Tranquilism

What makes an experience valuable or disvaluable? In contrast to hedonism, which holds that pleasure is what is good and pain is what is bad, tranquilism is an “absence of desire” theory that counts pleasure as instrumentally valuable only. According to tranquilism, what matters is whether an experience is free from bothersome components. States of contentment such as flow or meditative tranquility also qualify.

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A Virtue of Precaution Regarding the Moral Status of Animals with Uncertain Sentience

We address the moral importance of fish, invertebrates such as crustaceans, snails and insects, and other animals about which there is qualified scientific uncertainty about their sentience. We argue that, on a sentientist basis, one can at least say that how such animals fare make ethically significant claims on our character. It is a requirement of a morally decent (or virtuous) person that she at least pays attention to and is cautious regarding the possibly morally relevant aspects of such animals.

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The Case for Suffering-Focused Ethics

“Suffering-focused ethics” is an umbrella term for moral views that place primary or particular importance on the prevention of suffering. Most views that fall into this category are pluralistic in that they hold that other things beside suffering reduction also matter morally. To illustrate the diversity within suffering-focused ethics as well as to present a convincing case for it, this article will introduce four separate motivating intuitions.

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Bibliography of Suffering-Focused Views

A good bibliography encourages others to conduct research and write papers in the field. Thus, creating an up-to-date bibliography on suffering-focused views seems an important undertaking. This subpage of our open research questions page contains examples of sources to include in such a bibliography.

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Formalizing Preference Utilitarianism in Physical World Models

Most ethical work is done at a low level of formality which can lead to misunderstandings in ethical discussions. In this paper, we use Bayesian inference to introduce a formalization of preference utilitarianism in physical world models. Even though our formalization is not immediately applicable, it is a first step in providing ethical inquiry with a formal basis.

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Hedonistic vs. Preference Utilitarianism

It's a classic debate among utilitarians: Should we care about an organism's happiness and suffering (hedonic wellbeing), or should we ultimately value fulfilling what it wants, whatever that may be (preferences)? This article discusses various intuitions on both sides and explores a hybrid view that gives greater weight to the hedonic subsystems of brains than to other overriding subsystems.

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Should We Base Moral Judgments on Intentions or Outcomes?

Different ethical intuitions place different weight on the importance of intentions vs. outcomes in evaluating our actions. One might think that consequentialists would favor the outcome-based approach, and indeed, judging based on outcomes is sometimes the best way to optimize performance. However, in other circumstances – e.g., when you have strong prior knowledge or when […]

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Dealing with Moral Multiplicity

The ethical views we hold depend significantly on the network structures of our brains: which ideas are associated with which valences and how strongly. These feelings and weights are shaped by our genetic predispositions, cultural circumstances, and life experiences. Had you developed differently, your moral views would have been different. It's up to us whether […]

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The Importance of Wild-Animal Suffering

The number of wild animals vastly exceeds that of animals on factory farms. Therefore, animal advocates should consider focusing their efforts to raise concern about the suffering that occurs in nature. In theory, engineering more humane ecological systems might be valuable. In practice, however, it seems more effective to promote the meme of caring about wild animals to other activists, academics and other sympathetic groups.

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