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

Tim Freeman (
Sun, 28 Jul 1996 18:56:48 -0700

>I do have a complete philosophy, or at least a philosophy that aims at
>completeness, and Extropianism is a subset of it. I like to refer to the
>more complete system as...

Cute name. It would be neat seeing it in the title of a book, and
watching everyone walk by it in the bookstore and think it was a typo
on the cover of a communist rant.

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.

I jump it by taking the premise that I choose to try to do things that
have consequences interesting to me. Each action has a chain of
consequences, and I want the consequences of my actions to go off
toward the future as far as I can forsee without them becoming boring.
Thus, for instance, I generally try to avoid doing things that would
kill me, since my death would lop off a giant bunch of interesting
consequences. It might not lop off all of the interesting
consequences of things I have done, since, for instance, somebody in
the future might conceivably read my thesis and do something useful
with it. (Ha!)

This strategy of leaping the barrier would also have worked a few
hundred years ago when personal death was obviously inevitable, if my
descendants, my peers, or my intellectual works had some plausible
chance of being at the beginning of an infinite interesting chain of

Answers to this question from people other than Max are interesting

Tim Freeman