Re: [sl4] Re: Property rights

From: Stuart Armstrong (
Date: Wed Jul 09 2008 - 10:03:53 MDT

> So there is a core
> of ethical principles common to almost everyone, even those who
> routinely flout them.

Yes, there is. The core principles are a liking for people similar to
yourself, a desire to punish others for violating common values, a
disdain of incest, a loose prohibition against killing in most
circumstances, and... and that's about it.

People don't hide what they do because they feel it's imoral; they
hide it because there are costs to be seen doing something imoral. The
mafia sees itself as a very moral organisation. So did the communists,
and so did the suffragets, and so did those who thundered against

> We can't know exactly how the availability of self-modification would
> change society without doing the experiment, but I believe that even
> without direction from above it would be for the better. I base this
> on the assumption that there are more bad people who wish they were
> good than good people who wish they were bad.

Everyone in the world wishes they were good (or at least, better than
what they are). But that doesn't help if their values of "good" are
wrong! Osama bin Laben probably wishes he were more devout; the
tibetans pray that they be better able to contain their anger at the
chinese invasion; soldiers wish they could inflict violence without
sufferring mentaly for it; politicians want to overcome all their
personal weaknesses apart from ambition. Those going through a crisis
of faith wish they were not prone to doubts; the fat wish they could
eat less; so do the anorexic.

Just take the tragectory of one life, going through lots of urges,
events, beliefs, causes, certainties and doubts, and imagine the
varrying consequences of giving that individual the possibility to
self-modify - at different stages of his life.

The picture is all over the place! Some people will get better
according to our standards, some would get worse. I think society as a
whole would get worse, because groups would have greater difficulty
relating to one another, as the middle of the road individuals would
be in short supply.


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