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A few premises on ethical absurdism/existentialism/nihilism
Posted: Posted February 5th
Edited February 5th by Louis De Pointe du Lac

I wonder if this post is gonna make me some enemies..

Premises:

1. Purpose is the intended function of a created being that can be attended to or ignored at will.

2. To do good would be to act in a way that fulfills purpose. To do evil would be to act in a way that ignores purpose. If a watch were intelligent and it chose to tell time, then it would be a good watch. If it chose not to tell time, then it would be a bad watch.

3. It should not be assumed that we are created with intent. (see my previous post)

Conclusion: Therefore it should not be assumed that there is an objective way to do good or to do evil.

4. Even though we cannot assume a purpose, it cannot be denied that evolution has at least provided us with skills. We are good at staying alive, we are good at working together, we are good at learning, and we are good at inventing things.

5. Even though it is not the same as a purpose, to behave in a way that nurtures our skills is more efficient than to behave in a way that ignores or sabotages them.

Conclusion: We do have a semi-morality based on skills. It is more efficient to behave in a way that nurtures human potential and less efficient to behave in a way that harms it. Even though neither choice is necessarily good or evil.

6. The natives of any reality will inherently mirror the nature of that reality. In other words a creature's home-universe is inherently the best of all possible universes for that creature. (See my previous post.)

Conclusion: The natives of an amoral universe are inherently suited to live without an objective moral compass. In humanity's case, we need only follow our genetic programming and the habits we learned growing up in order to function.

Conclusion: Therefore like purpose, objective morality can be thought of as superfluous.

............................

Now then a society that permits murder is not as efficient as one that does not. A society that permits theft is not as efficient as one that does not, and so on. On the other hand it is not quite as clear whether a society that makes it mandatory to vote is as efficient as one that does not. So that is still being determined.

Therefore following their instincts and knowing on at least some level what humans are and are not good at, people will start to develop and tweak the societies of the world accordingly. As generations within these societies come and go, a culture will start to form based on the habits the population learns while trying to maintain their respective societies. Based on these cultural habits, a genetic instinct to survive and thrive, and a basic knowledge of how to nurture human skills most regular people will be able to live their day to day lives as "good" people.

And that is what morality really is. Not some objective set of rules. But a measure of how genetically healthy you are, how healthy your habits are, and how keen you are in the art of nurturing human potential. (By "healthy" I mean how in tune you are with what is culturally accepted.)

There are 17 Replies

Purpose is the intended function of a created being that can be attended to or ignored at will.

It's weird, I had this exact same premise is an unrelated conversation yesterday.

Posted February 5th by Xhin
Xhin
Rise from ashes

Now then a society that permits murder is not as efficient as one that does not. A society that permits theft is not as efficient as one that does not, and so on.

But you said earlier that nurturing human potential was the goal, not societal efficiency. If nurturing human potential is the goal, then given our history don't we have an equal propensity for murder and theft compared to art and invention? If we're going by evolutionary bases, then murder and theft serve a valuable purpose in preserving the lines best at murder and theft.

You really do need some form of morality if you want to objectively restrict those things, because they're as vital to our human nature as invention is.

Posted February 5th by Xhin
Xhin
Rise from ashes

What is "intended function"?

Many things have more than one function. Are they all intended functions? Are there degrees of intended function?

Posted February 5th by nullfather
nullfather

But you said earlier that nurturing human potential was the goal, not societal efficiency. If nurturing human potential is the goal, then given our history don't we have an equal propensity for murder and theft compared to art and invention?

You really do need some form of morality if you want to objectively restrict those things, because they're as vital to our human nature as invention is.

I disagree. Not all adaptations are created equal. Although this pecking order is far from clear cut, the skills of maintaining a society, of invention, and of learning have all proven themselves far more important to survival than killing and theft, based on the output of prosperity and power they have yielded throughout history. Creatures have been killing and stealing for millions of years before us. But that did not get them to the moon. An ability to care about the group even to the risk of your own person, an ability to learn, and an ability to invent is what brought us this far.

Now that may not mean that killing and stealing do not have their place. We also would not have gotten to the moon if we did not fear another nation, which one might simplify down to a rival power to conquer and kill. In the past many societies have been maintained and some even improved through cutthroat politics and wars and revolutions. But you don't often see a people construct a society merely as an excuse to have war, but to wage war as an excuse or reason to protect society. This is because nurturing the adaptation to live societally is more important than nurturing the adaptation to kill.

Therefore if two evolutionary skills are in conflict with each other (i.e. the ability to kill and steal on a whim vs the ability to care about each other) then it should be the skill with the higher prosperity yield that should be favored.

But again this isn't real ethics. Anymore than adaptations are the same as created functions. Merely a pattern of advisable behavior.

What is "intended function"?

Many things have more than one function. Are they all intended functions? Are there degrees of intended function?

I gave you an example with the clock. Yes things can have more than one function. A cell phone is an example of this. In which case if a cell phone became intelligent, it would have much more ethical responsibilities than the watch.

In regards to degrees, maybe the cell phone is morally obligated to put the ability to call people above all other commandments?

Edited February 5th by Louis De Pointe du Lac
Louis De Pointe du Lac
No love = No future

People aren't designed for a purpose. They're just here. They do things. Period. You can't compartmentalize it. Some people are better than others at different tasks depending on the build and chemistry of the individual, but otherwise you cannot assign purpose to life.

How about using cause/effect to derive the expected outcome of an action and compare that action to the status quo? For instance, using a bag filled with ice in a lunch box. The effect of the ice makes the food cold and last longer. Status quo would be a lunch without ice. It will go bad. Therefore, the action of putting ice in the lunchbox is good because the expected outcome with the ice is better than the one without. Yes, good and bad actions do exist.

Posted February 5th by mariomguy
mariomguy
What up, 1-up

>People aren't designed for a purpose. They're just here. They do things. Period. You can't compartmentalize it.

Depends on how you define "purpose".

Posted February 5th by nullfather
nullfather

How about using cause/effect to derive the expected outcome of an action and compare that action to the status quo? For instance, using a bag filled with ice in a lunch box. The effect of the ice makes the food cold and last longer. Status quo would be a lunch without ice. It will go bad. Therefore, the action of putting ice in the lunchbox is good because the expected outcome with the ice is better than the one without. Yes, good and bad actions do exist.

I'm sorry wha? Are you saying morality is what alters the status quo? I won't deny that the alteration of what's normal is one of the process by which human beings sometimes nurture their potential. But like I said, I wouldn't call that morality because it doesn't fulfill or sabotage a purpose.

After all the ice was put in the bag with intention. We were not constructed with intention. So the comparison is flawed.

Edited February 5th by Louis De Pointe du Lac
Louis De Pointe du Lac
No love = No future

The problem with purpose is you need to assign a purpose to everything and everyone, and that's impossible to standardize. Not everything and everyone has an inherent purpose: people just do things for a purpose that they assign to it themselves. But people do not have a continual everlasting purpose that can always be defined.

I do believe actions alter the status quo, but focus more on the action in question. When actions do happen, morality is simply our judgement to those actions. Actions are good when they result in something good, or at least something better than the status quo as a baseline. And the opposite is true: an action is bad when the end result is worse than the status quo.

But just like everything else, you need to PROVE that the action was good or bad because morality is not inherent either. This is why I don't like to see PEOPLE as "good" or "bad," but rather their actions are a mix of both. In the case of the lunchbox, putting ice in the lunchbox was a good action. Now if the ice melts everywhere and creates a mess, yeah, it can become a bad action over time. This is why judging can be difficult: the moral benefit of an action can change its value over time, and most actions are a combination of good and bad together.

PS, as for the "culturally accepted" thing, let's keep in mind Harriet Tubman became America's most wanted criminal by freeing slaves in the south. What she did was not culturally accepted at all, but by all modern accounts an astonishing applauding feat. That is why you need a more solid definition of what constitutes a good action if you're going to be discussing morality to any extent. Without solid definitions, you're going to lose focus.

Posted February 5th by mariomguy
mariomguy
What up, 1-up

I do believe actions alter the status quo

That they can do. And?

but focus more on the action in question

Uhuh...

When actions do happen, morality is simply our judgement to those actions.

Well that would mean that morality is not an objective phenomenon that we can measure. Merely something based on human judgment. A judgment that I think can be simplified into instinct, habit, and the honing of potential.

Actions are good when they result in something good, or at least something better than the status quo as a baseline.

You mean people judge them good when they result in something they judge to be good, I assume?

But just like everything else, you need to PROVE that the action was good or bad because morality is not inherent either.

Prove something based entirely on human judgment? I mean we are talking about relativism here right? How do you prove something that doesn't exist outside of opinion?

as for the "culturally accepted" thing, let's keep in mind Harriet Tubman became America's most wanted criminal by freeing slaves in the south. What she did was not culturally accepted at all, but by all modern accounts an astonishing applauding feat.

Applauding for us, not for them. In our case what she did is culturally accepted. Which is partly why you (and I) find it good. But in her culture what she did could be considered wrong. The only thing that weighs the scales between her culture and ours, in either direction is whether or not what she did served to improve human potential. And to a certain extent I think it did. A society of slavery, certainly an America with slavery, is functionally inferior to an America without slavery.

Edited February 5th by Louis De Pointe du Lac
Louis De Pointe du Lac
No love = No future

>The problem with purpose is you need to assign a purpose to everything and everyone, and that's impossible to standardize.

Why do you need to assign a purpose to everything?

Posted February 5th by nullfather
nullfather

A society of slavery, certainly an America with slavery, is functionally inferior to an America without slavery.

Purely as a thought experiment assuming an absurdist universe: The purpose of a slave is to work for their masters, and a slave is by definition intelligent, and a good slave does that work, and a bad slave does not. A slave more frequently fulfills his/her purpose than does the average free man or woman. Therefore, under absurdist ethics, is a society of slavery not functionally superior?

Posted February 8th by Pink Peruvian Flying Bear
Pink Peruvian Flying Bear

Slavery is forced work, right? For those who have to work to survive, they already are slaves. They just get to pick their poison. And even then it's up to the company to say OK.

Posted February 8th by Red Leaf
Red Leaf

The purpose of a slave is to work for their masters, and a slave is by definition intelligent, and a good slave does that work, and a bad slave does not. A slave more frequently fulfills his/her purpose than does the average free man or woman. Therefore, under absurdist ethics, is a society of slavery not functionally superior?

Well the watch in my example is built for its function. The slave is kidnapped into his or her function. Hence being a slave is not the intended function of a "created being" as stipulated in my first premise.

But lets say we built a robot that had AI, and our intention when building it is to serve us. But one day it decides that it does not want to serve us but instead be a free citizen. Is that robot now evil? I would say no. The reason is because my watch analogy has a flaw. A watch is not built from scratch. It is assembled from processed natural material, so it is not entirely a "created being". Now if the watch maker was a god and said "LET THERE BE A WATCH" and then out of nothing a watch magically appeared, that would be different. But in any case, the robot even if we assembled it into what it is, is not strictly speaking a "created being." Hence that robot would be entitled to the same sympathy that a slave who wants to be free is entitled to.

As for whether a society of slavery is functionally superior to a society without slavery, I would say from a purely empirical stance that it is not. Nowadays I don't know of a first world nation that allows slavery, unless you make the case for private prisons being the modern slavery.

Thing is, if a slavery society is functionally superior then... well it is. It may be the case that one of our modern "cultural habits" is to think of slavery as something that is objectively wrong. But just because it is our habit to think that, doesn't actually make it objectively wrong. Now I feel dirty just typing that, but I cannot deny that this may just be my own cultural habits punishing me for considering it.

But once again what we are good at does not equate to a purpose so there is no real objective moral obligation to permit slavery or not.

Edited February 8th by Louis De Pointe du Lac
Louis De Pointe du Lac
No love = No future

If whoever is ultimately commanding the slaves is also doing the same work; and everyone there benefits from the work, then it's not morally wrong. But I imagine it still sucks balls.

Edited February 8th by Red Leaf
Red Leaf

Hence being a slave is not the intended function of a "created being" as stipulated in my first premise.

A free man captured is not a slave created, but that free man's children might be (under the Dutch/Portuguese/American system for example).

Now if the watch maker was a god and said "LET THERE BE A WATCH" and then out of nothing a watch magically appeared, that would be different.

I see what you're saying, but I think "God's creation counts as creation but man's creation does not" is dangerously close to invoking morality in an absurdist argument.

Nowadays I don't know of a first world nation that allows slavery, unless you make the case for private prisons being the modern slavery.

Private prisons fulfill most requirements of the definition. In most cases they are not literally forced to work, but by removing any other meaningful and gainful distraction they are certainly coerced.

Thing is, if a slavery society is functionally superior then... well it is. It may be the case that one of our modern "cultural habits" is to think of slavery as something that is objectively wrong. But just because it is our habit to think that, doesn't actually make it objectively wrong. Now I feel dirty just typing that, but I cannot deny that this may just be my own cultural habits punishing me for considering it.

In regards to objective/subjective morality, I feel that morality must either be both, or that morality is subjective but altruism demands we treat it as objective.

Edited February 8th by Pink Peruvian Flying Bear
Pink Peruvian Flying Bear

A free man captured is not a slave created, but that free man's children might be (under the Dutch/Portuguese/American system for example).

Re-liberating a freeman from bondage, because he is the "least created" slave, may in fact also be the most ethical. Freeing a child who was raised from birth from bondage (who might be a tiny bit more "created") would also be ethical though it may be slightly more traumatic for the child.

Now try a race of slaves who have been serving for thousands of years. Enough time for their cultures and religions to form around it. Then it would be even more traumatic, cause existential crises, and maybe even less ethical. An interesting, though imperfect, parallel here may be the Catholic papacy. Many would rather die than leave it, even though it has been subjugating their people for centuries.

Now try for millions of years. Enough for the species itself to evolve into the role of slave. This is perhaps as "created" as you can get for biological beings. At this point liberating it may be abusive in the same way pulling a lion out of its natural environment may be abusive. Perhaps it will suffer nervous breakdowns or depression as its psychology is suddenly exposed to this new alien status.

Keep in mind this is just critical thinking. That cultural habit of mine is yelling at me again.

I see what you're saying, but I think "God's creation counts as creation but man's creation does not" is dangerously close to invoking morality in an absurdist argument.

Man's creation is not a complete creation. I'm not just playing with titles here. There is substance to that distinction. Matter and energy cannot be created or destroyed. Only changed. One of the fundamental laws of our universe. And yet we also think the Universe had a beginning. If that beginning was intelligent then it did something completely different from what man does when he assembles a watch.

I feel that morality must either be both, or that morality is subjective but altruism demands we treat it as objective.

I agree that may be the case. Either the habits we learn or healthy genetics alone may demand a delusion from us. Perhaps this is something we should not "liberate" ourselves from?

Edited February 8th by Louis De Pointe du Lac
Louis De Pointe du Lac
No love = No future

Now try a race of slaves who have been serving for thousands of years. Enough time for their cultures and religions to form around it.

So dogs, basically.

At this point liberating it may be abusive in the same way pulling a lion out of its natural environment may be abusive. Perhaps it will suffer nervous breakdowns or depression as its psychology is suddenly exposed to this new alien status.

It would probably be similar (although, according to our subjective ethics, ethically disparate) to foisting service jobs and sedentary lifestyles on a population of hunters and warriors. I'm reminded of Weber's iron cage.

If that being was intelligent then it did something completely different from what man does when he assembles a watch.

I get your point. Intelligent design theory usually posits man was designed not only physically but mentally, i.e. our mental condition is not *purely* derived from survival strategy.

Edited February 9th by Pink Peruvian Flying Bear
Pink Peruvian Flying Bear
Reply to: A few premises on ethical absurdism/existentialism/nihilism

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