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

Tim Freeman (
Wed, 31 Jul 1996 09:29:16 -0700

From: (Eric Watt Forste)
>Nobody worth discussing these things with really believes, deep down
>inside, that the wrongness of murder is entirely subjective. To me,
>natural law means the stuff that human societies have universally
>found it wise to prohibit, through trial and error over the course of

I presume we agree that murder isn't part of a long term plan, since
there's some risk that the potential victims will eventually organize
and stop you, and there is little corresponding benefit.

We evolved in circumstances where this is true, so our emotions are
biased to feel this way.

So I think the wrongness of murder is subjective, but that doesn't
make it an arbitrary stupid premise; our subjectivity approximately
obeys laws because we got where we are now by evolution. Murder feels
wrong because it is impractical and it was impractical for all of our

>...Hofstadter's "superrationality" from Metamagical Themas, which
>ethical skeptics have a hard time with.

Hofstadter had to assume that perfectly rational beings should all
make the same choices in the same circumstances. This is a premise
that leaps the is/ought boundary. I don't see where he acknowledges
that his premise is arbitrary, and I actually do not believe the
premise. In any case, since I'm not a perfectly rational being, I
don't see any way to reliably use the premise, since it involves
predicting the behavior of beings more complex than myself.

I'll have a look at the Gautier reference.