This paper examines the age old question of the basis of moral value in the new context of astrobiology, which offers a fresh perspective. The goal is to offer the broad outline of a general theory of moral value that can accommodate the diversity of living entities we are likely to encounter beyond the confines of Earth. It begins with ratiocentrism, the view that the possession of reason is the primary means by which we differentiate entities having moral value in and of themselves from those having moral value merely by virtue of the uses to which they can be put. I broaden this basis to include sociality and culture, arguing that these three attributes tend evolve as a “package deal.” Because of this, it's really the sociality-reason-culture triad (SRCT) which should be the criterion for intrinsic moral value. If the SRCT linkage is sufficiently strong, it follows that this sort of moral valuation would be shared by any non-human entities capable of reflection on the nature of such things, granting it a curious kind of objectivity. I then suggest that the unfolding of complexity produced by SRCT species may be the best means to realize the manifest destiny (manifest complexity) of all life, which could provide an ultimate, metaphysical foundation for ethical value. Finally, I outline how this new theory can be applied to different types of entities that we may encounter beyond Earth.
Manifest Complexity: A Foundational Ethic for Astrobiology?Space Policy
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