Re: Modern Physical theory as a basis for Ethical and Existential Nihilism

From: Stathis Papaioannou <>
Date: Thu, 22 Jan 2004 17:07:29 +1100

The study of why societies have certain ethical beliefs is a subject for
evolutionary psychology, or anthropology/sociology (moving down the
reductionist hierarchy), and the study of what brain processes underlie
ethical beliefs and behaviour is a subject for
neurophysiology/biochemistry/chemistry/ultimately quantum physics (moving up
the reductionist hierarchy), but the actual experience of having an ethical
belief, and its ultimate justification, is not subject to scientific study.
It is the old philosophical distinction between qualia - the subjective
experience in itself - versus a description of the brain processes
underlying the subjective experience. Subjective experience is at bottom
simple, basic, irreducible. This does not by any means imply that there is
anything mystical about it. I believe that there is a one to one, or
possibly a many to one, relationship between brain states and mental states;
a one to many relationship would imply that something magical was going on,
and I cannot imagine how this could occur even in theory. To this extent, I
believe that the identity theory of mind MUST be valid - but to say that a
certain brain state is necessary and sufficient for the experience of a
corresponding mental state is not to say that the mental state is the same
thing as the brain state.

Stathis Papaioannou
Melbourne, 22 January 2004

>From: Eugen Leitl <>
>To: Stathis Papaioannou <>
>Subject: Re: Modern Physical theory as a basis for Ethical and Existential
>Date: Wed, 21 Jan 2004 13:30:16 +0100
>Ethics is largely an artifact of evolutionary psychology, and as such a
>domain of science.
>On Wed, Jan 21, 2004 at 11:27:16PM +1100, Stathis Papaioannou wrote:
> > This sort of argument has been raised many times over the centuries,
> > by rationalists and by their opponents, but it is based the fundamental
> > error of conflating science with ethics. Science deals with matters of
> > fact; it does not comment on whether these facts are good or bad,
> > or ugly, desirable or undesirable. These latter qualities - values - are
> > necessarily subjective, and lie in the domain of ethics and aesthetics.
> > of course, we're all going to die, and so will everyone we care about,
> > so will the world itself, eventually; but if you can convince yourself
> > life is worth living up until that moment, then life is worth living.
> > Saying that life is worth living, or that you believe it is bad to kill,
> > are simply statements of your values and feelings, and as such are valid
> > independently of any scientific theory.
> >
> >

E-mail just got a whole lot better. New ninemsn Premium. Click here
Received on Thu Jan 22 2004 - 01:09:44 PST

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.3.0 : Fri Feb 16 2018 - 13:20:09 PST