Truth Here, Utility There

Ian Goddard (
Sat, 16 May 1998 16:09:53 -0400

At 05:43 PM 5/15/98 -0400, Daniel Fabulich wrote:

>Compare this example to a thought-experiment. If the pursuit of truth is
>more important than human utility, then we should pursue truth even to the
>expense of human utility. So even if further studies in, say, science are
>miserable to us, and where TECHNOLOGY would serve us better than further
>studies of astronomical bodies, we would still be morally obligated to
>pursue truth.

IAN: This point Dan raises is the best case
for utility first. So is it truth or utility?
I think it's a false delima resolved by seeing
that utility-first applies to one set of cases
and truth-first applies to another set of cases.

In the case above, the issue pertains to the
scarcity of funding, in which case scientific
research should put utility first, however,
and this gets to the heart of the matter,
NEVER can "truth first" not be a prime
directive of research. So we must have
two sets here and no contradiction.

First, observe that truth-first must always
be a directive in the research to which a
utility-first directive also applies since
any research into improved technologies
that is based on not truths will be even
MORE wasteful than research on the stars,
which could bump into a real gold mine!

So I think that "truth first" applies to
the set of "all inquiry," and "utility
first" applies to the set of "all expen-
ditures below ideal levels of resources."

By making this observation that truth-first
applies to X set and utility-first applies
to Y set, I believe that I have removed the
basis of confusion as to which ethic is best.

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