A man watches with horror as a tree begins to fall onto the car containing his young son. He rushes to push it aside, but he hasn’t been exercising since college; his strength fails to move the tree, and his son dies as a result.

Going to work, the same man in a different universe quite clearly remembers dropping off his young son at the daycare, and so leaves his sleeping son in the car through the broiling summer day. This is, unfortunately, fatal.

Our first instinct, as a society, is to assign more blame to the latter man than to the former. It’s one thing if you just don’t have the strength, but surely anyone can remember something?

Well… no. Even if our brains were so convenient as to remember important things better than trivial matters, there’s lots of literature suggesting that, for example, willpower is a resource. On top of, say, indications that intelligence is to some extent inherent, even if it’s often overwhelmed by nurture-factors (not all of which are under the person’s control)…

Of course, this isn’t to suggest we stop holding people responsible. Purely on game theory grounds, that would be rather disastrous. But we should be aware that, in a rather D&D-esque fashion, we are judging people who “failed a will save”, whose intelligence-statistic simply wasn’t high enough for the situation – not someone who somehow chose, with something not their brain – their physical brain, affected by nutrients and genetics and early development – to ignore their “platonic self.”


4 thoughts on “INT, WIS, CHA

  1. I respect your argument, Geoffrey, but disagree with it completely. It is our responsibility (and especially mine, as a summoner) to hold people entirely responsible for their actions. People “make mistakes,” i.e. sin, by their own faults and actions and the only forgiveness they can get is through confession. It is my honorable duty to take these sinners to be punished, so I am very knowledgeable about this matter. Not having enough intelligence to not fault is no excuse for sinning: people must be punished by the Church and by the Higher Powers and must be brought to their punishment by important men like me. It is not in our right or power to forgive them scientifically; it all must be done by the Church (unless there is some money involved, of course…)

    • As a method of morality enforcement, this leaves much to be desired. For starters: quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Even if we assume that your colleagues and your superiors are entirely uncorrupt, there is the small matter that the Bible allows such silly things as slavery, and thus must be immediately rejected as an absolute source of morality.

      And if you’re going to think through your morals anyway, why bother with the Bible at all?

    • The fundamental idea is to model humanity as perfectly selfish, rational actors. This is not all that inaccurate an approximation: certainly, our monkeysphere includes our friends and our family, but beyond that we rarely have strong emotions one way or another. Rationality is a larger stretch, but people can be surprisingly rational when things are important.

      Given this, consider a universe where allowing a child to fry in the car was not explicitly illegal. Such a universe immediately faces the problem that it has no way to punish truly malicious and abusive parents, and some other offense must be found; such parents are also then more likely to act, since mistreating their child has become easier.

      (Though, having thought this through, this doesn’t sound like a very strong argument: it’s possible that the real reason the law exists is for signaling purposes, since removing it would be something of a PR disaster without quite a bit of leadup. Essentially: “Look, we care so much about kids we’re willing to punish a bunch of mostly-blameless parents!”)

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