but he and I have also had some brief email conversations since this came out. He's generally sympathetic to my point of view and agrees with much of what I have to say, but he did point out how other stubborn philosophers might be apt to object to my arguments in two specific ways. I felt I ought to address those points in a short post. So, here goes.
1) Messerly wrote:
"Philosophers would object to a number of issue in the paper, including Gibney’s basic syllogism:
p wants to continue to exist
thus p ought to act in aid its continued existence.
First, they might object that “just because p is doesn’t mean that p ought to be.” By simply stating this, Gibney is begging the question."
I admit this is true. In my paper, I agree with this by saying nothing in this universe says we *have* to follow these imperatives, but it’s clear that we *ought* to. I suppose someone could argue, for example, that there would be a lot less suffering in the universe if life didn’t exist, so we all ought to just wink out into extinction, but if that’s the opposing argument, I’m pretty confident the jury will come down on continuing this project of life. I'll try to state this assumption more clearly in the future to make sure people know I’m making it and trying to get them to agree to it.
2) Messerly also wrote:
"Second, they might say, “if p wants to exist it should act so in ways that help it to continue to exist, but this is a survival imperative and not a moral imperative. And those aren’t the same thing.” In other words Gibney is confusing what behaviors help us survive with moral behaviors. While the two sometimes coincide, often they don’t. (Killing you quickly before you kill me might aid my survival but not be moral.) I agree that there are more to moral imperatives than survival imperatives; nonetheless survival imperatives are a prerequisite for moral imperatives. In other words, oughts that aid survival are necessary but not sufficient conditions for morality."
I don't yet believe this is true. It seems to me that moral urges are entirely about the well-being of “others”, as measured objectively by their long term survival. Emotional urges that protect the self are just considered selfish survival instincts, and it’s my contention that the identity of the “self” could be expanded out to be the protection of *my* organism / family / tribe / society / species / or ecosystem—all of which could be selfishly cared for if their protection came at the expense of life in general over evolutionary timelines. The moral emotions (for example, Haidt’s foundations of 1) Care/Harm; 2) Fairness/Cheating; 3) Liberty/Oppression; 4) Loyalty/Betrayal; 5) Authority/Subversion; 6) Sanctity/Degradation) are all felt during attempts to navigate this choice between “self” and “others”. Emotional choices that don’t deal with this issue (ice cream preference, computer operating system choice, favourite impressionist painter, etc.) fall to the realm of aesthetics rather than ethics. At least, I think so. Messerly gave the example: "Killing you quickly before you kill me might aid my survival but not be moral.”, but I don’t claim that morality depends on an individual’s survival. That moral judgement of an act is tied to wether or not it promotes "life in general over the long term." Shooting an innocent person before they are about to defend themselves is immoral, but killing Nazis quickly vs. being killed by Nazi aggressors is an easy example of when such a killing action is moral. Both of these judgements are made because of how the outcomes lead towards or away from cooperative, surviving societies. I haven't yet found a moral issue that does not, at its roots, eventually revolve around the question of cooperating or competing for survival over the long term. I’m glad Messerly sees the survival question is necessary (the primary question that needs to be answered), but I’m not yet sure why other philosophers don't see it as sufficient.
Thanks to John for his considered remarks and generous correspondence! I'm happy to meet him and start following his blog.