joe, "utter chaos and destruction leading to the downfall of the human race" is not a contradiction. I assert that it cannot be objectively known that this outcome is "bad". Some of the more extreme environmentalists would assert it is a good thing, and some alien species might think of it in the same manner as we might think of eradicating smallpox. Furthermore, as I do not think morality is objective, I do not feel my beliefs need to be universalizable. My belief in a certain nature of morality is not going to cause the rest of humani... (read more)
I don't know if you will respond here, joe, but it has been requested that our earlier conversation relocate.
joe, my own moral preferences are the ones I like. The ones other people hold that diverge from mine, I dislike. I recognize that there is no sense in which I can claim that mine are true and theirs are not, as they can make the same exact claim without any way to settle it. It is similar to my preferences in movies or music. As an emotivist I believe the word "good" just indicates subjective approval, "evil" or "bad" the opposite. I don't think society will adopt my views and haven't given much thought to what would happen in... (read more)
conchis, I am a he (although I would not mind being referred to as "it"), and I am an emotivist, which means I do not believe normative statements have any truth value (according to Nick Bostrom this makes me a psychopath, nihilist and philistine, although the last of those was true even when I was religious). Because of this I make no attempts to hold more "correct" moral beliefs, seeing as how none are in any way "correct". When I was a believer I had some fear of the afterlife, but still being a rather apathetic/lazy indivi... (read more)
While I oppose the use of torture, I am skeptical of those who claim it is ineffective. By the accounts I've read it was very effective when used by the French in Algeria and numerous dictatorships against internal threats.
Is atheism incompatible with a belief in morality? For me it was, but I appear to be unrepresentative of atheists. I still have pretty much the same attitudes that I did when I was puritanically religious, but now I recognize there is nothing "true" or "correct" about them that others should be swayed by and that they are merely my personal preferences.
Since they aren't part of the web of cause-and-effect (so they might be epiphenomenal), are norms impossible to be irrational about?
I don't think it's inevitable that having emotion causes irrationality, but I think there is a tendency for it to cloud your mind and restraining yourself is a good idea. Maybe after calmly examining things you can say to yourself "This appears to be an optimum situation in which to freak out".
Robin writes: do you think your comments have a better than random chance of being true?
That's tough to answer. It can be hard to distinguish the things I've stated with those who claim to disagree with me. Eliezer agrees that there is no "moral stuff", but states that he has a different reaction (while I also deny having the reaction he denies). So what would it mean for my ideas to be false? It would mean that normative claims have some truth values, which in my interpretation means that Universe A where normative claim X is true must be detec... (read more)
Robin, I don't think there is anything valuable to say in the fields of theology and astrology either, but if this blog were to have discussions on those topics I expect I would still enjoy reading them and making the same sorts of comments I am making here.
I would be interested to know in what ways you think the field of ethics has progressed and what things of value have been discovered.
Why do I not put much stock in theology and astrology? Because they have never produced anything useful. If astrologers were regularly winning the lottery based on the numbers they knew to be lucky, I wouldn't really care how idiotic their methods seem, because ignoring their ideas would result in worse outcomes for me. Physicists are able to make correct predictions and invent neat stuff, so even though quantum mechanics and relativity don't make complete sense to me I believe them and conclude that they do not have "fundamental methodological proble... (read more)
Yes, Bob, Bayes does trump Popper. Eliezer has explained that pretty well already. However, I don't see how that saves ethics. There is no disconfirming evidence, and as a result no confirming evidence. There is no utility in knowing ethics, as far as I know, as it will not enable me to make better predictions or do neat things like sending a rocket to the moon. So I ask you, what makes ethics different from theology or astrology so that I should care what experts in it say?
You took the words right out of my mouth, simon.
Hal, like any consequentialist I am sympathetic to the costs vs benefits way of looking at things. However, there is no commonly accepted scale for measuring these things. There are some who claim to be utilitarians, but there really is no such thing as "utility", no unit called a "util", no way to measure it and it is still contested whether a purely hedonic approach is appropriate.
Robin and Bob have suggested that I consult the specialists in the field of ethics. I will repeat my question from the previous thread. How do I know whethe... (read more)
Bob, how would we know if ethics or sociology were B.S or not? If physics were B.S we wouldn't have been able to put men on the moon. The fields disrespected by physicists tend to be less falsifiable.
This idea is intriguing, but I don't know if it would be as popular as the other lottery. It can be hard to maintain excitement about something for a long period of time (with the regular lotto you can recharge between when you find out you've lost and when you buy your next ticket). You also couldn't gather around the T.V with your family/friends and their tickets, because you'd have to spend an undefined amount of time waiting.
Some minor quibbles:
Would a truly selfish person only be concerned with money? That would indicate that in a society without money, nobody could be selfish. Children behave in a selfish manner without money, so it does not seem plausible to me. A person selfish for attention might very well be prone to arguing with Eliezer.
It is true that absolute relativism cannot pass judgment on others passing judgment. So what reasons might someone have to use relativism to respond to someone passing judgment? It has been brought up on this blog that persistent disagr... (read more)
The customer's job is not just to like what he likes. Generally, if you want to know what your job is, you can ask your employer (who will respond "What have I been paying you for?"). We could take a somewhat-Lockean position that none of us truly own ourselves but have merely been entrusted with the duty of managing ourselves on behalf of God, but I would wager most on this blog do not believe in that "God" fellow, and if he did exist they might still be inclined to ignore his commands they found objectionable. I can only conclude that the customer has no job as customer other than the he/she gives him/herself.
tom's comment reminded me of this, which is paraphrased from Theodore Dalrymple. It's not exactly the same thing, but I did find it interesting.
Is there yet a measurement of how biased a person behaves suitable to determining the effectiveness of debiasing techniques? It seems the key to a lot of what is discussed here is binding yourself toward data rather than just confirming to yourself what you want to believe. People who want to debias themselves will be tempted to assume that they are doing a good job at it, so it would be good if there was a method ... (read more)
I agree for the most part with Brian and Alan, but on the other hand Razib's Gene Expression post Nerds Are Nuts also rings true.