Re: Freedom or death? (Was: Re [2]: Extropy in the personal sphere

Eric Watt Forste (
Mon, 11 Aug 1997 12:02:41 -0700

Brent Allsop writes:
> or an authority than I am. I'm sure that there are at least a few
> people on this planet that know what is better for me better than
> I know what is better for me.

This may be so, but nonetheless, *you* and only you can know for
sure *which* people you trust in this way, and in this "meta" sense,
it's still you and no one else who knows what is best for you. You
are the one who is choosing the authority that you study, at
least once you've attained to adulthood, whatever that is (I'm
an unabashed fan of Peter Pan, myself).

Children usually stick with the default choice of their parents
as the right authority figures to listen to, but if the parents
screw up too much and lose their kids respect... it's usually
tragic, which is more important than the fact that it's also a
knotty problem in moral philosophy. Children's rights is a
gnarly area, intellectually. It depends entirely too much on
experiences and data that few people can think about objectively
and dispassionately.

But once you've hit the point where you've decided you are
capable of finding your own authorities whom you are sure are
more trustworthy than your parents (there's a provisional
definition of "adulthood" for you), then you're on your own in
terms of taking responsibility for your future ethical

> Here you are, apparently, at least partially, disagreeing
> with my thinking that it might be ok for someone to force
> someone to do something IF they know, absolutely, that that is what
> is right for that person. (i.e. a Mother knows a toddler should
> not wander into a busy street and forcefully prevents them from
> doing so.)

Yes, it's interesting that you have to invoke the parent-child
relationship in order to illustrate your notion of "absolute
knowledge of what is good for someone else". I doubt that it is
possible for one adult to know absolutely what is good for any
*other* adult. Unfortunately, this merely opens up room for debate
about the definition of adulthood. I was fascinated by the
distinction drawn in Linda Nagata's novel DECEPTION WELL: in the
city of Silk, those over age 120 years or so are considered
"real people", whereas those under that age are considered
"ados" (a word derived from "adolescent").

> So anyway, let me ask you a question I've been struggling
> with about what the proper behavior should be. Lets say
> you have a very close loved one. Say it is one of your children
> or something. Lets say he's about 17 years old and you know that
> throughout his life he has consistently expressed a desire to not
> be cryonically preserved

The position that I was taking was that an expressed desire to
commit suicide does not, by itself, constitute prima-facie evidence
of insanity, and that an *adult* of sound mind who clearly expressed
a desire not to be cryonically suspended after deanimation should
not be forced into suspension. If you want to take this already
fuzzy and difficult moral situation and mix into it questions of
children's rights and parental responsibilities, then you're taking
it way beyond my domain of expertise, since I'm over thirty and
childless so far.

> I ask anyone that is a better moral expert than I, what should
> I do?

I don't know for sure that there is any such thing as a moral
expert. The notion makes me suspicious. The only moral experts I
might trust are the ones who deny that they are moral experts.
And even then only if they have a sense of humor. ;)

Eric Watt Forste ++ ++ expectation foils perception -pcd