# Moral equivalence?

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#### ﮎingulaЯiτy

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##### Moral equivalence?
« on: November 25, 2010, 10:12:00 PM »
I was making scrambled eggs, when a thought popped into my head.

If we can agree that inflicting pain on someone is immoral, and assuming we could accurately measure pain, would dispersing it amongst multiple people to dilute the pain per person be more, less, or equal on a 'morality scale'? Let's create a theoretical unit of pain P.
Does one person experiencing pain of 10 P morally equate to 10 people experiencing of pain of 1P?
...Of 1000 people experiencing .01P?

My initial inclination is to think that it would be slightly more moral, which would appear to be at odds with the basic math (assuming addition/multiplication actually does apply without alternate variables.)

Just curious what other people think.
« Last Edit: November 25, 2010, 10:19:48 PM by ﮎingulaЯiτy »
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#### Beorn

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##### Re: Moral equivalence?
« Reply #1 on: November 25, 2010, 11:52:01 PM »
I was making scrambled eggs, when a thought popped into my head.

If we can agree that inflicting pain on someone is immoral, and assuming we could accurately measure pain, would dispersing it amongst multiple people to dilute the pain per person be more, less, or equal on a 'morality scale'? Let's create a theoretical unit of pain P.
Does one person experiencing pain of 10 P morally equate to 10 people experiencing of pain of 1P?
...Of 1000 people experiencing .01P?

My initial inclination is to think that it would be slightly more moral, which would appear to be at odds with the basic math (assuming addition/multiplication actually does apply without alternate variables.)

Just curious what other people think.

I think you should include time in there too.
I feel that up to a certain amount of pain it would be morally better to have it divided over 1000 people, where the limit is that I think that at some point you just hit a pain maximum and it doesn't matter if you get more pain above that point, so if you already reached that point it's morally better to put it on one person.
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#### JamesJamie

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##### Re: Moral equivalence?
« Reply #2 on: November 26, 2010, 12:26:07 AM »
Out of random here...are you talking about physical pain (as in torture, no food, sanitary etc) or mental/emotional pain like a family member dying. If it were the latter, I think it's that one person should experience it.

#### spanner34.5

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##### Re: Moral equivalence?
« Reply #3 on: November 26, 2010, 02:55:28 AM »
Is withholding pain from a masochist in fact, inflicting pain?
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#### Chris Spaghetti

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##### Re: Moral equivalence?
« Reply #4 on: November 26, 2010, 05:48:00 AM »
if you can theoretically divide it amongst as many people as possible then I would say spread it was wide and thin as possible, after so many divisions it will no longer be considered pain, therefore no suffering will come from it, therefore it is moral.

#### Parsifal

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##### Re: Moral equivalence?
« Reply #5 on: November 26, 2010, 06:31:49 AM »
Morality is too complex and subjective to be measured quantitatively.
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#### ﮎingulaЯiτy

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##### Re: Moral equivalence?
« Reply #6 on: November 26, 2010, 11:12:57 AM »
Out of random here...are you talking about physical pain (as in torture, no food, sanitary etc) or mental/emotional pain like a family member dying. If it were the latter, I think it's that one person should experience it.
Any pain without physical damage. I am discounting insignificant damages like harm induced by stress.

Morality is too complex and subjective to be measured quantitatively.
Do you consider pain to be the same way?

I'd like to clarify that I'm not trying to classify moral acts into objective or universal terms, just relative terms on a subjective moral scale. Kinda like an indifference curve in economics. It's subjective, but can be compared (in >, <, and = forms) to other subjective morals.

if you can theoretically divide it amongst as many people as possible then I would say spread it was wide and thin as possible, after so many divisions it will no longer be considered pain, therefore no suffering will come from it, therefore it is moral.

I am inclined to agree. Does this imply that steps toward this end are also moral to some degree?

I think you should include time in there too.
I feel that up to a certain amount of pain it would be morally better to have it divided over 1000 people, where the limit is that I think that at some point you just hit a pain maximum and it doesn't matter if you get more pain above that point, so if you already reached that point it's morally better to put it on one person.
Interesting.
Presuming that there is a maximum amount of pain that can be perceived by a person (in a fixed amount of time), both extreme ends of the spectrum appear to potential be more moral than the middle.

This time element also begs the question, does some fixed amount of pain become better or worse when it spread out over time to insignificant discomfort, or shortened to an instant of agony?
« Last Edit: November 26, 2010, 11:15:12 AM by ﮎingulaЯiτy »
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#### Benocrates

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##### Re: Moral equivalence?
« Reply #7 on: November 26, 2010, 01:40:22 PM »
What parsifal said. I suppose this thought experiment could hold some kind of importance in terms of social and political justice...but only as some kind of abstract criteria. But ultimately, I think the nature of pain/suffering, etc., is far too complex a concept, in theoretical and practical terms, to be analyzed in this way.
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#### James

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##### Re: Moral equivalence?
« Reply #8 on: November 27, 2010, 06:51:42 PM »
Utilitarianism is a crock of shit.
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#### ﮎingulaЯiτy

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##### Re: Moral equivalence?
« Reply #9 on: November 27, 2010, 08:02:42 PM »
Utilitarianism is a crock of shit.
If total pain was always held constant, do you think that utilitarianism would apply?
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#### Wendy

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##### Re: Moral equivalence?
« Reply #10 on: November 28, 2010, 01:42:08 AM »
I think that the entire point in this discussion is flawed in that we can't really agree that inflicting pain on someone is always immoral.
Here's an explanation for ya. Lurk moar. Every single point you brought up has been posted, reposted, debated and debunked. There is a search function on this forum, and it is very easy to use.

#### James

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##### Re: Moral equivalence?
« Reply #11 on: November 28, 2010, 09:42:00 AM »
Utilitarianism simply fails to map the spectrum of conditions and behaviours on which ethics prescribes or proscribes. Many evils have absolutely no relation to pain, happiness or pleasure, as do many goods. Many value-laden targets offer prescriptions in the opposite direction to that which Utilitarianism predicts.
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