Friday, August 28, 2015

Good advice: extract the greatest experience

Your goal is to extract the greatest experience of flavor from the rum, so don't be in a rush to decide whether you "like" a particular rum or not. Suspend judgment for as long as you can. The minute you decide that you "like" the rum (or not) you stop noticing the rum and start paying attention to your judgment. Your evaluation gets in the way of your perception and tasting is a game of sharpening perception. (from A Short Course in Rum by Lynn Hoffman)
That advice can be applied to a far-wider range of experiences than just tasting rum. I don't think you'd quite want to generalize it for reasons that most adults should be able to figure out for themselves.

But one thing I think we should do is to apply it to a lot of moral judgments about experiences. There is a tendency to make judgments about the moral worth of some activities very early in the game and, when we do that, we stop noticing the activity and pay attention to our moral judgment to our detriment.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Good Advice: peace or chaos?

I got this one from Waller Newell in his book The Code of Man.

It's really a question but it's a very important question to ask yourself: What is the natural state of human life? Is it peace or is it chaos?

If you think it's peace, then you'll be inclined to blame all evil on human action. You'll be inclined to believe that things would be just fine if people didn't keep messing them up. If you think it's chaos, you'll be inclined to think that it is only constant human effort that creates and maintains order.

These two views are not moral outputs. That is to say, they don't come about because of moral reasoning. They are, instead, assumptions that moral arguments are built on.

Many of us start of believing in the former. I'm not entirely sure why. Part of the answer is our mothers. Our mothers want us to behave so they convince us that our peace and happiness depend on our cooperating with them. If we don't upset mummy, we can have a trouble-free life.  Eventually, this gets expanded to include the belief that we can have a trouble-free life only if other people don't upset mummy either.

We also get a lot of it from popular culture. Star Trek's prime directive being a classic example. You'd also see it in the cynicism of M*A*S*H which had us believe that a couple on uncommitted layabouts could do more good by doing less evil. Both shows reveal that it doesn't really work by cheating all over the place. On Star Trek the prime directive is little more than a plot complication hauled forth when useful much like Captain Renault shutting down Rick's place for gambling. On M*A*S*H, the cheat was that the two cynical layabouts just happen to be brilliant surgeons who can rush in and save lives whenever it might otherwise become obvious that the whole show is a fantasy for men who never want to grow up. (If you read the books it was based on, BTW, you'll see that is exactly what it was to begin with.)

By now, you're probably thinking that you can guess how I'd answer the question and you're right. But go ahead and answer it for yourself—I'm sure you're mature enough not to be influenced by my thinking. (Once you have your answer, think about political theories and ask yourself which side they fit on. Some are obvious: Locke, Marx and Rawls are obviously on the peace side. Plato, Aristotle and Machiavelli are obviously on the chaos side. But what of Hobbes? At first he seems obviously to be on the chaos side but his solution to his own problem seems so easy that I suspect he really was a peace man.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Good advice: Blow up your relationship with your mother

The word "idolatry" conjures up images of funny little carvings of misshapen gods from distant, exotic places like Africa, India or the Pacific Islands. In truth, idolatry is something far closer to home. It looks like this:

Okay, Suzanne Somers is a twinkie who believes some utterly crazy shit so who cares that she decided to share this sentimental crap? Well, a lot of people apparently. Someone I know shared that on Facebook on the anniversary of her mother's death. She's in her eighties and she thinks of her mother as some sort of pantheistic presence.

That isn't healthy. It's a refusal to grow up.

I've spent a lot of time on this blog castigating those who give bad moral advice and not enough on the good advice. Today, I'm going to begin what I hope will be an ongoing series highlighting some of the good advice I've found out there. Beginning with this gem: Blow up your relationship with your and get one step closer to being the man you want to be.

That's good advice even if your mother is dead.