Humanity has developed many rich and powerful tools for thinking about “facts”. Our estimates of facts are rich and deeply connected, allowing us to learn much about each fact from all the others. Furthermore, we have many kinds of specialists who deal with particular kinds of facts.
Love the blog but found this one very unclear. Like other readers apparently, I can't figure out whether your 'values are facts' claim is just confusing *values themselves* or *value-facts themselves* (facts about what is really valuable, if there are such facts) with the facts about which values people have (and all sensible views should allow that there are such facts).
I think one source of unclarity here is the use of the short phrase 'values' in several different ways: for the things valued, for the putative facts that those things are valuable, and for the facts about what people value.
- perspicuous representation dog
Curiously, none of the things described as "facts" here are features of the physical world in itself, which is entirely (to the best of species knowledge) comprised of stochastic fields. All of the facts above are the product of subjective self-interpretation by organisms.
I accept 2).
You asked "why I should care about *any* of it." Never mind why you should care for a moment; let's first establish that you do in fact care about some of it. People care about things. If a person didn't care about anything, not even their own well-being, they wouldn't do anything. But people do things. You do things. It follows that you care about things.
Now, there is at least one sense in which we can say you should care about something. If as a premise you initially care about X, and Y is instrumental to achieving X, then you should care about Y. This use of "should" can be interpreted in the sense of having internal consistency in your value structure.
But should you care about the base value, X? There may be some values that you unavoidably care about, as part of your nature, and X may be one of these. So we don't have to ask if you should care about X. You just do.
Talking about "objective" values is a red herring. There are values you would hold if you thought things through as fully as possible, and whether these are "objective" or not doesn't matter to you. All that matters is that they are convincing to you on reasoned, justified reflection. And you don't know what they are; that remains to be discovered, since you have not (no one has) thought things through "as fully as possible."
For the things you are calling "true real values", it seems like either:1) they do not ultimately bottom out in facts no matter how far I look. E.g. if I pressed you on why A is "truly" better than B, you might answer because it avoids C which is bad, and in turn C is bad because D is good, etc. Which might all be fully internally consistent, but also leads me to wonder why I should care about *any* of it, any more than if you told me that A is blorgier than B because it avoids C which is glanthinisg, which of course follows from D being osifghjoweksfhsdlkfn.2) it ultimately bottoms out in facts. E.g. maybe A is "truly" better because it makes people happier (a fact about people's thoughts), or because there is a consensus it is better (a fact about people's meta-thoughts), or because there *would* be a consensus it is better if we had time to think about it more (a fact about people's meta-thoughts in a counterfactual), etc.
Thst's a different matter than studying and treating values as similar to facts.
But I would say that the sets of values that survive and prosper are the most "right" ones. These likely would adjust over time in an ongoing process of ever improving performance - evolution.
I doubt there is a single set of forever optimum values, but there are definitely bad sets of values and better sets. People can make good use of facts about values and it can help them see which sets work and which don't and this will change people's values most likely for the better on average.
"n principle it should be possible to say things like communities or individual that value A higher than B don't last long, or score well on satisfaction surveys, or have lower rates of suicide, or whatever."
And how do you tell which of these metrics, or some other, is the objectively right one we should use to score communities?
It seems like a special case of the "objective/subjective" divide. Facts are objective. Values are one of the things that is subjective. IMO, it would not too helpful to categorize the subjective as objective. It seems a bit too much like arguing with the dictionary.
By study of history and where possible experiment. The same as any social sciences. In principle it should be possible to say things like communities or individual that value A higher than B don't last long, or score well on satisfaction surveys, or have lower rates of suicide, or whatever. The body of available facts can then inform theories of values.
There may be some fundamental aspects to values similar to the constants of physics like the speed of light that are for practical purposes best treated as givens, but they would need to be identified via careful study and much effort. We shouldn't just say anything we don't fully understand yet falls into that category.
We have no convincing answers to these questions yet. But certainly people who have studied the subject academically tend to have have different opinions than those who have not studied it. Who knows what endless thought on the subject might reveal?
*Joe’s values* include such facts as that Joe prefers A to B. But there are also *values simpliciter*, such as the fact that A (really) *is* better than B. The latter are the “true real values” that you—wrongly—dismiss as “mysterious” and (supposedly) “sacred.”
For example- What is the function over all conscious utility we should maximize? Sum? Average? Median? Min? Some percentile?- How should we weight self/family/social group/nation/race/species over others?- How should we weight occurrences over time?
I suspect most won't even agree on these questions, much less the answers ...
What are your "core" values that aren't instrumental to other values? I don't know if anyone has thought through all of their values sufficiently. It might be that if they did, they would agree on the core values. Perhaps something like the Aumann Agreement Theorem applies. (Though I don't think the Aumann Agreement Theorem itself is broad enough to apply.)
Yes; you are right - all of these are possible.But once we're done with the things people hadn't thought through sufficiently, we arrive at their core values, and there everybody's equally right in the objective sense. This is unlike other facts.
We can look at the reasons you have for holding your value, and the reasons I have for holding my value. It may be that some of these reasons don't hold up under scrutiny.
One example: if one person holds a value just because their parents taught them as a child to hold that value - without any other reasoning or evidence behind it - then both people, if they are reasonable, might agree that this is not a good reason to hold that value.
A second example: often a person develops a value because they think it will help them achieve some other, higher value. For instance, they might favor a certain style of government on the basis that any other style of government would make the country collapse. But are they right about the supposed consequences? That's a factual question.
A third example: if one of us holds a value that contradicts other values held by that same person, then that person would be motivated to alter their values to resolve the contradiction.
A fourth example: if one of us has life experience the other does not, which led them to form some values, then if that person could communicate the experience fully to the other person, the other person may be inclined to adopt the first person's values on that subject. I am thinking here of experiences with war, poverty, disease, or disability, which can change a person's perspective on those things.
Yes, that I have a certain value and you another are facts, but unlike other facts there's no way to reconcile them and decide which one is true if they conflict.