Re: Ethics (was FAI (aka 'Reality Hacking'))

From: Jef Allbright (
Date: Sun Jan 30 2005 - 09:04:25 MST

Phil Goetz wrote:

>I agree with your sentiment; but what is the purpose
>of a moral system that one is naturally inclined to
>--- Thomas Buckner <> wrote:


>>Ethics clearly implies relation to others;
>>actions are ethical or not because of the effect
>>on others.
>>Morality is widely used in a way that implies
>>isolation; moralists assign moral value to
>>actions that don't affect bystanders.
>However you attack the problem, "ethics" is a
>concept that can only be necessary if you have
>to specify a value system that is NOT dictated
>by physics.
>- Phil G.

What morality is not:
"Objective" morality is unrealistic since moral choices depend on
values, which are necessarily subjective. "Universal" morality is
unrealistic, because at the universal level of context, there are no
subjective values - the universe does not care. Let's also make the
point that there is no inherent moral good in what is natural - the
Naturalistic Fallacy.

What is being discussed here is predominately ethics, or meta-ethics,
rather than morality, but there's much crossover between the terms.

What morality is:
Choices about "right" and "wrong" behavior based on an assumed
foundation that extends beyond the individual to the group, and beyond
the immediate to the practically eternal, and beyond the situation at
hand to classes of situations in general. Morality as so defined and
practiced is an illusion leading to apparent paradox, but one that is
very commonly accepted and practiced. Most of our current moral
foundation is a result of evolutionary processes, promoting survival of
the species and the group, without the expense of reasoning through the
issues. It worked well for a very long time.

What morality is becoming:
Choices based on local values and circumstances, approximations to what
works in the greater reality, providing local efficacy and a valuable
source of diversity to the larger group.

Just as with the thermodynamic "arrow of time", there is an analogous
"arrow of morality" by which that which works (and is therefore seen as
good) within local contexts will tend in the direction of that which
works within a larger context as the local contexts combine to form
larger contexts of interaction. This is a true relationship between
physics and morality.

That which works (survives and grows) is considered good at any given
sub-context. Differences in perception over what works (what is good)
are due to differences in local contexts, but in the increasingly bigger
picture these converge.

Why this is important:
Human society is rapidly widening its scope of awareness, and thus the
context within which we interact and make moral choices. As members of
this list will generally agree, the acceleration of this process is
itself accelerating, and we are faced with the challenge of handling
rapid technological change that is engulfing many local contexts,
forcing them into a larger context, but each based on largely obsolete
evolved values, perceptions, and ways of perceiving.

In my opinion, the challenge of humanity's survival will be met as we
create the tools necessary to amplify our awareness of our own local
context and the greater context within which we interact, and increase
our awareness of the principles that determine the successful growth of
these dynamical systems. The exact solutions can not be predicted due
to the chaotic nature of the system, but from our subjective point of
view within the system we can further our subjective values via the
increasingly objective methods of science.

- Jef

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