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duckduckMOO comments on Formative Youth - Less Wrong

20 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 24 February 2009 11:02PM

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Comment author: duckduckMOO 12 July 2017 10:08:01PM *  1 point [-]

It's obvious that morality is purely a matter of aesthetics

if nothing else, it's also a matter of what things an imperfect liar must believe in in order to not give off accurate hints that they're a bad person to have around, or more directly provoke retribution.

So perceiving the kind of things which would mark you as someone to be shunned or killed, as having their own special ontological category is very practical.

Even the idea that such things damn you is fairly accurate if you extract the baggage. You murder one lousy person and your option to live a normal life is greatly cut off and your options mostly narrow to escalation or starting your life anew elsewhere.

I think it's also a matter of rationality, insofar as no one is born realising there are other people and those other people's nature is such that they can suffer be happy live etc, much like we can. Being things like kind and honest allows you to perceive your nature and past both rationally and with pride. Conversely rvery time you're evil you damage your past, and so (unless you are a perfect liar) your ability to engage the world directly. Otherwise there has to be some reaction, some crack that forms, whether it's having to lie to yourself, lie to others, face your sins, partition your mind, forget or run from the past, etc.

I suppose all of that is escapable, and there can be equilibriums where it never comes up in the first place, but for an ordinary person there are self-interested reasons to have a moral sense, and in the absence of knowledge of what kind of world you're living in, your instinctive prior should be that it's possible that people who harm others for the sake of it might suffer retribution, and be afraid of doing/becoming that.

So morality is not purely aesthetic, it's also at least our (instinctive) game-theoretical fear of making ourselves the natural enemy of anyone who wants a quiet life. What's natural, or a priori worth consideration can later be screened out when we see we live in a world where justice is weak, but that doesn't mean it isn't a (lets say) natural platonic pattern.