Cooperative Utilitarianism

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Cooperative Utilitarianism

Postby yboris on 2013-01-09T18:52:00

Have there been discussions of the idea of cooperative utilitarianism on Felificia?

"The basic idea [of Cooperative Utilitarianism] is that each agent should proceed in two steps: First he should identify the other agents who are willing and able to co-operate in the production of the best possible consequences. Then he should do his part in the best plan of behaviour for the group consisting of himself and the others so identified, in view of the behaviour of non-members of the group."

More here: ... anism.html

What are your thoughts on this?
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Re: Cooperative Utilitarianism

Postby Arepo on 2013-01-10T13:54:00

Don't think so. I agree with the third commenter - adding decision theory to utilitarianism + expected value calculations does nothing but muddy the waters, contra Occam's Razor.

For such a thought experiment as Chappell/Regan propose to have any relevance, we need more detail about the situation, like what information we have on the other participant, what they have on us (if we know that etc). Then we plug it all in, run an expected value calculation and in most cases opt for push (Certainly if we have no information, push has the highest expected utility of the strategies).

Then if need be we repeat the experiment a statistically sufficient number of times and see who’s got the most utility at the end. Either it will be the expected-utility-calculators, or it will be a draw (in which case the calculators will still have done marginally better since they'll have expended less energy to get to the same strategy).
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Re: Cooperative Utilitarianism

Postby peterhurford on 2013-01-10T18:39:00

Cooperative Utilitarianism doesn't seem new, it just grantd an awful lot of unnecessary sophistication to a specific and intuitive maxim, included in the text: "doing what would be best if everyone played their part is not necessarily to do what's actually best".

For example:

So, if Whiff and Poof both happen to not-push, then both have satisfied AU. Each, considered individually, has picked the best option available. But clearly this is insufficient: the two of them together have fallen into a bad equilibrium point, and hence not done as well as they (collectively) could have.

Likewise, this can be explained by another maxim that I made up: "considering what is best for you to do individually is not necessarily to do what's best". AU suggests you do the best possible act, and there was a better possible act for each of them (in coordination).

Basically, I don't think this is a novel insight. In the essay's defense, I don't think it's being presented as one. But it remains that both of these maxims should be obvious to any utilitarian. Or I'm missing something.
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Re: Cooperative Utilitarianism

Postby rehoot on 2013-02-10T01:16:00

It sounds like the prisoner's dillema, which might be important to study in small groups in well-defined situations--like what to do in a small boat when some people are runing to the left and some are running to the right (if people do the wrong thing, everybody drowns). As far as large-scale social problems, it would seem that the real problem is to identify how to determine the net "good" or net "bad" when there are many dissimilar, simultaneous outcomes (i.e., lack of a valid way to count things on a single scale).

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