Neo-Mohism

“When one advances claims, one must first establish a standard of assessment. To make claims in the absence of such a standard is like trying to establish on the surface of a spinning potter’s wheel where the sun will rise and set. Without a fixed standard, one cannot clearly ascertain what is right and wrong, or what is beneficial and harmful.”

-Mozi, ‘A Condemnation of Fatalism’


Meta Note

I am constantly editing this framework, and it is tedious to keep it updated here as well. For the latest version that is synced with my personal document on the matter, see here: https://​​becomingstronger.postach.io/​​post/​​neo-mohism

Epistemic Status

This is more meant as a description of my personal moral philosophy than a prescriptive philosophy/​religion for others to follow, but I hope to refine it to the point where most people would be on-board with it while still being useful. Please be charitable with your critique, as this is a work in progress (as my own moral philosophy is) which I whipped up in the span of an hour, and I have yet to settle on where Neo-Mohism ends and my personal ethics begin (if anywhere!). But do let me know what should be clarified more, or what you think is incorrect!

High Concept (TL;DR)

Humans accomplish goals more effectively when they cooperate, but humans have different goals and different ways they wish to cooperate. Inspired by the ancient philosophy of Mohism, this is an attempt to find a universal moral framework that most systems can agree on. The primary philosophy of Neo-Mohism is two-fold:

There are objective moral facts to be known, due to defining the goal of morality as ” the well-being of all conscious creatures” (which includes all sentient beings, such as animals and Artificial General Intelligence)

All tenets of Neo-Mohism must always be open to revision via the epistemology of Bayesian Rationality.

Currently, all Neo-Mohists take a specialized Vow of Honesty, as they value truth for its own sake and believe deception is inherently harmful. Most Neo-Mohists live a vegan lifestyle, all of them are some form of vegetarian/​reducetarian, and consider the killing/​subjugation of animals to be immoral. You will often find Neo-Mohists involved in work that advances the well-being of humanity in some way, as they consider it to be their personal responsibility to improve the world (they have a particular emphasis on reducing suffering over improving happiness, given the current state of the world). They are also interested in improving their thinking, as they consider it to be the primary way well-being can be improved, and have few qualms about using technology to accomplish this.

Tenets

The first and highest tenet is that all tenets are subject to revision (except for this one).

Bayesian Rationality is the epistemology of choice for Neo-Mohists. Neo-Mohism does not make proclamations of certainty; all beliefs are required to have a confidence interval assigned to them (including all moral conclusions), and a Cardinal Sin of Neo-Mohism is to assign a probability of 1 or 0 to a belief. As per Bayesian Rationality, the ultimate arbiter of Neo-Mohist tenets is the ability to make advance, falsifiable predictions, allowing the universe to judge between competing ideas.

As Bayesian Rationality refines and corrects itself, so does the epistemology of Neo-Mohism. This is, admittedly, the greatest weakness of the philosophy.

It is unclear how useful it is to codify a moral framework beyond a certain point. It is important to pay attention to context, and not let an ethical framework get in the way of being ethical.

Any moral framework adopted should avoid “repugnant conclusions” that violate the principles of well-being (explained below), to the extent possible.

The word “morality” within this system is defined as “[X action] is that which ought to be done/​not done, given the goal of well-being.” As such, Neo-Mohism does not concern itself with any is/​ought problem, and uses Consequentialism as a meta-ethic. The only problem to solve is whether wellbeing is a shared goal. Neo-Mohists argue that everyone cares about this, and that there are objective facts to be known in pursuit of this goal.

Well-being

Well-being is defined as “Suffering is bad (you are not well if you are suffering), and death is bad (you are not being if you are dead)”, and only applies to conscious creatures who exist or who we are confident will exist (creatures that neither exist nor will ever exist do not have a “being” in any meaningful sense).

The Neo-Mohist pillars of well-being (the broad values that Neo-Mohists consider to be the necessary preconditions of avoiding suffering and death) are “Happiness”, “Truth”, “Freedom”, “Responsibility”, and “Life”.

Happiness

Defined as “Hedonic Enjoyment” (the good feeling I get from drinking a glass of Boba Tea, the warmth I feel when I bask in the sun, the entertainment I get from watching a good movie, etc) and “Emotional Fulfillment” (having an intellectually-stimulating relationship, doing hard work aligned with one’s values, being mindful in the present moment, and self improvement). Neo-Mohists want themselves and everyone to be happy. Especially, they do not want anyone to suffer, as suffering is a problematic barrier to happiness in a way that lesser pleasure is not.

Humor is good, and should be used generously.

Truth

Defined as “that which comports with external reality”, or “that which exists regardless of what one believes”. There is an objective reality that we experience, and we can learn about this reality through Science and Rationality. Neo-Mohists desire to know what is true for its own sake, and want everyone to believe true things.

Freedom

Defined as “agency to make informed decisions”, from which we derive the importance of consent.

Responsibility

This can best be defined by Ghandi’s saying “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Many things exist outside our control, but it’s merely a matter of degree. If something goes wrong, a Neo-Mohist must admit any part they played in it, and resolve to do better in the future. Other people often cannot be relied upon to do the right thing. It is not enough to say “this has been delegated”. If a Neo-Mohist sees suffering that they can do something about, it is their responsibility to try and fix it.

Life

Defined as “the active state of a sentient agent”, where “sentience” is defined as “anything that can suffer or reflect on the concept of suffering”. Life provides meaning to an otherwise meaningless universe. All sentient creatures have moral weight (humans, animals, AI, aliens, etc), including ones far away from you (distance does not matter). Because all sentient beings have moral weight, it is immoral to subjugate, kill or eat them.

In particular, “sapience” is of special concern; a word here which includes everything under “Sentience”, as well as “the ability to be aware of one’s awareness, assign meaning to things, and make moral judgments (which also requires something like a Theory of Mind)”. Humanity is the only known species to have Sapience, and therefore the loss of humanity would be a terrible thing indeed, reducing our universe to a meaningless machine. Misanthropy is misguided at best, dangerous and immoral at worst.

Moral Conclusions

Derived from ‘Freedom’ and ‘Life’: Transhumanism

Everyone has the right to use technology to be whatever they wish to be, including *not dead*.

Derived from ‘Truth’ and ‘Freedom’: Radical Honesty

Premise:

Deception is a hostile act that deprives people of the ability to have a relationship with you based on fully informed consent. As such, any deception (including lies of omission) are immoral acts (although sometimes immoral acts must be performed to avoid more immoral acts). The closer your relationship, the more important honesty is.

Guidelines:

1.) Tell the truth in all circumstances (with the exceptions listed below). The importance of telling the truth increases with the amount of trust the other person is giving, and how much you care about your relationship with this person.

2.) Volunteer your thoughts liberally, but only when you have reason to believe that your audience wants to know them, or if your relationship would benefit from knowing them.

3.) If you wish to keep something private, say so explicitly.

Exceptions:

1.a.) Avoid telling the truth when you have confirmed that dishonesty is the least harmful alternative. Situations like this in social relationships are very rare, and should be exited as quickly as possible.

1.b.) Where exiting is not a meaningful option, long-term dishonesty may be the best policy, though we should be highly skeptical of this option as we are all biased to favor it.

2.) Where a person explicitly does not want honesty, there is no need to be honest with them.

3.) Since this is a practice meant for personal relationships, and is premised on consent and power dynamics, there is no significant requirement in this framework to be honest to entities that have power over you, such as governments and corporations.

4.) Sarcasm and friendly pranks are also acceptable.