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.