. Riches might find an even worthier investment for his money than booze for Mr. Rags. But I am too lazy to consider this possibility at this moment.


Also, Rags, having "gotten the price," is no longer bothering to lie to anyone else about his situation. More utility?
0 Replies
 
Piffka
 
  1  
Reply Mon 23 Aug, 2004 09:51 pm
Thomas wrote:
Piffka wrote:
There's an interesting article in here, called "How the Beggar Economy Promotes Growth" that I thought you might enjoy, Thomas, if you have the time.

Thanks a lot for that link Piffka! The article is interesting, I did enjoy it a lot, and I had never thought about the beggar economy this way. I owe you for five minutes of thought-provoking reading.


I look forward to that, Thomas.
0 Replies
 
nimh
 
  1  
Reply Tue 24 Aug, 2004 03:12 am
Setanta wrote:
Her honesty was refreshing, Habibi, but those with whom i dealt were neither interested in ice cream, nor a square meal--they wanted the beer.

Oh, normally she's out for drugs, I assume ... she always hangs out at the mall and when I ask her whats up this time, she frequently says she was kicked out of this place, or "went to Breda for a few days" (read: not on holidays) ... yet thats the point. OK, so usually she's out getting in trouble and spending the money she gathers on bad stuff. But this one time you give her something, it might also well go to the sleep-inn (6 euros a night, max allowed stays four nights a week) ... or to an ice-cream. So if you give her money "for the sleep-inn", it might well go to drugs. But when you decide not to give her money, you might well deprive her of the ice cream that, this time, she was intending to buy. We, as random passer-bys, wont be able to tell. When you give your alm, you've given it, its outta your hands.
0 Replies
 
 

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