Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Benthams Calculating Machine: Pain, Pleasure, Experimental Manipulation

Bentham thought behavior could be explained by a "felicific calculus."

And so...as Kevin Lewis asked, "Do crabs run regressions?"  At a minimum, they appear to be using a utilitarian calculus.

Changing the value of the shell is coercion.  Is leaving the shell voluntary?  What if the damage to the shell occurs for "natural" reasons?

What about Aristotle's example of the ship's captain?  (NE, Book III)

But with regard to the things that are done from fear of greater evils or for some noble object (e.g. if a tyrant were to order one to do something base, having one's parents and children in his power, and if one did the action they were to be saved, but otherwise would be put to death), it may be debated whether such actions are involuntary or voluntary. Something of the sort happens also with regard to the throwing of goods overboard in a storm; for in the abstract no one throws goods away voluntarily, but on condition of its securing the safety of himself and his crew any sensible man does so. Such actions, then, are mixed, but are more like voluntary actions; for they are worthy of choice at the time when they are done, and the end of an action is relative to the occasion. Both the terms, then, 'voluntary' and 'involuntary', must be used with reference to the moment of action. Now the man acts voluntarily; for the principle that moves the instrumental parts of the body in such actions is in him, and the things of which the moving principle is in a man himself are in his power to do or not to do. Such actions, therefore, are voluntary, but in the abstract perhaps involuntary; for no one would choose any such act in itself. 

If the crab leaves its shell because an experimenter pesters it, that is not voluntary.  If the crab leaves its shell because the crab has outgrown the shell, that is presumably voluntary.  If the crab leaves the shell because a storm has cracked the shell....

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Do you have suggestions on where we could find more examples of this phenomenon?