Progressive Ethics

Project for a Progressive Ethics – Current Model


Hi Dil,

I don’t see it that way.

For me Ethics needs to be about supporting individuals and humanity generally to be whatever individuals responsibly choose.
That brings ethics down to the minimum set of principles possible, which becomes almost tautological in its simplicity:
1/ respect for individual sapient life (human and non-human, biological and non-biological); and
2/ respect for the liberty of all such individuals (which must include the notions of responsible action in both social and ecological contexts – as our lives and liberties are always in social and ecological contexts).

Beyond that minimum, respect for liberty demands an acceptance and tolerance of diversity.
It seems to me that one can derive respect for the environment, property, local social norms, etc from these two, and subsidiary to these two.

I really don’t see any way of getting anything much more than that, and retaining any sort of meaningfully liberty (individual choice).

And I am all in favour of responsible action in both ecological and social contexts, and I am every bit as afraid of the tyranny of any majority as I am the tyranny of any minority.

About 10 years ago I spent a day wandering the streets of Washington DC, reading the inscriptions on buildings and sidewalks, and I openly wept for the degree to which the ideals of individual life and individual liberty embodied in the American experiment had been subverted and destroyed by the cult of the free market and lack of respect for individual life and liberty.

There seem to be two great errors perpetuated by modern educational systems that above all the many other errors lead to our current very high risk reality.
1/ equating market measures of value with human values; and
2/ seeing evolution through the lens of competition, rather than clearly seeing the overwhelming role of cooperation in the emergence of complex systems in an evolutionary context.

That such mistakes happened is easy to understand.

That such mistakes are perpetuated in the fashion that they are seems to point to the capture of our major social structures by what are essentially cheating strategies on the cooperative that is human society.

In one sense, that can be said to come from a mistaken assumption that “Truth” can be known with certainty.
A modern understanding of the nature of computation, strategy and logical systems would seem to suggest that uncertainty is fundamental.

Modern physics seems to be telling us that the reality within which we find ourselves is at base a fundamental balance between the lawful and the random. Heisenberg uncertainty seems to be telling us that this universe has a fundamental paired “polarity” to it (for lack of a better word), and the more we constrain one aspect of it (like position) the more random becomes its complement (like momentum).

It seems clear in logic, that only in such a reality where there is such a balance between the lawful and the random can we have both real choice, and engineering capable of delivering us the likes of computational systems and technologies such as we now experience.
And while that is clear to me beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt, it is also one of the most difficult ideas to communicate to others that I have yet encountered.

The ancient symbol of the ying and yang seems to have captured something fundamental about the nature of reality at all levels. It now seems clear that freedom can only exist in such a boundary between order and chaos.
Human life can only exist at that boundary.
On the order side exist only automata, without choice.
On the chaos side order cannot exist, complexity cannot exist.

The boundary cannot ever be clear or certain.

The childish desire for binary certainty must give way to an adult acceptance of uncertainty and diversity.

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
This entry was posted in Ideas, Philosophy, understanding and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Comment and critique welcome

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s