I have now come to the end of three years of blogging. With that, it is time for some change
The reason that I started this blog was to get some ideas that I had in my head out into the public. In high school I began a personal project to understand the nature of value – to know what 'better' is. I had 12 years of college and several years after college pursuing that interest. I had some ideas. I wanted to throw those ideas out into the world and see what happened.
This was not, of course, an attempt to make the world the beneficiary of my wisdom. One of the things that ideas need is exposure to competing ideas. I needed people to present objections that I had not thought of, objections that I would not think of on my own. I very much believe that the growth of knowledge (including the knowledge of good and evil) is a community project that benefits from the participation of a lot of different minds, each with their own areas of expertise.
In this regard, I am deeply grateful to the people who have taken the time to comment on this blog from time to time – both here (in the comments section) and elsewhere with links back to this blog. I can honestly say that I have read at least 97% of the comments written to this site, and those which have come in through email, and read whatever links I have discovered.
Over the last 3 years, I have written over 1050 essays describing the basics of that view and applying it to specific moral case studies. So, my views are now 'out there' for others to see and to comment on.
In recent weeks (starting on July 27th, to be exact) traffic to this site changed significantly. The number of people who come to this site as a result of generic Google searches went up 500% on that day. It gradually rose from there and, last week, generic google searches were 800% above what they had been before July 27th.
And those hits are coming all along the length of this blog. They come from people who are searching for information on social contract theory, an account of the meaning of 'all men are created equal', subjective morality, on rule and act utilitarianism, on atheist conceptions of good and evil, on any number of topics.
I had once worried that, if I post an essay, that it would soon be lost in the huge warehouse that is the internet, never to be seen or heard from again. Under current circumstances, that is not the case. People interested in a range of topics and who are doing Google searches are finding this blog.
So, I have to say that I am pleased. My goal from 3 years ago is being met.
But have I made the world a better place?
As a result of my writing, is it the case that people have truer beliefs, and/or are acquiring desires that tend to fulfill other desires? Is society, at least a little bit, more moral than it would have been if I had (for example) accepted that management job I was offered after undergraduate school and made money instead?
Making the world a better place does involve more than just presenting ideas. It requires putting those ideas into practice.
Anybody with a computer can sit down and design a building. However, the real accomplishment comes when the building becomes more than just a set of blue prints rolled up in a tube someplace (or sitting on a computer hard drive). It's quite another thing to turn that roll of blueprints into a real building that real people can then use in whatever ways they desire to do so.
So, what have I actually accomplished? What real-world change has come from these ideas?
Nothing much, I must admit.
So, after 3 years, I have to ask whether the mere presenting of ideas that people read, comment on, and either agree with or disagree with, has been merely an academic exercise. The puzzle that has been rattling around in my brain recently has been the puzzle on how to turn this into something real.
There is an intimate relationship between morals and action. In desire utilitarian terms, to call something good is to say that people have reason to pursue it. In the case of moral goodness, calling something a moral obligation means that a person would do it if they had good desires and their relevant beliefs are complete and true.
So, if I am recommending actions, I am making claims about what a person with good desires and true and relevant beliefs will do. And if people do not do those things, I have only three possible options. Either (1) the agent does not have good desires, (2) the agent does not have true and complete beliefs, or (3) I am mistaken about what a person with good desires and true and relevant beliefs would do.
By the way, there is a cliche in morality that says, "to know the good is to do the good". Which means, if a person knows that he ought to do X, then he will do X.
I deny this view of morality. It takes more than true belief to motivate a right action. It takes good desires. Bad desires can motivate a person who knows what is good to do evil instead, merely because he wants to.
Either way, an essay that correctly reports a moral fact would motivate a person with good desires to act. And if an essay does motivate an agent (the reader) to act, and the writer's moral claim is not mistaken, this implies that the agent either (1) lacks good desires, or (2) lacks some relevant set of facts.
So, I take seriously any sign that something I have writen has motivated people to act. If I see nothing, it suggests that there might be something wrong with the claims I am defending, if they do not motivate action.
But that is going to be more of a focus in this blog - the focus on motivating action. The focus on actually making the world a better place, rather than just writing about what such a place would be like if it existed.
I hope that you continue to stick around.