RE: Ethical theories

From: Ben Goertzel (
Date: Sat Jan 31 2004 - 21:31:01 MST

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

I don't think there can be an objective morality, but I wonder if there can
be an "objective" (in some sense) set of system-theoretic criteria for
assessing ethical systems (which would not pertain to the actual content of
these systems).

Of course these criteria will not be truly objective, in the sense that
people will always be able to reject or accept these criteria based on their
own subjective perspective. However, the criteria may not refer to ETHICAL
issues per se, but only to more general system-theoretic properties. So
that instead of talking about selecting particular ethical principles, we'll
be talking about system-theoretic principles that describe overall ethical

> 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.

Sure, but a careful study of the history of science (as seen e.g. in the
work of Feyerabend and Lakatos) shows that the assessment of confirmation
vs. falsification can be highly subjective, and dependent on the theoretical
framework of the individual doing the assessing.

> 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.

But are you assuming that the evaluation of positive versus negative qualia
in the universe can be done in an objective, theory-independent way? It
seems that assessment of the amount of pos. versus neg. qualia must in
practice be done using some theoretical framework, which means that the
quality of an ethical system founded on positive-qualia-maximization (in any
sense, with whatever complex provisos, etc.) is tied to the quality of the
scientific research programme within which its
positive-versus-negative-qualia-balance-estimation theoretical framework

-- Ben G

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Wed Jul 17 2013 - 04:00:45 MDT