What is morality? Is it objective? In listening to some great discussions on atheism with Stephen Fry and Ricky Gervais and Richard Dawkins the missing ingredient for me was the idea of morality as social medicine.
> Note: On this page I want to make a first stab at exploring this idea - an old idea, but not one I've ever tried to express formally, or feel content that I have heard.
There are a number of components to this idea:
- Medicine can be understood as an objective science. However we can also deviate from this notion in interesting ways, particularly when we examine fields such as psychiatry and medical ethics.
- There is an association with legal forms. Morality can reasonably be claimed to be a set of rules and principles that have evolved through a process that looks much like common law.
- Morality is a performative science, that is it is a creative act. As such it is neither a subjective act, nor and objective description of reality.
So when we put these ideas together we can see a creative, evolving process, which can in some ways be tested in a similar way to the way in which medicine can be tested. Let's examine how you might test a moral code, or principle?
- You can make a claim that this or that moral code (pattern) would have such and such (medical) effect on the society in question.
- You apply the pattern in a test environment - such as a game (for instance an MMO with many diverse participants).
- You assess the results.
- You feedback, learn, iterate
# Difference to Utilitarianism
A life-like game is always both objective - it exists in the world and can be described - while at the same time it exhibits a meta-structure or purpose - namely to live. That is it has a self-referential cause or autopoietic ontology.
Philosophically, especially when taking an epistemic view over long time scales, and in the context of competing scientific and philosophical views that explore ideas such as the many worlds hypothesis - we can't so easily posit simple survival based, or rigid and fixed telos to this assessment.
How does this effect utilitarianism attempts at objectifying morality? The first step is to argue that we need to take into account deeper mathematical and physical arguments. That is to precisely deny the plausibility of utilitarianism because the common sense simplicity of its explanation lacks plausibility - morality is weird and requires a weird explanation. More formally the requisite variety of the explanation is not sufficient.
What sort of factors or influences should we be considering in an answer? These arguments spring to mind: - Experience can be taken plausibly as a causal or selective ontological factor (ie the anthropic principle), - Reason has clear and proven limits (Gödel's incompleteness theorems etc)
These considerations point to the need for a double -complication - or a meta step - a game of games. That is we need a moral nomic game that enables us to evolve our measurement critieria - not just pick out happiness somewhat arbitrarily, and that this meta-game should have sufficient requisite variety (and simplicity) to form a robust evolving corpus of game like rules or patterns we call moral.
Such a game would have many similarities to what we understand as science, but would differ. We could call this game, or set of games, performative science or true science. The phrase morality as social medicine captures the intuitive pragmatix of such a method.