Re: Ethical theories

From: Metaqualia (
Date: Sat Jan 31 2004 - 21:14:49 MST

> property that most people, if given the opportunity to freely express
> opinion in an appropriate situation, living in a society that imposes the
> ethical system will agree that the ethical system is a good idea.

I find that most people who are living in a society that imposes some
ethical system
agree that the system is a good idea. There are of course evolutionary
reasons for this.
Most people in the middle ages agreed to burning witches...
North koreans are convinced people from the south seek refuge in the north
because people in the north have the "purest water" and they really love the
idea that everyone must wear a pin with kim's face even though he has
torture camps.
Chinese are convinced that a big and strong china is in their own interest,
therefore they do not oppose military occupation of taiwan even though the
same ideology and the same army slaughter their students with tanks.
Ethical systems that impose negative qualia on many individuals are commonly
accepted by bipeds who still haven't gotten burned.
Therefore I tend not to trust bipeds more than I trust quadrupeds...

> with the Buddhist notion that one reason for being compassionate is
> doing so makes you a better person (because it decreases the illusory
> boundary between self and other, which in Buddhist thought is one thing
> holding us back from enlightenment). Graves' ethical theory is along

Buddhist/zen parables are fun ... but if you get beyond the words (often
_not_ as fancy, in the original versions!!), to the content, they are just a
bunch of rules to let people become less aggressive more self confident and
perform better emotionally. In particular, I would like to point out that
enlightment is a content-free word used exclusively to appeal to human
desire for absolute stuff. The very few descriptions of what enlightment is
are a bit funny; the fact that enlightment is positive is taken for granted
and never justified.

Also I'd like to point out that while philosophy was very advanced in asia,
human rights were (and are still) way behind what we consider acceptable in
the west. While the japanese were practicing "nonexistence" with zen, they
also boiled people alive.

Everyone agreed this was a good idea ...

> 1) tied in with progressive rather than regressive research programmes
> 2) democratically supportable (a la Habermas)
> 3) tend to lead to positive psychological growth for the person holding
> system

How do you define positive psychological growth ? (especially for non humans
or humans in a very different environment, say 100 years from now)

> What started me thinking about this was some futuristic speculation about
> the ethics of superhuman AI's.... I assume a superhuman AI will develop a
> different ethical system than any human system, and it would be
> to have some way to think about which superhuman-AI ethical systems are
> versus bad...

Indeed it is very important that a god knows what is right and wrong!
That is why I started to think about objective morality.

Porting the scientific method to ethics is interesting, but the problem is
in the grounding. With science you can do experiments, if your theory
confirms the results it's probably right. With ethics, what experiments do
you do? There is a need for grounding, even if partial.

I still think that qualia are not an arbitrary criterion equivalent to
maximizing pebbles.
A highly rational system will see through every self-interest driven
moralistic confabulation that humans put forth. It will seek real evidence.
If it finds real evidence, it will adopt this evidence and create an ethics
system based on this. If it finds none, then it will not see a need to
develop such system. unless we hardcode it in some way or another...

I see qualia as the only possible grounding for a system without hardcoded
goals... without qualia, everything is a data structure; data does not have
right and wrong, only 0 and 1. qualia turn 0 and 1 into pain and pleasure.


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