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"The" Moral "Sense" in Other Species - Gtx0 ?>


"The" Moral "Sense" in Other Species
Posted: Posted July 7th, 2007 by eldin raigmore
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1. The reason I am inspired to write this at all; This morning I was listening to NPR. They presented a two-part moral dilemma.

1a. While you are near a pair of railroad tracks, you can see five workers repairing one track while one worker is on the other. You can see a loose freightcar coming down the track toward them, and can tell they can't see nor hear it. If you do nothing the five workers will be hit and probably killed. But next to you is a lever; if you pull it you will switch the loose freightcar to the other track, thus endangering only one worker. Which do you do?

They said 90% would pull the lever. But, I couldn't help wondering, why not just rush down the track screaming "LOOK OUT! GET OFF THE TRACK!" and waving my arms like a madman?

1b. While standing on a footbridge overlooking a railroad track, you can see five workers repairing it. You can see a loose freightcar coming down the track toward them, and can tell they can't see nor hear it. If you do nothing the five workers will be hit and probably killed. But next to you is a really big guy. If you push him off the footbridge, it will stop the freightcar and save the five workers (although he will probably be killed.) Which do you do?

They said 90% would do nothing. But, I couldn't help wondering, why not just jump in front of the freightcar myself? I'm pretty big.

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2. I remember having read -- sorry, don't remember where -- that a species develops an ethics if, and only if, its individual members are dependent for sustenance and defense on a community of conspecifics (that means "beings of the same species") such that the individual's interests are sometimes parallel with and sometims at cross-purposes with the communty's interests.

That would mean wolves, for instance, ought to have an ethics.

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3. Steven Pinker's "How the Mind Works" (or maybe it was "The Blank Slate, the Noble Savage, and the Ghost in the Machine", or maybe some other title) suggested a multi-dimensional "moral sense". (These following are my thoughts from trying to make sense of my memories of what he said; they may bear only a vague resemblance to what he actually said.)* positive judgements vs negative judgements
  • I am (one of) the agent(s) vs I am not (one of) the agent(s)
  • I am (one of) the patient(s) vs I am not (one of) the patient(s)
  • the agent is an individual vs the agent is a group
  • the patient is an individual vs the patient is a group


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    4. Charles Darwin speculated on what sort of ethics other species might have. If I remember correctly he speculated about what human ethics might be like if humans' reproductive strategy was like that of honeybees instead of as it actually is. He said, if I remember right, words to the effect that, (given that most of us would be childless females), we would feel more affection for our sisters than for our own offspring, and would regard it as a moral duty to kill our (necessarily dependent) brothers whenever we moved house (since otherwise they'd starve, because they couldn't feed themselves and we couldn't guarantee we'd have the wherewithal to care for them while moving).
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    * Do your conpeople have an ethics?
  • In what ways is it markedly different from any human ethics?
  • In what ways is it similar to some RL cultures' ethics?
  • In what ways is it different from any ethics any human culture ever could have?
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    As for my conpeople, the Adpihi, they are human. Their morals are different from those of the modern Western mainstream, but much less different than some RL human cultures' ethics have been.

    The Reptigan, OTOH, include numerous species, including AIs. I'll have to work out their ethics. A lot of the new stuff will be interspecies ethics, especially biosentient-to-AI ethics.

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    Wow, lots of questions. I'll have to digest this a bit, but first of all, I'd like to say that I find two major flaws in those hypothetical ethical dilemma's:

    1) The scenarios aren't representative of the open-endedness of real-life situations, as evidenced by our ability to find choices not specifically defined by the final dilemma at the end of the story.

    2) In all honesty, I don't think anyone really knows what they'll do in these situations. In real life, you don't have time to think and reason out these situations -- actual events where you have the opportunity to save someone from certain death are often split-second decisions, especially in the situations described in these kinds of hypotheticals. In such situations, you don't think -- you only react. Possibly decisions made by doctors in hospitals could allow more time for reasoning, but in those train-wreck scenarios, you really don't know what you'll do.

    Posted July 7th, 2007 by Fonori
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    Fonori
     

    My humans have human morality. My Iai have pretty much human morality. The Dar and the Beastfolk are the only truly non-human style non-humans.

    The Dar believed that everything was a means to an end, and that end was knowledge. They had no reproductive strategy, as they were completely genderless immortals, who "respawned" instead of giving birth. They had only a sort of "federation" between each other, and that was only explicit in defense. Completely amoral, completely antisocial.

    The Beastfolk live in "herds" and have a moral sense that is basically that of "If it hurts, it's bad. I won't do it. If it helps, it's good. I'll do it." They are slaves to the Caniai, and those who rebel against their overlords are considered insane. Anyone who acts out is also seen as insane..and they deal with the insane by killing them. However, if one of the Beastfolk has enough will to drive the herd a different way, it is seen as completely moral to rebel, and those who don't would be killed. Basically, morality is created by strong leaders, and the strongest leaders are their overlords, the Caniai.

    Posted July 10th, 2007 by Mr. Saturday
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    @Fonori; I think you are right.

    @Mr. Saturday; Thanks.
    Your Dar don't need a morality (if the thing I quoted in my original post is correct), so it fits that they don't have one.
    Your Beastfolk do, and it's (quite logically) somewhat different from the morality we all grew up used to; but I'm not so certain it's very different from certain specific RL human moralities that have existed.
    Your answers are certainly in the spirit of my questions, and I appreciate it.

    Posted July 10th, 2007 by eldin raigmore
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  • Do your conpeople have an ethics?
  • In what ways is it markedly different from any human ethics?
  • In what ways is it similar to some RL cultures' ethics?
  • In what ways is it different from any ethics any human culture ever could have?


  • I tend to find it unlikely that any highly intelligent beings would evolve if particularly solitary animals, however, if a species evolved socially, and then some force of selection changed the prudence of that, such a species could eliminate its instinctual empathy in only a few generations (look at how common the mutation is in human sociopaths at current).

    That selective force, however, would probably have to be intelligent in order to create such a situation in which working together as a species would not be beneficial. There may be conceivable selective pressures to cause it, but it seems hard to imagine them working on an intelligent group.

    I would have to say pretty much all of my conpeoples have had some form of ethics, and though many are different from normal human ethics, I'm not entirely sure that there is a system of ethics possible that is not possible within the human spectrum- there are some fairly incredible extremes there.

    Posted July 10th, 2007 by Blake
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    Blake
     


    2. I remember having read -- sorry, don't remember where -- that a species develops an ethics if, and only if, its individual members are dependent for sustenance and defense on a community of conspecifics (that means "beings of the same species") such that the individual's interests are sometimes parallel with and sometims at cross-purposes with the communty's interests.

    That would mean wolves, for instance, ought to have an ethics.


    I think that article was confusing an ethics system with opportunism. Wolves, as from the other example, work together because its easier, not because its right. The big wolf will do as she pleases and the rest have no say. The weak wolf is never cared for because the others pity him, he is left to die so that others will live. he is also never going to be the first to eat or have the chance to lead the pack.

    If you want you can suppose that to a wolf it is right (ethically) for the big bully to lead (and have the only chance for procreation), though I doubt any thought is put into it.

    (Not really picking on the wolf example, just reusing it to make a point).

    A real set of ethics includes mostly things that have no impact on the community, they are only reinforced because everyone is selfish enough to not want the mookie end of the stick. So as that goes, I'd say you'd need a careful balance of community and selfishness in order to have an ethics system plop out of the sky.

    * positive judgements vs negative judgements
  • I am (one of) the agent(s) vs I am not (one of) the agent(s)
  • I am (one of) the patient(s) vs I am not (one of) the patient(s)
  • the agent is an individual vs the agent is a group
  • the patient is an individual vs the patient is a group


  • This smells strongly of baloney... dunno, I've have to read more on it to give a better opinion. All I can say for sure at this point is that his college money was obviously well spent...

    4. Charles Darwin speculated on what sort of ethics other species might have. If I remember correctly he speculated about what human ethics might be like if humans' reproductive strategy was like that of honeybees instead of as it actually is. He said, if I remember right, words to the effect that, (given that most of us would be childless females), we would feel more affection for our sisters than for our own offspring, and would regard it as a moral duty to kill our (necessarily dependent) brothers whenever we moved house (since otherwise they'd starve, because they couldn't feed themselves and we couldn't guarantee we'd have the wherewithal to care for them while moving).


    Also, we really wouldn't hold any feelings toward anyone but the queen and death (murder, suicide) wouldn't raise a single eyebrow. Individual life would be meaningless. how that for bee-like ethics?

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    * Do your conpeople have an ethics?
  • In what ways is it markedly different from any human ethics?
  • In what ways is it similar to some RL cultures' ethics?
  • In what ways is it different from any ethics any human culture ever could have?
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


  • The Ksu do have an ethics system, some of which has been referred to in earlier papers.

    The individual is markedly less important than the community at large.

    Other than big ethical issues like killing and stealing and such, I'm only aware of the finer details of my own cultural ethics, and I haven't the documentation before me at the moment to search for variances. Cannibalism (of the dead) is acceptable if not encouraged in the nutrient poor environment of Hlipegra. (i'll get back to this).

    Posted July 10th, 2007 by fmra
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    fmra
     

    Danpyr are social in that they will live in groups, but these groups are small (5-8 or so members all counted) unless there is a definate reason to be in a larger group (like living in a city among humans or other species).

    Their ethics is basically, "Look out for yourself and those you care for. And if those you care for turn on you, then look out for yourself."

    The only reason they aren't easier to pick out from their actions is that they pic up other species social cues well, and act differently among themselves than with their blood sources.

    Posted July 11th, 2007 by bloodb4roses
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    I've thought a little more on my moral and ethical codes. Mostly they stem from sort of basic ideas of morality that humans have, but with focus on specific aspects.

    Xala have a very specific focus on loyalty to the group, which extends up the hierarchy to the entire Xala race and to allies of Jed. Individual Xala are expected to follow orders without question, unless they have a specific reason for objecting that can be verified to cause more harm than carrying out the order would help (though, in practice, these specific objections have to be very grave and obvious for anything to be canceled). Those who repeatedly disobey orders are often designated to have an "unwanted mutation" and will be destroyed after an investigation into their genome and the genetic stock they were cloned from for potentially dangerous errors. (Xala are strong biological determinists, and generally do not consider the possibility of errors in training or simple free will, though they claim to have full belief in the concept of free will.) Another note is that they have no real sexual mores among the cloned Xala, since most have no sex organs and negligible if not zero sex drive.
    _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

    Kesatans themselves have very few sexual mores, though that's actually more due to their fish-like reproductive systems -- which make it easy to start producing young at sexual maturity but harder to identify either parent without genetic testing. Care of the little tadpoles is very important in the moral structure, though. The entire village (or similar community group) is responsible for the care of the young in the nursery pool. No strangers or outsiders are allowed near these pools -- especially not alien species, who might have dangerous diseases or might misunderstand how delicate Kesatan eggs and tadpoles are and accidentally harm one. This is mostly an evolved instinct, since Kesatan eggs and tadpoles were very vulnerable to predators until better technology was developed to keep these creatures away.

    Another odd thing is that Kesatans don't often think of spying or stalking as necessarily unethical, despite a Kesatan spy can do really well if he's very skilled at using his natural camouflage.
    _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

    My Aeruro are rather like Mr. Saturday's Dar. They are immortal beings living on a higher plane of existence, so their morality and ethics are necessarily different. One of the most visible, and possibly among the most fundamental, of their ethical norms is non-interference with mortals. They are very strongly against interefering with mortals except in extreme circumstances.

    This is what caused the Dark Aeruro to break away, as their leader, Malefiri, thought that Aeruro should be more involved in mortal affairs, partly to help mortals and partly to use them as a means to an end.

    Posted July 12th, 2007 by Fonori
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    Fonori
     

    Oh! I should probably detail the gods, as well.

    The Gods are capitalists, basically. They thrive on belief, or rather "lip-service". If you give a god the right nod, they get power. As such, they band together to gain monopolies over certain groups, giving things to them and taking things away as they feel necessary to maintain the most amount of "lip-service". It's "moral" to do what you want, basically. They're happy nihilists, in the case of most gods.

    Some gods, however, have been "infected" by mortal into believing in morality. The gods are a reflection of their believers, and as such, what is moral in their believer's ethos is moral in their own. Rarely, if ever, do they make moral mandates.

    The Ialiai pantheon is extraordinary in this manner, as they moralize like no tomorrow. This is an extension of the incredibly "moral" system of the xenophobic and rule-bound Ialiai. The gods are inextricably bound to their mortal believers.

    Posted July 12th, 2007 by Mr. Saturday
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    .... So as that goes, I'd say you'd need a careful balance of community and selfishness in order to have an ethics system plop out of the sky. ....

    I don't think the article I was talking about had in mind that any system of ethics would "plop out of the sky"; nor that it would just spring up effort-free. Instead, they were setting out the circumstances they thought would motivate the communities and their members to develop a system of ethics; sometimes a member might have to decide for their community and against their individual interests, whereas sometimes the comunity should allow them to decide the other way, and navigating when it's mandatory to decide pro-community and when it's OK to decide pro-self is tricky, and it helps if the other members of the community agree on a system.
    Clearly human systems of ethics are very diverse. (OTOH there are some things that are in common to (probably all, maybe only nearly all of) them.) This is because ethical systems didn't just pop up as soon as humanity needed them; the humans had to create them and their communities had to agree on them.
    The same would be true of any other species, said the article, which lived, as humans do, in groups. It isn't true that wolves don't care for sick or hurt members of their pack; due to having no medical technology their ability to do so is limited, but they do it to that limit; then they give up and get on with their lives. Meerkats, too, have "baby-sitters", and the ones who go out provide for the "sitters" as well as for the babies. And so on.

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    A similar remark is the following (sorry, I can't source it.)

    A religion develops a complete theology only if historically it has been threatened both from external persecution and from internal heresy.

    Buddhism, for instance, has had only one of these threats, so it has the beginnings of a "theology" but not a complete one.

    Note that there is no implication intended that as soon as a religion survives both a persecutorial threat and a heretical threat, that a theology will spring full-armored from its brow. Rather, these are the motives that will cause the believers to work out a logical system to navigate the shoals of persecution and heresy. They have to work that out to create their theology. But if they aren't motivated to do so probably not enough of them will work on it hard enough to accomplish anything, and the rest won't need it enough to adopt it as their theology.

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    I think that article was confusing an ethics system with opportunism. Wolves, as from the other example, work together because its easier, not because its right.
    I don't think that's necessarily true. When you are sexually attracted to someone, are you so attracted because you want to have children? Probably not. But why do you have a sex-drive? The reason in terms of the species and from a multi-generational time scale, is that people with sex drives have more children than people without. When you are hungry why are you likelier to eat beef than dirt? Is it because you know beef is nutritious and digestible and dirt isn't? No, it's just because beef tasted better to you.

    Similarly I think individuals could make their spur-of-the-moment decisions based on what they think is right. In the long run and in the aggregate the over-all system of all the things they think is right almost surely have an "opportunistic" effect; but no individual can live long enough to make all those decisions "opportunistically".

    Consider the fact that mice are born afraid of cats. Mice can't survive the experiences they'd need to learn to be afraid of cats. Why is the mouse afraid of the cat? From the individual mouse's immediate p.o.v., no reason; it's just that cats are scary. From the multi-mouse multi-generational species p.o.v., though, it's because cats kill and eat mice.


    The big wolf will do as she pleases ... If you want you can suppose that to a wolf it is right (ethically) for the big bully to lead (and have the only chance for procreation), though I doubt any thought is put into it.
    Exactly true. And that is what I suppose, or at least what I "want to suppose" (for purposes of this discussion, at the moment). But I'm also saying that if wolves were capable of thought, (and of publishing and preserving thought), some thought would be put into it.

    A real set of ethics includes mostly things that have no impact on the community,
    What?
    they are only reinforced because everyone is selfish enough to not want the mookie end of the stick.
    What?
    I don't understand.

    So as that goes, I'd say you'd need a careful balance of community and selfishness in order to have an ethics system
    Yes, I believe that was the point the author or authors I was talking about were trying to make.

    * positive judgements vs negative judgements
  • I am (one of) the agent(s) vs I am not (one of) the agent(s)
  • I am (one of) the patient(s) vs I am not (one of) the patient(s)
  • the agent is an individual vs the agent is a group
  • the patient is an individual vs the patient is a group
  • This smells strongly of baloney
    Hmm? Why? Did I leave out "clean vs unclean" or something? (BTW the "baloney" may have originated with me, either because of my poor memory or because of my attempt to systematize or both. I can't tell whether it came from me or from Pinker partly because I don't know what you mean, and partly because I can't perfectly remember what Pinker said.)

    ... dunno, I've have to read more on it to give a better opinion. All I can say for sure at this point is that his college money was obviously well spent...
    :) You're right!

    Also, we really wouldn't hold any feelings toward anyone but the queen and death (murder, suicide) wouldn't raise a single eyebrow. Individual life would be meaningless. how that for bee-like ethics?
    Not at all sure that's true. Bees might care more for their sisters than for their mother. They defend each other, and help their younger sisters who are still weak due to immaturity. "Suicide" isn't something they do; they work themselves to death, and they attack enemies "knowing" (actually we're the ones that know, but if they were smart enough they'd know too) that they, individually, will not survive; but they never kill themselves for no gain.

    The Ksu do have an ethics system, some of which has been referred to in earlier papers. The individual is markedly less important than the community at large. Other than big ethical issues like killing and stealing and such, I'm only aware of the finer details of my own cultural ethics, and I haven't the documentation before me at the moment to search for variances. Cannibalism (of the dead) is acceptable if not encouraged in the nutrient poor environment of Hlipegra. (i'll get back to this).
    This is a good start. Thanks.
    What is "stealing"? Surely the notion of private property is not a cross-species universal.
    Is "killing" absolutely always wrong?

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    @fonori, @bloodb4roses, @mr.saturday: your posts are also good starts.
    Fonori's is closest to what I was trying to ask for; I think it's more than just a "start", maybe. Thanks.

    Posted July 12th, 2007 by eldin raigmore
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    Note, there is some semi-relevant info here: http://gtx0.com/merge/thread/54

    Internal ethics:
    If you do nothing the five workers will be hit and probably killed. But next to you is a lever; if you pull it you will switch the loose freightcar to the other track, thus endangering only one worker. Which do you do?

    Kigdatsi solution: pull the lever.

    If you do nothing the five workers will be hit and probably killed. But next to you is a really big guy. If you push him off the footbridge, it will stop the freightcar and save the five workers (although he will probably be killed.) Which do you do?

    Kigdatsi solution: the fat guy throws himself off the bridge. Failing that, you throw him off.


    * Do your conpeople have an ethics?
  • In what ways is it markedly different from any human ethics?
  • In what ways is it similar to some RL cultures' ethics?
  • In what ways is it different from any ethics any human culture ever could have?

  • The Kigdatsi system is so logical not just from my lack of imagination but from their genetic engineering. Assuming that Dawkins' selfish gene theory is roughly correct, then non-social evolved organisms will value themselves a lot, related people quite a lot, and non-related people much less. Social organisms will also cooperate with others in their group (who may be related too). However, the Kigdatsi have engineered themselves such that they make more objective decisions, not much motivated by the desire for self-preservation, but for the furthering of Calxism (also spelt "Kalxism", depending on how you transliterate the Greek). They will sacrifice their own lives without (much) hesitation if they know it helps others enough, and they expect the same of each other. They find it hard to imagine considering themselves (much) differently from others.

    External Ethics:
    This is harder. Once Kigdatsi are dealing outside the controlled world of their species, they cannot just act very selflessly while assuming that others will do likewise.

    Calxism suggests that other sorts people can have important things to teach them, and anyway they think that chaos/diversity is a better solution to life than uniformity/monoculture is. Therefore, they will still usually act nicely towards those that do not attack them, but will try to prevent groups oppressing one another, destroying one another, becoming excessively homogenised, turning into Big Brother, etc. They will not try to convert other people to their ways just because they think they are right, because they can see by example how biased their system is (especially the genetic control).

    They will try to judge what other cultures want them to do, so they can value honesty over friendliness or vice-versa as necessary, or whatever the culture thinks is is important.

    Better stop now, I am rambling. And I failed to mention things like cannibalism, property, etc.

    Posted July 13th, 2007 by simon.clarkstone
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