Consider four possible acts: Eating Twinkies Watching Gilligan’s Island Fighting cancer Working for racial justice Now consider pairwise comparisons of value between these acts. You might say which you prefer, or which matters more, or is more important or admirable.
Even today, I'm not sure about the correlation between riots and anyone's measure of racial injustice. Ferguson seems rather average when it comes to the black/white arrest ratio, significantly less extreme than Santa Monica or Madison Wisconsin. The only respect in which Ferguson seems unusual is that the population is mostly black and the government isn't, a result of its demographic change being relatively recent.
You seem to have lost the thread of this conversation. The original use of lynching in no way suggested that we should see a continuous increase in its usage. The point was that not punishing it emboldens those who would seek to expand racial injustice. So the statistical decline in lynching does not contravene this point in any way given that lynchings declined because racists were under the impression that they had successfully cowed their targets. Furthermore, my comments about riots were not limited to the 60s or 70s. I was thinking also about contemporary events like we are seeing in places like Missouri.
Finally, if the cancer is downstream from the infection, that's all the more reason for me to support #4 over #3. I'd rather fight a disease than a symptom.
Lynching was the first example you brought up, and one we happen to have data on. You also mentioned riots, and there I will grant that some social scientists (like Timur Kuran or Alex Tabarrok) have written on how the chaos of it enables more chaos. However, it's not clear to me that's correlated with racial injustice. My impression of 1960s/1970s America is that there were relatively few riots in the most unjust places (the kind with a history of lynching) and more in places like California or northern cities.I should have made a point about cancer however: in Ewald's theory, the cancer is downstream from infection, so focusing on cancer may be relatively ineffective at stopping the spread relative to focusing on the infection.
The decline in lynching has been well accounted for. Early lynching decreases the incentive for later lynching by creating a fear effect. The potential targets of future lynchings tend to leave or change their behavior. So lynching didn't trail off because racism or racial injustice trailed off. It trailed off because it wasn't needed as much to keep racial injustice in place (particularly once racists had regained political power). Focusing on lynching, which is only one facet of racial injustice, is literally missing the forest for the trees.
Does anyone think that person A's suffering can accurately be stated to be objectively worse than person B's suffering, if both of their suffering is of an intense kind - e.g., a female stuck in sexual slavery versus a male stuck in solitary confinement? If one affliction is objectively worse, can we say this it is also always subjectively worse? If we can, wouldn't the effective altruist do the MOST good by only focusing on the objective worst suffering to befall man?The reason I ask these questions is because I am passionate about using a future career to help the objective worse off of humanity, but I don't know how to rank the WORST types of suffering in order to choose what to major in. Anything anyone can say is appreciated. It'd also benefit me to hear about philosophical works on this issue if anyone has came across it. I'd love to merely ask Peter Singer, but it looks like he doesn't accept emails from random members of the public. Instead of replying here, anyone with any info should email me. My email is email@example.com
Thanks so much!
Ewald is the one who theorizes that most cancers are the result of infections, his theory is not yet accepted by most of the field and so I myself do not state as a fact that most cancer is. You state that infectious cancers don't spread the way racial injustice does, but I'm curious how specifically you think their transmission differs. Is one "more infectious" than the other? When I look at statistics for lynching, it doesn't seem to track with what we'd normally consider to be racial justice (specifically, the decline occurs too early).
First, your response engages in equivocation. "Most cancer is the result of infections" is much different from "cancer is infectious." And even if there are some infectious cancers, they do not spread the way that racial injustice does. Therefore, my argument still stands.
Hi Robin, this reminds me of what I call a moral gravity bias: https://stijnbruers.wordpre...Ranking 3<4 seems like you lower the importance or value of 3 instead of increase the value of 4.
Fighting cancer also involves similar subjective judgments (which type of cancer to fight, what methods to improve on...) and may not produce any meaningful results with a lifetime of work. They're not as dissimilar as you suggest here, and cancer research shows no signs of ending any time soon.
Maybe, but do research problems belong to "the sacred"? (Maybe in theology . . . .) Another question is: "Which is the most important discipline?"; few researchers can say with a straight face that *theirs* is the most important. I share your doubts about the last paragraph; the rest of the post is very insightful.
I’m fond of this classic question pair: “What is the most important research question in your discipline?” followed by “Why aren’t you working on it?”
"Because I'm not a rockstar and I can do more good by working on whatever it is I'm working on than that really hard problem - if it was easy, it'd already be fixed. And research is not strictly additive where if you throw more people at it you get linearly better results."
Also, "Because I have bills to pay and people are paying me to work on other things."
For that matter "because I really like working on this thing, even if it's less important".
(Same thing about #3 and #4.
People setting their own priorities and having their own preferences and directing their own lives is even more important that Maximizing Outcome Utility At All Times.
Do something you think is good. Do something that pleases you and hurts no-one. Either. Both. But live, rather than worrying about utility maximization in every act or ever choice.
Don't let anyone shame you for "not doing enough", as long as you're not actively impeding others..
They can go to outer darkness and wailing of teeth* if they want to be that way.
* Worse than wailing, and gnashing of teeth, because, well, think about wailing teeth!)
I wonder if what makes sacred values sacred is that when thinking about them, we're more concerned with staying defensible against accusations than gaining something of value to us.
Consider, then, those deeds we can be literally accused of to our detriment: crimes. The threat of accusation doesn't render crimes unrankable; rather it intensifies the impetus to rank because you need to know which crime to defend against more avidly. Thus, in criminal law there is a hierarchy of sins; at a broad level, although both rights are held sacred, life trumps property.
There actually are infectious cancers. Paul Ewald theorizes that most cancer is the result of infections, such as the link between HPV and cervical cancer.
I have absolutely no problem ranking #3 vs. #4. Because while I think they are equally noble, and perhaps equally important in some sense, one is at least more pressing. Specifically, I mean #4. (1) Not everyone gets cancer, but everyone is affected by racial injustice. Yes, everyone: some get unfair advantages, others unfair disadvantages; and whether your interests are considered important, not to mention how important they are considered to be, depends in part on your race. (2) My cancer cannot spread to you, but racial injustice can spread rapidly. One lynching goes unpunished and others are emboldened to follow suit. One corrupt officer gets away with something and others realize they can, too. Or on the flip side: a (completely justified, but still destructive) riot spreads and affects people who may not have been involved in the terrible incident that set it off. (3) Not every case of cancer is a tragedy (some people go into remission; some are at the stage of life where it's just a matter of what gets them, not if and when; some people can afford superior treatment), but every case of racial injustice is a tragedy (even if the person who was treated unjustly could be said to deserve something bad happening to them, no one deserves racial injustice as punishment; mutatis mutandis for the cancer case, by the way). (4) Cancer and racial injustice often cut lives short, but racial injustice is more likely to cut lives early and its more tragic when it does (since it's not just a harm, but also a wrong; we can't control cancer, but we are in control of our actions, and thus of racial injustice; this goes back to the point about tragedy). So yeah, if I could snap my fingers and remove either cancer or racial injustice, I would choose racial injustice. No contest.
I wonder if what makes sacred values sacred is that when thinking about them, we're more concerned with staying defensible against accusations than gaining something of value to us. (Maybe sacredness isn't so much an intrinsic property of a value, but a fact about how some people in our society regard the value. If I make fun of Zeus, no one is likely to be especially upset with me because no one believes in him anymore. Spitting on someone is a trivial act that's likely to get you in trouble because it's regarded as offensive.) So then the question would be how to change the discussion environment so that the sort of accusations leveled against people intelligently trading off one value against another don't fly.
Robin says "We are all politicians to some extent, and this applies to most of us." But if I'm right and being a politician is the rational response to a difficult set of circumstances, it might not make sense to blame people for behaving rationally... it might be more sensible to change the incentive structure. Maybe if we can determine the set of accusations that seem counterproductive, we can find a new brief way to accuse people of making counterproductive accusations?
Fighting cancer is a concrete, achievable, measurable goal.
Racial Justice is a subjective, elusive, and ever-shifting one.
Obviously one should work for the second because that ensures job security.