Re: ESSAY: 'Debunking 'Hippy dippy moral philosophy'

From: Keith Henson (
Date: Tue Jun 22 2004 - 07:00:03 MDT

At 06:36 PM 21/06/04 -0400, you wrote:
>On Jun 16, 2004, at 2:38 PM, Eliezer Yudkowsky wrote:
>>Randall Randall wrote:
>>>Is it your contention, then, that if an objective morality
>>>exists, it will necessarily have nothing to do with any
>>>current human morality? That, supposing the existence of
>>>morality which has physical consequences like, say, gravity,
>>>humans will turn out to have no ability to measure the
>>>morality of an action?
>>For myself, it is my contention that humans would be the ones who decide
>>that XYZ is an "objective morality", and this would be decided on the
>>basis of those forces that determine our decisions *right now* - patterns
>>already in our brain, that got there via social and genetic
>>processes. The causal explanation of why humans regarded XYZ as an
>>"objective morality" would end up being phrased in terms other than
>>XYZ. We already know how humans got to be the way they are;

>>an objective morality wasn't part of it.

>Unless natural selection features in objective morality (if and
>when we discover such).
>>An objectively existing optimization process, evolution, did the job.
>>Evolution constructed psychologies whose reaction to evolution, when we
>>found out about it, was a strict spandrel of existing adaptations.

>>We looked at the objective morality that produced us,

The isolated sentences by Eliezer above seem to contradict each other.

>>and said, "Yuck, how immoral." Why wouldn't that happen to any other
>>objective morality we ran across, if it took no notice of love and life
>>and laughter? This, I think, is the same sentiment expressed by John K
>>Clark's objection - though I may have misunderstood him.
>Love and life and laughter are currently expressed in matter in
>our universe. If there is an objective morality, it could be
>that is has nothing to say about them, but until we have evidence
>of that, I'd prefer not to try to defend such a thing.
>In any case, the fact that some or many humans say "Yuck, how
>immoral" about something, whether it's puma/antelope relations,
>dumping oil in the ocean, or the mechanics of procreation, doesn't
>mean it's immoral. It can't, since you can find those on both
>sides of such questions. It may be that some of the things that
>humans say "Yuck, how immoral" about *are* immoral, but consensus
>is not necessarily the way to determine that, any more than
>consensus would have been a good way to determine the distance
>to the Indies heading west from Spain, or the value of PI.

I the points are not entirely clear. Perhaps if we state it in smaller
chunks . . . .

1) Humans have a species-wide sense of "moral" including behavior.

2) We got this psychological trait the same way we got everything else,
evolution, with all that implies particularly Hamilton's inclusive fitness.

3) If you consider particular aspects of this psychological trait, what is
considered moral is that which improves genetic survival or did in the EES.

4) "Improves genetic survival" has many levels, from an individual to the
whole species, with a penumbra that reaches out to the whole biosphere our
species is dependant upon.

5) Because "moral" depends on the level and the local viewpoint, "moral"
behavior includes up to humans killing each other in times of resource crunch.

How all this maps into an era of AI, nanotech, uploading and the like is a
complex set of problems.

Keith Henson

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Wed Jul 17 2013 - 04:00:47 MDT