[ExI] insanity plea

Anders Sandberg anders at aleph.se
Mon Feb 25 02:18:58 UTC 2013

On 24/02/2013 20:08, spike wrote:
> Ja agree sir, but you understate your case in an important way. Just 
> the discussion of the possibility of restricting gun ownership to the 
> mentally ill would compel the mentally ill to refuse to seek treatment 
> for fear that they could lose the ability to purchase a firearm. 

OK, maybe I am terribly European here, but that argument sounds pretty 
crazy to me. How many people regard their ability to buy guns more 
important than seeking treatment if they can?

I could be able to see it in regards to driver's licences, since not 
having one in the US is presumably severely handicapping, so presumably 
people would not seek treatment for disorders that would impair their 
ability to get one. How many people avoid having their epilepsy or bad 
eyesight diagnosed because of this? Surely some, but enough to be a 
serious problem?

>   This is a core problem with many attempts to put certain other
> people in a special negative class.  The average person can either be
> classified - with no real benefit if the classification is correct, and huge
> consequences if the classifier messes up - or not classified - in which
> case it's the same as if they had a correct, positive classification.

Discrimination happens when people are judged along irrelevant 
dimensions, for example by membership in some group that actually 
doesn't relate to the matter. When J.S. Mill defended the rights of 
women he pointed out that even if his opponents were right and women on 
average were mentally unfit for higher studies, that still did not work 
as a motivation for banning them from universities. Some women would no 
doubt be smart enough. Hence the group membership did not matter, only 
the actual individual level of smarts.

Whether somebody can handle a gun responsibly seems to be what really 
matters: if the new rules just say that people in the group "mentally 
disordered" cannot have guns, then they are discriminatory and wrong. 
But if they say that people that do have responsibility problems can't 
have guns, then they make sense.

Anders Sandberg,
Future of Humanity Institute
Oxford Martin School
Faculty of Philosophy
Oxford University

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