Jef Allbright writes:

peterdjones wrote:

> Moral and natural laws.
> > > An investigation of natural laws, and, in parallel, a defence > of ethical objectivism.The objectivity, to at least some > extent, of science will be assumed; the sceptic may differ, > but there is no convincing some people).


> As ethical objectivism is a work-in-progress > there are many variants, and a considerable literature > discussing which is the correct one.

I agree with the thrust of this post and I think there are a few key
concepts which can further clarify thinking on this subject:

(1) Although moral assessment is inherently subjective--being relative
to internal values--all rational agents share some values in common due
to sharing a common evolutionary heritage or even more fundamentally,
being subject to the same physical laws of the universe.

That may be so, but we don't exactly have a lot of intelligent species to make the comparison. It is not difficult to imagine species with different evolutionary heritages which would have different ethics to our own, certainly in the details and probably in many of the core values.

(2) From the point of view of any subjective agent, what is "good" is
what is assessed to promote the agent's values into the future.

(3) From the point of view of any subjective agent, what is "better" is
what is assessed as "good" over increasing scope.

(4) From the point of view of any subjective agent, what is increasingly
"right" or moral, is decision-making assessed as promoting increasingly
shared values over increasing scope of agents and interactions.

From the foregoing it can be seen that while there can be no objective
morality, nor any absolute morality, it is reasonable to expect
increasing agreement on the relative morality of actions within an
expanding context.  Further, similar to the entropic arrow of time, we
can conceive of an arrow of morality corresponding to the ratcheting
forward of an increasingly broad context of shared values (survivors of
coevolutionary competition) promoted via awareness of increasingly
effective principles of interaction (scientific knowledge of what works,
extracted from regularities in the environment.)

What if the ratcheting forward of shared values is at odds with evolutionary expediency, i.e. there is some unethical policy that improves the fitness of the species? To avoid such a dilemna you would have define as ethical everything improves the fitness of the species, and I'm not sure you want to do that.
Further, from this theory of metaethics we can derive a practical system
of social decision-making based on (1) increasing fine-grained knowledge
of shared values, and (2) application of increasingly effective
principles, selected with regard to models of probable outcomes in a
Rawlsian mode of broad rather than narrow self-interest.

This is really quite a good proposal for building better societies, and one that I would go along with, but meta-ethical problems arise if someone simply rejects that shared values are important (eg. believes that the values of the strong outweigh those of the weak), and ethical problems arise when it is time to decide what exactly these shared values are and how they should best be promoted. You know this of course, and it is what makes ethics and aesthetics different to the natural sciences.

I apologize for the extremely terse and sparse nature of this outline,
but I wanted to contribute these keystones despite lacking the time to
provide expanded background, examples, justifications, or
clarifications.  I hope that these seeds of thought may contribute to a
flourishing garden both on and offlist.

- Jef

Stathis Papaioannou
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