Project for Progressive Ethics

Post in Project for a progressive Ethics

Message on Meetup

Hi Dil

Having had a 7.8 earthquake here a few months back, haven’t logged in in a while, so just got to see your message.

Can’t find any place to leave comment on any of the links you provided, so will briefly comment here.

It seems clear to me that any attempt to discus ethics without understanding both the evolutionary nature of embodied cognition and the heuristic nature of understanding and behaviour, and the logical context of a reality that embodies both lawfulness and randomness in its fundamental substructure; are fatally flawed.

Hence Sartre et al while interesting in an evolutionary context are fundamentally lacking a coherent framework in reality.

My views on such matters are fundamentally grounded in some 50 years of exploring both philosophy and science including biochemistry, quantum mechanics, relativity, games theory, complexity, computation, etc.

What context do you wish to engage in?

I am interested in contexts that give a reasonable probability to indefinite life applied universally, with the maximum degrees of freedom possible; acknowledging that there can be no absolute predictability when complex systems involving chaos and maximal computational complexity are involved.



[followed by]

Hi Dil at al,

One thing that has become clear in the 12 year process we have had here in Kaikoura in developing a community consensus approach to coastal marine management ( is that agreed values matter.

Yes, we are all different in many different ways.
Yes we will each have many variations on many different themes of systems derived from both genetic and cultural evolution that implicitly impel us towards particular outcomes. These come under the broad heading of “feelings” and cover a vast array from things like breathing, a liking for sweet things, sexual attraction, to things like Jayne’s “structions” and many levels of implicit systems embedded in culture more generally and language specifically.
We all have those.
We need them to make any sort of sense of the vast amount of information presented to us.
Differential survival seems to have selected things that work (on average over time).
So many levels of evolved heuristics within us that in one sense make cognition possible at all, and in another sense install a set of Bayesian priors from which we make judgments.

And in working together, when bringing many different sets of understandings and beliefs and values, we found it essential to first find a common set of values we could all agree upon – something that we could come back to when things got difficult, and start again.

In terms of general ethical principles for humanity, it seems that the vast majority of people can agree on two universal principles:
1 a respect for individual sapient life; and
2 a respect for the liberty of all sapient individuals, where it doesn’t pose undue risk to the life or liberty of anyone else.

And in complex systems, boundaries need to be flexible or they become brittle and break.

And when individuals with conflicting assumptions or ethics clash, resolution requires us to go beyond cultural boundaries, ours and theirs; and the easiest way to get there is to suspend judgement and listen from the space of agreed values.

So it seems to be more of a process thing. And it takes time, requires both trust and commitment. And commitment is usually judged by actions in reality.

So yes – I agree that it is irrational to ignore the irrational, and there is something of an art to mixing the rational and the irrational. As a general rule of thumb, the more time you have, the greater the involvement of the rational aspects of evaluation of the factors present.

I attempt to always involve both aspects of my being in all choices.
And the vast majority of what I do isn’t choice, it is patterns already present doing what they do.
And a large number of those patterns are there as the result of past choices, and committed actions on my part to turn them into lasting habits.

And freedom is a very complex subject.
Freedom is never without constraint.
To be without constraint is to experience hard vacuum – not healthy.
Our existence is predicated on about 20 levels of constraints (from the sub atomic on up through the highest levels of abstraction).
Learning the degrees of freedom available within those constraints seems to be one of the arts of aging and wisdom.

One is never free from consequence.
Yes one can step off a cliff, and a few second later there will be consequence (definitely unwanted in my case).

So it seems clear to me that freedom and responsibility are two sides of the same coin.

And in an infinite realm of possibilities, freedom must logically result in exponentially expanding diversity, with all the challenges for communication and coexistence involved therein.

And it does seem possible to work through those challenges, if one has a base level commitment to the values of life and liberty.

About Ted Howard NZ

Seems like I might be a cancer survivor. Thinking about the systemic incentives within the world we find ourselves in, and how we might adjust them to provide an environment that supports everyone (no exceptions) - see
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