|Wednesday, September 15,
1999 - What's Happiness got to do with it?
What's happiness got to do with it?
The short answer is - nothing!
Both of Galambos' postulates are about the pursuit of happiness.
We can call the first postulate the motivation postulate and the second postulate the morality postulate.
[Galambos' calls the first postulate the happiness postulate (which as you'll see is a name I don't like) and the second postulate the democratic postulate. Sometime later we'll see talk about a better concept of democracy than majority-rule.]
The motivation postulate - that all volitional beings pursue happiness - has a problem in that it uses the word happiness. Fortunately, since that's a vague term, and Galambos knew that, he defined happiness as the measure of all the good things you've experienced minus all the bad things. Still pretty vague if you ask me.
Galambos goes to some length to justify this postulate but ultimately there is a problem in his reasoning. The problem is that he defends his definition with circular logic. For any example you can come up with of someone NOT pursuing happiness, he turns it around and says actually the person is in fact pursuing happiness in some strange way. For instance, if a person wants to put a bullet in his head, Galambos would argue that person is pursuing happiness because he's avoiding something worse - the pain of his life, for instance.
Well, this works pretty well in his writing, but there is something in Computer Science called the Halting Problem which we can bring to bear that shows that this reasoning is fallacious. The Halting Problem is the problem of writing a computer program that will tell you if another computer program will halt or run forever. It's important to know this is impossible in the general case because you might work for someone someday who gets the great idea that if he had a program like this he could make sure his Information Services programs never get into an infinite loop.
The way you show the Halting Problem can't be solved is by the following counter-example: you write a program that will halt if the program it reads will run forever and run forever if the program it reads will halt. Then you feed it to itself. This causes a logical contradiction.
Since volitional beings can make decisions, we can imagine a volitional being that decides to pursue unhappiness. Now Galambos would say that is this being's way of pursuing happiness but obviously this leads to a logical contradiction. QED.
Another problem with the motivation postulate is that a large enough number of people who took Galambos' courses took it as permission to do whatever they liked regardless of the implications of the morality postulate. I know this is true, not from the very moral people I've met who took his courses and live moral lives to the best of their ability, but from the rather large rant published at the end of SIAA. This rant, by Galambos himself, is called V-50X and basically decries those who have stolen his ideas because it made them happy to do so even though it was immoral by the second postulate.
The problem with the second postulate - the morality postulate - is that it also uses the word happiness, but we'll see how to clear that up easily once we 'fix' the first postulate.
A new first postulate has been hard for me to work up.
What I wanted to say was simply that "Volitional beings make decisions" but that's just the definition of a volitional being. So, here's my new first postulate, which I believe introduces the necessary idea for the foundation of Volitional Science. I'll call it the Generalized First Postulate or the Generalized Motivation Postulate.
The Generalized Motivation Postulate is:
"Volitional beings prefer to make their own choices."
In order for this to work well describing the guy who sits on the beach not making any choices, we can define the "zero choice" as not making any particular choice and merely maintaining the status quo. I would maintain that beings that can make choices prefer to make their own choices (including the choice of not making a choice, the "zero choice"), rather than being coerced.
Now it is easy to rewrite the second or morality postulate as the Generalized Morality Postulate.
The Generalized Morality Postulate is:
"All decisions that avoid coercion are equally valid."
You could also say, "All moral decisions are equally valid," but I prefer the more negative approach, since the point of it is to create a self-imposed limitation on your own (or my own) behavior.
This is consistent with Galambos' desired result, which is basically that as long as you're not coercing someone or something else, you can do whatever the hell you want. Including pursuing unhappiness.
The fact is that people pretty much do whatever the hell they want anyways, unless constrained by some other factor.
What we want is for people to do pretty much whatever the hell they want as long as it is moral. Which means they can do whatever they want with their own property as long as they don't coerce anyone else.
Even if you accept this (or Galambos' postulates) a huge number of huge issues arise that need to be discussed which will be the point of my next few columns.
My wife, of course, had some comments. Shes rather annoyed that I changed his postulates, since shes lived with them for about twenty-two years. I fully intend to justify the changes! Ill address her main concern here, which is this: "Im not sure about the generalization of the first postulate. What about pack behavior in dogs? Dogs are coerced into their place within the pack and they accept it because they are willing to seek happiness and/or security even at the cost of some coercion. What about social behavior in general? What about peer pressure? What about "fitting in?" What about people who join the military and are coerced in just about everything they do? This seems less general to me."
First, I have to tell a joke one of my favorite jokes in the whole world. As you may have heard, there are FIVE primary forces [which I admit may someday be reduced into one integrated field equation but I havent heard of anyone doing that yet]. The FOUR commonly known forces of nature are magnetism, gravity, and the weak and strong nuclear forces.
The FIFTH force, of course, is PEER PRESSURE. And of these, PEER PRESSURE is by far the strongest force.
So what about social behavior, like joining a pack, or a gang, or the military? I would argue that there are two possibilities. One is obvious you might be coerced into doing something you dont want to do. For the military in the US, that was called the draft. But what about people who volunteer to join the military and have to follow orders or go to jail? For that matter, what about me when I go to work each day, and have to be productive or Ill be deprived of my income? These are voluntary associations. Its true that once you join the military, leaving may not be an option until some agreed upon time period has passed. But when you join up, assuming you werent drafted or otherwise coerced, you enter into a contract with your branch of the military to willfully submit to the direction they give you.
Going forward in future columns I will show many kinds of voluntary associations that call for one person to willfully submit to the direction of another person or organization. In fact, these voluntary, contractual associations will be the foundation of what Galambos calls the "Natural Republic."
[I revised my first postulate because some people missunderstood what I meant. The old version was "Volitional Beings prefer choice over coercion." By this I meant, "Volitional Beings prefer to have the option of making a choice over having someone force them (coerce them) into doing something." But this was miscommunicated as "Volitional Beings prefer for others to make choices rather than to coerce them", which is ridiculous. Larry Grannis showed this interpretation to me; so did another, as yet anonymous person who hasn't given me permission to use his name.]
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