Over time I have, in a somewhat cliché way, developed systems of ideas that I think are fundamental to how people should live. This does not mean these things should be enforced on people, but they are a list of proposed virtues that I think would let people avoid many issues and live better lives.
The first one I can remember was:
A second one focused on more political or interpersonal values was:
The first system was a bit shallow, and the current one I propose is the following:
- Open Mindedness
The reasons for this have been mentioned throughout my other essays, but I will try to succinctly explain them here in the context of virtues.
Open mindedness is listed first because it is necessary to discovering the truth. It is entirely possible that the first way someone thinks of reality, or really of anything, is the correct way. It is far more likely though, that they may have everything, or at least some things, wrong. If you have even one thing wrong, you need to be open minded to correct those things by being open to considering other opinions. If your idea is wrong and someone else tells you what the right idea is, you will not be able to accept the truth it if you never consider it.
The second virtue is perhaps more important than the first, although you need the first to get to this one. Truth is so fundamental that it is hard to explain why.There is the obvious practical use, which is to make better informed decisions. Knowing the truth lets you avoid making bad decisions which could be detrimental to you. Knowing more true things lets you get what you want instead of your plans failing due to misinformation. If you want things then being informed will help you get them, and lies or lacking information can cause you to lose these things.
However this is a very superficial reason; truth as a virtue is what we should strive for its own sake. This manifests in people’s desire and enjoyment in learning, our displeasure at being lied to or mislead. If this is not evident, consider the alternative of lying. If we lie to ourselves then we do not have integrity, and we choose to ignore reality If we lie about how reality works then any efforts to interact with reality will be flawed and likely inefficient. If we lie to ourselves to avoid reality then we are not being reasonable. Our actions in reality are important, especially those with other people. If we cannot accept how reality is then we limit ourselves to our illusions so that our personal twisted reality is not shattered by seeing how things really are. Since such a fantasy is constructed, likely out of convenience, it is arbitrary and holds no meaning in any objective sense. The very fact that it is an illusion means that it is false and can never really exist. People who cannot handle the pain of reality might do this, but that is simply seeking pleasure and avoiding pain due to a lack of strength. Truth is necessary to live in any meaningful manner. To avoid truth is to live a lie, which is barely living at all
Morality is another virtue that is so fundamental it is difficult to justify. One could appeal to the human conscience, but this could be countered by saying that it is simply a result of evolution for survival as a group, and either way it would not give proper justification for it as a virtue. The proper explanation is likely a more complex philosophical one. Another proposition could be a proof by contradiction: if there is no objective morality, then there is no justified definition for what good and bad mean. This is not a proper proof as such a situation could be possible, it would simply be sociopathic and amoral. We could instead define morality as what makes people happy is good and what hurts them is bad, but this is again arbitrary as such things are partly defined by physiology and psychology, and either way they can vary a lot. Again, although this is not a proper or justifiable explanation, I think morality needs to be done for it’s own sake rather than for another reason. We do what is good because we are as sure as possible that it is good, and we avoid what is bad because we are sure it is bad. Perhaps the fact that good things make people happy, and are seen as necessary by people with consciences, and developed despite being contrary to survival as consequences of morality’s real explanation. This of course does not even go into what would be moral and immoral. That would require you to be open minded to determine it with others, both with people you know and by learning about other theories.
Strength in a mental sense is needed as explained before to handle the truth. If you are open enough and care about the truth, you might attain it. If the truth hurts you though, you may not be able to withstand the pain, and in order to cope with it you might ignore it or lie to yourself about an alternative truth. Strength should be promoted, as it can also allow you to have self discipline which will help you achieve what you want.
Balance is needed to avoid extremism. Balance in this sense does not mean neutrality or passivity, but a simple application of reason. Reason and logic in this context are not as opposed to intuition or emotion, they are simply the basics required to not be completely wrong. Reason may not be sufficient to make every decision but it is necessary. Balance in this context requires you to use reason to determine which choices you have, which are better or more efficient, and to determine when the more extreme choices are more justified. Instead of never taking risks or never taking extreme choices, balance puts the less extreme choices first but understands when the more extreme choices are needed. True balance cannot always go for the middle path, because then it would not have a balance of (sometimes necessary) extreme paths. Such a person would always go for choices that avoid any sort of extreme methods, and would consequently fail when they should have taken them. The opposite situation is more obvious: a person who thinks that extreme methods are the only methods that work will often get results, but will sacrifice or hurt other people or things in the process. Such people tend to ignore the harm they do in order to justify their choices. Both of these people are extremists in different ways, and neither of them appreciate the correct method that is reasonable balance. One ignores balance altogether for a mistaken sense of pragmatism while the other takes balance too far.
Balance is also needed to not be swayed to one extreme or another, or to believe lies. For any idea that you hear, you should consider it as possibly being true, but also determine whether or not it really is beyond what the source may tell you. An ideology that is extremist would then be immediately suspicious, but should not be immediately disregarded as false. Conversely, an ideology that promotes balance is not immediately true but would require more investigation to determine whether or not it is true. The Sith and Jedi in the StarWars universe are examples of extremist ideologies, although the Sith are clearly far more extremist and irrational.
By caring about the truth, you will seek a meaningful and integral life. By being open minded, you will be more capable of attaining the truth. By being strong, you will be able to accept to truth. Once you have the truth, you can use it to make more informed moral decisions.
These seem like the most basic and fundamental things that everyone should have, in my opinion. But as the theory itself says, we should be open to it being wrong.
Another way to look at this would be to include open mindedness as part of truth, since it is essential to finding truth, and balance would be a natural consequence of truth and reason. Reason could also be included as a virtue, although it is perhaps too mechanical to be called so. We could also say that strength is a result of the moral obligation to do what you think is right. This would reduce it to:
- Open Mindedness
I emphasise open mindedness first because that alone can, given the right circumstances, lead you to determine what other values to pursue. As long as you always consider multiple points of view you will be open to determining which is true. The same cannot be said for the pursuit of truth, morality, or strength. There are people who value truth but are not open minded enough to realise what they think is true is actually a lie. If you value strength alone then you might judge others negatively for not being strong. Morality is meaningless and can be harmful if your morality is flawed, especially if it tells you that harmful things are good. Balance as stated before is also easily prone to misunderstanding.
As stated before there is also a set of political values that are separate from these because truth and morality are essentially personal virtues that can be applied to our interactions with others as well.
Virtues are essential to having a meaningful life, as they are the fundamental relations between our beliefs and reality.