Not everyone is a jerk – probably

[originally from December 11th, 2014]

In applied ethics it should (yes, I see the irony) be considered a bad practice to come up with systems whereby 99% of the population are assholes. Of course, on object level it’s entirely possible that the 1% are right, and everyone else is wrong. As someone who highly values scientific knowledge, I’m kinda used to such situation. However, science outperforms everyone else because it’s usually verifiably right or wrong right now. Ethics aren’t that easy to test. Thus, on meta-level, there’s an immensely high probability that the 1% are wrong. There’s only one way for them to be right, and infinitely many ways to be wrong.

Yes, when you have many such little groups, there are some decent chances that at least one of them has that wonderful insight. The thing is that with such odds they can be right mostly due to sheer luck. Furthermore, even if there is actually some skill involved, if only 1% has this skill, it’s probably due to exposure to some advanced philosophy over the course of good education rather than some intrinsic moral properties. In some circles this is called “privilege”, and it is believed that it doesn’t entitle one to any superiority. If that’s true, doesn’t that apply to ethics too? Even if it so happens that due to better education, and sheer luck one’s ethics are superior on the object-level, on meta-level there’s no reason to assume any decent chance of having superior ethics.

Thus, whatever ethical system one comes up with, it’s better to ensure that the median citizen is doing just about OK in this system.


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