Brent Meeker wrote:
1Z wrote:
>
>
> Stathis Papaioannou wrote:
>> Brent meeker writes:
>>
>>
>> > Stathis Papaioannou wrote:
>> > >
>> > >
>> > >
>> > >
>> > > Brent meeker writes:
>> > >
>> > >> > Evolution explains why we have good and bad, but it doesn't
>> explain
>> > >> why > good and bad feel as they do, or why we *should* care about
>> good
>> > >> and > bad
>> > >> That's asking why we should care about what we should care about,
>> i.e.
>> > >> good and bad.  Good feels as it does because it is (or was)
>> > >> evolutionarily advantageous to do that, e.g. have sex.  Bad feels as
>> > >> it does because it is (or was) evolutionarily advantageous to not do
>> > >> that, e.g. hold your hand in the fire.  If it felt good you'd do it,
>> > >> because that's what "feels good" means, a feeling you want to have.
>> > >
>> > > But it is not an absurd question to ask whether something we have
>> > > evolved to think is good really is good. You are focussing on the
>> > > descriptive aspect of ethics and ignoring the normative.
>> >
>> > Right - because I don't think there is an normative aspect in the
>> objective sense.
>> >
>> > >Even if it
>> > > could be shown that a certain ethical belief has been hardwired
>> into our
>> > > brains this does not make the qustion of whether the belief is one we
>> > > ought to have an absurd one. We could decide that evolution sucks
>> and we
>> > > have to deliberately flout it in every way we can.
>> >
>> > But we could only decide that by showing a conflict with something
>> else we consider good.
>> >
>> > >It might not be a
>> > > wise policy but it is not *wrong* in the way it would be wrong to
>> claim
>> > > that God made the world 6000 years ago.
>> >
>> > I agree, because I think there is a objective sense in which the
>> world is more than 6000yrs old.
>> >
>> > >> >beyond following some imperative of evolution. For example, the
>> Nazis
>> > >> > argued that eliminating inferior specimens from the gene pool
>> would
>> > >> ultimately > produce a superior species. Aside from their irrational
>> > >> inclusion of certain > groups as inferior, they were right: we could
>> > >> breed superior humans following > Nazi eugenic programs, and perhaps
>> > >> on other worlds evolution has made such > programs a natural part of
>> > >> life, regarded by everyone as "good". Yet most of > us would regard
>> > >> them as bad, regardless of their practical benefits.
>> > >>
>> > >> Would we?  Before the Nazis gave it a bad name, eugenics was a
>> popular
>> > >> movement in the U.S. mostly directed at sterilizing mentally
>> retarded
>> > >> people.  I think it would be regarded as bad simply because we don't
>> > >> trust government power to be exercised prudently or to be easily
>> > >> limited  - both practical considerations.  If eugenics is practiced
>> > >> voluntarily, as it is being practiced in the U.S., I don't think
>> > >> anyone will object (well a few fundamentalist luddites will).
>> > >
>> > > What about if we tested every child and allowed only the superior
>> ones
>> > > to reproduce? The point is, many people would just say this is wrong,
>> > > regardless of the potential benefits to society or the species,
>> and the
>> > > response to this is not that it is absurd to hold it as wrong
>> (leaving
>> > > aside emotional rhetoric).
>> >
>> > But people wouldn't *just* say this is wrong. This example is a
>> question of societal policy. It's about what *we* will impose on
>> *them*.  It is a question of ethics, not good and bad.  So in fact
>> people would give reasons it was wrong: Who's gonna say what
>> "superior" means?  Who gets to decide?   They might say, "I just think
>> it's bad." - but that would just be an implicit appeal to you to see
>> whether you thought is was bad too.  Social policy can only be judged
>> in terms of what the individual members of society think is good or bad.
>> >
>> > I think I'm losing the thread of what we're discussing here.  Are
>> you holding that there are absolute norms of good/bad - as in your
>> example of eugenics?
>>
>> Perhaps none of the participants in this thread really disagree. Let
>> me see if I
>> can summarise:
>>
>> Individuals and societies have arrived at ethical beliefs for a
>> reason, whether that be
>> evolution, what their parents taught them, or what it says in a book
>> believed to be divinely
>> inspired. Perhaps all of these reasons can be subsumed under
>> "evolution" if that term can
>> be extended beyond genetics to include all the ideas, beliefs, customs
>> etc. that help a
>> society to survive and propagate itself. Now, we can take this and
>> formalise it in some way
>> so that we can discuss ethical questions rationally:
>>
>> Murder is bad because it reduces the net happiness in society -
>> Utilitarianism
>>
>> Murder is bed because it breaks the sixth commandment - Judaism and
>> Christianity
>> (interesting that this only no. 6 on a list of 10: God knows his
>> priorities)
>>
>> Ethics then becomes objective, given the rules. The meta-ethical
>> explanation of evolution,
>> broadly understood, as generating the various ethical systems is also
>> objective. However,
>> it is possible for someone at the bottom of the heap to go over the
>> head of utilitarianism,
>> evolution, even God and say:
>>
>> "Why should murder be bad? I don't care about the greatest good for
>> the greatest number,
>> I don't care if the species dies out, and I think God is a bastard and
>> will shout it from hell if
>> sends me there for killing people for fun and profit. This is my own
>> personal ethical belief,
>> and you can't tell me I'm wrong!
>>
>> And the psychopath is right: no-one can actually fault him on a point
>> of fact or a point of
>> logic.
>
> The psychopath is wrong. He doesn't want to be murdered, but
> he wants to murder. His "ethical rule" is therefore inconsistent and
> not
> really ethical at all.

It was his personal belief - not a rule for everyone.  You seem to be invoking 
a principle that personal values must be universal, but why should anyone 
believe that?  I like vanilla; you like chocolate.  I like to kill people; you 
think it's bad.

>>  In the *final* analysis, ethical beliefs are not a matter of fact or
>> logic, and if it seems
>> that they are then there is a hidden assumption somewhere.
>
> Everything starts with assumptions. The questions is whether they
> are correct.  A lunatic could try defining 2+2=5 as valid, but
> he will soon run into inconsistencies. That is why we reject
> 2+2=5. Ethical rules must apply to everybody as a matter of
> definition.

But who is "everybody".

Everybody who can reason ethically.

 Must the rules be the same for men and women, for adults and children, for me 
and you?  And what about animals - do they count?

Brent Meeker


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