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I know by heart that life has its adversities and that we should act rightly in order to make life beautiful as possible, yet I have trouble formulating it in words, especially since there are some facts

1) There are many different situations we encounter, and so the rules we know are not absolute and can’t work at all situations

Rules such as:

  • I must make people happy, but if it’s a spoiled brat or a criminal I encounter, I can’t make them happy, I must educate them

  • I must be nice to people, but if I’m being mistreated or taken advantage, I can’t act nice, I must stand up for myself

  • I must not kill someone, but what if I had to choose between letting someone kill a family or kill that someone to save the family, I’d have to kill that someone

  • I must be happy, but if I did a crime, I should accept being in jail at the price of my happiness

  • If I did a crime I should not complain about my punishment(s), but if the punishment(s) I receive is (or are) exaggerated, I should stand up for himself

  • It’s not good to lie, but sometimes there are situations in which it would be right to lie

2) There could be idiotic people who believe they’re acting right, but their actions to rectify or bypass adversities are actually wrong and exaggerated (Such as Javert of Les Miserables, Frollo from Disney’s Hunchback of Notre Dame, and the Lisbon parents of Virgin Suicides)

What is the formula or generalization about making life beautiful that could work at any situation one encounters without having to show examples? if possible, I'd like a sentence that's as easy to understand and short as possible

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    Why must there be a formula? And if there is one, why must it lack examples? – virmaior Sep 3 '14 at 0:26
  • I'm trying to write a book to share my views of life, in hope of teaching how people should behave in life and what it takes to make a beautiful life. And since there are no absolutes and so many different situations, it would be too hard and long to write how to act at what situations, so I must make a general explanation about how to act rightfully that could work at any situation. Maybe formula isn't the right word, a generalization. – user8948 Sep 3 '14 at 0:48
  • it may help to define what you mean by beauty. maybe beauty is lack of affectation? – user6917 Sep 3 '14 at 22:23
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    You're writing a book about something you're not sure about what it is? And we get to propose "formulas"? Great. Why don't you start with Kant? At least, there is a formula, and it can be understood without any examples. On the other hand, it's not supposed to make "life beautiful". – iphigenie Sep 4 '14 at 9:15
  • I do know what I'm writing my book about, my problem is I'm not good at formulating in words what I know by heart. – user8948 Sep 4 '14 at 11:19
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As you will know, there is no consensus on what is right and what is wrong, and there are huge amounts of theories on that matter. A lot of them provide formulas, but there is always a debate if the output of those formulas is actually the right thing to do. For example Kant derives from the categorical imperative that you must not lie ever. Even if there is a life at stake and lying could safe that life, you must say the truth. Some say (and probably you would agree) that that is ethically wrong.

Often, when confronted with a specific situation, we feel we know what to do, and we are inclined to feel that the way we decided is due to a general rule (e.g. I feel I should tell someone the truth, and then I think I did this because I followed the rule to never lie). But then I am confronted with a different situation, and in that situation I think I should do the opposite (e.g. lie). So the rule I first held true must be modified (e.g. "never lie, except lifes are at stake"). But while I experience more and more situation, I notice that the rule is still insufficient.

There are three ways to heal that problem: Make the rule more complex (e.g. "Never lie, except lifes are at stake, but dont break a promise by lying except the promise was given to a person that previously was involved in a crime that has not been trailed yet"). Those rules will not be very convincing, they don't seem to follow a principle, but merely a casuistry.

Or you can make the rule more general (e.g."Do no harm"). The problem with this approach is that the more general a rule is, the more cases there are where you must apply it, even cases you never thought of when you formulated the rule. So now you will have more potential for conflicts with other rules and intuitions you have (e.g. you do harm if you attack a person who attacks your family).

Or you can simply stick to the initial rule. You accept that it has counter-inuitive consequences sometimes, but even then you follow it anyway (e.g. you do indeed never lie). Whenever you feel it would be right to break the rule, your feeling is wrong and the rule is right (e.g. when asked by the Gestapo if you know where Anne Frank lives you will answer "Jawohl, Herr! She is in the house over there, second floor, behind the closet.")

There is a hypothetical fifth option: You get it right. You find a rule, thats simple, reasonable and that will always output exactly what you think is right, it has no strange consequences and works even in all hypothetical situations (this is needed because you never know what situations you or any person following your rule will encounter). But even when you find such a rule, that satisfies your intuitions, it is not said that others will feel the same. You would have to argue for your rule, make assumptions, defeat counter-arguments, and basically you would have to do what philosophers do since thousands of years and still there is, as I initially said, no consensus on who is right.

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    It's a minor quibble, but for Kant, you needn't tell the truth -- you just must not lie (you are free to be silent before the axe murderer). Moreover, Kant does do casuistry in the Metaphysics of Morals. Still you're doing philosophy so +1. – virmaior Sep 8 '14 at 23:29
  • @virmaior I'm using Kant here just as an introductory example - this answer isn't supposed to discuss Kant's position but the problem of formulation a formula based on the OP's "It's good to never lie". Nonetheless you are right about Kant. – Einer Sep 9 '14 at 9:48
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    Fair enough, as I said in the comment above +1. I like the cut of your jib. – virmaior Sep 9 '14 at 11:07
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I believe:

All life comes into its own as free and equal in dignity, rights and consideration. Such life as is endowed with reason and conscience also must observe this truth in transactions with any other form of life.

Which I formulated as a generalization of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights to govern all actions rather than just Homo sapiens internal interactions.

  1. You are, in me belief, under no obligation to make anyone happy, but are under an obligation to treat everyone with love and respect such as can be done with equal consideration for all. For example, respect is essential but preventing someone from committing a crime, while a restriction on freedom of the individual, is also respectful to all people and that individual as crime (against this law rather than political law) is against enlightened self-interest.

  2. It is entirely possible to be nice while standing up for yourself or others.

  3. That would make you a murderer whom you have just admitted you don't afford protections on the right to life. I believe under equal consideration you are obligated only to oppose heroically and improve yourself to better defend your family, but your decision to take another's life, to me, is decidedly unjust.

  4. You can choose happiness. John Milton:

'The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven...

5.__Your choice to complain or not complain is irrelevant up to equal consideration, namely for that of the time of your judge and jailors.

6.__That question without a specific example is beyond the scope of this answer.

As for "idiotic people," if someone is not endowed with reason and conscience they are not required to act in accordance with the precepts I outlined but therefore receive reduced protections under equal consideration, namely, they may have actions further restricted to prevent harm to themselves and others as is appropriate and reasonable.

==================================================================================

I will now attempt to formulate a declaration in accordance with the examples for the question.

Rules such as:

I must make people happy, but if it’s a spoiled brat or a criminal I encounter, I can’t make them happy

I must be nice to people, but if I’m being mistreated or taken advantage, I can’t act nice, I must stand up for myself

I must not kill someone, but what if I had to choose between letting someone kill a family or kill that someone to save the family, I’d have to kill that someone

I must be happy, but if I did a crime, I should accept being in jail at the price of my happiness

If I did a crime I should not complain about my punishment(s), but if the punishment(s) I receive is (or are) exaggerated, I should stand up for himself

It’s not good to lie, but sometimes there are situations in which it would be right to lie

So:

  1. Happiness of others is important within the possibility to do so.

  2. Being nice is important if mutual.

  3. The value of life is a function of its genetic similarity to myself.

  4. Happiness of myself must be earned.

  5. Advocacy for and acceptance of justice is important.

  6. Lying is undesirable but may be made necessary.

From these principles I extract the following:

  1. Happiness is to be earned.

  2. Kindness is to be earned.

  3. Justice is important.

  4. The value of life is a function of its genetic similarity to myself.

  5. Rules are relative.

I believe it is not unreasonable to subsume justice into kindness and, under game theory, charge kindness as a mandate subject to relativity under rule 5. Moreover, as kindness can be held to be consideration for the happiness of self and others, I subsume these 5 rules into these 3:

  1. Kindness is mandatory.

  2. The value of life is a function of its genetic similarity to myself.

  3. Rules are relative.

So then, as a single statement:

I must act in kindness toward all people but when placed in a situation where I must choose between showing kindness to two parties I will show kindness to that more similar to me.

I believe that captures rule relativity without stating it explicitly.

As a broader statement:

All must act in accordance of kindness and in cases where kindness to all others is impossible elect to treat those most similar to them with kindness.

  • Thank you for answering. My desire is to seek an explanation about how people should behave in life and what it takes to make a beautiful life. If it's not too much to ask, I need a short general explanation about the current formula I try to find, and easy as possible to understand, please? – user8948 Sep 2 '14 at 22:05
  • @user8948 I'm not sure if I understand the difference between what you're asking for and my answer above. By "current formula I try to find" do you mean an declaration similar to my own that would inform the actions outlined in your examples? – Calvin Sep 2 '14 at 22:44
  • Yes, another generalization about "how and what it takes to act rightfully according to what situations" that would be easier to understand and could work at any situation (including the examples I showed) – user8948 Sep 2 '14 at 23:44
  • @user8948 I think that'll take some time to work on, sorry, I'll try to get one posted as an edit by the end of the day. – Calvin Sep 3 '14 at 15:04
  • @user8948 You can take a look at what I've developed so far. – Calvin Sep 3 '14 at 20:36
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Preamble:

The passage of life is a social one where humans are immersed in experiences from the day they are born until the day they die.

Individuals at any point in time may be said to be not only the sum of their internalized experiences but also of the interpretations of those experiences the thoughts and ideas that arose from them.

This is why different persons can act in completely different ways within the same circumstances, each potentially believing that they are acting ethically (not everybody places the same weight on ethics as a factor in decision making).

We begin in a most malleable form - and we are most open to ideas and change - for we are students of the world. As we grow we become more rooted and we become more defined - some of us call this consistency.

The value of consistency is that the individual who practices it also seeks to practice his or her morale standpoint with consistency. The drawback is that any imperfections in a morale standpoint may grow more rigid as time goes by.

We as a species are still evolving and surely further answers shall come to the fore to fine-tune our understanding of the ethical.


To return to your question:

The pursuit of consistency need not only be one for those who have become so comfortable with their ethos that they would close their minds to new information.

The pursuit of consistency can be the seeking of a morale system that not only works well in one's dealings with self and others, but it can also work well in one's evaluations of others' actions with respect to the self and others.

The pursuit of consistency should extend to scaleablity - and seek to address the appropriate treatment of those of radically different perspectives on the matter, as well as those who have acted in breach. Is one's reactive action upon those of such actions righteous and is the nature of the reactive action worthy of the principles that are sought to be upheld (or is one merely exercising power)?

On a different level, the pursuit of being true to the self is also a desireable trait. Does society need to be so removed from the individual that it should take on an identity altoghether unhuman? Is nature such an unruly teacher that we should ignore the practice of millenia?

Nature may seem a beastly place where species make meals of each other. And yet most species can either be tamed when provided the appropriate environment within whch to thrive, or even display seemingly unexplainable acts of affection (including to those not of their kind).

What nature teaches us is that we need to practice a healthy degree of self-interest - a morale standpoint that spirals from the self and outwards through family, friends, colleagues, teams, society and beyond. The closer to self, the greater the personal interest at hand.

Which would seem to justify selfish acts at the expense of others - but again it need not be so. Again through the practice of self-interest it is in the interest of the self and those close to the self for one to benefit from the fruits of others. A barren tree bears few or poor fruits while it is the prosperous tree that bears a rich harvest.

Those with understanding of this principle, with self-interest at heart will seek to invest in the sowing of prosperity in those around him or her - thus investing towards a buffer of prosperity in an otherwise barren world (presuming a worst case scenario where few act with self-interest).

Others who act similarly are the selflessly charitable. These sacrifice from the self to better the lot of others. While the principle is admirable - they can do so at the expense of themselves and more-so - their legacy. their own prosperity may become compromised and worse - only a portion of their charity tends to get to where it is intended to get (presuming that the charitable do not practice their kindness close to home as a person with self-interest at heart might.

If a person is unwilling to guard the heart then the heart is vulnerable to suffering - and life will test that heart's ability to endure. Betrayal, deceit, ignorance - a spiralling descent into an abyss of one's own design. No ethical system is immune to being tested - but some standpoints are more liable to it than others.


To (loosely) abbreviate the above:

"To live a life of ethical correctness is to live with greatest respect to self as well as for others - with greatest consistency and in line with the beat of nature."

Not quite a formula - and I am not certain that such a thing could be translated into a formula - but the variables at play here would be: Consistency, Proximity to Self, Proximity to one's nature, and Prosperity.


I realize that this is not the kind of answer that you might have been expecting and I also realize that it is not the sort of answer that many would agree with. It is included for consideration.

  • Thank you, it might not be the kind of answer I seek but there are some facts you mentioned that could help me fill other phrases i'm trying to compose. – user8948 Sep 4 '14 at 17:59

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