RE: computer pain

From: Stathis Papaioannou <>
Date: Sat, 23 Dec 2006 23:55:50 +1100

Peter Jones writes:

> Stathis Papaioannou wrote:
> > Peter Jones writes:
> >
> > > It is indisputable that morality varies in practice across communities.
> > > But the contention of ethical objectivism is not that everyone actually
> > > does hold to a single objective system of ethics; it is only that
> > > ethical questions can be resolved objectively in principle. The
> > > existence of an objective solution to any kind of problem is always
> > > compatible with the existence of people who, for whatever reason, do
> > > not subscribe. The roundness of the Earth is no less an objective fact
> > > for the existence of believers in the Flat Earth theory.(It is odd that
> > > the single most popular argument for ethical subjectivism has so little
> > > logical force).
> >
> > The Flat Earther is *wrong*. He claims that if you sail in a straight line you
> > will eventually fall off the edge. But if you do sail in a straight line, you don't
> > don't fall off the edge; lots of people have done it. The psychopath, on the
> > other hand, merely claims that if he kills someone, he does not think it is a bad
> > thing.
> That is no problem for objective ethics. The fact that someone "thinks"
> not-X is always comaptible with the objective truth of X.

Not when the "objective truth" is in fact what one thinks.

> > And indeed, he kills someone, and he does not think it is a bad thing. He
> > is *not* wrong; there is no way you could even claim he is wrong,
> He is not wrong about what he thinks. He is wrong about what
> is true,. ethically.

So you say, but ethics ultimately involves values, and you can't say that values
are irrational or inconsistent with reality. Values are an irreducible aspect of being
a conscious agent, much like the feeling of what it is like to be conscious is itself
something not reducible to physiological facts underpinning it.

> > like the Flat
> > Earther claiming that sailors have lied about circumnavigating the globe. You
> > could argue that if everyone were a psychopath we would all be dead, and he
> > might even agree with you that that would be the case, but then turn around
> > and say, "So what? Better dead than cissies!" As Jamie Rose said, there were
> > societies such as the Shakers who didn't mind if they died out and in fact did
> > die out, and they are not usually considered immoral.
> That's not the issue. It's not negotiable whether ethics is supposed
> to lead to death and misery rather than life and happiness, any more
> than there is a valid form of economics which is designed to achieve
> abject poverty and societal breakdown in the shortest possible time.

Of course there is a valid form of economics designed to achieve abject poverty:
take all your assets and burn them in a big fire. There is also a valid form of
engineering designed to make cars go very slowly: make the wheels square.
However, there is no valid form of geology which makes the Earth flat, because
the Earth is not flat. The first two involve values: we don't want to make everyone
poor and we don't want cars that don't go. The geology example involves no values:
whether or not we want the Earth to be flat, it isn't flat. The economics and engineering
examples involve something irreducibly subjective, and *given* this, we can discuss
them objectively. The geology example in no way depends on anyone's feelings, and
is thus purely objective.

Stathis Papaioannou
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Received on Sat Dec 23 2006 - 07:56:07 PST

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