"It's amazing how much 'mature wisdom' resembles being too tired." --Robert Heinlein

The Church of Reality




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Totalitarianism vs. Relativism

(I wrote this on April 12, 2003)

I can not fully understand the world! Everything I think is conjecture. Everything I perceive is filtered and biased by my personal human nature. Everything I experience is an accident of time and place. Everything changes, nothing is permanent, and I can not predict the future.

I realize that totalitarian projects are foolhardy and counterproductive, always containing the seeds of their own destruction. However, it seems that many people believe that the products of their rationalizations are THE WAY THE WORLD WORKS, and that everybody who disagrees is either stupid or lying. Some of them are willing to imprison and kill uncountable others in order to remake the world according to their conclusory desires.

Oh, well. I don't suppose I can make other people stop being totalitarian. They create their own frustrations, and will not succeed, and will never be able to relax and enjoy the beauty of their own existence. Meanwhile, I'll do my best to dodge them.


Voluntary actions are those that we make when we are mindfully addressing the present moment. We always face restrictions on our choices. You can arbitrarily divide these restrictions into "government", "mother nature", "corporations", "that asshole next door" ... whatever powers surround you at the present moment, these restrict your choices. Yet, you have the ability to undertake voluntary actions as long as you are conscious. Perhaps this is what consciousness is -- the ability to undertake voluntary actions -- but your consciousness can certainly be limited by the restrictions in your environment. In the worst case scenario you can be completely mummified and paralyzed, while still conscious. In this worst case your voluntary actions are limited to what you decide to think about during your captivity.

You make your voluntary choices based on the information inside your head. This information is always limited and imperfect, because your head is a tiny part of the universe and can't possibly monitor everything that is happening. Sometimes the world behaves in seemingly predictable ways -- so over time we accumulate a list of rules that we've learned from observing how the world behaves. These rules don't always work as we expect them to.

The above two paragraphs define "voluntary and informed". When I engage in what some people call "free market" transactions I am just as "voluntary and informed" as when I engage in other kinds of transactions. The "free market" is a philosophical system of rules that attempt to order the restrictions we face in the environment. Like all philosophical systems, it doesn't always work as we expect it to. The same can be said for "communism", "Islam", or any other philosophical system. Different people will adhere to different philosophical systems because they have learned from their own experiences what works (sometimes) for them.

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