Bloody shovel

Don't call it a spade

Biologically informed Morality

My wife was talking about some acquaintance. A 52 year old man, making a very good living, divorced his wife of 30 years, then married a 30 year old woman. They had a child, now she’s pregnant again.

Me: She’s pregnant again? Damn, why is the guy having babies again.
Wife: Apparently her parents only acquiesced to their marriage if they had two children.
M: Well, I get that she’s in a hurry to have them, but why did he accept all that.
W: They say her family is loaded, I guess he has to play nice.
M: But the guy was making a very good living before the divorce. In fact he lost his job because of the scandal and now is barely getting by.
W: Yes, he lost it all for her. His wife got the assets, and he lost all his old friends and connections.
M: Is she worth all that? Doesn’t look that hot to me.
W: Not worth it at all. I mean she’s young, but I don’t get it. I never liked the guy anyway, always gave me the creeps.
M: So you think he’s evil.
W: Whatever. Society made him pay; he lost all his assets, his social standing.
M: That’s the thing; I’m not gonna argue against that, I’m all for deterring men from leaving their wives for young pussy, make him pay, ok. But why is he the evil part here?
W: What do you mean?
M: He just looks to me like some old dude who banged a young employee, and while it may have felt good, he probably wasn’t expecting, certainly not willing all that mess to happen.
W: Well, I guess.
M: I mean, if we’re gonna judge people, I propose we judge them according from the distance of their actions from common sense. When I was a teenager I read Schopenhauer’s theory of morality, and he had a pretty neat system: people doing what benefits them is morally neutral. It’s what people do, it’s not good, but people shouldn’t be blamed for pursuing their interest either.
W: Yeah well.
M: Then he said “evil” is when people hurt others even when there’s no benefit to them; while “good”, is when people do things for others even when there’s no benefit to them for doing so.
W: Makes sense.
M: Thing is it’s actually very hard to measure “benefit”. Some people reap a benefit of being altruistic, either because it makes them feel good, or because their signaling benefits them later. And at any rate it isn’t a very good idea to reward selflessness in the abstract, you want to give status to normal, productive people. It’s better to have children than to adopt them. Ideally any moral system must be based on the expected behavior of average people, not in abstract principle.
W: Agreed.
M: My point being that an old man banging a young woman is certainly not good; but it’s understandable on both biological and purely statistical terms. That’s a common temptation. What is not common though is for a man to leave his wife, his friends, his job, all his previous life, in order to marry and have children with a 30 year old woman. Why would he do so?
W: I was just saying that I don’t get it. You know, his wife, she had supported him while he was young and unemployed, until he was able to make it. They only had one child, but come on. You don’t do that.
M: Well either he’s completely infatuated with the woman; and he doesn’t look like it. Or she make him do so. He forced him some way or another into marrying her, or else.
W: I guess.
M: So in terms of distance from common sense; he’s a dupe for banging a young employee; but she went all the way to make him divorce his dear wife, leave his son, lose his assets and all his social standing. Isn’t she more evil? At least in terms of agency, doing more evil things.
W: Well she got the man she wanted, all for herself, and she got her to marry him and make her two children. She’s doing what’s best for her.
M: Yeah but she could choose. As a young woman she had plenty of options; thousands of good men willing to make children with her. But no, she had to choose an old married man.
W: He had a choice too.
M: Yeah sure he could have chosen not to sleep with a young woman. But again that’s a very common temptation; and given that most men are willing to sleep with young woman; while most young woman aren’t particularly disposed to sleep with old married man, the one who is particularly evil in this circumstance is the woman, not the man. Yeah he’s stupid, shouldn’t have done so. But come on, look at him. He just wanted an easy bang, now he’s making babies at 52. No way he wanted that.
W: So what did he want?
M: I mean in general terms, the best strategy for a man is to keep his family and social standing, and have a discrete mistress on the side. Which is what happens in the vast majority of cases: how many cases of male adultery end with the man divorcing and making babies with the mistress? That’s the woman’s best strategy; and if it succeeds it follows that the responsibility is in the woman.
W: I’m not saying I like her either; she looks evil enough.
M: Flip the story and look it from the other side. The equivalent would be for a young married couple, lower-middle class, with a plain looking woman, her husband, and two plain kids. Suddenly an alpha billionaire straight out of Fifty Shades comes down, seduces the woman, and manipulates her into divorcing her husband and going with him. Then he doesn’t marry her, just takes her abroad, bang her for a couple of months and dump her unceremoniously in some tropical island bungalow with cockroaches the size of rabbits.
W: That’s disgusting.
M: Who’s the most evil here? Note that the woman left her husband and her children. But surely it’s the man who’s more to blame. He could have any woman, but he had to choose a plain housewife with children. She’s a traitorous bitch; but women are known to fall for alpha billionaires. That’s human nature.
W: All I know is they both disgust me and I don’t wanna have anything to do with them.
M: That we can agree on.

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12 responses to “Biologically informed Morality

  1. Pingback: Morality | Neoreactive

  2. Pingback: Biologically informed Morality | Reaction Times

  3. Jack the rapper August 2, 2015 at 07:16

    This type of reasoning obfuscates apprehension of the moral dimensions of any given action.

    Suppose one is a psychopath; it’s in their nature to disregard harm and act callous, therefore, according to your argument, despite doing evil, they are not truly evil, for it’s nothing unordinary for their kind to do evil, in contrast to empathic neurotypicals. Or, blacks are predisposed toward violence, therefore, are less evil than whites when commit acts of violence. The gist of your argument is thus: “these agents’ [52 y/o man versus 30 y/o temptress, OR billionaire versus housewife] actions would be morally equivalent had they not been biologically different from one another; since they are biologically different, should receive different moral judgment”.

    Alternatively, then, one could simply recognize that different beings are endowed with differing moral proclivities, some being inclined towards evil more so than others. Instead of arguing that morality should be “biologically informed” (hence, one can, to an extent, morally exonerate the wicked based on their accursed genes and nature), one could argue that *biology should be morally informed* — that some people are inherently more evil than others, or tend to be evil more than others, and their nature/biology should be judged accordingly (decreed more or less evil), rather than their moral culpability and agency.

    • spandrell August 2, 2015 at 07:55

      You’re completely missing the point, which is “distance from common sense”. Psychopaths are very distant from common sense. Violent blacks are very distant from white common sense.

      The whole point of morality is to establish a Schelling Point about whether who it is desirable to associate with. Psychopaths, violent, evil, particularly manipulative people are evidently not people you want to keep around. You need to draw lines, find the average behavior you can expect, and make judgment according to that.

      The result of finding someone who is innately evil is not to exonerate him, but to remove him from society.

  4. athina August 2, 2015 at 19:26

    I find it hard to believe that the wife said so little, especially in a discussion regarding infidelity, while you got such long pieces of monologue. She is a keeper!

    On the issue: Hurting people is bad.
    The 30yo woman is clearly evil, because she used 52yo’s known weakness to her own benefit, without any concern about the man’s family or for the man himself. Even if she was genuinely in love with him (which is possible) she should have stopped to think.
    The man is plain stupid. He was offered a raw deal and he accepted it. He did cause harm to his family and wife but he got enough punishment for that.

    Unless the scandalous couple are really in love. If they are, then they are not evil but true and honest, and not doing what they did might have been worse for everyone, leading to misery or family problems.

    The problem is who can be the judge of that?

    • spandrell August 2, 2015 at 19:39

      I speak fast. And her comments included names and personal stuff that don’t really belong here, while my argument was more abstract.
      But she’s a real keeper.

      I find love too hard to define to be a useful concept. More often than not is just a signaling post to try to deflect criticism. Gaymarriage is about love! Man-boy love! I say we use another word. Being in love with a young hottie is no excuse for leaving your wife and children. Misery is no excuse either. People used to grow up and not think that feelings would gain them approval. That only creates an incentive for exaggerating muh feelings, which is what modern people tend to do. I’m offended! Micro-agressed!

      This couple in particular seems to be doing ok, and it’s not that I think somebody should lock them up and take away their children. But somehow when you mention something like this, it’s acceptable to disapprove of the man, yet seldom anybody stops to criticize the woman.

      Except in China, where infidelity is always regarded as fault of the mistress, and legal action can be taken against her by the wife. Usually the wife wins and the mistress is thoroughly crushed.

      • Candide III August 5, 2015 at 06:53

        Re China, that’s an interesting legal approach. Do you happen to know what legal theory is behind it?

        • spandrell August 5, 2015 at 09:04

          I’m not an expert, although my impression is that Chinese are pretty forthright about “legal theory” being whatever the governments wants it to be at the moment. China has been promoting marital fidelity for a while, so it’s only natural that legal scholars are suddenly finding how the Marriage Law is full of justification for suing mistresses for infringing on “marital rights” 配偶權 and stealing marital assets.

          Wives can sue mistresses for the money that their husbands have spent on them, and they usually win, to the extent that there’s any money left of course. Mistresses being there for the money, of course, that’s a pretty good incentive.

          By the way I think your email address is making your posts fall into the spam filter. Fake something more normal looking, say obama@usg.gov

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  8. Etjon Basha January 3, 2017 at 09:59

    In such cases it may be more proper to consider folks such as her (or the fifty shades guy in your counter-example) as exogenous factors and not “real people” for moral calculus purposes. The center of the drama and the moral calculus here is the family, and he who breaks the bond must be held accountable to the highest degree (morally at least). Going with “but she is more evil” in practice translates into treating the guy as a tool without a moral dimension. Just assume that the girl is some robotic temptress running on a program (coming from outside your Dumbar’s number makes this very easy): the beef is with those in the family.

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