eXTReMe Tracker WARNING: The opinions expressed and linked to in this blog are not necessarily mine (anymore).

My ideas are constantly changing as I learn. Sometimes they even change midway through writing a post.

Friday, December 3

Do no harm, do good

Ideas are powerful. True ideas can give great power to the people who hold them. True ideas combined with bad ideas can give people the power to do great harm... and great good simultaneously.

I've been puzzling over a couple of seemingly conflicting ideas lately. One is the idea that one should be cautious and try to DO NO HARM. The other is to DO GOOD.

Of course, there's always the risk that one is wrong about whether the doing is good or harmful. Some people seem to focus mostly on avoiding harm. Others prefer to do more with the argument that one can only learn more about what's good by doing and either succeeding or by making mistakes and learning more about how to "do" better. They would view people who "avoid harm" by being more passive as somewhat bad since passiveness also possibly involves "failing to do good".

I think both theories are problematic. Some really awful things have been done in the name of doing good. It's hard to think of them as being worth the risk of action - like millions of people being killed in the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany. On the other hand, what one might not "see" are all those who have lived and enjoyed their lives exactly because people have done good.

Do such people have a right to that enjoyment and life at the expense of the pain, suffering and deaths of other people? I suspect this question may be misleading, but I've got too much to do right now to figure it out. More later.

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