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

From: Stathis Papaioannou <>
Date: Sun, 25 Jan 2004 01:01:42 +1100

There are statements of fact, statements of logic (also called analytic or a
priori), and statements of value. Statements of fact are verified or
falsified empirically. Statements of logic include mathematical theorems and
are verified or falsified by following the rules of logic or mathematics.
Statements of value - which includes ethics and aesthetics - are expressions
of one's feelings or wishes, are not, by their nature, right or wrong
(except in the trivial sense of whether one is being truthful about one's
feelings). Now, ethical statements may actually include statements of fact,
and this part can be verified or falsified objectively. For example, I may

(a) any activity which causes net human suffering is bad;
(b) abortion causes net human suffering; therefore,
(c) abortion is bad.

Look first at the logical structure: classic syllogism, no problem. Second,
look at premiss (b). There is a lot of research to do before allowing this
as true: can a foetus at a certain stage experience pain? Is the harm to the
foetus outweighed by the harm to the mother and unwanted child if there is
no abortion? Finally, look at premiss (a). If asked why I believe this it
may turn out to in fact be another composite, to be analysed as above.
However, at some point, I will not be able to give any further explanation,
and THAT is the basic ethical belief. If I stop with (a) above, I am simply
saying that this is how I feel about suffering, and this feeling is not
contingent on the state of affairs in any actual or possible world [there, I
got it in!].

>From: Wei Dai <>
>To: "" <>
>Subject: Re: Modern Physical theory as a basis for Ethical and Existential
>Date: Sat, 24 Jan 2004 06:47:39 -0500
>I have to say that I sympathize with Caesar, but my position is slightly
>different. I think there is a possibility that that objective morality
>does exist, but we're simply too stupid to realize what it is. Therefore
>we should try to improve our intelligence, through intelligence
>amplication, or artificial intelligence, before saying that objective
>morality is impossible and therefore we should just pursue other goals
>like survival, comfort or happiness.
>Some people have argued that in fact survival is an objective goal,
>because evolution makes sure that people who don't pursue survival don't
>exist. But if we assume that everything exists, the above statement has to
>be modified to an assertion that people who don't pursue survival have low
>measure. However the choice of measure itself is subjective, so why
>shouldn't one use a measure in which people who don't pursue survival have
>high measure (e.g., one which favors universes where those people
>survive anyway through good luck or benevolent gods)?

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Received on Sat Jan 24 2004 - 09:03:13 PST

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