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Thursday, April 24, 2003

A thought which struck me involves how people act. Invariably throughout the world people all hitch their proverbial wagons to these ephemeral ideas of right and wrong and justice. Why is this? People lived for millions of years, and many continue to do so today, without killing each other. They continue to do it without stealing, really, and somehow they manage to do it without justifying their inaction or action by implicit consent by a hypothetical rational actor. People always seem to try to live up to the ideology they espouse, striving to be the paragon of Islam, or communism, or libertarianism, or even just plain ol' fashioned, down home Judeo-Christian values - but they only do it insofar as that philosophy really just gels with how they tend to think people ought to behave anyway.

Philosophers make tenure by writing about "What if..." and going off on some thought experiment about situations where you could only save your dog or a homeless man, and then making elaborate and sometimes elloquent remarks balancing the personal impact of the loss of each, the intrinsic value of human life, and what they never take into account is the real world. Philosophy is interesting to consider some times, but its real value, the thing which puts it above chess as an idle persuit, is its application to the real world. You know what I, and probably most people would do, if put in a situation where a pond was cracking open and I could only save one life? I would probably touch neither in fear of losing my own. It's like the joke, "In theory, there's no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is." These systems of belief which have such intricate edifaces when considered in The Annals of Philosophy are not what people consider when they live their lives. Nobody, when confronted with a decision about whether to hand a dollar to a bum, considers the alternate uses of the dollar and the marginal utility gained by sending the dollar to the Salvation Army or Red Cross.

Even the times when there is a reflective element, as with the construction of a government, people become so overly legalistic as to be dogmatists with whichever course they believe a state ought to follow. Yet all this comes to naught in the every day lives of a vast majority of people. If people would just stop being so goddamn dependant upon things like religious dogma and community standards, and actually just pay attention to their conscience for a moment, nothing would change except for maybe an improvement in how people treat each other in nonextreme situations. When you can no longer lean back on a framework which condones racism, for example, or where heretics are not a targettable group, it's just a better world.

I think a lot of it stems from context. People lose context way too easily. It's why, in high school, kids will commit suicide over the grades they're getting in third period science. Some in this group tend to center all of their self worth on things like whether they got into honors chemistry, or whether their SAT score is high enough. If people ever stepped back once in a while, it's entirely likely we'd see exactly how silly and ludicrous many of the things we do are. Even when it's someone's job, even when it's someone's relationships, it's all too easy to become jaded when one fails to appreciate the whole of their life.

Maybe it's just spring being here, but it strikes me that maybe instead of writing a blogger post, I should go sit in my back yard and read a decent book rather than being inside concerned over the actions of six billion people I can't control. I encourage all of you to do the same.

cranked out at 5:44 PM | |

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