Without empathy and compassion, and devoid of the delusions of conscience, how should one live ones life?
Well, the same way I’d say one should live life with such handicaps to rationality. Man is a creature capable of rational thought, and it would seem a waste to ignore that (yes, this is basically the hand waving part of the argument, although as assumptions go, assuming that we should be second order rational does seem rather plausible, particularly given the alternative is to be second order irrational, which seems indistinguishable from insanity).
Thus, stick with me as I seek to forge some second order principles from which one might derive first order principles (basically, working through how to decide how to decide what to do in any instance).
I shall work by making assumptions and then building upon and justifying them, in a manner largely rational, but by necessity making a ‘leaps of faith’. This will be defended by the requirement that our decision making procedure be consistent. Inconsistency is irrational, and thus to be rejected.
1) There are no objective normative facts which we have access to – no objective fact which says that X is bad/good, or that someone ‘ought’ to do Y (except of the conditional form ‘if X then you should do Y’, but these rely upon first having a normative fact to put into X). The belief that our intuition somehow tells us something about universal truths about the universe of a normative kind is rather mad. (Even if we were to accept such a belief, I would still argue that self-determination of one’s principles calls for ignoring such objective normative facts, but this argument will suffice here I feel.)
2) It is impossible to move from a positive fact to a normative fact (that is, you cannot move from an ‘is’ to an ‘ought’). For example, just because that child is starving does not mean that we can say that this is in itself bad. That would require the further premise that children starving is bad, or something along those lines.
3) Without any normative facts, we have no reason for doing anything. Just assume that my definition of normative facts entails this (yes, I know, I haven’t given such a definition, but that’s not the point).
4) By 1, 2, and 3, unless there are subjective normative facts, there is no reason to do anything.
5) We are going to do things in our lives, both with intentionality and purpose.
6) By 4, if we are certain we have no access to subjective normative facts, there can be no rational purpose to our actions.
7) By 5 and 6, we are not certain that there are no subjective normative facts. This step is supported by the rationality requirement. Denying it would be to either endorse a non-rational method of second-order decision making, or to reject one of the premises (hint: premise 5 looks a bit dodgy).
8) Under uncertainty about our access to subjective normative facts, weighted net utility from different outcomes should be used as the calculation (with utility understood here in its economic sense, denoting preferences, rather than in a hedonistic sense).
9) From 6, the net utility from different outcomes cannot be estimated under the assumption of no access to subjective normative facts. Therefore, the net benefit for that component of the calculation is zero, and thus does not affect any calculations.
10) From 8 and 9, we should act as if we have access to subjective normative facts.
Thus, I have established that we do have reason to act in certain ways, based on a probability that we may have access to subjective normative facts. Part two will conclude by laying out how one might move from this revelation to some way of working out how to live your life, and will continue the reliance upon internal consistency and rationality, making it applicable to any sentient being (as opposed to only those with emotional empathy and ‘a conscience’).