[extropy-chat] examples of rational irrationalism

Samantha Atkins sjatkins at mac.com
Sun Dec 10 11:57:51 UTC 2006

On Dec 7, 2006, at 8:59 AM, Jef Allbright wrote:

> Samantha Atkins wrote:
>> Lee Corbin wrote:
>> Is rationality a free-floating abstraction disconnected
>> from values, what does the valuing and what is considered
>> valuable?  How would that itself be "rational"?
> No, the concept of rationality is not free-floating and it is not
> disconnected from values but it is certainly an abstract concept.

It was also being used in more than one sense.  Is it rational to do X  
can only be answered by knowing what ones goals (including value type  
goals) are and what the choices are and by the accuracy of one's model  
of the situation and likely outcome of doing X.   To cut off any of  
these aspects is to miss what Is mean when I agree a particular action  
or decision is "rational".  The conversation seems to have devolved to  
where there was no real working notion of what rationality means.

> The concept of rational decision-making is directly connected to the
> concept of agency (who makes the decisions) and values (what is
> important to the agent.)
> Of course the power of abstract concepts is that they facilitate clear
> thinking about classes of situations including particular instances we
> have not (yet) experienced.

Sure, if they are properly grounded.

>>> Don't you concur with the (generally accepted here)
>>> version of what it means to be rational?  Namely, as
>>> Rafal put it, "rationality (to use the dictionary
>>> meaning)is optimizing behavior to achieve goals".   So
>>> if your goal is a pristine Earth free of unnatural
>>> (i.e. human) effects, then what's irrational about trying
>>> to get rid of everyone, including yourself?
>> Arbitrary goals that include one's on destruction and
>> destruction of one's species are not themselves subject to
>> a meta-judgement as to their rationality?   Where is the
>> grounding for these abstractions being tossed about?
> To address the moral outrage implicit in this post: YES, most persons
> would agree that such thinking is obviously WRONG (leads to very
> undesirable consequences relative to our shared values.)

Thus it is irrational in the contexts of the relevant goals and likely  

> Your use of the term "meta-judgment" highlights the essential  
> difference
> between rational and moral. Rationality refers to actions promoting
> values within a specified (limited) context--what is considered
> effective.  Morality refers to actions promoting increasingly shared
> values within an increasing context--what is considered "right".

Effective as measured how?  Surely in terms of these goals, available  
choices, situation model etc. previously mentioned.  I see no clear  
separation between the rational and the moral.

>> How can it be rational to claim a naturally evolved species
>> is "unnatural"?  How can it be rational to destroy the only
>> thing on this rock vaguely capable of rationality?  Are we
>> so sickened by our dizzy abstractions?
> I think we are MORE "sickened" by our attachments to poorly founded
> biases due to our relatively weak ability to intentionally abstract
> principles of "truth" from our environment.

> Of course, recent scientific
> studies have shown beyond a doubt that half the population is below
> average intelligence, so it *seems* pragmatically necessary to distill
> higher level understanding into more applicable heuristics, but  
> doing so
> risks over-simplification and attendant poorer outcomes.

This seem a bit of a mouthful.  Of course half the population is below  
average intelligence and surely we know that without any studies being  
necessary as it is logically necessary this is the case.    But I  
don't see what this has to do with the discussion at hand.

- samantha

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