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  1. This one was brilliant, as usual, but it mostly made me sad, since the pervasiveness of this attitude — far beyond economists — seems to be one of the main things fucking up our society right now.

    • It is a triumph of a particular kind of utilitarianism, where utility functions are specified in terms of returns on a fictive property. Apropos of nothing, did you see that recent paper in which utilitarians score high on sociopathy measures?

  2. Phyllograptus Phyllograptus

    Don’t you find it slightly bizarre that 2 philosophers both named John (Jon) Wilkins are having this conversation across the world about a web comic that the majority of the worlds population knows nothing about?

    • Johannes von Willkens Johannes von Willkens

      Sorry, you’re not allowed to take part in this discussion.

      • Katzen sind auch von Teilnahme ausgeschlossen!

  3. Mankel Mankel

    It was obvious from the beginning of neuro “trolleism” that psychopaths would be included in the group of people deciding to kill the fat man on the bridge. Psychopaths have emotional deficits that impair their empathy, so they would not suffer an emotional block deciding to sacrifice the lesser number for the sake of the majority. It doesn’t imply IMHO that all utilitarians are to some extent proto-psycopaths.
    On the other hand, defending a supposed superiority of utilitarianism because the “trolley-utilitarians” suffer a greater activation of the “rational” parts of the brain is bullshit. What is usually called a “rational person” wouldn’t be so without a certain balance between strictly rational or cognitive or “cognitive” capacities and emotional ones.

  4. joe joe

    I’m puzzled at the choice proposed as if there were really only two outcomes possible. Natural scenarios are never that simplistic. Maybe economists are particularly used to simplistic scenarios.

    • Jeff Rubinoff Jeff Rubinoff

      The neoliberal economic schools these days start off with an assumption that humans are economically rational. That’s simplistic enough for me.

      • Chimps are economic rationalists (in the game theoretic sense of being rational egoists with no tendency to eusociality): Humans are not. We do have that eusocial bias. Moreover, economic rationalists presume that we are, well, rational, which ten minutes reading the business news should dispel. Finally, they presume we are given full information, or some approximation of that, when information is partial, unreliable, and lags for large parts of the market. It is a wonder that markets do as well as they do.

        The real problem with economics seems to me the a priori view that markets will optimise: rather like a biologist presuming that ecologies will stabilise on the most effective distribution of resources. Like Russell’s prisoner, they are then completely surprised when the ecosystem collapses.

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