Home

Chapters Listed Below

The Evolution of Ethics

The Evolutionary Process

Seminal Social Catalysts

The Evolution of Reason

Moving From Ethics to Cybernetics

Cybernetic Ethics

Mathematical Concepts

Models of Ethical Evolution

Social Engineering

Preface

Foreword

Further Reading

Ethics Web Links

 

 

Notes

Altruism

What Are Moral Standards

Visceral Morality

Science and Ethics

Static & Dynamic Systems

Kantian and Utilitiarian Ethics

Wisdom, Ought and Should

Reason

Definitions

Defining Survival In an Ethical Context

The Integration of Science & Ethics

Quantum Considerations

PDF of the Chapter

 

The
Evolution of Ethics
An Introduction to Cybernetic Ethics

 

Practical Applications of Evolutionary Ethics

The following is an example of how cybernetic feedback shapes and sharpens the definition of a moral term such as rape. When you look at moral and ethical systems as having evolved you begin to see the foundations of moral systems resting on human experience. Take for example the morality of rape. Professor Singer in "Practical Ethics" says to the effect that centuries of moral thinking have been unable to determine if rape is morally right or morally wrong. However, traditional philosophical reasoning has systematically omitted certain facts that might lead reasoning to the clear discernment of right and wrong. If you were to question ten adults about what is right or wrong about rape facts would begin to accumulate such as rape is violent physically and emotionally damaging. With enough people surveyed the list of reasons citing rape is wrong would grow. On the other hand, hardly anything good would be said about the rightness of rape. Over centuries of time millions of instances of rape would sharpen its reputation as being a morally wrong behavior. Rape is but one behavior of hundreds which moral rightness or wrongness can be assigned. Omission of the facts that accompany certain behaviors contribute to a climate in philosophical discourse where nothing can be resolved. The evolution of moral systems evolves slowly in society. Over large amounts of time behaviors and actions that cause pain, suffering and death gain an indelible reputation as wrong behavior. Actions that contribute to social peace, prosperity and productivity gain a reputation as morally right behavior. Another reason the determination of right and wrong may be difficult to determine has to do with linquistic principles. S.I. Hayakawa in "Language Thought and Action" says that the meaning of words falls into two categories. There are extensional meanings and there are intensional meanings."The extensional utterance of a word is that which points to the extensoinal (physical) world..." Here the word-concept of rape is definitely not an idea of the mind, it is something real and can be experienced. On page 52 he goes on to say "the intensional meaning of a word or expression, on the other hand is that which is suggested (connoted) inside one's head." Hayakawa reminds us "the word is not the thing." Thinking about rape that is defined in terms of human experience is the way forward when trying to determine the rightness or wrongness of rape. Philosophers need to consider the nature of arguments, over large amounts of time, to gradually deteriorate, become indeterminate, relative and ossify when reasoning moral issues. In a very narrow sense semantic infiltration" could be considered this gradual deterioration of reason. Without an element of experience to anchor ethical concepts ethics remains only an idea of the mind. Evolutionary ethics has the potential to unlock many perplexing issues in philosophy. For example, the question often arises asking how can ethical systems be relative from region to region or nation to nation and yet be unified by first principles of morality and ethics. In nature one finds great diversity. Diversity fortifies the integrity of biological systems. If there is a flaw in the design of one system, and the system fails, all other systems do not fail as well. To design a world where there was only one moral system would lead to catastrophic failure. Not only is there relativity from system to system but there is a unifying theme of cybernetic principles that govern the evolution of moral and ethical systems.