Inconvenient values

A good test of your values is asking when they last cost you something else that you wanted. For each of your values ask: Do you donate to the cause, or otherwise pay to make it happen? Do you give up opportunities? Do you pay a financial penalty for avoiding something? Do you work to change things by writing or…

tl;dr

We live in an era where people will spend days of their lives – hours at a time – to watch a box set or series of movies. We spend hours listening to podcasts. We still read novels. Long isn’t a problem; “too” is. So if “too” means “It would have been better for the people it was made for…

A brief presentation

Is it?* Don’t say it unless you’re sure.** *Brief depends on context, but in the absence of a clear norm a 5 minute presentation – 10 minutes including pre- and post-amble – is a good rule of thumb. **Even if you are, it’s probably better to say how long – and always say it will be five minutes longer than…

Educated (11): Truth in context

Another aspect of the limits of knowledge is the contingent nature of most of what we know: Truth is usually* truth-in-context. A pair of non-parallel lines will only ever cross once… on the infinite flat plane of Euclidian geometry.** Swans are only white… as far as Europeans knew before someone saw a black one in Australia. It’s safest to walk…

Educated (10): Limits to knowledge

An education should give us an awareness of the limits of knowledge. Most obviously: That there are things that we (humans) don’t understand; That some of those things we may never understand (or at least, in our lifetimes); That we (as individuals) can’t possibly know everything that is known; … and so what we do know is necessarily incomplete; ……

Freedom to the nose (2): stealing at work

How free are you at work? How free are the people you’re responsible for? “As free as possible,” is a good answer, but there are some clear limits: no-one is allowed to hurt people physically (freedom to the nose) or to steal the property of the organisation (or other people). Intangible theft – stealing time, for example – is harder…

Freedom to the nose

Your right to swing your arm leaves off where my right not to have my nose struck begins. John B Finch (early version of a saying often attributed to John Stuart Mill, Lincoln and others) A fundamental principle of liberty and libertarianism is that people should be given as few limits as possible. John Stuart Mill argued for absolute freedom…

Educated (9): taxonomy and the fruits of knowledge

You’re probably familiar with the old saw “Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit; wisdom is knowing not to put it in a fruit salad.” This response to the smart alec’s observation that a tomato is not (botanically speaking) a vegetable points out that the distinction is meaningless in the kitchen.* Think a little harder and it gets…

Knowing better (3): the best values

My values are the best that I know; I assume you feel the same. Changing them is hard – it takes some combination of (delete as appropriate)… experience / evidence / awareness / engagement with an argument / a strong feeling… …of / with / about … the flaws in our existing values / the way that something we think…