Simfish/InquilineKea's Thoughts


Ideal discernment with perfect knowledge
March 30, 2008, 9:56 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Is of course never attained.

If you had perfect knowledge of your beliefs, then artificial constraints are useless. Artificial constraints include retirement accounts that don’t accumulate interest and the prevention of student access to full solution manuals and teaching materials.

It is probably true that a subset of students will learn better if they had access to both teaching materials and full solution manuals. In fact, access to full solution manuals is the basis behind a lot of self-study programs (and it’s quite possibly true that a number of students with access to them do learn better with them than without them). But policies are directed towards the vast majority of students and the variability of the behavior of them during the periods they’re most likely to pursue the subject of interest. It is obvious that a person’s impulse control varies throughout the day and that a person at consistently peak impulse control is probably able to discern between what’s best for himself and what isn’t best for himself given perfect knowledge of what he finds perfectly appropriate and what he doesn’t find perfectly appropriate. But consistently perfect impulse control is rare and so people, even with perfect knowledge of the long-term benefit functions of their various actions, are oftentimes physically unable to select what’s best for them at all times.

(there is a difference between the keywords “select” and “discern”.) “select” in this context implies perfect knowledge with failures of impulse control. “discern” in this context implies imperfect knowledge.

So for example, most people realize that they have to save for retirement. They intellectually are able to discern between desirable long-term savings behavior and undesirable long-term savings behavior. Yet they cannot always select what’s best for them due to failures of impulse control and so artificial policies are sometimes needed in the context of perfect knowledge.

(but here what is perfect knowledge? Perfect knowledge at every give time implies that one pursues the action most conducive to one’s own sustainable welfare). But we can at least say that people can have perfect knowledge at peak moments of impulse control but imperfect knowledge when their impulse control fails (as in, “I think I’ll be happiest for the long-run if I just buy this one more thing/I’ll look at this solution to this one problem” during a impulse control failure.)

word count: 389

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