Monday, January 24, 2011

Constructive Use of Time

I need to get back into the real world.

I have been wasting much of my time lately with trivial frivolities - empty wasting of time and opportunity in things that can't be defended as having real value.

Okay . . . Technically, the have real value. Value exists as a relationship between states of affairs and desires, and the things I have wasted time on fulfill my desires.

But that is about all they do. They certainly are not desires that other people have mmuch reason to promote. They are not desires that realize. States of affairs that tend to fulfill other desires.

Well, they are not desires that tend to thwart other desires either, fortunately. I have avoided vices such as drugs, alcohol, smoking, gambling - and I have sufficiently strong aversions tto doing harm through such things as violence and theft.

But the same can be said of a rock. It is not disposed to cause harrm either. Nor does it contribute much. It does not represent very high aspitations. It doesn't represent a very good role model.

So, what happens if your desires - those things all agents act so as to fulfill the most and strrongest of, given their beliefs - are not (as can be demonstrated) of much value?

See, desirism has a place for these types of situations. I can say, "Yes, I have a desire that P. And when I act, I act so as to fulfill the most and strongest of my desires, including this desire that P. But, gad, I have many and strong reason to be rid of this desire that P. Aand people generally, while they do not have good reason to condemn me so as to be rid of tthis desire that P, don't have any reason to supporrt it either. Furthermore, some desires that the do have reason to supporrt are desires that will invariably conflict with this desire that P."

A person can say all of this and realize that the world is such that it is all - all of it - objectively and knowably true. While there is room in that for errror, there is no room for mere opinion - no room for 'Here is another set of propositions in conflict with those above but equally true simply because they are believed,

When these claims aare true, they are objectively true. When false, they are objectively false.

So, we have a nice set of tools for looking at these situations in which one has desires that one has reason not to have. Do we have a set of tools for doing something about it?

Well, if praise and condemnation have some effect on molding desires, then self-praise and self-condemnation, and the related emotions of pride and shame, are among the tools that we can use to alter our own desires, just as we use them to mold the desires of others. It makes perfectly good sense, in a moment of reflection, for an agent to say, "I wish I was not interested in that over there. It's not a good interest. I'd be a better person if I did not have that interest."

This is one tool we have for molding our own interests, and for making ourselves better people than we might have otherwise been.

It's time to put away these foolish wastes of time. They're not doing me any good, and they're nothing that anybody else has any reason to see me interested in as well. And it's time to cultivate some better interests, and maybe accomplish a bit more than I would have otherwise accomplished.


josef johann said...

What are the implications for your blog? I am constantly reading articles, particularly reviews of Sam Harris' book, that I think would need a response from someone like you.

As in, there are many who make many of the points Sean Carrol makes, in a variety of ways, that reject not just Harris' philosophy but any possible science of morality. I always think it is the general points made by such commentators that serve as a good point of entry for you.

In particular I'm thinking of this review by Russell Blackford and this one by Ned Resnikoff.

Anyway, I hope you'll keep blogging here.

Anonymous said...

I disagree. Take time to play. Though I admit, for selfish reasons, I'd like to see more commentary from you on current events.

And I also disagree that alcohol is necessarily a vice. After 40 years I've discovered the world of beer, and it's not about getting wasted. Same goes for wine with my cousin, who studied winemaking for years while owning and running her own business.