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My Values
These are my values, in order:

1. Truth
2. Freedom
3. Happiness

Really I should just stop there; the details and definitions keep expanding into this vast and tangled mess of what the appropriate scope for societal vs. individual action is, how to deal with conflicting freedoms, and all the other complicated bits we call "ethics" and "politics" and "economics". I can't possibly deal with the entire subject, so I've hacked it back as much as I can (several times... it keeps growing back...). I took out all the footnotes!

Also I have a history of expressing this badly because some of it seems so obvious I forget to mention it. I have tried to take out the over-reacting unnecessary justifications but might have missed a few; I may also still be leaving things out. Bear both in mind.

Truth is both a limit on and a requirement for freedom: you can't go around lying, but you also can't possibly make good decisions with bad information.

Freedom is both a limit on and a requirement for happiness: a benevolent computer running the world and giving everyone microscopically detailed instructions might meet everyone's physical needs very well, but to be really fulfilled you need to make your own decisions. I define freedom very practically: a person who can make more real choices about how they live is more free than a person who is limited in their choices because of external factors. (Choosing to limit your own options, as for instance by committing to a long-term relationship or buying a house, is just fine. That's what choices are, is picking between the various options.) Theoretically available choices that a person cannot practically take don't count (e.g. a homeless single parent could, in theory, take out a college loan, get a degree, and become a doctor; there's no law against it, but, practically speaking, the obstacles present at each step of that path will make it impossible for nearly anyone who tries it). Freedom applies to everybody: "Stopping me from harming others limits my freedom and is therefore wrong!" is a bad argument because harming others damages their freedom to live as they wish. Freedom from getting punched in the face is more important than freedom to swing your arms around without looking.

Happiness is defined in a kind of loose Maslow's hierarchy of needs kind of way. Society at large should be making decisions in a general greatest good for the greatest number way; individuals should be taking care of themselves and their dependents, without hurting other individuals, within the societal rules. Individuals who are doing well, and have got all that health and food and security stuff dealt with, should start helping other people who haven't got that yet and thereby take care of their own need to be useful. (I'd like to live in a society where the basics are dealt with on a societal level so individuals don't need to worry about each other's lower-level needs and can get on with education and community-building and so forth -- but this is where this starts lurching off into the tangled mess again.)

My basic moral rules are: Don't hurt people if it's avoidable. Put due effort into thinking about whether an action is going to hurt anybody. When you hurt somebody, apologize (if appropriate) and figure out how not to do that again. There is usually a win-win solution. Win-win is better than win-draw is better than win-lose. Don't lie.

This is more or less enlightened self-interest. Or hedonism, with a definition of happiness that has more to do with being a productive and content member of society than with ecstasy (it doesn't last). The internet likes that second description.


You Scored as Hedonism

Your life is guided by the principles of Hedonism: You believe that pleasure is a great, or the greatest, good; and you try to enjoy life’s pleasures as much as you can.
“Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die!”









Justice (Fairness)


Strong Egoism






Divine Command


Or, from SelectSmart:

Ethical Philosophy Selector Rankings:

1. Epicureans (100 %)
2. John Stuart Mill (97 %)
3. Jeremy Bentham (93 %)
4. Cynics (82 %)
5. Ayn Rand (81 %)
6. Thomas Hobbes (80 %)
7. Aristotle (71 %)
8. Nel Noddings (60 %)
9. Jean-Paul Sartre (59 %)
10. Aquinas (54 %)
11. Prescriptivism (53 %)
12. Nietzsche (52 %)
13. Spinoza (50 %)
14. Kant (49 %)
15. Stoics (47 %)
16. David Hume (47 %)
17. Ockham (35 %)
18. St. Augustine (28 %)
19. Plato (22 %)

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For instance, a bit I left out

Keeping one's word is service to truth, and therefore important.

I like the way your versions of these act on each other. I'm inclined to riff on them further...

Truth can have several kinds of opposite. Lies are one opposite, but the unknown is another. And error is an interesting opposite of truth, especially the way it interacts with freedom. True freedom (in my book) is the freedom to make mistakes. The only way to learn new truths is to make fresh errors and then learn from them.

Some truths are bigger than others. We're finding out how limited certain economic truths turned out to be.

Another constraint on freedom, besides 'dangerous experiments', is responsibility. Every responsibility I take on, takes away some measure of my freedom. yet with no responsibilities at all, my freedom doesn't mean a whole lot. Conversely, I know people who've taken on boatloads of responsibility, so that their freedom could be measured in arc-seconds. Yet those choices were still made freely.

Happiness is a weird one. It's still an open question to me, whether or not I have the capacity to ever be happy. I think of animals in captivity, and the way to tell if they're doing all right, is whether or not they'll breed. Plenty of animals will survive in captivity without doing well enough to want to make more of themselves.

The day I can reproduce in good conscience will mark a watershed moment in my freedom and my happiness. And that's the truth. Pthpthpth.

I don't think of chosen responsibilities as limiting freedom. Choosing to take on a responsibility is an exercise of freedom -- you can take the responsibility, or you can leave it alone. But I don't think people come into the world with responsibility for anything beyond not being a dick. (They don't even have that for a while; learning it is complicated.)

The two most comprehensive responsibilities you can take on are kids and pets. Once you've got one, you must take care of it, even if all you can do is see your responsibility properly transferred to someone else. That's why it's important for people to choose that kind of responsibility rather than having it thrust upon them.

Willing procreation as a measure of happiness is an interesting thought.

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