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

From: Phil Goetz (
Date: Tue Feb 01 2005 - 20:23:09 MST

--- Jef Allbright <> wrote:

> >- If we understand how charging interest for loans
> >develops an economy, we will not call charging
> >interest immoral.
> >
> >
> This one's difficult for me, since I see nothing
> wrong in general with
> one person offering and another person accepting a
> loan with interest
> terms.

The Bible (Old Testament) forbids charging interest
for loans. Curiously, while most OT laws are ignored
by Christians more often than by Jews, this law
was for many centuries followed by Christians but
ignored by Jews.

> I don't think that the cause of an action has any
> bearing on whether or
> not it's moral. I do think understanding causes is
> useful when devising
> a response or corrective action.

Then you are operating in the pre-12th-century notion
of morality, which said that the results of an action
determined its morality. In this view, a rock that
rolls downhill and strikes someone is said to be
evil. People in this time did in fact put animals
on trial for crimes. After Abelard, we have
instead said that guilt in a crime must consider
the intent of the person. This presumes free will,
and that guilt and morality require free will.
When we learn that a behavior was programmed into
someone by forces beyond their control, they are
operating like a rock and not like a moral agent.
But increasing knowledge of causes always diminishes
the scope of free will. If we are materialists, we
may expect that there is no free will, and hence
no such thing as morality.

> My thesis is that our understanding of morality is
> undergoing a
> maturation involving greater awareness, and that as
> our awareness
> continues to increase with time, so will our
> morality.

I don't think you're seeing how problematic the
concept of "morality" is.

> >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.
> >
> I think we are moving toward a system of greater
> appreciation of local
> diversity, within a framework of shared principles
> based on increasing
> knowledge of what works and is therefore considered
> good.

I think you're totally missing my point. I appreciate
the diverse variety of insects outside my house.
But if they come inside, I kill 'em.

- Phil

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