Rationality and Ethics

David A Musick (davidmusick@juno.com)
Thu, 22 Jan 1998 17:11:09 -0500

Yak Wax wrote: "Extropy is about rational thought."

Actually, Extropy is about making life more complex, intelligent,
powerful and full of more opportunity. Rational thought is simply a tool
that Extropians use, when appropriate, to achieve their goals of
increasing extropy in the world.

Yak Wax goes on to question what rational reason there is against "human
culling, genocide or general murder". At the core, this is simply a
question about the merits of various courses of action. We have a huge
number of options available to us every day. Many of those options
include killing other people and hurting other people as well as helping
other people or ignoring other people or whatever. To evaluate the
merits of these options they must be considered in terms of one's short
and long-term goals. If someone's goal in life is to kill as many people
as possible, then it is rational for them to do things which result in
the death of many people. If one's goal is to help as many people as
possible live as long as possible, it would be rational to take action
which results in that goal. Whether an action is rational or not depends
on the goals of the one choosing.

Rationality, by itself, with no goal-oriented context, says nothing about
what courses of action we "should" take. However, Extropians have the
goal of increasing extropy in the world, and even though "extropy" is
somewhat vaguely defined, many types of actions, especially ones which
destroy intelligent systems or impede the progress of life into more
intelligence and complexity, are considered non-extropian, and it would
be irrational for an Extropian to carry out these actions or make them
significantly more likely to occur. Entropic decisions are irrational
*only* because they conflict with their goal of increasing extropy.

Rationality can be used to evaluate decisions in terms of goals, but it
cannot generate the goals themselves.

No system of ethics is rational *in and of itself*; however if a system
of ethics consistently guides the actions of an extropian to make more
extropy in the world, then it is rational *for that particular person* to
follow *that particular ethical system*. It is unlikely that there is a
"one best" ethical system that is rational for everyone to follow. The
only way this could be so is if every person had the same goals.

For the rational, morality and ethics are simply behavioral strategies
for accomplishing their goals in a world of other people. If your way of
treating others consistently gets you what you want, then your personal
systems of morality and ethics is rational *for you*.

David Musick (DavidMusick@juno.com)

- Continual improvement is the highest good.