Sunday, October 11, 2020

Change of the World and Love of God

"It needs to change", we might say or embody. But the world can't change forever. Someday it must reach a really good state.

Complacency is a bad in itself. Being complacent is being closed on a deep level. So how can we stay open?

Should we love the world? That may mean that we love the status quo. Both the good and the bad come from the status quo. Sometimes you can separate the bad from the good, but the default assumption is that it's a package deal. A system is one thing, is what it is with all its parts. So if we love any one existing thing, maybe we have to keep the status quo. If we love (or "love") any one thing enough, we can't risk changing the system, at the risk of losing that thing. Does this mean that people who want to see change can't love? Can't trust?

Perhaps this is why the world is so messed up (in part). People can't sustain "it needs to change". They crave to love, can't refrain from loving, though refraining might make things better in the long run. Maybe to make things better, you need to hate some specific thing. Hate evil -- but then, hate can be evil, and is definitely unbearable in the end, a maintaining of lack of trust. So the hate that brings about good comes intermittently. And refraining from love is hard to sustain as well.

I think it's good to say "this world is not all there is", which is akin to "this world as it is not as it should be". Both say "the world, everything that adds up to my own satisfactions, my own wealth, is insufficient."

God exists outside this world. The love we have for God is not the love we have for the world, the love for all the gifts that give us satisfaction and security. We can love and trust God, and thus take weight off of seeing the world as it is as a good thing, which we might feel is necessary to keep from cutting ourselves off from loving and trusting as activities that are good for us.

Hate and alienation are akin. We are sometimes alien in ways that are natural and familiar to us. But God's alienness is not our alienness. God is a father (a familiar image), but also an alien. To love an alien as its child requires that you become an alien yourself.

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Mental Health and Holiness

A lot of times, when you do something wrong, it's because you're crazy, not because you're sinning. You operate from a place of poverty when you're crazy, but from a place of wealth when you're sinning. Sometimes people use the place of wealth as a way to mask their sense of poverty -- I'm not sure what to think there.

Does God care only about your intent, or also about your actions themselves? I think both can go against his preferences. So while you may have been crazy when you did something desperate to someone else, which harmed them, if you don't do anything about being crazy, maybe that is a problem of intent, since you may not have regard for God's feelings (nor the human victim's).

There's a connection between mental health and holiness. Holiness involves mental health. But mental health by itself does not cause you to be or become holy, to love God or set yourself apart for him.

There's a lot out there about mental health, by qualified people. I think it's important to add to what they say a concern with integrating God into your mental health practices, so that they do not become purely humanistic.

For instance, practicing journaling can be a way to understand how your life works, so that you can make interventions to reduce mental problems. You might want to evaluate different areas of your life, to see what situation you are in. One of those areas can, or should, involve God. So you might say, "What's the situation? in financial, mental, physical health, in my relationships with humans, with God". You are interested not only in mental health, but in your whole life.

By talking about what they talk about, and not about what they don't, thought patterns can imply that there is this, that, and no other thing, though they don't rule those other things out explicitly. Something to avoid is a vision of life that doesn't include God, explicitly or implicitly. Perhaps it is good to bring God's existence to mind whenever you try to use some sort of therapeutic technique on yourself, or whenever you visit a therapist. This technique of remembering God can be applied to other pursuits, such as thinking. (Thinking in partnership with God can itself be therapeutic.)

We find our treasure in what we work for, and our life of securing what we treasure becomes our real life. So if we do not make our pursuit of mental health theistic in some way, we will fail to develop our connection with God in that part that seems so real to us. We treasure our well-being -- and what else?

Monday, October 5, 2020

Work For Treasure

We have a tendency to treasure the things we work for. As an experiment, you can try this and see if it's true for you. Pick something you don't care about, then work to preserve it. You may find yourself caring about it. I have found this to be the case for me with house flies and with computer game monsters.

"Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also". It is when we are doing the work to secure our treasures, or when we spend time in the presence of our treasures, that we live real life.

Sunday, October 4, 2020

Knowing and Seeking to Know

If you are really open-minded, people can scam you. And you may not be able to commit to what really needs to be done.

But if you close your mind in order to be effective, you participate in another evil, not being aligned with reality.

It's a hard balance. But you can certainly aspire to both know, and seek to know.

Saturday, October 3, 2020

Broken and Stuck

I used to have a cassette player when I was younger, maybe a little fancy, that had different modes. It could play in reverse, but there were other modes as well. It's been a while since I had it, so I don't remember specifically what they did. I do remember that there were some switches that, after many years of use (or abuse), were either broken, so you could move them without changing anything, or they were jammed to one setting, I can't remember which -- either way, you couldn't affect the cassette player on that dimension. The cassette player was broken and stuck.

Sometimes things become less stable when they're broken. But other times, being broken makes you more stable, by making you stuck. Maturity is (in part) a process of becoming more stable. But it may come through being broken. There can be an emotional meaning to "broken", a sense of being messed-up. But there's also a functional sense. Things just don't work the way they used to.

When do you need to be right? When you have something valuable to say. Nobody is right about everything, but if you're in an environment where people are trying to shut you up, and will use your mistakes as reason to discount you as a voice, overall, and you have something valuable to say, you had better act like you're right about everything. So you gravitate toward being stuck.

Can you forgive people? You need to be on your own side, if you're in an environment where people are trying to shut you up. You can forgive people on some levels. But like the word "listen", there's a stronger and weaker version of the term "forgive". To listen to someone is to really take into account what they're saying, which in some contexts is to act in accordance with what they say, not just be able to make sense of the words they say. To forgive someone can mean, in its stronger form, "to enter into a relationship as close as or closer than the one that was lost". If you do that, there is no doubt that you have forgiven someone. Do all relationships need to be restored? Maybe not. But if there is a good reason to restore a relationship, can you do that? Or are you stuck, unable to let go of your threatenedness?

Can you deal with your own contradictions? In the old days, we would have called these hypocrisies. Being a hypocrite is too much fun for our days. Nowadays, we are self-contradictory, holding contradictory views, and not living out the views we have, out of fatigue and brokenness. We want to move the switch that makes us turn toward consistency, but as it's broken, it moves too easily, disconnected from the mechanism that really changes us on the inside.

Can you convert to a religion or worldview -- to any religion, or any worldview? Can you see things as being true that you didn't see as being true before? On what level? Can you deeply change as a person, even if it is merely to acknowledge the facts? If your will and intellect can't affect the rest of you, because the switches are broken or stuck, then it is not so easy.

Can you hold to a religion or worldview? You may try to stay in tune with your religion / worldview, by repeatedly moving the switches back to "ADHERING". But if the switch is broken, you may not really adhere, no matter how often you get the switch in the right place.

You can feel stuckness in your brain, a physical sense of rigidity. And the broken switches can be felt. For some people, just recognizing that there are these problems can help to fix them.

Friday, October 2, 2020

News: 2 October 2020

A while ago I had a Twitter account that was both for writing and personal. I wanted to split it into two, one for writing, one personal. I did, and the writing one got suspended, probably because it was too sparse and may have looked like a spam account or something like that. I appealed the suspension, and recently (a few weeks ago), Twitter unsuspended the account. So now I have a writing Twitter account.

I don't really like Twitter that much anymore and don't expect to invest a lot in the account unless someday it has more followers. So far it's just for announcements.

--

I started two reading projects, as you may have seen: reviewing Rawlette's The Feeling of Value and going through a reading list on population ethics from the EA Forum.

I probably shouldn't start any more projects right now. I do have Moynihan's X-Risk pre-ordered, should get that in early November. I might be able to finish the reading projects I've started before then (we'll see). If so, I may have a gap where I can consider starting another project. I think I may get through X-Risk quickly, maybe read it concurrent with something else.

Two philosophy projects occur to me. One is re-reading I and Thou by Buber and Totality and Infinity by Levinas: a showdown between two different theories of intersubjectivity. I like the toughness of Levinas, but I generally think that Buber is saner. At least, that's based on a couple of maybe-adequate readings of Buber and one not-so-good reading of Levinas. (I will definitely look into secondary literature if I try this project.) Can I come up with a take on intersubjectivity that is in keeping with my existing project?

The other is to read Berkeley's Principles of Human Knowledge. I have read about Berkeley and assimilated some of his ideas, but have never actually read anything by him. I expect to get some unexpected ideas, likely enough. But also I expect to be interested in his attempt to be skeptical of material substance.

Also I saw an Emily Dickinson poem that I liked, and may check out her work.

--

The philosophy projects sound kind of heavy. I'm conscious that getting committed to something heavy might be a waste of my time. Maybe I'm better off doing a lot of light work, rather than a few heavy projects. Rawlette isn't too bad -- clearly-written book, and the ideas are fairly straightforward, so far. But the other three philosophers mentioned wouldn't be like her.

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Trading Unkindnesses

What is true, apart from popularity, can be unkind to you. But in some ways, it can be kinder than popularity.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Outside Your Life Story

One way to live is to see things in terms of your own life story, your own lived life, and the lived lives of people you know. How will you pay your bills? How will you make it through your old age? How will you be a good friend? How can you present yourself to people without being shamed? How will you fit in? -- everyone else is just living their life stories.

Another way to live is to see that there is something outside your life story, and the life story of anyone you know, which is real whether you acknowledge it or not.

Monday, September 28, 2020

Reading List Preview: Population Ethics

One interesting topic is population ethics. Ethics can talk about the question of "how to make a given existing population most well-off?" Maybe you have 100 people in your population who are very happy. Now consider, should one of you have a baby, and extend the group's size to 101? Will that new baby live a good life? If it's good enough, then you will probably say, "sure, why not?" It seems prima facie good to have one more person exist, if its life will go well. That's population ethics, asking the question of whether there should be more (or the same amount of, or fewer) people, morally speaking.

Intuitively, I tend to want to say "if we have 10 billion people on Earth, that's plenty, let's just stop there and be content with that number of people, and make things sustainable and actually good for everyone". Actually, I'd be content if there were only 1 billion people, if we got to that level of population through a well-managed demographic transition (as opposed to war, plague, famine, etc.) Maybe, whatever population level there is is fine with me. But I wouldn't be as fine with the people who do live not living lives full of true well-being.

Both intuitions, of expansion and contentment, make sense to me. And they go against each other.

So I want to do some readings about population ethics. Here is a reading list from the EA Forum. I may read through it all and write up my thoughts.

Since these are philosophy papers, I think I'll try to repeat the technique mentioned here: read twice, the first time a "light read", the second time more seriously.

I've read part of the first, Population Axiology, paper. Here are some questions and thoughts, going into this:

1. Is there a rational way to decide how large a population should be? If not, then we are in a situation where we have to decide without a right answer.

2. Questions of moral philosophies affecting population-ethical views:

a. Hedonism lends itself to having more and more. Preferentialism can lend itself to that but also can lend itself to saying "everybody got what they wanted, so we don't need any more." With preferentialism, there's a question of "what should people prefer?" The answer to that might answer the question "should we want more and more, or should we be content?" Or we could say that there's no good or bad preferences. Then we wonder what random preferences humans might have, and how they might tilt toward more or fewer people.

b. What about fiducialism? Is fiducialism a "more and more" thing ("adventure", as in the Fiducialism booklet), or inherently about connecting with what is ("mission", or "receptivity to reality")? "Mission" is itself about the reality of people. This lends itself to saying "connect with the reality of existing people". But then, couldn't it lend itself to saying "there ought to be more people", to whose reality one could connect? So that's a hole in fiducialism to try to fill.

c. What do people mean to us? Are they to be seen economically, or in some other way? And given the answers to those questions, how strict should we be in making ourselves live according to economic thinking?

There's some ambiguity as to whether we regard people as wealth or as something else. If people are merely wealth, then we can be content to have less than maximal wealth. But if it's altruistic for the sake of other people to bring them into existence, then we are morally compelled to create them. (Or is there another way to look at people, other than "wealth" and "beings (or prospective beings) to whom one has moral responsibility"?)

It may be more humane to look at people in a non-economic way. Even if in some economic sense (utilitarian, for instance), they would be better off if we were in the economic mode, to really see people as people requires us to leave that mode, and thus to sacrifice some of our do-gooding. This could shift our intuitions away from "maximize the number of superhappy people", make it less obviously a good thing to pursue.

3. What might population ethics look like given the God of MSLN?

a. God had some reason for creating people in the first place (unless there is no reason). Does this mean that in absence of a defeater, he will never stop creating people?

b. Would God value having more and more for its own sake? Is God a slave to maximization?

Interesting question: what is maximization? Is it some "thing" that demands that we do certain things? Or, as a reification, is it merely whatever it cashes out to? In other words, is it that maximization says "I demand that everyone have the best life possible", or is maximization simply our response to the reality of a set of existing people and what kinds of lives they could have?

c. Are people created new, or is there a fixed supply of people created once and for all at the beginning of time, which God then brings into consciousness during their time in history?

Possible answer: We are called to enter God's rest, and presumably God seeks rest, too. New people have to work out their salvation, which is not restful for God. So it seems like there is some finite limit to population, so that there can be a time of permanent rest afterward.

If so, maybe if we increase population above baseline, what we're doing is accelerating the end of the world.

Or, if God can handle our turmoil forever, he can create people forever. If he thinks there aren't enough people, he can always create more. Ultimately, it's his decision how many people there are, because he pays the biggest price for human experience and ultimately has power over the way things are. So if we create more people, he may cause fewer to be created elsewhere.

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Informing Love

If you want to persuade someone of something, it may be more effective to love them than to present an argument (or to argue with them). Knowledge is justified true belief. What you do on the justification side does not change someone's mind if there is some sort of obstacle on the belief side.

Belief is a form of trust. So lack of trust is a deficiency that can prevent belief. Trust is difficult sometimes: is dependent on physical, intellectual, emotional factors, and a person's life history. A person can't deeply listen to what they don't trust, and can't even understand some concepts that they don't trust. How can a person believe a truth that is foreign to them? Something has to act on them to open them up to what they were closed to, for them to trust. And love overcomes many difficulties in trusting propositions. Why wouldn't you trust someone who, from your perspective, has your best interests at heart, and effectively pursues them? Someone who delights in you and bears with you? How could you resist getting drawn into their current?

Having said that, love could now sound like a sinister thing, a way to have power over people and suck them into the way of life you personally prefer, to narrow their horizons to whatever you happen to prefer. And while it doesn't have to be used that way, it can be, and even if we are innocent of that design, it's worth asking "If I become so good at loving, so genuine in loving people, what kind of truth am I leading them into? What kind of path is it that I follow?"

Apologetics is traditionally thought of as a way to persuade "infidels", or perhaps less acknowledged is the motive and effect of shoring up the faith of believers who have inquiring minds. However, apologetics could also be seen as the pursuit of informing love, so that love does not keep its beloveds in a house that is ultimately untrustworthy.

Friday, September 25, 2020

Seeing Potential

People can seem like they don't have potential, or aren't real people. But then you see them in the context where they are most truly themselves (e.g., singing a song they wrote). And then you see how they are deep and worth paying attention to.

It's as though the role society wants everyone to inhabit is that of the "typical" person. No dreams, no depth. But people can escape that role by doing what they love.

A parallel to Gell-Mann Amnesia. People are spun to us according to society's narrative (they spin themselves by adopting the roles we elicit.) We sometimes see people's reality, then when the moment is past, we forget.

The Audience Makes a Book

It's true that authors write their books, but it's the audience who "makes" a book.

In other words, a lot of the power of a book comes from the fact that it has been recommended by a lot of people. A book is by default just the point of view of one person. It means something different if it corresponds with the desires, judgments, or experiences of lots of people -- they have affirmed its truth from their perspectives.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Book Review Preview: The Feeling of Value by Sharon Hewitt Rawlette

I got The Feeling of Value, by Sharon Hewitt Rawlette, in the mail yesterday. The subtitle is Moral Realism Grounded in Phenomenal Consciousness. It basically says "you know value/disvalue" (e.g. right/wrong) "through your direct experience of phenomena" or maybe it's more like "value/disvalue is in the experience itself" -- I'm not sure which yet. This leads her to defend a kind of hedonic utilitarianism. Her goal is to go against moral antirealism, and to support moral realism.

I plan to read it twice before reviewing. A philosophy professor I was acquainted with once said "read a book once, give it a light read" ("light read" is an interesting concept when applied to some philosophy books) "and then read it again more seriously". It's a good idea to take notes, at least on the second reading, I think. Also it can be better to understand the big picture before trying to make more detailed arguments.

I hope to compare Rawlette's approach to that of MSLN, especially legitimism and simantism. She may show me ways to make those accounts more specific/explicit/developed. I expect to be critical of her approach to ethics.

Here are some criticisms I have of hedonic utilitarianism which she may address:

1. How do we know what ought to give us pain or pleasure?

a. This is relevant when thinking about artificial superintelligence (ASI). An ASI programmed to be a hedonist might want to change human nature so that it is trivially easy to cause us pleasure, and to avoid giving us pain. We would say "No, I don't want to be a blob of pleasure", but why not be one?

There's some risk (similar or essentially the same as what a past version of me said here) that we find pleasure easy to consent to, and the removal of pain, so there's an incentive for civilization (including ASI) to drift in the direction of giving us more and more pleasure, less and less pain, until we have gradually simplified ourselves into blobs of pleasure. I think hedonism is not just an explicit philosophical position, but also a powerful psychological tendency.

Some people might bite the bullet and say "No, being a blob of pleasure sounds good to me". Who can say what's wrong or right? If it feels good, it's good. But what if God disagrees? You might look at your child and hope that they don't get hooked on heroin. Technically, they're happy when they're on heroin. Maybe technically we're happy when we're living painless, rich, godless lives, or when we are blobs of pleasure. But God might disagree.

b. Another point of relevance is when people construct scripts of what a life is supposed to be. When a life event is "bad" then "you are in a pity-worthy, deplorable state" -- the script wants you to feel depressed. Should you feel depressed? Maybe the script comes from other people, and is there to discourage you from doing things that are unpopular.

2. What about other goods that aren't captured well by hedonism?

a. Pleasure could be bad, if it takes us away from God, or some other reality. In an upcoming short story about the future of beauty, that I plan to release relatively soon, you may see a tension between deeper good and surface good. It may take some pain to have deeper good, and unbroken pleasure may prevent things like coming to value people apart from how they or their life realities give a person pleasure.

b. Pain could be good. Two more easily dismissed examples of this are found in the concept of purgatory (pain, in itself, purges us of sin or the guilt of sin) and the phrase "pain is weakness leaving the body". (Dismissed because you could say "what you really want is improved strength, or heaven, in the end, and both those states are basically pleasurable.") A less easily dismissed example is found when we ask "what if God doesn't care if we suffer, as long as we can bear it and connect with reality?" In other words, what if there is pain in heaven after all -- our real reward is God himself, not the pleasure or freedom from pain he might be able to give us? The pain is good because it is real, and experiencing it is part of being receptive to reality. An overall receptiveness to reality (perhaps) is the only way to really connect with God.

c. I am adding this section in later in the editing process, and don't want to make this point long so that it gives me yet more to edit, but basically I can mention fiducialism as a replacement for hedonism.

3. Why should we think that "ought" has anything to do with our feelings, or even our judgments?

a. Maybe "ought" is more like "I want something to be a certain way (if it's not that way), or that want is satisfied by that thing being that certain way (if it is), and that exact wanting is something that deserves to be true". (I suspect that it's hard to define "deserves" without basically using "ought" -- circularity. Maybe "ought" is a primitive of language and psychology?) Someone who ought to be able to define things is the one who can define things, and can say "pain is not necessarily bad, and pleasure is not necessarily good". The athlete who says "pain is weakness leaving the body", or the believer who says "I will accept this bitter cup" are basically exercising their ability to claim that some thing ought to be. To say that something that is, ought to be, is something that in a sense no one can argue with. But maybe some persons can even say that what is ought not to be? So in this way, good and bad come out of our taste, more so than out of our pure experience. (Out of opinion rather than feeling.) Maybe pain biases us to call it bad. But we don't have to -- we can see through that sometimes.

b. It could be that it seems like hedonism is a real view of things, that pleasure ought to be and pain ought not to be, because these are popular judgments. (One way to cash out the popular defining of human well-being.) (You could also say that this is why preferentialism seems to be a real view, because of course everyone likes preferences.) These might seem to be real things, because of our humanism. But why should real "ought" have anything to do with human judgments? You could say that human judgments do have something to do with it, if what we're exploring is "our strongest moral convictions" rather than something outside that. (Rawlette, p. 3: "The version of realism I present actually provides a robust metaethical justification for many of our strongest moral convictions."). But what do our strongest moral convictions have to do with real "ought"? If there is a God (in this case, in the sense of a most-authoritative being), then we might hope to be in line with his preferences, or perhaps rather with his truth, which is similar to preference but which is unlike ours for some kind of lack of "falsehood" (we call both self-justifiying explanations and lies "B.S.") or lack of partiality. If there is no God, then how are "our strongest moral convictions" anything other than "what is popular in a certain way"? (I mean this both as a rhetorical and a real question, if that makes sense.) And then I'm not sure that Rawlette's project is really realist after all. Her ultimate criterion is (may be? not sure yet) "our strongest moral convictions", not any objective truth. In other words, realism is supposedly about some grounding in reality through an argument of justification, while antirealism doesn't bother with that. "Our strongest moral convictions" sounds like the same criterion moral antirealists would use. Why not just observe the criterion, rather than adding some conceptual layer, some kind of logical justification? Unless, what we are doing (with both realist and antirealist ethics) is bending the criterion, democratically, by presenting an argument that sounds (and in a sense, is) logical, and is thus persuasive in shifting "our strongest moral convictions"? If you want to change other people's values to be like yours, you use logic, even if the real foundation of values is just values -- we can be dazzled by logic.

Or maybe she really could be a moral realist (the appeal to strongest moral convictions doesn't rule that out), one who just says "our strongest moral convictions are real and we should act on them", as opposed to the antirealist, who says "our strongest moral convictions are fictions and we should act on them". (I think I do not yet understand moral realism vs. antirealism, especially moral antirealism, and hope the book will help me understand.) Can you act on something as much as you should if you don't feel it is real? Maybe that's the essence of Rawlette's project, to say "No, so since we know we ought to act on certain things, we need to figure out a way to see them as real". I know that there is a kind of quixotic task that philosophers take up (and scientists, I think), which is the search for truth but which is actually really wanting something to be true and figuring out a way to find out that it is true (if possible). If it's true that we just know that certain things are good, and we have to change our perspective on reality so as to fully pursue those goods, then maybe reality is most deeply known not by whatever science or philosophy says, but in those things we know we have to think are good, and have to pursue as good. We want things to be true, but in a way, that could be that they just are true.

Or maybe Rawlette would be willing to say "No, those deep things aren't true since they don't line up with philosophy" -- philosophy is the real authority after all -- but doesn't happen to have to say that because of the book she wrote, showing how they do line up.

(If "our strongest moral convictions" can be modified with rhetorical or logical force, then does it become "what is right is what psychologically strong, motivated people reprogram people to see as right"? -- something that the coming powers of AI and genetic engineering can intensify. So then such convictions might not be some kind of immutable standard.)

One could say that the deep things, and hedonic utilitarianism, are two different aspects of the same being, the latter being the former's expression in the world of ethical philosophy. That doesn't feel intuitively correct to me, though. I could see maybe fiducial utilitarianism getting closer to that function than hedonic utilitarianism, but even that doesn't feel right. Maybe because ethical philosophy itself is a such a strange shard.

Still, we are left with "should it be true that deep human convictions are reliable judges or creators of 'ought'?" -- a philosophical question. And philosophy, as a whole, the general pursuit, has some grounding in deep human convictions, comes from the outworking of them. We might wonder if philosophy suggests that we should consider God's point of view, either that God shares our convictions, or that his differ from ours and that we should align ourselves with his -- in other words, it's ultimately his convictions as the founder of reality (or as most-authoritative for some other reason than founding things) that are truth, while ours are feelings or opinions.

c. I mentioned "truth" in the previous section. We might say that truth is inherently something that is indifferent to popularity. In fact, Rawlette's project is to use truth to change people's minds (fellow philosophers who are moral antirealists, for instance). So why shouldn't "ought" be indifferent to popularity as well? Ought could be a form of truth.

d. Some of the above might boil down to: "we want truth, independent of popularity -- does it come from God, or from qualia?" I would want to defend "God", and Rawlette "qualia" or something in the neighborhood of "qualia". I would say "if ought is -- and I think it has to be -- then it is an opinion", while Rawlette might say "if ought is, then it is a feeling" -- not "we know it through feelings", because then what is it in itself if not an opinion? (Mostly not a rhetorical question.)

--

One thing I am thinking of addressing in the review (maybe more than I am about to here), is the question of "What does this matter?" Certainly the truth matters in itself. But how much money can we devote to understanding the truth? Is there a way that an altruist could benefit from a book like Rawlette's?

As an (amateur) philosopher myself, I share the dilemma of Rawlette (as I currently guess it to be, not having yet read her book). I want to get some truth that makes a difference in the world. But the expression of that truth, in the way I know how to express it, is only going to be heard by philosophically-inclined people -- maybe not a lot of them, only some of whom will change what they do as a result. A project like Rawlette's (which, I see from p. 1, involves the term "motivational structure", a term I also use) might hope to get people to feel and thus behave differently -- maybe causing a release of cultural energy to cause more work or more deeply felt caring (or the metaphor might be one of putting people to work to build up cultural structures and institutions of caring). But are philosophers or the philosophically-inclined the right people to try to motivate to care more and work harder? Or is it better to speak to people in general, there being so many more of them?

Francis Schaeffer was disheartened at how philosophy trickled down to the masses. But to me it seems like philosophy may not have much potential to undo the undermining of moral realism (part of what Schaeffer lamented) through the same process. That is, it doesn't seem as clear to me that philosophy trickles down to the average person, the way it used to in Schaeffer's day. I hope to be proved (or help prove myself) wrong some day, in some way, but it seems to me that the default assumption is that philosophy is a game for philosophers, and few others pay attention. Schaeffer thought that the artists could communicate philosophy-derived truths, but it seems to me that most artists are either roughly as obscure as philosophers, or not concerned with philosophy themselves. And what can art do that is fresh? Where are the new philosophies that are different from all the old ones that have already influenced art? Again, I can hope that somehow I could find or create ideas or approaches to things that are fresh, in some way, which inspire artists (or myself) to create philosophically-informed art. But my default assumption remains that philosophy doesn't affect the average person, that there isn't a trickling-down through art into the average person's culture.

(Maybe a counterpoint is: nihilism as evinced in recent TV.)

While I might hope to someday, somehow, reach average people with philosophically-derived ideas or spirits, I can see right now a group of people who take philosophy seriously, and perhaps would take Rawlette's philosophy seriously, who put philosophy into action, or at least generally aspire to. These are the effective altruists (EAs). Would effective altruists be the kind of people who need to be motivated to work harder and care more? Maybe some of them? There's a term they use: "value drift", the way that a person's priorities change and they no longer work as hard for the cause, save as much money to give, etc. Could something like Rawlette's philosophy, a bolsterer of motivational structure, be something that could prevent value drift in some individuals? It sounds plausible. The effective altruists are already aware of the possibility of being moral realists. (Many of them already are.) Maybe her book would cause some of those who are moral antirealists to become moral realists, causing them to stick with their first love.

Would it be possible to cause people on the margins of effective altruist ideology to shift into being effective altruists, or EA-aligned? For instance, a moral antirealist might think "Yeah, giving money to help people is good... I should do that... but, then, morality is kind of a social construct, right? Yeah, whatever." and not do it. This person being driven by self-interest and logic, if they had better beliefs, they might say "Giving money to help people is good... and what is good really is good... I should do that..." and do it. A very self-interested person might shy away from accepting what Rawlette said in the first place, or use some kind of self-deception in order to both hold Rawlette's views and not act on them. They would not be on the margin of EA-aligned behavior. But there might be a lot of people who are on the margin, who can be philosophically literate, or are as much as EAs are, who just haven't heard of Rawlette's argument. They might even have heard the EAs' pitch (Singer's Drowning Child Argument, perhaps), and yet vitiated it with moral antirealism. But an effective argument for moral realism might make a difference. One would think that EAs would be looking for new ideologies to prevent value drift and aid in recruiting people from social spaces adjacent to them. From a few months' reading of the EA Forum, I don't get the impression that this is something they seriously pursue to a great extent. (I might be wrong -- but something that was a particularly burning issue, I wouldn't have missed.) This might be because they know better than to be into ideology (it's something they're past, as individuals, and something they don't expect enough people to really be changed by), or it might be that many EAs are not really into human resource questions, and this is essentially a human resource question -- or some other reason.

I remember a philosophy professor saying something like "people aren't bad, it's just that the system is bad". So maybe Rawlette can't do much good, since everyone is already moral and good, and we're just in horribly ill-coordinated systems. I hope to discuss this in the future at some point, show a way that if you really care, you can do something about systemic problems, so as to provide benefit from improved motivational structures. (This already has some other ideas that might apply.) I have (and I think Rawlette may possibly also have) the sense that it is required of us to do what is best, not just a socially-acceptable half-effort. It is wrong of us to not be heroes or "anointed ones", at whatever scale we can and should be. Perhaps that is a message which could resonate with the average person. In other words, with the right support beliefs and ideas, Rawlette's may be able to function as one might intend them to.

One thing I don't know from not having read Rawlette's book yet is how possible it is to convert her book into a form which can be adopted by people who don't read academic philosophy.