Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Scattered thoughts on morality

  • We should face the difficult reality that there are no moral facts. The best we’re going to do is to reach consensus among a sufficient number of people. Luckily, there is a lot of room to achieve consensus.
  • One reason for this opportunity is the growth in opportunities for positive-sum interactions. There are more chances for people to get what they want, in a way that can benefit everyone.
  • Rising standards of living make people seek higher goals. This makes moral discourse- rather than rule of the strongest- possible.
  • There’s a lot of truth to economic determinism- a lot of social changes are emergent. Moral discourse is tinkering at the margin.
  • Taleb’s tinkering concept (as I understand it) suggests to me that we want differing moral viewpoints. They function to diversify social practices, making society more robust to unforeseen changes.
  • So we don’t want one all-encompassing moral vision for everyone. We do need some basic principles, but they should be minimal (a case for negative rights at the state level?). This minimalism allows for a diversity of moral convictions, positions and actions.
  • This does not rule out the possibility of irresolvable moral conflict, which may be inescapable under any circumstances. Some conflict is probably beneficial. We can hope to avoid the most destructive conflict (creative destruction, however, should be allowed to thrive).
  • We should clearly acknowledge the limits of our understanding. Tinkering and diversification are ways to deal with the ever-present possibility of error, as well as unforeseen changes

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