The Good Life Method – Meghan Sullivan, Paul Blaschko
This is a philosophical book on ethics and goodness.
The cause and effect of goodness
Cultivating good intentions leads to moral progress, and moral progress leads to human flourishing.
Subscribe to Miniwise Newsletter (Free!)
Miniwise newsletter brings you one great bite-sized idea every day, curated from world's best non-fiction books, articles, podcasts..and more. An entire new world in just 5 minutes!
Sometimes we make terrible decisions that, thankfully, do not end in disaster. Sometimes we attempt heroic, loving, or generous deeds but fail to make a difference in the world.
Moral development entails improving your intentions, developing your character, and better understanding why you are pursuing certain morally significant goals. And the good life can be captured in a specific type of story, one that depicts your own moral development.
The “ultimate good” for humans will entail satisfying our animal needs while also gradually and rationally developing virtuous traits of character.
This state is referred to by contemporary philosophers as “flourishing”—the complete state of being a well-developed, accomplished, and happy (in the good-feeling sense) person.
Desire The Truth
Consider walking from a dimly lit room into a brightly lit one. You don’t immediately notice more—in fact, you probably notice less. Your students must contract. Your brain must process a wide range of information. This common visual experience serves as a guide to the more serious difficulties we face when attempting to learn.
Effective altruism is a philosophical movement that aims to provide people with extremely specific advice on how money should be used to live an ethical life.
Living generously: the features of effective altruism
Many effective altruists believe that our primary moral obligation is to alleviate suffering and promote happiness, and that the moral worth of our decisions can be measured by how effective they are at increasing net happiness.
Earn as much as you possibly can. Then, donate as much money as you can to the most effective causes for alleviating suffering and promoting happiness.
The Moral Compass
Sometimes we make terrible decisions that, thankfully, do not end in disaster. Sometimes we try to do heroic, loving, or generous acts, but they have no impact on the world. Moral development entails improving your intentions, developing your character, and better understanding why you are pursuing certain morally significant goals.
The Trolley Problem
A thought experiment to understand moral psychology:
A trolley is careening out of control down some tracks, on a course to strike and kill five workers.
Do you pull the lever to redirect the train, which only kills one person?
If it is okay to pull the lever, would it also be okay to push one bystander onto some train tracks to stop the trolley from hitting the five workers (killing him in the process)?
If one person dies in every scenario, why should it matter that she was pulled rather than pushed, the manner in which the killing happened?
What the Trolley Example Proves
The surprising discovery is that different subjects react differently to these variations. The more “individual” the trolley problem, the more hesitant someone was to act. As a result, people are more likely to pull a lever to change the tracks and much less likely to push someone to their death!
Contemplation is an ongoing process with no clear beginning or end. There is no definite point at which you must turn away if you are absorbed in a thought or a moment.
And contemplation is leisurely—there is no set pace to strive for, and there is no such thing as an “efficient” contemplative.
Whereas goal-directed activities gain value from the culmination of an achievement—crossing the finish line makes the painful marathon worthwhile—goalless activities gain value regardless of how they conclude.
Emotions and pleasure may be felt both too much and too little, and in both cases not well; but to feel them at the right times, with reference to the right objects, towards the right people, with the right motive, and in the right way, is what is both intermediate and best, and this is characteristic of virtue.
Goalless activities are valuable simply because you are doing them, and they remain valuable as long as you are doing them and are not diminished in value because they do not culminate in some major achievement.
We can put things like sitting on a quiet dock to watch the waves come in or playing with our kids until we lose track of time in this category.