Re: Venus

Eric Watt Forste (
Mon, 27 Jan 1997 16:57:54 -0800

Robin Hanson writes:
>Given a value conflict, you do choose. But I suspect you couldn't
>know ahead of time which you would choose. If you knew which of your
>values you didn't value, and wanted to weaken, I'm not sure how you
>can say you value that value in the first place.

I can see that you'd want to take issue with the notion that one
can "engineer" one's values. But I think that if a brainwasher can,
given appropriate control over another person's environment, change
that person's values, then each of us can make deliberate changes
in our own values through self-conditioning. Wanting to have no
desire to smoke tobacco and having no desire to smoke tobacco are
two different things, and I think someone in the first state can,
through deliberate action, transform emself into the second state.
I think this would qualify as a small but deliberate transformation
of one's values. I think larger scale transformations are also

>Maybe committee in fighting is a useful analogy. Committee members
>might look forward to the time at which they can get rid of other
>members the continually fight with. But it could well be that they
>are the ones dumped. If everyone on the committee knew that someone
>is sure to be voted off of the committee when the vote comes up, it is
>hard to see how that person to be dumped can have much influence now.
>Crude committee voting rules might give them temporary power, but I'm
>not sure our minds are so crudely organized.

I'm sure they're not so crudely organized, and given the actual
complexity of human minds, it's not hard for me to see how I could
have a value which actually shapes my immediate actions now (i. e.
"has much influence"), and yet manage to dump that value through
longer-term changes in my own environment and my own behavior.

>Given meta-values, non-meta-values are really strategies and
>hueristics, to my way of thinking.

One of my points is that it's not just one level, nor even just
two levels. There are meta-meta-values above the meta-values. And
even here there's an implicit assumption that the system is
hierarchical, whereas the little bit we know about the brain might
give us reason to believe that the system contains loops. I don't
know how firm and clear a distinction we can draw between values
on the one hand and strategies and heuristics on the other. These
kinds of distinctions only hold up within systems composed of
black-boxes. The brain doesn't seem to use a black-box architecture.

>We can transform our abilities, perceptions, knowledge, insight,
>wisdom, experience, bodily form, network of associates, etc.

I don't see how anyone could change all those things and not
experience some changes of values as well. It's not as if ones
values are easily extricable and separable from that other stuff.
The fact-value dichotomy aside, one can't effectively evaluate
stuff within a field in which one has no knowledge, and generally,
learning more about a field of knowledge changes the way in which
one evaluates within that field of knowledge.

A person might have no sense of mathematical beauty and decide ey
wants to change that. After studying mathematics for a long time,
such a person might develop a sense of mathematical beauty which
would then have motivating influence in how ey carries out mathematical
work. This serves as an example of the deliberate development of
a new value or set of values. The desire to understand and experience
mathematical beauty (in one who has no direct experience of
mathematical beauty) is not the same a lust or desire for experiences
of mathematical beauty, yet the latter can be deliberately developed
out of the former. Trying to view this from your perspective, it
seems that you think the former and the latter are "really" somehow
the same. Am I misinterpreting your position?

Eric Watt Forste ++ ++