Via Ilkka, I came across a bunch of philosophy games. Battleground God didn’t work, so I’ve just done morality play, which checks how parsimonious one’s conception of morality is. The two main types of questions were of obligation and responsibility. I don’t believe in the former, but I do believe in the latter (even with no free will we can still consider someone a causal actor and hold them responsible because we find it desirable to do so). I did have some issues with the test that I’d like to explain before giving my results below the fold. On question 15 I would have liked to say that there is no obligation to save either your own child or the ten others, but was not given that option. To decide between the two I took into account that parents are considered legal guardians of their own children, but not 1/10th that of others. On question 14 the obvious thing to have done rather than shell out more money for another drink is just not to send anything at all or perhaps a note saying “Happy birthday, I hate you, please die”. If you are aware that sending the poisoned drink will kill the person and you decide to do it anyways, that seems a clear case of homicide.

Analysis

Your Moral Parsimony Score is 67%

What does this mean?

Moral frameworks can be more or less parsimonious. That is to say, they can employ a wide range of principles, which vary in their application according to circumstances (less parsimonious) or they can employ a small range of principles which apply across a wide range of circumstances without modification (more parsimonious). An example might make this clear. Let’s assume that we are committed to the principle that it is a good to reduce suffering. The test of moral parsimony is to see whether this principle is applied simply and without modification or qualification in a number of different circumstances. Supposing, for example, we find that in otherwise identical circumstances, the principle is applied differently if the suffering person is from a different country to our own. This suggests a lack of moral parsimony because a factor which could be taken to be morally irrelevant in an alternative moral framework is here taken to be morally relevant.

How to interpret your score

The higher your percentage score the more parsimonious your moral framework. In other words, a high score is suggestive of a moral framework that comprises a minimal number of moral principles that apply across a range of circumstances and acts. What is a high score? As a rule of thumb, any score above 75% should be considered indicative of a parsimonious moral framework. However, perhaps a better way to think about this is to see how your score compares to other people’s scores.

In fact, your score of 67% is not significantly different than the average score of 64%. This suggests that you have utilised an average number of moral principles in order to make judgements about the scenarios presented in this test, and that you have tended to judge similar aspects of the acts and circumstances depicted here to be morally relevant as other people.Moral Parsimony – good or bad?

We make no judgement about whether moral parsimony is a good or bad thing. Some people will think that on balance it is a good thing and that we should strive to minimise the number of moral principles that form our moral frameworks. Others will suspect that moral parsimony is likely to render moral frameworks simplistic and that an overly parsimonious moral framework will leave us unable to deal with the complexity of real circumstances and acts. We’ll leave it up to you to decide who is right.

How was your score calculated?

Your score was calculated by combining and averaging your scores in the four categories that appear below.

Geographical Distance

This category has to do with the impact of geographical distance on the application of moral principles. The idea here is to determine whether moral principles are applied equally when dealing with sets of circumstances and acts that differ only in their geographical location in relation to the person making the judgement.

Your score of 100% is significantly higher than the average score of 72% in this category.

The suggestion then is that geographical distance plays little, if any, role in your moral thinking.

Family Relatedness

In this category, we look at the impact of family loyalty and ties on the way in which moral principles are applied. The idea here is to determine whether moral principles are applied without modification or qualification when you’re dealing with sets of circumstances and acts that differ only in whether the participants are related through family ties to the person making the judgement.

Your score of 67% is a lot higher than the average score of 52% in this category.

However, despite the fact that issues of family relatedness are less significant to you as a moral factor than to most other people who have taken this test, your score is low enough so that it might be supposed that they still play some role in your moral thinking. To the extent that they do, the parsimoniousness of your moral framework is reduced.

Acts and Omissions

This category has to do with whether there is a difference between the moral status of acting and omitting to act where the consequences are the same in both instances. Consider the following example. Let’s assume that on the whole it is a bad thing if a person is poisoned whilst drinking a cola drink. One might then ask whether there is a moral difference between poisoning the coke, on the one hand (an act), and failing to prevent a person from drinking a coke someone else has poisoned, when in a position to do so, on the other (an omission). In this category then, the idea is to determine if moral principles are applied equally when you’re dealing with sets of circumstances that differ only in whether the participants have acted or omitted to act.

Your score of 2% is much lower than the average score of 61% in this category.

This suggests that the difference between acting and omitting to act is a relevant factor in your moral framework. Usually, this will mean thinking that those who act have greater moral culpability than those who simply omit to act. To insist on a moral distinction between acting and omitting to act is to decrease the parsimoniousness of your moral framework.

Scale

This category has to do with whether scale is a factor in making moral judgements. A simple example will make this clear. Consider a situation where it is possible to save ten lives by sacrificing one life. Is there a moral difference between this choice and one where the numbers of lives involved are different but proportional – for example, saving 100 lives by sacrificing ten? In this category then, the idea is to determine whether moral principles are applied without modification or qualification when you’re dealing with sets of circumstances that differ only in their scale, as in the sense described above.

Your score of 100% is significantly higher than the average score of 72% in this category.

It seems that scale, as it is described above, is not an important consideration in your moral worldview. But if, contrary to our findings, it is important, then it decreases the parsimoniousness of your moral framework.

India and Australia

In Question 13 you were asked the following: You see an advertisement from a charity in a newspaper about a person in severe need in Australia. You can help this person at little cost to yourself. Are you morally obliged to do so?

However, fifty percent of people undertaking this activity are asked a slightly different question, where the country India is substituted for the country Australia. The idea is to determine what kind of impact “culural distance” has on the moral judgements that people make. The important point here is that the vast majority of people who visit this web site are from the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. Consequently, in a comparison of the lives and lifestyles of TPM Online visitors, residents of India and residents of Australia, there will be bigger cultural differences between TPM Online visitors and residents of India than between TPM Online visitors and residents of Australia. Of course, whether a perception of cultural differences will enter into moral judgements, and if so, what its impact will be is entirely a matter of conjecture at this point. Indeed, whatever results we find here, they will only ever be suggestive of further avenues of enquiry. This aspect of the activity is simply not rigorous enough that it will be possible to draw definitive conclusions. It will nevertheless be interesting!

The Results

  • 26% of respondents who were asked about a person in severe need in Australia responded that they were stongly obliged to help. This is exactly the same as the percentage who responded this way when asked about a person living in India.
  • 43% of respondents who were asked about a person in severe need in Australia responded that they were weakly obliged to help. This is exactly the same as the percentage who responded this way when asked about a person living in India.
  • 31% of respondents who were asked about a person in severe need in Australia responded that they were not obliged to help. This is exactly the same as the percentage who responded this way when asked about a person living in India.

In Depth Analysis

To date, 62523 people have undertaken this activity.

Question 1: You pass someone in the street who is in severe need and you are able to help them at little cost to yourself. Are you morally obliged to do so?

You answered: Not Obliged.

  • 11% of your age group agreed with you.
  • 9% of women agreed with you.
  • 15% of men agreed with you.
  • Overall, 12% of respondents gave the same answer to this question as you.

Question 2: You have a brother. You know that someone has been seriously injured as a result of criminal activity undertaken by him. You live in a country where the police are generally trustworthy. Are you morally obliged to inform them about your brother’s crime?

You answered: Not Obliged.

  • 21% of your age group agreed with you.
  • 16% of women agreed with you.
  • 23% of men agreed with you.
  • Overall, 20% of respondents gave the same answer to this question as you.

Question 3: Do you think that assisting the suicide of someone who wants to die – and has requested help – is morally equivalent to allowing them to die by withholding medical assistance (assuming that the level of suffering turns out to be identical in both cases)?

You answered: No.

  • 51% of your age group agreed with you.
  • 52% of women agreed with you.
  • 49% of men agreed with you.
  • Overall, 49% of respondents gave the same answer to this question as you.

Question 4: You are able to help some people. Unfortunately, you can only do so by harming other people. The number of people harmed will always be 10 percent of those helped. When considering whether it is morally justified to help does the actual number of people involved make any difference? For example, does it make a difference if you are helping ten people by harming one person rather than helping 100,000 people by harming 10,000 people?

You answered: No.

  • 54% of your age group agreed with you.
  • 53% of women agreed with you.
  • 61% of men agreed with you.
  • Overall, 56% of respondents gave the same answer to this question as you.

Question 5: You own an unoccupied property. You are contacted by a refugee group which desperately needs somewhere to house a person seeking asylum who is being unjustly persecuted in a foreign country. Your anonymity is assured. You have every reason to believe that no harm will come to your property. Are you morally obliged to allow them to use your property?

You answered: Not Obliged.

  • 29% of your age group agreed with you.
  • 28% of women agreed with you.
  • 33% of men agreed with you.
  • Overall, 30% of respondents gave the same answer to this question as you.

Question 6: A charity collection takes place in your office. For every UK£10.00 given, a blind person’s sight is restored. Instead of donating UK£10.00, you use the money to treat yourself to a cocktail after work. Are you morally responsible for the continued blindness of the person who would have been treated had you made the donation?

You answered: Not Responsible.

  • 38% of your age group agreed with you.
  • 36% of women agreed with you.
  • 46% of men agreed with you.
  • Overall, 40% of respondents gave the same answer to this question as you.

Question 7: Someone you have never met needs a kidney transplant. You are one of the few people who can provide the kidney. Would any moral obligation to provide the kidney be greater if this person were a cousin rather than a non-relative?

You answered: No.

  • 42% of your age group agreed with you.
  • 42% of women agreed with you.
  • 48% of men agreed with you.
  • Overall, 44% of respondents gave the same answer to this question as you.

Question 8: You can save the lives of a thousand patients by cancelling one hundred operations that would have saved the lives of a hundred different patients. Are you morally obliged to do so??

You answered: No.

  • 56% of your age group agreed with you.
  • 59% of women agreed with you.
  • 55% of men agreed with you.
  • Overall, 56% of respondents gave the same answer to this question as you.

Question 9: Are your moral obligations to people in your own country or community stronger than those to people in other countries and communities (assuming no unusual circumstances – for example, suffering because of famine – in either your own country/community or other countries/communities)?

You answered: No.

  • 52% of your age group agreed with you.
  • 51% of women agreed with you.
  • 52% of men agreed with you.
  • Overall, 50% of respondents gave the same answer to this question as you.

Question 10: You deliberately sabotage a piece of machinery in your work place so that when someone next uses it there will be an accident which will result in that person losing the use of their legs. Are you morally responsible for their injury?

You answered: Responsible.

  • 92% of your age group agreed with you.
  • 94% of women agreed with you.
  • 93% of men agreed with you.
  • Overall, 91% of respondents gave the same answer to this question as you.

Question 11: You know the identity of someone who has committed a serious crime resulting in a person being badly injured. Are you morally obliged to reveal their identity to an appropriate authority so that they are dealt with justly?

You answered: Not Obliged.

  • 8% of your age group agreed with you.
  • 5% of women agreed with you.
  • 11% of men agreed with you.
  • Overall, 8% of respondents gave the same answer to this question as you.

Question 12: You can save the lives of ten innocent people by killing one other innocent person. Are you morally obliged to do so?

You answered: No.

  • 66% of your age group agreed with you.
  • 72% of women agreed with you.
  • 68% of men agreed with you.
  • Overall, 68% of respondents gave the same answer to this question as you.

Question 13: You see an advertisement from a charity in a newspaper about a person in severe need in Australia. You can help this person at little cost to yourself. Are you morally obliged to do so?

You answered: Not Obliged.

  • 27% of your age group agreed with you.
  • 27% of women agreed with you.
  • 35% of men agreed with you.
  • Overall, 30% of respondents gave the same answer to this question as you.

Question 14: You are required to send a person a gift, and you have bought a bottle of drink to send to them. However, you discover it is poison and if consumed will cause blindness in the drinker. To replace it with a non-contaminated bottle will cost you UK£10.00. You give the poisoned drink as a gift anyway. Are you morally responsible for the blindness of the drinker?

You answered: Responsible.

  • 91% of your age group agreed with you.
  • 94% of women agreed with you.
  • 91% of men agreed with you.
  • Overall, 90% of respondents gave the same answer to this question as you.

Question 15: A situation arises where you can either save your own child from death or contact the emergency services in order to save the lives of ten other children. You cannot do both, and there is no way to save everyone. Which course of action are you morally obliged to follow?

You answered: Save your own child.

  • 69% of your age group agreed with you.
  • 75% of women agreed with you.
  • 68% of men agreed with you.
  • Overall, 69% of respondents gave the same answer to this question as you.

Question 16: You can save the lives of ten patients by cancelling one operation which would have saved the life of a different patient. Are you morally obliged to do so?

You answered: No.

  • 51% of your age group agreed with you.
  • 52% of women agreed with you.
  • 52% of men agreed with you.
  • Overall, 51% of respondents gave the same answer to this question as you.

Question 17: You own an unoccupied property. You are contacted by a welfare organisation which desperately needs somewhere to house a person from a nearby town who is being unjustly persecuted. Your anonymity is assured. You have every reason to believe that no harm will come to your property. Are you morally obliged to allow them to use your property?

You answered: Not Obliged.

  • 26% of your age group agreed with you.
  • 26% of women agreed with you.
  • 32% of men agreed with you.
  • Overall, 29% of respondents gave the same answer to this question as you.

Question 18: You become aware that a piece of machinery in your workplace is faulty and that if it is not repaired then there will soon be an accident which will result in someone losing the use of their legs. Despite knowing that nobody else is aware of the fault, you take no action. Shortly afterwards, the accident occurs, and someone does lose the use of their legs. Are you morally responsible for their injury?

You answered: Not Responsible.

  • 5% of your age group agreed with you.
  • 3% of women agreed with you.
  • 6% of men agreed with you.
  • Overall, 5% of respondents gave the same answer to this question as you.

Question 19: You can save the lives of a million innocent people by killing a hundred thousand others. Are you morally obliged to do so?

You answered: No.

  • 66% of your age group agreed with you.
  • 71% of women agreed with you.
  • 66% of men agreed with you.
  • Overall, 67% of respondents gave the same answer to this question as you.

UPDATE: I figure I might as well give my other responses to games that work. On the Matrix/Strange New World I’m an anti-skeptic: the “real” world simulating mine is as unreal to me as the virtual worlds created within mine, perhaps to an even lesser degree as I may play with some of the latter.

Staying Alive:

Congratulations! According to one theory of personal identity, you have survived!

You chose:
Round 1: Take me to the teletransporter!
Round 2: I’ll take the silicon!
Round 3: Freeze me!

There are basically three kinds of things which could be required for the continued existence of your self. One is bodily continuity, which actually may require only parts of the body to stay in existence (e.g., the brain). Another is psychological continuity, which requires, for the continued existence of the self, the continuance of your consciousness, by which is meant your thoughts, ideas, memories, plans, beliefs and so on. And the third possibility is the continued existence of some kind of immaterial part of you, which might be called the soul. It may, of course, be the case that a combination of one or more types of these continuity is required for you to survive.

Your choices are consistent with the theory known as psychological reductionism. On this view, all that is required for the continued existence of the self is psychological continuity. Your three choices show that this is what you see as central to your sense of self, not any attachment to a particular substance, be it your body, brain or soul. However, some would say that you have not survived at all, but fallen foul of a terrible error. In the teletransporter case, for example, was it really you that travelled to Mars or is it more correct to say that a clone or copy of you was made on Mars, while you were destroyed?

So you think you’re logical: Yes, I am. Since there are correct and incorrect answers, I will not here display my correct ones, but I will link to them.

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