Re: Evil ? (was: Hypostases (was: Natural Order Belief)

2006-12-20 Thread Bruno Marchal



Le 19-déc.-06, à 21:32, Brent Meeker a écrit :



Bruno Marchal wrote:
I know it seems a little bit paradoxical, but then it is my 
methodology

to take seriously the interview of the lobian machine, which is
famous for its many paradoxical thoughts.
It is certainly not a reductio against comp, given that we are not
arriving at a genuine contradiction. It just happens that goodness 
is

as unnameable as truth.
Now, concerning this paradox, it seems to me intuitively
comprehensible. If someone saves me from some horrible pain, then that
is (arguably) good; but if he does that in the *name* of good, I can
understand that this naming depreciates its action. Even if personally
I am still benefiting from that situation, the naming could make me
uneasy, and who knows what will be done under that or any name.


A little uneasiness about what someone might do in the future is 
hardly enough to transform a good act into a bad one.  It seems you 
are saying that if the good samaritan claimed to have performed his 
kind act *for any reason whatsoever* it would become a bad act.  That 
sounds like a reductio to me.



Not at all. It becomes bad when he refers or justify his act in the 
*name* of any unnameable virtue. It is hard to define those 
unnanmeable virtue except that true is already one of those and 
good, just etc. are obvious derivative of true.  But I must say 
that I am talking about some ideal case, and I can imagine context 
where nuance should be added. You can, for example, give a vaccine to a 
child. The child is unhappy about that because the vaccine has some 
distasteful taste or because he is afraid of needles, and you can make 
short your justification by saying it is for your own good. Here you 
don't act in the name of good, you just sum up a long explanation based 
on the idea that a disease is not good for your child. Well even here 
the complete explanation is better in the case the child has no idea of 
any relationship between the vaccine and the disease.
Although a lobian machine has no idea of what is an absolutely true 
sentence, she can have genuine approximation of true for restricted set 
of sentences and I can imagine similar definable restricted notion of 
good.





We can be reflective about one's actions and conclude *for ourselve*
that they are good, but lobianity prevents correct machine to
communicate it to others *as such*,  if only to prevent any normative
use of a notion like goodness. It prevents also idolatry toward 
names
or descriptions of good, true, correct. With comp a judge can 
put

a machine in jail, despite its total inability to ever judge the
machine deserves jail.


OK.  That comports with my thought that good/bad are personal.  So one 
can say, I did that because I think it was good to do so.  And I can 
try to persuade you that you should think it good too.  It's just 
wrong to assume that there is a knowable, objective good.



Indeed. As far as there is a knowable good, it cannot be objective. As 
far as there is an objective good, it is not knowable *as such*. (It 
can be accidentally knowable but then not as an objective good.
I guess this is related with the popular belief that Roads to Hell are 
paved with good intentions (approximate translation from the french).







Some buddhist told this in some provocative way: if you really love
buddha, kill it.   (Not to take literally OC).

Recall that once we interview a correct machine, be it 
Peano-Arithmetic

PA, or the far richer Zermelo-Fraenkel, or even the angel
Analysis+OmegaRule (which has infinite cognitive abilities), the first
interesting thing such machines or entity say is that they will told 
us

some bullshit or that they may told us some bullshit. So am I. Please,
don't infer from that that I believe to be such a *correct* machine
(that does not follow logically). I know I am lobian, assuming comp
or (much) weaker. I don't know (and will never known) if I am
consistent and I still less know if I am correct.

Bruno


Yes, I understand and agree with that.  But you are using know in an 
absolute sense.  In the everyday sense of uncertain, but probably 
correct belief, one can know many things - though of course not that 
one is consistent.



OK. (To be sure I am indeed using know in an absolute sense, even in 
the theatetical sense: meaning that knowable p =  p  provable p).
To split the hair a bit, if know is used with a nuance of 
probability we can know our consistency (obvious: we can bet on 
it), so that in your last assertion I would say you were also using 
know in the absolute sense. But I think we mainly agree.


Bruno

http://iridia.ulb.ac.be/~marchal/


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RE: computer pain

2006-12-20 Thread Stathis Papaioannou



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 

Re: computer pain

2006-12-20 Thread 1Z



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 

Re: Cosmological Theodicea - JOINING post

2006-12-20 Thread Bruno Marchal


Hi Maurizio,

Le 11-déc.-06, à 14:29, Maurizio Morabito a écrit :



Hello everybody

I am a 39-year-old male with a Master in Engineering, a scientific
background and an enduring passion for Cosmology

I have been elaborating something along lines similar to Tegmark's
myself for a few years, albeit starting from a more philosophical point
of view


I appreciate Tegmark's mathematicalism. But I cannot follow him in  
the details because he assumes a naive relation between an observer and  
a physical universe. Precisely, if we assume there is a level where  
we are turing-emulable, I have argued(*)  that the physical laws should  
emerge from a sum on all computations capable of supporting my current  
computational state. Eventually this makes physics a branch of computer  
science. At the same time this gives physics a predominant role in the  
sense that physics is no more related to some special mathematical  
structure, but to a sort of sum (perhaps a generalized integral à-la  
Feynman) on all mathematical structures.





My original question was something like this: Given that I am physical
being, can a tree in my thoughts be any less physical than a tree in my
garden?



Are you open to the idea that the tree in the garden is no more  
physical than the tree in your eyes? A little like if physical  
reality was the result of a video game. Actually I would argue physics  
emerge from an infinity of video games which mathematical existence  
can be justified already in weak axiomatic of the natural numbers (with  
addition and multiplication) or from any specification of any universal  
turing machine.
Tegmark is a bit too quick on the mind/body relationship (to make it  
short).






Here's my current stance on the topic (I presume the titles are
giveaways...):

God’s Many Dices (I) - The Science of Parallel Universes (an extended
commentary of Tegmark's):
http://omnologos.wordpress.com/2006/10/23/god%e2%80%99s-many-dices-i- 
the-science-of-parallel-universes/

http://tinyurl.com/y565d2

God’s Many Dices (II) - The Philosophy of Parallel Universes
(introductory remarks on the philosophical consequences of parallel
universes)
http://omnologos.wordpress.com/2006/10/24/god%e2%80%99s-many-dices-ii- 
the-philosophy-of-parallel-universes/

http://tinyurl.com/y4udnp

In the second article I propose an answer to the Theodicea question
(namely, God doesn't just allow evil to happen: God allows
everything to happen). I haven't come across that before (is anybody
else here interested in the topic?)



What is the difference between everything exists (the main line of  
this list) and God allows everything to happen. What is that God and  
how does the fact that It allows everything to happen solve the  
theodicea question. Is a God allowing Darfur good ? Does God  
allows everything to happen, or is God not able not to allow  
everything to happen (in that case your God has no relationship with  
the Christian God and with the traditional theodicea question, as some  
have reminded me recently in the list.





Anyway, having just joined I'll now lurk for a while



You are welcome,




regards
maurizio

Blog (English): http://omnologos.wordpress.com
Blog (Italiano): http://mauriziomorabito.wordpress.com




Bruno


(*) http://iridia.ulb.ac.be/~marchal/


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Re: computer pain

2006-12-20 Thread James N Rose




Stathis Papaioannou wrote:


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 [intuitive people] knows his
[know their] 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. 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.

Stathis Papaioannou



A bit convoluted and somewhat embellished, but essentially: correct.

And violence need not be the standard for an ethic leading to
problematic results.  The 19th century Christian sect Shakers
abhord reproduction  proseletyzing.  They were non-violent 
devout prayer based people, but their 'ethic' led to their own

extinction.

As impartial evaluators, it is sometimes difficult for us
to unemotionally unbiasedly categeorize human dynamics.

There are in any given human millieu a -variety- of 
parameter which have actionable behaviors that can 
be categorized beneficial/unbeneficial, preferrable/

unpreferrable, good/bad, constructive/destructive,
encouraging/disencouraging, not-evil/evil.

Any one parameter, or group of parameters can become the
'situational standard bearer' and other parameters fall 
where they may.  We value 'individuality' but some cultures
sacrifice individuals for the security of the collective. 
Different cultures will resist sacrificing until deemed

absolutely necessary. Others have a lesser requirment;
may even proactively sacrifice for strategic motivations.
And the 'positive' motivation is labelled 'altruism' -
sacrifice in the promotion of and alternative (sic-'greater')
benefit.  An 'evil' of one parameter re-cast as a 'good'
for another.

Killers -do- have a rationale and 'logic' they function
under. And it can be 'objectively correct'.  IF  -- if and
only if - the parameters' assumptions/decisions are accepted
as utile, correct, tenable.

Jamie


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Re: computer pain

2006-12-20 Thread 1Z



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).

At first glance, morality looks as though it should work objectively.
The mere fact that we praise and condemn people's moral behaviour
indicates that we think a common set of rules is applicable to us and
them. To put it another way, if ethics were strongly subjective anyone
could get off the hook by devising a system of personal morality in
which whatever they felt like doing was permissible. It would be hard
to see the difference between such a state of affairs and having no
morality at all. The subtler sort of subjectivist (or relativist) tries
to ameliorate this problem by claiming that moral principles re defined
at the societal level, but similar problems recur -- a society (such as
the Thuggees or Assassins) could declare that murder is OK with them.
These considerations are of course an appeal to how morality seems to
work as a 'language game' and as such do not put ethics on a firm
foundation -- the language game could be groundless. I will argue that
it is not, but first the other side of the argument needs to be put.

It is indisputable that morality varies in practice across communities.
But the contention of ethical objectivism is not that everyone actually
does hold to a single objective system of ethics; it is only that
ethical questions can be resolved objectively in principle. The
existence of an objective solution to any kind of problem is always
compatible with the existence of people who, for whatever reason, do
not subscribe. The roundness of the Earth is no less an objective fact
for the existence of believers in the Flat Earth theory.(It is odd that
the single most popular argument for ethical subjectivism has so little
logical force).

Another objection is that an objective system of ethics must be
accepted by everybody, irrespective of their motivations, and must
therefore be based in self-interest. Again, this gets the nature of
objectivity wrong. The fact that some people cannot see does not make
any empirical evidence less objective, the fact that some people refuse
to employ logic does not make logical argument any less objective. All
claims to objectivity make the background assumption that the people
who will actually employ the objective methodology in question are
willing and able. We will return to this topic toward the end.

Some people insist that anyone who is promoting ethical objectivism and
opposing relativism must be doing so in order to illegitamately promote
their own ethical system as absolute. While this is problably
pragmatically true in many cases, particularly where political and
religious rhetoric is involved, it has no real logical force, because
the contention of ethical objectivism is only that ethical questions
are objectively resolvable in principle -- it does not entail a claim
that the speaker or anyone else is actually in possession of them. This
marks the first of our analogues with science, since the in-principle
objectivity of science coincides with the fact that current scientific
thinking is almost certainly not final or absolute. ethical objectivism
is thus a middle road between subjectivism/relativism on the one hand,
and various absolutisms (such as religious fundamentalism) on the
other.

The final objection, and by far the most philosophically respectable
one, is the objection on that moral rules need to correspond to some
kind of 'queer fact' or 'moral object' which cannot be found.

Natural laws do not correspond in a simplistic one-to-one way with any
empirically detectable object, yet empiricism is relevant to both
supporting and disconfirming natural laws. With this in mind, we should
not rush to reject the objective reality of moral laws on the basis
that there is no 'queer' object for them to stand in one-to-one
correspondence with.

There is, therefore, a semi-detached relationship between natural laws
and facts -- laws are not facts but are not unrelated to facts -- facts
confirm and disconfirm them. There is also a famous dichotomy between
fact and value (where 'value' covers ethics, morality etc). You cannot,
we are told, derive an 'ought' from an 'is'. This is the fact/value
problem.

But, as Hume's argument reminds us, you cannot derive a law from an
isolated observation. Call this the fact/law problem. Now, if the
morality is essentially a matter or ethical rules or laws, might not
the fact/value problem and the law/value problem be at least partly the
same ?

(Note that there seems to be a middle ground here; the English should
can indicate lawfulness without implying either inevitability, like a
natural law, or morality. eg you should move the bishop diagonally in
chess -- but that does not mean you will, or that it is unethical to do
so. It is just against the rules of chess).

RE: computer pain

2006-12-20 Thread Jef Allbright


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).


snip

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.

(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.)

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.

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



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Re: Evil ? (was: Hypostases (was: Natural Order Belief)

2006-12-20 Thread Brent Meeker


Bruno Marchal wrote:



Le 19-déc.-06, à 21:32, Brent Meeker a écrit :



Bruno Marchal wrote:

I know it seems a little bit paradoxical, but then it is my methodology
to take seriously the interview of the lobian machine, which is
famous for its many paradoxical thoughts.
It is certainly not a reductio against comp, given that we are not
arriving at a genuine contradiction. It just happens that goodness is
as unnameable as truth.
Now, concerning this paradox, it seems to me intuitively
comprehensible. If someone saves me from some horrible pain, then that
is (arguably) good; but if he does that in the *name* of good, I can
understand that this naming depreciates its action. Even if personally
I am still benefiting from that situation, the naming could make me
uneasy, and who knows what will be done under that or any name.


A little uneasiness about what someone might do in the future is 
hardly enough to transform a good act into a bad one.  It seems you 
are saying that if the good samaritan claimed to have performed his 
kind act *for any reason whatsoever* it would become a bad act.  That 
sounds like a reductio to me.



Not at all. It becomes bad when he refers or justify his act in the 
*name* of any unnameable virtue. 


It's not clear what bad refers to in the above.  It seems as though you are asserting an absolute standard 
of bad while claiming there can be no absolute standard of good.  My personal judgment of good 
or bad would not be so clear cut.  If someone does me an act of kindness I consider that good.  If he refers it to some 
unameable virtue, e.g. he says he did it in the name of God or Capitalism, then I may consider it a little 
less good - but not bad.

It is hard to define those 
unnanmeable virtue except that true is already one of those and 
good, just etc. are obvious derivative of true.  But I must say 
that I am talking about some ideal case, and I can imagine context where 
nuance should be added. You can, for example, give a vaccine to a child. 
The child is unhappy about that because the vaccine has some distasteful 
taste or because he is afraid of needles, and you can make short your 
justification by saying it is for your own good. Here you don't act in 
the name of good, you just sum up a long explanation based on the idea 
that a disease is not good for your child. Well even here the complete 
explanation is better in the case the child has no idea of any 
relationship between the vaccine and the disease.


But even the most complete possible explanation must end at some point with 
something that is explicitly or implicitly good.  But I think we agree that 
this good, in the explanation, must be something the child accepts as a 
personal good.  Even if it is presented as good for society, the child may 
accept that because of feelings of empathy for others.

Brent Meeker

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Re: computer pain

2006-12-20 Thread Brent Meeker


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 

Re: computer pain

2006-12-20 Thread Brent Meeker


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 

Re: computer pain

2006-12-20 Thread Brent Meeker


Jef Allbright wrote:


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).


snip

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.

(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.)

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.

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


Well said!  I agree almost completely - I'm a little uncertain about (3) and (4) above 
and the meaning of scope.  Together with the qualifications of Peter Jones 
regarding the lack of universal agreement on even the best supported theories of science, 
you have provided a good outline of the development of ethics in a way parallel with the 
scientific development of knowledge.

There's a good paper on the relation facts and values by Oliver Curry which 
bears on many of the above points:

http://human-nature.com/ep/downloads/ep04234247.pdf

Brent Meeker


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testing

2006-12-20 Thread John Mikes

This is the 3rd time I send a 'test' to myself. I receive list-post on this
gmail address, but my mail does not show up, neither here nor on the
YAHOO-mail address I unsubscribed from.
Am I still on the No e-mail exclusion?
Or does the listserve not recognise my mailing?

John Mikes

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Re: testing

2006-12-20 Thread Saibal Mitra


The listserver was experiencing a lot of computer pain recently and 
that prevented it from function normally :)


John Mikes [EMAIL PROTECTED]:


This is the 3rd time I send a 'test' to myself. I receive list-post on this
gmail address, but my mail does not show up, neither here nor on the
YAHOO-mail address I unsubscribed from.
Am I still on the No e-mail exclusion?
Or does the listserve not recognise my mailing?

John Mikes





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Re: testing

2006-12-20 Thread Wei Dai

Your posts have been coming through. You can check 
http://groups.google.com/group/everything-list?hl=en yourself to see if your 
posts have been received by the group.
 - Original Message - 
 From: John Mikes 
 To: everything-list@googlegroups.com ; Wei Dai 
 Sent: Thursday, December 21, 2006 5:42 AM

 Subject: testing


 This is the 3rd time I send a 'test' to myself. I receive list-post on this 
gmail address, but my mail does not show up, neither here nor on the YAHOO-mail 
address I unsubscribed from.
 Am I still on the No e-mail exclusion?
 Or does the listserve not recognise my mailing? 


 John Mikes

 


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