comment by abigailgem ·
2009-03-17T12:54:47.871Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
Eliezer: "Similarly, if you find yourself saying "The rational thing to do is X, but the right thing to do is Y" then you are almost certainly using one of the words "rational" or "right" in a way that a huge chunk of readers won't agree with. In this case - or in any other case where controversy threatens - you should substitute more specific language: "The self-benefiting thing to do is to run away, but I hope I would at least try to drag the girl off the railroad tracks""
Yes. Rational does not equal "sensible" or "putting self first".
So can we be rational in arguing about morality? If I decide that human life has value, I can argue from that prior, rationally, that it is Right to try and drag the girl off the railroad tracks.
I believe that human life has value, even though that is not a completely rigorous, defined statement of my belief about human life. I doubt I have the words to fully express my beliefs about the value of human life.
It is possible that I generalise "human life has value" from my own selfish needs, I do not like being alone for too long, I would have to adjust and learn a great deal before I could survive without Society.
So I believe that for me to believe "human life has value" is Right, or at least permissible, but not necessarily Rational (epistemic or instrumental) in itself, though I can take it as an axiom, and argue rationally based upon it.
Or if my belief that "human life has value" derives rationally from "I will base my values on my own selfish needs" which derives from "I want to survive": in "I want to survive" there is a Want, which is not derived rationally from anything.