Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Some observations on good and evil

Some quick notes before I forget. These issues were interesting to me once upon a time.

Good and evil can only be defined with respect to a moral philosophy. One can choose to act in accordance with a given morality (good) or against it (evil). The basis of Christian morality lies in that wonderful and wonderfully ambiguous statement "God is good". Of course, the nature of God (and therefore of goodness) is defined by church canon. To my way of thinking, this makes Christian goodness a dangerously arbitrary standard, and one that is highly susceptible to manipulation.

Is there a first-principles derivation of morality available? Kant seemed to think so. I tend to disagree. My own position is unclear, but I'm inclined towards adopting a gene-centric attitude. Societal mores develop along lines that are fitted to genetic and memetic survival. Of course, I am in a position to reason out the consequences of an action in a way that, with any luck, can overcome the limitations of impulsive or instinctive evolved morality. In other words, it sometimes makes sense to be evil. The a priori good guys don't always win. The ultimate winners redefine the concept of good.

In summary: I see morality as a problem in the domain of game theory. By Christian standards, I am quite evil. I'm fine with that.

"It's a philosophical choice", said Dr Smith.

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