Ethics and Morality

John K Clark (
Mon, 6 Oct 1997 22:13:24 -0700 (PDT)

-----BEGIN PGP SIGNED MESSAGE----- On Sun, 5 Oct 1997 Wrote:

>I see that one can rationally reject the notion of objective
>morality if one rejects either (1) the notion of "free" will

Free will means the inability to predict ones own actions, I don't see the
relevance to objective morality.

>(2) the desire to live in society.

Personally I do want to live in society, but I don't see anything unique,
objective, or universal about such a desire.

>A "society of thieves" is not physically possible, over any great
>length of time.

For a society to work it's best if certain conventions are followed by most
people most of the time, but these conventions don't form a unique set,
almost any practice you care to name, I don't care how repugnant, is
considered moral by some culture somewhere. Besides, these conventions are
just practical matters to take into consideration consider if you want to
build a society that works in a certain way, I don't see why they deserve the
lofty title "Objective Morality" any more than a table listing the amount of
stress a steel beam can take are ethical laws.

Yet another problem, if "Objective Morality" really is objective then there
should be some evidence of it in the non human world but we see none. If you
gave me the job of designing the cruelest possible process for producing life
and intelligence I could not come up with anything more horrible than
evolution by random mutation and natural selection.

>If one chooses to live in society, one MUST observe certain
>FUNDAMENTAL rules of conduct.

To be more precise, if people chooses to live in society most Should observe
certain FUNDAMENTAL rules of conduct most of the time for the society to work
well. But there is no Objectively Moral reason that a society should work
well, and at any rate, these are just engineering considerations.

I hope I don't come off sounding too cold hearted in all this, but if
somebody claims to be able to prove OBJECTIVE morality then the game moves
out of the gentle examining room of ethics and religion and into the harsh
no holds barred arena of science, because objective facts is what science is
good at. Like any theory it must be strong enough to survive brutal criticism,
only the very toughest theories survive in science and I'm afraid objective
morality is a dead duck.

>By definition, the god in your problem has no society, since she is
>in an infinitely superior power position. I'll allow that there can
>be no morality for such an infinitely powerful being

I don't understand, how can there be no morality for God if objective morality
exists, or are you saying that God could exist or objective morality could
exist, but not both?

On Mon, 06 Oct 1997 "Eliezer S. Yudkowsky" <> Wrote:

>In an alternate universe, John K Clark wrote:

That gives me an idea, suppose you're right and objective morality exists,
and suppose you go to an alternate universe where it does not, how would
things be the slightest bit different?

>Obviously "Objective Humor" isn't being defined as what causes the
>neural events that I experience as laughter, but in some different

Obviously, and for that very reason it's equally obvious to me that whatever
"Objective Humor" is defined to be it should have no interest to you.

>Maybe there is such a thing as "Objective Humor"

Well maybe objective humor does have a useful meaning, but just suppose it
does not and I could prove it, would you then vow never to laugh again?
I doubt it, and if I could prove that objective morality did not exist I very
much doubt you would start pushing people into gas chambers.

>Maybe everyone uses the same core criterion for "laughter", so that
>a joke could be invented which was funny to everyone. Then if
>somebody who suffered a massive stroke didn't laugh at that or any
>other joke, we would say that the joke really was funny and the
>person was wrong

We could only conclude that his brain was working differently than that of
most other people, not that one was right and one was wrong. Even if the
brain was dead and starting to rot I can't think of any OBJECTIVE reason why
it's inferior to a living healthy one, although I can think of lots of very
powerful subjective ones.

>You can object to this on ideological grounds, but in point of fact
>this *is* what a normal, sane, non-philosophical human would think
>about the above situation.

Hey, the universe is not a democracy and we're not talking about a popularity
contest. You've set a very high standard for yourself, determining objective
fact, and that can't be done by a show of hands.

John K Clark

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