Re: Ethical theories

From: Jef Allbright (
Date: Sun Feb 01 2004 - 07:16:56 MST

Ben Goertzel wrote:
> Sure, I agree on these points.
> But nonetheless, I'm not sure I like "expansion of Self" as a
> foundational ethical principle...

There's a difficulty in that we don't currently have good terminology to
discuss some of these issues without introducing unintended meanings and
connotations. We also don't yet have the mathematics to properly model
non-linear dynamics as we'd like to.

As I said in my earlier post on this subject, Self is not what many people
think it is. A more useful understanding crosses borders that many feel
are inviolable, little realizing that they would not be alive if they were
so alone as they imagine. Systems theory, Category theory, and various
areas of epistemology try to deal in a practical way with the understanding
that it's ultimately one interconnected process, which can be sliced and
diced to provide various useful views.

All our observations tell us that "life" is about growth. While we perceive
that individual structures/organisms/persons "die", we see that there is a
connected thread of information that continues, and proceeds to grow
further. This thread (which is not linear as the metaphor implies) appears
to reach as far back as we can see or imagine. We are enmeshed and part of
this process, although many don't see it. All "living" subsystems dissipate
energy from the world around them to increase local complexity. And the more
complex they become, the better they become at doing this. We are all part
of this process on many simultaneous levels.

So what I am saying is whether you like it or not, your existence is about
growth. But you're not alone, and it is apparent that your growth is
interconnected with the growth of others. In fact your interaction with
others constitutes a larger system which follows the same rules of growth.
So the same "expansion of Self" that doesn't feel right to you (because it
feels selfish?) actually implies and promotes the growth and cooperation of
others. I think this point is similar to Randian morality except they hit a
wall because they're not thinking in a broad enough context.

I'm saying that if we're looking for some guidance -- an ethical system that
is consistent across all levels of organization -- we might look to the way
nature operates at a most fundamental level and align ourselve with it.
This is like being aware enough to come in out of the rain, but more subtle.

I suspect that a lot of this appears to verge on the mystical at this time,
and perhaps should be reserved for SL5. Ben, if you'd like to discuss this
further, please contact me offlist and I'll be happy to carry on the

- Jef

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