521. Ethical Notes
Some remarks on the previous posts.
Which modules of your brain do you consider important and which do you reject? What does the ‘you’ in the previous sentence even mean? There is no ‘me’ or ‘you’. There are just different brain-modules, some of them are sometimes conscious (what does this even mean?), some of them not. Some of them gain the upper hand and determine your actions and afterwards they’ll find reasons – usually imaginary – why you acted the way you did.
Why should we prioritize the preferences of those very modules that excel in articulating seemingly convincing and just reasons for prioritizing them? Doesn’t make much sense.
Remember, the modules that are responsible for arguing are designed for coming up with seemingly righteous and persuasive reasons for believing them, although those reasons are often wrong.
But wait a second. Everything I can consciously think of is somehow influenced by those PR-modules. It’s completely impossible to weigh the preferences of other parts of your brain “fairly”.
Wait a minute. Only the PR-modules are capable of reasoning about this strange concept of ‘fairness’! If we treat the other modules fairly then we’re prioritizing the values of the PR-modules!
Wait an hour! Why value true reasons more than false reasons? Guess whose preferences we’re talking about.
Fuck, I hope the above doesn’t make any sense ’cause I don’t know what to do if it’s true. I really have to stop thinking about this stuff. This is the path to insanity.
Anyone out there with a neat and simple solution to meta-ethics and the meaning of life? I would hate to make something up out of thin air.
Anyway, some quotes from the post:
Everything I am, is surely my brain; but I don’t accept everything my brain does, as “me”.
…Though I don’t like the fact, it does seem in my case to be true, that reflecting upon a passion can diminish it. It does seem that in taking a step back from myself to look at what my brain is doing, that this introduces a greater emotional distance from the world, than when I am not reflecting. Though I am extremely cautious when it comes to the moral issue of how to modify human nature, this is one thing that I would change, I think.
The problem is when I find myself getting in the way of even the parts I call “me”. The joy of helping someone, or for that matter, the sadness of death – these emotions that I judge right and proper, which must be me if anything is me – I don’t want those feelings diminished.
And I do better at this, now that my metaethics are straightened out, and I know that I have no specific grounds left for doubting my feelings.
But I still suspect that there’s a little distance there, that wouldn’t be there otherwise, and I wish my brain would stop doing that.
…I have always been inside and outside myself, for as long as I can remember. To my memory, I have always been reflective. But I have witnessed the growth of others, and in at least one case I’ve taken someone across that Rubicon. The one now possesses a more complex and layered personality – seems more to me now like a real person, even – but also a greater emotional distance. Life’s lows have been smoothed out, but also the highs. That’s a sad tradeoff and I wish it didn’t exist.
And finally there is the Rubicon of “I wish my brain wouldn’t do this”, at which point you are thinking as if the feeling comes from outside the inner you, imposed upon you by your brain. (Which does not say that you are something other than your brain, but which does say that not every brain event will be accepted by you as you.)
After crossing this Rubicon you have set your feet fully upon the reflective Way; and I’ve yet to hear of anyone turning back successfully, though I think some have tried, or wished they could.
And once your feet are set on walking down that path, there is nothing left but to follow it forward, and try not to be emotionally distanced from the parts of yourself that you accept as you – an effort that a mind of simple passion would not need to make in the first place. And an effort which can easily backfire by drawing your attention to the layered depths of your selfhood, away from the event and the emotion.
Somewhere at the end of this, I think, is a mastery of techniques that are Zenlike but not Zen, so that you have full passion in the parts of yourself that you identify with, and distance from the pieces of your brain that you reject; and a complex layered personality with a stable inner core, without smoothing out those highs or lows of life that you accept as appropriate to the event.
And if not, then screw it, let’s hack the brain so that it works that way. I have no confidence in my ability to judge how human nature should change, and would sooner leave it up to a more powerful mind in the same metamoral reference frame.