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.

Life Game Theory

Life must be a game because if it is anything other than a game it is torture. The difficulties, cruelties, and unfair situations are innumerable. Though these troubles differ in degree and scope, they are all the same in relative terms to those who possess them.

Only in games are difficulties intrinsically necessary. Only in games do bad things happen to the good, because there is neither bad nor good. Only aggressor and recipient.

And only in games does the triumphant coexist with the devastated, because they are two opposite states, inseparable as light and dark.

When understood as a game, life is clear in its directives for the human mind.

  1. You must play. If you do not participate at full strength you are losing. We as humans are presented with a binary choice; play or lose. Stagnation is failure. Inaction is failure. Those not swimming towards land are soon to drown, because no person can tread water for long.
  2. There are rules that must be followed, for without organizational rules success and failure cannot be operationally defined or attained. In life we can define failure, for death and pain are observable phenomena.
  3. Discerning the rules is one of the primary aspects of the game. Our most effective process of rule discernment is called science. Its current manifestation is perhaps reaching its outer limits of efficacy.
  4. Nested within the life meta-game are an infinite number of smaller games, ranging from the human devised such as chess, to the biologically based such as social interaction, to the atomic game of complexity ascendance by which life is generated and proliferates. Of course, all the games within the meta game are contained within one another and inextricably linked.
  5. We each are not only game players, but game makers who play a role in constructing the rules and governing principles of our immediate enviroments. This control has causal reach into the collective culture, as culture is nothing but the simultaneously held beliefs and subsequent behaviors of strongly causally linked human beings at any given moment.
  6. Due to our ability to conceive of the meta-game and consciously discern and shape rules, there is no definite limit on our role within the game, though so far as we know we as the created can never become the game creator, whatever such a thing may be, because that would imply an illogical causal cycle. Though, our understanding of the game logic is obviously limited and differs at the varying levels of analysis. Quantum physics has demonstrated how muddied the game gets at the most minute scales of observation.
  7. Human beings are capable of enjoying the game. Laughter is real. Smiles are real. Serotonin and dopamine are real and create experiences as obviously existent as gravity. Therefore, our perceptual frameworks are best structured to enjoy the game as much as possible.