Re: Singularity-worship

Lee Daniel Crocker (
Wed, 11 Dec 1996 12:12:06 -0800 (PST)

> I will forgive the insult, since Mr. Crocker can't know that I have lived and
> breathed anti-statism, pro-capitalism, hierarchy of values theory, and
> individualism for over 30 years...

I made no insult to you; you are correct, I don't know you at all. But
when you express an idea that I see as mystical, I find no reason not
to attack the idea. Isn't that what we're here for? Indeed, the very
idea that to attack concepts is somehow to personally insult those who
propose them is equally absurd.

> Most of what Mr Crocker says is very fundamental, true, and, I would assume,
> did not need to be reiterated on this list. However, there are two major
> points where I differ from what Mr Crocker has stated and which make my
> argument above not at all "mystical nonsense".

> 1. Being alive is the irreducible primary to all other values. Without it
> obtaining, all others are meaningless. Therefore, it must rationally have the
> highest of all possible values in ones hierarchy. This implies that its value
> (if comparable at all - see my next point) must rationally be extremely much
> higher than the value of, say, going out to dinner and a movie once a week.

Mere biological continuation of metabolism is indeed a prerequisite for
cognition, and therefore values. Therefore its preservation, as a value,
must indeed compare highly with all others. But it is still comparable.
A slave may know, for example, that there are values attainable with
freedom far beyond what he can attain in his present condition. But if
he values mere biological life incomparably high to those values, then
he will logically not risk his life for freedom, but choose to remain
alive and in chains.

> 2. I am not prepare to agree that all human values are linearly comparable. I
> know *my* hierarchy of values contains incomparable trees. If all human values
> were comparable, this would imply that everything that one values is comparable
> to a certain amount of money. In essence, we would all be "value whores". This
> is certainly *not* true of me and I believe that it is not true of *most*
> people, certainly of most on this list.

Why thank you. "Whore" is a fine complement. That is indeed precisely
what I am. I rent parts of my body to perform functions for the benefit
of others, and they give me money. In my case, it is my brain and my
hands rather than my genitals, but to attach some judgment to that minor
distinction is just snobbery and irrational moralism.

As you correctly point out, if any two values can be compared, that
implies that all values are assignable a dollar value. Why do you find
that idea disturbing? I find it quite exciting. Money is a great
accomplishment of the mind, a triumph of reason over mysticism. The
reduction of human values to manageable, tangible measure, so that
human relationships can be defined by free trade and self-interest
instead of force and whim.

If there existed two values that cannot be compared, then it would
not be possible to rationally choose a course of action when they are
in conflict, or even judge the action afterward. I don't choose to
live such an undirected, purposeless life. I choose to have values,
commensurable values, and to make choices and judgments from them. To
live some other kind of life I judge to be "mystical", and I cannot
change that judgment, because it is a rational conclusion of the
values by which I have chosen to live my life.