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The thought occurs that I have the mind of a mathematician.. I mean, I've always known that, but every now and again it becomes really obvious. I guess one of the issues is that I have something of a black and white view of certain things.

To me, there are two sets of circumstances. One where something is acceptable, one where it is not. If there are two individual circumstances along a spectrum that are acceptable, then all intermediate points should be acceptable. Morality follows straight(ish) lines, not curves that go negative at random.

For example, on Friday I have a meeting in London, for which I need the company to buy me a train ticket. I thought it best if I asked nicely if I could have the return from Cardiff (where I live) rather than Bristol (where I work). The thinking is that the company does not pay me to get from Cardiff to Bristol on any other day, so why should they on this day?

But specifically, the point is this.. What if I said "Oh, I'm in Edinburgh the night before, I'll have a return from there"? It's an extreme instance, but it's still the same sort of situation.

After all, if it's wrong to kill 10,000 people, it's wrong to kill 1 person - the situations are the same but for the magnitude. Of course, maybe you have a good reason, but then that's a different equation, which should still hold in the case of 10,000 people. i.e.:

(1) Kill 1 person to save 2
(2) Kill 10,000 people to save 20,000

If (1) is acceptable, then (2) should be acceptable. So therefore, if adding 500 miles to my journey to this meeting is unacceptable, then adding 40 miles to it is also unacceptable, and I should ask permission first.

Of course, the people at work laughed, and told me that of course the ticket would run from Cardiff. But I still don't think it's the sort of thing I should assume.

It's for this reason that I regularly fulfil Godwin's Law (the theory that as the length of a conversation online tends towards infinity, the probability that the Nazis or Hitler will be mentioned approaches 1). A reference to the Nazis is always an extreme case, but often an extreme case proves a valid point. There are many arguments where one person's point of view might conceivably excuse the holocaust, if taken to the extreme cases. Such a point of view is therefore probably wrong. For a rule to work, it needs to work in all equivalent situations, regardless of magnitude..

Anyway, just a thought..


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