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

From: Phil Goetz (
Date: Mon Jan 31 2005 - 21:10:59 MST

--- Jef Allbright <> wrote:

> This is the heart of the question of interest to me.
> If I understand
> you correctly, you are saying there is essentially
> no progress in human
> society toward more objective understanding of the
> world around them. I
> argue that progress, at all scales, is inevitable.
> Am I understanding you correctly? If we can agree
> on this point of
> departure, then I would be very interested in
> exploring further.
> - Jef

There is a school of thought that would argue this,
notably Thomas Kuhn (/The Structure of Scientific
Revolutions, 1966 or so). But I agree with you
that human society tends toward more objective
understanding of the world around them with time,
altho with occasional setbacks.

Where you are losing me is in connecting that
with morality. I can imagine some examples in which
a better understanding can lead to more objective

- If we understand how charging interest for loans
develops an economy, we will not call charging
interest immoral.

- If it turns out that homosexuality is largely
genetically or environmentally determined, rather
than a free choice, people may accept it more.

But I don't know that this always plays out so neatly.
The more we understand about human behavior,
the more we can trace it to causes, and the less
responsible people seem to be for their behavior.
Complete understanding may simply explode even
the notion of morality. For example

- Child molesters were in most cases molested
or abused themselves as children.

- Stepparents are more likely to abuse stepchildren
than natural parents are to abuse natural children.
But this makes genetic sense for them.

- It makes more evolutionary sense for men than for
women to be promiscuous; at the same time, it makes
more sense for men than for women not to tolerate
promiscuity in their mate.

Does understanding the cause of "immoral" behavior
make it more acceptable? More moral? Or does it
just leave us unable to figure out what "moral" means?

Also, post-singularity, the human species may
rapidly diverge into a large number of species
such that it is no longer feasible to maintain
moral relations between them. So increasing
knowledge may make the subjectivity of morality
more obvious.

Just thinking aloud.

- Phil

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