/ Does it matter what you think if your actions are right?

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Dave Kerr - on 28 Nov 2012
So this question came up in school philosophy club today and I thought I'd throw it out for further discussion.

The scenario is that 2 people go through their lives making identical 'good' moral choices (we'll keep it simple: not to steal, not to murder, to remain faithful to a partner).

Person A is beset by temptation to act the other way each time such a choice comes up but masters their baser instincts to make the 'right' decision.

Person B makes the same 'right' choice but without being even remotely tempted to act the other way.

Is there difference in the value of their acts?
Timmd on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Dave Kerr:

I don't know. It does take more effort to do the right thing if you're tempted by doing something else, so maybe person A has more will power in how they live?

Really interesting question.
Timmd on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Dave Kerr:Not more will power, but possibly more 'character'.

To the outside world thier actions all have the same value. Hmmmn.
In reply to Timmd: Disagree. We have not seen person B's willpower cos they aren't tempted. That does not mean A has more will power than B. It means we have seen A's willpower but cannot compare it to B's cos we don't know what B's is.
Wonko The Sane - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Dave Kerr: All it means it person B's willpower is untested.
Nothing more.
Dave Kerr - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Wonko The Sane:
> (In reply to Dave Kerr) All it means it person B's willpower is untested.
> Nothing more.

The question wasn't about the value of the person but about the value of their acts so the fact that B's willpower is untested is actually irrelevant. I think.

Dave Kerr - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to nickinscottishmountains:
> (In reply to Timmd) Disagree. We have not seen person B's willpower cos they aren't tempted. That does not mean A has more will power than B. It means we have seen A's willpower but cannot compare it to B's cos we don't know what B's is.

See above.

I see your point but the question isn't who has more will power but whose acts (if either) have the greater value.

In reply to Dave Kerr: Yeah true, but I wasn't answering your question, I was disputing the answer Timmd gave! ;-)
BigBrother - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Dave Kerr:

> the value of their acts

What do you mean by this?
Dave Kerr - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to nickinscottishmountains:

Fair dos. Your point was very similar to that made by Wonko.
dissonance - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Wonko The Sane:

yup person b is the one to try and bribe.
Dave Kerr - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to BigBrother:
> (In reply to Dave Kerr)
>
> [...]
>
> What do you mean by this?

Does A's act have more value than B's because s/he has battled the temptation of doing the wrong thing before doing the right thing? Essentially it has cost A more to do right than B.

timjones - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Dave Kerr:
> (In reply to BigBrother)
> [...]
>
> Does A's act have more value than B's because s/he has battled the temptation of doing the wrong thing before doing the right thing? Essentially it has cost A more to do right than B.

The consumer shouldn't have to pay more because the production system is inefficient ;)
tspoon1981 on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Dave Kerr: Assuming that, to the outside world, person A and B are identical, I wonder if person A may place a higher value on the decisions made due to the temptation faced, and such have a greater feeling of worth or ownership of those decisions which may have a benefit else where. Where as person B just is, they do right without trying, with neither the highs and possible lows faced by person A, and so gains no personal benefit from the thoughts and feelings that temptation could give.
Timmd on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Dave Kerr:
> (In reply to BigBrother)
> [...]
>
> Does A's act have more value than B's because s/he has battled the temptation of doing the wrong thing before doing the right thing? Essentially it has cost A more to do right than B.

I think they might have more value.

Battling is what I had in mind with will power, in that person A has had to try harder to do the right thing.

I didn't put it very clearly though.
BigBrother - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Dave Kerr: But what do you mean by value, who is judging?
brokenbanjo - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Dave Kerr:

I think B will have a sudden breakdown and go on a murderous, philanderous, stealing rampage in nothing more than a mankini due to not exercising his willpower in moderation.
Dave Kerr - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to BigBrother:
> (In reply to Dave Kerr) who is judging?

You if you like.

By value I mean worth. Is it more worthy to arrive at the right decision through struggle, arrive at it without struggle or is the whole notion of their being worth in the process nonsense and only the outcome of value?
nocker - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Dave Kerr: Forgive me if this is irelevant but soon after the crazy Church that I am a member of decreed that it was possible to make your Sunday observance at a Saturday night vigil Mass, our very wise but old-school parish priest posed the following :- "There are people sat here in church tonight wishing they were in the pub. At the same time there are people sat in the pub wishing they had come to church. Which are the better people ?"
Gordon Stainforth - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Dave Kerr:

The value of the acts remains the same. It's certainly an interesting question, though not a very important one. What is important is the act. Good intentions, for example, are not worth anything if they're not acted upon.
subalpine - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Dave Kerr: as Person A is beset by temptation, he will ultimately fail in his moral choices
does person B exist?
deepsoup - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to subalpine:
> does person B exist?

Well first you would have to define "exist".
































Sorry. Wrong thread.
mockerkin on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Dave Kerr:

>> Well, Jesus said that there is more joy in heaven for a bad person who repents, than there is for a good person who doesn't need to repent.
So person A wins, even if he actually did nothing wrong.
I don't want to hear from evangelical christians supported my opinion, as I'm not one of them.
Anyone else's comments?
Dave Kerr - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to mockerkin:
> (In reply to Dave Kerr)
>
> >> Well, Jesus said that there is more joy in heaven for a bad person who repents, than there is for a good person who doesn't need to repent.

I'd naturally want to say that the person who overcomes barriers to achieve something (A) has done more than one who does it without effort (B). However, functionally (if that's the right word) their acts have the same worth in terms of their effect on society

I think there is something in the notion that the process is totally irrelevant and only the outcome of interest or value but I can't quite put my finger on why this is.
CraigB - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Dave Kerr:

You say they are going through life making the same moral choices, but I don't think this is the case. Person A is making moral choices which involve acting against inclination, and acting in accordance with a moral imperative, whereas Person B is acting according to inclination, and is not making moral choices at all.
Dave Kerr - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to CraigB:
> (In reply to Dave Kerr)
>
> You say they are going through life making the same moral choices, but I don't think this is the case. Person A is making moral choices which involve acting against inclination, and acting in accordance with a moral imperative, whereas Person B is acting according to inclination, and is not making moral choices at all.

Good point. We're starting to get into the thorny issue that is the existence of free will. If B acts according to inclination was s/he free to act otherwise? Or for that matter was A?
bullybones - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Dave Kerr:
I'd start by asking what good they have done in the world, as opposed to what bad they have not done.
GridNorth - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Dave Kerr: I would suspect that person B was lying so that gives person A the moral high ground.
ice.solo - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Dave Kerr:

is iggy pops career more valuable because he explored the depths of temptation than the career of, say, lenny kravitz who only sings about it?

of course.

the value is in that person A (iggy) wasnt guaranteed a place in the here and now, whilst person B (lenny) only had to join the dots.

finding the way and following the way to the same destination makes that destination the same in name only. person A is not seeing the world person B is, person A sees more outcomes, person A knows thyself more profoundly, person A has covered more territory.

can i vote one more moral choice?
rather than faithfulness could we have 'didnt use O on everest' instead?
Nigel Thomson - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Dave Kerr: Slightly different situation but...I'm a member of a well known worldwide fellowship that helps others to battle alcohol problems.
We have a thing we do where we try to do someone a good turn without letting anyone know we have done it, ie not reaping the glory for our little act of kindness. Try it sometime and you may or may not find it difficult at first not to look for the praise. Over time, with conditioning, it becomes far easier.
Banj - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Dave Kerr:

> Person A is beset by temptation to act the other way each time such a choice comes up but masters their baser instincts to make the 'right' decision.
>
> Person B makes the same 'right' choice but without being even remotely tempted to act the other way.
>
> Is there difference in the value of their acts?

Yes, there is a difference in the value of their acts, but only to the actors. This act has cost Person A and as such it is more valuable to him/her.

To a third party, the acts have equal value unless the costs are disclosed.

Two identical looking strangers each give a beggar five Pounds.


But then, they are revealed as
1. A down and out former employee of Lehman Bros. who will miss dinner tonight because that was all he had
and
2. A current employee of Barclays who received a million Pound bonus this year.

It's just 10 to the beggar.

Is there a difference in the value of their acts?


dr_botnik - on 28 Nov 2012
In reply to Banj:

Depends on if the guy from lehrmans stole millions in his time, in which case this act of "charity" is merely a salve on his own bitter, repentant concious, and a self-interested act...

Whereas the barclay's dude has spent 23 hours a day working to better himself, his business, and the wider world, giving up time with his children and family in order to support many local people and small businesses and charities, he constantly strives to do good and asks for no reward...

Still black and white?
Bob Hughes - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to dr_botnik:
> (In reply to Banj)
>
> Depends on if the guy from lehrmans stole millions in his time, in which case this act of "charity" is merely a salve on his own bitter, repentant concious, and a self-interested act...
>
> Whereas the barclay's dude has spent 23 hours a day working to better himself, his business, and the wider world, giving up time with his children and family in order to support many local people and small businesses and charities, he constantly strives to do good and asks for no reward...
>
> Still black and white?

I think if I was the beggar, the act of the former Lehman's guy would still feel like a bigger act of kindness than that of the Barclay's guy regardless of how moral the rest of their lives had been. Mainly because the level of personal sacrifice is greater in the case of the ex-Lehman's guy who doesn't know whether he'll eat tonight.

Besides, there's something quite touching about a man who is hard on his luck who gives away his last tenner to salve his conscience for previous sins.

(ps I am guessing this wasn't the point of your post but in terms of historical accuracy, I don't think there was ever any suggestion that Lehman's was involved in criminal behaviour beyond possibly criminal risk taking. Whereas Barclays is implicated in the Libor scandal so it may well be the Barclays guys who is being charitable with ill-gotten gains.)
Oujmik - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Dave Kerr: In my thinking, the key point coming out here is that the value is in the eye of the beholder.

Person A will likley value their own acts more than person B as they 'cost' them more, as has been said above (although if person B has never been tempted by an alternative they have never actually made a decision and therefore their perception of value and cost is probably poorly defined).

However, person C will perceive them both equally unless person C has additional information about persons A and B.

If person A goes out of their way to boast to person C about their sacrifice then that could effect person C's perception in either direction. Person C now knows how hard the original decision was but they will also be judgeing Person A's decision to boast about it...
confusicating on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to the weegy:

What a brilliant thing! Great idea. I can imagine it takes time. I will try and do this regularly.
Nigel Thomson - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to confusicating: Good on you.
Tim Chappell - on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to Dave Kerr:
> >
> Is there difference in the value of their acts?


There might be no difference in the value of their acts, and yet there be a difference in their value as persons.

On another issue-- you don't need scare-quotes round "good" and "right". Say what you mean! Don't buy into limp-wristed relativism!

Drop me a line if you'd like an external speaker for your school Philosophy club; I quite often do that kind of gig :-)
Dave Kerr - on 30 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:
> (In reply to Dave Kerr)
> [...]
>
>
> >
> On another issue-- you don't need scare-quotes round "good" and "right". Say what you mean! Don't buy into limp-wristed relativism!

The quotes were there to acknowledge the fact that good and right are difficult to define and that for the purposes of the question I was setting that aside. It seemed to work as no one came on and said 'what do you mean by good and right'.

Am I right in thinking that you are a lecturer (or some such) in Philosophy? If it was a serious offer what might you speak about for mainly 12-16 year olds?
Tim Chappell - on 30 Nov 2012
In reply to Dave Kerr:

> Am I right in thinking that you are a lecturer (or some such) in Philosophy?

I am, yes.

>If it was a serious offer what might you speak about for mainly 12-16 year olds?

What would you like? I can do most things.

Perhaps we should continue this off-forum?
Orgsm on 30 Nov 2012
In reply to Dave Kerr:

That similar to a simple one I seem to face most weeks at work. Two people ask me for sponsorship for a physical challenge. You know and like them equally. One enjoys the particular physical challenge and will not struggle to complete it. The other will not enjoy the challenge, and may struggle to complete it. What would be your responses and would you value ones challenge over the others assured success?
ads.ukclimbing.com
Rob Davies - on 30 Nov 2012
In reply to Dave Kerr: T. S. Eliot (I think) "the greatest treason, to do the right deed for the wrong reason".
birdie num num - on 30 Nov 2012
In reply to Dave Kerr:
In Num Num's humble philosophical opinion, stolen food tastes so much sweeter.
Bob Hughes - on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to A Game of Chance:
> (In reply to Dave Kerr)
>
> That similar to a simple one I seem to face most weeks at work.

Here's another that I was considering over the weekend: I tend to do more of the cooking and Ms Hughes tends to do more tidying up. I like cooking probably more than Ms Hughes likes tidying up. Do my hours spent in the kitchen count the same as hers spent tidying up?

verygneiss - on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to Dave Kerr:

When you say 'value', what exactly do you mean by this? How does one valorise an act?
Timmd on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to verygneiss: Does it take more 'goodness' to do the right thing if you have to struggle to I guess?
Wonko The Sane - on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to Timmd:
> (In reply to verygneiss) Does it take more 'goodness' to do the right thing if you have to struggle to I guess?

Yes, it does.

But to me the OP asked 'does it matter?'

the answer to that (for me) is no. So long as good is done.

You can't blame a person who is generally good just because they haven't faced 'tests'

You can say that it takes a bit of character at least to transcend 'babd' programming to be good. But I don't think it makes you 'better' than the other person in absolute terms.
Though of course, it's worthy of note.
Timmd on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to Wonko The Sane:I agree, could be 'luckier' and 'less lucky' are more accurate ways of looking at it, to do with how much effort it takes to do the right thing.
Gordon Stainforth - on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to Wonko The Sane:

Your conclusion now is exactly what I said right near the beginning of this thread at least a week ago.
Gordon Stainforth - on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

PS. Not triumphant at all, but a little depressed.
Wonko The Sane - on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:
> (In reply to Wonko The Sane)
>
> Your conclusion now is exactly what I said right near the beginning of this thread at least a week ago.

Me too.
Timmd on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:
> (In reply to Gordon Stainforth)
>
> PS. Not triumphant at all, but a little depressed.

Thinking of myself as well, I wonder if using forums and the internet a lot can shorted people's attention spans?

I think I might have heard it can do.

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