Strategies for Suckers (forthcoming)

Yet another imaginary project post. When someone spends more time on imaginary projects than actual projects, this must say something about them. I don’t exactly know what though and I dread to know. So don’t tell me. 

While reading a chapter of Shafer-Landau’s The Fundamentals of Ethics, I ran into a wonderful title for a hypothetical book on ethics. The chapter is on Social Contract Theory (SC). In a (very rough and really small) nutshell SC says that in order to avoid a state of nature scenario (where each one looks out for oneself and there is no morality) people consent to tacit or explicit (moral or legal) contracts which require them to sacrifice some of their freedoms in exchange for the benefits and relative safety of structured social life. The idea is that we are mostly self-interested assholes who will rationally cooperate with one another for these benefits but only on the condition that others do so as well. According to SC if others do not make the same sacrifices then you are not obligated to do them either; and if you do you’re a sucker. At least in this very superficial treatment of the theory.

Keeping silent while the other prisoner rats on you, refraining from using steroids when everyone else is using them, avoiding using violence when everyone else is, and other such acts which, while virtuous leave one worse off, are defined as “strategies for suckers.” Well they seem to me like good strategies and genuinely moral. If you are that sucker who is letting three people who claim to have only one item pass before you in the store’s cash register line, the one sucker who respectfully waits while everyone else just rushes in pushing one another to get on the bus, the sucker who goes to every appointment half an hour early and waits for an hour for everyone to come etc., raise your hand! ✋🏻

So anyway I thought this would be a good title for a book. We could list all those scenarios where we’re being suckers and maybe say why it is not OK to be an ass just because everyone else is and some such.


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