[ExI] Morality and function fitting (Was: Forking)

Stefano Vaj stefano.vaj at gmail.com
Mon Jan 2 15:20:37 UTC 2012

On 2 January 2012 13:07, Anders Sandberg <anders at aleph.se> wrote:

> Of course, being at odds with tradition and everyday positions doesn't
> tell us much about the actual validity of a position.

Conceded. :-)

Even though it may be argued that such a system fails inasmuch as it aims
at offering a more elegant and concise and consistent description of a
"good" and "evil" that would be by definition embodied in such intuitions
(as in "I do know what the Right Thing is, I simply want to be able to
define it", which is a common enough position in pop

This in principle has little to do with the universal or relative nature of
morality (an ethical theory may fail to define exhaustively a specific
value system as it may with the Only True One...), but in general terms I
must say that should one be persuaded to his full intellectual satisfaction
that it has the Right Theory, I think he should re-adjust his moral
intuitions to be consistent with it, not the other way around: aren't we
discussing after all prescriptive propositions? and what the point would be
of axiological theorisation, unless it helps us to solve axiological
dilemmas, by offering a kind of axiological "technology" and "calculus"?

But, hey, this may be just another form of relativism, since after all most
forms of universalism and objectivism imply that an axiological truth
exists that is generally obvious, at some level, to all of us.

My own take on this is exercise is that useful work can be done by looking
> at what constitutes reasonable restrictions on F, restrictions that are not
> tied to our moral intuitions but rather linked to physical constraints (F
> actually has to be computable in the universe, if we agree with Kant's
> dictum "ought implies can"), formal constraints (like the formal ethics
> axioms) and perhaps other kinds of desiderata - is it reasonable to argue
> that moral systems have to be infinitely differentiable, for example? This
> might not tell us enough to determine what kind of function F to use, but
> it can still rule out a lot of behavior outside our everyday domain. And it
> can help us figure out where our everyday intuitions have the most variance
> against less biased approaches: those are the sore spots where we need to
> investigate our moral thinking the most.

Yes, I fully agree with that. There are ethical - political, aesthetical, -
narratives that are objectively inconsistent (they suffer from
contradictions) or subjectively inconsistent (their supporters do not
accept to follow them to their inevitable conclusions). And then there are
those who are simply diverging.

Now, my own (not just ideological, but) methodological take is that what
defines, identifies, a given set of values  vis-à-vis of another is of
course not the fact of belonging together to the space of logically
possible and practically "workable" sets, but what makes it *different*,
the real issue being in this field not what individuals and societies are
or do, but what they would like to be and to do. Since it is after all the
latter thing which determines how they are going to evolve.

Stefano Vaj
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