Can you demonstrate that gratitude is a basic, universal moral obligation?

I would tease this question out into four separate parts:

1. Is the response of gratitude a collectively useful, prosocial trait or cultivated habit? Absolutely. I think the more grateful people can be for all aspects of their existence (indeed, even suffering if it is instructive), the more happiness they are likely to experience consistently, and the more harmonious and cooperative civil society will be.

2. Does a gratitude response automatically invoke direct reciprocity? This is a bit of a stumbling block for me. Some people will be inspired to reciprocate, but it seems burdensome to make this an automatic “rule.” Reciprocity may be expected as a more generalized social guideline (for example, “do unto others as you would have done unto you), but immediate payback seems both awkward and forced; it seems more legalistic than constructively relational. Also, the desire to reciprocate may be expressed towards others (i.e. “give it forward”), towards that person’s conception of their group (their family, community, culture, nation, etc.), or towards that person’s conception of the Divine. So I think the answer here is a qualified “no.”

3. Is direct reciprocity a reasonable moral expectation? Indirect reciprocity, as a more generalized societal expectation of normalized behavior, sure. Direct reciprocity, as an interpersonal rule, again no.

4. Where should either gratitude or reciprocity originate? For me this is the crux of the matter. If my gratitude - and any attempts at reciprocity - aren’t an authentic expression of who I am and how I genuinely feel, then I am thinking, feeling and acting artificially. At the same time, I also believe that gratitude and a desire to reciprocate should be prominent aspects of my character; they should be virtues that I cultivate.

In practice, then, my primary obligation will be to have integrity with my own character and the virtues I esteem. And complying with that obligation is its own primary reward. Concurrently, because I am a social creature and dependent on my community and relationships for every aspect of my existence (including the inculcation of the very virtues that I value), I will actively aim to engage all of society - inclusive of strangers, enemies, friends and family - with an equivalent quality of gratitude and reciprocation. As an operational ideal, I would not want to reprioritize how my own character was expressed according to who saved my life, or how much money I owe someone, or how attractive I find someone, or how long they’ve been my friend, or what bad things they’ve done to me in the past. Why? Because that would mean I am adapting who and how I fundamentally am to every situation in a chameleon-like way…and that smacks of insincerity and, frankly, duplicity. Either I am living according to my values, or I’m not. In day-to-day decisions, of course, I will most likely shift the intensity and duration of this self-expression, connection and relating according to the type of relationship and level of intimacy I have with a given person. But, specifically in terms of lending money, I would still be guided more by the level of need, the immediacy of crisis, the efficacy of what I am being asked to give vs. other ways I could help, etc. than by some previous event that implies indebtedness.

My 2 cents.

From Quora question: https://www.quora.com/Can-you-demonstrate-that-gratitude-is-a-basic-universal-moral-obligation/answer/T-Collins-Logan

December 3, 2016 Thought-of-the-Day

"The global complexity and interdependence of our current era has vastly exceeded the average ape's grokking capacity. This is one reason why the Right has so easily hoodwinked its rank-and-file, and the Left finds it so challenging to convey the criticality of its agenda. In everything from quantitative easing to carbon cycle feedbacks to perverse incentives in for-profit healthcare, ignorance and complexity create a fertile space for rampant propaganda. Add to this a consumer mindset that externalizes all authority and problem-solving, and a media environment that perpetuates gnat-like attention spans, and consumption of that propaganda quickly attains religious intensity. The resulting ideological lockstep on the Right, and the muddled insecurity on the Left, are not the natural state of human beings, but ones that have been carefully engineered and marketed to mimic tribal conformance at one extreme, and untrustworthy outsider status at the other. The irony, of course, is that the "untrustworthy outsiders" have an intuitive grasp of the truth, and are actually in the majority. They are just demoralized because they can't explain their position in pedantic sound bytes."

-T.Collins Logan

Is mankind's overall failure to know God actually a failure of imagination?

I think the failure of imagination occurs after ineffable encounters with the Divine, when we try to shoehorn that experience into existing language and concepts, subjugating it to our own ego and intellect. If instead we accept the tenuousness of an initial knowing (in the sense of gnosis), and let go of our compulsion to process, contextualize or communicate the experience definitively, then we can rest lightly in nondiscursive awareness…and in fact deepen it over time. We could say that imagination is involved here, as close kin to the willing suspension of conclusiveness; to be curious and open regarding spiritual perception-cognition demands a frame of mind not unlike imagination. What is possible? What is not possible? The creative mind can tolerate ambiguity, possibility and uncertainty here, whereas the mechanistic mind cannot. However, the term “imagination” hints at perceptions and constructions well beyond the intuitive - even into the realm of apophenia and self-delusion - so I would shy away from using that word. Instead, I might say such failure is one of genuine openness, willingness and humility when exploring nondiscursive, contentless or contextless states.

(From Quora question: https://www.quora.com/Is-mankinds-overall-failure-to-know-God-actually-a-failure-of-imagination)

Why is Ayn Rand not received well in Academia?

The U.S. has somehow created an amazing space for populists, hucksters, fake gurus, TV evangelists, carpet baggers and narcissistic blowhards to not only generate broad and sustained appeal, but garner actual followers who support them and happily propagate their views. Ever read L.Ron Hubbard’s Dianetics? It’s half-baked pop-psychology mixed with pseudoscience, but Hubbard’s influence somehow still endures in the form of Scientology. In the same vein, Ayn Rand just offers an amateur pseudophilosophy of atomistic materialist individualism, packaged in a fictional narrative that attracts undiscerning adolescents. But pseudoscience is not science, and pseudophilosophy is not philosophy - the basic standards just aren’t being met. Yet manipulating fictional, populist narratives to serve personal or ideological agendas is how these kinds of movements begin in the U.S.

Consider how Milton Friedman (and later the Koch brothers) influenced the “populist libertarian” narrative, shaping a vehicle for spreading neoliberal propaganda and actualizing a crony capitalist agenda; there is very little “libertarian” in what became of the Tea Party movement, but its eager adherents don’t seem to realize that. Also consider how Donal Trump used right-wing conspiracy rhetoric to wrap half the U.S. around his little pinky - again appealing to populist sentiment and playing loose-and-fast with facts. And because the U.S. seems to have a cultural predisposition for elevating these bizarre narratives to celebrity status, they often come to be viewed by a poorly educated mainstream consumer with spotty critical thinking skills as either part of some provable knowledge base - a scientifically validated truth - or part of academia’s intellectual lineage. I suspect this cultural quirk exists at least in part due to a hyper-commercialization of the American psyche, conditioning it to addictions and external dependencies for the sake of profit. But these phenomena are just part of a haphazard spectacle - an illusion that keeps Americans distracted, entertained, and eagerly promoting plutocratic priorities while voting and spending against their self-expressed values and interests.

Now there are folks who are outsiders to academia who have offered some original and in-depth thought in various disciplines - Ken Wilber and Colin Wilson come to mind - who have gradually gained a grudging acceptance in academic discourse. But these rare exceptions have occurred not because of the popular appeal of these thinkers, but because the quality of their thought. And alas, L.Ron Hubbard and Ayn Rand simply do not rise to that level.

My 2 cents.

Comment from Jack Fogg:

"I would agree that there is very little libertarianism in the Tea Party movement. There is also nothing libertarian about Donald Trump. Ayn Rand opposed libertarianism as well.

Two questions:

1) What is the difference between pseudophilosophy and philosophy? All philosophy is one’s opinion, by definition.

2) Can you name a single argument of Milton Friedman’s supporting crony capitalism?"


Excellent questions, Jack. A competent description of the many ways Friedman enabled and propagated crony capitalism can be found in Naomi Klein’s book The Shock Doctrine. I don’t always agree with how Klein presents her case…but she offers a lot of persuasive and verifiable evidence in her book. That said, you asked for a quote…however, I would steer you instead toward what Friedman actually did in his involvement with different governments over the years. Friedman’s rhetoric was artful…but his actions belied his true intentions. Everything Friedman accomplished (even while he was vociferously speaking out against crony capitalism) enabled corporations to take control of entire countries through their cosy relationship with government - and, in particular, encouraging government repression of opposing voices, ideologies and competing enterprises (i.e. the result of Friedman’s influence first in Latin America, and then via IMF and World Bank “structural adjustment” policies). And how did he accomplish this? Through himself engineering deliberate government actions and policies of course…not through his vaunted free market at all. The hypocrisy of the Chicago School in this regard is truly astounding. Here in the U.S., just look at Friedman’s most enduring legacy among economists and policy makers: monetarism! In other words, government intervention in free markets! But Friedman was a true artist when it came to rhetoric that distracted people away from what he was really engineering…which was an amplification of crony capitalism at almost every turn.

Regarding philosophy: there is a long tradition of critical inquiry into ontology, epistemology and the nature of mind. While each philosopher did indeed contribute their “opinion” (as you point out), they did so within a specific framework of language, established concepts, and an internal and dialogical consistency of thought. To appreciate the continuity of this tradition over time, I would encourage you to research the concept of dialectics. Ayn Rand, on the other hand, simply inserted her opinion into the cultural thought-stream of her time, without really understanding or honoring the tradition behind many of the concepts she was using. For example, she completely misunderstands Aristotle - not just in some nuanced or subtle opinion-aspects, but in a blatant-face-plant that reveals a fairly pronounced ignorance of the Philosopher. She essentially abuses a few quotes from Aristotle to support her positions, positions which completely contradict his broader themes. It’s embarrassing, really. It would be like me saying “quantum physics proves that cigarettes are a Promethean muse,” or “what Jesus said about the poor proves that corporations should rule the world.” It’s just idiotic.

I hope this was helpful info.

Comment from Anton Fahlgren:

"Very interesting. I think many people feel that what you’re saying about american culture being good for tricksters is right, is there more evidence for this than the examples you mentioned? If it is true, is it because the population is more gullible and/or because the culture breeds these over-the-top persuaders?

Donald Trump, a great example of what you speak of, got over 40% of votes, albeit in a two-party system. His rhetorical counterpart in Sweden where I live has around 15–20% of the vote."


I think the reasons are likely many, and could include:

1) The conditioning from corporate commercialism to externalize all solutions, authority and choices

2) The “newness” of the culture itself (in terms of national identity and traditions) and the consequent willingness to explore uncharted or experimental ideas

3) Very poor diets, which impacts both cognitive development and real-time critical thinking skills

4) A multi-generational experience that extraordinary risk-taking (in methods, systems, ideas, objectives, etc.) can in fact lead to amazing leaps forward in innovation and accomplishment

5) A high tolerance for cognitive dissonance among certain segments of the population (mainly conservatives who rely on fear-based reasoning)

6) A pervasive delight in spectacle, and eager willingness to “see what happens next”

7) The “spoiled child” entitlement syndrome: all strata of society believing they deserve to have whatever they want, mainly as a result of that expectation getting positively reinforced over time (i.e. national independence, ample natural resources, hard-working immigrant populations, victories in two World Wars, business accomplishments, technology accomplishments, etc.) without a clear understanding or appreciation of WHY these things happened

There are probably many other contributing factors, but these come to mind as the primary ingredients for what we are witnessing.

What kinds of limits did Adam Smith think free market capitalism needed?

Smith believed that a diffusion of wealth and the relative independence of labor were a natural byproduct of commerce. What he saw occurring across Europe was a gradual liberation from feudal forms of economic and class structure where both concentrations of wealth and servile relationships had been fixed. Manufacturing and commerce seemed to have eroded those traditions and established more liberty and economic security for everyone. This resulted in what Smith called “good government,” where there was no longer anyone with sufficient means or positional influence to manipulate circumstances exclusively to their own ends (as had been the case in prior centuries), and sufficient authority to adjudicate the disposition of property and any disputes of custom. And Smith is clear about what he believes always occurs when such “good government” is absent, when disproportionate concentrations of wealth and power emerge: “All for ourselves and nothing for other people, seems, in every age of the world, to have been the vile maxim of the masters of mankind.” Clearly, from his historical perspective, Smith could never have anticipated the rise of megalithic corporations whose wealth and influence far exceeded anything that has ever existed, and whose owner-shareholders have consequently pursued the “vile maxim” to an extraordinary degree on vast scales — restoring both the servile relationship of worker-consumers through wage and debt slavery, and the weakening and perversion of governmental authority to suit their own ends.

Smith did, however, recognize the problem of monopolies, and warned against them this way:

“Merchants and master manufacturers are, in this order, the two classes of people who commonly employ the largest capitals, and who by their wealth draw to themselves the greatest share of the public consideration. As during their whole lives they are engaged in plans and projects, they have frequently more acuteness of understanding than the greater part of country gentlemen. As their thoughts, however, are commonly exercised rather about the interest of their own particular branch of business, than about that of the society, their judgment, even when given with the greatest candour (which it has not been upon every occasion) is much more to be depended upon with regard to the former of those two objects than with regard to the latter. Their superiority over the country gentleman is not so much in their knowledge of the public interest, as in their having a better knowledge of their own interest than he has of his. It is by this superior knowledge of their own interest that they have frequently imposed upon his generosity, and persuaded him to give up both his own interest and that of the public, from a very simple but honest conviction that their interest, and not his, was the interest of the public. The interest of the dealers, however, in any particular branch of trade or manufactures, is always in some respects different from, and even opposite to, that of the public. To widen the market and to narrow the competition, is always the interest of the dealers. To widen the market may frequently be agreeable enough to the interest of the public; but to narrow the competition must always be against it, and can serve only to enable the dealers, by raising their profits above what they naturally would be, to levy, for their own benefit, an absurd tax upon the rest of their fellow-citizens. The proposal of any new law or regulation of commerce which comes from this order ought always to be listened to with great precaution, and ought never to be adopted till after having been long and carefully examined, not only with the most scrupulous, but with the most suspicious attention. It comes from an order of men whose interest is never exactly the same with that of the public, who have generally an interest to deceive and even to oppress the public, and who accordingly have, upon many occasions, both deceived and oppressed it.”


And of course we have long since arrived at the very place Smith warned about; we have been subject to the “absurd tax” for many generations now. What is Smith’s solution? I think his sentiments about what constitutes “good government” elaborate on that: a government with enough authority and independence to restrict monopoly, encourage competition, and ensure the liberty and security of its citizens without interference from business owners.

What is at stake in the Theist vs. Atheist debate?

A2A. I’ll take a crack at the current question, which is “What is at stake in the Theist vs. Atheist debate?” Here is what I think is at stake:



If proponents of various ideologies focused more on the most effective ways to accomplish healing, thriving and happiness together, and less on the preferred framing of their particular beliefs that push them apart, our species might actually have a chance of succeeding over the long run. The in-group/out-group tug-of-war that such debates represent does absolutely nothing to better the human condition. It seems an excessive amount of time and energy are devoted to “proving” abstract positions, when tremendous good could be accomplished if the focus for these energies shifted to practical solutions benefitting everyone; for example, improving access to quality healthcare, or developing sustainable food production, or ending reckless exploitation of the environment, or creating more egalitarian political economies, or ending all forms of oppression and exploitation. These are objectives that Christians, Jews, Secular Humanists, Pagans, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and many other belief systems around the globe could agree upon without battling over the abstract rationale behind joint action. Pick any common objective, relax the tribalistic rhetoric, and work towards that goal together….and the potential for achieving miraculous results is, I think, truly astounding. Each group of believers might well come away from such an effort convinced that the results affirm their own beliefs (and not any other group’s)…but so what? At least the power of cooperation will have won out over pointless squabbling.

My 2 cents.

Does the human psyche actually contain self-destructive impulses and even a death wish?

Hinrich I think this is a very interesting question, and one that has come up for many thinkers over the years. Freud called it Thanatos. Jung attributed self-destructive impulses to things we don’t bring into the light of consciousness - the shadow aspect of ourselves. Modern theory frames self-destructive acts (including deliberate self-harm and suicide) as expressions of psychological and emotional pain which, for the person who is suffering, may seem otherwise inescapable or inexpressible to them; this pain may be the result of psychological illness, an emotional consequence of childhood trauma, a genetic susceptibility to depression or heightened experience of pain - or some other unmitigated clinical condition. From an evolutionary perspective, extreme antisocial behavior is not conducive to group survival, and it would not be inconceivable that a person who recognizes themselves to be an antisocial outlier might become self-destructive or suicidal because all these traits naturally coincide as a result of millennia of group selection; in other words, there may be a fitness advantage for the species when an antisocial phenotype voluntarily removes itself from the group (I haven’t seen any research on this, but it’s an interesting hypothesis!). Lastly, I would not discount a spiritual dimension to these dynamics: if deprivation of sunlight can lead to life-crushing depression, whose to say that deprivation of spiritual connection (be it to ones innermost Self or Soul, to Nature, to the Divine, to the Ground of Being, to the Absolute, to the Tao, etc….) cannot lead to a longing for nonexistence?

My 2 cents.

(From Quora https://www.quora.com/Does-the-human-psyche-actually-contain-self-destructive-impulses-and-even-a-death-wish)

What do you think is the utilitarian viewpoint on free will vs determination?

Thanks for the A2A Robert.

Well I was going to write one answer to this question, based only on the question itself as I initially read it, and then I read your answer Robert, and completely changed my mind about how to respond.

That is an illustration of free will. Why? Because nothing influenced me to look at your answer…it was a somewhat arbitrary, self-willed impulse to scan across the other posts before I wrote my own. Even then, if I had not seen your name - also a relatively arbitrary event that also relied on my (arbitrarily) retaining who A2A’d me - I would not have changed my answer, but this bit was more chance than self-will. Now a determinist of some stripe might argue that a) my innate biology or psychology shaped the impulses and capacities that changed my decision; b) I was moved by some spiritual agent to change my decision; c) I would have answered the same way regardless. Well it is sometimes difficult to prove a negative, but I think these are pretty irrational assertions for one simple reason: consciousness. I’ll elaborate on that in a moment.

But first my reaction to your answer. I want to preface my own response with these assumptions, which directly contradict some of what you have stated:

1. “Free will” is not an invention of religion. In fact I would say most religions have historically tended toward fatalistic determinism, and have downplayed or discouraged individual free will. There are exceptions to this, but those are relatively recent. Aristotle was probably the first (known) philosopher to articulate self-will as distinct from either determinism or chance. I would describe free will as “an intermittent feature of consciousness” that is subject to conditioning, chance and choice.

2. Humans do not follow the “path of least resistance” unless they have (passively or actively) habituated themselves to that method of navigation. Such habituation is another feature of consciousness, and is therefore also subject to conditioning, chance and choice.

3. Utilitarians do not, in terms of the generalization you have made, dismiss all conditions that contribute to a decision. In fact they spend a lot of time talking about them, which is why you have act-utilitarians vs. rule-utilitarians, hedonist-utilitarians vs. pluralist-utilitarians, partialist-utilitarians vs. collectivist-utilitarians, etc.

4. Utilitarianism also does not, as you assert, automatically attach moral consequences to individual action. In fact this consideration is at the center of utilitarian debates around actual consequences vs. intended consequences.
Okay, so with those thoughts out of the way, here is my answer….

Utilitarian views of free will vs. determinism are pretty varied and cannot really be generalized IMO. In fact when we try to delve into utilitarian causality we encounter a lot of contradictions. Mills is a good example. He seems to subscribe to compatibilism, an elaborate rationalization that attempts (unsuccessfully, IMO) to reconcile free will with a “necessary” chain of causality. But why even try to do this? Again returning to Aristotle, if we recognize that there are necessitative causal chains, chance, and the independent agency of human consciousness - all of which can operate without a fixed dependency on the others - then the whole consideration becomes mutlidialectical in nature. There are multiple co-existing paths for everything - from quantum events to human volition - that recombine in every instant. In such a context the debate over determinism is either moot or pragmatically inaccessible; any convictions become either tentative and hypothetical, or articles of faith. Yet another choice for us to make.

Now down to the nitty gritty: consciousness is itself not a granted condition, it is also a choice. Human beings can habituate themselves to function according to their animalistic drives, cultural programming, magical thinking, tribal conformance, irrational groupthink, bizarre ideologies….or any combination of the above. Alternatively, they can develop what I call Functional Intelligence, which engages both our interiority and the world around us in a more conscious and deliberate way. And although this process may itself also initially be conscious or unconscious (again influenced by causal chains, chance and choice), eventually it will arrive at an awakening. It will, in effect, begin to incorporate a metacognition that first distances, then evaluates, then integrates or harmonizes all contributive factors to navigate the clarity and efficacy of any choice. I begin to define this process more fully in the essay Managing Complexity with Constructive Integralism.

You might also be interested in this essay: The Goldilocks Zone of Integral Liberty: A Proposed Method of Differentiating Verifiable Free Will from Countervailing Illusions of Freedom

***For all of the above links, you can read the document online without subscribing to academia.edu…just scroll down the page. Alternatively, you can also download them as PDFs here without a fuss: Essays (http://tcollinslogan.com/code-3/index.html).***
Lastly, for the record, I personally lean more toward a variation of virtue ethics (cultivating sophia and phronesis) than utilitarianism, but I find many of the concepts in utilitarianism do have…constructive utility.

My 2 cents.

Comment from Robert Stork: Thanks for your answer. I suppose the only thing I can say is that all those things you say contribute to free will are in fact causal factors that are a more intricate demonstration of determinism.


Maybe…or maybe not. I think any deterministic conclusions may be oversimplifications, no matter how intricate we can get in our descriptors or calculus. Why? Because the number of variables contributing to each moment is incomprehensibly huge - and those variables are different not only for each successive moment, but for each locus of that moment throughout all of known space. Thus volition layers conscious intentions onto a soup of both arbitrary and causally related phenomena, projecting itself cross those variables. In that instant a deterministic warp-and-weave is introduced, I would agree. But even if there were only one consciousness, this quasi-deterministic manifestation of will would only occur within the moment of conception and projection, as confined to the locus of spacetime involved, with only residual propagations after that (waves of causality, if you will). And here’s the rub: there are multitudes of interdependent consciousness all acting within the confines of their own perception-cognition…sometimes in harmony, sometimes not. Which means that, in all intellectual honesty, “determinism” can only be a retroactive veneer placed over the consequent unfolding of these phenomena. It is a construction of hindsight with a predisposed bias, quickly unraveled by infinite complexity, infinite regress, randomness, and other indeterminate energies.


(From Quora question https://www.quora.com/What-do-you-think-is-the-utilitarian-viewpoint-on-free-will-vs-determination)

What is the origin of New Age beliefs?

Thanks for the A2A Pete.

Here is my somewhat formulaic take on this phenomenon…not scholarly, just subjective….

1. Take a fairly well-educated white person from a middle class background who is dissatisfied with just about every aspect of the status quo - politics, religion, medicine, cultural institutions, industrialization, technology, etc. - and who furthermore either lacks any strong sense of cultural identity and tradition, or who fundamentally questions the identity and traditions within which they were raised. Let’s call this person “the maleable rebel.”

2. Now introduce a populist-energized movement of social unrest, revolutionary spirit, counterculture and “anti-establishmentarianism” that seeks not only to reject the status quo, but replace its social mores, institutions, traditions and values with radically revised, socially liberal, egalitarian and much more “personally liberated” ones. This movement appeals directly to “the maleable rebel” and provides a unifying - albeit temporary - sense of purpose and shared community within an essentially individualistic frame. The movement has reactive cohesion - enough for artistic expression, political rallies, a shared narrative, etc. - but lacks a unified vision to manifest as sustained outcomes.

3. Then, as an outgrowth of conditions 1 and 2, offer “the maleable rebel” a spiritual-philosophical-transformational basis for a more enduring post-revolutionary vision. Begin with a foundation of anti-traditionalism, add some superficial elements of Eastern mysticism and a pinch of Western esotericism, sprinkle in alternative medicine and some psychoactive plants, add some spiritualism, then mix these with a liberal handful of Earth-friendly habits…and you’ve got most of the essential ingredients. However - and this is what leaves a bitter taste in the minds of Neopagans, Traditionalists or Perrenialists observing the New Age movement - retain as the final ingredient a large portion of the very same individualistic materialism against which “the maleable rebel” initially revolted (in its classist forms).

4. Now begin to systematize this new vision by establishing authorities, celebrities, orthodox practices, value hierarchies, communities, literature, geographic locations, language, semantics, lifestyles and so on that create both a map of what the New Age community is supposed to look like, and a recipe book for adherence and identity.

In this way the New Age helped well-educated, middle-class white folks in the U.S. and U.K. reform their identity, spiritual practices and sense of purpose. It reframed what it meant to be “enlightened,” with an emphasis on personal freedom, growth and potential. And, in truth, many of the practices and ideals that grew out of the New Age movement do have value IMHO. The challenge, as with so many “institutionalized” belief systems that came before it, is that the New Age firmly held on to the very destructive cultural meme that inspired its birth: individualistic materialism. Although quite often drawing upon an authentic spirit, the New Age all too soon became a commercialized imitation of itself, an elaborate and jingoistic “demand and supply” distortion of its original intent. Such is the corrosive power of capitalist culture that it subsumes all nuance and truth in a frenzy of consumerism, oversimplifying anything subtle or complex into a sales-pitch commodity.

My 2 cents.

After further discussion on Facebook, here are some additional resources on the details of how the New Age movement migrated from Germany, as perhaps inspired by a much older movement:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lebensreform

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wandervogel

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theosophy

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brethren_of_the_Free_Spirit

(Thanks Eric Pierce, Mark Niblack & Jennifer Grove!)


What will come after the modern era? (Assuming modern includes modernism and postmodernism) And what will define it?

Thanks for the A2A Jeff. To my mind there are three options, all of which are all probable to varying degrees at this point:

Catastrophic failure of capitalism. Mass disruption of human civilization as a result of expanding disease vectors (climate change), environmental destruction, social unrest, degradation and homogenization of food supply, toxic pollution, human health decline (poor diet, stress, toxins, disease), exponential extinction of species, genetic manipulation, etc. All precipitated by industrialization, income inequality, exploitation of resources and labor, bleeding edge research, overpopulation, and homogenization of both culture and biodiversity - all of which would be consequences of elevating the profit motive above all other concerns. The result will be chaos - an apocalypse of our own making. It is possible that we could resurrect ourselves hundreds of years afterwards, but not likely in a form of civilization we would recognize.

Enslavement to ASI. Capitulation of management of all complex systems to self-replicating Artificial Superintelligence that postpones the catastrophic failure of capitalism at the expense of human freedoms, managing the problems created by previous eras of resource exploitation, industrialization and profit motivation in a top-down fashion, with ASI at the top of the hierarchy, and humanity at the bottom. At first this will seem to be a “necessary sacrifice” because humans could not manage the problems they created; eventually, however, it will become evident that the sacrifice was too great.

Rejection of capitalism and blossoming of diffused, rhizomatic political economies. Several populist movement have hinted at this grass roots revolution/evolution, but have all fallen short in the face of almost universal de facto dependence on status quo power relationships and commercialistic programming. In other words, the masses return to a medicated state and the plutocrats remain in control simply because most folks are afraid to break free of their commercialistic dependence. However, it is possible that disruptive events short of a complete, catastrophic failure could trigger a resurgence of these populist sentiments, which - if they coincide with cogent and fluidly transmittable alternative memes - could generate the necessary focus and change agency for moving beyond the status quo and dismantling monopolies of power, production, administration and wealth.

Inherent to all of these options is a new relationship with complexity: either complexity will be exploded back into simpler relationships; complexity will be managed by superintelligent agents; or we will begin managing complexity in a more distributed, interdependent fashion. In addition, the defining characteristics of “the next era” will also include a new moral orientation: either regression to primitive tribalism; hyperindividualism and dependence to an extreme of debilitating infantilization; or a more unitive, compassion-centric view of human relations that engages civil society with conscience and conviction.

My 2 cents.

Comment from Brian Johnson: "And I take it these are all possibilities and not probabilities like you suggest? They are just maybe’s and speculation."


Nope. They are all probable - just to varying degrees. A “possibility” would be that we will send a manned mission to Alpha Centauri and start a settlement there. That is “possible” but far less “probable.” In contrast, the collapse of capitalism is impending, not just possible, unless something like ASI intervenes (ASI is also an impending technology, not just a possible one). Alternatively, we could sidestep the collapse with a new form of political economy…now THIS is more of a possibility than a probability, but my own optimism regarding the resilience and creativity of the human species prompts me to place it in the “probable” column.

(From Quora question: https://www.quora.com/What-will-come-after-the-modern-era-Assuming-modern-includes-modernism-and-postmodernism-And-what-will-define-it)

Is Yanis Varoufakis right that we must rescue democracy by a mix of libertarianism, Marxism, and Keynesian economics?

See TED talk video

First off, capitalism has already eaten democracy in many places around the globe – that’s a current reality, not a future possibility.

Second, Yanis experienced first-hand the oppressive, authoritarian oligarchy of the Eurogroup/IMF/World Bank triumvirate and its complete and utterly condescending dismissal of all democratic will in Greece.

Thirdly, his elaborations on the deliberate historical separation of the economic sphere from the political sphere a la capitalism are absolutely correct – the evidence is undeniable as cronyism, clientism and regulatory capture have become runaway trains, utterly disruptive to democratic institutions. From the farce of “corporate personhood,” to legislators being spoon-fed legislation by groups like ALEC, to the revolving door of corporate lobbying, to overwhelming pressure on elected officials to reward their wealthiest campaign contributors…democracy in the U.S. has been mercilessly crushed into corporate compliance. And of course this pervasive corporatocracy has been replicated all around the globe.

Fourthly, Yanis’ proposal to reunite the political and economic spheres via a democratic political economy is an obvious solution. As he alludes to, it’s really what the Athenians (and Aristotle’s proposals in particular, if anyone wants to read up on the details) were aiming to accomplish. And to whatever degree the interests of the populace have really been represented by democratic government throughout history, this has resulted in limiting the oppressive tyranny of wealth concentrations.

Fifthly, some of the components that Yanis gleans from each proposed system referenced have already been proven in the real world – and on large scales. To wit: various forms of worker or member ownership (Mondragon Corp, credit unions, etc.); as a global monetary system, Bretton Woods worked fairly well during its implementation and achieved what it set out to do, though of course it overly favored the U.S. at the onset and overly burdened the U.S. after the Vietnam war; and a libertarian view of individual sovereignty informs most civil rights in the U.S.A. and IMO is really the basis of any functional democracy (one that truly includes the demos). Yes he gives credit to the architects of some of these ideas (Marx, Keynes) but that’s just to help folks grasp the obviousness of the propositions.

Sixthly, twenty-minute TED talks are a silly standard for comprehensive proposals or conclusive discussion of complexity.

So really all Yanis is doing is pointing to a rather obvious path out of our current corporatocracy. Sure, the details need to be worked out, but the thoughtful and informed already know what works to restore power to the people…which is precisely why such efforts are being disrupted by an aggressive neoliberal agenda that aims to maintain the plutocratic status quo.

My 2 cents.

Of Pot, Guns & Trump: The Origins of Irrational, Destructively Conformist Groupthink

Obviously this short post won’t persuade anyone currently in the thrall of active lemming events, as these collective memes are highly resistant to contrary evidence. In fact we could say that one of the chief characteristics of such movements is their promotion of habitual confirmation bias and an extremely high tolerance for cognitive dissonance. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Probably the easiest way to appreciate parallels between the way pot fanatics, gun fanatics and Trump supporters think is to chart out some of their more exaggerated claims. And by “exaggerated” I simply mean without sufficient basis in fact to be embraced as accurate; that have too little supportive evidence to reveal any causal relationships; and that are essentially non-rational ideas living mainly in the imagination of their proponents. Some examples:



I could of course spend a few hundred pages documenting why the beliefs of each group are “inaccurate,” and perhaps I will expand this into an essay at a later time to do just that. However, there is a much easier approach, which is to challenge proponents of pot, guns and Trump to produce supportive evidence for their claims. I have done this on countless occasions, with invariably reliable results: they can’t. Instead, I will hear statements like these in response – often using exactly the same wording – from each group:

“Well the government suppresses all the good data about this. They don’t want anyone to know the truth.”

“I know there’s really good research that proves what I’m saying – I just can’t remember what it is right now.”

“I don’t trust those kinds of academic studies. They get proven wrong all the time.”

“If you’d seen what I have seen, you’d know what I’m saying is true.”

“You don’t understand what’s at stake here. This is much bigger than facts.”

“The proof is all over the Internet. You just have to look.”

“Everybody knows this is true. I’m surprised that you don’t.”


And so on. And even when a seemingly reasonable piece of favorable research surfaces (such as John Lott’s work on crime stats and gun ownership), it quickly turns out that the research methodology is flawed, and that countless other studies have come to different conclusions using the same data.

So what is happening here? From the perspective of Integral Lifework, explanations are fairly easy to hypothesize. Human beings want to have more personal agency; long for acceptance and community; are understandably overwhelmed by modern complexity and seemingly contradictory information all around them; are angered at being used and manipulated by forces beyond their control; feel out-of-sync with the rapid pace of change around them; and often make impulsive emotional decisions in reaction to all of these antagonistic variables. It’s perfectly understandable. In response to the many demands, pressures, stresses and inequities of the modern world, well-meaning folks will rely on purely emotional reasoning to react or choose a course, then seek solace and support in like-minded communities. And, thanks to mass media, the Internet, and a proliferation of propaganda fueled by both self-serving enterprises (gun manufacturers, pot growers or Trump himself) and fanatic adherents, it has become relatively easy to energize and maintain blindly conformist mass-movements…as long as you keep things emotionally charged and the facts a bit fuzzy.

I should interject here that it isn’t entirely fair to label this kind of reflexive-groupthink-adherence as “idiotic” or “ignorant.” This observation is an understandable one – and one I myself have sometimes slipped into out of exasperation - but it’s a bit unfair. Why? Because it is much more likely that the aversion to critical thinking among these groups issues from genuine insecurity, anxiety and ongoing suffering. As human beings, we need community, we need a purpose, we need to feel useful and connected and important. In fact, these are essential dimensions of nourishment in the Integral Lifework model. And when we suddenly find ourselves part of a movement that energizes our being in these dimensions (and perhaps for the first time), it is very difficult to step back, take a breath, and critically assess the validity of our trajectory. And this is especially true when our fundamental needs have not been met for years or decades – when we have been deprived, distracted and anesthetized away from taking good care of ourselves by a mainly consumerist, externalizing and infantilizing model of well-being.

What is the solution? Alas, in the short term, we’ll probably just have to ride each of these populist waves to their unpleasant conclusion. History seems to indicate that only when folks are allowed to obtain what they think they want, then realize it isn’t providing the expected result, will they become open to alternative approaches. And even then, we humans have a tendency to commit ourselves to one ill-considered path after another until we eventually find our way. Personally I believe we will have to move away from capitalist orientations entirely, with the consumerist model fully exhausted, before civil society can grapple with constructive alternatives to enduring human problems.

In the long term, I still believe there is hope…if we can survive into an era when reflexive groupthink fueled by fear and insecurity infects smaller and smaller numbers of people, until it passes away entirely. In the meantime, we can promote more nuanced and multidimensional avenues of healing for personal confusion, anxiety and suffering. In fact, as humans are meaning-making, self-justifying organisms that relish imitating each other and joining in communal activities, alternatives to more caustic memes must be perpetually generated. Something is required to fill the void. That’s what Integral Lifework practice tries to advocate, albeit one person at a time. But as long as capitalism prevails, lowest-common-denominator mass marketing will continue to promote self-serving, ultimately destructive habits of consumption, where large numbers of people will keep lavishing their personal power, money and passion on ineffective or counterproductive attempts to lessen their fear and pain – options like pot, guns and Trump.

My 2 cents.

What is the effect of fully commodifying labor?

Answering the question: "What is the effect of fully commodifying labor?"

Question details: Yanis Varoufakis said in his article “How I became an erratic Marxist"

"If workers and employers ever succeed in commodifying labour fully, capitalism will perish."

What does he mean by that?



Thanks for the A2A. First off, that’s a great article that I hope more people will read. Second, I think Justin Schwartz hit on some key considerations. Third, I’ll offer some additional thoughts….

We might assume that Varoufakis is referring to the vast historical arc of Marx’s historical materialism, as outlined in Das Kapital, that ultimately results in the collapse of capitalism. But there are some specific themes in Marx’s thought that Varoufakis touches upon, and which in and of themselves might account for Varoufakis’s statement.

For example, one theme Marx offers is that capitalism tends to convert all that is, in reality, about human relationships and interactions into some sort of monetary exchange value, and that this is an inherently bad thing, especially when it ignores (or devalues) the inherent, qualitative importance of those relationships and interactions in more human terms. If I say “I love you” to my wife, and in her mind that equates an expectation of material demonstration in the form of payment, goods, services, etc., then such expectation tends to undermine the intrinsic value of love and its importance in our non-material bond. In the same way, a trusting friendship can be replaced with money, in that I will only have expectations of you if I pay you, and you will only feel obligations to me if your are paid. So these are examples of commodification that are inherently destructive to human social relations (a conclusion which is obvious to anyone with emotional intelligence, but less so to someone who lacks it).

So what Varoufakis may be alluding to is that one of the most important “non-material” contributions of labor is what we might call creativity: the ability to add value (be it aesthetically or in terms of utility) to some raw material, which is a pretty amazing quality of human behavior. And in the same sense that we can’t quantify or commodify love or trust, we really can’t quantify or commodify that natural, unpredictable, inspirational creativity either. This isn’t entirely ignored in capitalism, where someone might pay millions for a Vermeer; there is an element of what Marx called “fetishism” involved here, to be sure, but there is also a very reasonable awe invoked by Vermeer’s profound and rare talent, and a consequent attempt to quantify what simply cannot be captured. Thus there is really no upper limit to such capture efforts, which is why such creations are effectively “priceless.” Sometimes this valuation is tied mainly to scarcity…but that’s simply not the whole picture (or painting in this case).

So if all labor (that is, all potential qualitative contributions that labor enables) were completely commodified by employers and employees in the sense described, then the very qualities that add value to goods and services will be completely excised. Take love out of a marriage, and what do you have? Take trust out of a friendship, and what do you have? Take creativity out of the means of production, and what do you have? This could be what Varoufakis means when he says “capitalism will perish.” That special human ingredient that fuels the capitalist enterprise and generates value (and ultimately profit) will be extinguished through the commoditization of all labor…so how could capitalism continue?

But this is just one take. Varoufakis could also just be alluding to the complete alienation of labor through its treatment as mechanized, tedious, robotically monotonous production by capitalists…another important theme in Marx. Or he could be referring to Marx’s predictions about the consequences of monopolies and an increasingly centralized means of production (and concentration of capital), which in turn prod the steadily impoverished masses into open revolt. Or he could be referring to all of these things….

My 2 cents.

What is post-postmodernism?

Answering the question "What is post-postmodernism?"

Thanks for the A2A Jeff. I’ve only brushed up against this topic, but here are my impressions:

- Enough relaxation of postmodern skepticism (or perhaps an application of postmodern skepticism to postmodernism itself) to allow for optimism.

- A tentative reintegration of the ideals, expressions and attitudes that postmodernism rejected, while retaining self-awareness about this process (for example: conscious naiveté).

- A form of syncretic integralism.

- A natural cultural maturation process beyond rebellious black-and-white formulations of adolescence into the nuanced gray areas of adulthood.

In my own work, I view the post-postmodern or metamodern stance as applying conceptions of multidialectical synthesis to the cultural-artistic sphere.

My 2 cents.

What leads to bad decisions?

From What leads to bad decisions? Quora A2A

Thanks for the A2A. Here are some possible contributing factors to “bad decisions:”

- Stupidity.

- Arrogance or overconfidence.

- Willful ignorance (resistance to information, approaches, practices or knowledge that would improve decisions).

- Poor impulse control (lack of self-discipline).

- Mental illness.

- Reflexive conformance (groupthink, tribalism, submission to peer pressure, blind faith, etc.).

- Reflexive nonconformance (teenage rebellion, passive-aggressive habits, criminal inclinations, disregard for social norms, general disaffection, etc.)

- Lack of critical thinking skills.

- Apathy or laziness (lack of motivation to make more skillful decisions).

- Stubbornness or inflexibility.

- Lack of situational awareness.

- Egotism or self-centeredness.

- Substance abuse or careless self-medication.

- High tolerance for cognitive dissonance.

- Being governed by any strong, unmanaged, overwhelming emotion (fear, anxiety, lust, excitement, grief, loss, shame, etc.).

- Codependent relationships and reflexes (for example, always trying to be nice or compliant when someone else is being unreasonably demanding).

- Poor self-care habits (not getting adequate sleep, exercise, nutrition, mental stimulation, etc.)

- Extreme hormone cycles, excesses or deficiencies.

- Lack of experience in a given situation combined with a lack of caution or willingness to seek guidance from someone more experienced.

- Addiction to risky or impulsive behaviors.

- Clinical depression.

- Consumerist external dependency and insecurity (i.e. never looking inward for answers, but always looking to others for a commoditized version of the solution).

- Low self-esteem or negative self-talk.

- Unresolved issues from childhood that require therapeutic intervention.

- Lack of self-awareness or self-knowledge.

- Being deliberately misinformed or manipulated, and not realizing this until it’s too late (for example, what has happened to tobacco users and Nestle baby formula users in the past, and what is happening to Tea Party members and Teflon users in the present).

- Youth (i.e. prefrontal cortex development, general myelination, synaptic pruning, etc.).

- Stress (physical, emotional, relational, etc.)

- Being surrounded (and/or in close relationships with) folks who suffer from a preponderance of any of the above-mentioned factors.

- Becoming socially isolated for long periods of time.

My 2 cents.

Which of society's rules are most important to follow and when are most Americans afforded the freedom to break them?

From Which of society's rules are most important to follow and when are most Americans afforded the freedom to break them? Quora A2A

Thanks for the A2A and clarification [that this is for your 7th grade class] Dean.

For that age group I would probably structure the most important societal rules and expectations this way, in the format of MostImportant/WhenBreakable:

1. Be Honest /except when it puts self or other in disproportionate danger or creates excessive harm.

2. Have Integrity (aligning actions with expressed intentions and exercising discipline to follow through)/except when the probable outcome clearly contradicts your desired outcome.

3. Be Kind & Do No Harm (in intentions, words and actions)/except when it is necessary to defend your liberty and personal sovereignty - or someone else’s .

4. Practice Generosity & Charity /except when objects of your compassionate effort become exploitative or abusive.

5. Take Responsibility (for own well-being, consequences of own choices, harm perpetrated, lies told, own failures of integrity, etc.)/except when the situation is truly out of your control.

6. Engage in Civic Participation (voting, self-educating about issues, attending community mtgs, signing petitions, lobbying for causes, community organizing, various forms of activism, speaking truth to power, civil disobedience, etc.)/except when it substantially interferes with items 1–5.

7. Obey The Rule of Law /except when it actively contradicts or excessively compromises items 1–6.

My 2 cents.

Philosophy: Have you ever struggled with the "problem of other minds"?

From Philosophy: Have you ever struggled with the "problem of other minds"? Quora A2A

Thanks for the A2A James.

For me exploring this question has involved an evolution of sorts. Let me propose three orientations to the problem of other minds:

Group A. At one end of the spectrum are folks we might describe as obsessively codependent, always hypersensitive to the emotional states and perceived intentions of everyone around them, who try feverishly to anticipate changes in mood or develop causal inferences about the thoughts and behaviors of others. For these folks, there is a sort of opposing problem that the operations of "other minds" take precedence over their own thoughts, and consequently they suffer a perpetual internal narrative that, often with the help of magical thinking, is actively creating and navigating what they sense, suppose or intuit to be interior lives of those around them.

Group B. At the other end of the spectrum are folks with limited emotional intelligence and low levels of empathy, who view social interactions as exceedingly mysterious and who find it extremely difficult to interpret or anticipate the seemingly arbitrary emotions of others. For these folks, the problem of other minds is quite pronounced, as they are quite confused about human behavior and its irrational or nonsensical causation, and may have the impression that the interior lives of others are either quite foreign or *fundamentally suspect*. Various attempts to calculate or systematize the emotions and behavior of others have limited success, but tend to lack nuance, complexity or richness.

Group C. In the middle of this spectrum are people of average emotional intelligence and social skills, with let's say a more "average" measure of empathy and sensitivity, who somewhat automatically navigate the perceived emotional expressions of others according to their own experience, and who can anticipate reactions and behaviors of those they know well without much difficulty and with fairly high reliability. For these folks, there is neither an interior narrative enslaved to the moods and behaviors of those around them (codependence, PTSD, social anxiety disorder, schizotypal disorder, etc.), nor a bewilderment or confusion regarding moods, behaviors and their causal inference (sociopathic personality disorders, Autism Spectrum Disorder, etc.).
If you can entertain this hypothesis, then we might further hypothesize that throughout most of human history Group C was the plump bump of the statistical bell curve - especially since its "healthy prosociality" would have helped lubricate social interactions, maintain cohesion and cooperation, and resolve conflict within a given culture, and harmonize relations between cultures over time.

However, even if this proposal is sound, what I believe has been happening since the industrial revolution is an ever-increasing flattening of that bell curve, so that the proportions of Groups A and B have increased as the proportion of Group C has decreased relative to them. The result is that, with each successive generation, a growing number of people either found themselves struggles with "the problem of other minds" or with its codependent inverse.

Personally, I have found myself in all of these Groups at various times of my life. Up to age seven, I was probably confined to Group A. By age eight I began to shift into Group B, with some lingering reflexes from Group A. Now, at age fifty-one, I've learned how to operate more reliably in Group C, with occasional reversions to Group B or A when I'm tired, frustrated or feeling poorly.

I hope this was helpful.

Should truth matter? Why?

From "Should truth matter? Why?" Quora A2A

Thanks for the A2A Steve McKerracher.

Let's take a look at some of the statements used in this question:

"The value of an honest search for truth."

"The acceptance of a comfortable delusion."

"Looking for sound arguments."

"Is ignorance bliss?"

What strikes me in these statements is the implication of specific values, and the importance of a clear values hierarchy in navigating a "sound" resolution to this question. For example:

Is tolerance and acceptance more important that proving a truth?

Is being kind and compassionate more important that being right?

Are honesty and integrity more important that tact, nuance or political efficacy?

Is a desire to know something - and relieve one's own ignorance - more important than personal relationships?

Is prioritizing the precise and accurate more important that conveying "the general idea" in our communication?

Perhaps you see where I am going with this....but to clarify: Suppose I have an aging relative with dementia who keeps insisting that her friend, who died some years ago, is alive and well, and in fact called her earlier that very day. No matter how gently I try to correct her misconceptions, she will likely become extremely despondent if I contradict what she believes to be true, and in all likelihood my correcting her will not change her perceptions or her recollection. Which means that, in this instance, "the truth" is incredible unproductive and pointless, even to the point of doing harm.

And of course there are times when an honest search for truth has value, and should be a priority - that seems clear from centuries of human beings operating with that assumption, and thereby producing some pretty amazing gifts to society: wonderful music and writing, scientific discoveries, profound ahas of insight, great feats of engineering...all as a result of one path or another toward some personally pursued truth. But there are also times when the search for truth has resulted in real horrors of experimentation, bizarre and destructive behaviors, the mass murder of other human beings, alienation and isolation of individuals and groups, a horrible callousness of heart and so on. And what is the real difference between these two kinds of consequences, both resulting from "an honest search for truth" in the eyes of the seeker? I think the qualitative difference lies in the values hierarchy that is being operationalized.

For me, love - as expressed in compassion, kindness, understanding, patience, generosity, empathy, etc. - is the driving force behind *all forms of truth that matter to me*. If something is true, but does not in some way facilitate my compassionate relationship with others, then it may be interesting, and even exciting, but it isn't vitally important. There are many intellectual, physical and spiritual pursuits that are quite stimulating in how they help us encounter truth, but when I begin to become immersed in them, I will ask myself: how does this improve the quality of my relationships? How could it improve the quality of human existence? Will it heal or enhance the quality of the natural harmonies of Earth's ecosystems...or any of the many other things that I care deeply about?

In the same way, integrity and followthrough, emotional openness, critical thinking, self-doubt, humility, and a whole host of other qualities and actions are tied into truth because truth resides fairly high up in my values hierarchy. But love - agape - is at the very top. Do I occasionally flounder a bit and invert my priorities? Sure, and I feel contrite when that happens. But those priorities must remain my compass in the both the calm and storms of life. They have to be, or I would lose my way entirely, becoming disconnected from the fundamental reasons why truth - and an honest search for truth - are important.
So for me, the honest search for truth begins with love, and love is intrinsic to all meaningful truth. They are cofactors in the journey of growth and discovery. And because ignorance can result in a lack of skillfulness in how I exercise compassion towards others, ignorance becomes the enemy of love, and truth its closest friend.

My 2 cents.

Is there a correlation between utilitarianism and totalitarianism?

From "Is there a correlation between utilitarianism and totalitarianism?" Quora A2A.

I'm sorry but this question does not make sense to me. Utilitarian ethics are based on consequences: what makes everyone equally happy. If happiness in a given society is contingent on individual and collective freedoms, then that society can't be governed in a totalitarian fashion. I suppose you could revert to the "benevolent dictator" argument, but that's not a natural consequence of utilitarian ethics, it's a consequence of emerging socioeconomic and educational development; i.e. immature civic institutions, poor education and little experience with democracy. So utilitarian approaches that judge the efficacy of any form of governance based on outcomes (including maximized liberty) would understandably moderate any attempt to inhibit liberty - which is of course the central controlling feature of totalitarianism. In other words, the desired consequence of liberty moderates the means of governing. It's sort of like asking "If you take ice cream away from people, will they eat less ice cream?" Unless people hate ice cream (i.e. liberty) and it makes them miserable, there would be no reason for ice cream to be taken away using any method of utilitarian governance.

My 2 cents.

Comment from Eybi Sulam: "Thing is, "what makes everyone equally happy" doesn't exist. A policy might make some happy while others very frustrated. If the "utilitarian" government is convinced that it is "good", it will press to implement in regardless of the public opinion and this might go to the extreme: totalitarianism if the government believes it knows the best."


I'm sorry but I still think you are missing the point. What is liberty? That is what you need to define. If liberty means democratic consensus, then everyone will agree on "what makes everyone equally happy" and using utilitarian ethics in this case sustains maximum liberty for all. If it only means a democratic plurality, then just over half the people will be "equally happy." If liberty means that a few powerful corporations decide what makes people happy, then that is a plutocracy. If it means whatever makes a dictatorial elite happy, then it is totalitarianism. You keep talking about "a policy" or "government" without defining how polices and governance are derived in your assertion. That is where you need to begin. Otherwise you are just making "government" the bogeyman in the closet - an irrational, inchoate fear. This makes your leap from utilitarian ethics to totalitarianism via deprivation of liberty is a straw man's argument; you are conflating things that don't logically correspond - at least not until you define the method by which "policies" and "government" are derived and function.

I hope this was helpful.


How can you be existential and religious and in the same time, what does it mean to be existential?

In answer to Quora question "How can you be existential and religious and in the same time, what does it mean to be existential?"

Thanks for the A2A Alba.

This question can be answered many different ways, so I'll offer a few thoughts for you to chew over:

1. If a felt experience of existential angst persuades me that existence has no inherent meaning, I might reflexively cling to a shallow religious conviction that injects meaning into that apprehension of meaninglessness as a way to comfort myself. If I recognize what I am doing, I may still be existential in my orientation towards existence, but still cling to shallow religiosity as a coping mechanism.

2. I could also have a mystical experience in which I sense a unitive ground of being that connects all life - indeed all of existence. From this I glean a sense of spiritual unity within myself and inclusive of my surroundings, which seems to align with certain mystical branches of religious experience among various traditions (indeed nearly all traditions have such a branch). However, I may also at the same time feel separated or alienated from any traditional concepts of God or human society, so that much of mainstream "religiosity" really doesn't conform to my experiences or worldview. I may also feel that this unitive mystical state - and the entire interdependence of existence I am witnessing - has intrinsic meaning that is ineffable; in other words, it has no intellectually framable value, and cannot be communicated in words at all. As a consequence, the meaning that I sense or intuit is so inchoate that I can't rely on it to justify my existence to anyone else - or really even to myself without a fair amount of self-questioning doubt. In this sense, I may be both spiritual (or religious in a mystical sense) and existential at the same time.

3. Another variation is that I might discover that the material world really is mostly a pointless, futile creation, inherently prone to perpetual suffering, and that its only meaningful qualities arise from a profound felt experience of compassionate affection that I must consciously choose to pursue. In other words, I might recognize that all of life and existence are indeed utterly futile without the presence of love, and so I commit myself to cultivating and generating that love to imbue my own existence with purpose (and indeed to justify all existence) and to help alleviate the suffering around me. And, since this same perspective can be found among many different religious traditions, I am willing to adopt one of those traditions to help actualize this love-in-action. As I practice this faith, however, I never lose sight of the felt reality that all of this existence is a meaningless farce, illusion or dream.

4. Yet another variation of being both religious and existentialist is to progress through all of the phases of St John of the Cross' Dark Night of the Soul. I do not mean the watered-down pop-psyche version of this experience, I mean the real deal...all the way to the end. Anyone who has committed themselves to this path understands what it means to be both religious and existentialist at the same time.

5. And actually, I would say that someone who really commits to delve deeply into almost any spiritual tradition, moving beyond dogma and conformance to the most authentic praxis of faith, will begin to sense the intersection of existential perceptions and religious convictions. A profound commitment to spiritual discipline will, IMO, lead almost everyone to a very similar experience of this intersect. I think this is likely why, for example, Thomas Merton, a Trappist Catholic, felt such a strong affinity with Zen Buddhist monks.

Apart from these examples, there are still others that illustrate how existentialism and religion or spirituality coexist, most notably Kierkegaard's elucidation of the (necessary) absurdity of faith when confronting the "infinite qualitative disjunction" of the Divine. In another vein, there is the choice of nihilism, but here also we can find spiritual traditions where being both religious and nihilistic is an acceptable stage of development.

My 2 cents.

What is the most profound piece of knowledge that you've come across?

In answer to Quora question "What is the most profound piece of knowledge that you've come across?"

Thank you for the A2A Alice.

I would break this down into two areas: knowledge about human beings, and knowledge about the Universe.

Regarding knowledge about humans, I think it is precisely what you have already identified: our capacity and our choice to encounter, apprehend and grok "profound knowledge" - this is itself a most astounding condition, in that we continue to learn and grow. What a gift! Further, that humans can perceive and process such knowledge on many different levels - intellectually, emotionally, somatically, spiritually, socially, etc. - adds so much depth and dimensionality to this process. And finally, that we have the creative power to operationalize/reify what we learn; we can build really complex gadgets, engage in a dialectical synthesis of abstract ideas into insight and wisdom, construct civil society within various ethical and ideological frameworks, write novels and compose symphonies...it's all pretty darn nifty.

Regarding knowledge about the Universe, I think that's what floors me: knowledge about the Universe. It's an infinitely expanding realm of multidimensional understanding, profound in its complexity, interdependence, sophistication and wonder. And appreciating the fact that, even with everything humanity has grasped through science, philosophy, introspection and mystical ahas, we still have a virtually unlimited amount of knowledge yet to discover...well, that is both profound and humbling.

My 2 cents.

Is this world really just an animal kingdom based on competition?

In answer to Quora question "Is this world really just an animal kingdom based on competition?"

Thanks for the A2A Anna.

There are a number of ways to come at this question, depending on one's beliefs, but IMO they can all arrive at similar conclusions if one proceeds carefully and thoughtfully enough. Some examples....

- A materialist or empiricist might observe that there is both competition and cooperation within and between different species, and in fact that prosocial traits evolved within humans and other species via group selection, so that they come to have a genetic predisposition to be cooperative, mutually supportive, generous, caring and kind.

- A panpsychist, systems theorist or constructive integralist might say that energy exchanges - and indeed consciousness - are constantly interacting and morphing in all forms of life, so that what we perceive as competition is just a thin veneer of temporary, situational opportunism on top of a much deeper continuity of interdependence and dialectical synthesis.

- A mystic might conclude that all of existence - and all forms of life - are an emergent expression of the immanent and ultimately unitive creative impulse: the unmanifest essence of being cascading forth in multifaceted wonder. In this context, what we perceive as "competition" is just the natural tension between different facets of that essence attempting to differentiate from each other, when really that difference is just an illusion, a construct with impermanent utility that dissolves within an egoless spiritual perception-cognition.

On the other hand, there are other approaches (reductionism, objectivism, nihilism, atomistic individualism, etc.) that prefer to see the world as "just an animal kingdom based on competition," and so they shy away from deeper structures of existence and being. Just like a stone skipping along the surface of the ocean, all they tend to see are the waves flowing or colliding with each other. But when we delve beneath the surface, the waves become irrelevant, and there is only one, seemingly infinite body of ocean. This shift in perspective requires courage to initiate, and often demands letting go of comforting coping mechanisms and defensive reflexes, and for these reasons fear and insecurity can present challenging barriers. But with patience, effort, time, focus and self-discipline, it is possible to move beyond the self-referential view that limits our understanding to a primarily competitive framework.

My 2 cents.


Does the term "the evil elite" have any true grounds, or otherwise, we blame others for our misguided actions?

In answer to Quora question "Does the term "the evil elite" have any true grounds, or otherwise, we blame others for our misguided actions?"

A2A.

As Kelly La Rue pointed out, the Pike letter is a hoax...and seems to be the grandchild of a much more pernicious hoax perpetrated by Leo Taxil (see Albert Pike to Mazzini, August 15, 1871: Three World Wars?). And whether Clarence Sherrick is correct about the purpose of such hoaxes, they do seem to provide an excellent smoke screen and distraction away from what is really going on.

So what is really going on? Well that's a lengthy topic. But here are some links for you to peruse:

On How Corporations Control U.S. Politics:

Exposing ALEC: How Conservative-Backed State Laws Are All Connected

ALEC's (Non)Disclosure Policy | BillMoyers.com


Video on Koch brothers taking over Tea Party

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-zBOQL5lZuU


On how the U.S. and its companies use the IMF and World Bank to exploit developing countries:

Top Ten Reasons to Oppose the IMF

How the World Bank, IMF and WTO destroyed African agriculture

IMF's four steps to damnation


Regarding the Iraq War being engineered for profit:

Upworthy | War Contractors

Halliburton, KBR, and Iraq war contracting: A history so far

Tenet Details Efforts to Justify Invading Iraq


Regarding the Super-Entity & Concentrations of Economic Control

Revealed – the capitalist network that runs the world

Interlocking directorates

The Corporate Community

http://corpnet.uva.nl/pdf/sociologica2016.pdf


How All Of This Ties Together

http://www.globalresearch.ca/world-bank-whistleblower-reveals-how-the-global-elite-rule-the-world/5353130

Bilderberg Group

http://www.theyrule.net/


My Conclusions So Far:

I would recommend you dig into some of these links and arrive at your own conclusions. Try to find the common themes that connect all of these facts, events, people and outcomes.

For me, the unifying pattern is pretty clear: there are a few hundred people in the world who have a pronounced influence over both global trade and financial institutions, over any mechanisms of government that can impact these holdings, and consequently over how both international wars are waged and how laws are written all the way down to the municipal level. It's rather breathtaking. But having such power does not indicate a conspiracy, per se, but rather a kind of "natural selection" via exploitative capitalism, in which the plutocratic elite are protecting their influence and enlarging their wealth. Sure, it results in a modern form of feudalism, but the perceived "coordination" is, I think, just a result of universal practices that have proven effective in retaining power over time, rather than a carefully planned and executed manipulation. But I could be wrong.

What seems clear is that more folks should wake up to this reality and care about it. I once asked my grandmother, who lived through Nazi Germany, why the Germans didn't rise up against Hitler or at least challenge what he was doing. She looked at me calmly and smiled, then said "Well because they had bread to eat." We could expand that to bread-and-circuses, to spectacle, to a materialistic individualism that infantalizes consumers so that they become dependent on commodities in every dimension of life. Again, though, this need not be a conspiracy...it's just commercialistic capitalism at work.

So are the elite "evil?" I don't think so - they are just human, susceptible to human failings as we all are. But capitalism...well, that is evil IMO. It is the pernicious, systemic, excessively corrosive force that empowers the elite to enslave others, destroy entire cultures, and decimate the planet.

My 2 cents.

On what basis do people argue that the universe is conscious?

In answer to Quora question: "On what basis do people argue that the universe is conscious?"

You asked about a basis. For a mystic that basis is the personal experience of a unitive condition inclusive of subject and object - and indeed all objects -as the result of disciplined mental, emotional and physical practices. Direct experience of this felt reality is profoundly persuasive. However, how we react to or interpret such unitive apperceptions tends to reflect the structural sophistication and moral development within which our own consciousness currently operates. Wilber examines this idea in his discussion of a "pre/trans fallacy." Panpsychism is one response or explanation in a spectrum of responses and explanations to unitive apperception, but is really an abstraction of the core experience. Another response was Gutei raising a single finger. Another is immersion in profound love-consciousness. Another is worshipful gratitude toward the Divine. Thought-without-thought, action-without-action, no-self, Atman Brahman, supramentalisation...this list is varied and endless, but the core experience that inspired these reactions or conditions is the same; it has undifferentiated unity. So to appreciate the "mechanism of consciousness" in seemingly inanimate objects, you would need to commit to a mystical practice that could eventually offer you a directly apprehended answer. Then again, you might interpret your experience differently. But if you constrain your answers to rational arguments, you will tend to become mired in endless loops that can't resolve themselves. It would be equivalent, say, to trying to explain the relationship between manifest and unmanifest, or characteristics of the Ayn Soph, or what Buddhist "emptiness" is, etc. without experiencing these directly.

I hope this was helpful.

Comment from Dimage Sapelkin: "Why don't philosophers speak normal understandable language? You probably said something interesting and meaningful, but I only understood a few words"


Dimage I apologize. Sometimes trying to be precise with words can result in less easy-to-understand language. If I try to simplify what I'm saying, it may also be misunderstood, but I'll give it a try: If I meditate, and have a sudden "aha" moment in which I perceive everything as one - completely the same in its essence or in its relationship to everything else - I may conclude that "everything is conscious," because I cannot separate my own consciousness from my mind's penetration of (or entanglement with?) everything that I perceive. In fact, I may discover that what I believe to be "real consciousness" is actually something very different than my own "monkey mind," and that aspects of this "real consciousness" are in fact present in everything around me. But this experience is extremely personal and subjective...it is challenging to explain it in rational terms. However, as a basis for "universal consciousness," it feels very convincing to the person experiencing it.

Comment from Dimage Sapelkin: "Yep, but if you think about the experience of other people who feel quite the same, you know that they have very different experience from yours. Their consciousness actually doesn't get included with yours while you feel as one with the universe. Isn't that a contradiction to what you are saying?"


From my discussions with others who have shared their mystical experiences with me, and from my readings of those mystics who have tried to write down their experiences, compared them with the experiences of mystics from other traditions, and so on...I would say that we all have encountered some pretty profoundly similar felt realities, and indeed "shared in the same consciousness." Sometimes our sensations and insights seem almost identical, but, I think more importantly, these mystical "ahas" share powerful central characteristics, such as feeling deep compassion for all human beings that endures into our daily lives, and never fades away entirely. Then again, their are many doors to the palace of wisdom, many paths up the mountain, and even if they at first may seem contradictory, they are ultimately reconciled in mystical union. I hope this was helpful.

Comment from Martin Silvertant: "A really excellent answer, and beautifully worded. I don't at all share Sapelkin's sentiment. I understood everything and didn't feel you were being pretentious in your choice of words.

One question though. What are you referring to exactly when you say one can't explain the relationship between the characteristics of the Ayn Soph? Are you implying it's inherently spiritual rather than rational?"


We can discuss or frame this rationally after encountering it in peak experiences, but I would say the experience itself is "transrational;" it integrates many different input streams, and rationality (or more accurately a "hyperrationality" that excludes felt sense, intuition, spiritual cognition, etc. from the mix) can actually get in the way - or at least cause us to stumble. My 2 cents.

Who are the wisest individuals in history?

In answer to Quora question: "Who are the wisest individuals in history?"

Thanks for the A2A Joel. IMO some of the wisest people in history were those that were able to listen to their innermost Self - to pointedly pay attention to what bubbled up from their ground of being - and actualize that insight in their lives. Alternatively, I would say that there are also those who simply learned from experience (including their mistakes of course) and observation, and either applied that learning in their lives with surprising consistency, or were able to communicate their insights to others - or both. And I think those rare individuals who took a truly multidisciplinary (multidimensional) approach to both understanding their world and taking action in it should be lauded for this effort. But the very wisest, I think, were those who did all of these things, and were able to do so amid opposition and calamity, often as an outlier and outsider in their place and time. It is this last group that represents not just wisdom, but persistence, discipline and integrity. Across these groups, in no particular order, I would remember:

Mahatma Gandhi

Marcus Aurelius

Aristotle

Socrates

Hafez

Florence Nightingale

Solomon

Henry David Thoreau

Albert Einstein

Gautama Buddha

Marie Curie

Hegel

Spinoza

Che Guevara

Lao Tzu (though possibly not an actual person)

Jesus of Nazareth

Ben Franklin

Hildegard of Bingen

Charles Dickens

William Shakespeare

Nelson Mandela

Galileo Galilei

My 2 cents.

Is Colin Wilson repeating the old existential mantra - existence precedes essence - or is he throwing something new into the mix?

In answer to Quora question: "Is Colin Wilson repeating the old existential mantra - existence precedes essence - or is he throwing something new into the mix?"

Thanks for the A2A Andrew McBride. I'm certainly glad to get a question about Colin Wilson.

I would say he is throwing something new into the mix, in that "essence" is not just a reactive condition - not just a creative response of mind and will to existence - but also a phenomenon in itself. How does he arrive at this conclusion? Well, this is a bit tricky, but I'll take a crack at it here and hopefully get close. First we might ask: are peak experiences of consciousness a reflection of a reactive, generative essence? That is, indicating an "essence of choice?" Well, on the one hand, they are pre-existent in the sense that they occur naturally and with some frequency in all people as involuntary fleeting moments, and then with particular potency, persistence and continuity in highly creative outsiders. On the other hand, over time, this pre-existing propensity can be amplified, refined, focused, expanded and so forth. So there is a nurturing component that Wilson advocates as a conscious choice, while at the same time using language that ascribes this to a "waking up" to something already there. So both created and pre-existing. And, as this essence is cultivated, it gains durability and strength, to the point of surviving death. Since the capacity to be awake, have peak experiences, be highly creative, etc. are primarily on the nature side of the equation - and then have, apparently mainly via *nurture, *endured beyond death, possessed other people, etc. - it would be impossible (from Wilson's perspective) to separate them from an inherent "meaning" or evolutionary trajectory that precedes existence even as it is generated by existence. And therein lies the tricky part. To be conscious, intentional, present, and "awake," are we entering into a process that evolved consciousness itself (and implies meaning for that evolution), or are we actively inventing and generating such a condition, state or process along with its meaning? That is the phenomenological dialectic that Wilson seems to be invoking over and over again. However, he may have said something more definitive about this at some point that I either haven't encountered or can't recall...and such specificity would certainly be helpful here. But regardless of where we might land in the essence/existence recursion, I suspect that Wilson would prompt us back into flight, as the dynamics of these phenomena in his universe are always in motion; to rest in any static conclusion would therefore be akin to...falling back asleep.

My 2 cents.

How do libertarian socialists plan to redistribute wealth without the use of or threat of violence?

Thanks for the question Samuel.

Libertarian socialism is an incredibly diverse container for many, many different approaches to political economy (see Libertarian socialism). It's a really quite a vast spectrum. So to generalize about it in any way is to basically say something like "All people who drive Volkswagons..." yada yada yada. It's kind of pointless.

That said, since I self-identify as a libertarian socialist, I'm happy to answer for myself. However, I'd like to reiterate that I can't answer (at least not definitively) for anyone else - even people I agree with. For example Noam Chomsky is a libertarian socialist, but his thinking seems firmly grounded in anarcho-syndicalism. Personally, I don't think that's a viable approach, and even though I agree with Chomsky on many things, this is one area where we would disagree.
So how would I get from where we are now to my own libertarian socialist model? To understand my proposal fully, you would have to visit my website, www.level-7.org, or read my other writing on this topic:

http://www.tcollinslogan.com/resources/IntegralLiberty.pdf and other essays at www.tcollinslogan.com

and my book,

Political Economy and the Unitive Principle : T.Collins Logan : Free Download & Streaming : Internet Archive

Since those are lengthy reads, however, I'll try to summarize the essence of my nonviolent proposals:

1) Encourage people to mature morally and socially so that they become increasingly motivated by mutual compassion rather than egoic self-interest. There are many ways to do this, but one is to simply educate people on how humans evolved prosocial survival traits in the first place via group selection. Another is to lay bare the fallacy of individualism as an invention of philosophers, and one that isn't grounded in empirical evidence.

2) Help people realize that private property ownership actually annihilates freedom in profoundly oppressive ways, and then illustrate the success of common or collective ownership models as the most viable, liberty-enhancing alternatives.

3) In conjunction with increasing moral edification and philosophical education, advocate for more and more democracy so that power truly rests with the people - ideally in polycentric governance that integrates consensus, direct and representative (technocratic) democracy on multiple levels.

4) Establish a basic infrastructure and essential services civic backbone that uses centralized standards and coordination, but relies on the principle of subsidiarity for decision-making, standards adoption, boundary integrations and self-management.
No violence there. Just education, democracy, proven models of distributed management (Ostrom's CPRM, etc.) and a willingness to let go of antiquated notions that have served plutocratic capitalism quite well while they have pulled the wool over the eyes of workers, consumers and citizens. And please note that there is no central State involved in my model - at least not what you would traditionally think of as a State, and certainly not a police State. This is a highly distributed model of political economy.

Again for more depth you'll need to slog through my writing. Apologies for that. But the only "violence" that I advocate in any of my writing (with respect to a necessary revolution) is the disruption of the status quo through things like community activism, nonviolent resistance, art activism, non-lethal hacktivism, and other forms of civic engagement. In other words, nothing that violates the essence of the non-aggression principle, which I believe will be essential to creating a better system than the one that oppresses us now.

My 2 cents.

Comment by Ed Johnson: "So education, against human nature, is the answer. Eventually, ‘re-education’ a la Mao. “No violence there”, of course."


Says who? All of the most current research (over the past decade) regarding prosocial traits (generosity, cooperation, self-sacrifice, etc.) is that prosociality is hard-wired into humans, and has been for millenia. In fact, across most fields of study (anthropology, sociology, psychology, genetics, biology, etc.), there is unified agreement that prosocial traits are what allowed humans to survive into modern times. It was only the advent of certain “engineered” social structures, in certain parts of the world, that began to undermine that prosociality and replace it with other cultural expectations — and this happened selectively throughout history, and more uniformly only recently (well into the 2nd Millennium CE). Here’s a link to a decent article about some of the underlying research…I have many more if you are interested:

Scientists Probe Human Nature--and Discover We Are Good, After All

How do libertarian socialists plan to redistribute wealth without the use of or threat of violence?

Thanks for the question Samuel.

Libertarian socialism is an incredibly diverse container for many, many different approaches to political economy (see Libertarian socialism). It's a really quite a vast spectrum. So to generalize about it in any way is to basically say something like "All people who drive Volkswagons..." yada yada yada. It's kind of pointless.

That said, since I self-identify as a libertarian socialist, I'm happy to answer for myself. However, I'd like to reiterate that I can't answer (at least not definitively) for anyone else - even people I agree with. For example Noam Chomsky is a libertarian socialist, but his thinking seems firmly grounded in anarcho-syndicalism. Personally, I don't think that's a viable approach, and even though I agree with Chomsky on many things, this is one area where we would disagree.
So how would I get from where we are now to my own libertarian socialist model? To understand my proposal fully, you would have to visit my website, www.level-7.org, or read my other writing on this topic:

http://www.tcollinslogan.com/resources/IntegralLiberty.pdf and other essays at www.tcollinslogan.com

and my book,

Political Economy and the Unitive Principle : T.Collins Logan : Free Download & Streaming : Internet Archive

Since those are lengthy reads, however, I'll try to summarize the essence of my nonviolent proposals:

1) Encourage people to mature morally and socially so that they become increasingly motivated by mutual compassion rather than egoic self-interest. There are many ways to do this, but one is to simply educate people on how humans evolved prosocial survival traits in the first place via group selection. Another is to lay bare the fallacy of individualism as an invention of philosophers, and one that isn't grounded in empirical evidence.

2) Help people realize that private property ownership actually annihilates freedom in profoundly oppressive ways, and then illustrate the success of common or collective ownership models as the most viable, liberty-enhancing alternatives.

3) In conjunction with increasing moral edification and philosophical education, advocate for more and more democracy so that power truly rests with the people - ideally in polycentric governance that integrates consensus, direct and representative (technocratic) democracy on multiple levels.

4) Establish a basic infrastructure and essential services civic backbone that uses centralized standards and coordination, but relies on the principle of subsidiarity for decision-making, standards adoption, boundary integrations and self-management.
No violence there. Just education, democracy, proven models of distributed management (Ostrom's CPRM, etc.) and a willingness to let go of antiquated notions that have served plutocratic capitalism quite well while they have pulled the wool over the eyes of workers, consumers and citizens. And please note that there is no central State involved in my model - at least not what you would traditionally think of as a State, and certainly not a police State. This is a highly distributed model of political economy.

Again for more depth you'll need to slog through my writing. Apologies for that. But the only "violence" that I advocate in any of my writing (with respect to a necessary revolution) is the disruption of the status quo through things like community activism, nonviolent resistance, art activism, non-lethal hacktivism, and other forms of civic engagement. In other words, nothing that violates the essence of the non-aggression principle, which I believe will be essential to creating a better system than the one that oppresses us now.

My 2 cents.

Comment by Ed Johnson: "So education, against human nature, is the answer. Eventually, ‘re-education’ a la Mao. “No violence there”, of course."


Says who? All of the most current research (over the past decade) regarding prosocial traits (generosity, cooperation, self-sacrifice, etc.) is that prosociality is hard-wired into humans, and has been for millenia. In fact, across most fields of study (anthropology, sociology, psychology, genetics, biology, etc.), there is unified agreement that prosocial traits are what allowed humans to survive into modern times. It was only the advent of certain “engineered” social structures, in certain parts of the world, that began to undermine that prosociality and replace it with other cultural expectations — and this happened selectively throughout history, and more uniformly only recently (well into the 2nd Millennium CE). Here’s a link to a decent article about some of the underlying research…I have many more if you are interested:

Scientists Probe Human Nature--and Discover We Are Good, After All

What is the weakness of a low morality individual?

In answer to Quora question "What is the weakness of a low morality individual?"

Thanks for the A2A Mizael Pena. In contrast to many answers here, I do not believe morality is subjective or relative. In my worldview, there are certain moral absolutes. However, as the differences between the answers so far seems to point out, there is a moral sensibility regulated by the group, which we would call "ethics," and individual morality, which is one's personal moral compass to navigate right and wrong. The latter moral compass may be influenced by culture, but is ultimately regulated by conscience, discernment and reason; whereas the former ethics are a matter of intersubjective agreement, and are regulated by social norms and expectations to conform.

So I will address your question about individual morals rather than societal ethics.

The "weakness" of an individual with a low sense of morals is that they are unable to judge right from wrong. Contrary to what some have opined - i.e. that this allows for a "flexibility" that can be favorable - this is actually a serious defect in character that will ultimately result in the either the misery of the individual, those in relationship with them, their immediate community, or ultimately larger and larger circumferences of social groups, depending on how much influence this individual can exert. The reason for this is simple: the evolution of the individual conscience into a prosocial compass was very likely (according to current evolutionary theories accounting for group selection) a way to enhance the fitness of the group in terms of survival over time. Groups that cooperate, think collectively, help each other, protect weaker or more vulnerable members and so forth have had a much higher rate of success in hostile environments and when competing with other species. We see this in modern studies of other primates as well. Individualism, as relatively modern invention, doesn't support group fitness in the same way, and is likely the result of our technological and social abstraction from the realities of basic survival, and a consequent suppression of many healthy prosocial instincts.

In this context, reactions that seem altruistic, kind, loving, forgiving, accepting, charitable, self-sacrificial and so forth make a lot of sense: they evolved to help our species survive. And as we abandon those highly successful reactions in favor of self-interest, we are likely putting homo sapiens at extreme risk for eventual extinction. More practically speaking, however, the negative impact of such "low morality" (i.e. lack of a governing conscience) is mainly a destruction of social bonds; if a person is not trustworthy, lacks integrity, consistently disregards the well-being of others and has no restraint with respect to hurting others, then they will disrupt the cohesion of every relationship in which they are even cursorily involved. And it is the acknowledgement of this destructive impact that leads society to brand such people "sociopaths" or "psychopaths" or "narcissists," because if "low morality" is consistently demonstrated, it is considered pathological and dangerous to the community.

But what causes this "weakness?" It could be many things - an abusive childhood, prolonged exposure to traumatic experiences, a mental disorder, a genetic defect, the consequence of drug or alcohol abuse, or simply extended isolation from a supportive community and a consequent sense of alienation or lack of belonging around fellow human beings. And as I mentioned, it is this last factor - isolation of the individual - that has been amplified by modern technology, a profound separation from Nature, a culture of affluence and consumerism, and ideologies that celebrate individualistic self-interest.

My 2 cents.

How do you (as a person) decide what is ethical and what isn't?

In answer to Quora question "How do you (as a person) decide what is ethical and what isn't?"

Thank you for the A2A.

For me this is about *agape*, about finding the most skillful way to express compassionate affection for myself and everyone and everything around me. Many approaches to ethics are too small, IMO...too self-referential or anthropocentric. If we are to act ethically in all relationships then we need to appreciate that we are in relationship with everything and everyone around us - not just what or whom we choose. So the larger and more inclusive my loving kindness can be - the more it can encompass and appreciate - the more my ethics will be guided by complex interdependencies that clarify my values hierarchies.

In terms of the mechanism of decision-making, I would say introspection, meditation, humility, openness and neutrality are key. And when I can approach each situation as unique and deserving of my conscious attention, the better my chances are to apply these tools. Over time, with experience, we can develop reliable discernment.

For a more detailed discussion of the topic of operationalizing values hierarchies, I recommend this article: Functional Intelligence. If you are feeling really adventurous, I would also recommend this one: Managing Complexity with Constructive Integralism.

My 2 cents.

How does philosophy of mind affect cognitive science?

In answer to Quora question "How does philosophy of mind affect cognitive science?"

An interesting question and I think you could approach this from two distinct angles. First I would say philosophy of mind has a substantial impact on the fundamental assumptions in cognitive research - whether it is consciously recognized or not, the researcher will, as one example, be operating on a conviction that mind is exclusively a product of physiology, that cognitive processes are introduced and influenced by this or that set of specific biological structures, and so on. Or they will be operating on some other set of assumptions that relate equally to an adopted or presumed philosophy of mind. So that is one angle, and it is an important one, because if nearly all research is dominated by "physicalism," then the parameters and metrics involved in all experimentation will conform to that bias and affirm it to varying degrees. In other words, if all I am measuring in a half-cup of water is the water (and not the air, suspended particles, etc.), then my focus will confirm the presence of water and conceive of the cup as "half full" of water and be effectively blind to anything else. Unfortunately that is the state of affairs in empirical research right now, and why, for example, a neuroscientist might confidently assert that the "philosophy of mind" question has been answered, and there is nothing more to philosophize about. I've actually heard a prominent neurobiologist confidently and publicly make this assertion, and I think that's pretty sad. It's certainly not scientific to reflexively exclude everything we cannot understand or, as yet, empirically validate.

The second angle is a bit subtler but, I think, equally important. I approach the question of mind from an entirely different perspective than a cognitive researcher, because my central concern is about applying and testing a theory in pragmatic ways (i.e. that are beneficial to my clients). Yes, I do enjoy philosophizing and theorizing too, but the rubber hits the road when a genuine, enduring positive wellness outcome is paramount. And so my own development of theories about memory, for example (see Memory Self : T.Collins Logan : Free Download & Streaming : Internet Archive) grew out of such real-world applications, and continue to be tested and revised in that light. This would also be true of other applied cognitive science, such as learning and cognitive development, predictive behavioral calculations and decision matrixes, stress relief and so on. And yet these may represent very different philosophies of mind in their conception and application. What we begin to realize, then, is that any specific philosophy of mind becomes increasingly irrelevant in its real-world applications - all that matters, really, are outcomes. And what we almost always find is that outcomes are much more dependent on things like the relationship between the clinician and the client, or the client's belief in the methodology, or plain old placebo effect. And this departure from the criticality of framing applies to impersonal metrics as well - for example increased sales resulting from campaigns informed by behavioral economics. There may be the illusion of causality in correlations between results and theory...but there are far too many variables in play to nail down actual causality.

So on the one hand philosophy of mind has a substantive impact on research and the projected viability of a given theory for real-world applications, and on the other you have an almost delusional reification of that theory when it is actually applied (a la partial reinforcement and confirmation bias). Which suggests, to me at least, that we need to account for the air in the glass, the surface tension on the water, suspended particles, temperature and a host of other as yet unidentified variables to truly comprehend cognition, emotion, behavior, free will and so on, and to derive the most nuanced understanding of that complexity. This approach is part of what I call multidialectical synthesis or "constructive integralism."

My 2 cents.

What was Ayn Rand wrong about?

In answer to Quora question "What was Ayn Rand wrong about?"

Rand’s errors are numerous, despite her popular appeal. Most of them stem from her investment in atomism and its solipsistic extensions, but many are also self-contradictory or reflect a poorly educated understanding of human psychology and behavior. We could sum up her central ideas with a statement like “Human beings should aim to be rational, autonomous agents whose primary moral obligation is to advocate for their own interests and ignore or reject interference with self-directed liberty.” But humans aren’t all that rational – even those who claim to be – and in fact humans are mainly irrational and impulsive creatures who post-rationalize many if not most decisions. Even in situations where we carefully analyze our course of action ahead of time, it is our emotions that provide a “conviction of rightness” for any given course; without such emotions, we couldn’t even make a decision (see Antonio Damasio's research). We are also not autonomous. Our existence and identity – indeed even our sense of individual agency – is entirely dependent on our education, enculturation, upbringing and current social context and interactions. We are prosocially interdependent critters whose “individual” totality is the sum of a thousand factors entirely out of our control; even if we lived alone in some isolated wilderness, our self-concept would be formed through interaction with that environment. We do not exist as independent atoms, but as highly permeable organisms that require sunlight, nourishment, attention, interaction and stimulation that we ourselves cannot provide. Even a person who believes they are entirely self-defined and self-sufficient will completely fall apart if left in a sensory deprivation environment for more than a day. Perhaps most importantly, however, we cannot, as members of a society, be “free” unless everyone else in that society agrees to the terms and boundaries of our freedom; collective agreement is a prerequisite for individual liberty (I write more about this here: The Goldilocks Zone of Integral Liberty: A Proposed Method of Differentiating Verifiable Free Will from Countervailing Illusions of Freedom). And, lastly, what is “moral” is also defined through our sociality; there is no empirical evidence to support an independent, isolated, self-referential universe in which my actions do not impact other people or my environment. This is why, if anyone lives solipsism to its natural extreme, they will end up hospitalized as delusional or psychotic. Therefore, assessing our choices and behavior in light of our interactions with others and impact on the world around us (i.e. developing the empathy that was anathema to Rand) is the only framing consistent with reality as we can empirically observe and measure it. This is also what is viewed as “moral maturity” in many philosophical and spiritual traditions, and I refer to the fruition of this trajectory as “the unitive principle” (you can read more about this line of reasoning here: Political Economy and the Unitive Principle : T.Collins Logan : Free Download & Streaming : Internet Archive). So in my view Rand was simply not aware of the overwhelming evidence that undermines her views, and was perhaps just voicing a postmodern rejection of traditional values. But she was very impressed with her own conclusions – and perhaps that arrogance was the greatest error of all. She was also wrong about cigarettes.

My 2 cents.

If political ideologies are unrealistically Utopian then shouldn't we ditch them for something practical?

In answer to Quora question "If political ideologies are unrealistically Utopian then shouldn't we ditch them for something practical?"

Thanks for the A2A Arion.

This question creates an interesting tension. For the person who believes a particular "Utopian" proposal is achievable, "practical" solutions may seem cynical or overly compromising. For the person who is focused on short-term achievements within an existing system or context, viewing themselves as a Pragmatist, "Utopian" is dismissed as "pie-in-the-sky." For the person who believes they know what the Utopian is aiming for, and what the Pragmatist is aiming for, but has a plan to achieve those desired ends through moderating a different central assumption or tacitly accepted factor, proposing a seemingly unrelated approach that hasn't yet be considered - well, both the Utopian and the Pragmatist may take issue with this seemingly irrelevant approach (let's call this Outlier), and dismiss the Outlier as either not understanding the problem, or not appreciating the best mechanisms for resolution. Then of course we have the Radical, who is committed to disrupting and perhaps even destroying the status quo, because they view the ideas and efforts of Utopians, Pragmatists and Outliers as equally weak and ineffective.

Throughout history, we have also seen various combinations of these perspectives in a given person or movement - or phases of development in cultural or institutional changes that seem to parallel these positions. But really, it is incredibly difficult to persuade any of these positions that the other positions are attractive, possible or viable...and that amplifies polarization and gridlock in any polity. So what is the way out? One way out is facilitated by another type of person: the Political Genius. This is someone who can weave together disparate perspectives to create a working solution, a solution that appeals to each perspective as having the potential to satisfy their ideology in some way, but which is actually not aimed to satisfy them but something entirely unanticipated (by anyone but the Political Genius) - in other words, it aims for a much more surprising outcome that falls squarely into an entirely different, often undisclosed ideological bucket. And these Political Geniuses are understandably rare - and are usually not seen as Geniuses at all, except by those who have cultivated a particular lens of historical and contextual appreciation. Another way out is spontaneous popular uprising that operates entirely outside of the established system at first, but whose ideas are integrated into existing civic institutions. We saw this happen to a limited degree with the Occupy and Tea Party movements. Lastly, another way out is either self-induced or externally-imposed calamity, which forces everyone to reconsider their positions in light of a harsher reality with more limited choices.

From a global perspective, we seem to be approaching the point where, if a new Political Genius or popular uprising does not nudge the status quo into a amore sustainable trajectory, humanity will encounter the mandatory adjustments induced by global calamity. And of course this same inevitability seems to be echoed in smaller scale in many countries, cities and communities. Now IMO there are other mechanisms that can help create ongoing flexibility, so that neither calamity nor uprising nor special Political Genius are required to facilitate change. Among these are a combination of scientific inquiry, direct democracy, moral development, multidimensional education, and more egalitarian and participatory economics. But are these ideals Utopian, Outlier or Pragmatic? I consider them to be Pragmatic, but a Tea Party person might see them as Utopian, and a Statist Progressive might see them as Outlier...and so on. Thus we come full circle to the need for a Political Genius, popular uprising or disruptive calamity to set us on a different path...at least until these other mechanisms of advanced civil society can be fully operationalized.

My 2 cents.

What is the relationship between a subjective sense of free will and a subjective sense of being real?

In answer to Quora question "What is the relationship between a subjective sense of free will and a subjective sense of being real?"


Thanks for the A2A and clarification Jeff.

I believe they are intimately connected and have equal "illusory" potential. They both can be experienced, defined or described via four primary drives (to exist, to express, to effect and to adapt), but they are also subjected to perceptive/cognitive errors and distortions. With delusion, apophenia and hallucination at one extreme, and willful ignorance, confirmation bias and a high tolerance for cognitive dissonance at the other, the sweet spot for "accurate self-awareness" becomes just as rare as for "accurate self-contextualization." This is why I believe it is important to include multiple input streams - rational, intuitive, somatic, emotional, spiritual, social - into the experiential frame and processing matrix, because we cannot construct truly multidimensional objects (be it our autonomous agency or the "I am") without multiple dimensions; they won't feel "authentic" if they aren't completely fleshed out in both their felt sense and any proposed objective metrics. I think this is a rigorous but necessary discipline.

And of course the validations of intersubjectivity are IMO absolutely critical - and across all dimensions as well. But probably the most persisting errors here are either overemphasis of just one or two input streams, selective reinforcement by limiting who we include in our validations, or both. It's hard to remain vigilant while holding all perception-cognition lightly and welcoming all new information in a neutral way - *really hard*. But that is what we must do to get closer to both freedom and reality as flowing and persisting states, and avoid illusion as best we can. Even then we may just be enacting a variation of Zeno's dichotomy paradox - with the myth of the given, Chalmer's hard problem and Sartre's nausée all hovering in the wings, ready to ridicule our felt sense or snatch it away entirely. By maximizing the breadth and depth of ALL input streams, "all things being mediated by mind" becomes slightly less disruptive. Well...unless you're a Buddhist (just a little epistemological gallows humor).

And yet in the day-to-day all of this is automatically and reflexively constructed. We can exit that stream via meditation or peak experiences, gaining a brief foothold of consciously directed attention in the matter, but most folks will of necessity or preference quickly revert to a less awake/aware survival mode where agency is substantively less free and many aspects of "reality" are a long way from what actually is. Why is this so? Because the illusion of free will and the illusion of being real are just as viable to routine, conformist operationalization as "the real thing" - perhaps more so, as they tend to become a lot more comfortable through collective reinforcement (mass delusion though it may be) over time.

My 2 cents.

Comment from Jeff Wright: "This is a well-thought-out answer, more like 4 dollars than 2 cents.

You've referenced a variety of worthwhile perspectives. I'm more or less on-board with most of it, especially the multiple streams / dimensions principle (and Wilber's AQAL stands as an overly stylized version of this idea).
I think they all more or less revolve around the question of the concept of "real" (vs "illusion") and its various implied philosophical purposes.

It's hard to remain vigilant while holding all perception-cognition lightly and welcoming all new information in a neutral way - really hard. But that is what we must do to get closer to both freedom and reality as flowing and persisting states, and avoid illusion as best we can.

Do you have a synopsis of what you mean by "real" vs "illusion"? With a multi-dimensional, multi-perspectival framework such as the one I think you're proposing, perhaps the best we can expect is that something is "more real" to the extent that it is robustly comprehended by more dimensions. I like to think this is an escape from the oversimplifying and reducing influence of Ockhams Razor, because it's proposing an intrinsic complexity to reality. One could say this is a pragmatic and epistemic basis for defining "real". Or maybe one thinks there are only certain types of "dimensions" and they can be classified according to a fixed ontological schema. Many traditions prefer to assume a unifying foundation and say there's actually another level and it's ontologically simple and unified.

About the theme of the "vigilant self" that stands apart and neutral and wields its attention in support of moving into freedom and reality -- I suppose this is a good way to employ such a being, illusory or incomplete though it might be. At the same time I think it propagates certain Eastern and Western dualist transcendental traditions -- packages of metaphysics and moral ideas we might be better off moving away from, at least under the current historical circumstances. I see these as the basis for high modernism in various current (and fading) expressions, such as overly cognitive and overly individualistic accounts of language, meaning, and (maybe less frequently noted) ethics. Where these ideas inform ethics and virtue they create a kind of person, a self-willed and self-made moral agent whose relationships with others are mediated by rules and abstractions. It gets caricatured into extreme individualism and political philosophies such as neo-liberalism in which the cost of a nominal "freedom" is that whatever happens to a person is considered his/her own fault, and help and sangha invalidated.

There's no doubt this all looks better in more refined and mature states of "development" but I think it's worth considering the overall collective ethos that is created by its embodiment at all levels.

My 1.5 cents.


My response to Jeff: Thanks Jeff and I agree. My language is imperfect here but what I'm getting at is a "reality" that not only includes multiple dimensions, but also integrates and harmonizes them (in both its representation and its felt experience). And yes one of the more fluid expressions of this is a unitive perception-cognition; a nondual consciousness. But that is not the end of the road, and a participatory, intersubjective element would be a prominent feature of the multidimensionality in both conception and praxis. This is both calculated (intentional), inherent and emergent - which is where the differentiations of language you've touched upon come into play I think. Individualism becomes collectivism becomes the One as a matter of developmental altitude - but this, too, is part of a multidialectical arc and synthesis; complexity is revealed and integrated over-and-over until the "neutrality" becomes the only non-illusive state (albeit in a subjective sense). Thus fixations on any stage or state are the "illusion," IMO, but are nevertheless operationally pragmatic. Along these lines, I like to use the term "provisional semantic container" or "useful placeholder" in describing consensus-generated realities. In a way you could say that any simplification is, inherently, an illusion, but that's how the mind mediates complexity; that tends to be our most reliable form of self-affirming sanity. To "let go" of simplified certainty is frightening...it takes time, practice and courage. And that is where my word-fingers are trying to point - this is not the moon of course, but a process whereby I believe the moon (i.e. reality) can be intuited. And such a process certainly involves community, relationship and, perhaps most importantly, the relinquishment of ego to agape (not Wilber's definition, but the traditional one), which can, as you well know, only be authentically "practiced" in the context of non-individualistic interdependence. I hope I haven't muddied the waters...but perhaps words always muddy the ineffable, and clarity can only be achieved through stillness...?

What are the forces that created a society with little to no trust among it's members?

In answer to Quora question "What are the forces that created a society with little to no trust among it's members?"

Great questions and thanks for the A2A. Off the top of my head:

Commercialistic capitalism. This system is built on deception, manipulation, exploitation and theft. It also encourages people to rely on individualistic wage slavery and consumerism to feel "financially secure" in a self-isolating and egotistical way, undermining our reliance on community (i.e. "each other"). It also encourages cut-throat, unethical competitiveness among both workers and consumers. And it replaces mutual trust with contractual and financial obligations that center around protecting private property - and so we are surrounded by boundaries to what other people own, so that all of life orbits around each person's ego-projection "I/Me/Mine."

**Representative democracy.* When you abstract governance from the people, they disengage from each other and from investment in their own political process and oversight of their community. This "delegation" of responsibility and interest in governance tends to undermine collective decision-making and communication in any polity.

Technology. Whether it is technology that allows people to communicate without face-to-fact interaction, or to isolate themselves in their homes (or rooms) to do professional work or watch entertainment, the result is a lessening of human interaction and a perception that "trust" is less necessary in day-to-day life. It insulates us from each other.

What all of these elements share is their inherent disruption of cooperation, bonding and sense of interdependent relationship. They undermine trust because they replace dynamics that require trust with legal contracts, money, convenience, comfort, static role-based relationships (instead of trust-based ones), affluence and technological power. This is why a person feels okay to scream insults from their car at a stranger, or push past someone else to get a better place in line, or self-righteously vote to reduce their tax burden, or be rude to a customer service representative over the phone - because these systems and innovations have distanced them from their fellow human beings, making them feel (falsely) that they do not need to rely upon them.

My 2 cents.

What are the forces that created a society with little to no trust among it's members?

In answer to Quora question "What are the forces that created a society with little to no trust among it's members?"

Great questions and thanks for the A2A. Off the top of my head:

Commercialistic capitalism. This system is built on deception, manipulation, exploitation and theft. It also encourages people to rely on individualistic wage slavery and consumerism to feel "financially secure" in a self-isolating and egotistical way, undermining our reliance on community (i.e. "each other"). It also encourages cut-throat, unethical competitiveness among both workers and consumers. And it replaces mutual trust with contractual and financial obligations that center around protecting private property - and so we are surrounded by boundaries to what other people own, so that all of life orbits around each person's ego-projection "I/Me/Mine."

Representative democracy. When you abstract governance from the people, they disengage from each other and from investment in their own political process and oversight of their community. This "delegation" of responsibility and interest in governance tends to undermine collective decision-making and communication in any polity.

Technology. Whether it is technology that allows people to communicate without face-to-fact interaction, or to isolate themselves in their homes (or rooms) to do professional work or watch entertainment, the result is a lessening of human interaction and a perception that "trust" is less necessary in day-to-day life. It insulates us from each other.

What all of these elements share is their inherent disruption of cooperation, bonding and sense of interdependent relationship. They undermine trust because they replace dynamics that require trust with legal contracts, money, convenience, comfort, static role-based relationships (instead of trust-based ones), affluence and technological power. This is why a person feels okay to scream insults from their car at a stranger, or push past someone else to get a better place in line, or self-righteously vote to reduce their tax burden, or be rude to a customer service representative over the phone - because these systems and innovations have distanced them from their fellow human beings, making them feel (falsely) that they do not need to rely upon them.

My 2 cents.

Is Capitalism morally justifiable?

In answer to Quora question "Is Capitalism morally justifiable?"

Capitalism is morally justifiable to someone whose altitude of moral function is (by almost any standard) immature, delusional or stunted. If someone believes that individuals operate in an antisocial vacuum and according to purely self-serving impulses, then they have invested in a 3-year-old’s rigid emphasis of I/Me/Mine egotism. And this level is where capitalism functions best.

On the other hand, as we mature through adolescence into increasingly prosocial expectations and relations, we tend to recognize the importance of sharing, compassion, community, compromise, and indeed altruism. Part of growing up is (usually) coming to appreciate that no one operates in isolation without complex interactions and interdependencies with others, and that the only truly satisfying moments in life are a consequence of these trust relationships and communal experiences. As a consequence, a more mature moral orientation engages the world with empathy, kindness and generosity, and relaxes the self-absorbed and protective I/Me/Mine fixation of ego. Again, this is really about growing up. And once we grow up, we realize that capitalism seems to flourish at a rather banal, childish and emotionally stunted level of moral function – according to a very narrow definition of what is beneficial (i.e. “greed is good”) that doesn’t take into account a broader wealth of human experience, relationships, courage and love.

As a consequence of the cognitive bias inherent to willfully childish morality, there is a lot of misleading information, revisionist history and ideological distortion in pro-capitalist rhetoric. I’ll try to set some of it straight.
Here are some assumptions expressed in support of capitalism that are factually incorrect:

1. Capitalism has improved the quality of life for people all over the Earth. Actually, it was widespread public education (and scientific experimentation and technological innovation driven by that education), in concert with democracy and expanding civil rights, that has improved the quality of life for people all over the Earth. It is the feedback loop of democracy, education and civil liberties supported by the rule of law that created the middle class and stabilized economic opportunity for more and more citizens. Even innovation isn’t mainly from capitalism; if you carefully analyze what has done the most good for the most people – be it a new scientific understanding, a new vaccination, a new technology, etc. – it is almost always a result of academic research at public institutions or government-funded research, not innovation that resulted from free markets. These leaps forward have indeed been made more efficiently and effectively by a single product of capitalism: mass production. But that’s it. That’s the only real contribution capitalism has made to humanity’s progress – the rest came from the Enlightenment and the evolution of democratic civil society thereafter. It can also be confidently argued that even the success of “free markets” in producing wealth was a result of the flourishing of this civil society – for “free markets” don’t exist in the wild, they are created by civic institutions and the rule of law. So again, it is the Enlightenment that really should receive primary credit for amplification of the common good…not capitalism.

2. The benefits of profit-driven productivity outweigh its negative externalities. This declaration is as ignorant as it is arrogant. It’s why the rabidly pro-capitalist peeps are still denying climate change (sigh). It’s why that farmer a few years back ate spoonfuls of pesticide every morning to prove how safe it was. It’s why Ayn Rand thought cigarettes were her “Promethean muse,” dismissing any negative health impacts (until she contracted lung cancer). In order for the prevailing strain of growth-dependent global capitalism to keep producing wealth, it requires four things: a) unlimited, easily-accessed natural resources; b) a continuous supply of cheap labor; c) a growing consumer base whose affluence is also increasing; and d) no accountability (and no cost accounting) for negative externalities – and ideally no acknowledgement of them. Unfortunately for the pro-capitalist ideologues, it is extremely likely that none of these conditions will persist for more than another fifty years or so. Why? Well for one, the negative ecological externalities (climate change, loss of biodiversity, resource depletion, disruptive pollution, species extinction, etc.) resulting from human industry are increasingly interfering with productivity – and doing so quite directly. And for another, the affluence that supports a growing consumer base is directly at odds with cheap labor in our global economy, and these two dependencies will inevitably collide. And, finally, large numbers of people are waking up to the fact that the traditional engines of commerce are destroying the planet and need to be more accountable to their impacts – which will change the available opportunities and cost accounting for capitalist enterprise.

3. The “tragedy of the commons” has been empirically validated. In reality, it has not. This is a thought experiment in the abstract, and its "inevitability" has been soundly debunked by the work of Elinor Ostrom. Check out her research on successful self-governance of the commons in the real world (common pool resource management) which relies neither on private property nor State management of land and resources, but on local, community-based solutions.

4. Private property in an exchange economy produces freedom. This is ridiculous. Private property restricts freedom – 99% of everything around us is privately owned and we can’t use it, access it - or sometimes even touch it. That’s not freedom, it’s a world of fences that corral us into the few remaining spaces that are still publically owned (or the spaces we ourselves privately own). Exchange economies likewise benefit those with the most resources and influence who can game the system for their own benefit, deceiving both consumers and workers into believing that “working and consuming” is what life is all about. But being a wage slave is not freedom. Having Type II Diabetes from eating fast food is not freedom. Becoming addicted to cigarettes is not freedom. Premature disease and death from industrial pollutants is not freedom. Having lots of cool stuff you can buy on the Internet may feel like freedom…but it’s just a poor substitute for the real thing.

5. The theory of labor appropriation as a “natural law” is sound. This is laughable. Locke based this on a naïve misconception of Native Americans and other hunter-gatherer societies. In reality – as validated by decades of careful research – hunter-gatherer societies frequently have no conception of private property or of appropriating property by adding value with labor. Locke was simply wrong.

6. Capitalism is not violent, coercive or fraudulent. This is so misinformed it’s just silly. State capitalism has either been directly responsible – or has engineered the perfect conditions – for most of the military actions around the globe since WWII. Industrial capitalism has resulted in the violent, lethal or injurious exploitation of workers since the beginning of the industrial revolution. Capitalist expansion has created endless varieties of forced appropriation of land, resources and indeed labor – from outright slavery to sweat shops. Capitalist commercialism is responsible for defrauding millions of consumers through false advertising, creating artificial demand, outright deception and fear-mongering, and deliberate theft. And to say that corporations haven’t used coercive force to intimidate workers and consumers is to ignore about half of the available history on consumer and worker rights.

7. Capitalism is morally neutral. Hogwash. Please see points 1-6.

The common thread here, you will notice, is that pro-capitalist idealists tend to avoid more complex and nuanced views of the world, holding rather blindly to a cherished individualism and economic opportunity for the privileged class, and loudly resisting when anyone questions their oversimplified definitions of negative liberty. Again, any moral justification for capitalism invokes a sort of immature blindness to the prosocial realities that likely helped human societies flourish since the dawn of our species (at least that’s what most of the research in group selection and prosocial genetic dispositions seems to indicate). But if we allow capitalism to continue destroying our society and the planet, humans will become a sad footnote in the annals of the extinct.

In closing, I recommend you read my latest essay for more clarification on many of these issues: The Goldilocks Zone of Integral Liberty: A Proposed Method of Differentiating Verifiable Free Will from Countervailing Illusions of Freedom.

My 2 cents.

Are religious and non-religious people inherently different when it comes to morality?

In answer to Quora question "Are religious and non-religious people inherently different when it comes to morality?"

Question details: "Most of us know it's wrong to steal or kill, but if a person believes there's a supernatural entity keeping an eye on him, would he try harder to resist the urge to do either?"


Thank you for the A2A. I believe you may be asking the wrong question. Perhaps you see spirituality as "belief in a supernatural entity" that keeps an eye on people. I think there probably are "religious" people who operate this way, but personally I think that orientation is pretty immature. It's a 5-year-old's view of an authoritarian "God." I think the more interesting question is: does spirituality itself inform morality in some unique way that a person who resists their own spirituality can't access? But that is not what you asked. So I would say that prosocial impulses are, and always have been, a genetically programmed result of group selection and evolutionary fitness. Which means that human beings as a species have access to the same "conscience," regardless of spiritual insights or religious affiliation. What religion has historically provided is a formalized, institutionalized, often dogmatic form of moral education and social enforcement. And I'm sure that has benefited some people who for some reason have limited access to their own moral compass - but, in general, no more than any other social constraints would. Perhaps, for some, fear of the "Boogeyman in the closet" (i.e. a Devil or other evil force) or deferential respect for a benevolent Deity may have some impact on personal discipline, so that moral commitments and guidelines are adhered to more enthusiastically. It's also true that someone's religious devotion - their love and faith - could encourage a more conscious intentionality that aligns with moral beliefs. But this same devotion could also be arrived at by, for example, a secular humanist who feels compassion for other people, and so aspires to a higher standard of moral conduct, and actively invites others to hold them accountable to that standard. So, in this sense, a "religion" can be invented by almost anyone to systematize and reinforce their values. But I would say that profound spiritual experiences, deeply felt spiritual connections, and an intimate relationship with spiritual intelligence all contribute to a clearer and more refined values hierarchy, so that someone who relies upon these dimensions of being not only can hear their conscience more clearly, but attain insights that evolve their moral perspective beyond social expectation or religious dogma, and mature their mind and heart in the light of skillful compassion.

My 2 cents.

Why is my life so complicated and I never feel fulfilled?

Answer to Quora question: "Why is my life so complicated and I never feel fulfilled?"

Question details: "I've never had close friends, social experiences, very few relationships, no job, and i haven't completed my degree. I feel that i'm unlucky in life, while other people can get away with so much and still be on top. Am i just too nice? Why do i lack direction? Why can't i feel powerful? Any advice?"


A2A. Although I don't know all the details of your situation (which is a requirement for giving any kind of useful advice!), I did read through your question and comments, and my conclusion is that you might do well to alter the way you are viewing yourself - your priorities and your values orientation. Why do luck and success matter to you? Why have you made them so important that you compare the luck and success of others to your own? Why is "feeling powerful" or being "on top" important to you? Why do you believe that "feeling fulfilled" is somehow supposed to be part of your existence? How did you arrive at these conclusions and adopt these values for yourself...?

I think that is where you need to begin: understanding where your assumptions came from, and if they are really a) correct and accurate assumptions, in some absolute sense, b) apply to you, holding to your innermost convictions, and are really what you value most, and c) if it is possible that you have been misled or misinformed. My suspicion is that you have adopted some values and methods of self-evaluation that have arisen from a superficial, commercialistic and celebrity-centric world. Perhaps you have been "sold" a value system that really only benefits very few people with certain skills and aptitudes, and leaves everyone else feeling exactly the way you are feeling. And maybe that value system is actually a lie. A lie that benefits people who would like to exploit you and keep you focused outside of yourself for answers, because that helps them remain "lucky," "on top" and "in power."

And if you have accepted a lie as truth, you will probably always feel the way you are feeling. Until you see through the spectacle and illusion of what a materialistic, individualistic, plutocratic system - a system that thrives on deception and misdirection - has programmed you to believe, you will keep casting about for ways to "be fulfilled" or "powerful" or "on top," and you will keep feeling like a miserable failure. Because that's the way you are supposed to feel if you aren't one of the extremely rare people - perhaps 1% of 1% - who can fulfill all the superficial, vapid, commercially viable but essentially meaningless expectations of modern culture.

So instead, I would encourage you to turn away from mass media, social media, pop culture, advertising and commercial music, TV and film, and instead turn your focus inward. Look inside yourself for what you value most. What is really important to you, deep down? What defines who you actually are, and why you are actually here? Stop paying attention to everything going on outside of you, and turn your attention to what is going on within your heart, mind and soul. Spend time alone in Nature, in meditation, in deep reflection. That is where I believe you will find purpose and fulfillment and belonging - that is where you will find values that enhance your self-concept in constructive ways. And, if you follow through on this inward sensitivity and awareness, and are disciplined about it, well...be prepared to be amazed at what you find. It will probably bring you to tears.

And you will never care about celebrity, luck, power or success in the popular or commercialized sense ever again.

My 2 cents.

What is the moral degradation/breakdown of societies?

Quora answer to: "What is moral degradation/breakdown of societies?"

Thank you for this A2A.

There are many ways to approach this question. Here are a few that may be fruitful for you to pursue:

1. In evolutionary terms, "moral degradation" is simply antisocial behavior that spreads to more and more people in a given circumstance or environment. This would be the opposite of "prosocial" behavior, which many researchers have proposed is an evolved trait that has helped us survive as a species since we started walking upright.

2. In broad spiritual terms shared by many esoteric traditions, "moral degradation" is either the amplification of the individual ego to the detriment of compassion and kindness, or a willful resistance to the charitable inclinations that result from relinquishing an egoic self.

3. In equally broad psychological terms, "moral degradation" is a developed or innate inability to access or experience emotions that regulate destructive behavior - emotions like empathy, guilt, trust and love - that then results in...well...destructive behaviors.

4. In an historical context, what has often been referred to as "moral degradation" is the abandonment of practical disciplines necessary for individual or collective survival, in favor of excessive hedonism, animalism, or impulsive self-indulgence.

As to the factors that have contributed most to moral degradation, I suspect the following have been the most influential:

1. The elevation of greed, acquisitiveness, selfishness, indifference and exploitation that is so feverishly celebrated in market capitalism.

2. Institutions that enforce dogmatic, tribalistic groupthink to maintain their own power.

3. Self-absorbed individualism (atomism) that does not appreciate the social context in which it exists (and without which it wouldn't exist at all).

4. The persisting confusion and ignorance about the relationship (or lack thereof) between highly destructive and disingenuous "religiosity," and highly constructive authentic spirituality.

5. Affluence that has not been earned, has no awareness of the negative externalities that have sustained it, and sidesteps moral accountability because of its position of privilege in society.

6. Resource scarcity without any hope of changing the situation.

And finally, for examples, just look to what gets the most attention in mass media, as this often illustrates a "moral breakdown" that corresponds to much of what I have defined above.

My 2 cents.

Are rules just for bad behaviours or are there also rules for the good ones?

Quora answer to "Are rules just for bad behaviours or are there also rules for the good ones?"

Thanks for the A2A. I think you began to answer the question yourself. For example, here are two aspects of a given rule:

1. If you consistently drive on the wrong side of the road, you will eventually cause an accident.

2. If you consistently drive on the designated side of the road for your travel direction, you will have a higher likelihood of arriving safely at your destination - as will everyone else driving on the same road.

Notice that I did not include law enforcement in those examples; there are simply natural consequences for either following or not following collectively agreed-upon rules (despite what folks like Sharan Gala (undefined) would like to believe). This isn't 100% true 100% of the time (because someone else may be violating a rule and putting you at risk), but civil society is constructed around such rules so that the probabilities of your continued life, liberty and pursuit of happiness are increased. This is why our collective agreement exists: so that everyone will have a similarly increased probability.

Does life always work out that way? Of course not. There are arbitrary events, there are privileged classes, the are rules that benefit one group over another, etc. But that doesn't mean that "rules" are ineffective, just that certain rules may need to be improved. And that is actually a major component of the history of modern society: improving the quality of rules. But this takes time and collective engagement, and because both our culture and technology are evolving so quickly, and because so many people are disconnected from the "rule-making" process, there can be inefficiencies, perverse incentives, moral hazards and unanticipated consequences of new and old rules. Which means we need to keep working at perfecting the rules that we all agree upon, and encouraging public discourse around them.

So understanding that rules are supposed to benefit everyone is really at the root of the question. If that benefit is real, then rules help create happiness for all. If that benefit is not real, then rules may only produce selective advantages or arbitrary punishments.

My 2 cents.

Is always the rational decision the best decision?

From Quora answer to "Is always the rational decision the best decision?"

Thank you for the A2A.

The research of Antonio Damasio and others has shown that what we believe to be "rational" is a complex synthesis that involves many elements - including emotion. In fact, he has found that people who are emotionally impaired (the emotional centers of their brain are damaged, for example) have a much more difficult time making decisions - if they are able to make them at all. So "rational" is not quite as pure in its execution as the Western traditions of philosophy and science have proposed that it is. We also find that human beings are excellent "rationalizers," in that we tend to post-justify purely emotional, instinctive, intuitive or impulsive decisions with what we believe to be "sound reasoning." And, once we've made a decision, we will tend to defend it and incorporate it into an ongoing bias, often in fairly irrational ways. With this in mind, for many years now I have been advocating a more multidimensional approach to decision-making. Here are some highlights of that approach:

1. Developing awareness around our personal values and how to best reflect those values in our responses, choices and our governing intentions.

2. Learning how to recognize and incorporate the many different areas of intelligence and wisdom available to us in a balanced way: our rational faculties, our emotional intelligence, our intuitive capacities, our spiritual perception-cognition, our social (participatory) resources, our knowledge from experience, and so on.

3. Suspending complex ideas or decisions in a "neutral holding field" that allows us to keep gathering and integrating information about a given subject without coming to a decision.

4. Learning how to look inward for answers through introspection and meditation, rather than depending on external sources of information, insight or discernment.

These are discussed in more depth in my various writings, but with respect to your question you can see that a decision that is "rational" is only part of the mix, and certainly a decision that is only rationally based is probably not the best decision if it doesn't include these many other avenues of insight and discernment.

My 2 cents.

Is the United States morally good?

From Quora answer to: "Is the United States morally good?"

No, the United States government is not morally good. Though I'm sure many people working in our government aspire to do good - even some of the politicians - they are constrained by the following corruptive pressures, all of which could loosely fall under the heading "the coopting of democracy by special interests:"

1. **Distorted political campaigns** - huge (in the billions, as I'm sure you're aware) amounts of money spent by very few individuals to influence election outcomes and the political priorities of parties and candidates.

2. **Rampant clientism and cronyism** - the quid pro quo of backroom deals resulting from "access" granted the wealthiest supporters, sometimes to the point of their being appointed to influential government positions.

3. **Plutocratic legislation** - legislation at all levels of government written by corporations (rather than legislators) to protect their own interests.

4. **Weakened or corrupted regulatory and judicial power** - the ability to countervail the agendas of special interests or their influence has been diluted by the appointment of ideologically sympathetic judges, by the evisceration of existing protective laws, and by active lobbying that discourages regulatory enforcement.

Now if these special interests (in largest part plutocrats) had the promotion of our collective well-being as their core agenda, then the answer to your question might be "yes, it's good!" But they don't. In our current State capitalist system, these elites have demonstrated time and again that they are much more interested in engineering the best possible means of enriching themselves. And, as history documents, this has meant exploiting, enslaving and putting workers at risk; consuming natural resources until they are depleted; caustically polluting water, air, food and other necessities of life; and creating an ever-larger gulf between the rich and the poor. Greed is not good, it is incredibly destructive. But this is how capitalism has always worked, and despite decades of reforms driven by a few courageous leaders, grassroots activism and widespread civil unrest, the tyranny of commercialistic plutocracy keeps marching on.

So even though the U.S. Constitution is a pretty darn "morally good" Constitution, and democracy has proven itself to be a "morally good" system when it functions properly, and we have many folks in our government who aspire to be "morally good," all of this has been undermined by relatively few callous, self-serving, egotistical power-mongers who thrive unchecked within corporate capitalism. It is much easier to destroy than to create. And, as a result, in the course of amassing ludicrously huge amounts of money in unethical ways, the plutocrats have created generations of poor people, people with lung cancer, obese children with Type II Diabetes, people addicted to prescription drugs, poorly educated people, people who vote against their own best interests, a domestic populace armed with increasingly lethal weapons, astounding levels of consumer debt, sweat shops and prison factories all around the globe, a few wars to expand resource and labor availability, foreign populations increasingly radicalized by what they view as U.S. imperialism...and of course climate change. The special interests did it all, and none of it has been "morally good." Well, except for the fact that I can get almost anything I could want delivered to my home in two days using Amazon Prime; I guess that was worth sacrificing the Constitution, democracy, and the well-being of all humanity.

My 2 cents.

(P.S. If you are interested in some source material that supports what I've said, I'd be happy to provide it. Just be specific about what you would like to know.)

What is a question you wish everyone would ask themselves?

In answer to Quora question: "What is a question you wish everyone would ask themselves?"

Question details: What do you wish everyone to ask themselves to be much happier and more ethical? Why?


Thank you for the A2A. I would simply expand on Roberto Vilar's theme:

**"How can I develop more lovingkindness within myself, and how can I then demonstrate it toward everything and everyone - myself included - with increasing skill and insight?"**

Or, perhaps a simpler way to say the same thing:
**"How can I perfect love within my heart and mind so that I may contribute to the Good of All?"**

I believe the "why" should be self-evident.

My 2 cents.

Can one conduct series of moral acts (each one 100% moral) to arrive at cumulative result that somehow is not moral?

In answer to Quora question: "Can one conduct series of moral acts (each one 100% moral) to arrive at cumulative result that somehow is not moral?"

Thanks for the A2A. I think there are several approaches to answering this question, which can be separated into two broad categories:

A) Weighing your actions and their results according to your own values.

1. Assessing them based on your intentions for each act having integrity with your values.

2. Assessing them based on measurable outcomes of each act having integrity with your values.

3. Assessing them based on your awareness of a cumulative outcome as it is being shaped over time, and your adjustments in response to that awareness, in accordance with your values.

B) Weighing your actions and their results according to widely held moral framework (conventional social mores, the rule of law, religious dogma, traditional values, etc.).

1. Assessing them based on the consistency of your intentions aligning with that moral framework.

2. Assessing them based on the quality of outcomes resulting from your actions over time as viewed within that framework.

3. Assessing them based on your awareness of a cumulative outcome and demonstrated effort to align that outcome with what is "moral" in that framework.

In reality, we all involve a little of everything listed here in our moral judgements. So the real question, in my view, is which approaches you are choosing to emphasize, and whether you are really doing so consciously and persistently. Depending on which approaches you choose, the answer to your question could be a confident "yes," or "no," or a more tentative "possibly yes and possibly no."

This is how we might navigate our conclusions about a parent who has allowed a close relative to abuse their child. Let's say that, from all accounts (including their own), that parent appeared to be loving, kind, and moral in their parenting...but they were not able to react to the signs that their child was at risk and remedy the situation accordingly. Did they ignore the signs out of fear? Did they not recognize the signs? Did they recognize the signs, but not believe what they were seeing out of a blind affection for the abusive relative? Did they not have sufficient power in the situation to protect their child? How did they weigh what they perceived against the well-being of the child? And what impact did the abuse actually have on the child? What were the intentions and awareness of the abusive relative? And so on. Depending on which combination of approaches are used to evaluate the parent's actions, they might be exonerated as being moral, or accused of being immoral, or be viewed as having done their best at being moral...but failing.

My 2 cents.

What are the psychological/historical/sociological reasons for why most people value others who have expensive material assets over their soul and character?

In answer to Quora question: "What are the psychological/historical/sociological reasons for why most people value others who have expensive material assets over their soul and character?"

Interesting question and thanks for the A2A.

Here are some reasons that come to mind:

1. Have you ever seen a dog drop his bone or toy to try to get the bone or toy another dog has? I think this instinct is hard-wired into our reptilian hindbrains, and the more we indulge that impulse to acquire (and envy others who do so), the more those neural pathways are strengthened. Take a gander at this: Cherokee Legend - Two Wolves. (http://www.firstpeople.us/FP-Html-Legends/TwoWolves-Cherokee.html)

2. Social status and capital have been extraordinarily important throughout human history in just about every culture - reflecting a desire for secure social position, existential stability and a sense of agency (freedom). At different times and in different cultures around the world such status and capital have been established in different ways - family lineage, physical prowess, personal charisma, tribal alliances, number of wives or husbands, number of offspring, special abilities (battle strategy, hunting skill, etc.), physical beauty, ability to persuade or influence, and indeed personal character. Material wealth has not always been part of the mix, but it has sometimes been a byproduct - or evidence - of these other traits. With the advent of trade, money and widespread affluence, the quickest shorthand for "I have social status and capital" rapidly became material possessions; such assets seemed to indicate these other traits, even if they were not present, so acquisitiveness became a convenient shortcut.

3. Along the lines of the Cherokee story, commercialistic capitalism feeds the egoic, greedy wolf within, reinforcing the linkages between individualistic materialism, immediate gratification, social status and superficial happiness.

4. I think moral development also plays an important role. If I am stuck at a toddler level of moral valuations, I will place a lot of importance on I/Me/Mine assertions. If I am more mature, I will tend to relax such egocentrism in favor of prosocial traits like generosity and kindness that empathize with the needs of others.

5. The more material wealth we have, the more confused we become about what is truly valuable - and what we should value in ourselves and other people. When we have lots of stuff, our view of the world becomes distorted, and our connection to both other people and our innermost Self is weakened. See Paul Piff's research around this topic.

Those are some ideas. Let me know what you think.

What makes Hegel such a hard philosopher to read?

In answer to Quora question: "What makes Hegel such a hard philosopher to read?"

Thanks for the A2A. Okay so first off the original German isn't easy to understand, which makes the translation difficult, so there's that. I think the number of people who speak fluent German AND fluent English AND have a deep understanding of Hegel's work (not only his subtleties but also the evolution of his thinking over time) has always been pretty sparse. Add to this that Hegel's ideas are complex, and that he was often coming up with his own language to describe a new concept he was thinking through, and you just end up with some mightily inaccessible philosophical musings. For example:

"Natural consciousness will prove itself to be only knowledge in principle or not real knowledge. Since, however, it immediately takes itself to be the real and genuine knowledge, this pathway has a negative significance for it; what is a realization of the notion of knowledge means for it rather the ruin and overthrow of itself; for on this road it loses its own truth. Because of that, the road can be looked on as the path of doubt, or more properly a highway of despair. For what happens there is not what is usually understood by doubting, a jostling against this or that supposed truth, the outcome of which is again a disappearance in due course of the doubt and a return to the former truth, so that at the end the matter is taken as it was before."

I mean...many people would have to read this several times even to comprehend what Hegel was getting at. Add to this that he was often writing in the specific context of ideas framed by other philosophers (Kant, Fichte, Schelling, etc.) - and often with the assumption of the reader's familiarity with those philosophers - and the already difficult material becomes further abstracted.

My 2 cents.

How do I stop feeling guilty about the conflicting urges in my human nature?

Answer to Quora question: "How do I stop feeling guilty about the conflicting urges in my human nature?"

Thank you for the A2A Ning Ng.

My answer is offered in deliberate contrast to what some others have stated here who seem to subscribe to moral relativism.

If you're actions are guided by a hierarchical values system where one or two values reign supreme over all others, then all you will need to do is discern how best to fulfill those primary values with all other values, thoughts, actions and intentions. The only conflict you will experience would be a lack of clarity about this hierarchy - once you are clear, there will no longer be tension.

For example, if your primary guiding intention in all things is to enrich yourself, and to do so from an egoic/solipsistic perspective where only your own welfare and satisfaction matter, then you need not be altruistic and can abandon those feelings as subordinate to your primary objective in life. Generous or altruistic feelings may still occur, but it will be easier to dismiss them as unimportant to your dominant self-serving values, and easier to feel less guilt about them.

However, if your primary guiding intention in all things is to be kind, loving, compassionate and affectionate to all conscious beings, hoping that everything you do for yourself will actually benefit others because you care about them (as, for example, a mother avoids alcohol when she is breast feeding, or a brother strengthens his body because he wants to be able to help his physically disabled sister, etc.), then any impulses toward greed and manipulating others will naturally attenuate in subordination to your primary values. Again, you may still experience selfish, egoic urgers, but it will be much easier to laugh at them or otherwise shrug them away.

Of course, good intentions do not guarantee we will not make mistakes, or will not lack skillfulness or discernment in some new, unexpected situation. Therefore, first and foremost, mistakes and miscalculations are much more common when we are tired, depleted, stressed, depressed, confused and so on...so, again, taking care of oneself to avoid these conditions is quite important, and is part of acting toward yourself in ways that ultimately benefits others. And, if we are truly invested in being compassionate, we must also practice the same patience, acceptance, forgiveness and understanding towards ourselves that we believe embodies loving kindness towards others - especially when we make mistakes!

So as you can see it is simple to resolve conflicting urges if we prioritize our values and aim to live our lives according to those values. This perspective and practice is an aspect of what I call "Functional Intelligence," and you might enjoy reading this linked essay on the topic.

I hope this was helpful.

Philosophy of Everyday Life: How can I change the world with my actions?

In answer to Quora question: "Philosophy of Everyday Life: How can I change the world with my actions?"

First of all thank you Aditya for the A2A, and for your willingness and openness to engage this question; I believe that is the first step in creating effective agency in the world, and you've already taken it. Other thoughts that flow out from this one are:

1) Have clarity. About your beliefs, values and intentions.

2) Have integrity. Aim to have as many of your thoughts, words and actions align with your values and beliefs as possible.

3) Cultivate patience and endurance. Becoming an agent for change is a long, difficult road that requires as much compassion and caring for yourself as it does discipline and generosity towards others.

4) Decide on a central, guiding intentionality for all of your efforts. What will govern your actions? Have a specific goal in mind. For example, demonstrating charitable lovingkindness in every interaction, or generating the greatest good for the greatest number for the greatest duration, or becoming an example of how to live in harmony with others and the Earth so that others may observe and benefit, and so on.

5) Know that how you relate to your own mind, body, heart, spirit and soul is the central building block for all that follows. Cultivating a constructive relationship with every aspect of yourself is a lifelong practice, and it will both help contextualize and energize everything else that you do.

6) Have a spiritual practice. This is so important. Even if you consider yourself an agnostic or secular humanist, it is essential to appreciate, cultivate and nurture your spiritual dimension in some way. It is also a very useful avenue to facilitate #7....

7) Fall in love with everyone and everything. And by "love" I mean agape, as an unconditional compassionate affection that drives and informs all skillful action.

8-) Enlarge your supportive community. Find people who share and celebrate your values, with whom you can open your heart and mind, and with whom you can share your journey. And of course this is as much about finding ways to support others in their efforts as it is about finding resources to support your own.

9) Be ready to change course. Allow new information, experiences and ideas to reshape your thinking and efforts in fluid ways. Along these lines, make sure you have honest, fiercely loving people in your life who can remind you of your mission...and of when you may be drifting off-course...even when you aren't receptive!

10) Let go. Appreciate that the ultimate outcomes of your efforts may not be known for a very long time - perhaps not even in your lifetime - and detach yourself from fixed expectations. This is a tough one, but it is necessary because our ego can become too wrapped up in what we're doing, how important we are, etc. And that will just impede our flexibility and skillfulness. So....just let go.

My 2 cents. I'm happy to follow up if you have questions about any of these points.

Why, very often, do bad things happen to good and generous people?

In answer to Quora question: "Why, very often, do bad things happen to good and generous people?"

Thank you for the A2A. There are many pat answers to this question along the lines of "the rain falls on the good and bad alike," in other words that many life events are not causally linked to a person's character, but are simply arbitrary. I don't disagree with this statement, but I will try to dig a little deeper for you. Here are some thoughts:

1) There wouldn't be anything bad in the world if bad things didn't happen to good people. The very definition of "bad" or "evil" stems from something that is considered unjust, unfair, unjustifiable...and if unfortunate things only happened to people who were somehow deserving of them, then we probably wouldn't even have a concept of "bad" at all. Therefore, it makes perfect sense that the frequency of "bad things happening to good people" would be perceived as high, because that perception allows us to define and communicate what "bad" looks like. In a way, this may be an imperative of societal fitness.

2) A lot of things that some people perceive as "bad" or "evil" in the short run actually become "good" in the long run. When we step back from immediate events, and look at a much longer chain of causality, then we can begin to realize that such shifts in perspective change the meaning or value of events. Many "good and generous" people can cite examples in their lives where something that initially seemed very bad (an accident, a loss, a betrayal, a failure, etc.) later became the source of much good their lives.

3) I personally would say that it is impossible to mature emotionally, spiritual or socially without adverse events. The oft-quoted phrase from the New Testament is "we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope..." I can't disagree with that, and would add that to become a "good and generous" person requires many struggles and trials. Is this just how we are wired to learn? Perhaps so, for without adversity we humans tend to "take things for granted" that we really shouldn't. In other words, in order for any aspect of our being to grow and become strong, we require a certain level of existential resistance.

4) This last point is a tough one to accept, but I have observed it many times. We sometimes invite calamity into our lives, and this can happen in many ways, some of which are more foreseeable than others. I may be a good and generous person towards others, but not towards myself, and so I unconsciously create situations where I fail, or suffer, or am crushed by circumstances. I may be a good and generous person who takes a little too much pride in my goodness and generosity, and, knowing this on some level, I unconsciously create adverse situations where I can learn humility. My goodness and generosity may be motivated by a desire for self-sacrifice, to the point where I drive myself to martyrdom. And so on. In such cases, being "good and generous" does not insulate me from harm, but instead may increase its likelihood.

These are just a few superficial thoughts. I would encourage you to meditate on your question, looking inward into stillness, to wait and see what percolates up from your heart regarding this question. Not only do I suspect you will find better answers there, but that you will also be more accepting of them.

My 2 cents.