Pragmatic Morality

Far too often it seems that our actions done in order to please another only increase their distaste for us, whilst those done in an attempt to distance oneself from another only further increase their attraction.

Why do we pursue what runs, and shrink away from what reaches out?

Because we unconsciously assume that what needs us must be somehow lacking, and what evades us must necessarily possess something we lack.

Or perhaps it’s derived from our ancient instinct to chase whatever runs and run from whatever chases. Such is the plight of an intelligent omnivore.

Such is the plight of an intelligent omnivore.

But to fully conscious, self-aware creatures, are millions of years of evolutionary selection really any excuse for cruelty?

As usual, the real question is not in how the problem arises, but rather in how the problem is solved.

By default, we solve this problem in one of two ways:

By treating everyone like an undesirable, or by acting as though everyone has something to offer us.

The latter, though morally appealing, is not a sustainable strategy. Many people you encounter will threaten you and through various means and for countless reasons attempt to make your life worse.

The solution is in a reciprocal morality; by offering others the exact amount of respect and compassion that they offer us, we can avoid being taken advantage of whilst also helping those who are deserving of help.

But for those people who are truly evil, how do we avoid stooping to their level?

I suppose that is the most basic question in regards to a pragmatic morality.

How low are you willing to follow the people around you?

If you encounter someone who betrays, does that give you license to act in kind?

That lower limit is incredibly difficult to determine, and it becomes more difficult the eviler the enemy.

World War II essentially drove all the opposing world powers to act as though there was no lower limit, that all acts of evil were made acceptable by the actions of the opposing side.

What is your lowest limit of acceptable conduct?

Where does self-defense begin and end?

Is it better to behave as though everyone around you was evil, whilst assuming they’re inherently good, or behave as though they’re good whilst assuming they’re inherently evil?

And perhaps the most important question of all:

From whom and by what process have you determined the answers to these questions?

Few possess clear and conscious answers to these questions, but to act in the world we obviously must have some pragmatic morality.

Watch your behavior, and the unconscious system will reveal itself.

I’ve never met a person whose system wasn’t in need of some reform.

Why the Body Matters

We often operate under the false impression that we are and identity floating around in a brain, that is then housed within a body. Not only is this a rather medieval, pre-Darwinian mental model of experience, it is scientifically incorrect.

The human brain is merely the densest bundle of nerve fibers within a massive system that runs throughout the entire body. To believe that the brain is a totally dominant controller of the nervous system is equivalent to believing the largest tree in a forest controls that forest. Such a belief would lead one to a bizarre, pathological interpretation of all the phenomena within the forest. And if the forest began to operate under that model, it would become a rigid, barren place indeed.

No one part of a complex system such as a forest or our bodies can be said to have complete control or “intelligence” rather intelligence is that which arises from the simultaneous operation of millions of different systems nested within. The You being experienced now is an emergent entity, that though primarily manifested through the brain, originates in the organs, muscles, and diffuse nerve fibers throughout.

No wonder one gets a strange feeling when an otherwise brilliant person is out of shape and unhealthy. It is a strange contradiction to value the rational mind and personal expression over those components that make such abstract entities operational.

Consider yourself an anthill, not an identity floating in a meat suit.

Those many things that make up your moment to moment experience, though their function is not consciously noticeable are more important that what you can immediately identify as “me”.

The Utility of Gratitude

Anger and fear, in their many manifestations, are the greatest source of error and bias in the human mind.

In so far as we can free ourselves from the tyranny of these emotions, we can improve our processing of stimuli. Fear and anger must be faced head on, and they can not be compromised with. They cannot be appeased or reasoned with. And though they may be channeled into productivity, what they produce seldom leads to fulfillment or happiness. In the same sense, a farmer may use chemicals to produce a single year of excellent growth, but in the process destroy the field for future generations.

There is one emotion that fear and anger can not survive in the presence of.

If you can conjure up this emotion at will, you will no longer be ruled by anger or fear. This emotional panacea is gratitude. It is perhaps the least experienced emotion of all. Rarely do we feel grateful when we receive something. Instead, we move from bliss to boredom, quickly establishing any improvement in our lives as the new standard, and not taking any time to experience the joy of receiving. 

In this department, organized religion has tremendous value. It personifies the chaotic behavior of the Universe, providing us with the concept of an actual entity that we can thank, or blame, for everything that happens to us.

The concept of God gives us someone to be grateful towards, which is necessary if we are to feel gratitude. Thus it is necessary to believe in a “God” is we are to have an optimal relationship with the Universe. This does not require literally believing in an omnipotent entity that behaves outside the laws of the universe.

The scientific definition of God as the collective behavior of the laws of the Universe is adequate, as long as emotionally we view the Universe a benevolent entity, that acts in a way that if beneficial to itself as a whole.

We must view the Universe as something worth thanking, talking to, and feeling emotions toward. If you are not comfortable praying, your belief system must be adjusted. If you believe on an emotional level, that the Universe is random, and not benevolent, you will not be able to feel truly grateful.

Is Sex a Metric?

What are the simplest forms of the foundational philosophical questions?

Perhaps as basic as this:

Why Existence?

Why Life?

How should we act?

But in our daily lives as living, breathing, thinking, shitting individuals, perhaps it’s best to start at the level of past actions and work backward.

“How much of what you do is to get laid?” Often renders fruitful answers, because it is through the primal drives that we act out our most fundamental beliefs and in so far as those actions succeed or fail, we can measure the practical utility of our beliefs, or else the metrics by which we measure success and failure.

It’s incredible the optimism the average nihilist displays when on the prowl for sex.

I think we hate to acknowledge our own sexuality even in the same sentence as our philosophic beliefs.

Or rather, we hate to acknowledge our failures in that realm. So long as we are fruitful and attractive manifestations of our cultural ideals, sex can be discussed as a fine and worthy topic.

Why is that?

Likely it is because our rate of success in achieving the lifestyle we want, whether sexual or otherwise, is one of the few objective measures of our own ability to function in the Universe we are presented with.

What an embarrassment for a man or women who can understand Quantum Mechanics or Neurobiology to fail at the most basic level of communication with others.

No one in a lecture hall, or even in a spirited online discussion wants to reconcile with the fact that, scholar or saint, genius or prodigy, most people might as well be 13-year-olds at the middle school dance when it comes to complex interpersonal problems.

The very fact of our embarrassment reveals the stem of the problem. Our ancestors were too embarrassed to set down detailed guidelines for behavior, just as our parents were too embarrassed to teach us the first thing about sexuality, just as we will likely do the same to our children.

The only direction seems to come from the raised hammer of organized religion that loathes the freely sexual, perhaps above all else. Or, from strange websites on the internet.

4,000 years of civilization, and that is the best we have?

Embarrassing.

 

Truth is Order

Truth is the only stable organizational principle.

It is the equivalent of “nature” in the realm of ideas, in so far as “nature” can be defined as what selects for survival and reproduction of biological entities.

The truth is what can be arrived at by differed peoples across time and space, and that does not change according to the beliefs of the preceptor.

“But matter itself is directly affected by measurement at the quantum level!”

Indeed, but isn’t that statement itself an expression of conclusions based on repeatable, measurable phenomena? Isn’t our understanding of quantum mechanics still contingent on Truth, even if only as a measure of contrast?

We are disinclined to place importance on objective truth to the exact degree that such a value system would erode our current mode of existence.

The Truth is destructive of all that does not adhere to it. Perhaps a healthy fear of tyranny is what averts our eyes from those facts and phenomena that would cause us pain and direct us to change.

So often, our relationship to the world is rendered toxic by a pathological definition of truth:

That Truth is whatever our individual mind possesses.

Such a definition is so flimsy that it either makes our behavior disorganized and chaotic or else our identities so rigid that we stagnate because any change would imply our previous presumption of the Truth was completely false, and thus contradict the very principle our definition of Truth is founded upon.

The Truth is not something you inflict on other people. If it must be inflicted, enforced, propagandized, it is likely not the truth.

Because if it were true, why would force be required to make it manifest in the world?

Productivity vs. Chaos

Productive use of one’s time is perhaps the primary goal of adult life in our society, yet we find it more difficult than ever to define what productivity actually is. 

Often we act under the assumption that productivity is simply whatever makes us feel productive, though that sort of circular logic fails in that its efficacy is not measured by way of an external result.

It seems to me the simplest, most helpful definition is:

Activities can be regarded as productive in so far that they bring about the desired result.

So is productivity than our true North, the thing by which our lives should be organized?

The answer to that question is contingent on your own trust of the human mind’s ability to determine what is actually worth pursuing.

If the desired results are destructive, can the activities that led to them be considered productive?

Alas, it seems we’ve fallen into a semantic game. The truth of the matter is, your own awareness is all that you can know to exist, and the only thing by which all else is measured. If you cannot trust your rational mind, you trust nothing at all.

Results are generated by right behaviors, and right behaviors are determined by analysis of previous results, which in turn are the data by which we can design systems to achieve desired results.

Easier said than done, though we may still take comfort that paths to success can be defined so simply.

Systems thinking may be our best defense against the chaotic world around us, and the disordered states of mind that arise as our ego scrambles to protect itself.

 

 

The Victim Mentality

What utility is there in identifying as a victim?

Perhaps it could help you be rid of guilt at having suffered at the hands of something truly beyond your control.

Or it could help you cultivate resentment at the thing which victimized you, in order to better focus your efforts on resistance.

But at what cost?

To be a victim is to be defeated and without agency, and occasionally, that truly is the state you’re in.

If someone threatens you with violence and demands your money, for the duration of that interaction, you are a victim.

But two weeks later, when the gun and the criminal are nowhere near you, are you still a victim?

You are if you choose to be.

All your problems can be blamed on the attacker, every financial woe, every insecurity, it can all be that guy’s fault. If not for the mugger, you would have had the money to do so and so, and then something great would have happened, and then you wouldn’t be in such a sorry state.

Is that narrative true?

If you believe it.

But perhaps you were walking somewhere when you obviously shouldn’t have been, and the entire situation could have been avoided if you had possessed better situational awareness.

That’s a difficult narrative to digest. Condemning. Unsympathetic.

But if that is the story, the power lies in your hands. Not the attackers.

Because the truth is, we identify as victims because it allows us to narrow our own influence in an attempt to shirk responsibility for the chaotic world around us.

Victims exchange power and responsibility for the illusion of safety and innocence in the wake of their missteps.

Is that an appealing trade?