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Wei_Dai comments on A Defense of Naive Metaethics - Less Wrong

8 Post author: Will_Sawin 09 June 2011 05:46PM

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Comment author: Wei_Dai 13 June 2011 03:59:12PM 3 points [-]

I'm not sure if we totally agree, but if there is any disagreement left in this thread, I don't think it's substantial enough to keep discussing at this point. I'd rather that we move on to talking about how you propose to do empathic metaethics.

BTW, I'd like to give another example that shows the difficulty of reducing (some usages of) normative language to math/physics.

Suppose I'm facing Newcomb's problem, and I say to my friend Bob, "I'm confused. What should I do?" Bob happens to be a causal decision theorist, so he says "You should two-box." It's clear that Bob can not just mean "the arg max of ... is 'two-box'" (where ... is the formula given by CDT), since presumably "you should two-box" is false and "the arg max of ... is 'two-box'" is true. Instead he probably means something like "CDT is the correct decision theory, and the arg max of ... is 'two-box'", but how do we reduce the first part of this sentence to physics/math?

Comment author: lukeprog 13 June 2011 04:39:21PM 1 point [-]

I'm not saying that reducing to physics/math is easy. Even ought language stipulated to refer to, say, the well-being of conscious creatures is pretty hard to reduce. We just don't have that understanding yet. But it sure seems to be pointing to things that are computed by physics. We just don't know the details.

I'm just trying to say that if I'm right about reductionism, and somebody uses ought language in a way that isn't likely to reduce to physics/math, then their ought language isn't likely to refer successfully.

We can hold off the rest of the dialogue until after another post or two; I appreciate your help so far. As a result of my dialogue with you, Sawin, and Nesov, I'm going to rewrite the is-ought part of 'Pluralistic Moral Reductionism' for clarity.