Is vs. Ought (was: A Physicist Experiments With Cultural

Robin Hanson (
Thu, 18 Nov 1999 12:00:08 -0500

Greg Burch wrote:
>For now, let me ask you a question, Robin: Can we question that what we DO
>want is what we SHOULD want?

Sure, within a context where we care about what we want. That is, when it makes sense to say "I don't want to want that." Such things make sense when we realize that we are not atomic, but made of parts, spread across space and time.

So I now can want my future self to take a long term view of things, while my future self might rather focus on short term payoffs. Or my conscious mind can want my subconscious mind to not get so hung up on sex all the time. And so on.

Saying that I "as a whole" want something is analogous to saying that the US "as a whole" wants something. Sometimes negotiations happen within the US and the US ends up taking some actions. For example, the US might go to war. Similarly, negotiations within myself can result in Robin making choices that can be interpreted as Robin wanting something.

Robin Hanson Asst. Prof. Economics, George Mason University MSN 1D3, Carow Hall, Fairfax VA 22030
703-993-2326 FAX: 703-993-2323