X-Message-Number: 16891
Date: Thu, 5 Jul 2001 16:35:28 EDT
Subject: values

Once more, mainly for newcomers, an attempt briefly to convey my views on 

First, one must be exceedingly careful about language. "Value" means 
different things to different people. It is often confused with ethics. 

I posit first that a "value" is a criterion for decisions, or for a category 
of decisions. Values therefore relate to goals or ends or needs or desires.

One could look at communal values, related to ethics, but I restrict my 
attention to individual values. The ONLY question of DIRECT importance to YOU 
is what YOU want. This is essentially the pleasure/pain or hedonistic 
criterion of value, endorsed by quite a few distinguished philosophers, 
including Aristotle, although always held only by a small minority.

Many problems arise--problems that were insurmountable for the earlier 
hedonists, epicureans, and utilitarians. You may have conflicting wants. You 
may have unrecognized wants. You must attempt to balance immediate 
consequences against delayed consequences. You must try to distinguish 
between what you (superficially) seem to want against what you 
(logically/biologically) OUGHT to want. 

There will be no definitive answers until we know more biology and physics, 
especially the biology/physics of qualia and the physics of time or 
space-time. Nevertheless, we are now in a better position than ever before in 
history to work out tentative rules for values, and several people, including 
myself, are working on this.

At least a few conclusions can be stated with considerable confidence even at 
this early stage. 

(1) The only case in which self-destruction is reasonable is one in which 
your future is confidently calculated to include a preponderance of pain over 
pleasure, or dissatisfaction over satisfaction. 

(2) Nothing outside yourself has "intrinsic" value; its value (to you) arises 
only as it affects you. In the most fundamental sense, there is no such thing 
as altruism.

(3) Nevertheless, the traditional values, including the values of altruism, 
often have much practical merit. As the main example, you cannot sacrifice 
major interests of people close to you for minor interests of your own, 
because that is simply a failing tactic, on several levels.

My guess is that Dave Pizer and many others are correct in presuming that the 
future holds greater empathy and more altruism, for other individuals and 
other species, and that this will tend to maximize the satisfaction of the 
individual. But there will be many exceptions and hard choices along the way.

Robert Ettinger
Cryonics Institute
Immortalist Society

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