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A Minimally-biased Philosophy of Life: Philosophy

As I understand it, the primary question of philosophy is, "How then shall we live?"

That question becomes far easier to answer if we know how we're supposed to live. Of course every culture has told us how to live; some of the answers have been obvious ("Don't murder people"), others less so ("Work hard, pay your taxes, save for retirement"). The problem is that culture has competing agendas, both to keep us healthy and to keep us manufacturing and consuming things.

Turns out that double second part is usually bad for us. Take making things: yes, handicrafts and gardening benefit the sensorimotor system hugely, but as Karl Marx and many since have pointed out, the motor-specialization skills and division-of-labor economies force laborers in general into repetitive, mind-numbing tasks and joint-stiffening postures. Likewise, we evolved to forage--that is, to exert cleverness and effort to reap rare rewards--rather than to "consume" with a gesture or a click.

If culture can't tell us how to live, who or what can? Science can, but only the kind of science which can't be bought. Experimental science is fungible, in that convenient results can be bought, inconvenient results contested or ignored. This problem already besets drug regulation, medical technology, and environmental policy. But truly solid theoretical results are different. By this I mean not just "a theory of ," as one might describe a theory of neurons or of history, but "the only possible theory of ," like the theory of how gas atoms combine into temperature and pressure. The kind of theory which is unassailable.

This theory, like any scientific theory, isn't ready to tell us how to live; it can only tell us what we need. Presumably, the answer of how to live in modern society requires compromise between on the one hand human needs like autonomy, organic entropy, proximity, and touch, and on the other economic constraints like sufficient water, food, shelter, sanitation, and medical care. Such a compromise would be very different from the state-of-nature for which our bodies and minds evolved, but it would also be very different from our current situation, which is only optimized for physical resources, and not informational ones. It seems obvious that an environment designed in part to meet our needs would be healthier than one designed only to exploit them. In such an environment, we would know how to live, even without being told.

Aphorisms grounded in mathematics