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

From: Stathis Papaioannou <>
Date: Fri, 30 Jan 2004 13:53:52 +1100

fact vs. value;
formal vs. informal;
precise vs. vague;
objective vs. subjective;
third person vs. first person;
computation vs. thought;
brain vs. mind;
David Chalmer's easy problem vs. hard problem of consciousness:

To me, this dichotomy remains the biggest mystery in science and philosophy.
I have very reluctantly settled on the idea that there is a fundamental
(=irreducible=axiomatic) difference here, which I know is something of a
copout. I really would like to have one "scientific" theory that at least
potentially explains "everything". As it is, even finding a clear way of
stating the dichotomy is proving elusive.

Some previous posts in the current thread have attacked this idea by, for
example, explaining ethics in terms of evolutionary theory or game theory,
but this is like explaining a statement about the properties of sodium
chloride in terms of the evolutionary or game theoretic advantages of the
study of chemistry. Yes, you can legitimately talk about ethics or chemistry
in these terms, but in so doing you are talking meta-ethics or
meta-chemistry, which I think is what Bruno means by "level shift".

Stathis Papaioannou

>From: Bruno Marchal <>
>Subject: Re: Modern Physical theory as a basis for Ethical and Existential
>Date: Thu, 29 Jan 2004 17:27:40 +0100
>At 14:54 29/01/04 +1100, Stathis Papaioannou wrote:
>>(a) Dulce et decorum est/ Pro patria mori (Wilfred Owen)
>>(b) He died in the trenches during WW I from chlorine gas poisoning
>>The former conveys feelings, values, wishes, while the latter conveys
>>facts. The former is not true or false in the same way as the latter
>>statement is. This has always seemed obvious to me and it has been stated
>>in one form or another by philosophers of an empiricist bent since David
>>Hume. Does anyone subscribing to this list really disagree that (a) and
>>(b) are different at some fundamental level?
>I agree. I could even say that it is such nuance that I like to capture in
>some formal way
>to make it clearer. Actually, without pretending it is exactly that, that
>fundamental difference
>you single out here, is akin to the difference between first person and
>third person. But I quasi take
>as an (uncommunicable as it may be) fact that there is such a deep
>Some will say "come on, the subjective apprehension cannot be formalised".
>True, but there
>are tools to formalize, after some shift of level" things which are not
>formalizable, at the previous level. But my point here is that I agree the
>difference between a and b is fundamental.
>Like I agree with your post where you say that science (per se) has nothing
>to say about ethic, which is different from saying that we cannot have a
>scientific attitude when discussing about ethic principle. I agree with you
>but that comforts my point: perhaps you would agree, for a time, even to
>take such a difference as an axiom?
>What I really like in comp, is that grand-mother is just uneliminable; I
>mean grand-mother psychology, also called folk psychology (but then somehow
>if you look at the details you will see that grand-mother physics have to
>be eliminated...)

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Received on Thu Jan 29 2004 - 22:14:41 PST

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