Posts Tagged ‘Goodness’

MINIMIZING EVIL As the Greatest Good

January 27, 2016

Do the ends justify the means, or the means, the ends? Neither. A completely different answer awaits. We have to change our considerations of complex issues from unsophisticated, uncouth, flying blind, to something much more subtle, inspired by the turn towards more subtle analysis that physics itself had to take, in the last three centuries (just post-Newton).

“Maximization of agency towards greater good”… is the only good. Why?

Because the world is fast, and getting faster, exponentially. We are confronted to an increasingly violent shoot storm. Philosophy is not just a consolation anymore. Philosophy has become the only pragmatic way out of a gathering multidimensional cataclysm.

Yes, it is also an excretion storm. Humanity is excreting, all over the planet, creating lethal imbalances all over. Contemplate the Great Barrier Reef, in Australia, one of the world’s greatest biological structures. 2,300 kilometers long, 350,000 square kilometers in area. Yet, it is suddenly threatened by utter destruction. Why? Australian agriculture, all these plants, eaten by all these hungry vegetarians, out there. (In full truth, sugarcane is the primary culprit.)

Crown of Thorns, 35 Centimeters Across: Science Always Beats Fiction!

Crown of Thorns, 35 Centimeters Across: Science Always Beats Fiction!

Yes, of course, the spikes will make you bleed, and they are venomous.

Massive production of plants requires a lot of phosphates, and other fertilizers. The latter gets into the sea. One thing leads to another. And then the babies of a killer starfish, the Crown of Thorn starfish, survive at roughly 100 times their natural rate. And the ladies Crown of Thorns are rather prolific: they produce up to twenty million eggs each. What is the Crown of Thorns prefered diet? Live coral. Crown of Thorns have already eaten their way through roughly half the Great Barrier Reef.

It is a science fiction situation, it requires a science fiction solution (philosophy will tell you as much). There are too many killer starfishes already. One needs killer robots. They are been developed: the starfish terminators have eyes, and they recognize Crown of Thorns with 99.9% precision, and inject them with bile, to which the Crown of Thorns is highly allergic.

Autonomous killer robots at sea: what could go wrong? Are sharks next? Of course! Not to terminate the species, but to make the swimmers safe (we could reprogram for plutocrats, some will insinuate…). Proper usage of philosophical evil optimization theory shows that, only this way, is evil minimized.

So welcome, killers robots!

Take another example: lack of awareness, and the evil Clintons, helped by the Bush of Oblahblah, let the financial plutocracy grow completely out of control. The silly ones will give money, clothing, even food, and feel emphatic, happy about themselves, and their pacific tendencies. Does the Will to Peace generate peace? A philosophical question. And the answer is awful: when a bushel of wheat goes from the American Middle  West to Africa, it is bought and sold virtually, by the financial traitors… No less than 2,000 times! Then they live in plush mansions. Of course those traitors are culprit. But so are those who let them thrive, namely all those ready to vote for crooks (names starting with “C”).

Shoot storm? Yes, not just animal waste and dirt that is flying, but outright bullets. To wit: extremely violent wars out of nowhere. Contemplate Rwanda, Somalia, the Islamist State. Worse could be around the corner: a (nuclear) war of India with Pakistan, quickly generalizing, is imaginable.

Science fiction, some will sneer, from the bottom of their feel-good ignorance.

But 2015 was considerably warmer than 2014, which was, itself, the warmest year, ever, by a long shot. Greenland is melting, fast. A collapse of ice shields in Antarctica, little talked about, looks imminent (at least to me).

Science fiction, some will scoff, and turn around, to study nothing. Yet, look at the Zika virus, propped by global warming. The USA is scrambling to study it. It did not exist six months ago, as a problem for WHO. Now it’s a total panic. Brazil just attributed 4,000 cases of microcephaly to that virus carried by mosquitoes. Four countries advised women not to get pregnant, more will follow. Tomorrow.

Genetic engineering may be a way to stop Zika. Otherwise, massive usage of poisons (which

already started). This sort of question are all highly philosophical, they are always choices between an evil, and the other.

In Libya, the West, led by France, destroyed a bloody despotic regime, practicing mass murder, but then, the West dropped the ball. On the philosophical ground of non-intervention, and Obama “leading from way behind” France, the West let the Natives argue between themselves to find out how they would organize this country, which is more than 4,000 years old.

That was a serious debate: Libyans have had some outstanding issues, of civilizational grade, for millennia (so do Algeria, Tunisia, even Morocco). One of these issues is whether the 3,500 years old alphabet could, or even ought, to be used, in parts where it still exists, rather than the youngish alphabet brought by the invading Arab armies, armed with their “Submission” (= Islam).

However, profiting from the chaos, the Islamist State moved in. And now it’s moving ever more, as the West is destroying it in the Orient.Now France wants to attack and destroy the Islamist State in Libya. Is this philosophically correct? (I think so, can’t wait!)

Philosophical questions are everywhere, and they are not just fascinating, but they have to drive policy. The situation is much more acute than when Seneca was advising emperor Nero, or when emperor Marcus Aurelius was playing stoic philosopher.

To all these questions, only one context in which to frame the answers: relativity. Relativity of knowledge, relativity of evil, relativity of consequences, relativity of action.

So yes, “maximization of agency towards greater good” is where it’s at. Not just where ethics ought to be at, but where action should be.

(Massimo P. and his friends have what seems to me roughly the same approach to goodness of “maximizing agency“; see: “From ancient to modern From ancient to modern Stoicism — part I“. It’s pretty clear that it was always the overriding principle of my approach to philosophy. I thank Massimo in passing for giving me the occasion of planting my claws and fangs into something juicy, in other word, making my thoughts more, well, effective by providing a debating ground.)

Can we find some inspiration in science? Yes, of course. Look at physics: energy is not of the essence. The essence is the potential, not the absolute energy. It is the potential which sits on the right hand side of the De Broglie-Schrodinger equation. Thus it’s the potential which acts (contemplate the Bohm-Aharanov effect).

Physics is dominated by the principle of least action (found by Maupertuis, during the Enlightenment). Least action of evil, such is modern stoicism. Keeping in mind that inaction is itself a form of action.

Notice that the old problem of the “ends which justify the means” has been completely reformulated in a much larger physical and philosophical universe. The entire, immense power of modern logic, mathematics and physics can then be brought to bear. It is not a question of carrying the equations over: equations constitute only logical foam. What is deeper than the equations, what really gets the logic going, is the context they represent.

For example, a way to formulate Quantum Physics, related to the Least Action Principle, is to consider the “sum over histories”… Well, just as human history itself. Causalities, entangled, are all over histories.

Ethics has got more complicated, but, in this vastly richer landscape, minimal energy, minimal evil solutions abound.

This is not just the great age of science, it’s the greatest age of philosophy. In the age of Seneca and Marcus Aurelius, the empire was in danger, from forces, in and out. Now civilization itself is in question, and even worse, the biosphere itself is threatened. It’s an ecology most propitious to a blossoming of philosophy. The greatest questions ever, await the greatest answers.

And much inspiration has to come from science, whose main job is not just to find the facts, but sophisticated logics to give them meaning. Today’s most sophisticated logics and mathematics are far ahead of the best known yesterday.

We want goodness? Let’s maximize agency towards goodness. The Principle of Least Evil, in other words.

Patrice Ayme’

Good Is Absolute

October 2, 2015

Long Story short: Not everything is relative. Good, goodness are not relative, but absolute. Absolute thanks to what? Neurohormonal activity. The fact is, and it’s a truism, people are happy enough to keep on living.

The Gods are relative. Biology is absolute.

So how come much of human thinking and values became all too relative in the Twentieth Century?

In the early Twentieth Century, the genius mathematician, physicist and philosopher, Henri Poincaré, announced what he called the “Theory of Relativity” (1904). The theory achieved great fame. Especially as “Relativity” slowed down time (as observed since zillions of times). (Relativity was attributed to a German scientist, so it was viewed as very serious; never mind that Einstein had neither discovered, nor demonstrated ANY of the basic equations or ideas of said theory; it was the interesting case of a strictly non-German theory attributed to a German.)

In any case, it was thereupon decreed by the vastly mentally unprepared masses, and not quite a few intellectuals, that everything was relative, including good and evil. A relative mood set on the land. Einstein himself played it to the hilt:

Many Philosophies (Such As Buddhism), Adopt The Mood That Suffering Is More Important Than Happiness. Neurobiology Contradicts Them

Many Philosophies (Such As Buddhism), Adopt The Mood That Suffering Is More Important Than Happiness. Neurobiology Contradicts Them

Relativity of morality is not all wrong. My pet thinker, Nietzsche, contributed to exhibit moral relativity, by pointing out that aristocracy and the rabble it ruled over, had, thank to the “slave religion” of Christianism, completely different moralities. The mathematician, physicist and philosopher Pascal himself had pointed out that truth itself depended upon which side of a mountain range one considered (“Vérité en deçà des Pyrénées, erreur au delà. Ce qui est une vérité pour un peuple, une personne, peut être une erreur pour d’autres. Ce qui est valable pour l’un ne l’est pas forcément pour l’autre.”). In truth Pascal parroted Montaigne’s use of the mountains. More generally Montaigne said: is called barbaric what is not usual (“Quelle vérité que ces montagnes bornent, qui est mensonge au monde qui se tient au-delà…. Chacun appelle barbare ce qui n’est pas de son usage”.)

In truth, the “Theory of Relativity” is all about some types of space and time measurements being relative to some types of motion. It’s not about everything being relative. Modern logic admits that any logic is relative to the universe it lives in.

Does the latter mean all morality is relative? As the Nazis claimed? No. Morality, in the end, is a biological concept. But not an obvious one. Contrarily to the pathetic naivety of Nazi theories, biology can give us a ground to stand on, which is otherwise subtle than the “selection of the fittest“. We are biological systems, and much of us is inherited. Yes. However, what about good and evil? Is that inherited, and can we go beyond what’s inherited?

John Zande wrote a book “The Owner Of All Infernal Names”. I commented: Mr. Zande seems to embrace the ancient Cathar theory that the creator of the world is obviously evil. The problem with this, is that love is even more important to human beings than evil (that’s easy to demonstrate: babies would not exist, but for love). So, if one believes the occurrence of evil is absolute proof of an evil creator, the even more prominent occurrence of love is absolute proof of an even more prominent benevolent creator, by the same metalogic. (The Good Lord is good, because He makes more good than bad.)

Yet, there is no God but Evolution, and Evil is the Master’s stroke.

Mr. Zande kindly replied:

“Insightful comment, and the logic is sound. The thesis presented in TOOAIN addresses the so-named Problem of Good. To paraphrase, good is a necessity. It spurs on growth. Ultimately, though, there is no good. What appears good is in fact little more than the means to greater and more efficient suffering. Love is also encouraged. In the book I cite this poem by Naomi Shihad, Kindness:

>>Before you know what kindness really is

you must lose things,

feel the future dissolve in a moment

like salt in a weakened broth.

What you held in your hand,

what you counted and carefully saved,

all this must go so you know

how desolate the landscape can be

between the regions of kindness<<

The premise is, love-lost is stronger and more potent than the fleeting curiosity of love-found. Complicated grief is a terrible ailment and serves to exemplify this. To love is to opening oneself up to tremendous physical and emotional pain, and to the Creator, this is pure cream.

I also present a number of examples to demonstrate this point that there is no true ‘good,” including medicine in general, writing:

Consider then the truth: More bodies doing more things over a longer time can only be scored as a breathtaking augmentation of resources.

A general population dying at 35 cannot, by and large, produce the same quantity or quality of suffering generated through the extended life of a general population dying at age 80 or 90. Here man has added 30 years—an entire generation—to the duration of his potential suffering, which in the eyes of a debased being is to be applauded as not only a marvel of market optimisation, but an almost miraculous, self-inflicted diversification in the greater portfolio of potential pain.

By permitting the development and maturation of innovative methods and practices which abet bodily longevity the Omnimalevolent Creator has positioned Himself to reap 20, 30, or even 40 years more pleasure from His game; drinking in the pang of creeping irrelevance, the pain of crippling arthritis, the emotional distress of immobility, mental degradation, senility, the anguish of seeing friends and loved ones die early, the anxiety of financial and perhaps political insecurity, and the hopelessness of a life bookmarked by death and conscious annihilation. In no uncertain terms, ruinous ageing is an abhorrent stain on even the most spectacular of lives lived, often robbing an individual of their most prized possession, their dignity, and this gradual drip of irreversible decay and the misery born of it can only be seen as a boon for a being who thrives on tapping into increasingly complex veins of suffering.

Now, let me just say, the book is a parody of 19th Century natural theology works… and it was, at times, desperately hard to write the words. I couldn’t bring myself, for example, to detail all but three examples of animal cruelty.”

The first step out of the dilemma of pain is to realize that it’s evolution which created us, not some moral person up there (the so-called “God”). So there is no game. Normal life is, most of the time pleasant enough to feel better than the alternative(s). This is what evolution expects. And has selected us for. Cocktails of neurohormones in our brains and gut make sure of that we experience enough good to keep on going. So, integrated all over, weighted with time, life is, overall, pleasant. Abject pain and unfathomable terror, occasionally, do not make much of a dent on this (although, as John Zande points out, the problem of ageing has become, viewed as a sum, much more considerable, since we have made enough progress to extend ageing rather than extending health, indeed).

However, when pain and suffering get to be too much, one can take action: euthanasia, revolution, and even war, are solutions.

You want peace and happiness? Then kill pain and suffering, in a timely manner. Otherwise, your brain will do it for you. And slavery may ensue.

Patrice Ayme’