Re: Is/Ought boundary (was Re: Trans-extropian principles)

Tim Freeman (
Tue, 30 Jul 1996 21:22:00 -0700

From: (Eric Watt Forste)
>But there are many extrinsic subgoals that generalize very nicely across an
>extremely broad set of permissible end-goals (the intrinsic ones). So if I
>whimsically decide to constrain my goals to accord to natural law (I decide
>I'm not interested in killing and plundering), then no matter what my
>idiosyncratic goals are within the remaining goal-universe, I can serve
>those ends indirectly by working towards increasing my understanding of the
>world and increasing the harmony of my relationships with others ...

Thanks! Makes sense, with a few fuzzy spots that probably stem from
my own ignorance. I like the idea that the next step in a long term
plan to accomplish a goal doesn't change much when you change the
goal. I'm not too clear on the distinction between extrinsic and
intrinsic goals, though.

I think I make a smaller whimsical decision than you do. If I run
around chopping off people's heads, then eventually they'll get
together and stop me, probably by doing something functionally
equivalent to chopping off my head. (We're talking unfriendly human
interaction here, not neurosuspension. :-) Thus running around
chopping off people's heads isn't part of any long-term plan. So
instead of whimsically deciding to constrain your goals to accord to
natural law, you can whimsically decide to have a long-term plan.
This (to me) feels like a smaller assumption, especially because I
don't know what you mean by "natural law".

>Why does the "natural law" mark off the non-permissible goals? Because
>those goals are generalizably disextrinsic... they tend to work against the
>attainment of any of the much larger set of possible goals not forbidden by
>the "natural law". But the problem of making the demarcation precise is
>still a hard one, though some good work has been done recently (e. g.

Sounds interesting. Can you post a reference?