Re: The role of consciousness

From: Lee Corbin (
Date: Thu Apr 10 2008 - 17:25:06 MDT

Stuart writes

> But we don't allow some people to be tortured just because "on
> average", everyone will come out ahead. Similarly, I think we should
> put an ethical lower limit on the degree of suffering any copy could
> put up with, rather than just trying to maximise the sum over the good
> runtimes and the bad.

Yes, I think that that is called "negative utilitarianism".
I follow David Pearce mostly in such matters
( and his great essay "The
Hedonistic Imperative". I first studied that ten
years ago.

Now he has a new essay at
(though I may have picked that up from someone on
SL4 or Extropians).

He too is (if I'm not messing up the terms) a
"negative utilitarian". Anyway, the notion is
described in the first few pages of his new essay
if not in the old.

It seems to me that there is only one way of deciding
the issue that I would be content with. Suppose that
N is a very negative experience, P is a very positive
experience, and A is an experience that I'm basically
indifferent to. Suppose I undergo N+P or P+N.
If I find that I prefer that to A+A, then I guess that
it doesn't make sense *to me* to be a "negative

Our big problem is that while it is very easy to cause
a human unbelievable agony, it is very hard to cause
one unbelievable exstacy (though Dave does a pretty
good job of trying). So perhaps the negative utilitarians
are letting their greater ability to imagine dire events
outweigh their (so far) limited ability to imagine absolutely
wonderful effects.

Now---as far as ethics *between* separate people,
and out of fairness no person ought to be permitted
to undergo vast suffering in order to benefit others,
I may agree. It's just to me a value judgment, however,
and although I despise some people's value systems,
the choice you suggest is very agreeable to me.


This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Wed Jul 17 2013 - 04:01:02 MDT