Re: Defining Right and Wrong

From: Michael Roy Ames (
Date: Mon Nov 25 2002 - 18:23:00 MST

Dear Samantha,

You wrote:
> It [ethical/moral system] should be grounded in what is
> actually the best acheivable by the sentients concerned.
> Not best in terms of something outside themselves
> but in the context of themselves. Morality only exists
> in that context.

When one considers e/m systems in terms of the sentients concerned,
and in that context *alone*, I think there is something missing from
the 'equation'. Defining what is "best" is going to be a matter of
opinion, unless "best" is grounded in reality in some way. I would
guess that there are many ways of accomplishing such a grounding... I
proposed my 'measure' (Rightness) as one possible way. I'm looking
for others as well.

> You are mixing systems in arbitrarily it seems to me.
> It adds nothing and actually detracts from the discussion.

Actually, the topic is about a system (or systems) and how well (or
badly) they might work.

> This is highly confused as it addressed and inanimate
> and/or unconscious or inaccesible-if-conscious aggregate
> as if it is conscious and accessibly so and as if what it
> is "doing" is at all relevant to what is the best basis
> for a moral system for us here and now. What for?

Ahh... a turn-of-phrase:
"I asked the <inanimate-object>..." means I observed, studied,
reasearched, questioned-myself-about the <inanimate-object>.

> >Even now we, as humans, are attempting to push the
> >complexity of our environment and ourselves to ever
> >greater heights.
> >
> This is not the primary goal or center of morality though.
> It is a by-product. It cannot be made the primary goal
> meaningfully.

Oh, well of course nothing should be *made* the primary goal, I would
never think of forcing anyone... but I am attempting to come up with
a useful definition, a measure. It wouldn't have to be the only (or
even primary) measure. The question I am trying to answer is: is it
a useful one? Would it help us understand difficult moral situations
with greater ease?

> Testability is a separate issue from moral absoluteness.
> On what grounds would you posit that Rightness is a
> universal absolute?

Well, while testability and moral absoluteness *are* separate issues,
I would like to find a way of *testing* a set of morals to see if
they are as right as can be. If such a thing can't be done, then...
well... shucks! But there is no harm in trying :)

> It is not at all obvious that a brand-spanking new
> FAI has to be [R]ight for all sentients for all time.
> I will be quite satisfied if it maximizes the local
> intelligence quotient and insures room for us to
> survive and grow. That is quite sufficient for now.

I would also be very satisfied with that situation... we would have
*made it*. Although, I can easily imagine myself asking and FAI: "In
what direction will you improve your ethical/moral system?" "How
will you know your new system is better than the old one?" "By what
measure or measures will you compare the systems?"

Michael Roy Ames

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