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

Friday, July 1

Brainstorming about Morality, Economics, and Politics

I have been avoiding discussions of economics and politics for the last few years since coming to think that Objectivism has it wrong. Actually, I think the metaphysics and parts of the epistemology are wrong, but it could be that I'll come to think of some of the other theories as right. (Note to myself to expand more on this in another post).

I had this idea that I'd think here about how to evaluate economic and political theories and go through a few that came to mind. I'm thinking now that I'd like to be a bit more systematic than that in the long run and really investigate the theories and realities out there and have some sort of opinion. In the past, I didn't really evaluate economic and political theories in any sort of organized way. I think this might be why I've felt stuck.

First, some thoughts on how to evaluate theories. I think I'd have to start with figuring out what problems there are to address.

What should the goals of a society be?
A society is made up of individuals. Maybe it would be better for individuals to have goals and to not really focus on a society.

Should their be a society at all?
It does seem like people are able to accomplish things together that they couldn't alone and that there are probably better and worse things to do and ways to accomplish things. I would say that their probably should be some sort of organized groupings of people.

Should a society have goals?
I think a society should probably aim for the financial and intellectual improvement of its members. I don't know if that should be a fundamental goal, but it might be part of a broader goal. I wanted to say something like a society should promote the "happiness" of its members.

What makes a person happy?
Some people can be happy about the pain of others. Some might be made temporarily happy by a candy bar. Some people, who have things and people in their life that others would find happy-making aren't happy.

What ought to make a person happy?

What is happiness?
It's feeling good. I think there might be two kinds of happiness. One is a shorter term, in the moment, evaluation that things are good. The other might be a feeling that things are generally good. Maybe there are multiple aspects to happiness - how one feels about oneself, how good others are around one, how good one's environment generally is. I suppose how good others are is really a subset of how good one's environment is. Then there's just luck. One could be in a generally nice environment and feel good about oneself and get hit by a car. I don't know if I'd blame that on one's environment or if it should be another category - luck. I suppose it could be a potential negative of one's environment.

Back to the previous question:
What ought to make a person happy?
Generally, I think a person should be happy about being good and about their environment improving and perhaps even having a minimal standard of goodness. Villagers in very poor places still might manage to be happy. Their environment might be enriched with good friends and the potential of a better life doesn't seem real/possible enough to them to be unhappy with their current situation. Maybe it's better to be ignorant of better environments unless one has some way of obtaining it for oneself.

What does it mean to be good?
That's part of what I'm trying to figure out. If people are generally happier by helping themselves and not expecting help or giving help much, then maybe that's what they should be doing. Then again, if people are happier when they're helping others and can expect to receive help when they want it, then that's what they should be doing. I'm not sure which way people "ought" to be. Maybe there's room for both or maybe there's yet some other way to think about it. I think a possible good way for an individual to be is to be willing to give help in ways they enjoy but to not expect help, to not be disappointed or upset if it's not available, but to be pleasantly surprised and appreciative when it is.

What about unwanted help?
I thought of this because sometimes I've not been very appreciative of help I've received. I think this happens when I didn't ask for help, but the person giving it expects appreciation. Actually, I think the idea of expecting appreciation might be wrong. It might be a good thing to give, but it isn't a good thing to expect. It might be valid that one prefers to give to those who are appreciative, but I suspect an attitude of generosity draws more appreciation and can be inspiring to others to be good in that way.

Should people really focus on being good specifically?
I have always thought so. Recently, I've come to realize that some people who don't seem to think about it much might be very good. I'm not sure how they came to be that way. Maybe they were exposed to good ideas early on and didn't see much reason to change them. It's hard for me to accept the idea, though, that they couldn't be even better. Maybe if all those naturally good people put some thought into it, they'd figure out how to help the rest of us. *smile*

I'm not sure all this brainstorming has really helped me figure out what I should think about politics or economics, but it does seem like something along the right direction.

1 comment:

Becky said...

(This comment has been copied over from the Haloscan system to the blogger system)

Interesting post.

One way to think about morality is that each individual embodies a collection of potentially conflicting goals, desires, intentions and aspirations. These propensities not only potentially conflict with each other, but also with those of other individuals who are affected by them. The proper purpose of morality is to identify and promote those preferences that tend to unify our set of goals into a coherent whole, so that the we can make progress towards living the life we intend for ourselves. That definition of morality is equally applicable to individuals and to society.
Kolya | 07.09.05 - 4:41 am | #