The closest point I've found to my metaethics in standard philosophy was called "moral functionalism" or "analytical descriptivism".

Cognitivism: Yes, moral propositions have truth-value, but not all people are talking about the same facts when they use words like "should", thus creating the illusion of disagreement.

Motivation: You're constructed so that you find some particular set of logical facts and physical facts impel you to action, and these facts are what you are talking about when you are talking about morality: for ... (read more)

Yes, moral propositions have truth-value...

But are those truth-values intersubjectively recognizable?

The average person believes morality to be about imperative terminal goals. You ought to want that which is objectively right and good. But there does exist no terminal goal that is objectively desirable. You can assign infinite utility to any action and thereby outweigh any consequences. What is objectively verifiable is how to maximize the efficiency in reaching a discrete terminal goal.

7lukeprog9yEliezer, Thanks for your reply! Hopefully you'll have time to answer a few questions... 1. Can anything besides Gary's preferences provide a justification for saying that "Gary should_gary X"? (My own answer would be "No.") 2. By saying "Gary should_gary X", do you mean that "Gary would X if Gary was fully informed and had reached a state of reflective equilibrium with regard to terminal values, moral arguments, and what Gary considers to be a moral argument"? (This makes should-statements "subjectively objective" even if they are computationally intractable, and seems to capture what you're saying in the paragraph here [] that begins "But the key notion is the idea that...") 3. Or, perhaps you are saying that one cannot give a concise definition of "should," as Larry D'Anna interprets [] you to be saying?
3Vladimir_Nesov9yWhy consider physical facts separately? Can't they be thought of as logical facts, in the context of agent's epistemology? (You'll have lots of logical uncertainty about them, and even normative structures will look more like models of uncertainty, but still.) Is it just a matter of useful heuristic separation of the different kinds of data? (Expect not, in your theory, in some sense.)

What is Eliezer Yudkowsky's meta-ethical theory?

by lukeprog 1 min read29th Jan 2011375 comments


In You Provably Can't Trust Yourself, Eliezer tried to figured out why his audience didn't understand his meta-ethics sequence even after they had followed him through philosophy of language and quantum physics. Meta-ethics is my specialty, and I can't figure out what Eliezer's meta-ethical position is. And at least at this point, professionals like Robin Hanson and Toby Ord couldn't figure it out, either.

Part of the problem is that because Eliezer has gotten little value from professional philosophy, he writes about morality in a highly idiosyncratic way, using terms that would require reading hundreds of posts to understand. I might understand Eliezer's meta-ethics better if he would just cough up his positions on standard meta-ethical debates like cognitivism, motivation, the sources of normativity, moral epistemology, and so on. Nick Beckstead recently told me he thinks Eliezer's meta-ethical views are similar to those of Michael Smith, but I'm not seeing it.

If you think you can help me (and others) understand Eliezer's meta-ethical theory, please leave a comment!

Update: This comment by Richard Chappell made sense of Eliezer's meta-ethics for me.