The Core Values of Life - A proposal for a universal theory of ethics 2024-02-10T21:48:12.747Z


Comment by Thomas Gjøstøl (thomas-gjostol) on The Core Values of Life - A proposal for a universal theory of ethics · 2024-02-11T03:09:02.061Z · LW · GW

This is a point I probably should've addressed directly, thank you for bringing it up.

The point you make is a direct opposite of the frequent (and I think valid) critique of Utilitarianism, which - as you probably know - use pleasure/pain as its primary way of evaluating outcome. You are correct, as written I do not directly state a preference for pleasure versus pain, but rather indirectly include it in the maximization of the Core Values.

However, I think your interpretation is an understandable one given the limitations in my text, if we only think of the Core Values in purely materialistic terms without including the cognitive dimension - an essential component in evaluating the Goodness of any action. Reliable pleasure and general absence of intense pain I would say are natural priorities in most activites, perhaps especially as a component of Actualization and Flourishing.

I also think the extensive negative concequences intense pain would entail by lowering Awareness, Rationality and Agency, and the concequent reduction in the Products, Activities and Qualities of Life, makes me strongly doubt that the scenario you present would be a net benefit to Life - like you intuit. As I pointed out early on in my text, Maximize Life is not a simple preference for the amount of Life. My theory attempts to include all dimensions, not letting anything "slip" so to speak, evaluating things holistically.

Still, I think your question deserves a more definitive answer with regards to pleasure/pain.

In my possible future chapter 'Emotions', I postulate that the Core Values of Life directly corrolate with our emotional experience - that emotions ARE how we do holistic evaluations, both of ourselves, others, and actions - everything. So in a way, the maximization of Life is also the maximization of positive emotions and minimization of negative ones.

However, negative emotions are required for proper navigation of reality and general functioning, like how we learn to avoid harm from pain, identify nonesense from confusion, act appropriately to poisoning from nausea, and so it seems ill advised to remove them entirely. In much the same way, simply experiencing pure bliss all the time would erase our ability to differentiate between different degrees of Good I think.

Am I making sense?

Comment by Thomas Gjøstøl (thomas-gjostol) on The Core Values of Life - A proposal for a universal theory of ethics · 2024-02-11T00:37:37.009Z · LW · GW

Indeed, thank you for reading and providing feedback.

The evaluation function you request is in the planned 'Goodness' chapter, which I briefly mentioned at the end of the text.

I'm aware it will be difficult to quantify the exact degree of change to the Core Values of Life in any individual or collection of individuals, yet I think this is the same problem all ethical evaluations face. I think exactly how to determine the answer will become clearer as the values are explored in the context of more traditional ethical values (truth, justice, etc), looking at how they are quantified in other methodologies, which institutions are involved, etc. I also desire to do these things in dedicated chapters, as I mention in my list.