Saturday, March 24, 2012

Moral intuitions as abstract, anthropocentric absolutes

From this post:

Labeling an abstract action (“Nuking the world…”) as “wrong” is both anthropocentric and kind of akin to Plato’s position that abstractions can exist as universals independent of their mental counterparts.

1. Is it “wrong” for the sun to go supernova and incinerate us? Surely, accountability is secondary to the importance of repairing the universe. Why make a distinction between a human causing suffering and an inanimate object causing suffering other than to insinuate that the human must necessarily be subjected to some kind of arbitrarily quantified punishment?

There is no mathematical theorem which demonstrates that nuking the world necessitates fifty years in prison instead of twenty, but we can do simple math to determine whether preventing the event will also prevent an increase in negative value -- and that’s what matters, regardless of our intuitions or the ultimate fate of the perpetrator(s).

2. There is no such thing as “nuking the world” aside from as a conceptual abstraction useful for model-building. A specific nuclear event, however, can exist: It has a context and environmental variables that have been assigned values. Without these variables, we are shunning practical reality in favor of abstract absolutism -- a primary cause of bloviation and much ado about nothing.

No comments:

Post a Comment