martes, 28 de agosto de 2012

Random musings on (a)morality


Many things we call amoral (such as science, business, animals or machines), are, from a certain point of view I’ll try to explain, no such thing. If we describe morals as a given set of values and its derived rules, then amorality would be an indifference towards, or an outright lack of, such values and rules.
The distinction seems* pretty clear when talking about humans: Those who have rules and follow them are moral, those who have but break them are immoral and those who haven’t got them are amoral.
This gets more complex, however, when talking about human constructs like science and business, which are considered amoral, because “they respect nothing” or some cliché like that, meaning that, according to them, e.g. killing people to (dis)prove an hypothesis / raise benefits can be right.
I argue, on the contrary, that they are not, strictly speaking, amoral, for they have values (have models that explain and predict as much evidence as possible as accurately as possible / obtain as much benefits as possible)  and rules derived from them (the scientific method / use production-possibility curves, bribe politicians or whatever they teach at MBAs) . It seems, therefore, that the definition of amoral we use is not only “lacking morals/values/rules”, but also “with morals/values/rules (very) different to ours”.
*[This can be an issue with humans sometimes; applying the previous rationale, is a human who cares only about e.g. power amoral?]
The shenanigans multiply with the involvement of animals & machines, for I hold that they too can be understood to have values (Insure my genes’ survival / Perform task X) and derived rules (fight, flee, feed and fornicate / 01001011 01001001 01001100 01001100), albeit morals are supposed to determine decision-making, and can animals and machines do that? On the one hand, if Ione admits that they can’t take decisions because they just react following natural laws , then one must also admit the same for humans (for free will is but an illusion) and morality becomes just as absurd for them; on the other hand, if one grants a chain of natural reactions the title of decisions, then one must say things like “the rock decided to fall down (presumably in accordance to its value-system based on following the laws of physics).”, or rather think them, for such utterances tend to be rather inconvenient.
My workaround for this apparent conundrum is a somewhat arbitrary measure of the complexity & ability to control (i.e. influence outcomes) of a physical system’s reactions to its environment: While I’m definitely sure a rock is amoral and pretty sure that so are the PC with which I’m writing this or the fly which is annoying me, I get doubtful beyond that.
P.D. This was supposed to somehow relate to formal& natural sciences being unproblematiclly amoral for moral values/rules are an exogenous factor for them but that not being the case in social sciences because of the endogeneity, but I guess I couldn't articulta it very well (or at all).

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