RE: Ethical theories

From: Ben Goertzel (
Date: Sun Feb 01 2004 - 17:30:42 MST


Yes, I see what you mean.

As Curzio points out, in order to define a quality-ranking of ethical
systems, one has to make some kind of "a priori" assumption about what's
good or not. One is not ranking individual ethical actions, but is rather
ranking ethical systems -- but one is still ranking according to some

You're suggesting that the place to get this standard is from the *universe
itself*. That is: favor ethical systems that embody principles that seem to
be embodied by the universe itself. For example, growth... expansion of

And when you say "expansion of Self" is a basic principle, you're not
referring necessarily to the "psychosocial self" of an individual mind, but
just as much to "self" as the holistic integrity of a coherent set of
patterns. You're largely stating Charles Peirce's "Law of Mind", that a
pattern, once existent, will tend to strive to extend itself throughout the
mind/universe.... This is also the key idea underlying Nietzsche's vision
of the universe as "morphology and will to power," once you subtract his
sometimes misleading (though artistic) rhetoric...

A good line of thinking, thanks!

-- Ben G

> -----Original Message-----
> From: []On Behalf Of Jef
> Allbright
> Sent: Sunday, February 01, 2004 9:17 AM
> To:
> Subject: Re: Ethical theories
> 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
> discussion.
> - Jef

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