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NancyLebovitz comments on Only humans can have human values - Less Wrong

32 Post author: PhilGoetz 26 April 2010 06:57PM

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Comment author: NancyLebovitz 01 May 2010 09:23:39AM 8 points [-]

I've been reading Bury the Chains, a history of British abolitionism, and the beginning does give the impression of morals as something to be either discovered or invented.

The situation starts with vast majority in Britain not noticing there was anything wrong with slavery. A slave ship captain who later became a prominent abolitionist is working improving his morals-- by giving up swearing.

Once slavery became a public issue, opposition to it grew pretty quickly, but the story was surprising to me because I thought of morals as something fairly obvious.

Comment author: [deleted] 01 May 2010 12:50:11PM 6 points [-]

Yes! And I think the salient point is not only that 18th century Englishmen didn't think slavery was wrong -- again, it's a fact that people disagree radically about morals -- but that the story of the abolition of slavery looks a lot like people learning for the first time that it was wrong. Changing their minds in response to seeing a diagram of a slave ship, for instance. "Oh. Wow. I need to update." (Or, to be more historically accurate, "I once was lost, but now am found; was blind, but now I see.")