April 06, 2010

Ethicists analysing ethicists analysing themselves

Ethi-catPractical Ethics: Experience and self-experimentation in ethics - an essay where I consider whether the fact that I have used cognition enhancers renders me more or less suitable to discuss their ethics.

My view is that bias cannot be avoided, but at least some kinds of research or discourse can correct for it well enough. In ethics an argument is fairly open to criticism, so bias is much easier to correct than if the argument is based on hidden data, assumptions and methods that require significant resources to uncover or replicate (e.g. the case in much experimental science). This means that arguments are fairly independent of who made them, their biases and their possible lack of morals. It doesn't matter except biographically if a line of reasoning was made by a naturally clever person, a not-so clever person taking an enhancer, by an idiot out of dumb luck or the devil seeking a particular manipulative end: the reasoning stands on its own.

Of course, the whole essay is a bizarre self-referential apologism: I am writing about the ethics of ethicists using substances they are studying the ethics of using while being one such ethicist, and then I start analysing the ethics of this situation. This paragraph notices the slight ethical queasiness I feel about the whole recursion, yet if my basic argument above is right this at most amounts to a few fractal embellishments on top of an argument that should be valid regardless. I did pick up a book by Douglas Hofstadter earlier today, maybe I caught something from it. :-)

Posted by Anders3 at April 6, 2010 06:33 PM