Let me give a clearer example. Suppose I say that I believe it is a good and noble thing for the strong to oppress the weak, even to the point of killing them; and that if I were in charge I would promote this moral position in schools, through the media, and with changes to the criminal law, so that eventually it becomes accepted as the norm. How are you going to argue against this? You can't point out any errors of fact because I haven't made any empirical claims (other than the trivial one that this is what I in fact believe). You may try to point out the dire social consequences of such a policy, but where in the above have I said anything about social consequences? Frankly, I don't care what the effects of my policy are because I consider the destruction of weaklings in as painful a manner as possible of the greatest importance, and if God is just, I believe that I will go to heaven for having stuck to my moral principles. I know that many people would be horrified by what I propose, but I am certainly not the only one in history to have thought this way!

The point is, you cannot argue against my moral position, because I don't present any arguments or make any claims. All you can do is disagree with me and state an alternative moral position.


From: Wei Dai <[EMAIL PROTECTED]>
To: Stathis Papaioannou <[EMAIL PROTECTED]>
CC: [EMAIL PROTECTED]
Subject: Re: Modern Physical theory as a basis for Ethical and Existential Nihilism
Date: Sat, 24 Jan 2004 21:00:39 -0500


On Sun, Jan 25, 2004 at 01:01:42AM +1100, Stathis Papaioannou wrote:
> 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!].


(a) as stated is ill defined. In order to actually reason with it in
practice, you'd have to define what "activity", "cause", "net", "human",
and "suffering" mean, but then it's hard to see how one can just have a
"feeling" that statement (a), by now highly technical, is true. What about
a slightly different variation of (a), where the definition of "human" or
"suffering" is given a small tweak? How do you decide which of them
reflects your true feelings? The mere presense of many similar but
contradictory moral statements might give you a feeling of arbitrariness
that causes you to reject all of them.

Difficulties like this lead to the desire for a set of basic moral axioms
that can be defined precisely and still be seen by everyone as obvious and
non-arbitrary. Again, maybe it doesn't exist, but we can't know for sure
unless we're much smarter than we actually are.

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