You’re allowed to fight for something

My cliffs notes from You’re allowed to fight for something

This series is all about removing guilt. But certain forms of guilt are easier to remove; others are easier to first shift to these easier-to-remove forms. And to that end:

‘Tis better than to feel guilty for a specific reason — say, playing video games all day instead of practicing resistance — than to feel “listless” guilt for no particular reason — guilt that maybe there should be something to feel guilty for not doing.

The listless guilt comes from intuitively knowing there can be something more — more good that you’d like to do, for non-selfish reasons. The Nihilist trap convinces some that it is impossible to want to take some altruistic action because you care about others, without any selfish reasons, but listless guilt is the disproof of this.

A thought experiment: Imagine someone offered you a deal to shoot your pet, erase your memory of the pet (without any fallibility; they would also alter the memory of those around you and your environment), and give you a dollar. You don’t take the dollar. Why? That’s proof you can care for something outside yourself, when there’s no selfish motivation.

And you are allowed to want something for non-selfish reasons, without needing to understand or explain.

To shake the listless guilt, ask what you’d like to be different in the world, and look for ideas that compel you to make a difference if you can.

The listless guilt is a guilt about not doing anything. To remove it, we must first turn it into a guilt about not doing something in particular.

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.

Let altruism be altruism

My cliffs notes from The Stamp Collector:

This is an argument against nihilism, the belief that nothing does or can matter. Dispensing with nihilism is necessary to make altruism accessible as a source of intrinsic motivation, to offset listless guilt — the guilt of doing nothing when it seems like there should be something more to life.

People will tell you that humans always and only ever do what brings them pleasure. People will tell you that there is no such thing as altruism, that people only ever do what they want to.

People will tell you that, because we’re trapped inside our heads, we only ever get to care about things inside our heads, such as our own wants and desires.

But I have a message for you: You can, in fact, care about the outer world.

And you can steer it, too. If you want to.

Evidence for this are the analogy of the stamp collector — a robot designed to take actions that increase the number of stamps in its inventory — and the analogy of human altruists working from the same principle.

“Naïve philosophers” fall to the homunculus fallacy when attempting to understand the robot. They refuse to see what it is in fact doing: Taking actions that result in the outcome it seeks, with its best available information. Differentiating between its internal representation of its inventory and its actual inventory is fallacious, because it doesn’t have any more meaningful access to its internal representation of inventory than its external inventory.

Similarly, the naïve philosophers mistake human altruistic behavior as pleasure-maximizing. But behaviors such as giving away all of your money to charity, or jumping in front of a moving car to save a child, stress that theory to the breaking point.

We can and do choose to care about things outside of our heads. Don’t get bogged down in whether altruism is real; just accept that it’s accessible to you.

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.