Outline of my beliefs
last update: 2023-01-01
Here is a basic summary of my beliefs in my own words. My beliefs can be subdivided into three categories: the importance of good models, agency and morality, and living well.
The Importance of Good Models
- I believe that the universe operates under certain principles that appear to be inviolable.
- I believe that the more accurately our internal model of reality aligns with reality, the greater our ability to comprehend and either adeptly control or peacefully accept the world around us. More accurate models help us to do more good while poorer models may inadvertently cause us to do harm. Hence, I believe that those who care about being moral beings should also care about the accuracy of their models of reality.
- Our subjective experience is at least somewhat idiosyncratic, and our subjective experience is our own personal reality (we simply experience what we experience). We also seem to share an interpersonal, objective reality, and I believe that scientific investigation, based on its track record compared with all other knowledge yielding endeavors, is the most powerful method we have available to us for discerning what is in this objective reality (although it is not able to directly answer questions of what should be).
- I believe that our feelings are culturally and biologically conditioned and may be biased to our own (or our group’s) self-interest at times, hence our feelings sometimes misrepresent objective reality to us and should always be checked by rational thought (specifically, tests of generalizability).
- I believe that nihilistic (nihilism: we will die so nothing matters), hedonistic (hedonism: the only thing that matters is pleasure and pain), and reductionistic (reductionism: we are mere bags of molecules hence morality does not really exist) philosophies ignore important data about our existence; hence, I am not a nihilist, I am not a hedonist, and I am not a reductionist.
- I seek and welcome additional data and criticism of my beliefs so that they can be refined and serve me and those around me better. Good beliefs (i.e., models of reality) should be able to withstand scrutiny.
If my beliefs are incorrect or based on insufficient or faulty data, please do not hesitate to correct me or offer me your perspective.
Agency and Morality
- While acknowledging that our present circumstances and selves are the product of a seemingly infinite causal chain, most of which we did not consciously choose, I believe that within this milieu we may still act as free agents—we have some control of the contours of our destiny via the decisions we make.
- I believe that moral agents (all beings with certain properties of self-reflection, awareness, and agency) are duty bound to act according to basic moral principles in their relationships with other conscious life.
- I believe that any time beings with properties of a moral agent exist, then morality exists also (e.g., if a silicon based life-form had all the properties of humans but had evolved or was created independently of biological life, then moral principles would apply equally to them).
- I believe that our ethical duty to other living entities is in some way proportional to the extent that they are conscious or have potential for consciousness (i.e., it is unethical to torture monkeys or dolphins, but it is not unethical to eat bacteria just for fun since they undoubtedly are not conscious and have no capacity for consciousness).
- I believe the core moral principles include: caring, fairness, and liberty.
- I believe that acting morally tends to bring us and those around us happiness. However, even if acting morally did not generate feelings of content, I believe we would still have a rational obligation to act morally.
If my actions are immoral or fail to align with the highest standards of morality, please do not hesitate to offer me correction or your perspective.
- I believe that life is worth living for its own sake.
- I believe that our minds are capable of integrating thoughts, ideas, and information in ways we don’t fully comprehend consciously, and hence meditation, self-reflection, and intuition are all valuable tools available to us in acting wisely and living well.
- Various acts of creation seem to be an integral part of a life well-lived.
- I believe that individuals in positions of power have a duty to defend weaker individuals insofar as they are able and to wield that power in fair and responsible ways.
- I believe that when we make mistakes that we ought to communicate our regret, make amends insofar as is possible, and alter our behavior in order to avoid inflicting harm on others (or avoid shirking our duty) in the future.
- I believe that rather than living to be happy, we should live so as to deserve to be happy. Happiness makes a poor goal but is the inevitable byproduct (in the form of internal peace and sometimes joy) of living a good life.
If I am living poorly or failing to live well, please do not hesitate to share your perspective with me of how to live a good life.