Re: Volitional Morality and Action Judgement

From: Randall Randall (
Date: Fri May 14 2004 - 01:39:14 MDT

On May 14, 2004, at 1:24 AM, Pablo Stafforini wrote:

> Michael,
>> I agree that what-is-in-a-person's-interests cannot always be
>> equated with what-the-person-presently-wants. But I think
>> that you omitted mentioning the cases where a person
>> understands that their future wants will be different, and
>> factors that into their decision-making process. I do this
>> all the time, and I'm sure you do also. Eg: Though I desire
>> an espresso now, I know that if I drink one I'll have trouble
>> falling asleep later, so I make myself a warm milk instead.
> OK, but then we shouldn't describe the action as a case of allowing the
> agent to do what she wants to do. Suppose I know I will be probably
> ruined if I continue gambling, but I decide to do it anyway. I'm then
> doing what is not in my best interest to do. I'm then acting
> irrationally. Eliezer's maxim, then, becomes inapplicable. To assess
> the
> agent's behavior we must look for an alternative rationale.

Either you are using the term "best interest" for something I would
not use that term for, or you are making the mistake of assuming
that a single objective "best interest" exists which can be determined
by an outside observer.

In order to determine a person's best interest, you would have to
weigh their options against their goal system (not yours!) and
choose the best option which is consistent with that goal system.

Unless you are intelligent enough to closely simulate that person,
however (and no human currently is), you are unlikely to be able
to make such a determination, so you must accept the person's own
decisions as the closest approximation to their "best interest"
that you can find.

Randall Randall
<> (706) 536-2674
Remote administration -- web applications -- consulting

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