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For the record, Thom_Blake is thomblake.

I must ask - what is the purpose of 'overcoming bias' now that 'less wrong' is launched? Why post this here instead of there?

retired urologist,

There's a distinction to be made between altruism (ethical theory) and altruism (social science). The sense of altruism you use seems more to agree with the former. It seems like Eliezer prefers the latter. To summarize:

Altruism (ethical theory) is just like utilitarianism, except that good for oneself is entirely discounted.

Altruism (social sciences) is a 'selfless concern for others', in which one helps other people without conscious concern for one's personal interests (at least some of the time). It does not require that one abandon one's own interests in the pursuit of helping others all of the time.

Note that the latter is merely descriptive of behavior. Thus Eliezer can say "I behave altruistically" and "I am a utilitarian" (probably not direct quotes) simultaneously without pain of contradiction.

It's getting to the point where ethicists have to define 'ethical x' for all 'x' to distinguish it from its use in other fields.


I prefer this style. It's a much more interesting and entertaining read. It has a 'wisdom of the ancients' feel which, while obviously meant to be ironic, has (I think) a greater chance of being remembered in 1000 years.

I'm not sure about the judges example. There have been certain judges who've taken sides on high-profile issues (like abortion or gay marriage) and consequently their reputation turned to mud amongst those on the other side of the issue.

EY, but you are a moral realist (or at least a moral objectivist, which ought to refer to the same thing). There's a fact about what's right, just like there's a fact about what's prime or what's baby-eating. It's a fact about the universe, independent of what anyone has to say about it. If we were human' we'd be moral' realists talking about what's right'. ne?

Anonymous, that sound you hear is probably people rushing to subscribe. - note the comments.


Here there is an ambiguity between 'bias' and 'value' that is probably not going to go away. EY seems to think that bias should be eliminated but values should be kept. That might be most of the distinction between the two.


There is a tendency for some folks to distinguish between descriptive and normative statements, in the sense of 'one cannot derive an ought from an is' and whatnot. A lot of this comes from hearing about the "naturalistic fallacy" and believing this to mean that naturalism in ethics is dead. Naturalists in turn refer to this line of thinking as the "naturalistic fallacy fallacy", as the strong version of the naturalistic fallacy does not imply that naturalism in ethics is wrong.

As for the fallacy you mention, I disagree that it's a fallacy. It makes more sense to me to take "I value x" and "I act as though I value x" to be equivalent when one is being honest, and to take both of those as different from (an objective statement of) "x is good for me". This analysis of course only counts if one believes in akrasia - I'm really still on the fence on that one, though I lean heavily towards Aristotle.

Manon, thanks for pointing that out - I'd left that out of my analysis entirely. I too would like untranslatable 2. It doesn't change my answer though, as it turns out.

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