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

From: Thomas Buckner (
Date: Sun Jan 30 2005 - 14:49:49 MST

--- Phil Goetz <> 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.
> I think that's a great point, so I'll agree
> that
> we would be better off using the term "ethics".
> But I still think it may be impossible to
> define
> "ethics" in a meaningful way if ethics
> "come naturally". If ethical behavior is
> natural
> behavior, then we don't need the term
> "ethical".
> You might say that ethical behavior is behavior
> that is more rationally calculated to achieve
> some goals, but then again we don't need the
> phrase "ethical behavior", only "rational
> behavior",
> plus an ethical choice of goals.
> 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.

I never said ethics 'come naturally' nor that
they are automatically 'rational behavior'. To
behave ethically does indeed mean something more
than pure selfishness. If you refer to the
Discover Magazine article previously posted,
altruism is sometimes an adaptive strategy, so a
self-sacrificing slime mold organism is not being
'ethical' or 'rational' in the sense we apply to

My post did not claim to settle the question of
what is or is not ethical for a sentient, nor
even if the term is needed at all for discussions
of Friendliness. Those are all open questions as
far as I can tell. I simply wished to expose some
of the more pernicious memes trying to sneak in
and continue to suck life from a word that has
become too weak to do its job.

Tom Buckner

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