Is "getting married without love" justified?
This is my report of the philosophy cafe session on 21 November 2007.
We again used The Instrument. Here's a summarised version of the process.
1. What do we wish to do?
A: We wish to answer a question.
2. Isolate our question in under 10 words.
A: Is "getting married without love" justified?
34. What justification rule category does P ("getting married without love") fall into?
A: It is not covered by justification rules.
48. List benefits and harms of P.
A: Benefits: a) tax breaks, b) HDB flat, c) double income, d) conjugal rights
Harms: a) not emotionally satisfying
66. Compare benefits and harms. What is the result?
A: Benefits overwhelmingly outweigh harm.
74. P ("getting married without love") is justified. The question is answered.
While using The Instrument, we discovered some rough edges that need to be smoothened out. I hope to have this done by the next cafe session. The learning point here is that a productive discussion need not wander through the universe (as philosophers are wont to do) before arriving at no answer at all.
Should we revive ancient religions?
This is the report of my philosophy
cafe session on 17 October 2007.
The question for the evening is inspired by a newspaper report of an 8m-high model of Golden Anubis, the ancient jackal-headed Egyptian God of the Dead, being brought past London's Tower Bridge. The model is the highlight of the Tutankhamun and The Golden Age of the Pharoahs exhibition that will open in London on 15 November 2007.
Tonight, we depart from the previously adopted spontaneous discussion, and instead address the matter using The Instrument, a program that I have designed for clear thought. The following is a summary of the result. "I" represents "Instrument"; and "R" represents "Response".
I: What do you wish to do?
R: We wish to address a question.
I: Write down the question in fewer than 10 words.
R: Should we revive ancient religions?
I: Does the question fit the pattern "Is P justified?", where P is a variable standing for anything whatever?
R: Yes, with P standing for "revive ancient religions".
I: Is P ("revive ancient religions") covered by a justification rule (eg. always tell the truth)?
I: List the beneficial and harmful consequences of P.
R: The benefits of P ("revive ancient religions") are (a) more peaceful replacement of prevailing religions, (b) opportunity to explore roots, (c) bring enthusiasm back to religion, (d) opportunity for reinterpretation, and (e) opportunity for commerce. The harms of P ("revive ancient religions") are (a) revive superstitions, (b) revive illogical behaviour, (c) incite unhappiness, and possibly violence, from prevailing religions, and (d) may disrupt status quo.
I: Pair up those on each list with the same weight. This is a judgement call.
R: Benefits (a, e) and Harm (c); Benefit (b) and Harm (a, b); Benefit (c) and Harm (d).
I: Remove them.
R: Done. Only Benefit (d) remains.
I: "Revive ancient religions" is justified. The question is answered. We should revive ancient religions.
We recognise that items on the benefits and harms lists may be disputed. We also recognise that such disputes can be handled by iterating them as further questions through The Instrument.
Conclusion: This test of The Instrument is successful. We will test it again at the next philosophy cafe session.
Should men prefer younger women?
This is the report of the
philosophy cafe session on 19 September 2007.
The evening's question is inspired by a newspaper report (Straits Times, 1 Sept 2007) of a research finding that evolutionary pressure for more children explains men's preference for younger women, and women's desire for older men. We do not dispute the empirical finding, but ask if men should have this preference. The initial responses are in favour of older women.
Men should prefer older women as an act of charity. Access granted to older women is an act of kindness and altruism, to save them from being left on the shelf.
Men should prefer older women, as they can be a "second mother" to them. Objection: This assumes that mental age follows chronological age. But this assumption is generally true. No, this is the case only if she is married. If the older woman is single, she is generally not psychologically mature. Which makes it even more so an act of charity to prefer her.
Men should prefer the older woman, because the over 35 single woman is more likely to be a graduate, and hence is better genetic material.
The discussion turns to the younger woman.
Men should prefer younger women, because they are more charming, have better figures, better voices, and man can lord over these younger women. No, these reasons are unhealthy, because they feed men's egos. We should not feed men's egos.
Men can prefer a younger woman if she has a character and maturity beyond her chronological age. Maturity rather than age is the key factor.
Men should prefer younger women, because the younger woman, being less mature, is more likely to do crazy things, to be a risk taker, and this is good for men.
Men should prefer younger women because this is the model of the perfect world. Younger women are more energetic, and have better reproductive potential.
No, men should not prefer younger women, because younger women are less matured, and this is not good for the baby.
Men should prefer younger women, because younger women can also "mother" a man. The mothering instinct does not depend on age.
The discussion returns to the older woman.
Men should prefer the older woman, because women live longer than men, and this will shorten her period of expected widowhood. Lonely old folks are a strain on the economy. Once again, this is an act of charity.
Men should prefer older women, because older women are more financially stable, and therefore better able to contribute to the mortgage etc.
Men should prefer the older woman, as she is more sexually experienced. This contrasts with preferring her as an act of charity.
We decide to focus on the charity argument.
An older woman is defined as a woman over 35 years of age. We define being "left on the shelf" to mean "not currently in a relationship, but possibly having had a relationship in the past". The act of charity that is being extended to the older woman left on the shelf is to save her from the accompanying loneliness, stigma and ostracism. Such an act of charity works only for a while, because eventually such a relationship will break down, making the original preference for the older woman an act of cruelty rather than an act of charity.
Discussion stops here.
Is cybersex wrong?
We define cybersex as text-based sexual activity over the internet, involving at least two persons.
Cybersex is wrong as it involves a minor, since minors are deemed incapable of consent. But this is cyberspace, why is consent relevant? Well, it violates innocence. But young people do need to "wake up" sometime. Yes, when the timing is appropriate. When is the timing appropriate? When the person is psychologically prepared. So, it is not age that matters, but psychological preparedness.
Whether it is wrong depends on who is interpreting the action. Those who will consider it wrong include religious people, parents, teachers, puritans, and luddites (anti-technology folks). The "offenders", of course, will approve of it. These include perverts, maniacs and paedophiles. But saying that it depends on who is interpreting it makes the matter entirely subjective. It is an abdication of thought.
We take the utilitarian approach, which judges an action right or wrong based on its consequences. We first consider the harmful consequences.
Cybersex promotes mental harm. But this is in cyberspace. The mental harm is it promotes fantasy. So do novels. This is not a harm.
Cybersex produces physical harm if it leads to real-life experimentation with the wrong party. The cyber part produces physical harm if one spends too much time at the computer. Problems such as astigmatism, deep vein thrombosis, repetitive stress injury, backache, obesity, heart disease, and lack of sleep.
Cybersex can make people neglect physical sex, leading to a drop in population.
We move on to benefits.
Cybersex promotes education, in improving vocabulary, imparting techniques, and developing social intelligence.
The fantasy life in cybersex enhances mental health and produces simulation training.
Cybersex is a leisure activity, which helps one pass the time.
Cybersex is therapeutic, in preventing depression.
Cybersex can promote character development.
Cybersex is cheaper than real sex (this includes sex within the bounds of a relationship).
Cybersex is environmentally friendly, in consuming electricity rather than petrol.
Cybersex improves typing skills under emotional stress.
Cybersex liberates handicaps (in giving them a virtual normal life), and people of other inclinations.
Cybersex may promote actual sex, and so increase the population.
What about minors? These benefits accrue even more so to minors.
Since the benefits outweigh the harms, cybersex is morally good.