X-Message-Number: 22817
Date: Sun,  9 Nov 2003 17:31:06 -0700
Subject: Morality argument
References:  <>
From:  (Tim Freeman)

Message #22800
From: "David Pizer" <>
Subject: Need your opinion.
>1.  All moral value emanates from living beings. Without life there is
>    no morality.

Some people think morality emanates from God or some such.

>2.  So, to have any morality, we must first have life. Life is a
>    necessary condition for morality to exist.

Again, some people think that there will be a second coming of Christ,
all life on Earth will end, and the righteous people will wind up in
Heaven.  A bunch of spirits in heaven aren't alive, but morality, I
presume, can still be an issue in that context.

>3.  Since it is moral to seek morality, it is moral to seek the
>    underlying necessary condition for morality - life.

We are alive at the moment, so we don't have to seek life.  You don't
need to seek something you already have.

>4.  If life can have any morality, long life can have more morality
>    than short life (all other things being equal)

All things aren't equal.  God might tell you to get to Heaven on a
reasonable schedule or give you other instructions about medical care
(e.g., no blood transfusions for Jehovah's Witnesses).  Catholics, I
believe, are told not to take extreme measures to extend (or shorten)
their lives, since that's interfering with God's will.  Some Buddhists
believe that, since they'll get reincarnated anyway, taking special
care to extend their lives now is a form of attachment that creates

On the other hand, if I understand correctly, the Bible instructs
Christians to take good care of their bodies.  If someone believes
this then you can avoid all the rest of the conversation.  I had a
pleasant discussion at the recent ACT training with a Seventh Day
Adventist who believes that scripture supports his personal interest
in cryonics.  His pastor was motivated to convince him otherwise and
had no scriptural grounds, and fortunately this is a flavor of
Protestantism so the scripture is the authoritative guide rather than
pastor.  I disagree with this guy about the basic tenets of his
religion, but unlike most other Christians I've known, I can't see any
way in which his belief system is harming him now or is likely to harm
him soon.

(I wish I had thought to ask him about what he thought of uploading
when I had the opportunity.) 

>    and eternal life can have more morality than limited life. The
>    most amount of morality possible, (in principle), is infinite
>    morality. For a creature to obtain infinite morality, he/she must
>    first have infinite life. Physical immortality is a necessary
>    condition for infinite life.

I think one of the rules of some forms of Christianity is that if you
can avoid committing any sins before the last time your sins are
forgiven and the time you die, then you've achieved perfect morality.
If you've repented recently, it's better hurry up and die to avoid the
risk of screwing up, except suicide is a sin in itself.  People can
sin while they're alive and not while they're dead, so more life
doesn't necessarily lead to more morality, if morality is defined
negatively as an absence of sinful behavior.  For example, I've talked
to a Mormon who described people born too brain-damaged to do anything
as fortunate, since they are unable to sin and therefore certain to
get to Heaven and experience eternal Joy there.

(If morality is defined positively as doing God's will or anything
else worthwhile, then the believer is in a better situation.  See

>5. If it is most moral to strive for the most life - physical
>   immortality, then it is immoral not to.

As far as I can tell, this last step is valid, but the ones leading up
to it aren't so you still don't win.

I prefer this argument:

1. People generally have something in their life that motivates them
   to get out of bed in the morning.  This even applies to religiously
   motivated people.

2. This motive can generally be pursued more effectively by living
   people than by dead people.  This is generally also true for
   religiously motivated people; it's very rare for a person to be
   more effective as a martyr than as an ordinary person who is doing
   some sort consructive work.

3. Therefore one way to more effectively do what you want to do in
   life is to take care to stay alive.

But IMO verbal reasoning about things like this is at best a
rationalization for preexisting non-verbal beliefs (at worst it's
trolling), so the whole enterprise of trying to verbally capture and
manipulate these issues is a dead-end.  People need some sort of
kinesthetic experience.

For instance, I've read reports from people who jumped off the Golden
Gate bridge intending to commit suicide and somehow survived.  In
every case, they report that once they start their fall, they
immediately realize that their decision was bad and that life is, in
fact, worth living and their problems are at least potentially
solvable.  (But then, these reports are written by people who did not
immediately choose a more effective suicide technique after their
failed jump.  Hmm.)

Too bad aging is such a slow process, and the techniques for
mitigating it are also slow or questionable.  If it were more dramatic
it would be easier to get people to confront the issues.

Tim Freeman                                                  
GPG public key fingerprint ECDF 46F8 3B80 BB9E 575D  7180 76DF FE00 34B1 5C78 
Computers don't like it when you anthropomorphize them. -- Chris Phoenix

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