iambiguous wrote:What would "ethics" have meant to them back then? Like us, they too had preferences. And, like us, they were [more or less] able to choose between alternate behaviors.
Just on a more primitive level.
Well, in literal terms I assume the word "ethics" meant nothing, because they probably didn't speak English. But I see no reason why the meaning of our word "ethics" would need to change when considered such a community. There are still more preferred and less preferred behaviours, whether defined through logic or subjectivity.
There were basically three tribes---the truly primitive apelike creatures, the cavemen [with a primitive language] and the far more sophisticated "sapien" tribe. The latter had learned to create and to control fire; and they possessed a fully formed language.
Still, in many crucial respects, the preferences of all three communities revolved basically around subsistence, procreation and defense. That was "objectivity" to them.
In other words, ethics back then was far more organic: whatever actually worked down on the ground to sustain the group from day to day to day.That
is what was "logical”. And being so much more empirical, it lends itself rather well to calibration. A new point of view either works or it doesn’t. Or it works better than the old one.
In the modern world, however, the reality of "surplus labor" reached the point where we could employ men and women as philosophers---intellectuals able to pursue ethics in a considerably less organic manner. But, here again, my point is always this: What can logic, epistemology, linguistics etc. really tell us about our behavioral preferences?
When did we start to consider things "systematically"? Again, literally, I have no idea. Does it matter? If there is logic to the definition of ethics or to the preferences of behaviour, it doesn't matter if someone thought about them systematically or not - the laws of physics and maths didn't change over time, we just knew more or less about them at different stages of history.
It matters to me because at some point the need to pursue an ethical agenda [i.e. functional rules of behavior] begin to leave the ground more and more and, instead, began to reside increasingly up on the sky hooks invented by folks like Plato and Artistotle.
I simply question how efficacious folks like these can be in taking ethics out of the Platonic cave. For me, ethics will always remain a manifestation of the ever changing shadows on the wall. It is rooted in existence and not essence.
iambiguous wrote:...what can we reasonably speculate about regarding the ethics our descendants might embrace 80,000 additional years into the future?
You would probably have to know a lot more than ethics to figure that one out - technology, sociology, perhaps biology etc. What will science be like in 80,000 years? What's the point of the question? If you put up your definition of ethics it might illuminate the purpose of these questions.
The point is we don’t even know where to begin in imagining our descendents 80,000 years from now. Ethically or otherwise. Also, that, psychologically, there is a tendency within human communities throughout history to imagine that the manner in which they view the world ethically is, in fact, the most reasonable manner in which it can be viewed.
But, increasingly, in more modern times, there has evolved this sense that we really can know
this because, philosophically, we have discovered [invented?] rules of logic that are applicable objectively. There are now even those like Sam Harris who want to boot the job over to science itself.
I believe this may well be both futile and dangerous.