Archive for the 'ethics' Category


I understand the Breakfast Club

I watched John Hughes’ 80s masterpiece The Breakfast Club before. I really liked it and I thought it may even have some artistic merit. I watched it again, and I think I more closely follow its main aesthetic contribution. I am convinced that it is much more than a teen movie and that it is not about childhood, though it appears to be.

It may seem convenient to think about the movie as about social pressure and the pains of growing up, but the key thing to keep in mind is that the movie begins with an existential question. The kids who are in detention are asked, as their overriding goal for the day to write about who they are. It is this question that prompts the introspection and the eventual short answer that is read over the final sequences of the movie by Brian “the brain,” of the group.

In answering this question, I believe that the main contributor is Bender. To me, this is only natural. These students, placed in Illinois somewhere, are asked to think about who they are, and Bender immediately begins the process by pushing. He’s Socratic. He asks questions. He asks Molly Ringwald, who plays Claire, “the princess” whether she’s a virgin. This line of questioning exposes his main philosophical commitment, which is to undermine all the institutions that everyone else takes to be good and normal. His job is to question and undermine all “respectable” society, and within the confines of the movie, I think he succeeds. He is a Nietzschean hero. He questions everything, and accepts nothing. This is fitting with Nietzsche’s conviction that to grant something legitimacy is to grant it a type of tyranny — to give it free reign to become corrupted and controlling. He is a radical individualist. This fits with his role as “the criminal.” He begins the movie as sitting on the wrong side of every societal fence.

His job is to cleverly twist everyone’s goals and commitments. “Why doesn’t he participate in extracurricular activities?” he muses. Because those people are assholes. As we find out later, this answer is elaborated. We find out that the clubs that Brian is in — the physics and math club — are part of a constellation of social pressures that gets him to contemplate suicide, and we find out that the student-councily-things that Claire does is how she comes to be a slave of peer pressure. During an exchange with Claire, he is threatened by Emilio Estevez, playing Andrew, but he protests that he is trying to help Claire. To me this is the beginning of his Nietzschean therapy, whereby he slowly shows the other students that they should not be afraid of the principal, “Dick” or “Richard Vernon.”

He initiates this strategy by refusing to back down when the principal heaps discipline on him. “Do you want another?” the principal threatens, to which Bender replies “sure.” Shortly thereafter, Bender convinces everyone to follow him to the hallway where they break the rules of their detention. Brian briefly asks whether they’re disobedience makes any sense. “We’re going to get caught,” he laments, but then the camera moves to Bender who asks Claire “it feels good to be bad doesn’t it?” The fact that Bender is the hero movie is then cemented as he casually sacrifices himself to the ire of Dick so that the others can escape back to the library unseen by the principal. Bender is then subjected to sadistic and illegal threats from the principal who tries to bait Bender to fight him. The connection between the principal and “respectable” society is cemented as he reminds Bender that he makes a $30,000 and owns a house and that the world will forgot Bender but that he will still be around. That he “means something.” This echoes Andrew’s earlier insult to Bender that he could “disappear and no one would notice.”

Bender then sneaks back into the library and the healing begins, courtesy of a kind of psychoanalysis, introspection, and the critical analysis of the forces arrayed each and every one of them. For instance, Andrew comes to understand that he is controlled by his father, whose desire to have a successful son. “I’m a race horse,” and the implication is: who is made to run. Brian is pressured for grades. Allison is, in her own words, “ignored” by her parents. Bender is physically abused, and Claire is used by her parents as a weapon of emotional manipulation.

These stories may again tempt one to think that this kids stuff. Ringwald asks “Are we going to turn out like our parents,” which focuses the problem as one of parental pressure. This is what drives Brian to contemplate suicide after all, and Bender’s dad clearly beats him.

But to construe the breakfast club as a young person’s movie misses the point. All of these issues are serious adult issues. Domestic abuse, marital strife, they’re all problems for anyone, its just that the people experiencing them happen to be kids. Presumptively, Bender’s mom suffers just as much as Bender as she is depicted by him as being beaten by his father.

In any case, the point in my mind is wider. The Breakfast Club could be said to be just about kids in the way that a mistaken interpretation of Warm Bodies could be said to be about zombies. In the latter film, the metaphor is clearly that we can all be zombies and that we could all use renewed contact with other people. The point in the breakfast club is the same too. From an early age, we find ourselves enmeshed in networks of bullshittery. This is Bender’s target: the networks of social power, pressure, institutional abuse, parental abuse, wealth (when he fires a broadside at Claire for having diamond earrings), sexual repression (a huge theme that I’ve basically ignored in this essay). Everything is fair game and the cure is radical individualism. Bender is outraged that Claire would talk about his friends and shows his commitment to being friends with anyone he damn well chooses. And perhaps a further lesson is that to break down the unseen walls of status, popularity, and political power, one must be a little bit of a criminal. Completely unallied with the forces that fix us into boxes.

At the end, everyone transforms, partially due to Bender’s leadership and intervention, partially due to their own honesty. Notice however that the final catharsis is dancing, which is again very Nietzschean (“And we should consider every day lost on which we have not danced at least once”). When Bender fist pumps at the sky at the iconic end of the movie to the tune of “Don’t Forget About Me” by Simple Minds, he is celebrating a triumph over the creeping forces of “civilization” when that word is taken in its worst way. And insofar as Bender has triumphed, I believe the movie has too.


Optimism, Confidence, James Stockdale

Here’s a little forest of ideas I just wandered through.

First, I watched this movie.

Thea idea is pretty simpel and intuitive. People do better when they are optimistic. I agree with the overall point, but the issue is not optimism, it is confidence, and they are subtly different. I think confidence is a complex thing, but it is not an outlook and it is not faith, two things that I think get bled into optimism. Optimism is the tendency to look at a situation and to see the best in it, but that is not confidence. Confidence can along with someone who sees disaster lurking around every corner or in someone who thinks everyone will turn out right. Rather, action is a kind of knowledge, it is knowledge HOW to attack problems and perhaps knowledge THAT one has this attacking skill. It is the difference between “learned helplessness” and other hard-to-characterize psychological states that can overtake people when they do not see opportunities. People without confidence see certain actions as impossible or closed off. Someone without confidence may not start a business, even though they are eminently qualified to do so. They may not ask another person out, even though they are kind and attractive. Confidence then is a way to unfold the world as one of POSSIBILITIES FOR ACTION.

A chair offers the possibility of sitting and level, stable ground offers the prospect of walking. These are such banal actions that we don’t think about them, but confidence is just like these basic interactions with the world but amplified. Someone who is confidence knows that they can adapt to meet a challenge and persevere in the face of unseen obstacles.

So throw away optimism, I prefer to think about the trait being pointed at in this video as confidence, which is different than optimism.

So, all of this brings me to the Stockdale paradox. I read briefly about John Stockdale, one of the U.S. Navy’s greatest heroes, perhaps more heroic than John McCain (though comparisons of heroism are of course shallow). He was captured in Vietnam and survived all types of torture. He is one of the most highly decorated Naval officers of all time.

Anyway, there’s not really a paradox, but he expressed the view that people who thought they would be released went crazy. They were too optimistic, or FOOLISHLY optimistic. His view on the other hand was realistic. He knew his situation was terrible and disastrous. But he said this:

I never lost faith in the end of the story, I never doubted not only that I would get out, but also that I would prevail in the end and turn the experience into the defining event of my life, which, in retrospect, I would not trade.”

To me, this is absolutely critical, because it’s not just confidence. It’s not just that he never doubted he would succeed in resisting the brutal torture of the Viet Cong (take a minute to appreciate what kind of person has confidence like that). But not only that, he VALUED the experience. He didn’t just think things would turn out alright, rather, he thought things were alright, because he was in the midst of a defining and valuable life moment.

And now I’ll just make the point that I’ve been wanting to hone in on for many years now, which is that pain is good. I don’t mean that’s it good because it helps you do something else or focuses you. I mean it’s good, full stop. Excessive pain is not good, and it’s not good to inflict pain on others, but somehow or other, pain, tribulation, and difficulty, are all necessary ingredients to a good life. They unlock our potential, add confidence, and inject meaning.

Some have charged the view that I have just put forward as a misguided privileged view. A pseudo-philosophy that looks callously on the suffering of others. Not so. Concern for others is paramount and alleviating suffering is good. Doing these things is just another way that a life gains importance and meaning. We hear this point, in words remarkably similar to John Stockdale, a quote from Victor Frankl, a concentration camp survivor. Notice the similarity to the above quote.

Fundamentally, therefore, any  man can, even under such circumstances, decide what shall become of him — mentally and spiritually. He may retain his human dignity even in a concentration camp. Dostoevski said once, “There is only one thing that I dread: not to be worthy of my sufferings.” It is this spiritual freedom — which cannot be taken away — that makes life meaningful and purposeful.

If Frankl, a concentration camp survivor, can say with confidence, as he does throughout his book, that there was something valuable and liberating in his suffering, then I think there is something to that position.

The difficult is in saying why pain and suffering can contribute to a good life. Clearly if pain were good in the way that happiness is good, then we could help others by INFLICTING pain on them. But we know that is false. We do good only by alleviating pain and suffering. Still, I have the thought that pain is good because because it sets the conditions for a valuable activity. For instance, our ability to laugh is a condition on the activity of joking around with each other. Pain by contrast sets the condition for the activity of heroism. It is right and good to fight against pain, but if we were ever to fully end suffering in the world, completely nullify difficulty or frustration, then my claim is that we would have lost something. We would have lost, among other things, the possibility for heroism.

If we tore all the basketball hoops in the world down, we would lose the ability to play basketball (until we built some new ones obviously). If we ended pain, the same thing would happen. We would lose the ability for heroism.

We are thus in an interesting moral situation with regard to pain. We must make pain our enemy and strive against it, but we must never fully succeed. Of course, if we abolished pain, people might still want it in some cases. Maybe some runners would want some pain while they ran, to give them runners high, or complete the feeling of the activity taken as a whole. But pain paradoxically cannot serve its purpose if we can pull at it like a drug, streaming it only as we want it. The whole ability of pain’s function to ennoble us depends on the fact that it does NOT respond to our wishes. When we are put in a difficult situation, like being in Vietnam, we cannot choose to turn pain on and off at will. The heroism of Stockdale comes from the fact that he endured what was thrown at him. Not that he turned on a pain chip in his brain until he was done having enough pain.

In other words, I claim that morality sets the boundaries for what is an acceptable balance between pleasure and pain in the world. And looking at ordinary morality, this is not so strange. Pretend I can sacrifice in order to help someone, and that the person who I help will not feel pleasure to a degree greater than the pain I feel. But imagine the person I’m helping is badly off and I’m fairly well off. Ordinary morality requires my SACRIFICE. A utilitarian would claim I have no obligation. If my pain will not generate more pleasure than is lost by my efforts, I should not act. But ordinary morality contains the notion of sacrifice. It says I should help someone who is worse off if I am better off even if their gain does not outweigh my loss. If pain is bad, then this is hard to explain. If pain can be good in some cases, i.e., when I’m helping someone worse off then myself, it can be ennobling. And this is what we find.


Crisis Reasoning

I was running today, on Wilshire Blvd and Bundy, and I saw a man lose control of his three small dogs. He was an asian man and he chased after them, horrified. Then a car hit all three of them. Blood was on the street (though when I left, it seemed like they were all alive). The man picked up all of them in hands and hugged them to his chest. He cried out and I could see in dim light, the blood on his arms and body. He carried them to the side of the street and cried and shrieked. It was an arresting scene.

I was close by and wondered what I should do. I honestly did not know. I did not think cops would respond, I did not have a car to drive him somewhere. Others came up. Someone suggested an emergency dog hospital. Another got his car to help. Another hypothesized that the man was in shock. I waited in the small crowed to see what would be done and what could be done. Then I left.

I don’t think I did anything wrong in this circumstance, but I learned a lot about how I reason in surprising, intense situations. I don’t do that well. I thought of how I could help, but I didn’t get too far. Part of this was due to the fact that I did not have the tools or knowledge that would be helpful.  But I was also taken in by the presence of others (bystander effect) and also just a kind of weird inertia. I was disturbed while I tried to think about what to do, and my thinking had a thick, kind of underwater feeling.

In the future, I think I’m going to try to remind myself to think for 2 seconds about what my best response should be, and then I will try to execute that response. I think I should have at least asked the guy if he was ok. Somehow, in the moment, even that didn’t feel right.


the purpose of moral philosophy

I think most of philosophers ask themselves why their chosen field is valuable. We all feel that is valuable somehow, but showing why philosophy is valuable is ITSELF a philosophical task, by which I mean that appreciating the value of philosophy and explicating that value requires careful thinking and perhaps, a life long investment.

Recently, I’ve gotten a little closer to an explanation of the value of moral philosophy that satisfies me.

There are two parts to it. One part is an analogy that I recently heard about that I’m going to read about further. I was talking to a friend who was telling me about the game of “Go” and one of the game’s great players. This player had what we might call a strategy for winning, but in reality it was philosophy. His philosophy/strategy was that winning in Go was determined by which player had the greatest overall vision of the board. In other words, this player would not be overly concerned with mistakes here and there, giving up position or a few pieces. Instead, he built success out of how holistically he could envision his strategy.

Philosophy tells us, I think, that our lives are like this. It’s not about individual interactions. What we say to someone in anger, or what job we pursue or who we pursue. These are all important, but what matters the most for success, happiness, meaning — whatever you think life is about — is how you think of your general strategy overall.

The other thing I want to comment on is a difference between types of philosophy.

Philosophy has advanced a lot in terms of linguistic and logic. Not only did philosophy give us linguistics, which promises to help teach us about the brain, but it brought us computers. Both of these things have and will continue to have an enormous impact on the average person’s life. The reason that these disciplines can have such success is that their subject matter is impersonal. Studying logic, math, and language, can yield insights regardless of whether most people ever understand those insights. For example, I don’t understand (very well) how electricity works, but because electricity concerns matters of fact, advances in understanding it can benefit me (computers, lights, etc.) without me knowing how it all goes down.

Moral philosophy on the other hand does not study the external, impersonal world. It studies us. It studies how we create lives, deal with suffering, judge others, and refine our own conduct. Thus, it is my growing conviction that moral philosophy can deliver be anything unless it tries to teach ordinary people about the different ways overall plans that one can adopt for a life. What sorts of responsibility one should take.

Here’s an example. When I teach undergraduates, one of the most common things that will come up is selfishness. Most students say that people only do things that benefit the person his or herself. This seems like a natural starting point, but it’s dead wrong. The arguments in favor of treating human beings as essentially selfish I think are some of the worst in philosophy, and most philosophers have, in almost all cases, come to the opposite conclusion: that humans are deeply social creatures and depend, for their happiness and flourishing, on the hardships imposed on them by others and their desire to answer these hardships and alleviate the difficulties of others.

What all this means though is that philosophy of the moral variety cannot produce gains to human society unless it reaches out and touches popular culture and provides a model of how things can be different and how imagination and integrity can be part of everything one does.

Philosophy of science, and science more generally responds to nature (causality is the fundamental building block of scientific theories). If nature has gravity, then science can understand and perhaps harness that force. Just as humans have done with fire, electricity, and nuclear power.

Philosophy of life — ethics and its brethren generally — responds to humanity (thus, its fundamental relationships are those which cannot be reduced science, concepts like “action” and “reasons.”). The ongoing project of living introduces new challenges, oppression, exploitation, excellence, and moral philosophy, when it is on the cutting edge, tries to keep up.


What do people think about Alex Jones on Piers Morgan?

I’m really interested in what people think about this debate between Piers Morgan and Alex Jones.

I thought Piers Morgan was generally right in the sense that his DEMEANOR and COMPORTMENT were right. I thought he stayed calm and civil. That’s not easy to do and it’s a victory when one is interested in coming up with a good plan.

I do think it’s odd that Morgan decided to have Jones on his show. As far as I can tell, Jones is one hair away from being a lunatic. I’m not sure if it’s a gracious move to give a voice to someone with so little to say or if it’s foolhardy to invite someone without argument in to an arena that badly needs to be more thoughtful and more deliberative. Was Piers Morgan just looking for the worst representative of the pro-gun side?

I also think it was a little patronizing for Piers Morgan to claim that it was a debate that he wanted, but he wanted to just ask questions that were kind of leading. I think it would have been better if he had just tried to put out a positive view about why the gun control restrictions he supports would have merit.

Jones had a video after the interview talking about his harassment by various security personnel. If such things happened, it’s a shame. That’s just garbage. There’s no need for it.

I didn’t get much from the arguments though. “Gun violence is down” was the big statistic that Jones was pointing to, but that doesn’t really tell us anything, because the question is whether gun crime would go down further if intelligent laws were put in place. Also, the risk of tyranny or disarmament is hugely overblown. There are so many guns in America already that disarmament would fail, and the fact that so many people are worried about disarmament means that democratically, such a measure would be impossible, and it seems, dangerous to carry out. Thus, we’re at no risk of being prevented from resisting a Hitler state should it come about. Our choice now then is between keeping the status quo or adjusting it in some way.

Then again, Piers Morgan’s statistics weren’t really that helpful either. He never said why closing the gun show regulation or whatever would help.


Games and Civilization

I recently read Jane Mcgonigal’s book titled Reality is Broken. Unbelievably, I’ve misplaced my copy and so am without my notes for this short post.

What I want to focus on is a remark that McGonigal makes about scale. Her point is that scale is not what we think it is. It’s natural to think that if five molecules behave a certain way, then fifteen molecules will behave in a similar way, just with more molecules to take into account. The rules get more complex but the rules themselves don’t change.

She talks at points as if physics shows this to be false. That at higher levels of scale, there are new emergent properties that would not be predicted by just taking the laws for a lower scale of interaction and just account for more things. I don’t know about physics and her reference is obscure and offhand, so I can’t speak to that analogy. What I want to do is to think about how civilization fundamentally changes at each stage of it’s evolution so that ideas and rules that were applicable to one part of it at one time are no longer applicable at a later part or later time.

Applicable is a vague word, but I mainly mean that solutions for certain social problems become unworkable as things change. It’s hard for me to find an example that makes the case once and for all. But take a broad view. The ways of organizing a small society, like a tribe or a clan, involve face to face problem solving, kinship relations, a very uncomplicated economy, etc. When you move from this, to something different, like a city-state, a lot of things don’t work. For example, justice requires the codification of laws, division of labor (to a meager extent), and full time political offices.

Humankind, in my mind, seems to be incapable, just horribly incapable, of keeping up with the pace of our living, of our own society. I’m tempted to think the root cause is our two systems of thinking. Humor me. We have an intuitive system of thought that rushes to judgment. See Daniel Kahnemann for more evidence, but at root, we like fatty foods, sex, we automatically approve of our own action, we see the concerns of others as less important, again ETC. We can combat all these tendencies, but it isn’t easy, and I think that these individual cognitive facts are mirrored in the way society works. Society is great at getting better music, sexier celebrities, cooler cars, gadgets, more power for the powerful. These things take care of themselves and no one, in the history of the world, has had to focus on making sure the powerful can defend themselves. No one needs to worry that the present is shortchanging itself in order to help the future. In fact, global warming shows us that we are obsessed with the present and may, organizationally, be unable to deal with what’s coming. It seems it will always be privileged.

There are other examples. The phrase “we’re always fighting the last war” is instructive. Even war, one of the most important concerns of a modern state, always lags behind. It’s partly incompetence and partly complexity. Who would have guessed that the U.S. traditional military dominance would result in people willing to blow themselves up. We’re always fighting the last war, and we’re always solving the last problem. In other words, I think we’re always woefully behind what our intuitive, automatic, unthinking societal forces create. We created the internet and it has huge legal implications. It changes how we gather intelligence, how privacy works, what IP is, and what property rules are applicable. We are way behind in addressing these issues in terms of clear thinking. We’re waiting to catch up.

One more example. We’re worried about what violent video games are doing to children. Some analogize this to the effects of TV or rap lyrics. Yes and no. If we think the analogy is perfect, then we will be fighting the last war. What I mean is that we will think that video games effect people in the same way as violent movies or lyrics. But it’s subtly different. For proof, just look at the fact that school shooters who are influenced by video games often kill themselves, whereas people from the TV generation didn’t usually suicide after their crimes. There are probably deeper differences. The right thing to do would be to adjust our social science, tweak our thinking, and come up with a new way to respond that involved reducing bullying, increasing mental health services, possibly gun control or at least better enforcement of laws we already have. We wont’ do any of those things. We may slowly adjust all of those things in the next 15 to 20 years. But for now, we can only crawl forward.

McGonigal’s point is that we’re facing a new scale to human problems. The instantaneously massive. Problems that cross geographic boundaries, social science disciplines, and defy easy solutions. To solve these problems, we must become more collaborative on a new scale. And here McGonigal really has a point. Wikipedia is a massive reproduction and systemization of human knowledge. It can be improved, but it’s already very good. She has examples about how game players can help fold proteins and create massive edifices of functionality and knowledge. Knowledge that is alive with it’s own use and pregnant with it’s own application. Her example is video games like world of warcraft in which the players have an entire economy, solve collective world problems, and develop idioms, ways of interacting, and codes of conduct — the micro rules that make all societies run but are almost impossible to catch in a sentence, a law, or a movement. This is a good point and she may be right that we need to evolve better, more massive, more complete systems of cooperation.

My one criticism though is that more and more coordination will only get us so far. Beyond coordination is genuine cooperation, valuing, and striving. We have to pick our priorities, seize decisively on mistakes and errors, and work to improve things as we see them. None of this can be accomplished by mere world-of-warcraftization. World of warcraft takes place within a somewhat free liberal society, and it is those values that make it playable, and our games will replicate the flawed, never-quite-there sickness of human civilization until we solve the problem of values first.

Of course, we will never solve the problem of values. They will always be in flux and being contested, and this is exactly what makes life so enjoyable. The game we play with each other when we try to build a company, raise a family, or paint a picture is INFINITELY complex. Some games get boring because you learn their internal logic and you become tired with the repetition. Human life though, FOR THE VERY REASON THAT WE CAN NEVER SOLVE IT COMPLETELY, is always fresh and new. It’s always challenging us and we usually feel like meeting that challenge.



I don’t think reality is broken

I’m reading a book right now called Reality Is Broken by Jane (?) Mcgonigal. My parents saw her lecture and her book is about how we need to gamify our world. In other words, to use games to help us be happier and more productive.

The book has some really interesting psychology behind it, and I love video games and so naturally gravitate towards a writer who knows the games she’s using as examples.

I am very interested in the philosophy of games and not necessarily the psychology. For instance, M is concerned with how games make us happy. She introduces the italian word Fiero which is like pride, but something different. We don’t have a good english equivalent, but games are supposed to help us achieve this state. I agree that games do this, but the benefit of games is not in terms of how they can be used to make us feel a certain way. Sometimes I recoil at her instrumental language, as if we just need to gamify everything in our life. At one point she says that games can help the elderly “feel” connected to the world. I think she means that in a good way, but I can’t help hearing it as a kind of accommodation. The elderly should not be made to feel better, they should be made better off and their feeling better will follow from being better.

Games for me are not just fun. They are a particular type of rational creativity. McGonigal thinks reality is broken because it doesn’t reward us in the same clear ways that games do. Thus reality stresses us out but games put us in the “zone” where we are fully activated as agents. This activation is crucial, but we should not think that this means that reality is broken. Rather, reality is the fundamental and inescapable game that we all play and love it so much that we don’t stop playing it even when some philosophers try to tell us that determinism makes it useless to act and that there is no way we could ever be in touch with the “true” external world. We absolutely LOVE reality. In fact, look at the evidence. Video games are not becoming more and more addictive by helping us leave reality or by simplifying.

Take two examples. Massively multiplayer games and the morality systems of games that have not ever been fully successfully implemented. Games get better by making them MORE like ordinary social life with all it’s frustration and pain and rewards. The morality system may never be able to be implemented in a game because the fun of playing the game of morality involves there to be certain things at stake, namely, other people’s feelings. Games can change what happens based on what we do, and so, in a sense, can have an ersatz morality mechanic. But since our actions, IN SINGLE PLAYER GAMES AT LEAST, can never be fully moral, insofar as we realize that aren’t interacting with real humans who have interest. Of course, we often don’t take into account the fact that we’re dealing with non-humans, because as many experiments have shown, humans have an irresistable psychlogical urge to treat things that look like humans as real humans. Kids shown robotic people impute thoughts and emotions to those things. Also, think about how you cringe when someone shakes a dog angrily. Now think of someone shaking a camera. You don’t care right? But take something in the middle, like a robotic dog that yelps when it’s hurt. If someone “hurts” this dog, you will be perturbed. If you’re not, then you are most likely a psychopath (a leading indicator of psychopathy is an insensitivity to the pain of animals, and for the purposes of our crudely rational mind, a robotic dog is a dog).

Thus, video games with morality systems are very popular, and more research is being done as to how to add these features realistically to games because morality is for real life is like money is for poker. Poker without money and real life without morality is comparatively boring. Thus, we’ll never be able, in my mind, to make a game as exciting and rewarding and enriching as moral life.*

Of course, morality could be as enriching as reality if we could make games simulate morality. Say, if you hit someone in a game, they would feel pain. If that was the case, then the game would be as thrilling/interesting/enrich as reality, but then, this would just BE moral reality. If your actions have consequences for other people, you are back in a situation involving moral reasoning.

*I take this back. Online multiplayer games already DO have moral elements. If you steal someone’s treasure from a raid or insult them in a form, you DO hurt that person. You take part of the fun from them or you make them look bad. You can’t physically hurt someone in world of warcraft or EVE, but that doesn’t meant there aren’t moral elements in play. I guess my point is only that SINGLE player games with moral systems will always be imperfect. There are no moral interests at stake because there are no people involved. One is only put in MORAL SIMULATIONS of something, like “should I kill this guard or only stun him?” That’s a moral type of situation, but there is no actual morality at stake.