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Conversational Consequentialism

I'm a Consequentialist: I believe that the moral rightness of a thing should be judged based on the (expected) outcome of it, not based on any particular moral rules. That is, it's (generally) bad to lie because that leads to a confusing world, but if lying in a specific instance will keep you from being killed by the Gestapo, then by all means lie. It's bad to murder because that results in somebody being dead, not because anybody said not to. It's bad to be gay because uh well actually since it turns out that doesn't harm anybody it actually is okay to be gay, even if a deity tells you it's bad

I wasn't always a consequentialist, though, and trying to get this idea to fully permeate all of my thoughts takes a bit of effort. One of the main things that I've had difficulty thinking of in terms of consequences rather than rules or virtues is conversations. When talking with people, I still feel a very strong urge to be completely, frankly, brutally honest, and even worse, I feel that if I don't say something, that's the same as lying about it. This has gotten me into trouble. More than once. I've lost at least one, possibly two friends because of this, and it was only through deliberate, learned effort that I managed to avoid that urge getting me criminal charges

When you're talking with people, what are your goals with the conversation? Are you trying to convince them to do something for you? Are you trying to convince them to adopt your position on some issue? Or are you just having a fun conversation? In all of those situations, getting angry, or making the other person angry, is not a useful thing to do. Saying things that from your perspective are true, but where you can predict that the result of saying it is going to be counter productive, is incredibly tempting, but is actually counter productive. I mean, come on! You saw that coming!

Convincing Arguments Aren't Necessarily Correct - They're Merely Convincing


Things have been going well lately, and I now have a surplus of cash for the first time in a while. Err, rather, I have both a surplus of cash and some high consistency predictable future income. That's nice! I envy all you salaried people when I think about predictable future income. Having a decent chunk of cash, but no predictable future income means you don't really have a surplus of cash.

Anyways, I was thinking of what to invest a small bit of money in, and reading some papers and analyses and such. I'm reading a mix of finance, investment, politics, diplomacy, and history lately, which makes for a nice mix. It also has me interested in the topic.

Today, I read a really fantastically convincing argument, enough so that I was immediately ready to go buy a small amount of what the author was advocating.

Then I stopped myself! Wait, the author isn't necessarily correct - he's merely convincing.

I went back through the piece I was reading, which was quite a long piece. I started counting the number of premises the author had, and it went something like this:

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