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The Good Place S3 - heaven is a place on Earth (spoilers)

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13 minutes ago, Buckwheat said:

I am really really interested in who the person who died in 1497 and went to the Good Place was. Was it an actual historical person or a fictional character?

Good question! None of the names on Wikipedia stand out to me.

13 minutes ago, Buckwheat said:

And ... am I underthinking if I just assume people generally became worse after 1497, not that the points system changed?

Probably; I don't think pre-1500s people were especially good compared to modern people. I get the impression that the point system didn't change, and individual people didn't change either, but something about humanity collectively broke the system. Perhaps different regions originally had different point scales based on their local cultural values, but once they began interacting, they got merged, and the resulting criteria ended up being self-contradictory?

It's not clear if people suddenly stopped qualifying in 1497, or if there was a gradual decline.

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Here's another idea. With the world expanding and the reach and connectivity of your actions being broader, any act you make can now potentially have a lot more possible harm to others. As you can buy things from further away, the systems that enable that become more and more toxic - from the workforce to the environment to the actual goods themselves. 

So simply being in a more connected world gives you far more chances to harm others either willfully or not.

Now the corollary to this is that it should be possible to also help more people and get even more points, but perhaps there's a cap or something.

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1 hour ago, felice said:

It's not clear if people suddenly stopped qualifying in 1497, or if there was a gradual decline.

Well, again, the quote from the show's creator says that after that, once "the world was closed as a loop" because of western expansion, "after that moment it was essentially impossible for anyone would get in by the criteria we set up."

I still think, along the line of my long post before, that the issue isn't that accounting is broken, it's that the threshold is broken.  Since the world is now a "closed as a loop" points are more diffuse, not less plentiful.

32 minutes ago, Kalbear said:

So simply being in a more connected world gives you far more chances to harm others either willfully or not.

Now the corollary to this is that it should be possible to also help more people and get even more points, but perhaps there's a cap or something.

Right, that's what I am getting at, harm is mitigated, but so is helping.  That is, points are more diffuse.

On my "statistical model" idea, it's as if there was a Good Place for baseball players.  If you hit .400, you get in.  Thing is, no one has done that (over an actual full season, after playing the whole season) so that means everyone is clearly worse at hitting a baseball, right?  Incorrect, almost every player is now better at baseball than before, which is exactly why no one hits .400.  You can't be that much of a standout if the average is already high, and since baseball is a "closed loop" no one hitting .095 means no one, statistically, should be hitting .400.  Again, you can see that in the diagrams I linked in my earlier post, the normal curve that is "tall" necessarily has shorter tails.

When Og gave the rock to Grog, he gave him the greatest gift in human history.  Now you can't get a single point for giving anyone a rock.  The actions must be taken in context and the system rewards outliers.  So, without there being a weight of left-tail outliers, there just won't be many right-tailed outliers and further, like Kalbear mentions, points are likely diffuse because of how networked the world became.

I'll be happy when this is summarily disproved next episode though.

Edited by .H.

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26 minutes ago, .H. said:

Right, that's what I am getting at, harm is mitigated, but so is helping.  That is, points are more diffuse. 

I'm actually not saying that. I'm saying kind of the opposite - that points aren't more diffuse, but actions are by their nature far more harmful to more people. 

As an example, we keep hearing about things like 'don't eat blueberries, blueberry farms are horrible to the migrant workers' or 'I knew I shouldn't have chosen almond milk, I know how bad almonds are for the environment'. That doesn't sound like much, and it probably isn't, but people do these things every single day. Every day of living in a massive connected world makes it more likely that your actions harm someone out there. Maybe not a lot, but some. And it's every single small action - getting coffee (bad), getting milk in that coffee (bad), almond milk (bad), going to Starbucks (bad). 

Prior to the world being so connected it was much harder to do that kind of harm. There weren't massive imports of food. Spices were rare and usually came from close by. Clothes were made largely by people you knew. Tools were as well. But now, the act of something like owning an iPhone would be massively unethical. 

But that still doesn't explain Jonas Salk. 

 

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47 minutes ago, Kalbear said:

Here's another idea. With the world expanding and the reach and connectivity of your actions being broader, any act you make can now potentially have a lot more possible harm to others. As you can buy things from further away, the systems that enable that become more and more toxic - from the workforce to the environment to the actual goods themselves. 

So simply being in a more connected world gives you far more chances to harm others either willfully or not.

If that is the logic it does seem a bit weird that Europeans encountering America dooms everyone - Columbus's voyage might eventually make the population of the Americas more connected but it's still going to be a long time until the same is true of Australia or New Zealand.

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27 minutes ago, Kalbear said:

Every day of living in a massive connected world makes it more likely that your actions harm someone out there. Maybe not a lot, but some. And it's every single small action - getting coffee (bad), getting milk in that coffee (bad), almond milk (bad), going to Starbucks (bad).

That's true of most people in the western world, but it's not plausible that nobody on the planet has been sufficiently disconnected for centuries. Unless not being connected to global society deprives you of opportunity to do sufficient good by post-15th century standards?

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1 minute ago, felice said:

That's true of most people in the western world, but it's not plausible that nobody on the planet has been sufficiently disconnected for centuries. Unless not being connected to global society deprives you of opportunity to do sufficient good by post-15th century standards?

Yeah, and I think that's what @.H. was getting at. As the world gets more connected, it's much more difficult to do good on a large enough scale to increase your value. Basically, once you had the potential to do good deeds for the world, if you didn't? Well, you were basically totally hosed. 

So the people who can do the most good out there - the most connected people - are under a constant, unrelenting stream of bad actions due to basic existence in the modern world, and the people who aren't particularly connected don't have that, but also can't earn enough points because they simply cannot influence enough people or do enough overall good for the value. 

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That's a good point about the connectedness. Look at Mindy St Claire, who ended up in the Medium Place because she got the ball rolling on a charity that ended up being a colossal charitable force for good (even if she herself died before it got started). That only works because the sheer cumulative good rising from that act ended up weighing in her favor. 

The last person to get in during 1497 was probably some peasant (and they'll make a joke about it). Or it will be someone important that nobody has heard of. None of the famous European deaths in 1497 really stand out as moral icons:

Quote

 

January 3 – Beatrice d'Este, Duchess of Milan (b. 1475)
January 30 – Lê Thánh Tông, King of Vietnam (b. 1442)
February 6 – Johannes Ockeghem, Flemish composer (b. c. 1410)
May 26 – Antonio Manetti, Italian mathematician and architect (b. 1423)
June 14 – Giovanni Borgia, 2nd Duke of Gandia (assassinated) (b.1474)
June 27
Michael An Gof, rebel leader (executed)
Thomas Flamank, rebel leader (executed)
June 28 – James Tuchet, 7th Baron Audley (b. c. 1463)
July – Estêvão da Gama, explorer
July 23 – Barbara Fugger, German banker (b. 1419)
August 24 – Sophie of Pomerania, Duchess of Pomerania (b. 1435)
October 4 – John, Prince of Asturias, only son of Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile (b. 1478)
November 7 – Philip II, Duke of Savoy (b. 1443)
November 30 – Anna Sforza, Italian noble (b. 1476)

 

 

 

 

Edited by Winter Bass

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Just caught up with S3E9 and holy forking shirt-balls what a great episode! Five times the Janet AND Stephen Merchant?!? What an abundance of riches in this episode. After kung-fu Janet in E8 and now being 5/6 of the cast (plus Neutral Janet) in E9, D'arcy Carden is absolutely crushing it and stealing the show. 

As for the point system not letting anyone in for the past 521 years...ehhhh. I'm not buying Schur's explanation.Western exploration killing all possible access to TGP but the Dark Ages, Roman Empire, etc. were all peachy-keen? Nah. Not buying it. I'll wait and see how it is explained in the actual episode, and hopefully their explanation is not as bad as a nostril full of wasps.

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I mostly believe the explanation that the globalisation after the 16th century contributed to nobody being able to get to the Good Place because you just do so much more harm using imported products that exploit labour force and harm the environment ... but then on the other side, Chidi's tormenting himself about almond milk was also said to be a problem not because of the almond milk and its environmental impact, but because it was annoying to people closest to him. So ... does the impact to the environment and people on the other end of the world even count, or does only your impact on people with whom you actually interact count? But then in this case, Mindy St Clare and Tahani who organised charities would have gotten basically nothing, as they did not personally know all the people they donated to.

Anyway, there is also the option that nothing changed around 1497, but that people getting into the Good Place were always that scarce, like one or two in a millenium or so. The last person went there in 1497, the one before around 870, AD, the one before in like 50 AD, the one before maybe in 500 BC ... then it would be normal that the next one would get in maybe in 2300.

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12 hours ago, Kalbear said:

Yeah, and I think that's what @.H. was getting at. As the world gets more connected, it's much more difficult to do good on a large enough scale to increase your value. Basically, once you had the potential to do good deeds for the world, if you didn't? Well, you were basically totally hosed. 

So the people who can do the most good out there - the most connected people - are under a constant, unrelenting stream of bad actions due to basic existence in the modern world, and the people who aren't particularly connected don't have that, but also can't earn enough points because they simply cannot influence enough people or do enough overall good for the value.

Well, yeah, thinking of it in statistical terms is almost certainly incorrect, although I still "like" the idea in principle.  I do think though, that the "contentedness" is a blessing that ends up a curse.  On the one hand, it gives you an opportunity to "do good" but it also ties you into a system that has harm built right in.  Also, consider if someone like Bill Gates wants to do some good: he won't really be out there "getting his hands dirty."  The points would be more diffuse over more people who are involved.  As opposed to, say, Saint Francis, who renounced the "wealthy life" and who was out there personally, living a chaste life and literally restoring churches himself.

But I think it's right to consider the effect of "ill-gotten gains."  Or "fruits from the poisoned tree."  However you want to think about it.  That is likely why someone like Jonas Salk isn't in.  Great deed?  Yes.  But all his work was gained within a morally corrupt system and worked to sustain that morally corrupt system.  Sure, he saved lives, but what is the "absolute moral value" of immoral lives?

8 hours ago, PetyrPunkinhead said:

As for the point system not letting anyone in for the past 521 years...ehhhh. I'm not buying Schur's explanation.Western exploration killing all possible access to TGP but the Dark Ages, Roman Empire, etc. were all peachy-keen? Nah. Not buying it.

I don't think that is what they are getting at though.  Of course Roman slavery, Dark Age brutality, and so on, disqualified vast, vast numbers of people.  The point though would seem to be that you could be less tied into an exploitative system and therefor, if you lived a disconnected life and actually applied yourself to moral living, you could probably come out ahead.  Grow your own food, make your own clothes, basically exactly what @Kalbear mentions, you could actually have your good works count enough to get you in.

 

I think they've been pretty clear that the aim of the show is an admonishment against Moral Absolutism.  That is, our "heroes" are Moral Relativists and "fighting" to advance the post-Modern agenda against Absolutism.  I think we'll meet "the Committee" soon and find that they are "old fogeys" of sorts who don't care if anyone gets in, because "this is not 'Nam, this is bowling. There are rules."

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15 hours ago, .H. said:

...I think they've been pretty clear that the aim of the show is an admonishment against Moral Absolutism.  That is, our "heroes" are Moral Relativists and "fighting" to advance the post-Modern agenda against Absolutism.  I think we'll meet "the Committee" soon and find that they are "old fogeys" of sorts who don't care if anyone gets in, because "this is not 'Nam, this is bowling. There are rules."

"Yeah, well, you know, that's just like...your opinion, man."

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7 hours ago, PetyrPunkinhead said:

"Yeah, well, you know, that's just like...your opinion, man."

Well, yeah, I mean, I didn't write the show of course, but I can't figure it is anything but something like this.  It's unclear if you are actually disagreeing with me or not though, :)

Consider a quote that Kalbear pointed out a few pages ago from the show's creator:

Quote

What you get with extremes is Chidi, who is a Kantian, and Kant was an extremist who basically said there are rules that you have to discern and live by. They’re not flexible and they have no exceptions. He said, for example, if a guy comes to your house and he says, “Where’s your brother? I want to murder him.” And your brother’s in the other room, Kant says you can’t lie to that guy because lying is bad, straight up, no exceptions. You’re not allowed to lie. That’s insane. That’s an insane position.

Well, Kant was a smart guy.  Like, approximately a zillion times smarter than me, even on his worst day.  He actually addressed just this, in On a supposed right to lie from Benevolent Motives.  Now, if we suppose that perhaps this was indeed written on Kant's "worst day" it is likely that it is still more cogent than anything I could muster on my own best-of-best days.

If you are actually interested in how and why Kant comes to the conclusion here that he does, I'd offer you this: Kant and Lying to the Murderer at the Door . . . One More Time: Kant's Legal Philosophy and Lies to Murderers and Nazis (which, even if you end up disagreeing with Kant and the author, is at least a far more cogent analysis of what Kant was getting at than simply saying "Kant says you aren't allowed to lie").  Here is a very small part:

Quote

In light of the above, we can appreciate why, in the “Supposed Right to Lie,” Kant does not argue that lying to the murderer at the door is a wrongdoing because it involves wronging the murderer. Against Constant's interpretation of Kant's position, Kant denies that lying to the murderer is to commit a crime against the murderer. Indeed, because the murderer does not have a right to your information, he actually wrongs you by threatening you into telling the truth. So, of the murderer and the liar, the murderer is the one committing the crime, not the liar.

But Kant's account does not stop here, for the liar does do wrong, even though it is not against the murderer. Kant surprisingly argues that the liar commits wrongdoing “in general” (8: 426, 429) when she lies. The duty not to lie is not a duty of justice we hold against any particular other person, say the murderer, but a duty each one of us has towards “everyone” (8: 426). Kant expresses this point also by saying that though by lying “I in fact wrong no one, I nevertheless violate the principle of right with respect to all unavoidable necessary statements in general (I do wrong formally though not materially)” (4: 429). I do not wrong anyone in particular (“materially”), but I wrong everyone by making a condition of rightful interaction impossible in principle (“formally”). Rather than this making lying less problematic from the point of view of right, however, Kant sees it as making it more problematic: by lying one does not wrong another particular person, but humanity, by acting in a way irreconcilable with rightful interactions as such (ibid.). Lying makes it impossible to interact both in a way consistent with rightful honor and contracts and also generally because it undermines the trust even mundane consensual interaction requires. For example, actions requesting information about directions, about meetings, or about other people and so on are all incompatible with lying. All such consensual, rightful interactions rely on truth telling. Hence, lying is wrong in general as it is inconsistent with a world of rightful interaction, even when—as is generally the case—it is not a wrong of justice against another, particular person.

Also:

Quote

in the original case Kant is considering only how a public court should analyze a situation in which someone runs into your house to hide (“takes refuge”) and you are considering what to do as the murderer is banging on the door. Kant argues that if you unilaterally choose to partake in what follows by lying, the fact that you do it from a good heart does not, as such, eradicate your responsibility for any bad consequences following from your lie. By telling the truth, in contrast, you do not take part in the interaction, but leave it open what will happen next: whether the victim sneaks out, whether the neighbors and you manage to subdue, incapacitate or kill the murderer as he is searching through your house, or whether the police arrive in time to stop the murderer. In other words, if you unilaterally choose to lie you must be willing to face the legal consequences if your judgment is faulty and your lie actually ends up helping the murderer capture the victim.

Plus:

Quote

To illustrate the logic of Kant's reasoning, let us first consider a case of lying not to a murderer, but simply to another person. According to Kant, if someone asks you for directions and your lying answer sends him into an unsafe neighborhood where he is robbed, then you are partially responsible for the resulting robbery despite having no intention or foreknowledge of the robbery. Through lying, you have chosen to deceive another with regard to the correct description of the world in which she acts, and this deception is, in part, what allows the robbery to take place. Hence, you are responsible for the bad consequences of your lie. Insofar as this example helps to illustrate the case of lying to the murderer at the door, it is important to take care not to misunderstand what Kant is saying. Importantly, we should note that Kant's analysis as outlined above proceeds on the assumption that a friend “has taken refuge” in your house (8: 425). The argument, in my view, proceeds to establish two points. First, you cannot be under a legal obligation to lie to protect someone who has taken refuge in your house—not even your friend. Otherwise, anyone fleeing into another person's home would have a legal right against the homeowner that they be helped in their escape. Moreover, truth telling on the part of the homeowner—or staying out of others' troubles—would be punishable. If this were the case, then persons would be seen as having the right to choose to put each other into situations where they must lie to dangerous murderers rather than having the option to stay out of it by telling the truth. And Kant maintains that because persons have an innate right to freedom, a public court can neither give any of its subjects a right against others to be helped in this way, nor can courts fail to respect people's rights to avoid wrongful interactions by telling the truth. Therefore, a person cannot be seen as committing a wrongdoing against a person hiding in her house if she refuses to take part in the lying interaction with the murderer. In contrast, and this is the second point, by unilaterally choosing to partake in the interaction, namely by lying about the location of the victim, the homeowner also becomes responsible for the unintended, yet bad consequences of the lie. The reason is that by lying you choose to take part in determining a particular course of actions by setting up a deceptive framework in which another acts. That is to say, when you lie to the murderer, it is obviously not your intention to help the murderer capture the victim—quite the opposite. But if your action (lie) actually makes it possible for the murderer to get to his victim, then you are legally responsible (“you can by right be prosecuted”) for these bad consequences. It may, after all, be the case that the person who fled into your house is counting on you to tell the truth, and while the murderer is searching the house she plans to make her escape. By unilaterally choosing to try to set up a deceptive framework for the murderer and his victim, even under the best of intentions, you run the risk of being wrong; by taking that risk, you incur responsibility for the bad consequences.

The paper does go off on something of a tangent at a point though, but I tend to agree with it's overall point and, generally, Kant's position.  It's the best I could approximately find with Google though.

I the end, I do think lying is indeed always morally wrong.  It might be expedient and practical, but it is always morally wrong.  I'd be amenable to a "caveat" more along the lines of "virtue ethics" whereby "This doctrine states that the virtuous person, the ideal person we continuously strive to be, cannot achieve one virtue without achieving them all. Therefore, when facing a seeming conflict between virtues, such as a compassionate lie, virtue ethics charges us to imagine what some ideal individual would do and act accordingly, thus making the ideal person's virtues one's own. In essence, virtue ethics finds lying immoral when it is a step away, not toward, the process of becoming the best persons we can be."  I still think this is not really correct and basically for the same reason Kant did.  I don't think it works practically, because it presupposes that that subjective valuation, in this case about the "balance" of virtue will be served by the lie.

However, again, the show, with it's (as it seems to me) post-Modern aim, might be more aimed at Utilitarianism, mixed with "Virtue Ethics."  Which, I think, from the Kantian viewpoint (or at least my flawed understanding of it), still "fails" at the same sort of juncture, mostly that one can, subjectively "know" the moral balance of the weight of the lie versus the truth.

I really hope the show doesn't actually go "full post-Modern."   Never go full post-Modern.  I hope, whatever the "team" is writing is more nuanced than that.  But that "shallow" analysis of Kant is worrisome to me, especially since I generally hope the show writers are demonstrably smarter than I am.  Which they almost certainly are, so I hope they show that.

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4 hours ago, .H. said:

I really hope the show doesn't actually go "full post-Modern."   Never go full post-Modern.  I hope, whatever the "team" is writing is more nuanced than that.  But that "shallow" analysis of Kant is worrisome to me, especially since I generally hope the show writers are demonstrably smarter than I am.  Which they almost certainly are, so I hope they show that.

I dunno  -reading those excerpts it makes it pretty clear that Kant might have a good moral framework, but he's also way too extremist in that viewpoint. He is basically saying that it is better to do the right thing (tell the truth) so that you can say 'hey, at least I told the truth' if something bad happens. This to me is akin to the following orders or simply being a passive bystander argument. Yes, you did nothing that can be considered a bad action, but you also did nothing good. 

And Kant - like Chidi - would have said that it's better to lie in that situation, because he doesn't know what might happen as a result of that lie. Maybe he'll get more people tortured! Maybe he'll teach them a better way to torture! Regardless, he's doing something morally wrong without a sure idea of the outcome, and Kant would consider that a Bad Thing. 

Which in that situation is largely ridiculous, just like the murderer at the door situation is. Sure, that person hiding could be lying - that's a possibility - but the most likely scenario is the one presented. Kant argues basically that unless you have absolute knowledge of your action being morally correct, you can only do the morally correct thing that you know to be clear - and that is an absolutist point of view. 

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7 minutes ago, Kalbear said:

This to me is akin to the following orders or simply being a passive bystander argument. Yes, you did nothing that can be considered a bad action, but you also did nothing good.

Well, you do need to evaluate what Kant is saying within the Kantian ethical paradigm, I think.

So, how I understand it (which might well be wrong) is that Kant is saying don't lie, even if it seems expedient in the situation, one, because you can't know that what you are doing serves anything so unknowable as the "greater good" and two, because if you allow for the admission of lying at your discretion, what happens when your discretion is just wrong?  Even worse, how do you know if your discretion could or would be right?

Kant would seem to be saying, just don't do it and more importantly, don't force people to do that (which is the point I quoted above about the issue really being on a side of the murderer).  By allowing room for discretion, or forcing it, you are doing violence to the "sacred" nature of the truth.  It's plausible that maintaining that nature is actually a "good."  Maybe even the "highest good."

Consider a less extreme example: your partner puts on an outfit to go to a party and asks you "does this make me look bad?"  What if it does?  Knowing that if you say, "yes" the likely interpretation could be an emotional breakdown over how you never did find them attractive or something related.  So, for the sake of expedience, you lie.  Say "you look great."  This too is a likely pitfall.  One, they may know already it doesn't fit right and want to see if you'd be forthright, or two, they may be oblivious and go to the party wearing something unflattering, embarrassing them.

If you went with the truth, as you knew it, well, perhaps they'd call you callous but at least you are honest and value the truth.  Lie and the floodgates open.  At best, you are a buffoon, oblivious and with no taste.  At worst, you are a liar who will say anything expedient.

Now, of course there is nuance there, but I think what Kant is getting at, generally, is that the truth can stand "on it's own" of sorts.  Lies beget more lies and undermine trust and people's "right" to know the truth.  Even if they asked it in a manner seeking affirmation and you deny it in the name of truth, you stood to give them what they rightly deserved.  If they asked it in a manner that was unbecoming of you being actually honest, the moral failing is on their part (like the murderer), not yours, so long as you be honest.

Not that Kant is unshakable right, but I think this part of Kantian thought gets a bad rap.

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23 minutes ago, .H. said:

So, how I understand it (which might well be wrong) is that Kant is saying don't lie, even if it seems expedient in the situation, one, because you can't know that what you are doing serves anything so unknowable as the "greater good" and two, because if you allow for the admission of lying at your discretion, what happens when your discretion is just wrong?  Even worse, how do you know if your discretion could or would be right?

Kant would seem to be saying, just don't do it and more importantly, don't force people to do that (which is the point I quoted above about the issue really being on a side of the murderer).  By allowing room for discretion, or forcing it, you are doing violence to the "sacred" nature of the truth.  It's plausible that maintaining that nature is actually a "good."  Maybe even the "highest good."

Right, I get that, and I think you're right. I think Kant's insane for thinking it, because 'truth' isn't as valuable as 'life', and taking the extreme view that truth is more important than anything else, no matter what, is an absurd absolutist viewpoint. It makes sense for Chidi because it allows Chidi to make a choice to do, well, nothing, instead of intercede or make a hard choice or anything like that. It's a perfect moral framework for him - always tell the truth no matter what. (and even in that he sometimes fails, like with the boots). But it's an absolutely atrocious way to live life, and it has obvious consequences. 

23 minutes ago, .H. said:

If you went with the truth, as you knew it, well, perhaps they'd call you callous but at least you are honest and value the truth.  Lie and the floodgates open.  At best, you are a buffoon, oblivious and with no taste.  At worst, you are a liar who will say anything expedient.

Now, of course there is nuance there, but I think what Kant is getting at, generally, is that the truth can stand "on it's own" of sorts.  Lies beget more lies and undermine trust and people's "right" to know the truth.  Even if they asked it in a manner seeking affirmation and you deny it in the name of truth, you stood to give them what they rightly deserved.  If they asked it in a manner that was unbecoming of you being actually honest, the moral failing is on their part (like the murderer), not yours, so long as you be honest.

Not that Kant is unshakable right, but I think this part of Kantian thought gets a bad rap.

"At least you're honest" leaves out the important 'but' part there-  you're also a total fucking asshole. In Kant's mind, being an asshole is fine as long as you're honest. And he even goes further - allowing massive harm is fine as long as you're innocent. This moral framework allows the greatest amount of harm to everyone else while costing you very little. 

So yeah, I get entirely where Kant is coming from - I think that it's akin to people who refuse to vote or people who stand by idly and watch evil do things. 

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15 minutes ago, Kalbear said:

Right, I get that, and I think you're right. I think Kant's insane for thinking it, because 'truth' isn't as valuable as 'life', and taking the extreme view that truth is more important than anything else, no matter what, is an absurd absolutist viewpoint. It makes sense for Chidi because it allows Chidi to make a choice to do, well, nothing, instead of intercede or make a hard choice or anything like that. It's a perfect moral framework for him - always tell the truth no matter what. (and even in that he sometimes fails, like with the boots). But it's an absolutely atrocious way to live life, and it has obvious consequences. 

But what generally gets Chidi into trouble isn't hard-line Kantian adherence to truth.  It's inaction due to weighing too many options.  Right?  Like with the boots, he ditches the Kantian notion of honesty and goes for a Utilitarian approach, which fails.

I guess what we are asking is some kind of variations of "is it better to die for the truth, or live for a lie?"

19 minutes ago, Kalbear said:

"At least you're honest" leaves out the important 'but' part there-  you're also a total fucking asshole. In Kant's mind, being an asshole is fine as long as you're honest. And he even goes further - allowing massive harm is fine as long as you're innocent. This moral framework allows the greatest amount of harm to everyone else while costing you very little. 

I'm not really seeing why you being honest in that situation precludes you being an asshole.  So, in the case of Chidi with the boots, he was right to not be honest?

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1 hour ago, .H. said:

But what generally gets Chidi into trouble isn't hard-line Kantian adherence to truth.  It's inaction due to weighing too many options.  Right?  Like with the boots, he ditches the Kantian notion of honesty and goes for a Utilitarian approach, which fails. 

Sometimes yes? I mean, if he couldn't lie in the Bad Place, he would have literally caused everyone to suffer in torment forever, so he, well, lied. And that absolutely didn't get him in trouble. Point of fact, a whole lot of Chidi's entire plot is him lying to cover for Eleanor, starting at the very beginning. Eleanor mentions how this is for him as a point in season one - that she's basically a giant ethical bomb for him. 

And one of the reasons that choices are hard for him is that he doesn't want to lie or be put in a situation where his honesty is bad. Indecision is his personal failing, but it's made worse by his Kantian adherence. 

1 hour ago, .H. said:

I guess what we are asking is some kind of variations of "is it better to die for the truth, or live for a lie?"

Yeah, well, that's easy when you're not going to be the one that dies as a result. If you phrase it as 'should that person die so I can tell the truth, or should they live but I must lie' it kind of exposes the inherent immorality in valuing absolute truth over relative harm. 

1 hour ago, .H. said:

I'm not really seeing why you being honest in that situation precludes you being an asshole.  So, in the case of Chidi with the boots, he was right to not be honest?

Probably? His mistake was not that he lied, but that he went to another absolute extreme. Not only did he say that they were fine, he said how much he loved them. The right thing is probably to be, well, less of an asshole and somewhat honest, or even less of an asshole and socially acceptable. 

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1 minute ago, Kalbear said:

Sometimes yes? I mean, if he couldn't lie in the Bad Place, he would have literally caused everyone to suffer in torment forever, so he, well, lied. And that absolutely didn't get him in trouble. Point of fact, a whole lot of Chidi's entire plot is him lying to cover for Eleanor, starting at the very beginning. Eleanor mentions how this is for him as a point in season one - that she's basically a giant ethical bomb for him. 

And one of the reasons that choices are hard for him is that he doesn't want to lie or be put in a situation where his honesty is bad. Indecision is his personal failing, but it's made worse by his Kantian adherence. 

Well, this is where the whole Kantian notion gets interesting to me.  Because I think that the notion is correct, of course, in isolation.  The case of the the murderer at your door though, or Chidi in the Bad Good Place, is that you are effectively being coerced into practical compromise of your morals.  Of course Kant can, from his armchair, decree that the correct thing to do is be honest.  And he'd be right, from his armchair.  But you can't make calls from the armchair.  We don't get to be perfect rational creatures.  So we have to make "judgement" calls all the time.  I can't really say, with clarity, that lying because you have good intentions is OK.

Remember that one of Kant's foundational, categorical imperatives is "Act only according to that maxim by which you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law."  From the Kantian perspective, if your lying is permissible based on subjective discretion, than so is everyone's.  Which means, everything is subject to the arbitrary nature of everyone's discretion, vis-a-vis truth.

I think maybe the "hole" in it all is that honesty isn't necessarily the "highest virtue."  But again, I'm apt to point out, that the overall Kantian notion that allowance for lying based on discretion is a route of rather bad things in the long run, because discretion won't always be so "clear" as in the case direct choice of someone's immediate life or death.

What makes it interesting is what he gets into about "virtue ethics."  Which is to say, that he values caring for Eleanor over honesty.  Which is a different ball-game, to a degree, because it invokes a vastly different ontology.  Which, I think is part what throws Chidi off so much, because Eleanor is not abstract, she is real and concrete, thus undeniable.  Even though, he has problems with abstract things too.  But Eleanor and more importantly his feelings for her, is not a rational exercise and he doesn't know how to deal with things outside of that.

28 minutes ago, Kalbear said:

Yeah, well, that's easy when you're not going to be the one that dies as a result. If you phrase it as 'should that person die so I can tell the truth, or should they live but I must lie' it kind of exposes the inherent immorality in valuing absolute truth over relative harm.

Well, it's where the proverbial rubber meats the road.  Just like the "trolley problem."  Notions are well and good, but in practical application, how does it work?  Although the "trolley problem" is less about what you would do, but rather, why you would do it.  Because it is a forced lose-lose situation.  Which is actually the situation that Chidi is in, with Eleanor and lying.  Loser her or compromise his ethics.

35 minutes ago, Kalbear said:

Probably? His mistake was not that he lied, but that he went to another absolute extreme. Not only did he say that they were fine, he said how much he loved them. The right thing is probably to be, well, less of an asshole and somewhat honest, or even less of an asshole and socially acceptable.

Well, yes, but the foundation is that he was not honest.  And not honest to an extreme, of course, because the show is a dramatization.  But I'm curious, since we know what his incorrect response was, what are the grades of "correct" response.

Like, "less of an asshole and somewhat honest" sounds like what?  Or, "even less of an asshole and socially acceptable?"

I'm not being rhetorical, I am generally bad with social skills.  Sure, flatly blunt would be an asshole thing, like saying, "wow, those are hideous, how could you?"  Because the other person might well like them and good for them.  But something honest like, "wow, those seem too bright and a little busy, I don't think I'd really like to wear them."  Is also honest and speaks to your own subjectivity.  Sure, someone seeking affirmation would consider that an "asshole" thing to say, but is it, really?  Is the "socially acceptable" thing to do to say you think they look good?

To go back to my example, am I an asshole if I say to my wife, "I think you should wear the black dress instead of the red one, it's more flattering" if she asked my opinion on both?

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