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

From: Stathis Papaioannou <>
Date: Sun, 25 Jan 2004 23:42:20 +1100

Let me give a clearer example. Suppose I say that I believe it is a good and
noble thing for the strong to oppress the weak, even to the point of killing
them; and that if I were in charge I would promote this moral position in
schools, through the media, and with changes to the criminal law, so that
eventually it becomes accepted as the norm. How are you going to argue
against this? You can't point out any errors of fact because I haven't made
any empirical claims (other than the trivial one that this is what I in fact
believe). You may try to point out the dire social consequences of such a
policy, but where in the above have I said anything about social
consequences? Frankly, I don't care what the effects of my policy are
because I consider the destruction of weaklings in as painful a manner as
possible of the greatest importance, and if God is just, I believe that I
will go to heaven for having stuck to my moral principles. I know that many
people would be horrified by what I propose, but I am certainly not the only
one in history to have thought this way!

The point is, you cannot argue against my moral position, because I don't
present any arguments or make any claims. All you can do is disagree with me
and state an alternative moral position.

>From: Wei Dai <>
>To: Stathis Papaioannou <>
>Subject: Re: Modern Physical theory as a basis for Ethical and Existential
>Date: Sat, 24 Jan 2004 21:00:39 -0500
>On Sun, Jan 25, 2004 at 01:01:42AM +1100, Stathis Papaioannou wrote:
> > 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!].
>(a) as stated is ill defined. In order to actually reason with it in
>practice, you'd have to define what "activity", "cause", "net", "human",
>and "suffering" mean, but then it's hard to see how one can just have a
>"feeling" that statement (a), by now highly technical, is true. What about
>a slightly different variation of (a), where the definition of "human" or
>"suffering" is given a small tweak? How do you decide which of them
>reflects your true feelings? The mere presense of many similar but
>contradictory moral statements might give you a feeling of arbitrariness
>that causes you to reject all of them.
>Difficulties like this lead to the desire for a set of basic moral axioms
>that can be defined precisely and still be seen by everyone as obvious and
>non-arbitrary. Again, maybe it doesn't exist, but we can't know for sure
>unless we're much smarter than we actually are.

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Received on Sun Jan 25 2004 - 07:44:57 PST

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