Re: [sl4] normative language is rational

From: Charles Hixson (
Date: Fri Feb 13 2009 - 10:37:14 MST

Isn't "should" the 1st subjunctive future of "shall"?
I believe it expresses intentionality with the emphasis on things that
will happen because they were those chosen to happen, and requiring
action by the subject in order to cause them to occur.

Johnicholas Hines wrote:
> What do we mean by "should"? I'm not a philosopher of deontic logic,
> and I'm not going to try to write down any formalization of the
> concept. I don't think it's necessary or important for the moment.
> If I advocate for some action, like so:
> "I think we should (donate to the Methuselah Foundation's M prize)."
> I think everyone on this list understands, in a commonsense way, what
> I am trying to communicate.
> I hope that everyone also agrees that the future is not written. We
> can build it. Even if there are opposing forces and success is not
> guaranteed, we should strive to a better future.
> Suppose that someone else on the list argues "No, we should not
> (donate to the M prize)." and then I ask "Why shouldn't we?", and they
> respond "(Donating to Friendly AGI research) has a better
> (cost/benefit ratio)." At this point we're engaging in dialog. There
> is communication happening.
> Claiming at this point "Normative language is not falsifiable." shifts
> the topic from (the M prize) to the philosophy of deontic logic. This
> is the red herring fallacy. Regardless of the philosophers, we do have
> a working ability to advocate actions to other people, and understand
> when someone else is advocating an action to us.
> There is NO SPECIAL BONUS for carefully avoiding the words "ought",
> "should" or "moral" in your writing. If you create a rhetorical
> fantasy of a possible future depicting torture and death, readers will
> easily connect the dots and understand the normative message "We
> should strive to avoid this future.". Despite the grammar, you are
> still engaging in normative dialog, and advocating for actions.
> My point is: eschew obfuscation. Use normative grammar to advocate for actions.
> Johnicholas

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