Re: naturally selected ethics, and liking chocolate

From: Eric Hawthorne <>
Date: Thu, 22 Jan 2004 21:55:04 -0800

Stathis Papaioannou wrote:

> 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?

I think each form of emergent complex order which is capable of becoming
intelligent and forming goals in general contexts
problably would have by default an ethical principle promoting the
continued existence of the most complex (high-level)
emergent system in its vicinity of which it perceives itself to be a
part, and which it perceives to be beneficial to its own survival.

I can say this because forms of emergent complex order that included
SAS's that didn't have this ethic would not survive long
compared to other emergent complex orders whose SAS's did have this
ethic. So we would certainly expect, by natural
selection, to see more ETHICAL-SAS-containing emergent complex ordered
systems than UNETHICAL-SAS-containing
emergent complex ordered systems, over time or over different trials of
life in different places in the universe.

> 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.

See above natural-selection explanation. Groups that have "correct"
definitions of "wrong" will survive at the expense of those
groups that do not, given enough time or examples for the statistics to
sort out.

> 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.
No it's not independent of that, at least not by causality.

I would put it:
1. Chocolate has fat, sugar, salt, all objects of human physiological
craving due to our bodies' need for these substances,
specially in early stages of our evolution where we were poorer hunters
and farmers than now.

2. Our brains and minds typically compute that we "like" those things
that our body craves. "Like" is the concept
in the minds conceptual space that, with the way we work, maps to, among
other things "have physical bodily craving for."

3. Therefore the truth of "I like Chocolate" is extremely likely to be
caused directly by the truth of
"my body craves fat,sugar, and salt, for evolutionary self-preservation
against starvation reasons." and the
conjunction of all three of those "craveables" in one substance seems to
drive an almost universal and strong "liking"
of chocolate by almost every human.
Received on Fri Jan 23 2004 - 01:00:55 PST

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