Ethical Considerations and Rationality (was The role of consciousness)

From: Lee Corbin (
Date: Mon Apr 07 2008 - 22:04:08 MDT

Jeff writes

> But this isn't a question about rational utility, it's a question
> about ethics. In my opinion, it's unethical to torture people,
> regardless of whether that fits with what you're calling the
> "rational" strategy. In other words, if I get $1000 for torturing
> random person in [Africa], and only $1 for not torturing them... you
> might say that rationally, I should chose the $1000. But that would
> be unethical.

I believe that I would call it unethical too, though I always
question the objective status of such claims. You and I
would simply strongly disapprove (a statement that has
no questionable elements in it so far as I can see) of
someone signing up to receive the $1000 here.

> Another way to say this is that I've been programmed with the
> "friendliness meme" at some point.


> Which causes me to behave "irrationally" according to
> your purely self-interest strategy.

And you are quite right to put "irrationally" in scare
quotes because *rationality* so far as I know has
to be divorced from ethics, on pain of crossing the
is/ought boundary, which at best is incoherent.

> I would argue that my behavior is not actually
> irrational, it's just that my goals involve more
> than just simple self-interest.

Exactly so!


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