Re: Ethical basics

From: Eliezer S. Yudkowsky (
Date: Thu Jan 24 2002 - 19:48:33 MST

Jerry Mitchell wrote:
> Where have I shown that I didn't respect your right to be altruistic?

Comparing all altruists to Hitler(?!) is a good start.

> Where did I demand anything, including that you believe as I do?
> I simply asked why.

Well... you asked why, then mentioned Hitler, which I took to mean that
the first question was rhetorical. But it remains a valid question, of

My personal reason for altruism is twofold. First, if there is an
objective meaning to life, then it presumably applies symmetrically to all
humans, or rather applies symmetrically to all sentient life with a given

If there's not an objective meaning to life, then things get more
complicated. In this case, my adaptations for reasoning about morality
wish me to interpret my desires using the semantics of objectivity, such
that if fun is meaningful when I choose to have it, it is equally
meaningful when another human chooses to have the same amount of fun in
the same way. Or to put it another way, my adaptations for reasoning
about morality drive me to interpret my desires as meaningful because of a
universal predicate that designates desire fulfillment as meaningful,
including other people's desires.

In *either* case, my life has neither greater nor lesser intrinsic value
than the lives of the other six billion inhabitants of Earth.

-- -- -- -- --
Eliezer S. Yudkowsky
Research Fellow, Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence

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