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Entropy: objective basis for morality?

 
Poldano
 
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14 December 2017 23:41
 
Antisocialdarwinist - 14 December 2017 07:37 PM
Igawa - 14 December 2017 12:03 PM

Well at what point does ‘wrongness’ or ‘rightness’ start to exist? Many can move, and will seek favorable environmental conditions (temperatures, pH, etc). It can recognize ‘favorable’ and ‘unfavorable’ environmental conditions, so can it conceptualize ‘good’ and ‘bad’ yet? An extremely incomplete conception of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ by our standards, but it’s just a bacterium, after all.

At no point. Perceptions of wrongness begin to exist with consciousness, but asking at what point wrongness itself starts to exist is like asking at what point do unicorns or Santa Claus begin to exist.

The perception of a thing vs. the thing itself…

Imagine if cats could perceive wrongness.

Igawa,

It’s better to ask, when do rightness and wrongness come into play, than ask when they exist. (Especially with ASD involved, since he believes that there is no possibility of either rightness or wrongness in reality.) I have a slightly different view, which is that rightness and wrongness depend on contingency. Contingency may involve some subjectivity, but must have objective content as well. Objectivity is purported to be the true arbiter about what is real, and reality in turn is the ultimate arbiter of any decision, choice, or outcome of random chance, so a result contingent upon a set of real conditions combined with any kind of choice, decision, or random fluctuation must be objective,

To answer the rephrased question, then, rightness and wrongness come into play as soon as evolutionary processes start happening, and it becomes possible for a hypothetical objective observer to ask what the likelihood of various evolutionary outcomes is. This conception, of course, is not what rightness and wrongness are thought to mean in conventional moral discourse, but is in my opinion a better interpretation of the terms in light of the last 300 years or so of moral philosophizing and scientific investigation.

Evolution by natural selection can clearly be interpreted as an objective process in this schema, even if the mutations and variations that are selected are random or based on subjective preference. I think this is agreeable with your original post, and it is that compatibility that prompted my first post in this thread.

 

 
 
Giulio
 
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15 December 2017 03:08
 

But why appropriate the words rightness and wrongness in this context? You seem to be taking the intentional stance (in the sense of Dan Dennett) with respect to evolutionary processes. I don’t object that, but don’t understand why you’d do that. By taking that perspective, what does that clarify or what type of subsequent thinking does it enable?

 
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15 December 2017 07:52
 
Poldano - 14 December 2017 11:41 PM

To answer the rephrased question, then, rightness and wrongness come into play as soon as evolutionary processes start happening, and it becomes possible for a hypothetical objective observer to ask what the likelihood of various evolutionary outcomes is. This conception, of course, is not what rightness and wrongness are thought to mean in conventional moral discourse, but is in my opinion a better interpretation of the terms in light of the last 300 years or so of moral philosophizing and scientific investigation.

Evolution by natural selection can clearly be interpreted as an objective process in this schema, even if the mutations and variations that are selected are random or based on subjective preference. I think this is agreeable with your original post, and it is that compatibility that prompted my first post in this thread.

Isn’t this just a permutation of, “What is, is right?”

You might be interested in Sir Arthur Keith’s Evolution and Ethics, which can be downloaded for free here. He wrote it in 1948.

 
 
EN
 
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15 December 2017 08:02
 

Gotta side with ASD on this one.  No matter how you phrase it, you still can’t get from “is” to “ought”.  Entropy is, but that has nothing to do with what any of us perceive to be the “ought” of morality - how we should behave.  Entropy is a fact, and it is objective, and you can base your morality on that if you so desire based upon your perceptions, but there is nothing that says that “this is the only way” and that I or anyone else must base our concepts of morality on the same facts that you do. 

Now, in the title of this thread you say “Entropy: objective basis for morality?”  My response is “it can be, if you like.”

 
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15 December 2017 08:57
 
EN - 15 December 2017 08:02 AM

Gotta side with ASD on this one.  No matter how you phrase it, you still can’t get from “is” to “ought”.  Entropy is, but that has nothing to do with what any of us perceive to be the “ought” of morality - how we should behave.  Entropy is a fact, and it is objective, and you can base your morality on that if you so desire based upon your perceptions, but there is nothing that says that “this is the only way” and that I or anyone else must base our concepts of morality on the same facts that you do. 

Now, in the title of this thread you say “Entropy: objective basis for morality?”  My response is “it can be, if you like.”

No, it can’t. It can be your basis for morality, but it can’t be an objective basis for morality.

 
 
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15 December 2017 09:14
 
Antisocialdarwinist - 15 December 2017 08:57 AM
EN - 15 December 2017 08:02 AM

Gotta side with ASD on this one.  No matter how you phrase it, you still can’t get from “is” to “ought”.  Entropy is, but that has nothing to do with what any of us perceive to be the “ought” of morality - how we should behave.  Entropy is a fact, and it is objective, and you can base your morality on that if you so desire based upon your perceptions, but there is nothing that says that “this is the only way” and that I or anyone else must base our concepts of morality on the same facts that you do. 

Now, in the title of this thread you say “Entropy: objective basis for morality?”  My response is “it can be, if you like.”

No, it can’t. It can be your basis for morality, but it can’t be an objective basis for morality.

It can be if someone wants it to be.  You are missing the sarcasm. Entropy is objective, but for it to be a basis for morality one has to simply desire it to be such.  Don’t worry, I’m not arguing for objective reality.  I’m on your side. I’m just pointing out that people can take objective facts and turn them into morality, but it relies on their subjective will.  There is no objective reality.

Maybe I should shy away from sarcastic humor.

 
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15 December 2017 09:16
 

Let me put it this way:

Entropy: objective basis for morality?  - If you subjectively choose it to be, OK.

Entropy: basis for objective morality?  - No.

 
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15 December 2017 10:44
 

Got it. Har har.

 
 
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15 December 2017 20:14
 
Giulio - 15 December 2017 03:08 AM

But why appropriate the words rightness and wrongness in this context? You seem to be taking the intentional stance (in the sense of Dan Dennett) with respect to evolutionary processes. I don’t object that, but don’t understand why you’d do that. By taking that perspective, what does that clarify or what type of subsequent thinking does it enable?

Do mean intentional as synonymous with meaningful or as synonymous with willful?

If the latter, then there is a very fine divide between directional and willful. Entropy is directional without necessarily being willful. The predominance of matter over antimatter in our visible universe is similarly directional without necessarily being willful. Evolution is the same way. Self-perpetuation begins, in theory, as a simple predominance of some mutational accidents over others. Intentional (willful) self-perpetuation is a predictable emergence from such predominance once mental evolution (i.e., neural evolution, per the best of our evidence, but not ruling out other forms) has reached the point of providing emotion.

If the former, then I am at a loss for an immediate response. It’s a question that’s been lurking in the dim recesses of my mind, but I have not yet pursued it. The great normative bugaboo of morality has been occupying my attention, leaving me with no mind-share to spare for the other great normative bugaboo, aesthetics. I think aesthetics is a better target for first attempts at materialist deconstructions of meaningfulness than morality is.

By the way, it’s trivially easy for humans to assume willfulness when encountering directionality. I strive very hard to keep the two distinct, but language seems to make the task of explanation more difficult than the outcome of reasoning that I am trying to explain. Rightness and wrongness are cases in point. The terms have various nuanced meanings, but the nuance applied strictly to morality seem to depend upon connotations of absolute and universal that are hard to shake off.

 
 
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15 December 2017 20:23
 
Antisocialdarwinist - 15 December 2017 07:52 AM
Poldano - 14 December 2017 11:41 PM

To answer the rephrased question, then, rightness and wrongness come into play as soon as evolutionary processes start happening, and it becomes possible for a hypothetical objective observer to ask what the likelihood of various evolutionary outcomes is. This conception, of course, is not what rightness and wrongness are thought to mean in conventional moral discourse, but is in my opinion a better interpretation of the terms in light of the last 300 years or so of moral philosophizing and scientific investigation.

Evolution by natural selection can clearly be interpreted as an objective process in this schema, even if the mutations and variations that are selected are random or based on subjective preference. I think this is agreeable with your original post, and it is that compatibility that prompted my first post in this thread.

Isn’t this just a permutation of, “What is, is right?”

You might be interested in Sir Arthur Keith’s Evolution and Ethics, which can be downloaded for free here. He wrote it in 1948.

Not quite, but it is easy to see the similarity. Thanks for the reference.

I do not assume that morality is identical for all contingencies. In fact, different contingencies, especially very different long-term conditions of existence, will produce moralities that can be very different, perhaps even totally incompatible, IMO. I believe that objective means something different than either absolute or universal, although with our normal conceptual biases toward morality (including ethics), it can be difficult to understand the distinction without getting the sense that one is going soft on righteousness.

 
 
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15 December 2017 20:30
 

So, to the monistic determinist folks, are subjective preferences materially determined? If so, isn’t it possible to discover what those material causes are? Aren’t those causes objectively real?

Dualists and non-determinists, I don’t have pointed questions for you, but you are more likely to believe that God created moral laws, and if so are probably immune to anything I say.

 
 
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16 December 2017 05:01
 
Poldano - 15 December 2017 08:30 PM

So, to the monistic determinist folks, are subjective preferences materially determined? If so, isn’t it possible to discover what those material causes are? Aren’t those causes objectively real?

Having a mind that has a model of self vs others, and a conception of actions and choices, would seem to be a necessary (but not sufficient) condition. Attribution of right and wrong only happens in a particular type of mind.

You though don’t agree with this it seems, and I can’t tell whether that’s because you have an idea or perspective I don’t understand, or whether this is just a word game.

Consider this example of a computer simulation. There is an algorithm X (with no self-awareness) that can act as an agent in an artificial world;  X can modify its own code; the artificial world has ‘dangers’ some of which can destroy X; initially X has been configured with a variety of rules to respond to situations which sometimes come into conflict, and in those cases some process is used to vote on which action to take; initially self-preservation is one of the key rules. How X reprograms itself is a function of both its internal state and its environment. If in one simulation of this game, over time X reprograms itself so the self-preservation rule becomes less and less important, and eventually it gets to a point where it makes a choice to destroy itself, you would think that was objectively wrong, right? Ie according to your view, a programmer who created this artificial world/game where this kind of thing happens regularly would have to thought of as a moral monster - right?

 

 
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16 December 2017 05:03
 
Poldano - 15 December 2017 08:14 PM
Giulio - 15 December 2017 03:08 AM

But why appropriate the words rightness and wrongness in this context? You seem to be taking the intentional stance (in the sense of Dan Dennett) with respect to evolutionary processes. I don’t object that, but don’t understand why you’d do that. By taking that perspective, what does that clarify or what type of subsequent thinking does it enable?

Do mean intentional as synonymous with meaningful or as synonymous with willful?

If the latter, then there is a very fine divide between directional and willful. Entropy is directional without necessarily being willful. The predominance of matter over antimatter in our visible universe is similarly directional without necessarily being willful. Evolution is the same way. Self-perpetuation begins, in theory, as a simple predominance of some mutational accidents over others. Intentional (willful) self-perpetuation is a predictable emergence from such predominance once mental evolution (i.e., neural evolution, per the best of our evidence, but not ruling out other forms) has reached the point of providing emotion.

If the former, then I am at a loss for an immediate response. It’s a question that’s been lurking in the dim recesses of my mind, but I have not yet pursued it. The great normative bugaboo of morality has been occupying my attention, leaving me with no mind-share to spare for the other great normative bugaboo, aesthetics. I think aesthetics is a better target for first attempts at materialist deconstructions of meaningfulness than morality is.

By the way, it’s trivially easy for humans to assume willfulness when encountering directionality. I strive very hard to keep the two distinct, but language seems to make the task of explanation more difficult than the outcome of reasoning that I am trying to explain. Rightness and wrongness are cases in point. The terms have various nuanced meanings, but the nuance applied strictly to morality seem to depend upon connotations of absolute and universal that are hard to shake off.

I used the term intentional stance in this sense.

 
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16 December 2017 20:09
 
Giulio - 16 December 2017 05:01 AM
Poldano - 15 December 2017 08:30 PM

So, to the monistic determinist folks, are subjective preferences materially determined? If so, isn’t it possible to discover what those material causes are? Aren’t those causes objectively real?

Having a mind that has a model of self vs others, and a conception of actions and choices, would seem to be a necessary (but not sufficient) condition. Attribution of right and wrong only happens in a particular type of mind.

You though don’t agree with this it seems, and I can’t tell whether that’s because you have an idea or perspective I don’t understand, or whether this is just a word game.

Consider this example of a computer simulation. There is an algorithm X (with no self-awareness) that can act as an agent in an artificial world;  X can modify its own code; the artificial world has ‘dangers’ some of which can destroy X; initially X has been configured with a variety of rules to respond to situations which sometimes come into conflict, and in those cases some process is used to vote on which action to take; initially self-preservation is one of the key rules. How X reprograms itself is a function of both its internal state and its environment. If in one simulation of this game, over time X reprograms itself so the self-preservation rule becomes less and less important, and eventually it gets to a point where it makes a choice to destroy itself, you would think that was objectively wrong, right? Ie according to your view, a programmer who created this artificial world/game where this kind of thing happens regularly would have to thought of as a moral monster - right?

Your example does not contain several features that I think are necessary for morality to emerge and continue to be relevant to an agent.

(1) There is no evident competition among motivations. Self-interest is all that is necessary. Humans have multiple motivations that partially compete, which may be roughly described as self-interest and species-interest (AKA genetic-interest). These are somewhat inaccurate terms, technically speaking, and thereby motivate a great deal of additional discussion.

(2) The agent in your example does not need the cooperation of other agents for any reason. Humans need the cooperation of other agents for several purposes.

(3) The agent in your example is effectively immortal. Humans are not. Self-perpetuation for humans eventually becomes pointless, and propagation—species interest—then becomes paramount in a utilitarian sense. Note that this is not just a temporal sequence, but a logical sequence given the genetic self-perpetuation motivation.

 
 
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16 December 2017 20:15
 
Giulio - 16 December 2017 05:03 AM
Poldano - 15 December 2017 08:14 PM
Giulio - 15 December 2017 03:08 AM

But why appropriate the words rightness and wrongness in this context? You seem to be taking the intentional stance (in the sense of Dan Dennett) with respect to evolutionary processes. I don’t object that, but don’t understand why you’d do that. By taking that perspective, what does that clarify or what type of subsequent thinking does it enable?

Do mean intentional as synonymous with meaningful or as synonymous with willful?

If the latter, then there is a very fine divide between directional and willful. Entropy is directional without necessarily being willful. The predominance of matter over antimatter in our visible universe is similarly directional without necessarily being willful. Evolution is the same way. Self-perpetuation begins, in theory, as a simple predominance of some mutational accidents over others. Intentional (willful) self-perpetuation is a predictable emergence from such predominance once mental evolution (i.e., neural evolution, per the best of our evidence, but not ruling out other forms) has reached the point of providing emotion.

If the former, then I am at a loss for an immediate response. It’s a question that’s been lurking in the dim recesses of my mind, but I have not yet pursued it. The great normative bugaboo of morality has been occupying my attention, leaving me with no mind-share to spare for the other great normative bugaboo, aesthetics. I think aesthetics is a better target for first attempts at materialist deconstructions of meaningfulness than morality is.

By the way, it’s trivially easy for humans to assume willfulness when encountering directionality. I strive very hard to keep the two distinct, but language seems to make the task of explanation more difficult than the outcome of reasoning that I am trying to explain. Rightness and wrongness are cases in point. The terms have various nuanced meanings, but the nuance applied strictly to morality seem to depend upon connotations of absolute and universal that are hard to shake off.

I used the term intentional stance in this sense.

Then what I call the willful sense appears to be synonymous. Compared to Dennett, I am trying to separate agent-specificity from the contingencies that lead to the emergence of agency, when I use the term directionality. I try to avoid reference to mental state, partly from a history of behaviorist indoctrination, and partly from the obvious appeal to subjectivity that reference to mental states invites.

 
 
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