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

From: Stathis Papaioannou <>
Date: Fri, 23 Jan 2004 11:42:29 +1100

Eric Hawthorne wrote:

It may not be an error to equate science and ethics. Science continually
moves into new domains.

I'm of the opinion that there is a valid utilitarian theory of co-operating
intelligent agent ethics.

"Utilitarian" because the purpose of the ethical principles can be shown to
be "group success"
(i.e. emergent-system survival / success in the competition with other
variants of emergent intelligent-agent systems that don't include ethical
principles as
behaviour guides for their the agents.)

Indeed, you might be able to show that 'the purpose of the ethical
principles can be shown to be "group success"', although I'm sure that
someone will be able to think of exceptions. This is an explanation of why
societies have certain ethical principles, and perhaps a method for arriving
at new ethical principles. However, why should "group success" be a
desirable goal? What if I said that I took sadistic pleasure in the
suffering of others, and that I wanted to see the group fail rather than
succeed, because I did not like the idea of people being more successful
than I was? In your scientific study of ethics, you would have to add a
footnote to the effect that some deviant elements in society do not follow
the usual principles. You may go on to explore why this is, what could be
done to avoid it, etc. But you would not be able to say that my deviant
views were "wrong" and claim this as scientific statement. "Deviant" is a
description of fact, but "wrong" is a value. It is like saying "I like
chocolate": you could explain this in terms of the physiological effects of
glucose, caffeine, theobromine etc., but the truth or falsehood of the
statement "I like chocolate" is independent of such considerations.

Stathis Papaioannou
Melbourne, Australia

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Received on Thu Jan 22 2004 - 19:44:53 PST

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