[extropy-chat] Re: TransColloquium Meeting: Dealing with New Pope's Campaign

Eliezer S. Yudkowsky sentience at pobox.com
Wed Apr 27 16:34:05 UTC 2005

Hughes, James J. wrote:
>> until his 'moral relativism' idea is given as the official Church
>> doctrine, I think that the Extropy Institute should not assume too much
>> (yet) about what are the new Church policies.
> Also, among all the things that Cardinal Ratzinger has opposed over the 
> years, and seems likely to oppose as Pope, "moral relativism" is close to
> the bottom of the list of things I think we should be jumping to the 
> defense of.
> Yes, we believe in moral complexity, tolerance, acknowledgment that there
> are no moral absolutes, and that morals are the product of human reason and
> feeling. But I'm not a defender of "moral relativism."

We believe?  Speak for yourself - in matters of belief, always.  I believe in 
moral complexity, intolerance, acknowledgment that moral absolutes can vary 
from mind to mind, and that morals are the product of human reason and 
feeling.  I am an opponent of moral relativism.  I don't say "we" about any of 
that and that's the main problem with trying to articulate a transhumanist 
position on it.

> What I think we should be focusing on is Benedict's likely focus on 
> bioethics:
> http://cyborgdemocracy.net/2005/04/ratzinger-on-genetic-enhancement-and.html

Agreed.  From my perspective moral relativism is a complex philosophical 
confusion, something that needs to be explained more than fought.  But to 
fight for moral relativism is a very hard-to-defend ground on which to stake 
one's battlefield, leaving aside that it's not worth defending.  Some people 
analyze that moral relativism helped kill off the Democratic party in the US, 
and they may well be right.  See also "Higher Superstition".  How do you rally 
people to fight for the idea that nothing is worth fighting for?  It may make 
a fine way to smile down at the philosophically unsophisticated from the 
coffeehouse, but it doesn't call a people to arms.

Eliezer S. Yudkowsky                          http://singinst.org/
Research Fellow, Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence

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