X-Message-Number: 2828
Date: Sat, 18 Jun 94 13:23:33 EDT
Subject: CRYONICS basic values

To understand values and to determine whether BASIC values exist, we need to
understand the anatomy and physiology of the Self Circuit--that portion or
aspect of the brain or its functions giving rise to feeling, the subjective
condition. (The Self Circuit is also the root of consciousness, which is the
integration of feeling and computing.)

There are several possibilities. One is that the Self Circuit can be likened
to a musical instrument, on which it is possible to play many notes or chords
or melodies. In that case, perhaps there are no truly basic values.

A value (or want or need) might be considered "basic" from at least three
points of view. First, it might  be an inevitable result of the structure of
the Self Circuit, which would make it truly basic. Second,
it might  just be simple, like a single note on a violin. Third, it might
relate to traits acquired through evolution, making it "basic" in the sense
that the species needs it, or has needed it in the past.

However, while such primitive drives as those for food and sex are important
for survival and propagation, they can hardly be essential to the existence
of the individual.  Young children have very little sex drive; this requires
the appropriate hormones. Anorexic people are still people. 

Even the capacity to feel physical pain, while very important (in both
positive and negative senses), does not seem essential to being. The essence
of BEING is the capacity to feel pleasure and pain, or
satisfaction/dissatisfaction; but PHYSICAL pain/pleasure--conceivably--is not
essential. It might very well be possible to tinker with the nervous system
so as to short-circuit all pains and pleasures of the flesh, and still retain
a conscious person who responds to circumstances with satisfaction or
dissatisfaction, who has desires and antipathies. (This possibility makes it
easier to envision a "conscious" robot.)

Possibly there exist several "basic" TYPES of feeling. One might relate to
physical pleasures/pains. Another might relate to more cerebral
satisfactions, such as the pleasure of achievement or dominance or conquest,
 triggered not by simple nerve impulses but by PATTERNS of brain activity.
These would likely have some interaction or overlap--to use a crude and
unpleasant example, as when a masochist gets physical sexual release by being
hurt and humiliated. Most of our bodily construction is somewhat crude and
inconsistent, and the Self Circuit could be also.

The more basic or more important values/needs/wants can be thought of mainly
as ends. Derived or higher-order values can be thought of mainly as means. We
need to know the mechanisms by which derived  values attain autonomous status
and become ends in themselves. We also need to know how to separate mere
habits or spurious values from the genuine article. 

All of the above--and much more--is required for a bona fide philosophy of
life applicable to the individual. But we can make a start right now just by
using common sense to eliminate obviously spurious values, and by using
decision theory to acquire values likely to serve us well.

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