[extropy-chat] Fwd: CNN features amazing user with autism

Jef Allbright jef at jefallbright.net
Mon Feb 26 00:01:41 UTC 2007

On 2/25/07, Anne Corwin <sparkle_robot at yahoo.com> wrote:
> Jef said:
> "While it's fashionable and considered by some to be the height of
> morality to argue that all preferences are equally valid, it is
> morally indefensible."
> I don't think anyone was saying that "all preferences are equally
> valid"...it's a long leap from suggesting that a preference or inclination
> to interact with water is, perhaps, something that ought to be respected to
> suggesting that everything any person might want to do is somehow valid and
> worthy of defense.
> If someone has a preference for torturing small animals, it would of course
> be reprehensible to defend this preference as valid.

What you say is of course correct.  But the statement I was responding
to (abruptly and provokingly, I admit)  was in my opinion much more
general and reflective of a certain quite pervasive meme that is
subtly detrimental to our prospects for a society of active and
intentional collaborative decision-makers.

>>  then who is to decide that spending your life blissfully flicking
a stream of
>>  water from the tap with your hand because that's what you have decided
>>  to want to do (not necessarily because that is what you were born or raised
>>  to want to do) is less worthy than any other activity?

The view I advocate and challenge you to consider puts me at odds with
both libertarians and liberals, each of which hold strong but
contrasting views of individual choice, both of which may be seen as
reactions to historical inequalities of power but neither of which
considers more recent thinking on the broad importance of cooperation
within a co-evolutionary ecology. I posted John Donne's "no man is an
island" quote a few days ago for the same purpose.

Let me say that I see nothing intrinsically wrong in the case of an
individual choosing to "spend their life blissfully flicking a stream
of water", and I would support such individual freedoms on the moral
basis of the principle that a degree of diversity is essential to the
common good.

However, I do not support claims by the left that "everyone has the
right to do their own thing" or the libertarian claim that "maximum
individual freedom is the greatest good."

It seems to me that each of these claims is overly simplistic and
ignores the ecological imperative to longer-term growth via
cooperative, positive-sum interaction.  Nature expresses this
principle  through various forms of reciprocal and altruistic
behavior.  Our moral instincts, themselves a product of evolutionary
development, tend to encode these principles of effective interaction.
 But much of the written and unwritten codes of society demonstrate
ignorance of this principle and thus the point of my post.

- Jef

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