moral agents vs morality

From: Metaqualia (
Date: Fri Jun 04 2004 - 03:28:55 MDT

> Doesn't "best" just end up being, in the long run, whatever maximizes
> your potential to survive and reproduce? The Samurai think best is
> being better with the sword. We think best is thinking faster. It all
> depends on where you live.

The difference was not in morality but in the range of individuals that
qualified as moral agents. Hitler did not classify jews as moral entities.
They had no moral weight for him so he was free to do with them as he
pleased. Hitler did not gas his mom. He did not gas his dog (well at least I
haven't heard about it). Only jews. For the people he _did_ consider to be
within his moral sphere, he only wished good things; he wanted his people to
be the most powerful, he wanted the arian race to be pure and
incontaminated. So he wanted what he thought was good for whom he thought
mattered. Not an expert on hitler though...

The samurai were paid warriors, they did not have their own philosophy as to
whom to kill, they were brainwashed since childhood to obey orders. You can
say that their theory of morality did not include choosing who deserved to
get sliced. Most of them would not have sliced a child lightly yet some did.
They had a rule of conduct and a code of honour though.
So they are a particular case.

Today there is no coherence in the world as to the kind of people we include
in our moral sphere. Some kids don't include their schoolmates, shooting at
them is like a game. Some people don't include other people who have
different religious ideas. Some people withdraw moral status to anyone who
disagrees with them on important issues which affect them personally. Some
people have personal rules which they wish to extend onto others, and
whoever breaks these rules loses moral worth.

There is little coherence on what we would like to happen to those we do NOT
include (some wish them to die, some don't).
There is more coherence on what we would like to happen to those who we do
include though.

Here the problem is not so much "I want the people I care for to dominate
the world" vs "I want the people I care for to live happily" vs "I want the
prople I care for to die" because 99.9% of people today are definitely going
to choose the second. Though we have an "inclusion problem" (who
qualifies??) which arises from:

-inability to put oneself into other people's shoes (tyrants etc.)
-inability to correctly judge sentience (issues on abortion etc.)
-inability to see that anything experiencing qualia should qualify as moral
agent (animals have moral weight if they experience qualia etc.)

> Remove humans from the universe and where is morality? You can't say
> the same thing about gravity.

Removing humans is removing the substance on which the arrow of morality
acts. It is like removing all matter from the universe in which case yes
gravity would seem to have disappeared (removing all matter in the universe
is assuming that matter exists in some 4dimensional glass box which is
probably not true; similarly "removing people" is assuming that there is an
external reality independent of observers which is probably not true).

> What morality is there in galaxies colliding, animals
> in the food chain eating each other, etc?

I don't know about galaxies colliding it is a very complex phenomenon which
may very well give rise to information patterns which encode sentient beings
who formulate theories about morality. Animals getting eaten experience the
arrow of morality (they feel pain) although they cannot formalize it and
think abstractly about it

> If you were the last human alive, and the race would die out after you
> were gone, is there anything you could do to be immoral?

yes, punch yourself in the eye :-)
why should you not count? hey that's not fair hehehe


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