Naive vs. sophisticated consequentialism

Christiano, Paul (2013)(2016) ReplaceabilityIntegrity for consequentialists, Rational AltruistThe Sideways View, January 22.November 14.

Christiano, Paul (2016)(2013) Integrity for consequentialistsReplaceability, The Sideways ViewRational Altruist, November 14.January 22.

Consequentialists are supposed to estimate all of the effects of their actions, and then add them up appropriately. This means that they cannot just look at the direct and immediate effects of their actions, but also have to look at indirect and less immediate effects. Failing to do so amounts to applying naive consequentialism. That is to be contrasted with sophisticated consequentialism, which appropriately takes indirect and less immediate effects into account (cf. the discussion on “simplistic” vs. “correct” replaceability on 80,000 Hours’ blog (80,000 Hours,(Todd 2015)).

Further readingBibliography

80’000 Hours. 2015.Christiano, Paul (2016) “Replaceability”Integrity for consequentialists, The Sideways View, November 14.

Todd, Benjamin (2015) ‘Replaceability’ isn’t as important as you might think (or we’ve suggested)., 80,000 Hours, July 27.

Christiano, Paul. 2016. Integrity for consequentialists.

accidental harm | consequentialism | fanaticism | indirect long-term effects 

I think we should have an entry on something like this, so I grabbed the related EA Concepts title and text.

But maybe the entry should be called just Naive consequentialism, or maybe just Sophisticated consequentialism or something else.

4Pablo6moCool. There are a number of existing or projected entries with names of the form 'x vs. y', such as 'criteria of rightness vs. decision procedures', 'broad vs. narrow interventions', 'near vs. far thinking', etc. Alternative forms for these entries are 'x versus y' and 'x and y' (e.g. 'broad versus narrow interventions' and 'broad and narrow interventions', respectively). In addition, sometimes using just one of these terms may be most appropriate, though I don't think this is always the case. I don't have a clear preference for one form over the others, but I do think we should follow one form consistently. Thoughts?
5MichaelA6moSome quick thoughts: * Brevity seems good, to avoid this one tag taking up weirdly much space compared to other tags when applied to a post * As we discussed here [https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/tag/all-party-parliamentary-group-for-future-generations/discussion?commentId=zYNCr2oTMePMHLn53#zYNCr2oTMePMHLn53] * I think there's no substantial reason to prefer "versus" over "vs." or "vs", so I prefer the latter options for brevity * Brevity also pushes in favour of "adjective1 vs adjective2 noun", rather than "adjective1 noun vs adjective2 noun", and I don't see a strong push in the other direction, so now I prefer the first approach * E.g., "Naive vs. sophisticated consequentalism" rather than "Naive consequentialism vs. sophisticated consequentialism" * I've now updated this tag's name to reflect that * Brevity also pushes in favour of just picking one or the other term rather than using both, but I think that can be outweighed in many cases * E.g., I think the primary topic of the broad vs narrow interventions entry really will be the distinction itself, not just broad interventions or narrow interventions, so the name should keep both * Whereas this entry might be primarily basically about "What is naive consequentialism, why is it bad, and how can you avoid it?", with sophisticated consequentialism only really coming into play as part of answering those questions * At least that's how I might see it * But it's not clear-cut in this case, which is why I kept both terms in the name for now * I think "vs." vs "and" should just be a matter of what's clearer and more appropriate for the case at hand? * E.g., "broad and narrow interventions" seems confusing; when I read that, I initially think we're describing one set of interventions that meets both criteria
2Pablo6moCool, that all seems sensible. I'll update the guide to reflect this.

As for a concrete example, a naive conception of consequentialism may lead one to believe that breakingit is right to break rules forif it seems that that would have net positive effects on the greater good produces outcomes.world. Such rule-breaking normally has negative side-effects, however - e.g. it can lower the degree of trust in society, and for the rule-breaker’s group in particular - which means that sophisticated consequentialism tends to be more opposed to rule-breaking than naive consequentialism.

Consequentialists are supposed to estimate all of the effects of their actions, and then add them up appropriately. This means that they cannot just look at the direct and immediate effects of their actions, but also have to look at indirect and less immediate effects. Failing to do so amounts to applying naive consequentialism. That is to be contrasted with sophisticated consequentialism, which appropriately takes indirect and less immediate effects into account (cf. the discussion on “simplistic” vs. “correct” replaceability on 80,000 Hours’ blog (80,000 Hours, 2015)).

As for a concrete example, a naive conception of consequentialism may lead one to believe that breaking rules for the greater good produces outcomes. Such rule-breaking normally has negative side-effects, however - e.g. it can lower the degree of trust in society, and for the rule-breaker’s group in particular - which means that sophisticated consequentialism tends to be more opposed to rule-breaking than naive consequentialism.

Further Reading

80’000 Hours. 2015. “Replaceability” isn’t as important as you might think (or we’ve suggested).

Christiano, Paul. 2016. Integrity for consequentialists.

Created by MichaelA at 6mo