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Peterdjones comments on Train Philosophers with Pearl and Kahneman, not Plato and Kant - Less Wrong

61 Post author: lukeprog 06 December 2012 12:42AM

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Comment author: Peterdjones 04 December 2012 01:09:12PM *  3 points [-]

Likewise, knowing how people make moral decisions is not at all the same as knowing what the moral thing to do would be.

Quite. It is a perfectly coherent possibility that the moral instincts given to us by evolution are broken in some way, so that studying morlaity form the evolutionary perspective does't resolve the "what is the right thing to do" question at all. The interesting thing here is that a lot of material on LW is dedicated to an exactly parallel with argument about ratioanlity: our rationality is broken and needs to be fixed. How can EY be so open to the one possibility and so oblivious to the other?

Comment author: MugaSofer 04 December 2012 02:19:29PM 4 points [-]

It is a perfectly coherent possibility that the moral instincts given to us by evolution are broken in some way

What do you mean by "broken", here?

Comment author: Peterdjones 04 December 2012 02:34:01PM 0 points [-]

About the same as when I said rationality is borken, according to EY.

Comment author: MugaSofer 04 December 2012 02:49:11PM 4 points [-]

Our rationality has an obvious standard to compare it to: the real world. If we consistently make the wrong predictions, it's easy to see something is wrong. What can you compare morality to but itself?

I suspect I'm missing something here.

Comment author: BerryPick6 04 December 2012 02:53:02PM *  1 point [-]

Pre-supposing Moral Realism gives one a clear standard by which to judge whether one's actions are moral or immoral. A tendency to consistently make wrong predictions about whether an action is moral or immoral would mean that our moral compass is "broken."

Of course... Pre-supposing Moral Realism is silly, so there's that.

Comment author: MugaSofer 04 December 2012 03:05:54PM 2 points [-]

Pre-supposing Moral Realism gives one a clear standard by which to judge whether one's actions are moral or immoral.

No, it doesn't. If your ethics conflicted with Morality, how on earth would you tell?

Comment author: BerryPick6 04 December 2012 03:11:28PM 3 points [-]

That would depend on exactly what kind of Moral Realism you espouse. If you're Kantian, you think reason will tell you whether your actions are "really" wrong or right. If you're a Divine Command Theist, you think God can tell you whether your actions are "really" wrong or right. If you're a Contractarian, you think the Social Contract can tell you whether your actions are "really" wrong or right...

And so on, and so forth.

As I've said, I think Moral Realism of this kind is silly, but if it happens to be true then what you think you "ought" to do and what you actually "ought" to do could be two different things.

Comment author: MugaSofer 05 December 2012 03:51:55AM 1 point [-]

Oh. Right. Yes. I'm an idiot.

Hmm.

Well, if they think they can prove it, any moral realists are welcome to post their reasoning here, and if they turn out to be right I can't see any objection to posting on the implications. That said, I suspect that many (all?) forms of moral realism come not from mistakes of fact but confusion, and have a good chance of being dissolved by the sequences.

Comment author: [deleted] 05 December 2012 03:57:06AM 0 points [-]

Isn't EY a moral realist?

Comment author: RobbBB 05 December 2012 04:24:50AM *  2 points [-]

Let's define our terms. Moral realism is a conjunction of three claims:

  • (i) Claims of the form "x is im/moral" assert facts/propositions.
  • (ii) Claims of the form "x is im/moral" are true iff the relevant fact obtains.
  • (iii) At least one claim of the form "x is im/moral" is true.

This should be distinguished from moral non-naturalism (which asserts that the moral facts are somehow transcendent or abstract or nonphysical), moral universalism (which asserts that a single set of moral truths holds for everyone), and moral primitivism (which asserts that moral concepts are primitive, metaphysically basic, and/or conceptually irreducible).

Comment author: MugaSofer 05 December 2012 05:16:14AM 1 point [-]

Down to definitions. He no longer believes that there is some "higher good" beyond mere human ethics.

Comment author: Armok_GoB 04 December 2012 06:35:39PM 0 points [-]

And more importantly: why the ** (excuse the language) would you care.

If what I truly desire upon reflection is objectively "evil", I want to believe that what I truly desire upon reflection is objectively "evil". And tautologically, I will still truly desire it.

Comment author: thomblake 04 December 2012 05:46:14PM 0 points [-]

If your ethics conflicted with Morality, how on earth would you tell?

Some folks have used the idea of "moral observations" to address this. Basically, if you see your neighbor's child light a dog on fire, and you say "I saw your child doing something wrong", you're making a coherent statement about your observation of reality. Our moral observations can be distorted / hallucinated just like other observations, but then that is only as much of a barrier to understanding moral reality as it is to understanding physical reality.

Comment author: MugaSofer 10 December 2012 05:42:30PM *  0 points [-]

Oh, obviously. I was saying that it would be hard to observe morality except in the usual way; it has since been pointed out that most forms of moral realism come with such a method; praying, for example.

Comment author: Peterdjones 04 December 2012 03:11:54PM *  0 points [-]

Pre-supposing Moral Realism is silly,

In the sense that pre-supposing anything is silly?

Comment author: BerryPick6 04 December 2012 03:12:14PM 0 points [-]

Okay.

Comment author: Peterdjones 04 December 2012 03:21:44PM 0 points [-]

. If we consistently make the wrong predictions, it's easy to see something is wrong

Our de facto reasoing is wrong. Either it is not leading to wrong predictions, or it is not easy to see something is wrong.

In any case, the world is not the only standard rationality can be compared to. We can spot the incoherence of bad rationality by theoretical investigation.

Comment author: MugaSofer 10 December 2012 06:12:16PM 1 point [-]

And yet a paperclipper has perfectly coherent preferences. Without direct access to some source-of-morality that somehow supersedes mere human ethics, how can we judge our morality except by it's own standards? If you have such a source, it would make an excellent top-level post, of perhaps even a sequence.

Comment author: Peterdjones 10 December 2012 06:30:22PM -2 points [-]

And yet a paperclipper has perfectly coherent preferences

But not coherent moral preferences. It doesn't care if its paperclipping infinges on other's preferences.

how can we judge our morality except by it's own standards?

By coherence, and by its ability to actually be morality, which paperclipping isn't.

Comment author: MugaSofer 11 December 2012 09:07:34AM 1 point [-]

Could you taboo "morality" for me, please? I suspect we are talking at cross-purposes.

Comment author: Peterdjones 11 December 2012 10:49:42AM -1 points [-]

You think paperclipping is morality?

Comment author: MugaSofer 11 December 2012 11:33:47AM *  1 point [-]

As I said, I suspect we are using different definitions of "morality"; could we proceed without using the term?

Comment author: BerryPick6 10 December 2012 06:38:20PM 0 points [-]

by its ability to actually be morality, which paperclipping isn't.

Why not?

Comment author: Peterdjones 10 December 2012 06:42:57PM -1 points [-]

It doesn't care if its paperclipping infinges on other's preferences.

Comment author: BerryPick6 11 December 2012 12:00:59AM *  0 points [-]

So 'morality'='caring about other people's preferences'?

Comment author: BerryPick6 04 December 2012 02:10:24PM 3 points [-]

Quite. It is a perfectly coherent possibility that the moral instincts given to us by evolution are broken in some way, so that studying morlaity form the evolutionary perspective does't resolve the "what is the right thing to do" question at all[...] How can EY be so open to the one possibility and so oblivious to the other?

He has attempted to address this issue in the Meta-Ethics sequence, although I find his points on this specific matter very confusing and I was very disappointing with it compared to the other sequences.

Comment author: glaucon 04 December 2012 10:21:03PM 0 points [-]

This is a very good point. If we agree cognitive biases make our understanding of the world flawed, why should we assume that our moral intuitions aren't equally flawed? That assumption makes sense only if you actually equate morality with our moral intuitions. This isn't what I mean by the word "moral" at all—and as a matter of historical fact many behaviors I consider completely reprehensible were at one time or another widely considered to be perfectly acceptable.