Stathis Papaioannou wrote:
> Brent Meeker writes (quoting SP):
>>>>> There are several differences between the axioms of ethics and aesthetics 
>>>>> on 
>>>>> the one hand and those of logic, mathematics and science on the other. 
>>>>> One is 
>>>>> that you can bet that any sentient species would arrive at exactly the 
>>>>> same rules 
>>>>> of arithmetic and chemistry, but might have completely bizarre, or at 
>>>>> least very 
>>>>> different, notions of ethics and aesthetics. 
>>>> If this hypothetical species arose by evolution in competition with other 
>>>> species, then I think they would necessarily share basic values with us:  
>>>> They would have language and a desire to be accepted within a tribe.  So 
>>>> they would generally value truth in statements - though not absolutely.  
>>>> They would consider it good to reproduce and they would consider their 
>>>> death and the death of any relatives as bad, particularly before they had 
>>>> reproduced.  Although Hume said you can't get "ought" from "is", Darwinian 
>>>> evolution implies that certain "oughts" will be almost universal.
>>> I don't know about that. The female praying mantis eats the male's head 
>>> after mating. 
>>> Is that a good way to behave? How would you explain your view to an 
>>> intelligent race 
>>> evolved from praying mantids (I had to look the plural up)?
>> They would agree with it.  Obviously the male preying mantis thinks it very 
>> important to reproduce - even a great risk to his life.  It's good for the 
>> female to eat the male just as it it is good for her to eat other insects.  
>> However, I don't think an intelligent race can evolve without being social - 
>> certainly nothing like our kind of intelligence.  I think social competition 
>> within the species is the primary driver of natural selection for "higher" 
>> intellectual functions.
> But is head-eating a good thing? A group of male mantids might get together 
> to form 
> an anti-head-eating movement, arguing that it is barbaric and no longer 
> necessary even 
> though it has always been the way and is probably genetically programmed. The 
> pro-
> -head-eating majority would probably vehemently disagree. Everyone agrees on 
> the facts, 
> everyone is able to reason, but there are still two conflincting views on 
> what is "good".

I agree.  Values are something individuals have and male mantids might well 
hold different values about being eaten that do female mantids.  The difficulty 
in deciding "good" and "bad" only arises when you try to apply terms generally; 
as though everyone must agree.  I think it is more useful to think in terms of 
public policy.  A society is more likely to be able to agree on whether to 
allow or prohibit mate eating than on whether to call it "good" or "bad".  
Abortion is a good example.  Hardly anyone would call abortion "good", but most 
are willing to let it be personal decision, recognizing that there are other 
factors in one's life.
>>>>> Another is that matters of ethics and 
>>>>> aesthetics are not really third person communicable: an alien species may 
>>>>> have 
>>>>> notions about these that can only be understood by someone with their 
>>>>> psychology. 
>>>>> This is because ethics and aesthetics at a fundamental level involve 
>>>>> emotion, whereas 
>>>>> science and logic do not. 
>>>> I don't think there are completely emotion free thoughts, nor can there 
>>>> be, in an intelligent being.  The force of logic is a kind of feeling.  
>>>> People feel discomfort if they realize they are holding two contrary 
>>>> propositions.  Any artificial intelligence would need artificial 
>>>> aesthetics.  A mathematician who showed no judgement about which theorems 
>>>> to prove, and so proved things like 287+1=288, would be considered an 
>>>> idiot.  Mathematicians are famous for their aesthetic valuation of proofs.
>>> Yes, but with ethical statements the emotion is essential to its truth 
>>> value. Star Trek's Mr. 
>>> Spock (if he truly did lack all emotions) could honestly say he does not 
>>> know why it is bad to 
>>> cause suffering, or why Bach's music is beautiful. But he would be able to 
>>> understand 
>>> mathematical theorems regardless of whether he appreciated them 
>>> aesthetically.
>> But he wouldn't care whether propositions of mathematics were true or false. 
>>  He even wouldn't care that he held contrary ideas.  And in that case he 
>> couldn't choose this act over that.  In other words he'd be completely 
>> disfunctional.  That's why I think emotion, in the general sense of having 
>> values, is essential to intelligence (even low level intelligence).
> It depends on how far you stretch the term "emotion". 

I wasn't stretching it to autonomous functions - but I think you could stretch 
"having or expressing values" that far.  Our ancestral proto-cell in the 
primordial soup expressed a value of surviving as an entity separate from the 
soup; but I wouldn't say it experienced emotion.

>My body puts great effort into staying 
> alive even when I am unconscious. You could say that it "wants" to stay 
> alive, "choosing" one 
> course of action over another in order to achieve this. But this seems quite 
> different to what 
> I mean by these terms when I am awake. It doesn't seem such a big deal to 
> turn off life support 
> once someone is brain dead even though the intact parts of his physiology are 
> "desperately" 
> trying to keep his body functioning.

I'd say desperation is an emotion that attaches only to contemplated courses of 
action - when all courses seem equally bad.  As such, the circulatory system 
can't be desperate.

Brent Meeker

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