Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Morality and knowledge creation

Is morality defined as "the action that creates the most knowledge"? Let us imagine a situation, for example, in which a man who will die tomorrow may have performed on him an experiment which may provide scientists with a cure that will save thousands, but the procedure is very painful, and the man—even though he will die tomorrow—does not consent to having the experiment performed on him. Clearly the moral course of action is not to perform the experiment upon the subject, but this is not the course of action which creates the most knowledge.

I propose, however, that it is only the propensity of humans to be mistaken that makes this action immoral.

Conjecture 1: morality is theories on how to live best, how to make good decisions

Conjecture 2: morality is objective

Conjecture 3: that morality is objective means that in any given situation, with all current best theories that are available, there is one best decision to make, and that same decision is best to make from any perspective.

So in the situation described above, if we could persuade the dying man that it is best to undergo the painful experiment, and he were to consent, then it would be the moral course of action to perform the experiment. It would be moral because it creates the most knowledge. However, since the man has not been persuaded, the fact that we would have to coerce him makes performing the experiment immoral. Why is it immoral? Because we already know that coercion prevents knowledge creation. We are fallible. If we cannot persuade another person that we are right, it is infallibilist and inhibiting of knowledge creation to force our will on them anyway.

In both hypothetical situations—the one in which the man is persuaded and the one in which he is not—morality can be derived from whatever creates most knowledge.