How do we determine what is good? By what method/metric? What is the argument? In this paper I will attempt to argue why and how I ground my ethics in an understanding of the self and it's values. To give a very broad and insufficient tl;dr: I'll try to create a descriptive moral foundation that describes oughts without needing to justify them. A hypothetical imperative with presatisfied, 'given', "ifs". 

 

I will try to justify my ethics in this paper–I will try to ground my “first principles”/so that they are not merely chosen–‘external’–arbitrary

 

You--your values, wants, and even actions, can be understood to really be two things. an external self--a self that is cultivated depending on and from the environment, and an internal self--a self that exists regardless of environment.

 

Then we use the hypothetical of a you that has existed in every possible world with every possible external self, and we can reasonably deduce that the self would be most satisfied in a world in which its internal wants are manifested rather than just any external want. You would yourself choose to align with your internal wants, desires, actions, and so on and so forth. (This is the best possible worlds hypothetical thought up by many). You yourself would be maximally satisfied in a world in which your internal self is maximally manifested and realized in the environment–tangentially for humans this even means some variation and development OF external wants and hobbies. Your specific family for example is an external value, but cultivating an external specific family is itself internal. Also you can’t argue against this using internal intuitions–regardless of external beliefs and even internal intuitions ABOUT goodness (the human sense of morality), what you already value and would by yourself choose and affirm is what you have to work with. All else, is not only just "relativism", but it's from a human/subjective perspective nonsensical to use. It’s delusional, literally in the same vein as imagining a giant squirrel in your backyard. 

 

From that meta-ethical foundation, (which you can note would actually first seemingly justify egoism,) you work with other humans and engage, and from that arises a generally compatible sense of what makes life worth living all based around a shared (or at least compatible) understanding of what constitutes a maximally meaningful life. Morality then emerges from the subjective (internal) values of the individual. And from that itself the ethical framework has its charter–its mandate–to form any organization,  plan, or ideology necessary to realize the ideal lives of its members. From the understanding of Humanism as a sort of social contract to pursue the compatible maximally meaningful internal values of humans we can derive and justify pragmatism itself. Ahro Chyen is the name of the organization in the Sci Fi I write that recognizes this and works explicitly for the internal of the individual humans (and on an abstract level for the ideal internal society), and can be said to be pursuing human–utopia. 

 

[How am I defining humans? Well, by the general internal goals of homosapiens. What makes something/someone Human is if their maximally meaningful internal ideal life generally resembles the maximally meaningful lives of the typical homosapien. This is relevant for compatibility, and so an Android that still values the exact same things as other Humans can certainly be called Humans, albeit likely philosophically. This even means that not all homosapiens are Humans. A sadistic psychopath that yearns for nothing more than destruction, death and terrorizing others–nothing else is meaningful to them–is certainly not Human, even though they’re homosapiens. This means, tentatively, that we can declare pedophiles–as they’re incompatible with the values of Humans–non-human. (As long as they can’t be made compatible.) Look how based I am, don’t you want to agree with me? This also means certain things for animal ethics as many complex animals we kill share many values that make for them a meaningful existence in common with humans. Most certainly not equal moral worth–sentientism–but likely more worth than we derive from killing and eating them. But more moral philosophy is necessary to justify moral frameworks and imperatives--all that I'm trying to establish here is a moral foundation for the self. I'm just trying to convince myself why I have more justification to live rather than jump off a building.]

 

There might be one big problem to all of this, and that is the question of what the self really is, rather, what are the actual traits of the internal self? Right off the bat one may question my framing of the self as two distinct parts. I’m not a linguistic prescriptivist, I don’t need to rely on my definition of self being objectively correct or anything. I just need it to actually exist, in the same way potential energy exists in physics. So my argument will be that the internal self does exist separate from the external, whether you recognize it or not. You do have an internal desire not to commit suicide, whether you affirm it or not externally. But that’s not actually where the questioning of the self ends. What needs to come next is a discussion meant to understand what part of ourselves actually exists regardless of environment. The guiding question we’ll use here for meta-ethics is “what aspect of my internal self has values? What are those values?” What will frame alot of this thinking is the question of boundaries. When am I no longer myself, at least internally? There are alot of implications for transhumanism here, and they mostly all start with the internal valuing continuity. The internal self doesn’t want their values changed, typically, unless hypothetically that itself is an internal value. Humans, at least, aren’t like that. We value certain things, and changing our internal values are not instrumental to achieving that thing. Changing humans to love staring at walls interferes with our internal values, and the argument is not that we somehow wouldn’t internally love staring at walls once we’ve been changed–that’s assuming we can still be considered the same creature–but rather that right now, since we don’t value staring at walls, we are going to resist alteration of our internal values. At first glance this smells suspicious. If internal is defined as “you regardless of environment”, can’t it be argued that changing your values itself is just changing the environment? Well, again, this is where the “I’m not a linguistic prescriptivist” warning needs to be given. All I need to argue is that an internal self exists regardless of any environment that doesn’t itself alter the internal within you, and that this internal self resists alteration. 

 

[An alternative way of conceptualizing the internal that may be helpful here is “the part of you that exists in every environment despite the conscious actions or declared values/beliefs”. This alternative def is very similar but stresses the fact that as long as the internal still exists unaltered you are still you in a moral sense and not someone else. You could pedantically argue that if you were changed to value loving staring at walls internally you’d still be you–I won’t argue how you want to define identity–just that the internal you previously held would be against that and if you start to change the internal of an individual there is no other boundary to stop at. Also, you’re internally against it, so stop deluding yourself. If you could change every aspect of a person to love staring at a wall internally and there’s no clear line to draw other than an intuitive “that doesn’t seem like billy anymore”. This is why the “I don’t care about the self needing to have this definition, just that this thing (internal/external) exists within you regardless and does actually have wants and experiences” argument is so important. If we aren’t articulating something actually real and physically existent albeit possibly latent within individuals, merely questioning why we define the self in this way undercuts the argument. Because if you merely choose to define yourself differently, the whole thing washes away, it’s not actually real/given.]

 

This leads us to the point raised elsewhere in my writing: 

The argument is not:

“You ought not value blogic.” [Blogic being say any other system or method used to test the validity of statements, that affirms itself using it's own system. The system it is obviously parroting is logic, but sight affirms sight and many of the other intuitions we have affirm themselves. The argument is not that you OUGHT to value these things, let alone that them being circular means you ought to.]

Nor is it “you ought value logic/experience”

The argument is that it’s all you have. That it's what you're given. 

You can have any value intrinsically and value anything, but why would you? It’s not that you ought not value anything else, it’s not that you ought value that which you do, it’s that what you value already is all you have. You'd have regardless of every and any environment and influence. I don’t need oughts–the normative–I can merely describe wants and values you already have. [You’ll notice, not only have I solved for meta-ethics here, I have also solved for epistemology too:

 

“> “But what is it we’re given!!!?!?” 

But of course, you can imagine a seventh chakra, or imagine that even a sense people use like sight, is informing you of a giant statue of a squirrel in your backyard. You can say you simply do value worshiping it. Go ahead, I suppose, you wouldn’t be the first Human to delude yourself. The line I draw of what we’re given and what we’re not is not meant to be some line that anyone and anything imaginable can observe. A rock isn’t aware of it. In fact aliens might draw the line elsewhere. But regardless, it’s what we’re given. As Humans. I am appealing to you using your rationality, your values–what you would want–and your senses. All decisions made are fundamentally feelings. They’re beliefs, and they cannot be made irreducible. The reasons for such a belief–whatever you may say–are the only apparent justifications for such beliefs. They are the why. But there are no “objective justifications”, especially when it comes to values and the normative. A justification is ultimately simply the cause of a feeling, of a belief. Whether or not that justification actually informs and alters such a belief, is up to the individual. Based on what they’re given, what they can delude themselves into thinking they don’t have but that which regardless they have access to. If the appeal that there is a giant statue of a squirrel in your backyard you can verify using your seventh chakra (external belief) and that you value it simply because you do (external value,) is convincing to you then I can’t prove you objectively wrong. If such a justification is in fact a reason to believe, then go ahead–as I said you wouldn’t be the first to imagine external justification. If senses/ways of knowing you do not have, and values you simply dream up, are justifications to believe in things, then I can’t provide some objective argument against that, I can only argue on behalf of you, and on behalf of me. I can only try and be the most honest with myself concerning what it is I have which I couldn’t possibly not have regardless of environment–the internal, the given–and using those try and reason that given that you are similar enough to me as a Human I can try and argue on behalf of your own internal.

 

How can the self be characterized/described on the basis of values? The definition of self we develop can be refined by the question “but what is it we actually want?”, just as the definition of the self can be refined by the question “but what is it we actually experience?” when it comes to epistemology. At a fundamental level what we understand we have regardless of our beliefs about having them are all we can possibly use. They are the brute facts–the irreducible manifestation of the self. They are all we have to guide us in their respective fields/questions–it is to renounce and deny the self to use ways of knowing and values other than internal ones (ones we have regardless of–and in every–environment). If we try to access experiences other than the experiences we ourselves experience–such as the notion that we are a butterfly dreaming–we end up justifying any and all relativism, if seriously believing you’re a butterfly dreaming isn’t relativistic enough. Regardless of whether or not they are “true”, or “good”, why would you use ways of knowing and values other than the ones you have? Don’t you have no choice other than to believe you are a human reading this right now, even if technically due to relativism you can't be sure you aren’t a brain in a vat? If we try to access values other than the values we ourselves value–such as the values of a god, or even the values of an ethical framework justified somehow separate from the individual–we end up justifying any and all relativism, and we realize that even if we are “objectively wrong” we have no choice by to embrace and manifest our subjectivity–but not just any subjectivity, rather specifically the internal subjectivity–our actual subjectivity rather than just the imagined subjectivity we delude ourselves into having. We have no anchor other than ourselves.”]

 

There is also the consideration of “why value what you ought to value, why value ought itself?" which challenges alternative approaches to meta-ethics other than this one.  The only answer possible is “you ought to”—which is noticeably circular. And I'm fairly sure it's incredibly easy to deduce we aren't 'given' that ought. If categorical ought were given this wouldn’t be a problem. Ofc, it depends how you define ought. If ought is merely what you yourself want to do, then that is given, though subjective, and it leads exactly to the stance I have. 

Another consideration that is worth considering is if parts of the internal seek alteration of the rest of the internal. We’ve already discussed this, and said that Humans aren’t like this, but aren’t we? Don’t we at some level value pleasure–and wouldn’t the maximization of this internal value require the alteration of the rest of the internal? This is where I push back. I think regardless of whether or not the human value of pleasure would theoretically require alteration of the rest of the internal is meaningless, because a prioritization of parts of the internal over other parts very quickly becomes external. In the sense that you are battling with yourself. The parts of your internal that value family are put at risk by the internal that values pleasure if it is pursued to such an extent that it leads to you getting hooked up to an experience machine/utility machine. To value/use specific parts of your internal lacks justification–you have not been “given” anything more than anything else, and so in reality it ironically ends up being something external–you just decide to given an environment–let’s say your intuition for pure utilitarianism has been heavily increased and you simply externally decide to pursue parts of your internal that align with it. This is still the external self however. It’s not very different from a delusional person (a nihilist) renouncing all/any internal desires and opting for suicide. It’s true parts of your internal can inhibit or be “wrong” at times–your sight can fail to corroborate your rationality, experience, logic, and even other senses–and the human internal value for violence or barbarism (which can certainly be argued to exist in men especially) is not compatible with the other more peaceful and compatible aspects of the Human internal. But there is a difference between merely deciding to value certain parts of the internal over others, and pragmatically opting for whichever are compatible to express and value and believe considering the context you find yourself in. If there is reason to believe you’re witnessing a mirage you may suspend your trust of your sense of sight–even though you have given it and aren’t renouncing the fact that you still see an oasis. In the same vein, you can prioritize your value for morality, peace, prosperity, friendship and diplomacy over barbarism, pillaging, violence, and greed, as parts of the internal corroborate/are compatible with each other and other parts don’t/aren’t. 

 

 

Overall, my defense of the internal self amounted to two defenses. A defense from using external beliefs and values, and a defense from changing our internal methods of belief and values. If I trace my thoughts back to an analogy I made on the first night I thought of all this and what I argued to myself on an evening walk that spawned all of these thoughts:

 

“Without internal you are without any anchor. By choosing external you are chained to an imaginary anchor–in another sense, you are icarus with wings of wax, while those who reject their internal are like a bird that rips off their own wings to walk.”

 

 

 

~SEH EWEH~


 

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If anyone notices that the whole "but what WOULD you value?" bit sounds a whole lot like the CEV, then rest assured I am aware of this. I actually developed all of this independent of the CEV, and only after trying to find if anyone else had thought of something like this did I find the CEV. It was reassuring my thoughts weren't totally alien. The CEV is technically quite different though, not quite defining between external and internal and also initially being intended for AI Alignment rather than grounding ethics.