RE: Evil ? (was: Hypostases (was: Natural Order & Belief)

From: Stathis Papaioannou <>
Date: Wed, 13 Dec 2006 12:01:18 +1100

Bruno Marchal writes:
> Le 12-déc.-06, à 11:16, Stathis Papaioannou a écrit :
> >
> >
> > Bruno Marchal writes (quoting Tom Caylor):
> >
> >>> In my view, your motivation is not large enough. I am also motivated
> >>> by a problem: the problem of evil. I don't think the real problem of
> >>> evil is solved or even really addressed with comp. This is because
> >>> comp cannot define evil correctly. I will try to explain this more.
> >>
> >>
> >> I agree that the problem of evil (and thus the equivalent problem of
> >> Good) is interesting. Of course it is not well addressed by the two
> >> current theories of everything: Loop gravity and String theory. With
> >> that respect the comp hyp can at least shed some light on it, and of
> >> course those "light" are of the platonic-plotinus type where the
> >> notion
> >> of goodness necessitates the notion of truth to begin with. I say more
> >> below.
> >
> > Surely you have to aknowledge that there is a fundamental difference
> > between matters of fact and matters of value.
> Yes. Sure. And although I think that science is a value by itself, I am
> not sure any scientific proposition can be used in judging those value.
> But then, I also believe that this last sentence can be proved in comp
> theories.
> > Science can tell us how to
> > make a nuclear bomb and the effects a nuclear explosion will have on
> > people
> > and the environment, but whether it is "good" or "bad" to use such a
> > weapon
> > is not an empirical question at all.
> Hmmm..... This is not entirely true. We can test pain killer on people,
> and we can see in scientific publication statements like "the drugs X
> seem to provide help to patient suffering from disease Y".
> Then it can be said that dropping a nuclear bomb on a city is bad for
> such or such reason, and that it can be "good" in preventing bigger use
> of nuclear weapon, etc. Again, we don't have too define good and bad
> for reasoning about it once we agree on some primitive proposition
> (that being rich and healthy is better than being poor and sick for
> example).
OK, but the point is that the basic definition of "bad" is arbitrary. It might seem
that there would be some consensus, for example that torturing innocent people
is an example of "bad", but it is possible to assert without fear of logical or
empirical contradiction that torturing innocent people is good. There are people
in the world who do in fact think there is nothing wrong with torture and although
they are not very nice peopel, they are not as a result of having such a belief deluded.
> Recall that even the (although very familiar) notion of natural numbers
> or integers cannot be defined unambiguously in science. Science asks us
> only to be clear on primitive principles so that we can share some
> reasoning on those undefinable entities.
But there is a big difference between Pythagoras saying 17 is prime and Pythagoras
saying that eating beans is bad. You can't say that "prime" and "bad" are equivalent
in that they both need to be axiomatically defined.
> > You could say that "I believe blowing people up is bad" is a statement
> > of
> > empirical fact, either true or false depending on whether you are
> > accurately
> > reporting your belief. However, "blowing people up is bad" is a
> > completely
> > different kind of statement which no amount of empirical evidence has
> > any
> > bearing on.
> It really depends on the axioms of your theory. A theory of good and
> bad for a lobian machine can be based on the idea of 3-surviving or
> 1-surviving, etc. And then we can reason.
> Now I do agree with you that good and bad can probably not be defined
> intrinsically in a mathematical way. But a richer lobian machine can
> define some notion of self-referential correctness for a less rich
> lobian machine and then reason about it, and then lift the result in
> some interrogative way about herself.
> Some suicide phenomenon with animals could be explained in such a way.
> You have the Parfit book "reason and persons". There are many pieces of
> valid reasoning (and non normative) on ethical points in that book.
> Science can handle values and relation between values as far as it does
> not judge normatively those values.
> > If you survey a million people and all of them believe that "blowing
> > up people is bad", you have shown that "most people believe that
> > blowing up
> > people is bad", but you have not shown that "blowing up people is bad".
> Again this depends on your theory. If you have the naive theory that if
> a majority thinks that X is bad for them, then X is bad in the context
> of that majority, then this could be used to provide a counter-example
> (a bad one, but this does not change its point).
> I do agree with you that science, as such, cannot show that "blowing up
> people is bad". I believe that science cannot even define or name "bad"
> . It seems to me that "bad" and "good" are even more complex notions
> than "true" which is already beyond the scope of what science can
> express. We can build approximations, or accept some axioms if only to
> be enough clear so that we can be falsified and progress.
The problem is that some people think "good" and "bad" are on a par with
descriptive terms that every sentient species, regardless of their psychology,
could agree on. They are not. Every sentient species would agree that a
nuclear bomb going off in your face will kill you, but some would say this was
good and others would say it was bad.
> > If you find
> > a message from God stating that "blowing up people is bad" then you
> > have shown
> > that "God believes that blowing up people is bad (and perhaps will
> > send you to
> > hell if you do it)", but you have not shown that "blowing up people is
> > bad".
> Sure. Actually I cannot imagine a test showing that something is a
> message from a god ... And this completely independently that
> something *could* be a message of a god, and that some terrestrial
> creature could believe correctly (but then personally if comp is
> correct) that something is such a message.
I think a message spelt out across the sky by stars simultaneously going
nova would probably do it for me. I would at least believe that these were
beings with godlike powers responsible, but would reserve judgement on
whether they had also created the universe. Can't shake of the skepticism
Stathis Papaioannou
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Received on Tue Dec 12 2006 - 20:01:42 PST

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