Re: Ethics

Bradley Felton (
Tue, 07 Jul 1998 14:34:25 -0500

At 08:28 PM 7/6/98 -0400, Daniel Fabulich wrote:
>> It seems to me that the "rational moral philosophers" have discovered
>> something that has been fooling humans for a long time: problem shift.
>> When they claim to be able to discern an objective "this is what you ought
>> to do" they divert attention from their subjective premises, which are
>> assumed a-priori. "You ought to do this" IF you want to achieve the
>> subjective goal of the week, be it "happiness", "well-being", "financial
>> gain", or what have you.
>Well, take egoism for example. It's the easiest to adapt to this model:
>egoism can be defined like this: "You ought to do whatever is most in
>your subjective interests." Clearly this circumvents the problem you
>assert above: I completely agree that a person's goals are entirely
>subjective, but I can come up with a theory of practical rationality which
>is compatible with it.
>As I noted in earlier posts, however, egoism is wrong, and we'd certainly
>be better off with utilitarianism. Either way, however, these are
>theories about how you should go about getting what you want, not about
>deciding what you want.

Essentially then, your rational ethics doesn't tell us what we ought to do, but rather how we should go about doing whatever it is that we think we ought to do. Which leaves open a niche for a new ethic, one which tells us what we ought to do.... Perhaps you can see what I meant by calling this a problem shift--it's a bit like the ancients inventing a new and prior god to explain where god came from.

What is needed is a rational metric to judge our goals. It's a pity that some of the ancient gods aren't around anymore to serve in this capacity; they seemingly offered the prospect of an objective judgement.

Actually, there is one objective metric available, one which we are currently being judged against, and which our ancestors have all been held accountable to: reproductive success. This is the only bedrock that I know of upon which to build a rational ethics. It doesn't meet your generalization principle, which is to say that the generalization principle doesn't deal well with reality....

"All your children are poor innocent victims of the lies you believe"