Optimization is irrational sentimentalism
November 15, 2015 § 44 Comments
I’ve written before that optimization of our actions in pursuit of some proximate material goal is inherently evil, because the set of all good and evil options includes all of the good options, plus the evil ones to boot. Morality constrains action: the man willing to do both good and evil has more options than the man only willing to do good.
In the comments below Mike T observes:
I can imagine most of our domestic torture apologists condemning the Russians stridently, which would be ironic since by our own apologists’ logic what the Russians did was sound. In fact, by their logic the Russians actually have the moral high ground because in one act of torture they permanently convinced Hezbollah to check passports for Russian nationality before kidnapping.
… but what I find interesting about the Russians versus our own apologists is the fact that the Russians, in their total lack of sentimentality about what they are doing, actually ended up using far less evil to accomplish their goals. Still gravely evil, but by going forth and sinning boldly they finished in one act what takes us possibly hundreds of acts of brutality.
Hrodgar replies with one of those comments I find that I wish I had written myself:
If they actually had a total lack of sentimentality, then reason would teach them that no temporal benefit, however great, is worth any eternal loss, however small. Immorality is not an indicator of a LACK of sentimentality. Rather the reverse if anything.
Holiness, as it turns out, is the only thing objectively worth optimizing. Evil is always insane. Longer time preferences and greater objectivity seem less sentimental than shorter time preferences and lesser objectivity. They still terminate in Hell though. The most rational time preference is eternal, and the most objective frame of reference is the Good, the True, and the Beautiful.