[extropy-chat] In defense of moral standards (Was: In defense of moral relativism)

Giu1i0 Pri5c0 pgptag at gmail.com
Thu May 5 05:57:22 UTC 2005

Not quite. Jeff's interpretation is correct: I am only challenging the
notion of external, objective *morality*. You may have been misled by
my using the term "Truth" in the sentence quoted below. I am using it
as shorthand for "Moral Truth".
I challenge the notion of external, objective morality because 1) it
cannnot have any positive effect (demonstration: I try to be kind to
children anyway without basing it on metaphysics), and 2) it can have
strong negative effects (demonstration: read the first history book
that you find).
As far as the notion of external, objective reality is concerned, I do
not doubt its usefulness and core validity (even if I think it may be
a bit more complex than we currently appreciate). Regarding *specific
statements* on external reality (e.g. the photon has zero mass, the
Earth is flat, the temperature of the background microwave radiation
is approximately 3K, the Moon is made of Emmenthal cheese, etc.), I
follow the classic scientific method and consider them open to
experimental confirmation or refutation. So I think a scientist is
free to consider hypothesis and try to test them experimentally, but
not free to murder fellow scientists who think differently.

On 5/5/05, Eliezer S. Yudkowsky <sentience at pobox.com> wrote:
> Jeff Medina wrote:
> > On 5/4/05, Eliezer S. Yudkowsky <sentience at pobox.com> wrote:
> >
> >>It was a tad worse than that.  I believe Giulio also said that believing in an
> >>external, objective reality leads to mass-murder and atrocity.
> >
> > Could you point out where he said this? Because what I read was that
> > *morality* was not objective.
> Giu1i0 Pri5c0 wrote:
>  >
>  > Eliezer asks, "How do you rally people to fight for the idea that
>  > nothing is worth fighting for?". But moral relativism does not say
>  > that nothing is worth fighting for. It simply acknowledges that "worth
>  > fighting for" is a value judgment which depends on many factors and
>  > may vary according to circumstances. You still fight for your ideas,
>  > but acknowledging that you are fighting for your ideas and not for The
>  > Truth. Then perhaps you can keep things in perspective and avoid
>  > committing atrocities in defense of your ideas.
>  >
>  > This is, indeed, the main reason why I don't like the very concepts of
>  > absolute truth, or objective morality: the "I Am The Champion Of The
>    ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
>  > Truth" stance leads to gassing people for thinking different.
> --
> Eliezer S. Yudkowsky                          http://singinst.org/
> Research Fellow, Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence

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