In this paper, we investigate the implications that a general view of complexity – i.e. the view that complex phenomena are irreducible – hold for our understanding of ethics. In this view, ethics should be conceived of as constitutive of knowledge and identity, rather than as a normative system that dictates right action. Using this understanding, we elaborate on the ethics of complexity and the complexity of ethics. Whilst the former concerns the nature and the status of our modelling choices, the latter denotes a contingent and recursive understanding of ethics. Although the complexity of ethics cannot be captured in a substantive normative model, we argue that this view of ethics nevertheless commits one to, what we term, ‘the provisional imperative’. Like Kant’s categorical imperative, the provisional imperative is substantively-empty; however, unlike Kant’s imperative, our imperative cannot be used to generate universal ethical principles. As such, the provisional imperative simultaneously demands that we must be guided by it, whilst drawing attention to the exclusionary nature of all imperatives. We further argue that the provisional imperative urges us to adopt a certain attitude with regard to ethical decision-making, and that this attitude is supported and nurtured by provisionality, transgressivity, irony, and imagination.
The free energy principle states that self-organization occurs through minimization of free energy, which is a measure of potential thermodynamic work. By minimizing free energy, the organism happens to also minimize surprise over its boundary, promoting chances of survival. We discuss the ethical implications of the cognitive goal in detail from an empirical point of view, highlighting the principle of least action as a physical basis of Occam’s razor, the universality of the free energy principle, and its explanation of natural selection. We explain that the free energy principle extends to groups of organisms and helps us understand group-scale adaptations and selection in biology. The free energy principle applies to all scales of organization in the organism from single cells to the entire nervous system. When this principle is taken to its logical extremes of modeling groups, populations and ecosystems, we uncover a new, evolutionarily sensible path at explaining puzzling aspects of human motivation and judgement, including ethical decisions. To minimize free energy, populations have to act to maximize gathering of information, while building effective models at mitigating changes to its dynamic structure. The free energy principle thus provides a naturalistic explanation of some of our deepest ethical intuitions, and valuable principles of social behavior. We interpret the cognitive goal that corresponds to the principle as seeking a dynamic, fruitful, yet peaceful activity that sustains the organism. This state of mind is interestingly similar to the Buddhist intuition of mental equanimity; the organism’s final goal is to be at peace and harmony with the environment. Another immediately relevant aspect is that assemblies must form to promote symbiotic, synergistic, positive feedback loops, which coincides with the findings of ecologists. Therefore, ethics naturally emerges in self-organizing systems. Assemblies of organisms must ultimately unite in macro-minds to achieve the greatest reduction in free energy, as well as building technological extensions of themselves to improve their capacity to do such, therefore the principle also predicts a post-singularity world-mind composed mostly of artificial intelligence.
Reproduced from: https://www3.nd.edu/~dnarvaez/Triune_Ethics_Theory.htm TRIUNE ETHICS THEORY Triune Ethics Theory: The neurobiological roots of our multiple moralities (2008) (PDF). IN WORD Triune Ethics Moral Identities are Shaped by Attachment, Personality Factors and Influence Moral Behavior (ppt) Also see: Neurobiology and the Development of Human Morality: Evolution, Culture and Wisdom (Narvaez; W.W. Norton, 2014) TRIUNE ETHICS ORIENTATIONS… Read More