Re: "Morality?" - Composite Reply

Freespeak (
Sun, 12 Oct 1997 22:03:07 -0700

At 01:19 PM 10/12/97 -0700, Max More <> wrote:
>However, when I now talk of "rational values" (not "objective morality") I
>mean values that are internally self-consistent and which are carefully
>reasoned out based on certain deep desires and goals that I believe most
>people share. If someone, after careful thought, genuinely does not share
>basic values of survival and flourishing, then I cannot argue with them.
>The basis of our ethics fundamentally differs. In that sense, morality is
>not objective or universal. Since I think that almost everyone, if they
>dumped their religious beliefs, would come to broadly similar ethical
>conclusions, I do think that ethics can be rational.
I like your term "rational values."

I think people need to do more than dump religious
beliefs in order to arrive at rational values; they
also need to dump certain political beliefs and
illusions, such as Harry Browne's "government myths"
('How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World') and your
'Deep Anarchy' <>.

People who dump religious beliefs won't kill "for God,"
but while they retain certain political beliefs and
illusions, they'll continue killing "for Country."

>[Another way to put this, fanciful but helpful: If there really were
>vampires, and there survival really did depend on drinking the blood of
>humans (in such a way that it killed them and there were no alternatives
>like blood banks) then it would be *right* for vampires to attack humans.
>It would also be *right* for humans to defend themselves. Differences in
>nature produce different behaviors that are good for the beings that do
>them. Given that humans have essentially the same nature, such moral
>divergence is unlikely. If our AI's emerge as radically different from us
>in terms of basic motivations, then some of their rational morality may be
>quite different from ours.]
The nature of an "is" implies certain "oughts" for
that "is." Abraham Maslow argued this quite well
in 'The Farther Reaches of Human Nature.' Seeking
survival is part of the nature of certain entities.
No special decision to survive is necessarily required
for rational values to be derived.

Entities of a common nature will also have certain
rational values in common. And, as you've argued,
certain differences between entities will result in
differences among some of their rational values.

Harry Browne ('How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World')
also advocates that all individuals need to consciously
and deliberately derive their personal values.

There is an important reason why people can argue
endlessly about certain subjects, particularly if
high-level abstractions like "morality" are involved.
Most people naively believe that "words have meanings."
It's more appropriate to think in terms of "people have
meanings for words."

In a similar way that we have commonalities and differences
regarding rational values, we also have commonalities and
differences in our meanings for words.

The lower the level of abstraction of a word (i.e., the
closer it is to physical reality), the greater are the
commonalities in our meanings and the smaller our differences.

The higher the level of abstraction of a word (i.e., the
further it is from physical reality), the smaller are the
commonalities in our meanings and the greater our differences.

In the physical sciences, most terms are low-level abstractions,
so there's widespread agreement on what we mean by them and
how we use them.

In the "humanities," by contrast, many terms like "morality"
are high-level abstractions, so there's widespread disagreement
on what we mean by them. Furthermore, attempted "definitions"
of high-level abstractions seldom resolve the disagreements.

Frederick Mann

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