Inter-generational culpability and compensation

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GE Morton
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Re: Inter-generational culpability and compensation

Post by GE Morton » June 23rd, 2020, 11:37 am

Marvin_Edwards wrote: ↑
June 23rd, 2020, 10:53 am

If the individual is acting outside of the authority granted him then he alone is responsible for his crimes. But if he is acting within the authority that the people of the nation have granted him, then the nation as a whole is morally responsible for his crimes.
There has never been a public policy, or an act of any public official, supported by or agreed to all of the "people of a nation." Hence the "nation as a whole" cannot possibly be responsible for any such act or policy. (Let's not trot out that imaginary "social contract" again, Marvin).
GE Morton wrote: ↑
June 23rd, 2020, 10:26 am
Slavery is a crime because it involves force and violations of natural rights.
Slavery is literally a crime because we agreed to make it illegal. All legal rights and wrongs are matters of agreement.
LEGAL rights and wrongs are indeed matters of agreement (though among some group of legislators, not the "nation as a whole"). But legal rights, thus being arbitrary, have no moral significance.
Prejudice is a morally wrong, because it embraces false beliefs. It is an unnecessary harm to one's self.
Huh? Since when do false beliefs constitute moral wrongs? And I think we covered the "harm" claim in our previous discussion --- you were unable to cite any loss or injury suffered by a "victim" of prejudice.
Discrimination in public necessities, like housing, employment, public accommodation, etc. is legally a crime, because it violates the right of citizens to be treated fairly.
"Fair" does not mean "equal."
Alfie is not responsible for the sins of his ancestors (much less someone else's ancestors), and Bruno cannot excuse his own bad behavior today by citing wrongs done to some ancestor of his.
Your father stole my car. I want it back.
If you can produce a title chain connecting you to your father's truck you can have it back.

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Pattern-chaser
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Re: Inter-generational culpability and compensation

Post by Pattern-chaser » June 23rd, 2020, 11:51 am

GE Morton wrote: ↑
June 23rd, 2020, 11:12 am
That belief --- that nations or other organized groups are moral agents in their own right, distinct from the individuals who comprise it, rests on a false understanding of the structure of modern civilized societies. The latter are not tribes, "teams," giant co-ops or communes, or "big happy families." They are not collectives of any kind. They are only collecTIONS of unrelated, independent, autonomous individuals who happen, by accident of birth, to occupy a common territory. The have no natural bonds, no shared personal histories, no common interests, and no a priori obligations to one another. Absent some sort of agreement or contract to which they may have freely and expressly entered into, all of them are responsible for their own welfare and the consequences of their own actions only, not for anyone else's.
Wow! This brings American Libertarianism into philosophy with a bump! Individualists R Us! 😐

πŸ€”

How do you account for co-operative groups of individuals becoming, or acting as, a team, when the team proves to be more than the sum of its members? A phenomenon often noticed in practice. This seems to indicate, perhaps only in a practical and functional sense, that group-entities do exist...?
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Steve3007
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Re: Inter-generational culpability and compensation

Post by Steve3007 » June 23rd, 2020, 11:56 am

Pattern-chaser wrote:Wow! This brings American Libertarianism into philosophy with a bump!
Not with a bump. GE Morton has been here quite a long time and is pretty consistent and clear in his views, to the extent of always using Alfie and Bruno as the characters in thought experiments to illustrate arguments. :)

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Re: Inter-generational culpability and compensation

Post by Steve3007 » June 23rd, 2020, 12:03 pm

How do you account for co-operative groups of individuals becoming, or acting as, a team...
Probably by talking about freely entered contractual agreements.

GE Morton
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Re: Inter-generational culpability and compensation

Post by GE Morton » June 23rd, 2020, 12:07 pm

Pattern-chaser wrote: ↑
June 23rd, 2020, 11:51 am

How do you account for co-operative groups of individuals becoming, or acting as, a team, when the team proves to be more than the sum of its members? A phenomenon often noticed in practice. This seems to indicate, perhaps only in a practical and functional sense, that group-entities do exist...?
Oh, there are all kinds of teams, families, collectives and cooperative endeavors of many kinds WITHIN a modern, civilized society. But the society as a whole is not one.

And of course group entities exist. But they are not moral agents; the only moral agency they possess is that derived from the individuals who constitute them. E.g., if every member of a certain group has a certain moral duty, then one may say the group has that duty. If only some members have it the group as whole does not; a claim that is does would be false.

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Re: Inter-generational culpability and compensation

Post by Pattern-chaser » June 23rd, 2020, 12:23 pm

GE Morton wrote: ↑
June 23rd, 2020, 12:07 pm
And of course group entities exist. But they are not moral agents; the only moral agency they possess is that derived from the individuals who constitute them. E.g., if every member of a certain group has a certain moral duty, then one may say the group has that duty. If only some members have it the group as whole does not; a claim that is does would be false.
And when the Coca-Cola company, acting as a corporate entity, offers its customers an assurance that its drinks are not poisonous? [Ignoring for now the anti-sugar arguments. πŸ˜‰] This is a moral duty of such companies: to produce a product that is safe to use. We tend to prosceute companies when they fail in this. Not usually individuals, but companies. No one employee of Coca-Cola is individually responsible for the safety of their product; they all (considered as the corporate entity "the Coca-Cola Company") are.
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Re: Inter-generational culpability and compensation

Post by Marvin_Edwards » June 23rd, 2020, 1:32 pm

GE Morton wrote: ↑
June 23rd, 2020, 11:37 am
There has never been a public policy, or an act of any public official, supported by or agreed to all of the "people of a nation."

That doesn't matter. The method of creating law by an elected representative legislature is what we all agreed to when we constituted the nation.

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Re: Inter-generational culpability and compensation

Post by GE Morton » June 23rd, 2020, 2:26 pm

Pattern-chaser wrote: ↑
June 23rd, 2020, 12:23 pm

And when the Coca-Cola company, acting as a corporate entity, offers its customers an assurance that its drinks are not poisonous? [Ignoring for now the anti-sugar arguments. πŸ˜‰] This is a moral duty of such companies: to produce a product that is safe to use.
That moral duty of the corporation reduces to the moral duties of every person in that corporation involved in producing that product. There is no moral duty of the corporation beyond those individual duties.
We tend to prosceute companies when they fail in this. Not usually individuals, but companies. No one employee of Coca-Cola is individually responsible for the safety of their product; they all (considered as the corporate entity "the Coca-Cola Company") are.
You're speaking there of a legal duty, not a moral one.

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Re: Inter-generational culpability and compensation

Post by Sculptor1 » June 23rd, 2020, 5:49 pm

Perhaps the compensation thing is little more than politicians spending other people's money to do a massive virtue signaling exercise, when what they should be doing is making efforts to ensure the equality of opportunity regardless of race, creed, colour or gender.

Identifying subgroups in the population to enjoy compensations claims does nothing more than reifying those same group-thinking and prejudice, to reinforce the self same prejudice that led to the inequality in the first place.

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Re: Inter-generational culpability and compensation

Post by Something_Different » June 25th, 2020, 9:35 pm

I once read a very interesting piece (unfortunately I can't recall where!) that used the Condorcet Paradox to argue against the idea of groups having moral responsibilities independent of the people that constitute them.

Basically, whenever we assign moral duties to an actor, we'd like to believe that they are a "thinking being", a definition which traditionally includes things like having preferences, being able to deliberate and make decisions. But the Condorcet Paradox shows that a group made up of rational people can easily hold seemingly incoherent beliefs like "A is better than B, B is better than C, and C is better than A."

Indeed, we often blame groups for the actions of their members in daily life, but this is almost always shorthand for the leadership of the group, or occasionally all members of the group.

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Re: Inter-generational culpability and compensation

Post by GE Morton » June 26th, 2020, 11:56 am

Something_Different wrote: ↑
June 25th, 2020, 9:35 pm
I once read a very interesting piece (unfortunately I can't recall where!) that used the Condorcet Paradox to argue against the idea of groups having moral responsibilities independent of the people that constitute them.

Basically, whenever we assign moral duties to an actor, we'd like to believe that they are a "thinking being", a definition which traditionally includes things like having preferences, being able to deliberate and make decisions. But the Condorcet Paradox shows that a group made up of rational people can easily hold seemingly incoherent beliefs like "A is better than B, B is better than C, and C is better than A."
Yes indeed. Kenneth Arrow's "Impossibility Theorem" is similar:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arrow%27s ... ty_theorem

The only properties groups have that are not reducible to the properties of their members are statistical ones. E.g., "The State of Utah is 70% Mormon" is a property of that group. "Utah is a Mormon state" is true only to the extent its is true of its residents.

Speaking of groups as though they are moral agents is a logical error that leads to all kinds of nonsense.

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Re: Inter-generational culpability and compensation

Post by Gertie » June 27th, 2020, 3:45 am

GE Morton wrote: ↑
June 26th, 2020, 11:56 am
Something_Different wrote: ↑
June 25th, 2020, 9:35 pm
I once read a very interesting piece (unfortunately I can't recall where!) that used the Condorcet Paradox to argue against the idea of groups having moral responsibilities independent of the people that constitute them.

Basically, whenever we assign moral duties to an actor, we'd like to believe that they are a "thinking being", a definition which traditionally includes things like having preferences, being able to deliberate and make decisions. But the Condorcet Paradox shows that a group made up of rational people can easily hold seemingly incoherent beliefs like "A is better than B, B is better than C, and C is better than A."
Yes indeed. Kenneth Arrow's "Impossibility Theorem" is similar:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arrow%27s ... ty_theorem

The only properties groups have that are not reducible to the properties of their members are statistical ones. E.g., "The State of Utah is 70% Mormon" is a property of that group. "Utah is a Mormon state" is true only to the extent its is true of its residents.

Speaking of groups as though they are moral agents is a logical error that leads to all kinds of nonsense.
Nobody thinks that a group of individuals literally constitute a single mind which makes moral choices.

However groups of individuals do organise in different ways to creature structures which enable group decisions to be made, including morally significant ones. And sometimes it's useful to talk about and treat a group as a morally responsible entity. When it comes to issues like compensation.

In the case of slavery there is a generational factor which means the individuals involved in those governmental group decisions are long dead. But it is also true that the effects of their actions still impact people today. The American government can decide if it now feels a collective moral duty to try to address this via compensatory laws, grants, policies, affirmative action, tax breaks or whatever, in effect mitigating those inter-generational effects with specific actions. Or not.

Because a governmental group structure can enable individuals to collectively take effective moral actions in ways individuals acting individually can't.

You can agree or disagree with the actions, that's a different issue. But you can say 'The Government' should/should not pass laws which effectively compensate individuals who are members of particular groups, because it's the right thing to do.

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Re: Inter-generational culpability and compensation

Post by Something_Different » June 27th, 2020, 7:41 pm

Gertie wrote: ↑
June 27th, 2020, 3:45 am
The American government can decide if it now feels a collective moral duty to try to address this via compensatory laws, grants, policies, affirmative action, tax breaks or whatever, in effect mitigating those inter-generational effects with specific actions. Or not.
I think we're 100% agreed on this point. The American government (meaning the people who are currently in the American government, and indirectly, the people who chose to vote for them) can consider such questions and in fact have a moral obligation to do so.

But they also have an obligation to consider how to alleviate the harm from things like natural disasters that don't have any kind of culpability attached to them. So I don't see how this says anything about whether inter-generational culpability is meaningful.

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Re: Inter-generational culpability and compensation

Post by GE Morton » June 27th, 2020, 8:19 pm

Gertie wrote: ↑
June 27th, 2020, 3:45 am

However groups of individuals do organise in different ways to creature structures which enable group decisions to be made, including morally significant ones. And sometimes it's useful to talk about and treat a group as a morally responsible entity. When it comes to issues like compensation.
One may speak of a group as morally responsible entity IF all of its members have agreed to some decision procedure and consent in advance to abide by the resulting decisions. The group may be said, in that case, to "speak with one voice." Nearly every private organization in which membership is voluntary, from business corporations and partnerships to garden clubs and Kiwanis, satisfy that condition. Political societies do not.
In the case of slavery there is a generational factor which means the individuals involved in those governmental group decisions are long dead. But it is also true that the effects of their actions still impact people today.
They do, in a sense. For example, had there been no slavery there would (likely) be very few persons of African ancestry in the US today. But no actions of an ancestor determine, or limit in any way, the actions of his descendant today. Nothing my grandfather did or did not do, nor any injustice he may have suffered, can excuse or justify any action of mine today.
The American government can decide if it now feels a collective moral duty to try to address this via compensatory laws, grants, policies, affirmative action, tax breaks or whatever, in effect mitigating those inter-generational effects with specific actions. Or not.
The "American government" doesn't have feelings. Only certain people administering it do. If those people, deluded by the organic fallacy, decide to force present-day non-offenders to pay present-day non-victims for offenses committed by other persons 150 years ago, they act immorally, visiting punishments on persons who have committed no crime. That is a paradigm case of injustice.

The concepts of collective and intergenerational guilt derive from the "organic" conception of the structure of modern societies. That latter conception is factually false, and so are all the nonsensical beliefs that ensue from it.
Because a governmental group structure can enable individuals to collectively take effective moral actions in ways individuals acting individually can't.
By "enable," do you really mean "force"? Every individual is already enabled to donate any amount of money he wishes to any cause he chooses. What he can't do is force other to support his favorite charity. But of course, any policy can be made effective if force is feasible and permitted, e.g., slavery itself.

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Re: Inter-generational culpability and compensation

Post by Pattern-chaser » June 28th, 2020, 7:26 am

Gertie wrote: ↑
June 27th, 2020, 3:45 am
Nobody thinks that a group of individuals literally constitute a single mind which makes moral choices.
πŸ‘ A 'group mind' is a combination of minds, working together in some way. Consider ant and bee colonies. They function in such a way that the colony appears alive, and even conscious, when the individual members of the hive do not. We are not insects, of course, but we often group (and work) together so closely that our groups also functionally resemble a single entity.
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