[ by Charles Cameron — two data points, one impoverished, one rich — and a redemptive (maybe) quote from Twiggy ]
As I quoted in my recent post Not everything that counts can be counted, “Effective altruism is based on a very simple idea: we should do the most good we can” — which in turn suggests that “good” can be quantified, an idea I resist.
The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article The Repugnant Conclusion, from which I drew the Parfit quote [upper panel, above], doesn’t mention Wittgenstein , though I suspect his view that we cannot sum individual sufferings to a grand total would suggest a similarposition with regard to the summation of individual happinesses..
And as I’ve pointed out before, both CS Lewis and Arne Naess agree with Wittgenstein on this point.
Walker Percy, Ludwig Wittngenstiein and Clive Staples Lewis all being Christians, it seems appropriate to recall here the tale of Mary and Martha from the New Testament, Luke 10:38-42 —
Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word. But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me. And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.
I somewhat cavalierly refer to this story on occasion as the story of Mary Qualit and Martha Quant. Eh. Mary Quant, you may recall if you’re as old as I am, gave us the mini-skirt, the Dashing Daisy doll, and Twiggy .
The quote from Walker Percy’s second novel [lower panel, above] nicely illustrates high level abstraction, as we instantly see when we compare it with the personal insight (from the same novel) on which it is based [lower panel, below]:
The first is philosophy, the second — if you’ll pardon my saying so — is humanity.
All of which ties in neatly with a conversation I was having on Facebook with my long-time friend the game designer Mike Sellers. And in all of which, I am trying not to forget the heart’s reasons of which Pascal famously wrote —
The heart has reasons Reason knows not of
— because we need them in our gaming, in our analysis, and our understanding of what Mike Sellers describes as our world that is “far more interconnected and interactive than ever before.”:
Julia Galef, The Repugnant Conclusion (a philosophy paradox) Walter Isaacson, Walker Percy’s Theory of Hurricanes
Hey, Twiggy — sweet — gets the main point: