Thursday, January 24, 2013

Radical Honesty and Ethics.

How do we select between meta-ethical systems?

I want an ethical system that prevents harm to myself,  those I care about and to my wider community. Ideally, such a system would also improve the common good but I am fairly skeptical about human progress outside of science and technology.  This, to my deep chagrin, makes me a conservative in this matter.

I acquired the term 'radical honesty' from Rousseau. Rosseau was commenting on the debate over human nature that was taking place in the 19th century.  He recommended that because we lack any reliable methodology to distinguish between human nature and social conditioning,  we should instead test for plausibility and admit our accounts are designed to further the political viewpoint we are defending.  This he called radical honesty.

I think the same applies here: Yes, we have formal methods that subvert some of our biases but they are fairly limited in scope.  Science works because we can test our theory against the natural world.  Logic on the other hand is just glorified rules of grammar;  a person can rewrite an illogical argument to be logically valid, or even sound, while not changing his position.

 If someone develops of form of epistemology that settles ethical and moral disputes, it would be as revolutionary as the scientific method. But alas we don't have any such method yet so I'm going with radical honesty.   I reached my preference through a combination of my personal character, experience and my amateur readings of philosophy and history.  Obviously there are those who disagree with me; I can swap reasons and anecdotes with them but ultimately its my preferences vs their preference.

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