Re: Subjective Morality

Eliezer S. Yudkowsky (
Tue, 12 Jan 1999 16:10:58 -0600

James Ganong wrote:
> If no one knows the Objective Morality, howdo you even know it exists?

I don't. I don't know it doesn't exist, either. But if I want to make intelligent choices, I have to assume that there are differences between choices. If I wish to consider the consequences of my actions, I have to assume that some consequences are preferable to others. I don't make an assumption about particular values, which is an old trick of missionaries; I make only the assumption that some unknown distinction exists. That is the minimal assumption needed to yield differential values in a logical goal system, and no further assumption can be justified.

The alternative is believing in my own prejudices, which is outright silly. I know where my innate preferences come from, to wit: evolution, and I trust evolution's design for my mind no more than I trust its design for my body. There is no distinction between doing what evolution wants and believing everything you read.

> You state that deriving the mass of a particle is
> just as objective (& hence independently verifiable?) as your choice of
> behaviors; please post the equations for this moral mathematics.

If it does exist, I wouldn't know;
therefore my lack of knowledge does not prove nonexistence.

I don't necessarily _believe_ in objective morality, but my best course is to _act_ as if objective morality.

I don't _believe_ in logic, but I have no alternative but to _reason_ using the best logic I have.

I can't prove this world isn't a figment of my imagination, but it would be even less useful to reason about any other set of facts.

I don't trust my mind, but I can't think with anything else.

The validity of reason, the validity of choice, or the validity of knowledge cannot be proven; but there is no better way available.

--         Eliezer S. Yudkowsky

Disclaimer:  Unless otherwise specified, I'm not telling you
everything I think I know.