X-Message-Number: 2825
Date: Tue, 14 Jun 94 22:58:50 EDT
Subject: CRYONICS more re T.D.

I'm more and more inclined to think that piecemeal discussions on the net (at
least on such topics as philosophy) may be useless or even counterproductive.
Everything is done in haste (by myself at least) and more or less out of
context, and is much too brief to be clear, lacking background. Still, I'll
try again to answer Thomas Donaldson's latest (cryonics #2821).

First, Thomas says (among other things): 
<Just because everyone else in the universe has one set of basic values it
simply doesn't follow that someone else should concur.>

Actually, if you and I (and perhaps most or all other humans) share the same
BASIC values, then we have no choice (with exception noted below) as to
whether to "concur" in those basic values, any more than we can "concur"  or
not as to whether we ought to breathe. It is a biological imperative. In the
case of lower organisms, at least, such basic values might include the wants
of food and sex, among others.

This thought leads us to a little detour. If we decided we wanted to help
such an organism--make it happier--we might delete the sex drive. That would
remove some occasions of satisfaction, but if sex is highly competitive and
dangerous, as it sometimes is, then the net effect might be to increase life
expectancy and provide more total satisfaction for the individual.  It would
also change the appropriate derived or higher-level values, and in some sense
the "identity" of the organism.
Next, Thomas mentions something about whether one or another person has
superior values. This seems both confusing and confused. If all or most
humans (or all or most of any species) have the same BASIC values (assuming
these exist), then that much is fixed (unless we achieve the ability and
desire to edit basic values). The question then becomes one of deciding
whether the DERIVED values are valid. 

Derived values essentially concern strategies for satisfying basic values.
(Basic values are mainly ends, and derived values are mainly means, although
often a value can be both.) For example, on the level of ordinary language,
is self-interest or altruism more likely to lead to maximization of long term
satisfaction? This can only be decided by careful examination of the
individual's background and situation,  and sometimes by complicated
calculations of probability, and can vary from one person to another and from
one context to another.

All value systems and discussions of which I am aware are based on extremely
sloppy thinking and full of hidden assumptions. In particular, the notion is
very widespread that there is some ideal, universal value system which
"ought" to be adopted by all humans, and which will optimally serve both the
individual and society. This is nonsense. Wants and needs differ, both
between individuals and in  individuals vs. society--although in the case of
individuals it may be only derived values that differ, not basic values.

Thomas' main point is that I cannot prove the superiority of one value system
over another. But I can indeed, in some cases, and in other cases I can
suggest investigations leading to solutions.

The things I CAN prove include some situations where underlying values may be
agreed but derived values, or strategies, are in dispute. This is just a
matter of decision theory--maximize expected gain and minimize expected loss.
Nothing new about this--except that few people, if any, take it seriously in
the important questions of real life.  It is difficult to overemphasize the
importance and the rarity of this--applying the scientific attitude to the
IMPORTANT questions of life.

Once more, Thomas questions whether it is <ever possible to argue that
someone should or ought to have one set of values rather than another.> To
see that it is indeed possible, we can make crude initial assumptions about
ends and means. The higher level or derived values are means--again, for
example, whether to act (in the sense of ordinary language) selfishly or
altruistically in a particular situation. If ends (such as survival) are
known or agreed, then means in general can be assessed by decision theory, if
we have enough information. (Reminder once more that self-interest is ALWAYS
the only physically possible motivation, although selfishness in the sense of
ordinary language may or may not be appropriate in particular situations.)

Libertarian philosophy (or any other social philosophy) is a separate
question, and should not be dragged into this discussion. There is of course
interaction between the good of the individual and that of society, but  I am
concerned primarily with the individual and biology. This confusion between
"universal" and individual values is exactly the kind of thing I am trying to

Thanks again, Thomas, for helping me see the obscurities in my
writing--although I dare think my formal writing is clearer and better
developed, compared to these blurtings on the Net.

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