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g 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: g 16 November 2007 05:35:37AM 1 point [-]

I think there's a distinction that I'm trying to make and you're trying to elide, between actually thinking something's a terminal value and behaving sometimes as if it is. Obviously all of us, all of the time, have all sorts of things that we treat as values without thinking through their consequences, and typically they fluctuate according to things like how hungry we are. If all you meant is that some people have an "eww" reaction to guns then sure, I agree (though I find it odd that you chose to remark on that and not on the equally clear fact that some people have an "ooo" reaction to guns) and we're merely debating about words.

I have literally no idea on what basis you say that I either don't believe ethics is a rational system to which logic can be applied or don't accept that axioms have a place in ethics. For what it's worth, I think any given system of ethics (including the One True System Of Ethics if there is one) is a somewhat-rational system to which logic can be applied, and that there's a place for first principles, but that ethics isn't all that much like mathematical logic and that terms like "axiom" are liable to mislead. And I certainly don't think that any real person's ethics are derived from any manageable set of clearly statable axioms. (One can go the other way and find "axioms" that do a tolerable job of generating ethics, but that doesn't mean that those axioms actually did generate anyone's ethics.)

I also have no idea how you get from "axioms have no place in ethics" to "morality itself is a terminal value and an axiom". Unless all you mean is that whatever ethics anyone adopts, you can just take *absolutely everything they think about right and wrong* as axioms, which is possibly true but useless.