Re: Is/Ought boundary

Max More (
Wed, 31 Jul 1996 10:49:49 -0700 (MST)

At 06:56 PM 7/28/96 -0700, Tim Freeman wrote:
>How do you jump the is/ought barrier?
>For those who may not already know, here's a description of the
>barrier: Perhaps one can come up with a reasonable guess about what is
>true, but even with perfect knowledge of what is true, it is far from
>obvious how to convert this to a decision about what to do next. The
>"is/ought barrier" is this logical gap between what "is" and anything
>having to do with planning personal or group action.

If an entity had no goals at all, then then there would be nothing that it
ought to do. So we must have some basic drives or desires if we are to be
faced with oughts. I think that "oughts" come in because all of us, so long
as we choose to continue living, face the need to make choices and take
actions. If I want to live, then I ought to... eat, drink, seek shelter,
seek to earn a living, and pursue psychological health (else I will kill
myself sooner or later, either deliberately or through self-neglect), and so on.

Since the universe operates by certain laws, and because their are other
social facts that effect us, at least some values are rational rather than
subjective. I prefer "rational" to "objective" since values are only
objectively required *if* you want to continue living. The existence of
rational values does not mean that we must all have all the same values
since values exist on different levels and many of them are optional. Values
shade into tastes which are generally subjective. I think there are a range
of basic values, principles, and virtues that apply widely to human beings,
but this does not imply a universal total set of values.

This general outline fits what I take to be the core of Ayn Rand's argument,
though I dislike some of her formulations of it. I think it can be argued
(though I don't claim to do so here) that many extropian values are rational
values, at least in current and probably future conditions. It's arguable
that self-transformation in any radical sense was neither possible nor
desirable in early human history, but I'm certain that it's a rational value
to hold now. This illustrates why "rational" makes more sense than
"intrinsic" -- a value is rational because of how a person can function in
the real world; if the value were intrinsic you would have to value
something regardless of the nature of the world and your relationship to it.

Upward and Outward!


Max More, Ph.D.
President Extropy Institute (ExI)
Editor Extropy