Wednesday, April 04, 2007

II. the relevant facts.

so as a conscientious society we need a consistent set of principles that we all understand and agree on-- morality or ethics or whatever you want to call it-- and they should jibe with the facts that we've managed somehow to know about people in the world. here are the relevant facts as i understand them:

(1) we live in a deterministic universe. whether we're formed by god or darwinian algorithms it all amounts to the same thing: effect has followed cause has followed effect from long before us, and they continue to follow each other right through us, and every belief or desire that you have must ultimately be the effect of some cause that existed before you did. which is just to say: you might behave that way because you're clever or selfish or wonderful, but you're clever or selfish or wonderful because you were un/lucky enough to have acquired that characteristic from somewhere. even those qualities that we cultivate in ourselves must be the result of some preceding beliefs and desires-- the desire to cultivate and the right equipment to do the job-- which we can also explain, and back and back and back until conscious you gives way to unconscious you gives way to not you at all with no break in the causal chain.

(2) some things feel good, and other things hurt. we have nervous systems calibrated to sense the lightest touches, insults disguised as compliments, even the weight of a gaze. we're on a hair trigger when it comes to feeling things, oh man can we feel them. so you may not have chosen to be clever or selfish or wonderful, but it is nonetheless the fate of the people near you, for better or for worse, to feel the force of your wit or self-involvement or wondrousness. we can't escape the fact of our nervous systems-- our sensitivity to pleasure and pain in their myriad and nuanced forms.

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