Only to the degree that the concept cannot itself influence outcomes. Which it can, so, not moot.
That’s the point, Arrendis: how we talk and think about things is an ingredient in how our decisions will work, and the outcomes reached. Part of mine is that I favor context over agency, which means when dealing with “evil” I look for causes, reasons, instead of moral failings.
Someone who’s sick might be curable or at least treatable. Someone who’s hurt might be able to heal. Seeing such things in this light makes it possible to imagine salvaging someone the world doesn’t think is worth saving. Moral pronouncements just get in the way.
So agency, and the related “choice” between right and wrong, can get stuffed.
The two aren’t just not mutually exclusive, though, they’re directly complimentary. Someone suffering from a condition that can be treated is a mitigating factor in determining responsibility. Factors like that—context, in other words—is an important part of agency. Acting under duress, under the influence of chemical substances or impaired function, and so on, are all part and parcel of these considerations.
Agency is not about morality. It’s not about ‘evil’ or ‘right and wrong’. That framework hasn’t even entered into this until just now, when you inserted it.
It was there from the start, whether we acknowledged it or not. Maybe not for you, though you have a very active habit of moralizing such “decisions” as continued loyalty to the Amarr Empire.
Definitely for me.
This is your worldview, Arrendis, not mine. And you’re talking about different factors than I was, anyway-- factors that inhibit or limit choice, rather than factors that go into generating a decision.
Column A: “was drunk; was emotionally unstable.”
Column B: “was raised in an environment that normalized and celebrated violence; witnessed or was subject to multiple acts of domestic violence from a young age.”
The morality of decisions has nothing to do with the agency involved in making them. Such a decision can be moral, immoral… heck, it can be completely a-moral, with no moral weight whatsoever, like ‘what flavor of ice cream do I get?’
Decrying a decision as immoral is not in any way, shape, or form, a comment on the value of the agency that goes into it.
No, I’m just using different examples to illustrate the same point. Just as an individual from column A has compromised agency, an individual from column b has compromised agency until they are exposed to other ideas and environments, until they have the chance to evaluate such environments and choose to be something other than what they have been.
Heck, maybe until they go on an extended Sojourn around the cluster and choose where it is they feel they belong. Everyone is a product of their developmental environment, and it shapes their agency.
And if you want to try to claim that I don’t absolutely 100% believe and practice that, Aria, look at who the feck I live with.
Can’t agree at all. A decision made without agency is by its nature morally weightless. It’s like calling a gun evil because it fires when its trigger is pulled. Unless you’re defining “evil” as “harmful/dangerous/predatory” or something, as a lot of stories in practice seem to, it’s hard to treat something simply functioning according to a series of interacting causal mechanisms as morally culpable.
When confronting something … really awful … though, even I sometimes forget that. After all, moral judgment, correct or not, is common to the human experience. In a way such a judgment is really just a judgment about the appropriate reaction to the entity responsible for some horrid thing, and the survival reaction is going to be, “Avoid or, better, get rid of the threat.”
It’s the safe, practical response, even if it’s not fair. It seems to be how we’re wired.
So even if all it does is get in the way … I’m not immune to strong feelings, either.
I was actually thinking more in terms of the individual occupying both, but whatever. I kind of like your notion of background stuff as a form of compromised agency; it meshes well with your worldview, helping to excuse those for whom it would have been hard to be any other way.
Oooh, bad news then, because you’re not disagreeing at all.
Saying ‘the morality of decisions has nothing to do with the agency involved in making them’ is very much not the same as saying ‘the agency involved in a decision has nothing to do with the morality of the decisions made’. If I choose to do something moral, I had agency. If I choose to do something immoral, I had agency.
If I had no agency, then whatever I did has no inherent morality or immorality. It simply happened, and I never made a real decision to make it happen. Gravity accelerating me toward the ground doesn’t have a moral implication, but then, I didn’t have any agency in whether or not that acceleration would happen.
But maybe we can chalk that one up to a lack of clarity on my part, and the original statement should have been ‘The agency involved in making decisions is not dependent on, nor influenced by, the morality of the decision being made’. Since, you know, you were in the middle of claiming that context and agency are directly conflicting concerns, that you have to choose one over the other.
That’s an argument that agency itself has value, in both the Caldari system (which calls choosing to put personal good over collective good immoral) and the Amarr system (which very definitely assigns moral weight to the choice of sinning or not sinning). People are expected to behave in a moral way… which means their agency isn’t just important, but necessary, and ‘good’, because it is what gives their actions moral weight.
It’s not about excusing them, though. It’s about understanding ‘why’. Because without understanding ‘why’, you can never get past the conflict to move toward harmony, and harmony is always better for serving the larger needs of the whole.
So… just to illustrate what I mean… 3 people, all raised within the same larger culture. Obviously, some variations in their upbringing, but with the same fundamental world view, and who interact harmoniously for many years with a singular commonality of purpose.
Person 1 is exposed to something that challenges their worldview. They explore that challenge, and based on what they learn, made a decision that their prior worldview was flawed. The decision to explore that challenge is made under compromised agency, but within the context of what agency they had, the decision is a perfectly valid one that then sets them on a path to having to make a decision with moral weight afterwards.
Person 2 is exposed to a similar challenge, and rejects the challenge entirely. Their worldview remains unchanged. They are also operating under compromised agency, which informs their decision to reject that challenge. The decision itself isn’t necessarily moral or immoral, and the resulting continuance of their worldview certainly doesn’t have moral weight—it just happens to them.
Person 3 is also exposed to the same kind of challenge, and engages with it. After confronting this new knowledge about the limitations of their worldview, they decide to adhere to the old worldview despite knowing it is fundamentally wrong. The initial decision is made under the same compromised agency as the first two, but the resulting second decision has a different moral value than Person 1’s decision. Not that Persons 1 and 3 are making decisions with different moral weight, but simply different moral value. A 1 ton block of ‘yes’ and a 1 ton block of ‘no’ have the same weight, but different values, after all.
Now, the reason the initial decision doesn’t carry an intrinsic moral weight is that compromised agency means ‘this is what I know, and I am adhering to what I know’ is a perfectly valid way to be. We aren’t obligated to accept those challenges when they arise. But once we do engage with them… well, then we’re responsible for how we respond.
Oh, good. The statement as I read it seemed like an odd statement for you to be making.
I … don’t … think that’s quite what I was arguing. I don’t really treat agency as a “thing.” That doesn’t quite mean I think it’s necessarily inconsistent with context; I just don’t think it’s a real thing. Which I seem to recall you’ve conceded in the past may in fact be the case, but that it doesn’t matter anyway because we can’t really tell.
I think it does matter, because treating it as though it isn’t real lets us ignore “free will” (with its moral baggage) and get down to addressing what’s actually going on.
(It might have negative effects as well. Fatalism is something I personally struggle with just a bit, but actually I struggle with a lot of stuff so maybe that’s not unique and special enough to be a real problem on its own.)
I feel like this is maybe the point of the conversation where you and I converge until we’re fiercely debating two faces of a single ancient coin. For me it’s not about “excusing”-- that’s part of a whole discussion of culpability that just … it’s not very helpful? Like, even to get into?
I upset people sometimes with this because it sounds like I’m taking the side of unconscionable things. I’m normally not, though; I’m trying to understand them in greater depth and detail so that I see how they fit into the scheme of things and what, if anything, is to be done.
So, again, the Amarr believe in free will (they just think it has to be subordinated to God), so they’re kind of on your side in this. That’s no contradiction. For the Caldari it’s maybe more ambiguous, but definitely agency isn’t taken as, well, sacred.
Speaking for myself, though … this is something I don’t think I’ve gotten into deeply with you, and you might understandably think I’ve been avoiding (I have, but, maybe not for the reasons you expect).
So, language and its traps.
Are you familiar with the idea of True Names, Arrendis?
(If anybody isn’t, it’s the idea of magical names for things that directly address that thing, usually some kind of spirit but depending on the tradition it can extend to virtually anything, at the root of its very nature, usually either as an invocation to make that thing appear or followed by some kind of command that that thing is then forced to obey.)
It’s a popular concept in a lot of traditions, but to me it’s one of the most frustrating concepts out there because it places language as directly superior to, and able to reashape, concrete reality. Reality is hard enough to navigate without this idea that our ham-fisted attempts to communicate about aspects of it are somehow the REAL reality and that the landslide coming down on top of you knows and cares whether it has one name (“landslide,” “avalanche”) or many (“three five-ton boulders, eighty one-ton boulders, six thousand five-to-ten-kilo rocks, vast quantities of miscellaneous gravel, pebbles, and dust, and a hell of a lot of effectively liquified dirt”).
Really I think if there’s a feeling all that matter is having in that moment it would probably be closer to a relaxing sigh.
Language is clumsy and imprecise, even when it’s describing relatively easy stuff. There’s a lot of vague pattern-matching and interpretation involved. And as I think you’re already aware I’m perfectly comfortable with the idea of useful illusions.
Words (abstract symbolic representations of concepts, not the concepts themselves) are a great example. But, like all illusions, they tend to be misleading at least on some level.
I use words because they’re the tools I have, not because they perfectly match what I’m trying to convey, Arrendis. If mine seem sometimes to contradict what I’ve said elsewhere, often it’ll be for this reason. I use the tools I’ve got.
(Sometimes though it’ll be because I’m in the middle of feeling my way through something or else because I’m human and therefore squishy and inconsistent. Or a hypocrite. Probably everybody does that sometimes, too.)
Ok, but then we get back to you existing in the part of determinism that accepts that ‘even if we don’t have free will, we have to always act like we do’ that you already responded to with…
And by the way?
Just to make the point: If the universe is deterministic… no, it can’t. Nothing can, because the universe is deterministic. Everyone was always going to make the decisions they make, because they never had any way to not make that decision. So, you get either determinism or personal responsibility. Can’t have both. Those two are mutually exclusive.
So wait, is culpability—you know, personal responsibility—moot or not?
All of Caldari morality is predicated on it, because agency is a prerequisite for moral significance. And the State definitely adheres to concepts of morality that they claim (and I tend to agree) guide their actions.
Evidence suggests that ‘concrete reality’ may be illusory in the first place. At the very least, we know that our perception of reality is definitely illusory. So the reality that humanity experiences is, in an ironically real way, a shared hallucination, communicated through shared symbolism and interpretation. The laws of physics, for example, aren’t actually laws that bind anything. Rather, they’re our best attempts to explain… what?
The universe? Not really, because we can’t agree on an objective universe. Different people in different places experience things differently, event to the point of not experiencing events in necessarily the same order. At best, they experience causality in the same order.
So, our physical laws are actually our best attempts to explain our experience of the universe. They’re symbols intended to convey interpretations.
In that regard… yeah. Our ham-fisted attempts to communicate about aspects of it? They do define part of the reality we each experience. That doesn’t mean they necessarily define it predictively, and doesn’t mean you need language in order to experience something, mind you. Experiencing a sudden, massive series of kinetic impacts doesn’t need language, but informing others about it does.
Similarly, the concept of True Names (or Truenames, in some constructions) doesn’t change your experience of ‘you’… it just serves in those frameworks as a symbol to authoritatively reference a specific individual.
I doubt very much there’s any ‘feeling’ in all that matter, but since ‘observation’ in physics is just a shorthand for ‘interactions’ in part because physicists use the term mostly in the framework of communicating, not directly experiencing… all that matter is ‘observing’ that moment. The quantum fields that define that matter are interacting with other quantum fields.
It’s only relatively easy stuff because you’re used to accepting the framework of your senses… which, after all, we know to be both illusory, and pretty well wrong. For example, that mass of matter you’re talking about?
Describing it accurately either requires vaguely omitting a massive amount of detail… or a massive amount of math, covering each of the dozen-and-a-half or so different quantum fields… for each particle/string.
And even then… the description will probably still be wrong, for a bunch of reasons, ranging from ‘can’t measure everything accurately all at once’ to ‘our experience of reality is an illusion we build one 80-100ms packet at a time’, with things like ‘is all of space-time a projection into our awareness of a far more complex topography that we’re not capable of comprehending?’
Because the evidence we’ve got suggest it might be… and if we can’t comprehend what’s actually real… then yeah, Aria… all we have is symbolism.
So … I usually leave the contradictions to you, but I don’t think you understand the determinist model very well, Arrendis. It’s not only the outcome that is determined; it’s all of it, cause leading on to an effect that is itself a cause, and so on.
Sure people always, at the same point in time, make the decisions they make, but they also make them for the reasons they make them. The whole process works, simply, how it works. It may work differently somewhere else depending on the many-worlds option for explaining quantum weirdness, but a person who succeeds because they try hard was only going to succeed because they tried hard-- but they were also always going to try, and try hard, and always for the same reasons.
It’s not that outcomes occur magically, acausally. It’s that the flow of cause and effect is all-encompassing, including what subjectively looks to us like “making decisions.”
Subjectively it feels no different from “free will,” but the underlying reality is just things rolling along to cause other things.
That was at least halfway a joke, imagining all that tension and potential energy sprawling happily out in languid entropy, but sure.
You said a lot of other interesting stuff I’ll have to mull over for a bit, but let me go back to something you said before.
I suppose this might explain why you seem to find me so frustrating. I tend to engage and even enjoy philosophical challenges, within reason (I like exploring reality; I do not like being a practice dummy or chew toy). Do you feel like I know, or should know, better by now?
Doesn’t that rely on the assumption that the conclusions I would reach after extensive travel and exploration are the same as your own, though?
Yes, obviously. That’s exactly why no, personal responsibility cannot itself influence outcomes. Because nothing can. And on top of that… there is no personal responsibility, because determinism.
And those reasons were always going to be what they are in that moment. The moment the universe existed, those choices were already set in stone, because everything will play out how it plays out at every moment in between.
I feel like you’re still looking into the challenge to your worldview, and more, refusing to make any decision until you’ve found every possible challenge to it.
No, because there’s no assumption that any of the examples involved have anything in common with me. I might be person number 3, neh?
Technically, yes, but the concept of personal responsibility could be included, or not, in causal chains (fractal webs, really), likely leading to different outcomes.
It’s not so much that we can’t change the outcomes; it’s more that we’re tangled up in the outcomes in such a way that whether we will include certain concepts is not actually a choice we make. It’s likely to feel like one, though!
Maybe some other Aria in some distant quantum universe makes a different call, because some particle scatter tips things a little somehow. Wouldn’t it be amazing to see some of the worlds where things worked out a little differently, especially long ago?
In such-and-such a world the Prophet Gheinok’s next-door neighbor opted to grow a crop of cucumbers instead of potatoes. What changes? Oo, that would be so neat to see!
Anyway, I’m not 100% on everything really being worked out from the universe’s start (because quantum weirdness) but yes, it does seem pretty clear to me that what I think and the decisions I make are less “mine” than most people might like to believe: all a bunch of stones and such tumbling down a hill.
And one of the ways we bump and jar against each other is the ideas we trade. That’s a form of influence, and it is included in the outcomes.
That … is … a very interesting notion. I’ll have to think about that.
Hmmmmm. True, but you do tend to be pretty confident in your perspectives you know? “No, Aria,” could have been your personal tagline for, like, months, a few years back.
Maybe not forever, though. We’re all objects, processes, in motion after all.
Well, that’s kinda the thing though, isn’t it? Quantum indeterminism is, you know… indeterminism. Determinism says that just because we don’t know the quantum states perfectly doesn’t mean the values of thos scalar fields weren’t set just as deterministically as everything at the macro scale.
But if you’d like, I can give you more insight into Persons 1-3, just not on the IGS.
Oh, I’m not worried about being able to get tickets to an event like that. It’s somewhat irresponsible for me to go to something like a concert across the cluster out in Syndicate. I’m too obvious a target.
I just think her music is somewhat catchy, lyrics occasionally aside.