Re: Extropian ethics (was: Re: sentient rights)

Date: Thu Feb 21 2002 - 23:01:57 MST

Damien B. writes:
> At 04:34 PM 2/21/02 -0800, Hal wrote:
> >But then for each of us there will come times when we are tested and
> >tempted. You find someone's wallet with money in it... Then you have
> >to decide whether your ethical system is just about you, or about the
> >world as a whole.
> Yeah, it's odd. I must be a crypto deontologist, via residual childhood
> programming, although I tell myself I'm a rule utilitarian.

I think one way to reconcile these views is that you can be a lazy
utilitarian. You don't have time to analyze each and every moral
quandary down to the last possible ramification of your actions.
So you adopt general rules of thumb, heuristics which are a good guide
to ethical behavior. These include principles of generosity, kindness,
fairness, honesty and so on. History has shown that adopting such views
(combined with a sense of justice and willingness to apply retribution
where necessary) is a very successful long-term strategy.

This way you can adopt a general policy of being fair and honest,
because it's too much work to try to judge for each situation whether
you can get away with cheating.

I think this works pretty well unless you run into a situation where
you would have a chance to make a really substantial unfair gain at
someone else's expense. Then you might not be able to justify using
your default rule because the stakes are so high, and a utilitarian
might behave unjustly when presented with such a strong temptation.

However, realistically such opportunities seldom arise, and the fact is
that even someone ethically devoted to unselfishness would be forced
into some pretty heavy soul-searching in that case. So I'm not sure
how meaningful such an extreme example really is.


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