Re: Happy Box

From: Stathis Papaioannou (
Date: Wed Apr 30 2008 - 02:03:46 MDT

2008/4/30 Byrne Hobart <>:

> I suspect that there will be a danger of 'zombifying' oneself with actions
> like this: if you automatically rewrite your preferences to maximize
> pleasure and productivity, you have to wonder if this will mean obliterating
> your ability to perceive such things so you don't have some kind of
> unhappiness-generating philosophical crisis over your new set of
> preferences. The ability to engage in speculation over whether or not one
> should participate in the rat-race can lead to arbitrary levels of
> unhappiness, and since you can rewrite your utility curve you will have to
> end up either a) depressed despite feeling pleasure at doing good, or b)
> unable to introspect enough to reconsider your initial decision.

You might agonise over what preferences exactly you should choose, but
at the point where you notice this is becoming unpleasant and
unproductive you could alter your mind so that you are more decisive
and content with whatever choice you make. It is possible that the
decision the new you is happy with would have made the old you
unhappy, but so what? If you have regrets you can always make another
change, and if you are content you won't be worrying about it. In
ordinary life we don't worry about being happy just because we can see
that a former version of ourselves would have been unhappy under
similar circumstances.

> One possible safety mechanism would be to simulate your responses under
> various utility-schemes, observed by various utility-schemes. So, for
> example, the drug addict can observe how he'd behave without the addiction,
> how he'd behave if he thought being a hard-working family-raising tax-paying
> law-abider was euphoric, etc., but could also observe his current
> drug-addicted perspective from the meta-perspective of a non-addict, a
> eudaimonic view, etc. This introduces a problem of indefinite abstraction,
> though: what does the drug-addict personality think of the responses of the
> non-addict personality to the eudaimonic package of perceptions. Besides
> just declaring artificial boundaries, I am not sure how to resolve this.

The drug addict will do exactly as he wants to do. That might mean
removing his drug addiction or it might mean removing any residual
anxiety-producing attachment he has to societal norms. Unless he has a
predilection for modelling his behaviour in the way you describe I
don't see why he would or should do so.

Stathis Papaioannou

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