Re: "Objective" Morality

From: Marc Geddes (
Date: Wed Aug 10 2005 - 20:55:26 MDT

--- Marcello Mathias Herreshoff
<> wrote:

> Stop right there! Questions about morality are not
> about what sentients
> *actually* do. They are about what they *should*
> do. If you found a sentient
> life form that thinks eating human babies is moral
> would you change your
> opinions on baby eating?

> To summarize, the reason that you can't treat
> universal morality
> scientifically is that there are no testable
> experiments that could
> demonstrate whether any particular morality is in
> fact the universal one.
> There is absolutely nothing wrong with induction.
> However, induction can't
> be used here because there is no evidence on which
> to use it.

See below. What cognitive principles underpin
Induction? Induction is what enables us to reason in
the first place, therefore the general cognitive
processes that enable Induction to occur must be
objectively *good*. The cognitive procedures behind
Induction are open to experimental testing.

> > > Physics isn't Psychology.
> > Are you sure? Objective Idealism treats physics
> as a
> > form of cognition you know. How can something be
> said
> > to exist at all if it wasn't being *interpreted*
> by
> > some sort of cognitive proccess? Everything you
> know
> > about the world requires a mental model to be
> > comprehended you realize?
> So physics is a form of cognition? Things exist by
> being interpreted?
> Alright then! Let's put that to the test! Nope.
> Sorry. The test object
> failed to disappear when I stopped thinking about
> it. I was also completely
> unsuccessful at telekinesis.

Objective Idealism does not say that things are
mind-created. There exists an objective reality
outside our heads. Objective Idealism says that
*reality itself* is cognition. Take for instance
theories of panpsychism, that assign some degree of
consciousness to everything.

The theory of computation says that a computation is
only a computation if there is: (a) Some raw data and
(b) A Metalanguage assigning *meaning* to the data.
Since all reality is computation (theory of universal
computation), reality must have a dual-aspect: being
able to operate both as data (an object) and it's own
meta-language (a *subject*).

See my theory on the SL4 Wiki:

> If you make a statement about sentient minds in
> general, it must also apply to
> humans, because they are an instance of sentient
> minds in general. If you
> expect sentient minds in general to have underlying
> principles, human minds
> must also share those same principles.
> > Abstract out all the arbitrary hodge podge
> features of
> > the human brain and look *only* at the
> *neccessery*
> > features - the general properties of the brain
> > required for rationality and self-awareness.
> --- HODGE PODGE ---
> Now there's a tricky one! How we know which
> principles are necessary
> for sentience? Sentience is not a very well
> understood phenomenon. Of
> course, if I use Mark Geddes' definition of
> sentience (if one was proposed)
> then he will naturally be completely right about
> everything he says about it.
> And even if I conceded that definition of the word
> sentience, we would still
> have to worry about all the "non-sentients" which
> might do nasty things like
> baby munching or tiling the universe with paper
> clips.

We know what is neccessery for reasoning: Induction
and Deduction. We know what is neccessery for
self-awareness: the integration of current experience
with past memories (John Taylor's Realational Theory).
 These things constitute sentience. Without the
ability to reason a mind cannot achieve its goals.
Without the ability to be self-aware a mind cannot
experience anything and hence such a mind would not be
a *moral* subject.

Induction, Deduction and the Relational Theory are
well-defined. Ethically then, the general cognitive
proccesses underpinning them constitite things that
must be *objectively* (universally) good. Why?
because without them, a mind cannot think about ethics
in the first place, nor can it be a moral subject.

> > Since
> > brains run on physical laws, there should be
> general
> > principles that apply to all sentients.
> Firstly I should point out that "principle" has at
> least two meanings, a
> physical meaning, as in "the principle of least
> distance" and a moral
> meaning, as in "a person of principle". They are
> very different. You are
> intentionally or unintentionally mixing them up.
> So, sure, the laws of electromagnetism apply to all
> sentients, as do all the
> other established physical principles. But this
> does not mean that the
> resulting intelligences follow common moral
> principles. No morality is
> inherent in the universe for reasons I already
> explained.

For the reasons I carefully explained above, morality
*is* inherent in the universe. As I explained, brains
runs on physical principles. As I explained, brains
cannot reason without these general well-defined
principles: Induction, Deduction. As I explained,
brains cannot experience anything without the general
property of consciousness (caused by the interaction
of current experience with past memories). Since
brains cannot reason about ethics and cannot be
ethical subjects unless Induction, Deduction and
Qualia are occurring, the general *objective*
cognitive procedures underpinning Induction, Deduction
and Consciousness must be *universal* goods, in the
sense that *all* ethical sentients must agree that
they are good (no sentient could claim that they are
not good without contradiction, since they are
cognitive processes that enable one to think and be
self-aware in the first place).

> > Consciousness, Values and Intelligence *are*
> > fundamental properties of the cosmos that need to
> be
> > explained.
> Really? Is <insert your favorite large computer
> program here> a fundamental
> property of the microchip it is running on? Try
> imagining your program with
> some new feature added, or some old feature
> discarded and you will see why
> that program was not fundamental. In the same way
> it is not hard to
> hypothesize many different versions of
> consciousness, values and intelligence.
> In the same way, all three of the properties you
> mention are no more
> fundamental to the universe than the program is to
> the microchip. Our
> versions of these three things are complex
> functional adaptations to our
> evolutionary environment. AIs and aliens will have
> different versions by
> reason of different design/evolution.

I'm not using the word 'consciousness' to mean a
*particular kind* of consciousness. Go look at the
dictionary definition of 'Conscious'. It's a noun -
I'm talking about *consciousness itself*.

Take your example above. I'm not talking about *a*
particular computer program, I'm talking about
*programs in general*. *A* particular computer
program is not fundmental, but *computation itself*
is. In fact Alan Turing's mathematical theory of
UNIVERSAL computation provides strong evidence that
computation is a fundamental property of the universe,
in the sense that computation is everywhere present.

Similarly, the general properties *intelligence*,
*values* and *consciousness* could easily be
fundamental properties of the universe as well.

> > Humans are not the only beings that can be
> > conscious, have intelligence and have values.
> Yes. However the values may be completely different
> from ours, and the
> consciousness is optional. Computer programs can
> say practically anything.
> An intelligence can believe practically anything
> about what is desirable, or
> may not even have that concept in any recognizable
> form. That is the point.
> > And as I pointed out above, if you abstract out
> all
> > the hodge-podge features, you'd be left with the
> > general features common to all sentients.
> > You can't
> > just throw brains together willy-nilly. There are
> > common physical principles required for brains to
> work
> > at all.
> > > If you are not defining Universal as all of
> > > humanity, which would make it
> > > Collective, what or who do you even mean by it?
> If
> > > you are postulating a
> > > deity, it might really be time for somebody to
> call
> > > the list sniper.
> >
> > I never mentioned a deity. Read what I say. I
> > clearly defined 'Universal' as something held in
> > common *by all logically possible sentients*.
> This is
> > clearly different from a Collective. See the
> > difference:
> >
> > Collective: Something defined by reference to all
> > *currently* existing sentients in some context
> >
> > Universal: Something deifned by reference to all
> > *logically possible* sentients.
> The space of all logically possible sentients is
> absolutely massive!
> Besides sentience itself, I very much doubt you will
> find much in common.

Remember that minds require brains and brains are
physical objects. If there was nothing in the space
of all logically possible minds, it would mean that
one part of physical reality would not be able to
interact with all other parts of physical reality in a
consistent way. The laws of physics themselves
couldn't function. Since the laws of physics *do*
apepar to be consistent and function the same
UNIVERSALLY (as far as we can tell), there must be at
least one thing that all possible minds have in

> You say my true nature is to be self-aware, to
> reason and to be altruistic.
> I might even admit that that is definition of sane
> humanity's true nature, or
> at least what we want it to be, albeit an
> over-simplified one.
> But, to say that these are the true nature of
> sentience is another thing all
> together. You are listing treating three distinct
> properties as a single
> unit.
> All three of these properties are probably as
> un-fundamental as the existence
> of rice pudding and income tax. (See PROGRAM

See above. I pointed out a mind which cannot reason
cannot reason about ethics. Therefore the ability to
reason is a prequiste to ethics. I pointed out that
reasoning depends on Induction and Deduction, for
which there are well-defined theories with UNIVERSAL
applicability. Since reasoning is needed for ethics,
and since the cognitive processes needed for ethics
are objective, it follows that the cognitive processes
needed for reasoning must be *universally good*.

Similarly, with consciousness. A mind which is not
conscious is not a moral subject. Therefore the
ability to be conscious is a prequiste to being a
moral subject. But there's an *objective* theory of
consciousness - by John Taylor - consciousness is
caused by the interaction of current experience with
past memories. Since consciousness is neeeded to be
an ethical subject and since the cognitive processes
needed for consciousness are objective, it follows
that cognitive processes needed for consciousness must
be *universally good*

ALL sentients everywhere, in order to be consistent,
must conclude that the cognitive proccesses resulting
in reasoning and consciousness are good. If any
sentient tried to say that these cognitive proccesses
were bad, they would be contradicting themslves, since
without these cognitive proccesses the sentient would
be unable to reason about ethics in the first place.

This proves Objective morality.

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