Ethics and Morality

John K Clark (
Thu, 9 Oct 1997 10:01:41 -0700 (PDT)


On Wed, 08 Oct 1997 "Eliezer S. Yudkowsky" <> Wrote:

>Exactly, and that's why I specified "the" objective definition
>rather than "an" objective definition. There are many objective
>definitions of reality, but only one of them is right.

So, on the basis of your objective definition you're able to put labels on
all events, a tag consisting of the squiggles "good" or "evil" and presumably
a number indicating the magnitude of each, but how could I find a direction
to this axis? Why should I do good and avoid evil rather than the reverse?
Or for that matter, why not do things on a line perpendicular to your axis,
or a line that intersects it by 32.587 degrees? You were speaking of complex
numbers, perhaps we need them to specify an event in moral space, next time
my dog eats my newspaper perhaps I should scold him by saying
"you're a 17 + 28i dog".

I say this because in your Oct 7 post you as much as admitted that your
choice of a moral axes would always be arbitrary, you said:

"objective morality wouldn't be a force pervading the Universe for Good,
just an objective method of labeling events "good" or "evil"."

>You're saying that the existence of numbers causes there to be more
>objects? Objective cardinality is a force pervading the Universe
>which causes all numbers to increase?

I said nothing about anything causing anything and I said nothing about
numbers increasing. I did say that if there was a hypothetical universe in
which the idea of number did not exist because it was somehow contradictory,
then saying there were many things in that universe would be gibberish.
I also remind you that you're the one who proposed such a example not me,
so don't blame me if it's bizarre.

>Nice bait-and-switch, but you should know better than to try changing
>definitions on me. Just because "Objective Reality" isn't defined as
>what you believe, doesn't mean that what you believe isn't a *part*,
>a *subset* of Objective Reality.

Fine, but that's not what you said, you talked about objective reality being
defined in such a way that it was not the cause of the neural events in my
brain, and I said that in that case what you call "objective reality" did not
interest me.

>So I repeat: If I define Objective Reality so that your neurons
>don't define OR but are merely part of it,

OK but that's no repeat, that's the first time you said it.

>does this mean OR has no interest to you?

No, then it interests me because objective reality can change me and I can
change it. Neither is true of "objective morality" and that's why it has
nothing to do with me.

>If I say that your goals don't define External morality but are
>merely a part of it, does this mean EM has no interest to you?

Yes, it still does not interest me. All you have said in the above is that
sometimes I do good things and sometimes I don't and there are some good
things as well as bad I never do. I'm sure that if you worked at it you could
dream up a definition of morality that fit the above specifications, but
that's not nearly good enough. I want to know what's different about that
definition rather than the infinite number of other possible ones, I want to
know why I should follow its dictates and not others.

Because only one objective morality is true.
What do you mean by true?
Only one you should follow.
Why should I follow only one?
Because only one is true.
Why should I do what's true?
Because it's good.
Why should I do what's good?
Because it's moral.
Why should I do what's moral?
Because it's true.

John K Clark

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