[extropy-chat] A crushing defense of objective ethics. UniversalVolition and 'Ought' from 'is'.

John K Clark jonkc at att.net
Thu May 5 16:43:03 UTC 2005

"Marc Geddes" <marc_geddes at yahoo.co.nz>

> The first assumption I make is that meaning and
> purpose ultimately comes from sentient minds.

Yes I agree, absolutely no argument.

> The second assumption is this: 'The ultimate fate of
> the universe is indeterminate

Indeterminate eh, well..., maybe yes maybe no.

> any proposed course of action, presupposes that
> meaning is important.

Meaning is very important to me and to most sentient beings but to hydrogen
and helium gas that makes up the overwhelming bulk of the visible universe
meaning is not important at all; it's not unimportant either, it has no
opinion on the subject becauseit's just gas.

> Therefore *all* ethical systems presuppose the value of meaning.

Yes, but all ethical systems only deal with a very tiny subset of the

> The importance of meaning is a universal.

Absolutely untrue.

> there can be no meaning without mind.

Or to put it another way, there can be no meaning without subjectivity, but
your post claims to prove things about objectivity. I think your fundamental
error is in equating objectivity with importance and subjectivity with
triviality; I would think members of this list who talk so easily about
uploading and virtual reality and the universe as a computer program would
understand that the very opposite is true.

> Meaning comes from sentient minds.

Exactly, minds are in the meaning generating business, that's why I can give
meaning to a cloud of hydrogen gas but it can't give meaning to me.

> The preservation of the life of sentient beings
> (plural) is a good.

99.999999999999% of the universe doesn't give a damn one way or the
other but yes, life is good for those very subjective sentient beings.
Well usually anyway, a man who has just been disemboweled and was
begging for death might disagree.

> the continued life of sentient beings (in the
> utilitarian sense) is a good.

As I said, it's good for minds in those subjective beings, not good or bad
or important for a cloud of hydrogen gas that objectively exists 10,000
light years away.

Let's briefly review your reasoning chain:

Meaning comes from minds, subjectivity comes from minds, "meaning" has a
meaning and it also comes from minds, "importance" has a meaning and it
comes from minds, "good" has a meaning and it comes from minds, "evil" has a
meaning and it comes from minds; therefore you conclude ethics is objective.

And I don't understand why you should even care, if that cloud of hydrogen
gas has an opinion on what I should do next I'm not very interested in what
it is, I'll follow my own counsel thank you very much because subjectivity
is far more important that objectivity.

  John K Clark

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