Exploration of ethical theory via toilet seat ettiquette

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Exploration of ethical theory via toilet seat ettiquette

Postby MysticWav » Fri Feb 01, 2013 10:49 am

A bit of background. I work in a male dominated office, but with several women working there as well. The office has unisex bathrooms that we all share. Every so often one of the female employees will blast an indignant company-wide e-mail insisting that everyone make sure the toilet seat is left down.

Though I always do so myself, this got me to thinking whether or not this was a reasonable request. I haven't crunched the numbers, but I posited a scenario where at a certain ratio of men to women, and a certain ratio where trips are for urination alone, and for a certain percentage of men that prefer to stand to urinate, you are more likely to accomodate the next person to use the rest room by leaving the seat up and thus the men should indignantly tell the women to make sure to leave the seat up. (Utilitarianism?)

But then I thought under such a scenario the inconvenience, while minimized overall, falls disproportionately on women since they will be inconvenienced at a rate many times that of men (every time, as opposed to for men at a ratio equiavlent to the #1 to #2 ratio). So maybe leaving the seat up is the wrong call. But you run into a similar situation if you insist the seat be left down, as in that case men will be incovnenienced at a rate many times that of women, though not quite the same ratio.

So maybe the answer is to leave it as you used it? Flip a coin? Leave it up at a 45 degree angle?

Then of course there are cultural norms. Regardless of actuall inconvenience calculations is the right answer just to follow the traditional toilet set down because it is expected?
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Re: Exploration of ethical theory via toilet seat ettiquette

Postby kais » Fri Feb 01, 2013 11:33 am

This "issue" has never made sense to me. It will take the same effort for the man to put the toilet seat up as it will for the woman. It seems logical to me that the toilet seat should simply be left in whatever configuration you happened to use it.

We basically have 4 scenarios:
A: first user wants it up, next user also wants it up
B: first user wants it up, next user wants it down
C: first user wants it down, next user also wants it up
D: first user wants it down, next user also wants it down

The proposed "always leave it down" rule will result in the following number of alterations to the configuration (a unit of effort)
A: 4, B: 2, C: 2, D: 0
My solution, "don't worry about it" will result in this, assuming it is down at the start of all cases. If it is up, the same values in reverse order are obtained.
A: 1, B: 2, C: 1, D: 0

Anyone got something to say against this? It is at worst equal in all cases.
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Re: Exploration of ethical theory via toilet seat ettiquette

Postby Globus » Fri Feb 01, 2013 2:10 pm

Kais, I'll have you know that your post is arrogant, sexist, and is devoid of all scraps of manner, and showcases well why you and your kind should never be allowed to decide in such questions. It is also logical, thought-out and clear, but nobody cares about that now, do they?

Also,
MysticWav wrote:Leave it up at a 45 degree angle?
Gah! It's the type of "compromise" that is only worse for all involved. It's like playing the Judgment of Solomon straight (1Kings 3:16-28), or as if the SI guys and the computer experts compromised about the meaning of the kilobyte - to have it be 1012 bytes.
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Re: Exploration of ethical theory via toilet seat ettiquette

Postby snowyowl » Fri Feb 01, 2013 2:19 pm

Well, there's the following paper on the subject: A Game Theoretic Approach To The Toilet Seat Problem.

Go read that paper. It is amazing.

Anyone got something to say against this? It is at worst equal in all cases.


I do. You're making the assumption that the cost of 1 unit of effort is the same no matter who bears it. This may not be the case. Someone who already puts in a lot of effort will object to being asked for even more, and suggest that someone else should pay instead.

To elaborate: a lot of countries attach a lot of importance to "equality" among their citizens. This might mean that we should prefer a situation where two people have 1 (non-transferable) unit of happiness each, to a situation where the first has 3 units and the second has none.

My proposed solution: Allow the man to leave the toilet seat up, but tally up the number of times this happens (or work out a monthly estimate), and have him pay 5 cents for each occurrence.
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Re: Exploration of ethical theory via toilet seat ettiquette

Postby Globus » Fri Feb 01, 2013 3:32 pm

snowyowl wrote:Well, there's the following paper on the subject: A Game Theoretic Approach To The Toilet Seat Problem.

Go read that paper. It is amazing.

It is amazing, and is beautifully presented. I actually don't see how I could add to it or fault it.
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Re: Exploration of ethical theory via toilet seat ettiquette

Postby Packbat » Fri Feb 01, 2013 6:42 pm

Globus wrote:
snowyowl wrote:Well, there's the following paper on the subject: A Game Theoretic Approach To The Toilet Seat Problem.

Go read that paper. It is amazing.

It is amazing, and is beautifully presented. I actually don't see how I could add to it or fault it.

The author fails to account for the reduction of negative environmental aroma effects associated with the lid-down strategy. Otherwise, sure.
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Re: Exploration of ethical theory via toilet seat ettiquette

Postby Globus » Fri Feb 01, 2013 8:12 pm

Packbat wrote:The author fails to account for the reduction of negative environmental aroma effects associated with the lid-down strategy. Otherwise, sure.

That is negligable, most toilets are in a different room than the rest of the house, and usually there are automatic air fresheners there too.
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Re: Exploration of ethical theory via toilet seat ettiquette

Postby Packbat » Fri Feb 01, 2013 11:56 pm

Globus wrote:
Packbat wrote:The author fails to account for the reduction of negative environmental aroma effects associated with the lid-down strategy. Otherwise, sure.

That is negligable, most toilets are in a different room than the rest of the house, and usually there are automatic air fresheners there too.

And they usually have fans venting to the outside. The upstairs toilet at my house (and the toilet in one friend's condo) is in a separate room, but lacks both air fresheners and venting fans.

So yeah, speaking from experience: not negligible.
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Re: Exploration of ethical theory via toilet seat ettiquette

Postby Merle » Tue Feb 05, 2013 8:58 am

My company's bathrooms are not unisex, so I may be biased, but from my perspective leaving the seats up is a better option.
Not only does it minimize the total amount of inconvenience, but it neatly avoids the potential problems stemming from men who want to urinate while standing but don't bother to lift the seat.

Once I wouldn't have expected to encounter that sort of problem outside of an elementary school, but I've learned better.

*edit* This changes if the toilets have actual lids rather than merely the half-seat.
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Re: Exploration of ethical theory via toilet seat ettiquette

Postby Alex Starkiller » Tue Feb 05, 2013 2:43 pm

Merle wrote:*edit* This changes if the toilets have actual lids rather than merely the half-seat.

Yes, actually, as if they have lids, closing them is actually sort of a health issue. When a toilet flushes, microscopic particles kind of shoot out into the room. Or so Time Stop has told me.
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