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Memories of the 28th Century

Living by principles

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I don’t often think about the moral or other principles by which people live their lives, or try to live their lives, but the question came up recently as to whether or why people live according to what they read. Unfortunately, the question was poorly written, so the answers were not what was being sought; the asker intended to ask why people didn’t actually live by the moral principles that they had learned, and that is a valid question. There are several ways to regard the answers and the question. I believe that it is perfectly valid to regard that question as irrelevant, because the Multiverse is determined; thus we have no decision as to what we do, but the universe is open and unbounded, so we do have the ability to make decisions, but they might lead to a bifurcation of the universe. For this reason it makes very little difference how one acts, because elsewhere in the Multiverse one’s analog probably has made a different decision and is doing something quite different.

Even within our own lives we can see how events over which we had no influence lead to the present situation for good or ill. We have all met people who were or are perfect rotters who are healthy and wealthy, while we all also know people who are good and moral who are afflicted with physical or material ills. So does it make any difference whether one has or professes moral principles? I think not, and there are many examples of people who claim moral or religious principles who act in ways that are contrary to the actual principles of that religion. Examples include the infamous George W. Bush, who started two wars just because he felt like it, but he claimed to be a Christian, and there are a good many Muslim leaders who discourage people in general from reading and making their own judgments of what the Koran means, even though the Koran: “The seeking of knowledge is obligatory for every Muslim. [Both male and female]”, and clergy are not permitted according to the Koran. And then there are the “egalitarian Communist” leaders who live high on the hog, while their people are hungry.

But when I do think about those principles, I try to ask what might be meant by “good” and other words that moralists might use. What is good for me might not be good for you. It is analogous to people who have celiac disease claiming that no one should eat grains, or people who are lactose intolerant saying that dairy products are unhealthy. I don’t know of many moral principles other than the Golden Rule (Do unto others as you would have them to unto you) that are universally applicable, and I’ll probably think of situations in which the Golden Rule should not be applied.

Perhaps we should apply the Golden Rule to economic regulations, so that people will be allowed to live their economic lives without an excess of government interference. It would be very nice if the Golden Rule were applied to tax laws, so that every kind of income and transaction would be treated the same as the most favored are now, and those would be exempted from taxes. Of course, that would make the government cut expenditures down to zero, because here would be no income.

To get back to the central matter, it would be nice if the world operated on the principle that if someone asks: "what good are (you) doing to the world?" That requires many explanations. What is meant by "good"? And perhaps more important is the question of what is meant by "doing"? Sitting and watching can be more important than physical action, and often actions, no matter how well intentioned, do no good for anyone or even make things worse. The best thing that most people can do is to keep out of the way, so that other people can do as they wish, and I include governments in that.

Then there are the matters of whose good and which principles and so on. It might be nice if people had the knowledge and wisdom to be able to apply principles they espoused in ways that fit the spirit of those principles. It is dandy to have good intentions, but those are less than worthless if ill-applied.

Partly because of this I have been thinking of what exactly "luck" might be. The concept is woth thinking about; I think.