429. Does Morality Care What You Think? – 430. Changing Your Metaethics

429. Does Morality Care What You Think?

Another dialogue about meta-ethics between Subhan and Obert. It concludes with:

Subhan:  “Look, there’s a perfectly normal and non-mysterious chain of causality that describes where morality comes from, and it’s not from outside humans. If you’d been told that killing was right, or if you’d evolved to enjoy killing—much more than we already do, I mean—or if you really did have a mini-stroke that damaged your frontal lobe, then you’d be going around saying, ‘Killing is right regardless of what anyone thinks of it’.  No great light in the sky would correct you.  There is nothing else to the story.”

Obert:  “Really, I think that in this whole debate between us, there is surprisingly litle information to be gained by such observations as ‘You only say that because your brain makes you say it.‘ If a neutrino storm hit me, I might say ‘2 + 3 = 6’, but that wouldn’t change arithmetic.  It would just make my brain compute something other than arithmetic.  And these various misfortunes that you’ve described, wouldn’t change the crime of murder.  They would just make my brain compute something other than morality.”

The big difference between arithmetic and morality is that (most) alien species probably would have (almost) the same arithmetic as we do, whereas, according to Yudkowsky, this doesn’t hold true for morality which makes it in my view kinda arbitrary.

But maybe alien-morality is (or will be) similar to our own because there is some universal attractor (or game theory, crazy stuff like acausal trade, evolutionary pressures for kin-selection, empathy, and thus altruism, etc.) which is “baked into” the structure of the universe?

430. Changing Your Metaethics

An excellent post containing summaries of the last ~20 posts about morality. I’ll just quote heavily cuz’ I’m really lazy today because it’s really a very useful overview:

If you say, “Killing people is wrong,” that’s morality.  If you say, “You shouldn’t kill people because God prohibited it,” or “You shouldn’t kill people because it goes against the trend of the universe”, that’s metaethics.

Just as there’s far more agreement on Special Relativity than there is on the question “What is science?“, people find it much easier to agree “Murder is bad” than to agree what makes it bad, or what it means for something to be bad.

…Clearly a good number of people, if they are to make philosophical progress, will need to shift metathics at some point in their lives.  You may have to do it.

At that point, it might be useful to have an open line of retreat—not a retreat from morality, but a retreat from Your-Current-Metaethic.

..So the most important line of retreat is the one given in The Moral Void:  If your metaethic stops telling you to save lives, you can just drag the kid off the train tracks anyway.

..The point being, of course, not that no morality exists; but that you can hold your will in place, and not fear losing sight of what’s important to you, while your notions of the nature of morality change.

Other posts are there to set up lines of retreat specifically for more naturalistic metaethics.  It may make more sense where I’m coming from on these, once I actually present my metaethic; but I thought it wiser to set them up in advance, to leave lines of retreat.

Finally, he’ll explain his actual views on meta-ethics! Some of the last post really seemed to pussyfoot around.

…Joy in the Merely Real and Explaining vs. Explaining Away argue that you shouldn’t be disappointed in any facet of life, just because it turns out to be explicable instead of inherently mysterious: for if we cannot take joy in the merely real, our lives shall be empty indeed.

No Universally Compelling Arguments sets up a line of retreat from the desire to have everyone agree with our moral arguments.

..If a mind doesn’t contain that which is moved by your moral arguments, it won’t respond to them. But then isn’t all morality circular logic, in which case it falls apart?  Where Recursive Justification Hits Bottom and My Kind of Reflection explain the difference between a self-consistent loop through the meta-level, and actual circular logic. …It’s not like you can step outside the brain evolution gave you:  Rebelling against nature is only possible from within nature.

Posts such as  Does Your Morality Care What You Think? and its predecessors, Math is Subjunctively Objective and Probability is Subjectively Objective, set up the needed line of retreat:  Just because a quantity is computed inside your head, doesn’t mean that the quantity computed is about your thoughts.

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