Moral Philosophy and What To Aim For In Your Life
Our moral philosophy determines what we care about and what we don’t care about.
This is really complex territory.
A reasonable understanding of the modern synthesis of evolutionary biology and evolutionary epistemology gives us a broad brush stroke picture of what we are and why we think as we do. It seems beyond reasonable doubt that it all comes back to the differential survival of variants in different contexts in different domains (many levels of genetic, many levels of cultural, and the personal).
It seems that in a very deep sense, all of our preferences are influenced at many different levels by this process of some things surviving better in some contexts than other things. And it rapidly gets very deep, very complex.
It seems that what we experience as reality isn’t, but is our personal subconsciously created model of reality. We don’t experience reality as it is, it is far too complex for that. For us to be able to make any sort of sense of it with our limited computational abilities, our subconscious systems have to simplify it down to a degree of complexity we can deal with. The effects of that were known to Plato, but not the causes or the mechanics – they have only been known in the last few years.
The neuroscience on this is now beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt, and the AI community can now create machines that can beat any human at any game where the rule set can be defined. But those machines still have a hard time dealing with many aspects of reality, as quantum mechanics seems to be telling us that the reality within which we live does not obey hard rules, but is rather a much more subtle and probabilistic balance between the lawful and the random. The neural networks of AI can find pattern in things they experience, but they don’t come with pre-configured subconscious systems selected and configured over deep time by evolution to work in all the very complex contexts of our deep past.
At every level of life, finding a balance between order and chaos seems to be essential to survival. Too much order, things become too rigid, and either we fail to have the capacity to respond to changes that happen from time to time, or we get too bored.
Too much chaos and our systems cannot maintain the many levels of boundaries required to maintain the sorts of complex systems that we are (individually and socially).
Finding that balance, between the excesses of order and chaos, seems to be both an eternal process of exploration, and very sensitive to changes in context.
Philosophers from Plato to Kant to most modern philosophers did not understand enough about the complexities of our biology and its origins to see how the being of our past produced our current tendencies to preferences; or how new levels of awareness are essential to our survival. Every aspect of our morality and our preferences seems to be deeply encoded lessons from our deep past as a species. This is seriously complex conceptual territory.
The mathematics is now clear. Complexity and diversity can only expand within cooperative contexts, and cooperative contexts are always vulnerable to exploitation, and require an eternal search of the space of attendant strategies to detect and remove cheating strategies on the cooperative. The ancient maxim that “the price of liberty is eternal vigilance” has been validated by evolutionary games theory.
So some things are clear, beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt.
One is, that if we, as individuals and as societies, want a reasonable probability of survival, and to survive with reasonable degrees of freedom and resources with which to use that freedom; then we must (each and every one of us) demonstrate responsible social and ecological behaviours, and we must do so in fundamentally cooperative contexts. Competitive contexts are fundamentally destructive to social cohesion.
And it is complex.
We all have our competitive sides.
We can all enjoy playing competitive games.
And the larger context within which we play those games has to be a cooperative one, if we want to have a reasonable probability of continuing to play any sort of game.