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Adirian comments on Terminal Values and Instrumental Values - Less Wrong

54 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 15 November 2007 07:56AM

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Comment author: Adirian 16 November 2007 01:19:39AM 0 points [-]

It is a terminal value, however - you are regarding B as something other than B, something other than a stage from which to get to C. To exactly the ends you permit your visceral reaction to the guns themselves shape your opinion, you are treating the abolition or freedom to use guns as an ends, rather than a means. (To reduce crime or promote freedom generally, respectively.) Remember that morality itself is the use of bias - on deciding between two ethical structures which is the better based on subjectively defined values - so to say that something is bias in a moral framework means that it is being treated as a moral axiom, a terminal value.

Your commentary means one of two things - either your don't believe ethics is a rational system to which logic can be applied, or you don't accept that axioms have a place in ethics. Addressing the latter, it is certain that they do, as in any rational system. At the very least you must accept the axioms of definition - among which will be those axioms, those values, by which you judge the merits of any given situation or course of action. "Death is bad" can be an axiom or a derived value - but in order to be derived, you must posit an axiom by which it can be derived, say, that "Thinking is good," and then reason from there, by stating, for example, that death stops the process of thinking. Which applies no matter which direction you come from - from the side of the axioms, trying to discover what situations are best, or from the side of the derived values, trying to figure out what axioms led to their derivation.

Regarding the latter argument - then you take ethics itself as a thing which cannot further be defined, and so claim that morality is itself the terminal value, the axiom. Which I don't think would be your position.