Things on my Mind #4


1. Just like most books are fluff, most articles on the internet are fluff also.

2. How absolute is the idea of “don’t knock it till you try it?” It is irrational to first try things or activities that are clearly detrimental. That said, the saying is never actually brought up in scenarios with decidedly harmful effects. What are the two sides of this debate, and why are they right?

  1. The positivists in this debate (i.e., people that make that claim) actually use it as a means to check the detractor’s ego - a “you can’t be a fair and objective judge on an experiential topic if you have never actually experienced ” This is an entirely salient argument. With further exploration of their views, one begins to sense flavors of the argument against calcification. If you never try something before devaluing and dismissing it, you will calcify.

  2. On the other hand, the negativists (i.e., people who argue against the claim) say that living one’s life with that motto is a pretty clear ticket to a short life, which is also entirely fair.

The general rule should be: if there is a reasonable risk and you are nervous about trying something, do it because succumbing to your nerves breeds cowardice. The flip side of this is that constantly chasing “highs” leads to an early grave. The word “reasonable” carries the day in that sentence. According to Franklin:

“There is a middle way between nihilism out of an embrace of death and cowardice out of a fear of death. Both paths become ugly and pitiable. Each is a sin against God. It is only through the view that we are transcendent but ultimately finite, dying beings that we are righteous”

One’s goal should be a life full of rich experiences consistent with your preferences. From time to time, try new things to avoid calcifying.

3. Here’s a thing about which I changed my mind recently: I used to opine/lament that a surprising plurality of people are too quick to moralize about the music they don’t like. Now, I’m a lot less sure if “not moralizing” is the right course of action because it is entirely self-evident that if there is “objectively good” music, there is an “objectively bad” one - most people subscribe to different versions of that claim.

The broader reasoning that moved my position on this issue is this hypothesis: The art a culture chooses to exalt says a lot about the state of the culture. Through this lens, the actions of the religious on the kinds of music to which their children listen becomes justifiable. It also endorses moralizing about music as well.

The implications of this are magnified by a point I make pretty often. Music is a piece of transcendence. Concerts and musicians bring people closer to that which is sublime, and a taste of the transcendent is one that every soul shares. This means that if you have a clear vision for the future of your culture, moralizing is usually an effective way to spur emotion and begin the change one would like to see that culture. The double-edged nature of this conclusion is what animates my current hesitance to subscribe to either my old view or where the new one clearly leads.

4. What role do you have in your friend’s internality? Internalities are those behaviors a person has that impose costs on them in the long run that they either can not calculate rationally or do not consider at all in their current decision-making process. An excellent example of an internality is smoking on health outcomes. Most internalities involve areas in which individuals lack adequate self-control or foresight. The answer is pretty clearly “Yes.” One does have a role to play in their friend’s internalities. The question of how broad that latitude runs is one up to negotiation. Paternalism can be just as damaging as pure ambivalence. Thus, externalize your internality!


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