Personally, I have grown to abhor Utilitarianism; but I just wanted to know who's out there.
"Even when leftists talk about discrimination and sexism, they're damn well talking about the results of the economic system" ~Neodoxy
Utilitarianism is a poor moral theory, I agree. I'm a Kantian myself, as far as moral theory goes.
A really good online quiz in regards to ethics philosophy (thinking about the questions being more important than the results as with most quizzes of the nature) is this one: http://www.selectsmart.com/PHILOSOPHY/
Ah, I meant also to ask:
Do you think Austrian Economics works in tandem more with one moral theory as compared to others?
(P.S., I'd consider myself a Kantian as well)
Ah. Gotcha. Well, as a required note: economics is value-free.
But as for what my real answer is that I think both utilitarianism and a Rothbardian natural rights moral theory could work with Austrian economics. I worry about utilitarianism even though I believe Austrian economics show that freedom is the most efficient, I just think that utilitarianism tends towards making more objective decisions on what is "efficient" - that's just my observation from conversations with people who justify good economic policy on utilitarian grounds. They seem to be less concerned with subjective valuations than the natural right-ists I know. I recognize this might not be the case with all utilitarians, but in my personal experience those who are more concerned with what does the most good for the most people than with the individual rights of man often say things that are very opposed to libertarianism and Austrianism.
To address the thread title's question: I'm sort of a mixed bag. I draw a lot of influence from Objectivism, although any dedicated Objectivist would never consider me to be in line with them because there are some significant points where I disagree with Rand's philosophy. I despise utilitarianism as a moral theory, and while I favor deontology in comparison to utilitarianism I reject any kind of positive obligations. I like a significant portion of Stefan Molyneux's moral theories, which are sort of an extension of Objectivism, although I run into some major disagreements when he gets into psychological aspects. I can say for certain that I'm a rational egoist (particularly as it pertains to a denial of positive obligations to others) and universalist (I.E. moral premises must apply to all moral agents otherwise there is logical inconsistancy).
As for Austrian economics, to my knowledge it knows no moral theory. Austrian economics can provide us with an extremely valuable methodology for economics but it can do nothing to establish or answer questions of justice. Austrian economics cannot tell us wether or not a given property title is just or wether or not a given action is moral. It deals with analysizing cause and effect. I believe Rothbard stressed this point ad nauseum in "The Ethics of Liberty". Indeed, Austrian economics can show us that freedom is efficient, but it cannot show us that freedom is just. An arguement from efficiency alone is not enough to provide a solid arguement for freedom. "Because it's good for you" doesn't suffice. 200+ years of economics demonstrating the inefficiency of government has done almost nothing to convince people to accept libertarian ideas.
Inquisitor:I'm undecided still. Utilitarianism (at least a strong rule utilitarianism) is often treated with scorn and condescencion, and unfairly so I think. Although it is incomplete, in my view as a moral theory, it still gives us an insight into how morality functions, and can in fact sustain a rights-system. People ought to read Mill's Utilitarianism to get an appreciation of the system. I am not a utilitarian though. A while ago I was a hardcore Objectivist, and that influence remains, even after a shift to Kantian deontology (influenced by Hoppe.) The more I read about neo-Aristoteleanism/-Objectivism the more I move towards it - it even seems to be capable of integrating Hoppean ideas.
I do not like very many utilitarians, rule or otherwise, but I can see some benefit from utilitarianism in aspects of things like welfare economics.
I do not view utilitarianism as applicable to moral theory though.
The Origins of Capitalism
And for more periodic bloggings by moi,
On utilitarianism, I used to believe that maybe, just maybe, rule utilitarianism could work, until I saw Long's proof that rule utilitarianism is praxeologically unstable. Presently, I'm trying to figure out where I stand, within the general realm of Kantian/Objectivist/Hoppean approaches.
I question wether utilitarianism actually is capable of being a moral theory. It seems like more of a mathematical or efficiency theory. Unless we wish to equate efficiency and metric benefit to morality, which I don't, I can't consider utilitarianism as having anything to do with morality. I also object to it on the grounds of universality, since utilitarianism cannot possibility universally apply a moral principle.
That is why I say one ought to read Mill's work. Mill offers a highly Aristotean notion of utility, basically separating higher and lower pleasures and showing that the satisfaction of the higher pleasures (which might include autonomy, benevolence etc.) is ultimately what a man of the proper level of moral development ought to prefer. I think Mill's account is best seen in terms of an insight into morality. Normally of course utilitarianism is nowhere near this profound, especially not the sort economists advocate. I'm also not convinced of it as a prescriptive moral theory.
I don't believe in any absolute standard of morals - there is only what various cultures deem convenient to adopt at various times. Morals cannot be objective because it is easy to concoct moral dilemmas with no unambiguous answer. Like humans, animals also possess morals. For example, for lions, it is customary to devour others' offspring, while among humans it is frowned upon. For ants, sacrificing 100 workers for the sake of the queen is worthwhile, while humans might calculate an analogous situation differently.
Personally, I do what I want, but I operate deterministically, taking into account feelings of justice or fairness as well as fear of punishment, that I acquired through both evolutionary traits and upbringing. For day-to-day life, these instincts serve well enough.
Morals are acquired mostly through evolution via simple negative feedback, for example:
-Murder and theft are bad because you are likely to receive retribution from the victim's friends
-Promiscuity is bad because you are likely to catch a disease or receive retribution from a jealous mate
-Cannibalism s bad because you are likely to catch a prion disease
I'd say that I'm a follower of Rothbard's natural rights. Also the test, mentioned above, classified me in this direction, although showing some weird results as well. Then again, many questions were quite difficult to answer. But that could be caused by my inablity to understand them correctly.
One night I dreamed of chewing up my debetcard - there simply is nothing like hard cash in your pocket!
I have my own particular theory which I am beginning to formulate in my dissertation (on my website), but it is a generally neo-Aristotelian theory of virtue ethics and natural rights that draws its influences from Aristotle, Rand, Long, Rasmussen and Den Uyl, Sciabarra, Veatch and Rothbard. I agree with a previous poster that Long has shown utilitarianism to be praxeologically unstable; see his website. I think utilitarianism also suffers from being unable to precisely measure, much less interpersonally measure, utility; see Rothbard's critique in "Toward a Reconstruction of Utility and Welfare Economics." I think Kantian theories in general, and Hoppe AE in particular, are flawed as well. As far as any connection with Austrian economics goes, there are two things I'd like to remark on: 1) the view of human action and of society in Austrian economics is compatible with an Aristotelian ethics in a way that the neoclassical view is not; 2) Aristotelian ethics is a praxeological science (albeit not a value-free or -neutral one like economics is touted to be).
Yours in liberty,Geoffrey Allan Plauché, Ph.D.Adjunct Instructor, Buena Vista UniversityWebmaster, LibertarianStandard.comFounder / Executive Editor, Prometheusreview.com
@JAlanKatz: Do you have a link to that proof?
Also, @Baxter: That sounds an awful lot like relativism.
"Also, @Baxter: That sounds an awful lot like relativism."
Thanks, I wasn't sure what it was called. I think my feeling my ideas on morality aren't very well developed.
I'd say I adhere to the Bible as my ethical code.
baxter:I don't believe in any absolute standard of morals
baxter:Morals are acquired mostly through evolution via simple negative feedback, for example:
I find it hard to believe that animals have moral in any of the way us humans are talking about morals.
Animals have instincts.
But humans have the ability to reason.
If morals are simply based on the consequences, is there anything wrong with the murderer who kills someone, knowing there will be consequences and accepting them?
Under your (ironically enough) moral standard, why should theft or murder be "bad" simply because there are repercussions? You've established some bit of causality, ie what happens if one is to commit murder or theft, but why should it be considered bad? If the aggressor accepts those repercussions, there is no reason to think those actions are bad. Plus, bad seems to invoke an ultimate moral standard.
sam72: But humans have the ability to reason.
I also believe that evolution of memes and genes are the driving force behind people's morals. That doesn't mean I don't believe that certain ethical philosophies are superior to others, its just that I don't think the value of an ethic is determined by its logical consistency or how popular it is to philosophers. The value of an ethic, like the value of a pair of shoes, only exists in the minds of those people who willfully adopt that ethic. The adoption of an ethic is a purposeful action (at least by someone at some point in time), and so must be a means employed to reach some desired end.
sam72:But humans have the ability to reason.
And they employ this reason to the problem of ethics. Ideas evolve too, thankfully much more quickly than genes. I'd say most people change their ethical system to emulate others, and for social acceptance of people they deem successful (so I think most morals evolve by people copying more successful people). I'm curious to know how many successful ethics really originated from philosophy? With evolved systems, people generally have to figure out why some system works before they can even get close to designing a better one.
sam72:Under your (ironically enough) moral standard, why should theft or murder be "bad" simply because there are repercussions?
Just because we say that morals are evolved systems, doesn't mean we don't think there isn't a "natural law" out there somewhere. I think there is, although I'm not sure we'll ever find it in its entirety or even be able to. We can, for example, be pretty damn sure that theft and murder are "bad", even though there is no objective measure of what "bad" is. The morals which have enabled the human race to rise out of terrible poverty obviously should not be discarded because of a lack of any completely objective reference. Eventually, the most successful ethics will spread as people try to emulate others (I believe the spread of Western culture is a good example of this).
To echo what Grant said, an evolutionary account of morals does not invalidate their ultimate existence nor our ability to develop moral systems via reason. It is merely an insight into how (and why) we actually possess and can use this faculty.