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Joined: 15 Apr 2009
Age: 26
Gender: Male
Posts: 2,315
Location: Galway, Ireland

22 Apr 2011, 10:02 am

prof. at Princeton, P. Singer wrote:
the fact that a being is a human being, in the sense of a member of the species Homo sapiens, is not relevant to the wrongness of killing it; it is, rather, characteristics like rationality, autonomy, and self-consciousness that make a difference. Infants lack these characteristics. Killing them, therefore, cannot be equated with killing normal human beings, or any other self-conscious beings. This conclusion is not limited to infants who, because of irreversible intellectual disabilities, will never be rational, self-conscious beings.

Glad I'm rational, autonomous, and self-conscious, or at least can make people think that I am all three of those. (Holy cr**.)

I think most people when reading that will feel like there is something wrong with it, even if they can't point to a logical/analytical error. I think nature has given us more than one way to think ("analytically" & "intuitively"), and they give us (if nothing else) a way to check against the failings/weaknesses of the other. (And it's interesting how people have differing balances.)

(If I could remember the name of it, I could quote that famous mathematical proof that says that basically if you have a mathematical system, there can be things about it that are true, but that you can't prove are true, from within the rules of that system. So if you want to understand everything about it, you might need to go outside of it.)

You're thinking of Godel. He's a personal favourite of mine, although you refer to the far less interesting half of his theorem. It is true that there are true statements within a formal system that can be sufficiently mathematised, which cannot be proven from within it, but I do not feel this is the place to invoke Godel, unless you can provide a clear example of why his idea is particularly relevant to ethics We should be careful not to overextend our scientific principles to where they do not belong.

As ruveyn said, there are no ethical facts in nature. It is impossible to derive an is from an ought (knowing that the sun is yellow does not imply we should do anything). Human Ethics is not derivable from any natural facts, and it is solely in existence due to natural selection selecting people who didn't eat their babies for poops and giggles. If we accept certain starting positions (I want to avoid causing sentient beings to suffer), then we can derive ethics rationally, but this position makes abundantly clear the nature of ethics; a pragmatic doctrine.

The scientist only imposes two things, namely truth and sincerity, imposes them upon himself and upon other scientists - Erwin Schrodinger

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