Re: An essay I just wrote on the Singularity.

From: Elaine and Andy (
Date: Sun Jan 04 2004 - 14:29:06 MST

<fifty bazillion posts snipped>

Ah, the Singularity List has discovered David Hume!

"Natural red in tooth and Claw" is a direct quote and
the philosophy of subjective morality from his
argument that morality is found in "feelings" not
"knowing." "Feelings" are, of course, subjective.
"Feelings" are defined very specifically by Hume but it
is enough to say, in this context, that they are not mere
emotions but a set of options for human interaction
arising from a complex basis of reason, emotion,
experience, action and the results of action.

(It was Hume who stung Emmanuel Kant into writing
'A Critique of Pure Reason' - contending "categorical
imperatives" (objective criteria) are the standards of
morality. With what success I leave for others to decide.)

Hume's answer to the problem pf morality is: "Custom
is the great guide of human life."

Customs and mores, as anthopologists can tell us, are a
set of guidelines a society uses to structure human action
and interaction. These customs are generally in accordance
with the mythos of the culture the society has developed
although it does not necessarily mandate or guide
the actions of any individual or group within that society.
But even diverse societies have a remarkably consistent set
of moral guidelines as first outlined in Huxley's 'Perennial
Philosophy.' So much so that scholars have a label, The
Axial Age, for the period (roughly 200 BCE to 600 CE)
when these guidelines disseminated across the Eurasian
continent. This still holds true today as a cursory examination
of modern groupings, from the Amish to Marxists to Zen
Buddhists, will attest.


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