Re: Full Circle on the Zero-Point

Michael S. Lorrey (
Wed, 20 Jan 1999 11:30:55 -0500

joe dees wrote:

> Hold it right there! This whole quest for a "zero-point" began for the purpose of attempting to generalize and extrapolate an objective ethical system from such a point of universal agreement. You are assuming the existence of your goal in order to use it to build the means to attempt to prove such an existence. This vicious circle has neither an entry nor an exit point, and is instead an exercise in Moebius logic, where what are apparently two different things (two sides of the strip, a "zero-point" and "objective logic") are actually one thing that it is impossible to reach from outside.

Please describe the 'vicious cycle' you are referring to. I see none. I recognize the scientific, objective validity of evolution as a phenomenon of the objective universe's physical laws. I postulate that memes or heuristics which optimize evolution are to be considered objective morals or ethics, and I can test this given that game theory modeling consistently shows a net evolutionary benefit to heuristics and the practitioners of said heuristics which are common to many popular ethical systems, which explains why they are so popular, as they are successful competitors in the evolution game.

> Agreed; but systems by nature are dynamic, responding to the developing particulars of exacerbating and/or extenuating circumstances, and possessing hierarchies of moral imperatives, but with recursive loops of exceptions between them. One cannot either freeze such a system into objectivity, nor pin it at any "zero-point" to an absolutist wall (two ways of trying to do the same (impossible) thing) without deforming it into something that is not itself any more

Not at all. An ethical or moral system may have greater or lesser commonality with an objective morality or ethical system, but the heuristics it does share are the foundations upon which the rest of the relational system is based. Even a system which maintains that the only meaning in the universe is that which we give to it still presupposes one objective set within the understanding of the human species which gives that universe meaning. The meaning we give it is based upon our observation of it and our interpretations of our observations. Just as with hard science, the interpretations of observation which are the most accurate, consistent, etc eventually are considered physical laws rather than just theories. Theoretical morals or ethics either pan out and are successful memes or are not and die out. The most successful such heuristics thus are the ones which most closely dovetail with an optimum objective morality that optimizes evolution.

> Just because a moral or ethical system is very inter-relational does not make it
> subjective, it is just complex and abstracted.
> There is a difference between complication and complexity, true; but I would maintain that not only are individuals complex, but so are the aggregate of the webs of interrelations between them; thus any efficient/effective ethical system to be applied to these complexities within a greater complexity must of necessity itself be complex.

Which does not make it subjective. One may say it is subjective merely because the system is too complex for that individual to completely understand the entire system, or to understand how it is pinned to the physical laws of the universe via evolution. My opinion is that the 'subjectivity' gambit is so popular mainly out of pure mental laziness or incapacity (no insult intended).

> The Golden Rule, which semantically is very simple and easy to remember and propagate, can only be seen as a generalization over a complex amount of subjective considerations and thus has considerable amount of paradox built into it (i.e. if I'm a masochist, should I hurt others because that is how I want to be treated?) as has been described on this list in other recent posts, but it is extremely adaptable due to its vagueness as well, thus having long term viability. However it does accurately define two seemingly objective morals/ethics: being true to the self and being true to others,
> placing both on an equal/commutative moral or ethical footing. One could argue that putting the second on equal footing with the first tends to serve only to optimize the first, and is not a sucessful goal in and of itself, which is why systems which emphasize others over the self in any and all situations tend to not be as successful as ones oriented toward the self, but putting the interests of others on a similar footing being only because it is directly beneficial to the self (as Anders has talked about his models which compare cooperators versus individuals practicing "might is
> right").
> This is why it only works to the degree that its "fuzziness" obscures the complex paradoxes contained when one attempts a finer-grained perspective upon it.
> It's accuracy, therefore, must be a relative one, and cannot lay claim to more precision than the "fuzziness" inherent in it (and which allows it to "work" at all) permits.

It is not necessary to be precise to be objective. You are stuck in the 'black and white' meme again. Nor do I deny that there is some subjectivity within the system, but stipulating this does not mean that it is all entirely subjective, with no objective underpinnings. Objectivity and subjectivity can coexist in an ethical or moral system. Subjectivity describes the relationships of complexity and abstraction to the objective core ethics or morals of the system. Its a matter of primary (objective) and secondary or dependent (subjective) relationships to primaries.

Mike Lorrey