Benjamin Udell wrote:
Brent, list,

Your explication seems to turn on a pun.  "End" as something of value
doesn't imply a beginning.

To the contrary an end or goal or terminus generally entails a beginning.
A person interested in this subject from a theoretical viewpoint does
have to confront that. It may help to have some acquaintance with past
thought on the matter.

OK, I'll bite.  I sometimes consider having something to eat a value.  What
beginning does that entail?

Wondering whether to eat, how to go about it, whether it's worth it right
now, etc. Weighing and deciding. A mini-contest in one's head, or perhaps in
discussion or argument among a group about whether they shall eat now or
later. To the extent that this decision-making sets precedents, has
ramifications for the group's future decision-making, etc., it has political
significance. Deciding who or what gets to decide, by what steps to decide,
etc. This shows that the word "political" is less broad than the word
"economic" since it's easy to conceive of economic issues for a man alone on
a desert island. One can't do likewise with the word "political," or even the
phrase "political-or-martial," one has to speak more broadly about "power"
issues -- the man's control over things on the island, the man's
self-control, capacity to govern and pace himself and exert himself to
prepare for things, etc. There's no mot juste for all this.

Sure, people care about (value) all kinds of things; even the words
used to describe things - see recent debate over "theology" vs
"metaphysics" - some inherently, some instrumentally, and some mixed.
But I'm not sure I'd call those "powers" - I guess you mean something
like "motivations".

I mean like power, control, force, things that make things happen or not
happen, things that decide what happens. People want to decide and
determine things, not just be means to things or to be the ends,
Pygmalions or prey, of others.

OK, they value autonomy - I guess that's why some get so exercised over the
compatibilist view of "free will".

People value beginnings, means, ends, i.e, make general ends of all three.
Actually it would be better and less complicated conceptually if we take off
the "value" wrapping instead of straightway getting into multiple conceptual
layers. I mentioned people "wanting" to decide & determine things, just in
order to place it in a familiar context. I'm not talking about something
unfamiliar. There are all kinds of issues with power and freedom and
independence. Power over others, avoidance of being under others' power, etc.
Ruling, being ruled, ruling oneself. Well, there's ruling and then there's
governing. Anyway, the politics of everyday life, some of it mild and
minimizable, some of it not.

They care about their relationship, such as they believe it to be,
their relationship to the power of the universe itself.

The power of the universe itself"?  What would that be?  Are you going
all mystical on me?

I'm talking about religious people and people who at least have religious
tendencies. Religion is a common phenomenon with a lot of history to it.

These are sources, beginnings, leaderships, principles, (Greek)
_/arches/_. This is not mere instrumentality. Deciding and
determining is not a mere means, the decider employs means to ends.
The decider in that sense is the beginning, the leader.

Not if no one follows.

The leader of one's own process. As in, being in charge, in situations
where being in charge is not a given. This situation includes basic
aspects of one's life.

That seems to be a dualist position in which YOU are something apart from
your processes.  Or do you mean aspiring to power over others - which some
find very gratifying?

At this point I'm not talking about aspiring. I'm talking straightforwardly
about being in control, making decisions -- at least for oneself. Some want
more power than that. Some have more power than that and don't want it. Some
have all that and want still more. Parents reasonable want control over their
children. Most of us have had the opportunity to test our self-control,
resist destructive temptations in life, etc. There's nothing any more or less
"dualist" (I don't know what you're getting at) about self-governance than
about self-awareness or any other reflexive sort of thing. Making one's own
choices, being free to do that, having the backbone to do it, etc., these are
everyday issues.

I guess I've lost the thread of this discussion. You're saying people value/want self-control - but sometimes they don't. Sometimes they have self-control - but sometimes they don't. I gather that a non-trivial decision means one between choices that evoke negative emotions, i.e. no "good" choices.

I think you'd find the experiments of Libet and Grey Walter interesting. They are not definitive, but they both provide evidence that decisions are made in the brain before one becomes conscious of them.

_/Arches kai mesa/_, beginnings/leadings, and means. It's the
difference between (a) **will & character** and (b) **ability &
competence**. Aristotle wrote his ethical treatises about character
in a broader sense than exclusively that of morality, and character
in that broader sense is what it's about. It's a shame that Aristotle
didn't also write treatises about ability and competence,
_/hikanoteta/_. Now, a carpenter, for instance, is not simply a means
to carpentry, a means for carpented things to actualize themselves.

Has anyone every suggested such a thing?

You have commited yourself to that view in dividing everything into means
and ends ("instrumental value" and "inherent value"). Since you hold that
view, you must say that the carpenter's decision to do a job is a means
to that job or the end of that job.

No, that's not exactly my view.  As I said, things can have both
instrumental and inherent value.  So a carpenter might decide to do a job
because he needs the money and because he enjoys doing capentery.  I didn't
divide *everything* into "ends" and "means".  I noted that *values* can be
of two kinds or have two dimensions: instrumental and inherent.  Some
things aren't values at all - a decision is not usually a value for

I don't see the conceptual or discussional advantage of preferring to keep
framing means and ends as two instances of general ends -- values.

Perhaps it is because values can be negative, i.e. pain has a negative value for most and so it is never and end. However, it may be a means (pinch yourself to stay awake while driving).

Nevertheless, the idea that a decision is not usually also a value leads to
incoherence. If a decision is not worth making, then why make it?

I was distinguishing "a decision" from "making a decision", the latter implies an action which is presumably of value.

And if the
decision to make a door is of value in making the door, and that value is
neither the value of a means nor the value of an end, then what sort of value
is it?

OK, I take your point. It can be regarded as of instrumental value "in making" the door. For example if I offered the carpenter a good price for a door and that motivated him to decide to make the door, then his decision would be part of the chain that eventuates in my getting the door I wanted.

For me, it's first of all the value of a kind of beginning, a taking
up or taking on, an empowering of oneself to risk a test. From another
viewpoint, the given decision may be a means, and from another viewpoint, an
end, and from another viewpoint, a confirmation. If the confirmation was
sought, then the door-decision served as a confirmation which for its part
was a goal achieved.

Yet it is plain that the carpenter's decision is the carpenter's means
and it is plain that the job is not a means for the carpenter to decide
to do the job. This shows the inadequacy of means-ends as a dichotomy, a
division of a whole into two.

It is not plain to me that the carpenter's decision is the capenter's
means.  If his decision is make a doorway, then his means are a series of
actions.  Of course making a door is not a means to decide to make a door.
But what are the "means to decide"?  I'd say they are consideration of the
consequences of making a door and how they comport with the carpenter's

Sorry, that was my typo. A carpenter's decision is NOT the carpenter's means.
As for the rest, the carpenter's decision is not the end. If it were the end,
then his decision to make the door would be the end, the goal, accoomplished
by his making the door. The making of the door, and the made door itself, are
not means to deciding to make the door in the first place. The carpenter's
decision to make the door is, then, neither the means to the door, nor the
end of the door (nor the end of making the door). Yet it has a role qua
deciding in this means-end structure.

The carpenter tries and deliberates, pursues, chooses or accepts (or
rejects), and adheres to (or renounces) his/her underlying decisions
even to do the work at all, throughout the process. Is all this
volition a "means"?

No - I don't insist on *everything* being a means or an end.
Somethings are neither, e.g. "volition".  My view is that volition is a
feeling that the brain attaches to decisions to mark them as internal -
as opposed to, for example, perceptions which are external and not

I don't see the difference between human deciding and human volition. I don't
mean the words "volition" or "will" in such a strong psychological sense. To
will is just a more general term for to try, to seek, to decide or take, to
adhere, or the contraries of those (to reject, etc.). Human agency is
volition, humanly being affected is affectivity -- one's being affected by
some of those external decisions which you mention. Cognitive perception is
more a being or becoming supported than a being affected (e.g., wrenchingly).
I think that the means-end dichotomy is weakened if you have these other
relations constantly essentially _involved_ in it but they're just "other
stuff.".And I don't think you succeed in delimiting a realm of "value" that
can be divided into means and ends exhaustively,

You keep mischaracterizing my view. I don't insist on dividing values into means and ends. I see inherent and instrumental as two kinds of attributes a value can have. It can have them both at once; they are different but not contrary.

the same problem reappears
there. You have "instrumental" and "inherent" value -- mesic & telic -- and I
pointed out (in different words) that there are archic values that are
neither mes! ic per se nor telic per se. The Greek _arche_ does work better
than the English "beginning."

The problem is that will, deciding, etc., is always related to means and
ends. So what is it, in means-ends terms? Means and ends are middles and
ends, moyens et fins, medios y fines, mesa kai teloi, etc., etc. But the
willing, the deciding is not, qua the kind of "beginning" which it is, either
means or ends.

Above you argued that the carpenter's decision to build a door had instrumental value in building the door. So that would make it a means too.

You seem to be concerned to carve out a special category for human decisions, a "will" or "volition" that is not determined by anything merely mechanical or calculable. That would be inconsistent with Bruno's "comp" hypothesis.

Somebody else's means, perhaps; the market's means perhaps, and so
on. But it isn't the carpenter's means, it's the carpenter's leading,
deciding, etc. which, by means, tools, resources, s/he carries out.
This striving and deciding is most clearly seen as no mere means in
contexts where control is truly at stake.

I would suppose that a carpenter has pride of workmanship and so there
is inherent pleasure in doing his job well.  His choice of this tool or
that is partly instrumental relative to that pleasure.  But he also
does carpentry as a means to food, shelter, etc.

So what? You're confusing the decision-making with the goals and values
and feelings, as if, given a set of goals, the decisions were already
made, or get made automatically, and as if people's decision-making were
a trivial process.

I'm not sure what you mean by "trivial"?  How do you know they aren't?  Are
you aware of the experiments of Libet and Grey Walter.

No. I am extremely doubtful that some "experiments" are about to overthrow
all the trouble that people take over decision-making in everyday life, in
various disciplines, in various communities, in various practices and
employments, and especially in various arenas -- in debate, in sports &
fashion, in business & finance, and especially in politics and in war and

I don't know what "overthrow" could mean in this context. But experiments may show that people don't make decisions the way they think they do.

The making of decisions, and the making decisions stick, is a very
big part of life. We have police forces and justice systems for it, for
instance. Sometimes people overemphasize process, but some respect for
decision-making processes is essential in a free society.

A free society generally refers to one in which individuals get to make decisions for themselves - with as little help as possible from police forces and judges.

You might as well ask how I know that all thought processes represented on
the everything-list aren't trivial.

I'm not asking you how you know (though I may get around to that). What I asked is what you mean by "trivial" or "non-trivial". My current guess is you just mean difficult in some sense, either because it is hard to forsee consequences or because all choices seem to be bad ones.

The selective employment of hyperbolic
Cartesian doubt is not constructive.

But goals and values and feelings sometimes conflict, in multifarious
ways. Sometimes there is no clear answer and one has to decide anyway.

So what?  It is usually uncertain what all the consequences of an action
may be.   Also people often have values that are not transitive, i.e. they
prefer A to B

and B to C and C to A; particularly when A, B, and C may be in different
mental categories.

This makes no sense. You're arguing that decision-making is still trivial

I didn't argue that anything was "trivial" because I don't know what you mean 
by it.

even when decision-making is difficult and when the outcome is not absolutely

You mean not absolutely predictable by a 3rd party?

Is this supposed to be true in an individual, or among individuals
in groups, or both?

It is certainly true in groups, c.f. Arrow's theorem. Although economists often assume that individuals have completely transitive value sets, experiments tend to show they don't.

If we care about what kind of society we live in, I don't
think that we can regard decision-making, either in an individual, or among
individuals, as trivial. And also you say that sometimes preferences are
clear and somehow the occurrence of such cases is "good enough" -- for what?
Is that supposed to be trivial or nontrivial decision-making? I'm not sure of
your point there.

Me neither. I don't recall writing those things. I think maybe we are in violent agreement ;-)

In the carpenter's sawing, hammering, etc., the exercise of skills
and abilities, control is not really at stake. But in the carpenter's
will and decision-making, control of the situation among various
factors in the carpenter is at stake.

I think I understand the words, but the sentence leaves me blank.

The carpenter may be of more than one mind on what to do. I don't mean
that the carpenter has a multiple personality. I mean that the carpenter
may be of more than one mind in just the sense that "more than one mind"
is commnly used. Some element in the carpenter's mind will have to gain
the upper hand. This will embody certain interests and efforts rather
than others by the carpenter in his/her life. Or maybe the carpenter will
solve diverse problems together with creative solution.

But whatever choice he makes it is his choice - his control wasn't at

Control within him was at stake. What are the controlling choices which he
makes in life, the controlling repeated choices and habits? I'm not switching
to psychology, but this is elementary psychology.

That goes with a modular theory of mind - which I find worth entertaining.

And in every case you can
also consider situations involving individuals in a group, and in various and
overlapping groups.

Now, one is free to devise an epicycle-filled "anthropo-nomy" in
order to describe intelligent beings while classing volition and
decision-making as mere means, but it's not particularly useful.>

It's the basis of a whole branch of mathematics called decision theory,
a branch which is widely *used*.

They can use it all they like, that won't stop the terminology from being
inferior. Since we're talking about mathematicians, in whom eloquence is
rarer than speech in goldfish, my safe guess is that they're just using
words like "means" or "instrumentality" in sub-optimal ways. Economists
talk about the inherent value which people ascribe to things but they
call it "utility value." Unfortunately I can't recommend contemporary
lit. depts. as any sort of remedy.

I'd recommend contemporary lit depts as sources of disease. :-)

Well, we're in agreement there.  I wonder why back when there used to be a
"literary scene" in the USA, lit professors didn't find it strange that their
depts., even the most prominent of them, had no relationship to it. On the
other hand, at least in the old days lit professors very often did take some
interest in literature. Anyway, I'm out of the lit loop these days.

Anyway, I see no reason to take such terminologies seriously -- it's
useless and counterproductive when the purpose is understanding.

One way of understanding the mind is to create an artificial one.  People
who do that find the terminology useful.  See for example John McCarthy's
writings on robots and self-awareness.

Okay, seriously, I don't know anything about the terminology of mathematical
decision theory. If I saw it, I might find it quite reasonable. The idea that
they call decisions "means" bothers me, if that's what they do. I know how
they'd take such objections -- they'd ask, how would meeting such objections
improve decision theory? Well, I wouldn't know specifically.

They'd call decisions about whether to make a decision "2nd order decisions" - not "means".

Another way to see this is by a set of examples comprising an
exhaustive set of a certain kind of combinations of the two.

What two - you seem to introduce a lot more than two things below?

1. Choice and decision-making. 2. Means, methods, practices. Then I
combine those two things in four ways.

Oh, OK.  So choice about means is economics - but isn't it also

The soundbyte characterization of economic activity as choice in regard to
means is from the Austrian School of economics. I would characterize
engineering as a discipline, a cultivated kind of know-how. Knowledge in
regard to means. Again, a soundbyte characterization. I don't mean I read
book and become an engineer. If you set such practical/productive disciplines
concerned with means, as engineering, set them alongside decision-making
about means, the differences will stand out better and the reasons for such
choices of characterization will appear more clearly. Business is
competitive, businesspeople make decisions, decisions about reforming a
company are also business decisions, and in competition things get decided
beyond the power of individual businesspeople. It's a larger decision-making
process, rife with unintended consequences. Conflict, competition, decidings.
That's what it is. And it's in regard to means, resources, etc. Sure, one can
pursue a discipline of business, but that's a discipline _about_ business and
applied in business. Nobody calls business, itself, "know-how." One im! mediately associates "know-how" to things like engineering. Business, in the
general sense, is more like "decide-how," though it's true that nobody would
call it that, I think because somehow that "how" doesn't clearly evoke means
in the full-fledged instrumental sense.

Art has been characterized as essentially a process of selection, or
selective composition, by Wordsworth for instance. But I would characterize
it as a _discipline_, a cultivated kind of knowing or understanding in what
effects one feels things (affectively). This combination of cognition &
affectivity in its basics has, I think, something to do with why beauty (or
whatever one wants to call it, the aesthetic value) is not necessarily
hedonistic and seldom has been hedonistic. Artistic beauty is a spectator
kind of thing, the spectator may feel moved and infused with complex precise
feelings, but remains usually a spectator, though some playwrights in
particular have tried to change that. Anyway, the works are embodiments of
such understandings. Not a systematic, scientific knowledge or understanding.
Such would be affective psychology. Psychology or any discipline of knowledge
or research is a cultivated kind of learning or knowing in or on what light
or basis one learns o! r knows things.

And don't generals choose the means the means to attack or defend?  I guess
"with regard to" seems very vague to me.

They are some very general characterizations. I think such characterizations
have more value if done systematically, such that, for instance, the linking
"with regard to" varies systematically when made more specific. That's just
too complicated for this discussion.

A means which is a way of contesting or fighting to retain control, where
control is significantly at stake, is not just a workaday means, it's a
weapon, an enforcer, a decider, your decider against others. Arms, defensive
& offensive, armadas, ammunition, etc. Then think of all those things which
in nonviolent conflicts we call weapons and defenses -- not literal swords
and shields yet serving parallel functions. Again, the overall context is
important -- is it a context of struggle to gain or keep control, or is it
cooperative or at least tolerant, with forces safely under control? It's the
difference between fighting, and work or chores.

Now, any added thing which enhances is apt to be called a means. Icing on the
cake is kind of means or way to enhanced pleasure. Really it's an enhancement
of the end, not a tool or resource toward an end. But still, it's one of
those added things. The sword isn't you (though you're supposed to wield it
as an extension of yourself), it isn't your goal or your opponent or your
victory, it's in between and amid those things, so it's natural to see it as
a kind of middle. But its role is really not that of mediating and
facilitating, instead it's your will, or your general's will, in steel,
clashing for control, whereby you empower yourself or your general, or are

Or maybe a lot of categories we've invented for the work.

Politics & martial affairs; business; management & compliance; skills of
labor & cooperation -- "invented categories"? That's not a serious

Why not?  I could also categorize the same actions as communication,
calculation, and physical labor?  All categories are invented.  My point
was that simply classifying something according to a lot attributes doesn't
make that something any bigger (or smaller).

Which of those activities could possibly be categorized as "calculation"?
That's the most surprising thing that you've said.

Management is the allocation of resources, which often involves calculation.

If categories are all
"invented," arbitrary, then there's no point in their whimsicality.

Invented isn't the same as arbitrary.

the point of those four was to bring into clearer relief the destinctions
between deciding and performance, character & competence, etc, by pondering
what each of the four actually involve. One of them could be classed as
calculation? That's a stretch right out of sight.

I'm always suspicious of schemes with "Levels".  Sometimes the schemer
invents the levels to put his opinions at the highest (and implicity,
the best) level.

I was talking about Tegmark's Levels and correlations thereto, as I
mentioned that I thought I should try to bring the discussion "back to
the Everything," I'm not aware of high-low valuations among those Levels.


Another piece of agreed clarity. But I don't know how much longer we can get
away with this off-topicality.

Ben Udell

No problem. You talked about Tegmark's levels. I got us back on topic by pointing out that your theory of mind is inconsistent with Bruno's "comp" - if I understand them correctly.

Brent Meeker
"Freedom lies in the recognition of necessity."
      --- Baruch Spinoza

Reply via email to