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VAuroch comments on Free to Optimize - Less Wrong

25 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 02 January 2009 01:41AM

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Comment author: VAuroch 02 December 2013 01:58:14AM -1 points [-]

And are those legal structures actually accurate? I have very strong doubts about the potential accuracy in the absence of overwhelming circumstantial evidence such as statements they made at the time away from witnesses they'd want to conceal the truth from.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 02 December 2013 02:34:33AM 1 point [-]

I'm not claiming they're accurate. I'm claiming that our inability to reliably read minds does not in practice prevent us from creating legal structures that depend on the court deciding what was going on in someone's mind, and consequently it is insufficient to explain the "Ignorance of the Law Is No Excuse" principle.

Comment author: VAuroch 02 December 2013 02:45:34AM -1 points [-]

I claim that their (known-but-unquantified) inaccuracy is sufficient to explain it. When you know a tool is flawed, you avoid it wherever possible.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 02 December 2013 03:56:55AM 0 points [-]

If the court's known inaccuracy about a defendant's state of mind is sufficient to explain why we don't treat people who break a law differently based on the court's beliefs about their knowledge of the law, it is also sufficient to explain why we don't treat people who break a law differently based on the court's beliefs about other states of mind, such as the difference between voluntary and involuntary manslaughter.

Unfortunately, that second thing turns out to be false... we do treat those people differently.

When an explanation turns out to explain falsehoods just as easily as truths, I don't consider it an adequate explanation for those truths.

Comment author: VAuroch 02 December 2013 06:33:13AM -1 points [-]

I chose my words carefully: I said "avoid it wherever possible". Some distinctions will naturally fall on the side where it's deemed appropriate/necessary, generally, as in the case of manslaughter, when the difference is of enormous perceived moral significance.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 02 December 2013 03:26:03PM 0 points [-]

So, if the "ignorance of the law is no excuse" principle were repealed by some culture C, would that surprise you, or would you merely consider it a demonstration that punishing people who are ignorant of the law is of enormous perceived moral significance to members of C?

Comment author: VAuroch 02 December 2013 11:26:29PM 0 points [-]

It would greatly surprise me if any culture viewed the possibility of punishing an accidental crime, no matter how severe, as worse than allowing people guilty of serious crimes to go unpunished using a specious claim of ignorance.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 03 December 2013 12:08:58AM 1 point [-]

OK, that answers my question, thanks.

For my own part, I would find that no more surprising than discovering a culture that viewed the punishing of an innocent person as worse than letting a guilty person go free.

Comment author: VAuroch 03 December 2013 03:22:55AM -1 points [-]

I view that as basically the same, and would consider that, also, to be highly surprising. No culture I'm aware of ever took an absolutist stance on that issue, in either direction. Largely because it's incredibly impractical.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 03 December 2013 04:23:56AM 1 point [-]

I'm not precisely sure what you mean by "absolutist" here, but I would certainly agree that for every culture there is some (P1,P2) for which that culture accepts a P1 chance of punishing an innocent person over a P2 chance of letting a guilty person go free.