Re: Ethical theories

From: Metaqualia (
Date: Sat Jan 31 2004 - 23:43:41 MST

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

Isn't it the same thing? Having an objective way of determining which
subjective theories of morality are good and which are not, would amount to
being able to choose one objectively good morality. I suppose if you can
prove that an objective morality does not exist, then you would also have
proved that an objective way to choose good moralities also does not

> But are you assuming that the evaluation of positive versus negative
> in the universe can be done in an objective, theory-independent way? It

It comes down to exactly this. I have no clue how to build a quale detector,
since we still don't know how qualia are generated. So _if_ this
conversation comes down to "I agree in principle, but what to do in
practice?" then I would suggest:

We could first of all use the only data point we have (our own perception)
and apply it to similar systems (other people, mammals). Since I find a high
degree of correlation between experiencing negative qualia and certain
neuronal activation patterns in my brain, then even without a qualia
detector I can say with some degree of certainty (provided other people are
not zombies) that creating such patterns in other human brains is not right.

So in the short term there won't be a big difference between common sense
morality and qualia-based morality. Except on some crucial issues (abortion

In the long run however, IF we figure out qualia, we'd have a good tool to
really do what's good, an objective moral science, a supergoal spontaneously
arising from the parameters of our existence.

> quality of an ethical system founded on positive-qualia-maximization (in
> 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
> exists.

I agree. The efficiency of a machine that maximizes A versus B depends on
how well these two variables are defined. My suggestion has been from the
beginning to have the AI have "figure out qualia" as an intermediate goal
before it starts doing big changes in the universe which will affect many


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