Well, this is exciting. I want to say congratulations for some reason, but it doesn’t feel right. Let’s go with a fist bump — that seems more fitting. And it’s not just because you re-evaluated things. What I admire most is the actionable nature of your moral quest. Your post, and corresponding actions since then, has made me realize that my position isn’t really much of a position. ((For all our millions of readers, aside from Elyse (Shoutout!), Valentin recently went to a conference in Montreal and was vegetarian for the entire 10 days he was there)). I claim that everything is relative, which it very much is. I claim that it all matters on how you balance your own equation of utility, which it very much does. But, where is the emphasis? And, more importantly, where should it be? Let’s define a simplistic way of analyzing how we make our decisions:
Hedonistic Desires(U) + Avoidance & Suppression of Cognitive Dissonance(U) + Following a Moral Principle (U) = Decision
The utility from how much we like to do a thing + the utility from avoiding/suppressing doing a thing + the utility of doing a thing based on a moral claim = a decision on doing a thing.
Yes, it’s oversimplified, but I believe speaks to the major points in decision making. But, if we want to, we can make it a bit more rigid. For example, you can add time & probabilistic variables to each of the functions: a decision on doing a thing can be based on the hedonistic utility you may have in the future. “I will not eat like a pig right now, so I can maybe get laid later on”. But, I digress.
… And let’s digress some more! A couple of things that I liked from your post.
1) Cognitive Dissonance. How can we forget this puppy! To give you a richer definition from my deep educational background in psychology, CD is defined as “the icky feeling in your tummy when you think about doing any given thing”
2) “Perhaps the only true universal morality is the pursuit of a true universal morality?” – Valentin Peretroukhin. Let’s exclude the question mark at the end of this and we can add this quote to your blooming wikipedia page.
3) Analogy of Moral Pursuits on a Map. Beautiful way of thinking about it!
Now, let’s get back to the question I asked earlier. Where is the emphasis on this balanced equation of utility? And, where should it be? Personally, I’m choosing rock because that’s the default I was born into. There is too much dissonance underlying the thought of changing my behaviour. However, my claim is that as a human being that chooses (and that’s a key word) to live in a civilized society, one should place emphasis on the utility from following a moral principle. This is not to say that one shouldn’t listen to hedonistic desires or trying to suppress dissonance at all. The emphasis on our journey to this theoretical optimal utility wonderland, which doesn’t necessarily exist, should be on moral utility. And this is for two reasons. One, I believe that living this game of life with reason and convictions leads to more happiness. And two, if we choose to live in a society, then living by moral claims allows one to be a better functioning member of that society. Now, where does this leave me? Am I going to reveal my big moral revelation? Unfortunately not … yet. This discussion has made me realize that it’s in my best interests to actively think of a position on this topic, back it up with some rational thought and base my actions on it. So, next time we play Rock, paper, Scissors, you may be in for a little surprise!