In what follows, I offer an account of life and some recommendations for living. No necessary relationship exists between the account and the recommendations. A person can accept the account and not the recommendations, accept the recommendations and not the account, or accept elements of both. Nothing in this account or its recommendations is original but its manner of presentation may be useful. I prepared it to clarify for myself what I think about life and how I should live. I share it because it may be of interest to my friends and anyone else who thinks along these lines.
An Account of Life
1. A person’s traits result from the unique interaction of her parent’s genetic material at conception and her own unique interaction with the environment. A person can share one, some, or many traits with one, some, or all other persons, but she will not share every trait with every person.
2. A person’s life involves the employment of resources to pursue an end or ends.
3. A trait can assist, impede, or not affect the employment of a resource and the pursuit of an end.
4. Resources can assist, impede or not affect the pursuit of an end.
5. The employment of a resource, the pursuit of an end, the action or actions undertaken to pursue the end, the achievement of an end, and/or the failure to achieve an end can i) assist, impede or not affect the employment of other resources by one’s self, an other, some others, all others, or everyone now and/or in the future; ii) assist, impede or not affect the achievement of other ends now and/or in the future, including the end or ends pursued by one’s self, an other, some others, all others, or everyone; iii) result in unexpected and unintended affects and/or effects.
6. In any particular circumstance, a competent person can exercise sufficient control to employ some resources to achieve some end or ends and, in some instances, an intended end. However, no person is so competent she will always achieve, in every and any circumstance, an intended end. Even the coordinated efforts of highly competent persons will not always achieve, in every and any circumstance, a specific and intended end.
7. The circumstances in which a person pursues her end or ends frequently change, sometimes for reasons over which she can exercise control, sometimes for reasons over which she can exercise some control, and sometimes for reasons over which she can exercise no control.
8. If the circumstances in which a person pursues her end or ends change sufficiently, previously identified means to ends might no longer be effective, anticipated affects and effects might not occur as anticipated, and the assessment of those affects and effects might also change.
9. Some resources are best administered by one, a few, or some persons rather than all persons.
10. The pursuit and achievement of an end requires the non-interference, acquiescence, and/or involvement of others.
11. Competent persons, even when well-intentioned, will not always agree on what is the best means to achieve the best ends, what assists, impedes, or does not affect the pursuit of an end, and to what extent they assist or impede. As a result, in any circumstance, competent persons can disagree over what counts as the best course of action.
12. There is no relevant connection between coercive power and the identification of the best course of action.
13. All other things being equal, a simple majority decision based on the independent judgments of a large number of competent persons provides the best evidence concerning which of two or more proposed courses of action is best. The greater the number of persons involved in the decision and the greater the competency of those involved, the greater the likelihood the identified course of action is best.
14. The extent and variety of means and ends that can be employed and pursued by persons is boundless.
Recommendations for Living
1. A person should make a good faith effort to strike an appropriate balance between these recommendations, depending on the relevant circumstances.
2. A person should pursue some end or ends that secure the water, food, shelter, and security necessary to preserve and maintain her life, the lives of her dependants, and the lives of others.
3. A person should pursue some end or ends that prevent and/or alleviate suffering.
4. A person should pursue some end or ends in which she takes delight.
5. A person should pursue some end or ends that improve her ability to identify the best course of action in different circumstances.
6. A person should regard the affects and effects of living as stimuli for reflection and independent judgment—not authoritative directives on how best to proceed.
7. A person should use resources efficiently.
8. A person should avoid any action which permanently prevents a person from pursuing some end or ends which secure the water, food, shelter, and security necessary to preserve and to maintain her life and the lives of her dependants.
9. A person should not regard the means and ends that she employs and pursues as the means and ends that all persons should employ and pursue; nor should she regard them as the means and ends that always deserve priority in every instance of conflict with the means and ends of others.
10. A person should employ and pursue the means and ends which, all things considered, she independently judges to be best.
11. In an instance of uncertainty on how best to proceed, a person should solicit the independent judgments of as many competent persons as is feasible and, all other things being equal, she should pursue the course of action the majority of competent persons independently judge to be best. She need not regard it as the best course of action and she may opt to pursue some other course of action if the identified course of action proves unsatisfactory.
12. In the event of a disagreement between competent persons on how best to proceed, all other things being equal, a person should abide by and enforce whichever course of action a majority of competent persons independently judge to be best. She need not regard it as the best course of action and she may opt to pursue some other course of action if the identified course of action proves unsatisfactory.
13. Coercion should never be employed to resolve disagreements between competent persons on how best to proceed. Coercion is useful for other purposes but not for the resolution of these kinds of disagreements.
14. In some instances of uncertainly or disagreement, after due and diligent consideration, a person should pursue the course of action which, all things considered, she independently judges to be best, even if a majority of competent persons independently judge another course of action to be best.