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

Max More (
Wed, 31 Jul 1996 10:49:47 -0700 (MST)

At 01:56 AM 7/31/96 -0700, Eric Watt Forste wrote:
>Intrinsic goal: get some honey. Why? Because you just happen to want some
>Extrinsic goal: raise bees. You don't really care about the bees, you just
>want the honey.

The distinction is often made with a slightly different terminology:
Intrinsic vs. instrumental. An intrinsic goal is one valued for itself,
while an instrumental goal is one you value because it will help you get
something else that you want intrinsically. Of course, something could be
valued both intrinsically and instrumentally: I intrinsically value hiking
up a mountain, and I also value it instrumentally for the beneficial effects
on my muscular and cardiovascular systems.

Ayn Rand distinguished intrinsic, subjective and objective values. Intrinsic
values, in the sense she used it, were values that you had to hold even if
they were of no personal significance. If service to others is an intrinsic
value, you ought to do it even if you don't want to and even if it's bad for
you. Rand (correctly I think) denied the existence of intrinsic values in
this sense.

The subjective/objective distinction will be obvious, at least in outline.
I've come to prefer to talk of "rational values" rather than objective
values. Perhaps I can explain this when I reply to Tim's question about how
to get from "is" to "ought".

Upward and Outward!


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