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-   -   Science Saturday: Of All the Souls I Have Encountered (Robin Hanson & Brian Christian) (http://bloggingheads.tv/forum/showthread.php?t=6617)

badhatharry 04-03-2011 02:29 PM

Re: Science Saturday: Of All the Souls I Have Encountered (Robin Hanson & Brian Christian)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Ocean (Post 202965)

For example, if someone decides to improve their appearance in order to start dating, their clothes, what they pay for a hair cut have instrumental value. Dating itself may have an instrumental value because it may lead to a long term relationship/ family. Family may have an instrumental value because it may lead to happiness (although this is arguable ;) ). In this example, it is possible that some of those intermediate steps have gathered a certain degree of intrinsic value because there's some gratification that comes out of it independent of the instrumentality function.

So it seems that intrinsic value has a sort of magnetizing effect in that it draws things with instrumental value to it. In this case it's probably really hard to pull those values apart. Maybe a sharp instument would work in this case.

Simon Willard 04-03-2011 02:36 PM

Re: Science Saturday: Of All the Souls I Have Encountered (Robin Hanson & Brian Christian)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Florian (Post 202964)
Thank you for your reply, but you completely missed the point. I rephrased your comment in terms of goods, intrinsic and instrumental, because "value" is ambiguous.

All goods are either intrinsic or instrumental. They are either ends, that for the sake of which something is done--being free of pain in your example--- or they are the means to such ends--the pain-killer. Work, as I pointed out, can be both intrinsic (a good, an end in itself) or a means to an end, or both. That is not gobbledegook. That is just the basic grammar of moral evaluation, and has been so since Plato and Aristotle. Your ridiculous comment about Advil would not have been acceptable to them, or to a freshman in philosophy 101 at Harvard.

Until you explain how value is determined, whether intrinsic or extrinsic, I will persist in calling it gobbledegook.

I have been good enough to offer you a concrete procedure for measuring relative value. The measurement takes place when a choice is made. If I am confronted with a discrete choice between taking an Advil pill and taking a good-paying job preparing income tax forms, I will make a choice. At that point the relative value of the pill and the job is established. For me. Your choice might be different.

It remains for me to convince you that a job could have no value. For this I appeal to your common sense: there are jobs that you would not take. There are jobs where you would say "the absence of this job is better for me than the existence of this job". That job has no value, or perhaps negative value.

Therefore it is possible for a positive-valued pill to be preferred over a zero-valued job. Q.E.D. Any MIT freshman could reproduce this logic. I don't know about Harvard.

I know the pill/job example is rather artificial because such a binary choice is unlikely to be encountered. But there are many real choices that we make every day, and these choices do illuminate the way we value things. Next, we can discuss how people try to infer the unmeasured value of things from the real value measurements of everyday life. It's an activity that we all do, but it is fraught with peril.

Simon Willard 04-03-2011 02:52 PM

Re: Science Saturday: Of All the Souls I Have Encountered (Robin Hanson & Brian Christian)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Ocean (Post 202965)
You seemed to refer to value as a very discrete concept that applies to every moment when decisions are made, the value at that particular knot.

Yes, I'm trying to be very cautious about what I really know. The value is established at the moment a decision is made. Of course we try to extrapolate values to things at times when they are not being measured, but this introduces a lot of uncertainty. Were those new clothes really worth the price? How can you know until you get the date?

Send be a photo of your date, and I'll offer my opinion ;)

badhatharry 04-03-2011 02:53 PM

Re: Science Saturday: Of All the Souls I Have Encountered (Robin Hanson & Brian Christian)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Simon Willard (Post 202973)
Next, we can discuss how people try to infer the unmeasured value of things from the real value measurements of everyday life. It's an activity that we all do, but it is fraught with peril.

I wanna try! But first I need to know what you mean by infering the unmeasured value of things from(?) the real value measurements.

Ocean 04-03-2011 03:02 PM

Re: Science Saturday: Of All the Souls I Have Encountered (Robin Hanson & Brian Christian)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Simon Willard (Post 202975)
Yes, I'm trying to be very cautious about what I really know. The value is established at the moment a decision is made. Of course we try to extrapolate values to things at times when they are not being measured, but this introduces a lot of uncertainty.

Okay, I understand where you're coming from now. These discussions often get generated because those involved are looking at the topic from different framework perspectives.

I'll dare to say, though, that you always have to deal with some uncertainty. Otherwise your life has no long term perspective. When you work towards a goal that's distant in the future, or at least not here at this moment, you still have to assign some value to it.


Quote:

Were those new clothes really worth the price? How can you know until you get the date?
Yes, and imagine if the date ends up being a bore!


Quote:

Send be a photo of your date, and I'll offer my opinion ;)
I'm still enjoying my singlehood. No worries about clothes or the other stuff that I don't even remember well what it was about. :)

Simon Willard 04-03-2011 03:11 PM

Re: Science Saturday: Of All the Souls I Have Encountered (Robin Hanson & Brian Christian)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Ocean (Post 202978)
These discussions often get generated because those involved are looking at the topic from different framework perspectives.

Agreed. That's part of the fun, I guess.

Ocean 04-03-2011 03:17 PM

Re: Science Saturday: Of All the Souls I Have Encountered (Robin Hanson & Brian Christian)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Simon Willard (Post 202979)
Agreed. That's part of the fun, I guess.

True. We get to learn from each other.

Simon Willard 04-03-2011 03:19 PM

Re: Science Saturday: Of All the Souls I Have Encountered (Robin Hanson & Brian Christian)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by badhatharry (Post 202976)
I wanna try! But first I need to know what you mean by infering the unmeasured value of things from(?) the real value measurements.

Oh, let's try my favorite example. What is the value of a gem-quality 1 carat diamond?

Give me the "intrinsic value" if you prefer that. Or the "instrumental value" if you prefer that.

What real measurements do you have at your disposal? Well, maybe you have a friend who dropped a bundle on a diamond engagement ring. Your measurement is that you hold this guy in high esteem (from past real measurements), so you judge that he must know what he's doing. Or maybe you have tried to sell a diamond in the past, and you discovered that it's nearly impossible to do, and you accepted only a few pennies on the dollar relative to the purchase price. That's another relevant real measurement.

badhatharry 04-03-2011 03:21 PM

Re: Science Saturday: Of All the Souls I Have Encountered (Robin Hanson & Brian Christian)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Simon Willard (Post 202975)
Yes, I'm trying to be very cautious about what I really know. The value is established at the moment a decision is made. Of course we try to extrapolate values to things at times when they are not being measured, but this introduces a lot of uncertainty. Were those new clothes really worth the price? How can you know until you get the date?

Send be a photo of your date, and I'll offer my opinion ;)

So I'm not sure that you'll be answering any of my posts or this one for that matter...but I do have a question.

Is there some value which exists outside the personal decision making process? Maybe it could be called a universal value?

badhatharry 04-03-2011 03:29 PM

Re: Science Saturday: Of All the Souls I Have Encountered (Robin Hanson & Brian Christian)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Simon Willard (Post 202981)
Oh, let's try my favorite example. What is the value of a gem-quality 1 carat diamond?

Give me the "intrinsic value" if you prefer that. Or the "instrumental value" if you prefer that.

What real measurements do you have at your disposal? Well, maybe you have a friend who dropped a bundle on a diamond engagement ring. Your measurement is that you hold this guy in high esteem (from past real measurements), so you judge that he must know what he's doing. Or maybe you have tried to sell a diamond in the past, and you discovered that it's nearly impossible to do, and you accepted only a few pennies on the dollar relative to the purchase price. That's another relevant real measurement.

again I am fuzzy about infering. You said infering value from real value. Did you mean to say infering real value as opposed to real value?

So, in the first case because you figure your friend is smart you are infering value to what? The diamond?

If you have trouble selling a used diamond ring you could probably make a safe inference (assumption) that diamonds are generally overpriced at retail stores. Or you could infer that you are unlucky and didn't hold out long enough and that your friend was probably wise.

ohreally 04-03-2011 03:29 PM

Re: Science Saturday: Of All the Souls I Have Encountered (Robin Hanson & Brian Christian)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Simon Willard (Post 202973)
Until you explain how value is determined, whether intrinsic or extrinsic, I will persist in calling it gobbledegook.

You can call it whatever you want but the issue at hand is really simple, and I find this discussion a bit silly. First, note that measurement is not required to distinguish between intrinsic and instrumental value. Think of your dream world (assuming you have one): there is no advil in it because there's no pain in that world. But there's your child because you love him/her. Note that I am neither comparing nor measuring. Just applying a simple test. Furthermore, the value of your child is not instrumental: it is, as Charles Larmore would say, a moral good that speaks for itself.

Regarding measurement, economists might tell us whether Beethoven is more valuable than Picasso, but that's according to a completely different meaning of the word value. Let's keep in mind that economics has virtually nothing of interest to say about philosophy.

Florian 04-03-2011 03:35 PM

Re: Science Saturday: Of All the Souls I Have Encountered (Robin Hanson & Brian Christian)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Simon Willard (Post 202973)
Until you explain how value is determined, whether intrinsic or extrinsic, I will persist in calling it gobbledegook..

I already said what determines the value of a good. It is either an end in itself or the means to an end, or some combination of both (like work). It is either desired for itself or as a means to further ends. There are differences of opinion about what goods (values) are the most important, but no one disputes the difference between intrinsic and instrumental goods. A pill to relieve pain will never be considered a good in itself. It is only a good insofar as it serves to alleviate pain, which most people consider to be an evil.

Quote:

I have been good enough to offer you a concrete procedure for measuring relative value. The measurement takes place when a choice is made. If I am confronted with a choice between taking an Advil pill and taking a good-paying job preparing income tax forms, I will make a choice. At that point the relative value of the pill and the job is established. For me. Your choice might be different..
The value of the pill is determined by the fact, and it is a fact, that it relieves pain---temporarily. That is what makes it a good. The value of work (job) is determined by the fact, and it is a fact, that it is an end in itself or subservient to other ends or both. You have offered no "concrete procedure" for "measuring" the relative value of a pill or a job, let alone for establishing that the value of a single pill (or many pills) exceeds the value of a job, to say nothing of a dream job. Where are your measures? Where is your procedure? All you have said is that you or someone else might make such choice. But you provide no criteria, or measure. I said that even someone who thinks that work is nothing but a means to other ends could easily discern the difference between the temporary relief from pain provided by a pill and the many goods that work makes possible.


Quote:

It remains for me to convince you that a job could have no value. For this I appeal to your common sense: there are jobs that you would not take. There are jobs where you would say "the absence of this job is better for me than the existence of this job". That job has no value, or perhaps negative value. .
I would dispute that. There are certainly jobs that are more or less valuable in the sense that they are less well compensated than other jobs, or socially deleterious, or otherwise harmful to the worker, but all jobs serve at least one purpose: they enable the job holder to survive.


Quote:

Therefore it is possible for a positive-valued pill to be preferred over a zero-valued job. Q.E.D. Any MIT freshman could reproduce this logic. I don't know about Harvard..
Hmmmmm. I always did find MIT students weird.

Quote:

Next, we can discuss how people try to infer the unmeasured value of things from the real value measurements of everyday life. It's an activity that we all do, but it is fraught with peril.
I have no idea what this means because you are using "measure" in some unknown sense.

Simon Willard 04-03-2011 03:36 PM

Re: Science Saturday: Of All the Souls I Have Encountered (Robin Hanson & Brian Christian)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by badhatharry (Post 202982)
So I'm not sure that you'll be answering any of my posts or this one for that matter...but I do have a question.

Is there some value which exists outside the personal decision making process? Maybe it could be called a universal value?

Wow, great question. I value certain things. I suppose societies as a whole can be thought to value certain other things. And God might disagree with all of our values. I acknowledge that I was focused on personal values

I would say that if there are universal values, it implies a religious truth. What do you think?

Simon Willard 04-03-2011 03:40 PM

Re: Science Saturday: Of All the Souls I Have Encountered (Robin Hanson & Brian Christian)
 
[QUOTE=badhatharry;202983]again I am fuzzy about infering. You said infering value from real value. Did you mean to say infering real value as opposed to real value?/QUOTE]

I mean inferring value from a real measurement. Selling a used diamond provides a price. That's a real measurement. The inference is how you connect this measurement to the original question, because they are not exactly the same thing.

Unit 04-03-2011 03:41 PM

Re: Science Saturday: Of All the Souls I Have Encountered (Robin Hanson & Brian Christian)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Ocean (Post 202959)
No. Chores around the house, telephone calls and all that.

I'm addicted to cleaning the kitchen, loading and unloading the dishwasher etc...it's repetitive and allows me to clear my head.

Simon Willard 04-03-2011 03:42 PM

Re: Science Saturday: Of All the Souls I Have Encountered (Robin Hanson & Brian Christian)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by ohreally (Post 202984)
Let's keep in mind that economics has virtually nothing of interest to say about philosophy.

And vice-versa?

badhatharry 04-03-2011 04:07 PM

Re: Science Saturday: Of All the Souls I Have Encountered (Robin Hanson & Brian Christian)
 
[QUOTE=Simon Willard;202988]
Quote:

Originally Posted by badhatharry (Post 202983)
again I am fuzzy about infering. You said infering value from real value. Did you mean to say infering real value as opposed to real value?/QUOTE]

I mean inferring value from a real measurement. Selling a used diamond provides a price. That's a real measurement. The inference is how you connect this measurement to the original question, because they are not exactly the same thing.

OK so the way I boil this down is that the real measure of value of something is what someone is willing to pay for it. So the value of the diamond your very smart friend bought is what he paid for it. The value of my used diamond is what a pawn broker is willing to pay for it, which goes to what he thinks his customer (maybe your friend) is willing to pay for it.

It goes back to labor. How much labor will I trade for this object?

Ocean 04-03-2011 04:07 PM

Re: Science Saturday: Of All the Souls I Have Encountered (Robin Hanson & Brian Christian)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Unit (Post 202989)
I'm addicted to cleaning the kitchen, loading and unloading the dishwasher etc...it's repetitive and allows me to clear my head.

I used to wash dishes rather frenetically when I was annoyed about an argument. All my family and friends wanted to invite me to their houses for arguments. ;)

I gave that up quite some time ago already.

Simon Willard 04-03-2011 04:08 PM

Re: Science Saturday: Of All the Souls I Have Encountered (Robin Hanson & Brian Christian)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Florian (Post 202986)
I already said what determines the value of a good. It is either an end in itself or the means to an end, or some combination of both (like work). It is either desired for itself or as a means to further ends.

You haven't told me how to put a number on it. I don't blame you, I wouldn't know how to do that either. But the whole discussion does depend on our ability to make relative comparisons: A>B. I'm not sure I have any algorithm from you about how to do that.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Florian (Post 202986)
There are differences of opinion about what goods (values) are the most important, but no one disputes the difference between intrinsic and instrumental goods. A pill to relieve pain will never be considered a good in itself. It is only a good insofar as it serves to alleviate pain, which most people consider to be an evil.

I'm really trying to ignore this distinction between intrinsic and instrumental because I don't see how anyone can firmly make this categorization. Or to be more precise, I don't see how one can ever stop the indirection and arrive at a true intrinsic value. You may think that pain alleviation is an intrinsic value, but I would say no, it's instrumental because it allows you to work more efficiently. And work leads to money. Money leads to clothes? Clothes lead to love? Love leads to caregiving? I mean, where does the indirection stop?

Quote:

Originally Posted by Florian (Post 202986)
The value of the pill is determined by the fact, and it is a fact, that it relieves pain---temporarily. That is what makes it a good. The value of work (job) is determined by the fact, and it is a fact, that it is an end in itself or subservient to other ends or both. You have offered no "concrete procedure" for "measuring" the relative value of a pill or a job, let alone for establishing that the value of a single pill (or many pills) exceeds the value of a job, to say nothing of a dream job. Where are your measures? Where is your procedure? All you have said is that you or someone else might make such choice. But you provide no criteria, or measure. I said that even someone who thinks that work is nothing but a means to other ends could easily discern the difference between the temporary relief from pain provided by a pill and the many goods that work makes possible.

I thought I was clear. Every choice makes a measurement. The measurement does not produce a number, unfortunately, but just a ranking A>B or A<B, where A and B are the choices available. That may be unsatisfying, but that's the best information I can get. You, on the other hand, have not provided even this much insight into how we determine relative value.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Florian (Post 202986)
I would dispute that. There are certainly jobs that are more or less valuable in the sense that they are less well compensated than other jobs, or socially deleterious, or otherwise harmful to the worker, but all jobs serve at least one purpose: they enable the job holder to survive.

Survive? I could quit my job and still survive. Maybe I'm lucky.

badhatharry 04-03-2011 04:10 PM

Re: Science Saturday: Of All the Souls I Have Encountered (Robin Hanson & Brian Christian)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Simon Willard (Post 202987)
I would say that if there are universal values, it implies a religious truth. What do you think?

I'm not sure what to call it in the context of this discussion. I would say that there is a value that human life is important/sacred and yet that value is violated all the time so it really can't be designated as a value based on decisions as you seem to be talking about personal value.

Maybe we could call it a rule of thumb.

Ocean 04-03-2011 04:48 PM

Re: Science Saturday: Of All the Souls I Have Encountered (Robin Hanson & Brian Christian)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Simon Willard (Post 202993)
You haven't told me how to put a number on it. I don't blame you, I wouldn't know how to do that either. But the whole discussion does depend on our ability to make relative comparisons: A>B.

[...]

I'm really trying to ignore this distinction between intrinsic and instrumental because I don't see how anyone can firmly make this categorization. Or to be more precise, I don't see how one can ever stop the indirection and arrive at a true intrinsic value. You may think that pain alleviation is an intrinsic value, but I would say no, it's instrumental because it allows you to work more efficiently. And work leads to money. Money leads to clothes? Clothes lead to love? Love leads to caregiving? I mean, where does the indirection stop?

As I was driving to pick up my tax return, I thought about an example that may illustrate the qualitative vs quantitative differences that we are talking about.

If someone has a sudden deathly illness which can only be cured by taking a very bitter and unsavory medication, the medication would have an instrumental but very high value (since it can save the person's life). Perhaps the same person has always loved chocolate candy which has an intrinsic value for him/her. However, if asked to choose between the unsavory medication that would save his/her life and the candy, it's clear what the choice (and the highest value) would be.

So when we talk about intrinsic or instrumental value, we are only talking about a certain quality, but not about which one is quantitatively higher.

Going back to the diavlog, the point was about losing track of what things are really important to us, and getting caught up with the appearance of value. Gaining that perspective may lead us away from some of the more shallow choices that we make. It's a way of elaborating on "real" value, instead of "apparent" value. Or something like that.

Florian 04-03-2011 05:04 PM

Re: Science Saturday: Of All the Souls I Have Encountered (Robin Hanson & Brian Christian)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Simon Willard (Post 202993)
You haven't told me how to put a number on it. I don't blame you, I wouldn't know how to do that either. But the whole discussion does depend on our ability to make relative comparisons: A>B. I'm not sure I have any algorithm from you about how to do that..


Then why do you keep talking about measurement? There is no algorithm. I can make qualitative comparisons between various things---matters of taste about books, wines, music---without being able to measure them. And even if others dispute my judgments, I can at least try to persuade them that my taste is as good as theirs. No one expects me to provide measurements. I can also distinguish a good deed or a good person from a bad deed or a bad person without having recourse to mathematics. At least, I have never found it necessary up to now....

Quote:

I'm really trying to ignore this distinction between intrinsic and instrumental because I don't see how anyone can firmly make this categorization. Or to be more precise, I don't see how one can ever stop the indirection and arrive at a true intrinsic value. You may think that pain alleviation is an intrinsic value, but I would say no, it's instrumental because it allows you to work more efficiently. And work leads to money. Money leads to clothes? Clothes lead to love? Love leads to caregiving? I mean, where does the indirection stop? .
As I said, an intrinsic value or good is an end in itself, something for the sake of which something else is done. The alleviation of pain seems to me one of the most natural intrinsic goods because it is common to all living beings. I find nothing mysterious in the concept of an intrinsic good. Are intrinsic goods also instrumental? That is, are they subservient to higher goods? Yes, but that doesn't mean they are not desirable for themselves. I can desire to be without pain because it allows me to exercise my moral and intellectual virtues, but I could also desire to be free of pain in order to pursue my career as a bank robber.

Quote:

Survive? I could quit my job and still survive. Maybe I'm lucky.
Good for you. Most of humanity is not in that fortunate position.

badhatharry 04-03-2011 05:39 PM

Re: Science Saturday: Of All the Souls I Have Encountered (Robin Hanson & Brian Christian)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Florian (Post 202998)
As I said, an intrinsic value or good is an end in itself, something for the sake of which something else is done. The alleviation of pain seems to me one of the most natural intrinsic goods because it is common to all living beings.

So would one definition of an intrinsic good be that it is common to all living beings? Are there other intrinsic values which have other definitions?

Simon Willard 04-03-2011 05:58 PM

Re: Science Saturday: Of All the Souls I Have Encountered (Robin Hanson & Brian Christian)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Ocean (Post 202997)
As I was driving to pick up my tax return, I thought about an example that may illustrate the qualitative vs quantitative differences that we are talking about.

If someone has a sudden deathly illness which can only be cured by taking a very bitter and unsavory medication, the medication would have an instrumental but very high value (since it can save the person's life). Perhaps the same person has always loved chocolate candy which has an intrinsic value for him/her. However, if asked to choose between the unsavory medication that would save his/her life and the candy, it's clear what the choice (and the highest value) would be.

So when we talk about intrinsic or instrumental value, we are only talking about a certain quality, but not about which one is quantitatively higher.

Going back to the diavlog, the point was about losing track of what things are really important to us, and getting caught up with the appearance of value. Gaining that perspective may lead us away from some of the more shallow choices that we make. It's a way of elaborating on "real" value, instead of "apparent" value. Or something like that.

Lots of food for thought in your post. I think you have expressed things very well, and I don't have any big disagreement here, despite the fact that I love chocolate, and value it more highly than, say, the life of Florian, just to pick a random example. ;)

I would also like to point out that there are many people every day who make the choice to die swiftly rather than prolong life with the very unsavory medicine (I know this from the physician in my family).

And I do advocate reflecting about what your real values are, as you say. But there's a problem. Maybe a person makes a "shallow" choice from and "apparent" value. Who can really make that judgment? We can cajole a person into changing his mind about what he thinks is of value. I'm cool with Jehovah's Witnesses coming to my door to talk to me about it. But in the end, the only concrete evidence of our values is found in our actions.

Florian 04-03-2011 06:09 PM

Re: Science Saturday: Of All the Souls I Have Encountered (Robin Hanson & Brian Christian)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by badhatharry (Post 203000)
So would one definition of an intrinsic good be that it is common to all living beings? Are there other intrinsic values which have other definitions?

All intrinsic goods have one thing in common: they are desired as ends in themselves, but human beings are social and political beings, so their ends, unlike the ends of animals, are desired because they serve social and political ends as well as individual ends. I would put freedom from pain, followed by the desire for health, at the bottom of the list of intrinsic goods. At the top I would put the desire for knowledge. In between, there are all the different ends and the different virtues that are conducive to those ends.

And thereby hangs a tale, the tale of western moral and political philosophy!

Ocean 04-03-2011 06:15 PM

Re: Science Saturday: Of All the Souls I Have Encountered (Robin Hanson & Brian Christian)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Simon Willard (Post 203003)
Lots of food for thought in your post. I think you have expressed things very well, and I don't have any big disagreement here, despite the fact that I love chocolate, and value it more highly than, say, the life of Florian, just to pick a random example. ;)

Gosh! I would seriously consider giving up half of my chocolate to save Florian's life!

Quote:

I would also like to point out that there are many people every day who make the choice to die swiftly rather than prolong life with the very unsavory medicine (I know this from the doctor in my family).
Yes, that's correct. I just gave an example that is as close as a universal value as it can get (one's life).


Quote:

And I do advocate reflecting about what your real values are, as you say. But there's a problem. Maybe a person makes a "shallow" choice from and "apparent" value. Who can really make that judgment? We can cajole a person into changing his mind about what he thinks is of value. I'm cool with Jehovah's Witnesses coming to my door to talk to me about it. But in the end, the only concrete evidence of our values is found in our actions.
There's plenty of room for personal choice. When it comes to individual choices, people have more or less freedom to choose according to their values.

Simon Willard 04-03-2011 06:19 PM

Re: Science Saturday: Of All the Souls I Have Encountered (Robin Hanson & Brian Christian)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Florian (Post 202998)
As I said, an intrinsic value or good is an end in itself, something for the sake of which something else is done. The alleviation of pain seems to me one of the most natural intrinsic goods because it is common to all living beings. I find nothing mysterious in the concept of an intrinsic good. Are intrinsic goods also instrumental? That is, are they subservient to higher goods? Yes, but that doesn't mean they are not desirable for themselves. I can desire to be without pain because it allows me to exercise my moral and intellectual virtues, but I could also desire to be free of pain in order to pursue my career as a bank robber.

Sheesh. OK, pain alleviation has some element of intrinsic good and some element of instrumental good. I don't understand any reason for making this distinction in the present discussion.

Anyway, I'm sure you are now ready to concede that pain alleviation could be of more value than a lousy job.

Florian 04-03-2011 06:20 PM

Re: Science Saturday: Of All the Souls I Have Encountered (Robin Hanson & Brian Christian)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Simon Willard (Post 203003)
Lots of food for thought in your post. I think you have expressed things very well, and I don't have any big disagreement here, despite the fact that I love chocolate, and value it more highly than, say, the life of Florian, just to pick a random example. ;) .

I would expect such an opinion from an imbecile like you. Sorry, I mean, such an ill-educated inhabitant of the Boston suburbs.

Simon Willard 04-03-2011 06:21 PM

Re: Science Saturday: Of All the Souls I Have Encountered (Robin Hanson & Brian Christian)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Ocean (Post 203007)
Gosh! I would seriously consider giving up half of my chocolate to save Florian's life!

As much as one-half! Wow. That speaks highly of Florian.

Florian 04-03-2011 06:25 PM

Re: Science Saturday: Of All the Souls I Have Encountered (Robin Hanson & Brian Christian)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Simon Willard (Post 203010)
As much as one-half! Wow. That speaks highly of Florian.

Well, a morsel of chocolate from Ocean is worth all the inane, half-educated remarks of a nitwit like you.

Ocean 04-03-2011 06:26 PM

Re: Science Saturday: Of All the Souls I Have Encountered (Robin Hanson & Brian Christian)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Simon Willard (Post 203010)
As much as one-half! Wow. That speaks highly of Florian.

Well, the only reason I didn't say all my chocolate, is that I figured I may need to sacrifice it to save someone else's life.

Florian 04-03-2011 06:27 PM

Re: Science Saturday: Of All the Souls I Have Encountered (Robin Hanson & Brian Christian)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Simon Willard (Post 203008)
Sheesh. OK, pain alleviation has some element of intrinsic good and some element of instrumental good. I don't understand any reason for making this distinction in the present discussion.

Anyway, I'm sure you are now ready to concede that pain alleviation could be of more value than a lousy job.

Go back to your computer, you sad imbecile.

Simon Willard 04-03-2011 06:31 PM

Re: Science Saturday: Of All the Souls I Have Encountered (Robin Hanson & Brian Christian)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Florian (Post 203006)
All intrinsic goods have one thing in common: they are desired as ends in themselves, but human beings are social and political beings, so their ends, unlike the ends of animals, are desired because they serve social and political ends as well as individual ends.

Are you making a claim that intrinsic value for the individual is an instrumental value for society? Is there any circularity here?

badhatharry 04-03-2011 06:34 PM

Re: Science Saturday: Of All the Souls I Have Encountered (Robin Hanson & Brian Christian)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Florian (Post 203006)
All intrinsic goods have one thing in common: they are desired as ends in themselves, but human beings are social and political beings, so their ends, unlike the ends of animals, are desired because they serve social and political ends as well as individual ends. I would put freedom from pain, followed by the desire for health, at the bottom of the list of intrinsic goods. At the top I would put the desire for knowledge. In between, there are all the different ends and the different virtues that are conducive to those ends.

And thereby hangs a tale, the tale of western moral and political philosophy!

OK, but one could go behind the desire for knowledge and find that the reason one desires it is because one has the desire for survival and the desire for prestige. So how does one identify that desire which is pure and indicates no other end but itself?

Florian 04-03-2011 06:48 PM

Re: Science Saturday: Of All the Souls I Have Encountered (Robin Hanson & Brian Christian)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by badhatharry (Post 203016)
OK, but one could go behind the desire for knowledge and find that the reason one desires it is because one has the desire for survival and the desire for prestige. So how does one identify that desire which is pure and indicates no other end but itself?

The desire for knowledge, like the desire for anything that results in prestige or fame can be "impure," but knowledge would still be an end itself. The desire for wealth also is usually motivated in part by vanity, the desire to appear important in the eyes of others. Is it the same as the desire for knowledge? Or to take another example, do you think that a musician who composes great music and wins immortal fame does so only because he wants to be famous?

Simon Willard 04-03-2011 06:50 PM

Re: Science Saturday: Of All the Souls I Have Encountered (Robin Hanson & Brian Christian)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Florian (Post 203014)
Go back to your computer, you sad imbecile.

Now, come on, Florian. No need to be surly. Let's not get dragged into the comment dungeon.

I think I've established some reasonable procedures for understanding what people actually value. My impression is that you would prefer to consult Plato to understand what people should value.

Now, to answer the question, "Which has more value, A or B?" you retreat to the theoretical and I retreat to the experimental. I guess that's the final resolution of the matter. Resolving the discrepancies between theory and experiment would make for a fine PhD thesis in the philosophy department.

Florian 04-03-2011 06:58 PM

Re: Science Saturday: Of All the Souls I Have Encountered (Robin Hanson & Brian Christian)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Simon Willard (Post 203018)
Now, come on, Florian. No need to be surly. Let's not get dragged into the comment dungeon.

I think I've established some reasonable procedures for understanding what people actually value. My impression is that you would prefer to consult Plato to understand what people should value.

Now, to answer the question, "Which has more value, A or B?" you retreat to the theoretical and I retreat to the experimental. I guess that's the final resolution of the matter. Resolving the discrepancies between theory and experiment would make for a fine PhD thesis in the philosophy department.

You have not retreated to the experimental, or the measurable, or anything scientific. You have not given any reasonable procedures to decide values. Like all people who blather about values you fall back on subjective choice and preference and think have said the last word on the subject. Well you haven't. You haven't even said the first word.

badhatharry 04-03-2011 07:07 PM

Re: Science Saturday: Of All the Souls I Have Encountered (Robin Hanson & Brian Christian)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Florian (Post 203017)
The desire for knowledge, like the desire for anything that results in prestige or fame can be "impure," but knowledge would still be an end itself. The desire for wealth also is usually motivated in part by vanity, the desire to appear important in the eyes of others. Is it the same as the desire for knowledge? Or to take another example, do you think that a musician who composes great music and wins immortal fame does so only because he wants to be famous?

Well, knowledge itself can be broken down. For instance, I mentioned earlier that I am reading Ulysses. There is absolutely no other reason I could be reading this book besides a desire for knowledge because it is a hell of a slog. But if I am trying to learn a trade there is a indeed another end which I am seeking with the knowledge I will obtain.

As for the musician, he would seem to be following some sort of creative imperative. The desire to be creative? The desire to use one's talents?

Florian 04-03-2011 07:41 PM

Re: Science Saturday: Of All the Souls I Have Encountered (Robin Hanson & Brian Christian)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by badhatharry (Post 203021)
Well, knowledge itself can be broken down. For instance, I mentioned earlier that I am reading Ulysses. There is absolutely no other reason I could be reading this book besides a desire for knowledge. But if I am trying to learn a trade there is a indeed another end which I am seeking with the knowledge I will obtain.

As for the musician, he would seem to be following some sort of creative imperative. The desire to be creative? The desire to use one's talents?

OK. There is practical knowledge for the sake of a skill or a trade and there is theoretical knowledge (e.g. quantum physics), but in both cases there is an end (good) that is sought through the knowledge: in the trade, the production of something useful and maybe beautiful; in theoretical knowledge the understanding of the "laws of nature." Of course, the motivations of the physicist and the craftsman can be impure, mercantile or whatever, but their object, their goal, their end is independent of their motivations.

For music and literature and the arts in general, you have to distinguish the creator from the spectator, reader or listener. But it seems to me that musicians and writers and painters are all aiming at producing something beautiful or at least interesting. That is the intrinsic end (good) of their activity, like that of the craftsman.

ohreally 04-03-2011 08:52 PM

Re: Science Saturday: Of All the Souls I Have Encountered (Robin Hanson & Brian Christian)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Florian (Post 203023)
That is the intrinsic end (good) of their activity, like that of the craftsman.

We'd be remiss to let a Sci Sat go by without mentioning natural selection. In Darwinian "philosophy" (such as it is), all values are instrumental. Bach composed his Passions to have more sex. Einstein's E=MC^2? Great pickup line at the local Zurich club. Love your kids? Just kin selection: more sex for the tribe. Joyce's Ulysses? An obvious ploy to get Joyce's female companion to fall asleep while reading it and then... well, let's keep this blog family-friendly.


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