Re: ExI = Truth First ?

Ian Goddard (
Sun, 17 May 1998 11:43:54 -0400

At 04:07 PM 5/16/98 -0400, Daniel Fabulich wrote:

>> IAN: Your point is that function = utility.
>> But we could have two functions, (1) a truth
>> fuction that maps physical reality, and (2) a
>> Big Lie function that masks physical reality.
>> Both are useful to some, but only one is true.
>> If "utility first" is my directive, I can choose
>> either; if "truth first" is my principle I can
>> choose only one. This limits my options, but
>> as a rule it maximizes social outcomes, which
>> is utilitarian, but utility comes second.
>I think you misunderstood me. My point was simply that your reasons for
>accepting a "truth-first" principle were utilitarian in origin: that
>people would be better off if we all accepted "truth-first." Well, if we
>WOULD be better off thanks to "truth-first," then utilitarianism demands
>that we act according to "truth-first;" thus we would accept it BECAUSE of
>utilitarisnism, not in spite of it.

IAN: If utilitarianism is the greatest good
for the greatest number, and there are a set
of theories as to which course of action will
achieve that goal, which course do we choose?
The course that is true, that is, the course
which the evidence best indicates will yield
the desired outcome. So truth directs utility
and in this way truth is useful. It may be
that the two define each other inseperably.

So if we believe it's true that the greater
good is served by truth first, the 2 are 1.

>> ><thought experiment> Suppose you are studying an important effect in
>> >quantum mechanics, but one which can be put off until later without
>> >significant losses in utility. Then, you look out the window and you
>> >see: A Drowning Child (tm) [the philosopher's favorite play toy!].
>> >You could save that child now and study quantum effects later,
>> >OR you could just ignore the child and continue the pursuit of the
>> >one-to-one truth function. Despite the fact that utilitarianism demands
>> >that you save that child, truth-first demands that truth comes first, and
>> >utility second. You ignore the child, and finish observing your quantum
>> >effect before even considering saving him/her. </thought experiment>
>> IAN: An interesting dilemma, but I think it
>> may be a false dilemma. Maybe I cannot swim,
>> and I have no rope, or just don't care, so
>> saving the drowning child is not useful to
>> me, afterall, that kid was a real nuisance.
>Uhm... SINCE this is a thought experiment, I can always tweak it. I
>should have mentioned that you are ABLE to save the child, if you decided
>to, at a trivial loss of utility to yourself. (This was actually part of
>the reason why I mentioned the "Drowning Child (tm):" ehtical philosophers
>REGULARLY use this as a thought experiment: you could either save the
>child or do something else. Which do you do?)

IAN: I still think it's a false dilemma, going
to save the child does not mean the scientist
violates truth-first. If I adhere to truth-first
and reject "greater-good utilitarianism" and get
sleepy and stop working and sleep, that does not
mean I have violated the truth-first principle.

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