Why "Poetic Naturalism" Needs Moral Geometry
Our best "Big Picture" of the universe might be Sean Carroll's “poetic naturalism.” But his skillfully framed physics and philosophy synthesis needs more “moral geometry” and a “naturalistic fallacy” update.
1.1 In The Big Picture, Sean Carroll skillfully frames “poetic naturalism.” His physics and philosophy palette covers the "the Origins of Life, Meaning, and the Universe Itself" well, but it needs more “moral geometry,” and a “naturalistic fallacy” update.
1.2 “Naturalism” means an entirely material universe (no separate spiritual/divine realm).
1.3 “Poetic” suggests we have many valid “ways of talking about the” universe.
2.2 “The mother of all phase transitions"? The emergence of life.
3.1 For those arrangements of atoms called humans, a vocabulary of morality/ethics applies.
3.3 For Carroll, “we can’t extract ought from is.” But this needs two corrections.
3.4 An “is” to stop its is-ness ending might entail logical oughts—it ought not to destroy whatever supplies its needs (see “vehicular viability”).
3.5 Plus certain aspects of ethics are as objective and certain as geometry (or engineering or chess).
4.1 Game theory studies behavioral rules = objective “mathematical theory of…morality" (Gregory Chaitin). It can discover objective patterns, just like geometry did about triangles.
4.3 Evolution equipped us with ethical-rule processors, akin to our language-rule processors. They’re both critical social coordination capabilities, both culturally configurable.
5.3 Game theory hasn’t had its Euclid. Nor mass teaching. But its results can improve collective performance (just as geometry improves engineering).
6.2 Any big picture of humanity should include that some moral issues have objective constraints.
Illustration by Julia Suits, The New Yorker Cartoonist & author of The Extraordinary Catalog of Peculiar Inventions.
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