Ronnie de Souza has an interesting article at Aeon on why he thinks the concept of morality isn't helpful. His overall thesis is that the idea that there are things that are right or wrong without qualification, in and of itself, adds nothing useful to the conversation. We can find reasons why or why not … Continue reading Some words might simply no longer be productive for precise conversations
This talk by David Chalmers on the relationship between consciousness and moral status is pretty interesting. You don't have to watch the video to follow this post, but it's in response to arguments he makes in the talk. The video is 75 minutes but the talk only lasts about 50 minutes with a Q&A afterward. … Continue reading Consciousness and moral status
I'm not a moral realist. But I think we definitely have personal morals, the moral norms of the culture we live in, and the moral rules we encode in law. These all interact and influence each other in an ongoing feedback process. They can be studied with psychology, sociology, anthropology, law, history, and probably some … Continue reading The forlorn search for moral realism
George Ellis has an article at Aeon on free will that is garnering some attention. Ellis' case is a fairly classic one. Brain are complex systems whose operations, due to chaotic and stochastic dynamics, cannot be predicted. Furthermore, minds constrain the detailed physical reactions, a case of downward causation. And if that weren't enough, there's … Continue reading The necessary attributes of a responsible agent
Jason Mckenzie Alexander at iai.tv makes an interesting proposition, that morality is a social technology, one that goes out of date and frequently needs to be upgraded. He first describes the common sentiment that morals are objective in some timeless platonic sense. I discussed the problems with this view in a post a while back … Continue reading Is morality objective, yet relative?
Some years ago I reviewed a book by Ara Norenzayan called Big Gods: How Religion Transformed Cooperation and Conflict. Norenzayan's thesis was that it was a belief in big gods, specifically cosmic gods that cared about human morality, that enabled the creation of large scale human societies. In small societies, reputation serves as an effective … Continue reading Big societies came before big gods
from Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal (click through for the hovertext and red button caption) Greg Egan in his novel Incandescence posits an alien civilization whose ancestors, in order to survive, establish a series of space habitats. In order to ensure their descendants will be happy, they bioengineer those descendants to feel satisfaction and bliss working within … Continue reading Changing what makes us happy
Peter Hankins at Conscious Entities has a post looking at the morality of consciousness, which is a commentary on piece at Nautilus by Jim Davies on the same topic. I recommend reading both posts in their entirety, but the overall gist is that which animals or systems are conscious has moral implications, since only conscious … Continue reading The system components of pain
The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice. As someone who isn't able to find an objective basis for morality, I've often wondered what that means for the above statement from Martin Luther King. It certainly feels like we're making moral progress, that the status of previously oppressed or marginalized people … Continue reading Is there a moral arc to history?
I've had a few conversations lately on morality, and it strikes me that I haven't written about it in quite a while. The discussions focused on whether there is any objective morality, or any objective definition of good and evil. This is an age old question. It occurs to me that we can break moral … Continue reading In search of an objective morality