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No, it doesn't. I understand your analogy (parts vs the whole), but I do not understand how it relates to my point. I am sorry.

Is pleasure the proton in the analogy? Is the atom what we want? I don't follow here.

You are also making the argument that we want things that don't cause pleasure. Shouldn't this be, in your analogy, an atom without a proton? In that case yes, you need to find an atom without a proton before I will believe there is an atom without a proton. (This same argument works if pleasure is any of the other atomic properties. Charge, mass, etc).

Or is pleasure the atom? If that is the case, then I can't see where you argument is going. If pleasure is the atom, then your analogy supports my argument.

I am not trying to make a straw man, I genuinely don't see the connections.


Your argument isn't making any sense. Whether they are valued because they cause pleasure, or cause pleasure because they are valued makes no difference.

Either way, they cause pleasure. Your argument is that we value them even though they don't cause pleasure. You are trying to say there is something other than pleasure, yet you concede that all of your examples cause pleasure.

For your argument to work, we need to seek something that does not cause pleasure. I asked you to name a few, and you named "Knowledge, memory, and understanding. Personal and collective achievement. Honour. Other people's pleasure."

Then in your next post, you say " they cause pleasure because they're valued."

That is exactly my point. There is nothing we seek that we don't expect to derive pleasure from.

I don't think your tests validate your position. The thought of leaving their belongings to others will cause pleasure. Many expect that pleasure to be deeper or more meaningful that prostitutes, and would therefore agree with your test while still holding to my position that people will seek the greatest expect pleasure.

I would place the standard of a Matrix-quality reality machine to accept lukeprogs offer. An orgasmium would not suffice, as I expect it to fail to live up to its promise. Wireheading would not work.

Double Edit to add a piece then fix the order it got put in.

Edit Again- Apologies, I confused this response with one below. Edited to remove confusion.


All of your other examples are pleasure causing. Don't you notice that?

Again, getting my brain rewired is not in the original question. I would decline getting my brain rewired; that seems like carte blanche for a lot of things that I cannot predict. I would decline.

Survival of the community and children, knowledge, and understanding all bring me pleasure. I think if those things caused me pain, I would fight them. In fact, I think I have good evidence for this.

When cultures have a painful response to the survival of OTHER cultures, they go to war. When people see pain for "enemies" they do not sympathize. When it is something you self-identify with, your own culture, only then does it cause pleasure.

Those things you cite are valued because they cause pleasure. I don't see any evidence that when those things cause pain, that they are still pursued.

@CuSithBell: I agree.

--Sorry, I don't know how to get the quote blocks, or I would respond more directly.


If this is indeed Luke's intended offer, than I believe it to be a lie. Without the ability to introduced varied pleasure, an Orgasmium would fail to deliver on its promise of "maximal pleasure."

For the offer to be true, it would need to be a Personal Matrix.


You are using a quite twisted definition of pleasure to make your argument. For most of us, the end of mankind causes great displeasure. This should factor into your equation. Its also not part of Luke's original offer. If you gave me that option I would not take it, because it would be a lie that I would receive pleasure from the end of mankind.

Killing a man's children has the same problem. Why to argue against me to you have to bring murder or death into the picture? Luke's original question has no such downsides, and introducing them changes the equation. Stop moving the goalposts.

Luke's article clearly separates want from pleasure, but you seem attached to "wanting." You think you want more than pleasure, but what else is there?

I believe if you consider any answer you might give to that question, the reason will be because those things cause pleasure (including the thought "mankind will survive and progress"). I am interested in your answers nonetheless.


This machine, if it were to give you maximal pleasure, should be able to make you feel as if you are not alone.

The only way I can see this machine actually making good on its promise is to be a Matrix-quality reality engine, but with you in the king seat.

I would take it.


I feel like I am missing something. You separated pleasure from wanting.

I don't see how this backs up your point though. Unless the machine offered is a desire-fulfilling machine and not a pleasure machine.

If it is a pleasure machine, giving pleasure regardless of the state of wanting, why would we turn it down? You said we usually want more than just pleasure, because getting what we want doesn't always give us pleasure. If wanting and pleasure are different, then of course this makes sense.

But saying we want more than pleasure? That doesn't make sense. You seem to be confusing the two terms your article sets out to separate. We want pleasure, we are just not always sure how to get it. We know we have desires, so why try to fill them, and that doesn't always work. But remember, pleasure and wanting are separate.

If a machine knew what would give us pleasure, and gave us pleasure instead of what we "wanted," then we would always be getting pleasure. Even when we don't get what we want.

Unless your machine doesn't work as advertised, of course.


Hi LW,

I joined this site not too long ago, but I missed this page and its request for an introduction. Better late than never, I guess.

I am 24, a Jr. Software Developer, and I live in Portland, OR. I was raised in a Baptist family, and left the Church during my junior year in high school over their stance on the Oregon Gay marriage bill. Once outside of the daily Sunday indoctrination, it took only a few short weeks to reason my way to atheism. I only wish I could have seen the truth sooner. I spent the next year or so on forums gaining a real variety of philosophical knowledge, and engaging in as many debates as I could. This made me stupid; I learned how to tear apart many arguments, and defend my own, skillfully.

I started reading Less Wrong at work, during down time, and it quickly devoured several weeks. I have always been drawn to science and rationality (though I used to have another name for it) and have found this community to be a fantastic resource. I have learned how to say oops, and to update quickly. I have learned how to see bias in my own thinking. I have started to learn (though still fail to grasp intuitively) Bayesian probability. This community has had a significant impact on me.

PS: How do you pronounce Eliezer?

Edit: Spelling


Your later posts do a better job of describing your position here. I don't think we disagree.


Only insofar as the definition of physical is limited to things you can find in books. I wholly reject such a definition.

@ Orthonormal. The conclusion seems to me to come very naturally from the thought experiment, if you allow for its assumptions. But that is what I think is silly, its assumptions. The thought experiment tries to define "all knowledge" in two different and contradictory ways.

If Mary has all knowledge, then there is nothing left for her to learn about red. If upon seeing red she learns something new, then she did not have all knowledge prior to seeing red.

It is their definition of knowledge, which is inconsistent, that leads to the entire thought experiment being silly.

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