Adam and Eve: a Thought Experiment Essay

1520 WordsMay 8, 20127 Pages
To simplify the relation between desire and morality, and between personal and moral good, we can imagine a world of only two people; let us call them Adam and Eve, for the sake of tradition. This gives us two types of personal good: good for Adam and good for Eve. What is good for Adam (or Eve) is what tends to realise his or her desires in general, and, where desires conflict, realises the desires that are stronger in the long-term. A benevolent and omniscient observer - let's call him Snake out of perversity - could therefore draw up two plans of action, one which is good for Adam and one which is good for Eve. However, at this point, Snake must choose sides, since obviously these goods are not always compatible. It is here that Snake must evolve into a moral being, since he must find a way to choose between good-for-Adam and good-for-Eve in order to produce a general good (even though we have not really decided what the general good might involve yet). One method which Snake may choose is to treat Adam and Eve as essentially one person, bundling all their desires together, then applying a kind of calculus of desire, i.e. desires which are stronger in the long run win out over weaker or more transient desires. For example, if there is only one apple left on a tree, and both Adam and Eve want it, but Eve wants it more, then Snake will recommend that Eve eat the apple (not that apple, of course). However, this is complicated by the fact that Adam and Eve are not really the same person, and Adam will now feel hard done by. Adam now has a moral sense, in that he perceives that since there is no reason why Eve's desires should take precedence over his, a situation in which Eve's desires are realised and his are not is somehow wrong; it frustrates not only his basic desires, but also his values (i.e. his opinions about which desires should be realised). Snake would

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