(I'm new here and don't have enough karma to create a thread, so I am posting this question here. Apologies in advance if this is inappropriate.)

Here is a topic I haven’t seen discussed on this forum: the philosophy of “Cosmicism”. If you’re not familiar with it check Wikipedia, but the quick summary is that it’s the philosophy invented by H. P. Lovecraft which posits that humanity’s values have no cosmic significance or absolute validity in our vast cosmos; to some alien species we might encounter or AI we might build, our values would be as meaningless... (read more)

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It's perhaps worthwhile pointing out that even as there is nothing to compel you to accept notions such as "cosmic significance" or "only egotism exists", by symmetry, there is also nothing to compel you to reject those notions (except for your actual values of course). So it really comes down to your values. For most humans, the concerns you have expressed are probably confusions, as we pretty much share the same values, and we also share the same cognitive flaws which let us elevate what should be mundane facts about the universe to s... (read more)

19Nisan9ycousin_it and Vladimir_Nesov's replies are good answers; at the risk of being redundant, I'll take this point by point. The above is factually correct. The phrases "cosmic significance" and "absolute validity" are confused notions. They don't actually refer to anything in the world. For more on this kind of thing you will want to read the Reductionism Sequence [http://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/Reductionism_%28sequence%29]. Our efforts would be "ultimately futile" if we were doomed to never achieve our goals, to never satisfy any of our values. If the only things we valued were things like "living for an infinite amount of time", then yes, the heat death of the universe would make all our efforts futile. But if we value things that only require finite resources, like "getting a good night's sleep tonight", then no, our efforts are not a priori futile. Egotism is an idea, not a thing, so it's meaningless to say that it exists or doesn't exist. You could say "Only egoists exist", but that would be false. You could also say "In the limit of perfect information and perfect rationality, all humans would be egoists", and I believe that's also false. Certainly nothing you've said implies that it's true. The Metaethics Sequence [http://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/Metaethics_sequence] directly addresses and dissolves the idea that everything seems to be meaningless because there is no objective, universally compelling morality. But the Reductionism Sequence should be read first.
2Vladimir_Nesov9yRead the sequences and you'll probably learn to not make the epistemic errors that generate this position, in which case I expect you'll change your mind. I believe it's a bad idea to argue about ideologies on object level, they tend to have too many anti-epistemic defenses to make it efficient or even productive, rather one should learn a load of good thinking skills that would add up to eventually fixing the problem. (On the other hand, the metaethics sequence, which is more directly relevant to your problem, is relatively hard to understand, so success is not guaranteed, and you can benefit from a targeted argument at that point.)

Open Thread, April 2011

by ata 1 min read2nd Apr 2011111 comments


It seems we have agreed that open threads will continue but that they will go in the Discussion section, so here's this month's thread.