[extropy-chat] A crushing defense of objective ethics. Universal Volition and 'Ought' from 'is'.
marc_geddes at yahoo.co.nz
Thu May 5 06:08:51 UTC 2005
I'm going to briefly summarize what seems like an
absolutely water-tight argument for objective ethics.
I show how to derive 'ought' from 'is' and establish
the basis for a Universal Volition.
*The first assumption I make is that meaning and
purpose ultimately comes from sentient minds. When no
sentient mind exists, there can be no meaning. I
think most of you will be able to agree with me here.
*The second assumption is this: 'The ultimate fate of
the universe is indeterminate'. That is to say,
consider the possibility that whether the universe (a)
ends or (b) Lasts forever, has not actually been
physically determined yet. In that case, actions
taken by sentients in the future could change the
probabilities of possible ultimate fates for the
Using these two assumptions, we can derive a
'Universal Volition' (objective morality). Here's the
Asking 'why?' to any proposed course of action,
presupposes that meaning is important. Therefore *any
consistent* proposed ethical system has *presupposed*
that meaning is important. You can't even begin to
reason about ethics without implicitly presupposing
that meaning is important. Therefore *all* ethical
systems presuppose the value of meaning. The
important of meaning is a universal value, in so far
that any values are held at all.
The above is a strange sounding paragraph. It sounds
sort of circular, but it does actually make sense.
It's kind of an anthropic (observer-selection)
argument. I hope you can see the correctness of it
though. To repeat: You can't even begin to ask 'why?'
without presupposing that meaning is important.
Therefore *all* ethical systems in the universe
presuppose the importance of meaning even before any
other values. The importance of meaning is a
O.K. Second step. By the first assumption given
earlier, there can be no meaning without mind.
Meaning comes from sentient minds. But since it was
established that all ethical systems presuppose the
important of meaning, another universal automatically
follows when combined with the initial assumption:
The preservation of the life of sentient beings
(plural) is a good. Since a net loss of sentient
beings will result in a net delete of minds, and
meaning comes from minds and ethics requires meaning,
the continued life of sentient beings (in the
utilitarian sense) is a good.
Third step. By the second assumption the ultimate
fate of the universe is indeterminate. But if the
universe ever ends, all sentient minds within it will
die. But by the previous two reasoning steps it was
established that the continued preservation of
sentient minds is a good. Since the fate of the
universe is indeterminate, there is a possibility that
the actions of sentients can change the ultimate fate
of the universe (in a probabilistic sense). Therefore
it is a universal good for sentients to take the
actions required to increase the probability of the
continued existence of the universe. It would also be
a universal evil for sentients to take actions which
harm the chances of the continued existence of the
Let's briefly review the reasoning chain:
(1) Meaning comes from minds
(2) The ultimate fate of the universe is
(3) You can't even begin to ask 'why?' without
presupposing that meaning is important. Therefore all
ethical systems presuppose meaning as a value.
(4) By (1) all meaning comes from minds and by (3)
all ethics presupposes meaning, it follows that the
net continued existence of sentient minds is a
universal good, since a net deduction of sentients
will result in a net delete of minds and therefore a
net deletion of meaning.
(5) By (2) the ultimate fate of the universe is
indeterminate and could possibility be influenced by
sentient actions. But if the universe ends, all
sentient life ends, which by (4) was established as an
evil. Since sentient actions could possibility
influence the ultimate fate of the universe, it would
be a universal evil for sentients not to try to
influence the universe in order to increase the
probability of its continued existence.
We have deduced a *universal* ethical principle for
all sentient minds. A universal volition of you like.
'Take the actions required to increase the probability
of the continued existence of the universe'
I don't know whether this equates to helping to move
the universe closer to Frank Tipler's Omega Point
(the Omega Point itself is a mathematical limit that
is never reached), but it think it is a fair bet that
is does. And with this principle in the bag, we can
move from 'is' to 'ought'. The reasoning is simple:
*Taking the actions required to increase the
probability of the continued existence of the universe
was established as a universal good. But what these
actions are is entirely an empirical matter. By
understanding the workings of the universe, it is
entirely an empirical matter to determine which
actions will help to ensure the continued existence of
the universe. Therefore 'is' (the current state of
the universe) implies 'ought' (the empirically
determined actions required to increase the
probability of the continued existence of the
And there you have it folks. 'Ought' from 'is' and
Universal Volition established beyond a shadow of a
THE BRAIN is wider than the sky,
For, put them side by side,
The one the other will include
With ease, and you beside.
'The brain is wider than the sky'
Please visit my web-site:
Mathematics, Mind and Matter
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