There are statements of fact, statements of logic (also called analytic or a priori), and statements of value. Statements of fact are verified or falsified empirically. Statements of logic include mathematical theorems and are verified or falsified by following the rules of logic or mathematics. Statements of value - which includes ethics and aesthetics - are expressions of one's feelings or wishes, are not, by their nature, right or wrong (except in the trivial sense of whether one is being truthful about one's feelings). Now, ethical statements may actually include statements of fact, and this part can be verified or falsified objectively. For example, I may say,

(a) any activity which causes net human suffering is bad;
(b) abortion causes net human suffering; therefore,
(c) abortion is bad.

Look first at the logical structure: classic syllogism, no problem. Second, look at premiss (b). There is a lot of research to do before allowing this as true: can a foetus at a certain stage experience pain? Is the harm to the foetus outweighed by the harm to the mother and unwanted child if there is no abortion? Finally, look at premiss (a). If asked why I believe this it may turn out to in fact be another composite, to be analysed as above. However, at some point, I will not be able to give any further explanation, and THAT is the basic ethical belief. If I stop with (a) above, I am simply saying that this is how I feel about suffering, and this feeling is not contingent on the state of affairs in any actual or possible world [there, I got it in!].

Subject: Re: Modern Physical theory as a basis for Ethical and Existential Nihilism
Date: Sat, 24 Jan 2004 06:47:39 -0500

I have to say that I sympathize with Caesar, but my position is slightly
different. I think there is a possibility that that objective morality
does exist, but we're simply too stupid to realize what it is. Therefore
we should try to improve our intelligence, through intelligence
amplication, or artificial intelligence, before saying that objective
morality is impossible and therefore we should just pursue other goals
like survival, comfort or happiness.

Some people have argued that in fact survival is an objective goal,
because evolution makes sure that people who don't pursue survival don't
exist. But if we assume that everything exists, the above statement has to
be modified to an assertion that people who don't pursue survival have low
measure. However the choice of measure itself is subjective, so why
shouldn't one use a measure in which people who don't pursue survival have
high measure (e.g., one which favors universes where those people
survive anyway through good luck or benevolent gods)?

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