Bad doesn’t parse

My cliff notes from “There are no ‘bad people’”:

It is possible to judge someone objectively for being bad at achieving their goals, or for being poor with some skill, or for procrastination, or for hurting others. One can judge also another for the goals they choose to pursue.

But for someone to be “a bad person” is either nonsense, or shorthand for some shortcoming like those above. An objective standard for a “bad person” is elusive. Fundamental good or badness is not a quality of a person in our deterministic reality, where our being, thoughts, and choices are implemented by the laws of physics.

[This post — as with the entire series — takes a scientific view of our reality, and doesn’t consider religious perspectives for one moment. This is self-justifying, and the statements about “good” or “badness” are self-evidently logical from this perspective.]

We aren’t here to alter the color of the fundamental “goodness” stone buried within us; we’re here to make the path through time be a good one.

Look not to whether you are good or bad. Look to where you are, and what you can do from there.

Rather than fundamental judgements of us, our mistakes and wrongdoings are lessons from the past — encapsulated information about how we work in the world, that inform how we can control ourselves to bring about more good in the future.

At times we are akratic, and these moments inform where we have power, not our goodness or badness. [Here is where I believe Danny Reeves from Beeminder has something valid to criticize about this series, about the utility of channeling our guilt with personal economic commitment devices to shape our behavior in better directions, as an alternative to assuaging guilt as Nate Soares — although I suspect that Nate would actually agree. More on this in a future post, after concluding the cliff notes.]

This is freeing: We are judged only by the path of the future [and only by ourselves].

When interrogating your motivations:

  • If you discovery you are trying to avoid being bad, press on further to a more coherent answer. Treat “bad” as shorthand for some greater unconscious value.
  • If you find you’re in conflict with another, and you’re motivated to not be “bad” (because one of you must be) — liberate yourself of that good/bad frame, and investigate further.
  • If you unpack “bad” to different values or desires in conflict, that are difficult to reconcile, that is progress — it is truer than “bad” (and devoid of guilt besides).
  • If you have a hard time seeing past “bad”, then pretend someone asks you “I don’t understand ‘bad’ — can you elaborate?” — and answer.

Sometimes the answers to these interrogations present as senseless, which disarms them. There is no shame in realizing you are irrational; you are human and humans are irrational; you’re more monkey than god. Work with, not against yourself.

Rather than aim for being “good”, aim for who you want to be, what you want to work in the world, and bending towards a future you want.

This post is part of the thread: Replacing Guilt Cliffs Notes – an ongoing story on this site. View the thread timeline for more context on this post.

Avoiding the Slacker/Tryer Dichotomy

Thanks to the Beeminder blog, I stumbled on MindingOurWay.com’s Replacing Guilt series. It’s long, which is a bit daunting, but it captured my interest. To make digesting it easier, I created a Beeminder goal to consume it one article at a time, over the next forty days.

In what would normally be unrelated news, I’m also experimenting with a write-more-words goal. Blogging my cliffs-notes versions of the Replacing Guilt articles should help me retain what I read, and help me with that write-more goal. Nothing fancy here, just notes for my later reference.

So here goes, beginning with the first entry, Half-assing it with everything you’ve got.


remember what you’re fighting for

Apply only the optimal effort required to accomplish your goal (no more, no less). That requires a clear idea of your goal (what you’re fighting for), which requires establishing your own goal, not simply accepting what others assume or expect of you.

Specific examples include: If determined goal is to get an “A” in the class, and your overall grade is already high enough to earn the “A” if you only get a “C” on the paper, aiming for an “A” on a paper will result in wasted effort. Conversely, if your determined goal is to learn as much as you can from a class, you may want to put in significantly more effort than is required to earn an “A” on the paper, due to grade inflation.

[T]oo many people automatically assume that, when an authority figure describes a quality line, they’re “supposed to” push as far right as possible. They think they “should” care about quality. This is silly: real world problems are not about producing the highest-quality products. In all walks of life, the goal is to hit a quality target with minimum effort. […] I’m not telling you that you should be scraping by by only the barest of margins. […] What I am saying is, don’t conflate the quality line with the preference curve. […] Remember what you’re trying to achieve, identify your quality target, and aim for that: no higher, no lower.

This post is part of the thread: Replacing Guilt Cliffs Notes – an ongoing story on this site. View the thread timeline for more context on this post.