New book: The Tango of Ethics
3 January 2023
The Tango of Ethics: Intuition, Rationality and the Prevention of Suffering by OPIS Executive Director Jonathan Leighton is being published today. From the publisher's website:
Despite existing for thousands of years, the field of ethics remains strongly influenced by several largely unquestioned assumptions and cognitive biases that can dramatically affect our priorities. The Tango of Ethics: Intuition, Rationality and the Prevention of Suffering proposes a deep, rigorous reassessment of how we think about ethics. Eschewing the traditional language of morality, it places a central emphasis on phenomenological experience and the unique urgency of suffering wherever it occurs, challenges our existence bias and examines the consequences of a metaphysically accurate understanding of personal identity.
A key paradigm in The Tango of Ethics is the conflict and interplay between two fundamentally different ways of seeing and being in the world — that of the intuitive human being who wants to lead a meaningful life and thrive, and that of the detached, rational agent who wants to prevent unbearable suffering from occurring. Leighton aims to reconcile these two stances or motivations within a more holistic framework he labels 'xNU+' that places them at distinct ethical levels. This approach avoids some of the flaws of classical utilitarianism, including the notion that extreme suffering can be formally balanced out by enough bliss, while maintaining a focus on impact. He also identifies some of the limits of rationality and our dependence on intuitions to make ethical decisions.
The book explores the implications of this way of thinking for real-world ethical dilemmas and how we might incorporate it into governance. With societal collapse, increasing totalitarianism and artificial general intelligence all very real threats in the coming years, Leighton argues that it is as important as ever to promote these ethics and their implementation while there is still an opportunity for some convergence around what matters.
A few blurbs:
“Nearly all of us, philosophers or not, should attach much greater weight to the prevention of severe suffering. This engaging, accessible, and wide-ranging book provides many highly suggestive arguments in support of this claim.”
-Roger Crisp, Professor of Moral Philosophy, University of Oxford
“Leighton’s The Tango of Ethics is a well-researched book addressing the most important topic in our universe — the suffering of sentient beings and its implications for ethics, philosophy and technology.”
-Roman V. Yampolskiy, Associate Professor of Computer Science and Engineering, University of Louisville, author of Artificial Superintelligence: A Futuristic Approach
“In The Tango of Ethics, Leighton explores the most important question we can ask ourselves: what matters? Questioning old assumptions, he charts a radical yet pragmatic path forward that is consistent both with the constraints of rationality and with our deepest needs and intuitions.”
-Magnus Vinding, co-founder of the Center for Reducing Suffering, author of Suffering-Focused Ethics and Reasoned Politics
The Tango of Ethics is published by Imprint Academic and is available in paperback and e-book from Amazon (e.g. UK, US, Germany) and other retailers, and also directly from the publisher’s website (paperback only).