Bruno Marchal writes:

> Le 15-déc.-06, à 02:04, Stathis Papaioannou a écrit :
> > Who says the Nazis are wrong when they assert they are good?
> I was not saying that they were wrong. I was saying that they were bad.
> Who says this?  All self-referentially correct machine sufficnetly rich 
> to prove elementary theorems in arithmetic.
> For showing this it is just enough to accept that the notion of 
> "goodness" is of a type having greater or equal complexity that the 
> notion of consistency or truth (which is intuitively reasonable).
> To sum up: a lobian machine saying "I am true" is false. (note that 
> saying "I am provable" makes it true by ... Lob's theorem itself!).
> A lobian machine asserting "I am consistent" is inconsistent (Godel)
> A lobian machine asserting "I am intelligent" is stupid,
> A lobian machine asserting "I am stupid" is ... stupid too (beginners 
> are often wrong on this).
> A lobian machine asserting "I am good" is bad,
> A lobian machine asserting "I am bad" is bad (too!)
> A lobian machine asserting "I am virtuous" provably lacks virtue. 
> (provably, not probably)
> Apparently self-referentially correct lobian machine are enough wise 
> for never attributing to themselves any "moral" quality. They cannot 
> judge their own defect in the matter.

This doesn't help us decide what is good or bad though. "Good" and "bad" 
are just placeholders, like x and y. 

> > We could look at a particular incident where capital punishment was 
> > proposed, let's say
> > for murder. Everyone might agree on the facts of the crime and the 
> > effects of executing
> > the perpetrator, but still strongly disagree about whether it is right 
> > or wrong. So of course
> > the capital punishment debate does involve rational discussion and 
> > maybe some people will
> > switch sides if appropriate evidence is presented, but in the end you 
> > will have a situation
> > where there is just disagreement on an axiom.
> Again this shows that good/bad is not different from true/false, even 
> just in arithmetic.

Why is the consensus on arithmetic so much greater than the consensus on ethics 
and aesthetics?

> Recall the admittedly counterintuitive truth (admitting the consistency 
> of Peano Arithmetic): the new theory obtained by adding to Peano 
> arithmetic the statement that Peano arithmetic is inconsistent, is a 
> consistent theory (albeit probably not "reasonable", but what does that 
> mean?).
> The elementary atoms of good and bad are related to what we have 
> "learned" since life begun, like drinking water is good, self-burning 
> is bad, or any elementary pleasure/pain qualia in company of some 
> amount of self-referential correctness.

You can describe what is pleasant, what is more likely to lead to you 
to live, what is more likely to lead to the survival of the species, what is 
more likely 
to lead to happy lives for most people: I have no problem with that. You can 
define "good" as that which is more likely to bring these things about: that's 
I define it personally. However, although there may be no disagreement on 
depriving a proportion of the population of food will make them unhappy, even 
whether it will bring about the destruction of the species, someone who thinks 
to me could still say that the starvation policy is "good". For example, he 
could say that 
starvation is "noble" in a way which outweighs harm to the individual or the 
and that anyone who opposes the policy is actually doing terrible harm whilst 
believing he is doing good. You would call the starvation advocate crazy, 
barbaric, and he would call you crazy, irrational and barbaric. However, 
neither of you 
is wrong about the facts and neither of you is making any errors in logic. And 
"crazy" and "barbaric" necessarily have an element of cultural appropriateness 
in their 

> >>  But of course democracy does not
> >> *necessarily* lead to the good.
> >
> > Just in that last sentence is the assumption that there is some other 
> > basis for
> > the good than what the majority decides to say it is.
> Yes, precisely. But because good/bad cannot be normative or even 
> defined, democracy works well in giving to the majority a way to revise 
> opinions after four years. "majority" by itself has nothing per se 
> related to "good".

From Wikipedia:

"In philosophy, normative is usually contrasted with positive, descriptive or 
explanatory when describing types of theories, beliefs, or statements. 
Descriptive (or constative) statements are falsifiable statements that attempt 
to describe reality. Normative statements, on the other hand, affirm how things 
should or ought to be, how to value them, which things are good or bad, which 
actions are right or wrong.

> (BTW I do not favors any form of direct democracy, because by 
> controlling media you can make any majority decide what you want).
> Majority is wrong in general, but through democracy the majority can be 
> less and less wrong (a little bit like science).

Monarchists and fascists don't think so. Are they mistaken in their reasoning 
their facts?

> > For example, if 51% of the
> > population decided to kill the other 49% and take all their 
> > possessions, presumably
> > you would not think that was good.
> That is a sort  of civil war.
> > This means that your idea of what is good is
> > somehow better than the decisision of the majority, and you only 
> > favour democracy
> > because you think it is more likely to come up with laws in accordance 
> > with your
> > ethical principles than most other forms of government. Isn't that a 
> > little arrogant?
> Not at all. Democracy has just a better chance to *converge* on 
> solutions acceptable by a majority, notably by making it possible to 
> take into account opinion of minorities, but also to take account 
> people's changes of mind. Democracy per se is not ethical, it is 
> meta-ethical. I am not saying that this or that is good or bad, just 
> that such things are hard to decide and that the advantage of democracy 
> is that, whatever is good or bad, working democratic systems can give a 
> way for changing your mind (after 4 years, say) on difficult social or 
> ethical questions.
> In a tyranny someone thinks at your place, and if you don't belong to 
> the right club, you have not even any hope for a change.  When you feel 
> something is bad for you, it is arguable that the mere possibility of 
> change is a good.

Tyrants may aknowledge all this and still say that their way is "good". 

> You say (to Brent):
> > 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".
> Like they are still many conflicting views on what is "true", "real" 
> etc.
> This does not mean we cannot progress on such notions. We can can have 
> less and less conflicting view of what is true. I can expect the same 
> for "good".
> Both with "true" and "good" I don't expect we can converge on a final 
> complete theory capable of deciding all assertions, quite the contrary: 
> theories like bodies are vehicle of thought. Democratic system are more 
> efficient to explore the political landscape and thus more efficient in 
> probability to satisfy "soul's natural attraction" toward the "good".

The soul's natural attraction towards the good might be compared to the body's 
natural attraction to keep dry. You might predict that every society would use 
umbrellas of some sort. If a society did not use umbrellas, that would be 
If they did not use them because they did not believe that rain is wet or 
they believed that God in his mercy would make the raindrops miss them, then 
would be *wrong*. If they did not use them because they didn't want to despite 
discomfort that getting wet causes them then they would be strange and foolish, 
they would not be *wrong*. There is a fundamental difference.

Stathis Papaioannou
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