torsdag 14 april 2011

Abilivism (English version)

Abilivism is a personal and political philosophy that has the capable life in its center. Pluralism and liberalism are parts of the philosophy, as important but subordinated elements.

Most important is life. Life is the base for all values and all values are a part of life.

Life will not go on just by itself. Humans have to preserve and develop the fundamentals of life. We all want to develop and grow as human beings and we probably all see a need for development of our society.

Freedom and diversity are important for society to survive and for it to be able to offer good lives in the present and in the future.

Some politicians like to leave the meaning of a good life fully to the individual citizen to decide, which however is not very practical. Our lives affect each other too much. Therefore, it is highly desirable that we have access to good theories of the good life.

Philosophers have tried for millennia to produce such theories about the good life, without very great success. Psychologists have also been trying to build theories about the good human life, without being very successful.

It is certainly not simple to present evidence for theories of the good life, but it should be pretty easy to formulate theories that most people find easy to accept.

Biologically, we have a lot of instincts and drives that are not aimed at any other goal than survival as individuals and as a species. Psychologically, it seems likely or at least possible that we have some primary psychological objectives that give us reasons to want to survive and to further the human race. Without some primary psychological objectives, we would be at the mercy of our many instincts and impulses, which probably would not be very good in the complex world we are living in. Our instincts and desires have been shaped in very different circumstances from those we now live in and are therefore not very well adapted to our current living conditions and when we are badly adapted to our current living conditions our lives may become both frustrating and short.

There are some important observations to make. Firstly, there is reason to distinguish between the reptilian brain, the mammalian brain and the sapiens brain. The reptilian brain contains our most basic instincts to eat, drink, regulate body temperature, chase, flee and have sex. The mammalian brain contains all of our social impulses. In the sapiens brain is our ability to acquire knowledge of any type and to optimize our behaviors so that they will serve our objectives.

The next thing to note is the fact that we have some general experience-oriented behavioral tendencies. The idea has been popular that we seek pleasure or pleasant feelings and avoid pain and that it is the most fundamental thing to say about our general motivation. However, it is an immature theory, especially as pleasure and pleasant feelings is not exactly the same thing.

It is necessary with a certain degree of pluralism here. In everything we do, we are looking for different kinds of positive experiences. Every tourist knows that pleasant feelings in the long run are hardly enough. We also want to have fun, things have to be interesting, and we love some excitement and fascination.

If one engages in activities like mountain climbing or horse riding it is not primarily to get pleasant feelings, but ones reason is to a high degree the fact that one is perceiving the activities to be fun, interesting and exciting.

If you choose to read a book about astronomy, it is probably primarily not because it gives you pleasant feelings, but because it is interesting and fascinating.

There is thus a number of general motives to search for experiences of different kinds and it is important to understand that we do not only want to have pleasant feelings and that we do not even only want to have fun. Many of our higher behaviors are based on our curiosity, our desire for excitement and our desire to be fascinated by things.

Our need for diverse experiences is related to the different tasks our brains and our bodies have. The body needs movement, which is more about having fun than about having pleasant feelings. The sapiens brain needs information to process and is not content with pleasant feelings.

The next thing to be clear about is that we are concerned about things, worried about things and shun things. We are certainly afraid of pain, but we are also afraid of such things as boredom, death, to become alienated from other people and to embarrass ourselves by behaving unintelligent. The human mind concerns itself with such negative risks as well as with positive opportunities and tries to maximize what is good and minimize what is evil.

Then it is very good with a clear picture of what is good and what is evil, which things are better and worse than other things and which the most important conditions are for the ability to have and experience a lot of good things.

To create a good understanding of all this is not very easy, given that the world as well as our motivation are quite complex. However, life is the most important prerequisite for all that is good for us. A well-functioning society is another important condition. Another very important condition is that we maximize our abilities. And the goal for our psyches is interesting, fun, exciting, fascinating and pleasant life activities.

There is a lot to say about the conditions for good and sustainable lives. I here emphasize the most general conditions for such lives. One of them is the ability to formulate ones life goals in a good enough way. Otherwise, one tends to behave very sub-optimally.

The goal is to maximize personal and social abilities to achieve a life that is as interesting, fun, exciting, fascinating and pleasant as it can be. Which is done especially by acquiring as much knowledge and insight as possible and by training ones body so that it is able to do many different things.

At the societal level, one needs not only a lot of good technology but also good ideas about what society should strive to achieve. Briefly, the answer is that society should maximize interesting, fun, exciting, fascinating and pleasant life activities for its citizens by maximizing their and their society's abilities, which is done in many ways, not least by the promotion of diversity, freedom and ecological sustainability.

The most important for a human being is an interesting life, because it is what is most important to his reason, which in the end and with all advantage is the entity that makes decisions on what to strive for. Without curiosity about life, one has no zest for life.

The most important for society should be the lives of the individuals and their ability to create interesting, fun, exciting, fascinating and pleasant lives. This ability is optimized primarily through such things as good food, good education, order, freedom, diversity and sustainability. The political objective is above all to create capable lives, which is why the correct political philosophy with some advantage is called abilivism, which is a word produced by a combination of ability + living + ism. The ideology of abilivism is superior to the established ideologies and gives humanity a very much greater chance of meeting the future in a world where we still have both to be forward looking and able to show a bit of restraint.

5 kommentarer:

  1. I agree what you mean but oppose your frequent wording "maximize". Nature doesn't maximize but optimizes.
    What I mean cannot be better expressed than by André Diederen in "Global Resource Depletion":
    "... But we humans are not satisfied with the natural pace of our ambient environment. That wouldn't be such a problem, if it wasn't for the fact that we are in fact 'rate addicts'. Where Nature tends to optimize, we humans generally tend to maximize. It's never enough. We want more, we want it fast, we want it now. And the higher the rate, the higher the difference in energy concentration between our activities and the ambient environment, leading to excessive exergy losses. Moreover, high rate activities and associated hardware and systems tend to be very complex, resulting in excessive waste and pollution. So our rate addiction not only hastens our encounter with the limits to available high exergy energy sources (fossil fuels) but also speeds up our collision with the consequences of abusing our environment as a giant waste dump, resulting in the destruction of the habitat, loss of biodiversity and destabilization of our climate."

  2. The statement that "Nature doesn't maximize but optimizes" appears to be a too general statement. I think nature at first will maximize as much as it can. Nature will however always reach limits it cannot surpass. When the upper limit is reached nature often takes one or more steps back to something that is more optimal. The same applies to humans. We maximize as much as we can, but when we cannot get any further we often settle for something which is somewhat less than maximum, because that is more optimal given the fact that we have other goals and means.

  3. I think we have to maximize our abilities for foresight, organization, wisdom and restraint, among others.

  4. My issue with the philosophy lies in the statement:

    "This ability is optimized primarily through such things as good food, good education, order, freedom, diversity and sustainability."

    My question is: Who is to decide what is good food, good education, order, freedom, diversity and sustainability? Is democracy the way to go? Or, are some issues (rights) fundamental and above democracy?

    In my opinion, so far, no one has described it better than Jefferson "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

  5. The main problem with the words of Jefferson is that they are not half as self-evident as he regarded them to be. It is certainly not self-evident that all men are created equal. We are from birth equipped with extremely unequal levels of personal resources. It is not self-evident that all men have equal value, if that is what Jefferson tried to say. Some people are very useful for other people while others are just "a pain in the ass" for other people. It is not extremely self-evident that there is a Creator. It is not self-evident that we have certain unalienable Rights, given by Nature or by God. It is even less self-evident that the most important Rights to put on a list are the supposed rights to Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

    To me Ability is even more important than liberty and to me interestingness and fun is much more important than just pleasant feelings. I cannot see Jefferson’s three values as more self-evident and important than these other values.

    Who is to decide which rights should stand above democracy? I certainly cannot take for given that rights to Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness (and not other possible rights) stands above democracy just because Jefferson said so. I would rather talk about rights to Life, Ability and Interestingness, which are the most important "rights" (or rather values) to me.

    The words of Jefferson are not taken from the Bible and you will not find any words about "inalienable rights" in the Bible. Without clear wordings from the Bible - or some other supposed holy script - about inalienable rights we have to use our brains and hearts to find out what is important for man and society. We will never get a hard scientific answer about what is most important in life and we will never get a complete consensus about it. But we might reach a fairly high degree of consensus about these things, we will have to take a lot of collective decisions even if we have not been able to reach a full agreement about what is important in life and as we will not reach a full agreement about what is most important in life we should impose as little collective world views and values on people as possible. People must have the right to different worldviews, values and life styles, as long as society can survive it. Which it can usually, but not always.