The Fool's Ethics: Safety 3rd!
A Selfish Guide to Morality
Rethinking Morality and Ethics
In our quest to navigate the complexities of living a good and ethical life, it's essential to confront a prevalent misunderstanding: the conflation of morality and ethics. Often used interchangeably in casual conversation, these two concepts are distinctly different yet intrinsically connected, much like the relationship between a fundamental mathematical constant and its application in the real world.
Contrary to common misconceptions, morality is not a collection of multiple principles from which one can choose. It is, instead, a singular, universal principle: we should treat others as we would want to be treated in their situation, considering the largest applicable scale of society. This principle is clear, unambiguous, and universally applicable. Morality, in this sense, is the constant in our equation of living a good life. It’s akin to the mathematical constant pi (π) - a well-defined, universal truth that stands firm and unchanging. It’s not open to personal interpretation or modification; it simply is. Think of morality as akin to the mathematical constant pi (π). Pi is a well-defined, clear concept: it represents the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter.
Now, before it's assumed that I'm advocating for singing Kumbaya and you go and say “it’s not like that up here” and try to make me "hang my head and feel sad and foolish that I have not yet realized what a tough and complex place the real world is, and what sorts of difficulties and paradoxes must to be embraced if one is to live in it”, please let me continue.
"If we take man as he is, we make him worse... But if we take man as he should be, we make him capable of becoming what he can be."
-Vicktor Frankl on Goethe
Despite its precise definition, pi remains an irrational number. It cannot be fully expressed as a finite or simple fraction, symbolizing the inherent complexities in even the most apparently straightforward concepts.
Ethics, in contrast, is the practical application of this moral principle, akin to how mathematicians and engineers employ pi in various real-world situations. Just as there are multiple ways to approximate pi for different practical needs, ethics involves interpreting and adapting moral principles to diverse and often intricate life scenarios.
In the realm of the Fool's Ethics, we anchor ourselves to one clear moral principle: treat others as you would want to be treated if roles were reversed, and on the largest applicable scale of society. This principle is as unambiguous as the definition of pi, providing a clear guideline for ethical behavior. It also embodies the understanding that while we can never know with absolute certainty if an action is moral, we can still approach morality with reasonableness.
Just as mathematicians accept that pi's irrationality doesn't preclude its usefulness, in ethics, we recognize the necessity of being reasonable rather than purely rational. Rationality seeks definitive, black-and-white answers, but reasonableness acknowledges the nuances and complexities inherent in ethical decision-making. It's about making the best possible choices within the framework of our moral principle, even if those choices aren't infallible.
As we delve into the Fool's Ethics and the concept of "Safety 3rd," we invite you on a journey that harmoniously balances science, religion, and philosophy. This journey is not about seeking absolutes in an inherently complex world, but about striving for reasonableness, guided by a clear moral principle, as we navigate the ever-evolving landscape of ethics.
In the Fool's Ethics, life is seen as a grand expedition. Science is seen as a map of possibilities, religion is seen as a tool to calibrate our innate moral compass, and philosophy as the art of navigating through life's complexities. No one would try to navigate using only a map or only a compass; in a similar way, the art of navigation is analogous to the art of philosophy, which seeks the wisdom to know how to use each effectively in a given situation. Each force plays a vital role in guiding us through life's challenges and complexities, making our journey more fulfilling and purpose-driven.
To achieve this balance, the Fool's Ethics proposes three main principles:
1. Get stuff done and do GOOD work (Golden Rule): Treat others as you’d want to be treated if the roles were reversed and on the largest applicable scale of society...And if you cannot provide joy to others, at least don’t cause any suffering, or allow preventable suffering to continue.
2. Get enough credit to enable MORE good work in the future (Capitalism): Recognize the importance of gaining recognition and resources to continue doing good work, as long as it doesn't conflict with the first priority.
3. Survive long enough to DO the good work (Safety): Ensure personal safety and well-being, but only as long as it doesn't interfere with the first two priorities.
The Fool's Ethics serves as a tool for guiding our behavior, rather than judging others. By reminding ourselves of these principles, we gain perspective on life's challenges and can make well-informed decisions.
By prioritizing these principles and considering our actions' impact on ourselves and others, we can successfully navigate life's ethical dilemmas and create a better world for everyone – including ourselves.
Avoiding Common Pitfalls
The Fool's Ethics also warns against some common pitfalls when approaching life's ethical challenges:
The Greedy: Those who prioritize personal gain risk losing sight of the greater good.
The Cowardly: Those who place safety and comfort first may miss out on opportunities to make meaningful contributions.
The Martyr: Focusing solely on doing good without considering survival or resources may lead to unsustainable efforts and hinder long-term impact. By understanding these pitfalls, we can more effectively navigate life's complexities.
The Fool's Ethics proposes a nuanced view of selfishness, challenging the conventional dichotomy between egoism and altruism. True selfishness, as we define it, involves a pragmatic recognition that our own well-being is fundamentally tied to the well-being of others. This concept goes beyond simple self-interest driven by the ego. It acknowledges that while acting morally doesn’t guarantee personal gain or the most favorable circumstances, neglecting to act morally can have tangible, negative impacts on our lives and the broader community.
Our actions, whether positive or negative, reverberate through the network of our social and environmental connections, leading to real-world consequences. By making ethical choices that consider the well-being of others, we align ourselves with a principle that, over time, fosters a healthier, more sustainable environment for all, including ourselves.
Thus, true selfishness, in its deepest sense, is about understanding and acting upon the interconnected nature of our existence, where moral actions are not just altruistic, but a strategic approach to navigating the complexities of life."]
Consider, for example, my experience as a recovering drug addict who realized that my self-destructive behavior was the exact opposite of being selfish. True selfishness would have involved taking care of my physical and emotional well-being instead of succumbing to the whims of my ego. In this light, true selfishness is not about self-indulgence but rather about self-preservation and personal growth.
Obviously anyone who's smart wants to live in the best world possible, so by striving to create the best possible world for ourselves and others, we embody true selfishness. In the process, we also contribute to the good of the world around us, transcending the limitations of both egoism and altruism.
Calibrating the Moral Compass with Religion and Mythology
A key aspect of the Fool's Ethics is the emphasis on religion or spirituality as a means to calibrate our innate moral compass. The framework does not suggest that religion provides or is the compass, but rather that it helps refine and align our sense of right and wrong with broader moral principles and values. By engaging with religious teachings and practices, individuals can gain a deeper understanding of their spirituality and develop a stronger sense of empathy and compassion.
Books such as "The Hero with a Thousand Faces" and "Living Buddha, Living Christ" from The Fool's Reading List help individuals explore their spirituality and engage with religious teachings or practices that resonate with them. This exploration can lead to personal growth and a deeper understanding of oneself and one's place in the world.
Creating a Comprehensive Map of Possibilities with Science
To create a comprehensive map of possibilities, the Fool's Ethics encourages individuals to explore and learn from the world of science. Scientific knowledge helps us understand the natural world and our place within it, providing us with valuable insights into the consequences of our actions and the potential outcomes of different choices.
Books like "Guns, Germs, and Steel" and "Sapiens" from The Fool's Reading List provide a broad understanding of human history, while "Chaos: Making of a New Science" and "The Big Picture" delve into the complexities of the universe. By learning from these books and others, individuals can develop a more comprehensive understanding of the world, empowering them to make informed decisions in various aspects of life.
Navigating Life's Complexities with Philosophy
The Fool's Ethics recognizes that philosophy plays a crucial role in navigating life's complexities, helping individuals make sense of the scientific map of possibilities and the moral compass calibrated by religion and mythology. Philosophy seeks the wisdom to use each of these tools effectively in various situations, guiding individuals towards a more fulfilling and purpose-driven life.
Books such as "Nicomachean Ethics" and "The Dhammapada" from The Fool's Reading List contribute to our understanding of philosophy, offering guidance on how to navigate life's complexities. Other books, like "Meditations" by Marcus Aurelius and "The Perennial Philosophy," provide additional insights into personal growth, ethical decision-making, and the human experience.
The Darwinian Underpinnings of True Selfishness
As we delve deeper into the tenets of the Fool's Ethics, it's essential to recognize the alignment with the Darwinian principles of evolution. The redefined concept of selfishness we embrace is not a mere philosophical ideal but is grounded in the very mechanisms that drive the natural world. Darwin's evolutionary theory, often misinterpreted as the survival of the cruelest, is in fact more nuanced, suggesting that 'nice guys'—those who cooperate and forge alliances—often finish first. This is where our redefined selfishness intersects with biology; it promotes a cooperative strategy that ensures the survival and propagation of our genes, a concept well-articulated in the theory of the selfish gene.
Bridging to Memetics
The bridge from genetics to memetics is constructed on the understanding that ideas and behaviors—memes—propagate themselves through cultures, influencing human evolution just as genes do. The Fool's Ethics, in its essence, is a memetic structure, a set of cultural genes, designed to encourage behaviors that lead to both individual and collective flourishing.
Transcending the Altruism Trick and the Selfplex
Our approach transcends the Altruism Trick, as defined by Susan Blackmore. This 'trick' suggests altruistic acts are ultimately selfish at the genetic level. However, we posit that such acts are conscious choices—strategies for survival in the Darwinian sense—and not deceptive in nature. Moreover, by advocating for an expanded sense of self that includes the well-being of others, we dilute the Selfplex, the collection of memes that constitute the ego. This dilution allows for a sense of identity that is interdependent, reflecting a memetic evolution towards a more cooperative and less ego-centric society.
Ethical Behavior in Darwin's Universe
Conclusively, the redefined selfishness we propose is compatible with Darwinian evolution. It's an acknowledgment that ethical behavior, mutual aid, and cooperation are evolutionary strategies for success, just as much as competition and individualism are. The Fool's Ethics serves as a guide to navigate this complex landscape, ensuring that our actions are not only ethically sound but also evolutionarily viable.
By integrating this understanding of genetic and memetic evolution into our ethical framework, we pave the way for the upcoming exploration into the realm of memetics, where we will delve into how these principles apply to the evolution of ideas and culture. This perspective sets the stage for a rigorous discussion on how true selfishness—in its most enlightened form—transcends both egoism and altruism, reflecting on the concepts of the Altruism Trick and the Selfplex, and placing us firmly within the natural order as outlined by Darwin.
The Fool's Ethics: Safety 3rd! - A Selfish Guide to Morality offers a unique and insightful approach to ethical decision-making. By embracing this framework, individuals can strike a harmonious balance between science, religion, and philosophy, leading to a fulfilling and purpose-driven life. By learning from a wide range of sources, such as The Fool's Reading List, individuals can create a comprehensive map of possibilities, calibrate their moral compass with religion and mythology, and navigate life's complexities with philosophy.
In doing so, the Fool's Ethics encourages individuals to prioritize getting stuff done and doing good work, getting enough credit to enable more good work in the future, and surviving long enough to do the good work. This ethical framework ultimately leads to a more compassionate and altruistic approach to life, promoting kindness, fairness, and understanding. By embracing the principles of the Fool's Ethics, we can create a better world for everyone – including ourselves.