Re: Volitional Morality and Action Judgement

From: Peter C. McCluskey (
Date: Tue May 25 2004 - 14:48:25 MDT (Eliezer Yudkowsky) writes:
>The C-word ("consciousness"). The Q-word ("qualia"). That which causes
>us to mistakenly believe that if we think, therefore we must exist.
>That which our future selves shall come to define as personhood. What I
>want to say is just, "I don't want to hurt a person", but I don't know
>what a person is. If I could give a more specific definition, I would
>have already solved the problem.

>It worries me that our future selves may come to define personhood by
>reference to other qualities than the C-word, but there has to be
>somewhere to draw the line. Natural selection isn't an entity I

 It sounds like you're searching for the moral equivalent of the vital force.
 I find it hard to imagine that features that are so deeply hidden in the
brain that smart people can't specify them have or will determine peoples'
morality. It seems to fail the basic test of providing an answer to the
question of what motivates us to adopt it as a moral rule.

 I find it easier to understand a behavior-based threshold. The function
of morality is to enable selfish beings to cooperate. Axelrod's tit-for-tat
demonstrates how beings with limited abilities to make and enforce contracts
can improve their interactions - simple rules for deciding with whom to
cooperate are more productive than the alternatives.
 This leads me to associate rights with (at least) all beings whose
willingness to cooperate with us/me is is likely to depend upon our/my
willingness to recipricate.

Peter McCluskey          | I see no greater impediment to scientific progress | than the prevailing practice of focusing all of
                         | our mathematical resources on probabilistic and
                         | statistical inferences while leaving causal con-
                         | siderations to the mercy of intuition - J. Pearl

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