Re: Transhumanist Declaration (Now New And Improved!)

Reilly Jones (
Mon, 13 Apr 1998 16:12:29 -0400

den Otter wrote 4/12/98: <Morality itself is usually based on selfish
hedonism: you (for ex.) help people because it "feels right", increases
your self-asteem and you don't hurt people because that would you feel bad
about yourself. Of course "feeling good" or "feeling bad" can also be
on what *others* think of you. So you're either pleasing yourself directly
or pleasing the crowd (to please yourself).>

The qualifier "usually" is interesting here. Let me be explicit about
whose morality "usually" is based on selfish hedonism: animals and
animal-like humans. Now, for the missing part of morality, for the
morality developed by humans who do not behave as ape-like thugs trying to
climb to the next branch up in a fetid jungle, it is not based on selfish
hedonism. It is based on choosing an ideal, a purpose in life, an attempt
at a great achievement in the future, etc. It arises from the unified,
coherent answers to the human (not animal) questions such as: why is there
something and not nothing, why am I here, what should my purpose be, how
should I fulfull my purpose, how should I get along with these other beings
around me, etc. Once you've decided on your purposes, besides the
homeostatic purposes of survival and reproduction that nature has endowed
you with, and the purposes you've chosen don't conflict, you develop moral
values that will lead to the fulfillment of your chosen purposes.

Principles are rational choices, purposes are chosen prior to rationality.
Deciding to be rational, to aim at truth, is not a rational choice, it is
pre-rational or moral. These moral values, in turn, filter which
perceptions are allowed to penetrate your consciousness, in the learning
process, and which concepts are deposited in memory. Your moral worldview
colors the entirety of the way you think, what you sense, what you
remember, which in turn, is inextricably connected to the motor-cortical
system of the behavior of your body. If you have the morality of selfish
hedonism, you will think like a lower animal and behave like a lower
animal, not like a higher human. Reflection and abstraction are a surer
guide to morality that works to preserve and enhance higher life than any
set of feelings. This is why high standards of morality, which develop
subtlety and refined judgments, will always work to elevate the human
condition, while dropping standards of morality will always work to degrade
the human condition. Pleasure and suffering, happiness and unhappiness are
lower animal guides to moral standards, not higher human guides.

<There are plenty of other elements when it comes to the moral memetic
system, of course, but they all are more or less based on the punishment vs
reward system, whether the subject realizes this or not. "Morals" and
"ethics" are not some metaphysical, divine spark that's unique to (some)
humans, but rather primitive impulse mixed with some logic.>

They are not based on some external punishment vs reward system, they are
based on the choice of purposes, the values that attend that choice, and
the behavior, in the co-evolutionary environment with other beings, that
will lead to their fulfillment. This is an interior system, isolated from
all observation or participation by outsiders. Volitional freedom is
central to the higher human, and is what is missing in lower animal life,
the freedom to choose courses not set at nature's table for us. Higher
morals arise from coherent answers to the metaphysical questions, they have
little to do with primitive impulse.

<ER certainly encourages self-disciple [sic], because it's very rational

I think you meant self-discipline here, rather than self-disciple, although
Enlightened Rationalism as you have sketched it out, amounts to the same
thing. Perhaps instead of my earlier "Sophomoric Parisitism", E.R. would
be even more appropriately called "Self-Discipleship". Rationality and
usefulness are not equivalents. Also, I would point out that earlier you
wrote what is obviously the key tenet to E.R., namely: "So if you feel like
it, and think that you can get away with it... by all means go ahead!"
This is the very antithesis of self-discipline, and betrays the incoherency
and dishonesty in your version of E.R. It is the prime tenet of lower
animal life, and human barbarism.

<"Infantile desires" are the core of our being, instead of blindly
suppressing them as you imply we should try to control their flow in such a
way that we get the most out of life.>

You are certainly qualified to speak for yourself in this regards, but
please don't presume to speak for me. Infantile desires were the core of
my being when I was an infant, but I am no longer an infant.

<It is much more effective to reduce the number of rules (and dogmatism) to
a bare minimum, and base them on common sense instead of ideas that fly in
the face of human nature and logic.>

And what is common sense but induction? Moral systems based on common
sense are called traditions or peasant logic. You make a case for sticking
to habit and custom here. A good example of common sense for you
personally goes something like this: "When I was a child, I spake as a
child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a
man, I put away childish things." Is that what you mean by "bare minimum"

Ideas that fly in the face of human nature are necessary for both
self-improvement and improvement of the human condition in general. It is
human nature to take the easy way out, to focus on the immediate to the
detriment of society at large, to take no thought of future generations and
to dishonor the sacrifices (the moral capital) of past generations. Humans
default to entropic barbarism unless ideas that fly in the face of
barbarism are promulgated and upheld. High moral standards were always
present at the extropic peaks in history.

<E.R. firmly assumes that being alive is preferable to being dead. However,
this does not force the individual who values his own life to act in a
"life promoting" way towards *other* life forms. That's a *personal
choice*, for which one must carry *personal responsibility*.>

Does the courtesy of preferring being alive to being dead extend to unborn
children, burdensome sick and old people? Oh, I guess not, E.R.'s moral
teachings don't include life promotion extended to others. How convenient.
Calling it a "personal choice" is self-evident but then there's that nasty
word so prominent in moral systems that are rivals to the moral system of
E.R., namely "must." Why must they carry personal responsibility? Who
says so? Responsibility to whom? To those they murder? To themselves?
What could that possibly mean except license to murder? Where, in the
moral universe of E.R., which states that "So if you feel like it, and
think that you can get away with it... by all means go ahead!" could there
be any room for personal responsibility? Obviously, this is another
incoherent, dishonest tenet.

Reilly Jones | Philosophy of Technology: | The rational, moral and political relations
| between 'How we create' and 'Why we create'