RE: Evil ? (was: Hypostases

From: Jef Allbright <>
Date: Sun, 24 Dec 2006 23:48:39 -0800

Brent Meeker wrote:
> Jef Allbright wrote:
> >
> > Brent Meeker wrote:
> >> That raises a fundamental question - should we believe
> what's true?
> >> Of course in general we don't know what's true and we
> never know it
> >> with certainity. But we do know some things, in the scientific,
> >> provisional sense. And we also have certain values which, as Jef
> >> says, are the basis of our action and our judgement of
> good and bad.
> >> So what happens when we know X and believing X is *not*
> conducive to
> >> realizing our values?
> >> Of course you could argue that this can never happen; that it's
> >> always best (in the values sense) to believe what's true. But I
> >> think this is doubtful. For example, person who is
> certainly dying
> >> of cancer (and we're all dying of something) may realize
> more of his
> >> values by believing that he will live for much longer than
> justified
> >> by the evidence.
> >> On the other hand you could argue that one can't just
> believe this or
> >> that as an act of will and so it is impossible to know X,
> even in the
> >> provisional scientific sense, and also believe not-X.
> >
>> "Tell me Human, what is this Self you speak of, somehow
>> apart from its own value-system, somehow able to observe
>> and comment on its own subjective experience?"
> I don't think I said anything about "self", much less that it
> is separate from a value system.
>> But seriously, the values that matter most are generally
>> below conscious awareness and can only be inferred. This
>> is why I suggested that story-telling might be among the
>> most effective methods for collecting sets of values for
>> further analysis and distillation.
> An interesting idea. I'd say that action has to be the real
> test of values. Has there been any study of the correlation
> between stories told and actual behavior?

Not of which I am aware, although there has been some collecting of
stories in anthropology, and some listing of "human universal" values in
rough form.

>> It would be more accurate to say that our values drive our
>> self rather than belong to our self.
> That's fine with me. I'd say the "self" is nothing but an
> abstraction to collect values, memories, thoughts, etc.

Then I think you're on the right track.

>> Evidence abounds of memories (and thus experience of self)
>> being subject to a great deal of distortion, fabrication,
>> and revision, and the human capacity for cognitive dissonance
>> and confabulation answers loudly your question in regard to
>> the handling of conflicting values and beliefs.
> So you observe that people commonly believe things they know
> are false. Do you also conclude that they are generally
> doing this to maximize the projection of their values into
> the future?

No, most such action is not a result of rational consideration, or even
conscious intention.

> Or would they do better if their beliefs and
> knowledge aligned? In other words, is there a "should" about belief?

There is no "should", but only that what works tends to persist, thus
increasing the likelihood of it being assessed as good. Some beliefs,
despite being invalid, can be very effective within a limited context
but tend eventually to succumb to competition from those with greater
effectiveness, generally through more general scope of applicability and
with fewer side-effects. We come to think of these principles of
increasingly effective action as "laws of nature".

- Jef

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Received on Mon Dec 25 2006 - 02:48:57 PST

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