James Aitchison

156Welwyn Garden City, UKJoined Jun 2021


I am researching philosophy and EA ideas after a career in finance and real estate. See my website http://jamesaitchison.co.uk


You conclude that there is a degree of Easterlin Paradox - that happiness increases less with growth over time than would be expected from how happiness increases with income within a country and how it increases with income levels between countries.

To what extent do you think that the remaining Easterlin effect is due to status levels being an important aspect of happiness so we don’t benefit much if our neighbours get richer with us?  Or do respondents adjust  life satisfaction scales as life expectations advance with incomes over time, so that happiness improves but  is not measured?

Richard - Thank you for a super post. A great statement of the view that problem cases held against utilitarianism would also be problems for any other theory that aimed to be systematic.

I don't entirely agree that to stop systematic theorising is to stop thinking.  Thinking can still be applied to making good decisions in particular cases and the balance between the particular and general principles can be debated.   

I totally support your arguments in your post and your replies against neutrality on creating positive lives.  I think this blog post by Joseph Carlsmith also makes the case against neutrality very well.

Thank you also for the  recent series of fine articles on your blog, Good Thoughts.  I would strongly recommend this to anyone interested in moral philosophy, utilitarianism and EA. 

Thank you, an important one to include.  It shows that you can certainly make longtermism look bad if you add together all the crazy train things that have been said.  To my mind, shows the wisdom of MacAskill concentrating on presenting an inclusive and commonsensical approach to longtermism In WWOTF and his media appearances.

Any others to add to the list?

This post and reply are quite a triumph for the connectivity of the EA Forum!

Thank you for telling your story.

I agree that 'obligation' is an optional,  man-made concept.  Altruism can be framed in different ways, for example as an opportunity.  

It is also possible to separate the normative question of 'What is best from a universal perspective?' from the personal, psychological question of 'What am I going to do?' The individual can then put working for the general good  in its place as only one amongst several personal goals.  

I also found  MacAskill’s discussion of ethics on the January 2018 80k podcast fascinating, so thank you for setting out the key extracts and for your analysis.  

It is particularly useful to see Korsgaard’s argument against Parfit on personal identity put so clearly. 

I strongly agree that metaethical starting points influence the choice of normative theories.  A Kantian focus on individual agency is a possibility, to be considered with other ways of conceptualising practical reason and morality.

I have relished 'The Will MacAskill Festival' - this month's blizzard of podcasts and articles promoting the book.  You and your team should be congratulated on the consistently high quality of this extensive material, which has always been professional and informative and has often been inspiring.   Up to 17 August I have found  ten podcasts appearances and eleven articles which I have listed with links and my brief comments here. Well done and thank you!

Thank you for a valuable post and for the interesting links provided. I am sure you are right that much value comes from individuals pursuing their passion for EA in their own time.  

My experience has been that the  time available for independent intellectual or altruistic pursuits varies over a lifetime.  When demands from children and career peak, it is hard, but  I recommend keeping jotting down ideas, using commuting time for reading or listening and trying to stop work absorbing all your thinking capacity.  Later, career changes or (as in my case) early retirement can provide slack and the opportunity to do more.   

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