[extropy-chat] consequentialism/deontologism discussion

Jef Allbright jef at jefallbright.net
Wed Apr 25 23:17:10 UTC 2007

On 4/25/07, TheMan <mabranu at yahoo.com> wrote:
> I seem to remember Anders Sandberg asking if someone
> was up for a discussion on consequentialism versus
> deontologism.
> I am!
> The moral part of me is all about hedonistic
> utilitarianism. I would be interested to know what
> other beliefs/views people here have on ethics. Do
> some of you advocate ethics consisting of inviolable
> rights as opposed to utilitarianism, to any extent
> whatsoever, and why?
> Will posthumans more likely be utilitarians, rights
> advocates or something else?

I see human morality as preferences with regard to the perceived
rightness of various choices, encoded into our biology and our culture
via evolutionary processes selecting for what generally "worked" in
the domain of multi-agent interaction.

Since our preferences to a large extent define us, it is commonly very
difficult for individuals to see or rationally evaluate the basis of
these choices.  Making matters more difficult, we are still riding the
wave of social backlash in response to abuses of power in recent
history, and any suggestion of "rational" morality is likely to be
taken as a threat of "unfeeling" morality.

That said, I believe we are in fact on the cusp of extending our moral
decision-making beyond the blind evolutionary preferences of our
biology and culture, and on the verge of applying an intensional
process of collaborative decision-making, promoting an increasing
context of shared values into the future we create.  This framework,
representing (1) awareness of our fine-grained values and (2)
awareness of methods of effective interaction, will effectively
amplify "wisdom" based on evolving human values beyond the moral
capacity of any human individual of today.

In contrast to your assumption of hedonistic pleasure as the ultimate
"good", I see Growth, in terms of our shared values that work, as a
more fundamental good, and would point out that such Growth provides
the robust infrastructure for ongoing pleasure.

With regard to Utilitarian views of morality and ethics, I would point
out the unavoidability of unintended and unanticipated consequences
and suggest that it in the bigger picture we can promote our values
more effectively by implementing principles of best known methods
rather than by directly seeking to maximize utility as currently

Sorry for being so formal.  Have a nice day!

- Jef

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