[ExI] re Odyssey, hero

Dan TheBookMan danust2012 at gmail.com
Fri Oct 2 21:38:47 UTC 2015

On Fri, Oct 2, 2015 at 10:18 AM, Flexman, Connor <connor_flexman at brown.edu>

> On Fri, Oct 2, 2015 at 11:12 AM, William Flynn Wallace <
> foozler83 at gmail.com> wrote:
>> ​So my moral sense has evolved and probably will continue to do so. I am
>> a work in progress.
>> But I can only judge things as I currently think.  I can consider things
>> in historical context, certainly,  - to do otherwise is naive, as Anders
>> says - and that often provides a great contrast with my current view.  My
>> current view is the 'right' one.  When my view changes , it will be the
>> right one.  I never argue that any view is absolute since change always
>> occurs.  Do I set myself up at the judge of everything?  Don't we all?  Do
>> we libertarians believe that authoritarianism is the wrong way to go about
>> many things?  Don't we?  If we didn't think we were right, then we wouldn't
>> hold to our views, would we?
> One convenient way around this is to have uncertainty in what we believe.
> Instead of saying my views at this moment are "right", because I believe
> them, we can take the outside view and consider the past history of
> changing our outlook/views/beliefs. This can help one become a lot more
> humble in their convictions.

Yes, this is similar to a meta-induction in philosophy of science: we know
past science was wrong (how many scientific theories of a hundred years
ago, which all seemed if not completely correct certainly as close to truth
as possible, are still around today?), so likely our current science is

> Knowing that one has in the past accidentally espoused views that were too
> strong about, e.g., how definitively good taking antioxidant pills was, we
> can revisit our thoughts on best nutrition practices now. If we tend to
> think that paleo is the REAL fix, we can look back and see our poor track
> record at predicting these things and revise our beliefs to "I find paleo
> has some good insights and may be promising, but there is a good chance it
> won't hold much benefit." The diet problem is simpler because we don't
> usually have beliefs about it vital to our sense of self: trying to apply
> this principle to things more important to us is a big step up. For those
> of us who either converted to deistic faith or from it, we should be very
> wary of future beliefs given that we once were so wrong about something so
> central. For those of us who were once skeptical of AI risk and are no
> longer, this is another belief we were probably vehement about that turned
> out to be wrong. Have your political beliefs changed? Did you learn
> economics and discover huge turnarounds in your worldview? What about your
> differing values in different stages of life? Shouldn't we continue to
> expect all these changes? Setting one's current self up as judge of
> everything isn't making use of all the evidence we have. If we know our
> past track record, use it. If we expect in the future to change some of our
> views, we should be less confident about them now. If we see other people
> as smart as we are who hold different views, we might be well-advised to
> take their evidence into account as well: we are not alone in what we see,
> but have many others to help gather evidence, including our future and past
> selves.

You're also right to focus in on how moral views are far more likely to be
seen as core views.

That said, I don't see anything wrong with saying "character X is a thug to
me." I only brought up _The Odyssey_ not as example of morality in action,
but as one of a great work that's championed by many literary critics that
also is not tragic, even has a happy ending. (Well, maybe not for the
Suitors and their supporters and all of Odysseus' shipmates.)

Let me present another work of literature: Jim Thompson's _Pop. 1280_. The
protagonist of this novel, IIRC, makes out quite well at the end. So, in
some sense it has a happy ending. However, I don't think anyone reading it
would view the protagonist as heroic or anything other than a sociopath.
This seems true of other novels I read by Thompson: the protagonists are
all bad people. I don't think Thompson was operating from a different moral
code where murder and mayhem were okay or that he was a moral relativist.
Or maybe he is. But people I know who've read and enjoyed the novel haven't
come away telling me, "Wouldn't it be great to live like that?"


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