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Richard_Hollerith comments on Tsuyoku vs. the Egalitarian Instinct - Less Wrong

26 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 28 March 2007 05:49PM

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Comment author: Richard_Hollerith 30 March 2007 02:33:15AM 1 point [-]

Is it impossible for you to imagine a person who cares for nothing but increasing his ability to perceive reality correctly (his "awareness") and consequently whenever he is rested and alert enough to make a deliberate choice, he will choose awareness over happiness whenever forced by circumstances to choose? (I grant you that in unrehearsed situations without enough cognitive resources for deliberation, the human mind tends to choose happiness.)

Note that since a certain minimum level of happiness is a PREREQUISITE for a creative career of any kind (just as at least in capitalistic countries a certain minimum level of wealth is a prerequisite) he might regularly pick happiness as a subgoal.

For example, if he finds himself feeling sad, he might go down to the cafe and strike up a conversation with a beautiful woman. If that is not enough, he might search for a suitable beautiful woman and tell her that life seems meaningless except when he is with her and so on, which is calculated to lead to intense and absorbing experiences which leave one feeling gratified and elated. If that is not enough, he might complain to his physician that he thinks he is ill or depressed. But these are not circumstances in which he is forced to choose between happiness and awareness: these are circumstances where his choice is optimal for both happiness and awareness because sadness undermines performance in most pursuits (in the modern environment).

I will grant you that for almost all people, happiness is an end in itself. But are you sure that no person exists with a comprehensive and lifelong policy that his happiness is only a means to an end?