I think the obvious next step beyond a set of ideas being internally consistent is keeping those ideas consistent with the universe. For better or worse, the universe is our context, and it doesn’t seem to much care for debate on how it works. I may think it would be really great if I could live forever, but reality suggests I can’t, so I shouldn’t grow attached the the idea of immortality.

On the other hand, the universe is full of change, so holding ideas consistent with reality necessitates holding a lot of conditional ideas. It’s good to go outside and get some sun, until the sun becomes a cause of cancer. Being consistent with the universe doesn’t mean siding with the sun and getting cancer; it means recognizing the risk of cancer and not going in the sun so much.

Even a principle as abstract as consistency with the universe already suggests to me some immediate implications for practical decisions. Accepting consistency with the universe as a virtue means avoiding any long-term escapism, e.g. heavy drug use, immersive fiction, or - most extreme - suicide.

Escapism is certainly appealing; the universe can be harsh. For some people, I can imagine it’s so harsh that they just can’t make it work. But because it’s nowhere near that difficult for me, even in my most self-pitying moments, any escape will be temporary. And when it ends, when I go back to facing reality, the escape will prove regrettable, a missed opportunity, a procrastination.

A procrastination from what, I have no idea. I don’t know where the universe is heading, or even if it has a direction. But it’s going to take me along whether I like it or not, so I might as well appreciate the experiences, even the most difficult, as much as I can.

So to review: I’d like my ideas to not contradict each other, nor to contradict reality. I realize I’ve skipped over a big question here: what exactly is reality? I’ll have to come back to that later.

 

After seven months (feels longer) of writing nothing on typewriting.org, I should probably preface this by announcing my intention to pick up writing again. Since I last wrote here, I bought a house, got a new job, and a new (to me) car. The car didn’t change much, but the house feels like a very adult responsibility and the job feels like something I’ll do for a while. Life all seems very settled now, no longer the tumult of youth. Suddenly I’m old.

Several of my university friends were philosophy majors. I was not, and know very little about schools of thought on big issues, so I’m sure much of what I have to say has been said more precisely. But I have some ideas on life and whatnot and those that haven't changed much over the past two decades are likely to stick with me through the rest of this, so I thought I should write them down, a sort of ongoing This I Believe.

Trying to begin at what seems relatively like a beginning, my first idea, a principle to guide my other ideas, is that one’s ideas should be internally consistent. We call someone a "hypocrite" if they claim to believe something they really don’t, but I’m not sure we have a word for someone who believes two things that can not possibly both be true.

For example, some people will claim taxes are always bad while secretly valuing government programs paid for by taxes, possibly for political gain. And these people are hypocrites. But other people truly believe taxes are always bad, and truly value government programs paid for by taxes, and just don’t recognize the contradiction.

Some of them just don’t think about it enough to establish the contradiction. We might call them "lazy thinkers" or something to that effect. But what I want to focus on, as the antithesis of where I’m starting, is a whole different class of thinking that believes taxes are always bad, values government programs paid for by taxes, sees the contradiction there, but sees no problem in contradiction.

I don’t know how to engage such thought. I can’t even say inconsistency is "bad," because bad implies some sort of internally-consistent value judgment. "Confounding" is probably the best word I can come up with to describe the antithesis of how I want to approach ideas. Ideas should be consistent, not confounding.

I feel a bit like Walter Sobchak in The Big Lebowski, when he says Nihilists! Fuck me. I mean, say what you like about the tenets of National Socialism, Dude; at least it's an ethos. The thing is, I think Nihilism is still better than confounding. Say what you like about the lack of tenets of Nihilism; at least they’re consistent.

So I’m starting with consistency as a base. I don’t really have any justification for that; I just don’t know how to think without it. If anything after seems inconsistent, I hope someone will point it out.