Evolution of my Philosophy
March 24, 2022•1,722 words
I suppose I should provide a chronological context for my philosophies, so here we go.
birth to elementary school: I did not think much about philosophy. This aligns surprisingly well with Piaget's concrete operational period of logical development but little abstract reasoning. I mostly played with my sister, did academic work (math "textbooks"), or played video games. There was one exception though. In second grade, my friends and I took ice from the milk carton cooler. We were inevitably caught, and my parents were notified. This prompted my dad to ask me why I did it, and I told him it was for gym, which didn't make sense. I had really done it because my friends did it, and my dad realized. Then he punished me for lying by telling me that I was being kicked out of the house and to collect my things. He was just trying to scare me and at the time I didn't realize the severity of this. This caused me to prize the truth above all else. There was another exception though, and that was cussing. I found cussing to be pointless as all it can do is harm others. Thus I didn't do it.
middle school years: My morality mainly focused on reducing trash and pursing equality. I saw trash as an embodiment of unnecessary waste and inefficiency. In addition, I thought of the environmental impact of land fills. At this time, I was not aware of the greater atmospheric climate issue, so this preoccupied my moral reasoning. I also implicitly strongly believed in meritocracy, as I verbally shamed other's low grades (not that much though, like "bruh imagine" or "tsch tsch" with a head shake) in the belief that this would encourage them to work harder and be smarter. I did not formalize any ideas of meritocracy though. During this time, video games also occupied my thoughts - definitely more than philosophy. This period of my life was probably the one most oriented towards applied academics, as I found electronics to be very interesting (although this probably was driven by a lack of a satisfactory devices). At this time, I found appeal in using software complexly, such as with Android launchers, wallpaper gifs, rooting devices, etc. Nowadays, I find a lot of interest in simple but powerful software. I was also very in the preconventional morality stage of Kohlberg's levels of moral thinking. I followed the rules out of avoidance of the consequences. This is pretty strange as this stage is typically for 9 or less year olds. I vividly remember one instance - my friends and I were at lunch about to start playing exploding kittens. Our school had also recently implemented a policy of everyone to keep their student id on them. Thus I followed this rule and wished to encourage it among my friends by barring those without their ID from playing (I had the cards). Now that I reflect on that, I find that pretty awful behavior. I also continued to treasure the truth, continuing to never consciously lie. My reasoning for not cussing changed in this time period. Not harming others was one reason, but a deflation of the power of the words was added.
I formalized my belief in meritocracy, earnestly attributing my academic success to my hard work. I also sought to make sure to be cautious of gender, i.e. not assuming. I also began to think about racism in this period. These were ultimately the seeds for my idealism: meritocracy, equality, and free-will. Ironically, in middle school I learnt about the philosophical underpinnings of Buddhism (the irony is that my family is Buddhist). This sowed the seeds of asceticism in me. In addition, I pondered a little on the nature of ownership - how can I say something like "my English class" if I don't own the English class? I resolved this by invoking the idea of partial ownership - without me the class would still likely exist, but it is feasible that I be the final person in the tipping point between class and no-class, thus giving me some power and by extent ownership of the class.
high school years:
9th Grade: tbh mostly the same as middle school - lizard brain grinding dopamine. There was one major development though, and that was my awareness of the climate issue. I don't remember taking a lot of action on this, just that I was disgusted by greed, sowing the seeds for my ideas about competition and Moloch. The move to virtual school I think also prompted the sowing of seeds of my views on privacy (which would fuel my view on software). Another big event that happened was me joining a discord server with a lot of other people from my school. This exposed me a lot of different ideas and a more acute understanding of people's struggles.
10th Grade: This was the year that my philosophy really began to grow to what it is today. There are a lot of similarities to my current philosophy, so I'll just ignore those and leave them for a later post. I think the combination of exposure to philosophy through AP World History (religions, economic theories, philosophies, etc) combined with the show The Good Place and my friend being interested in philosophy and talking about it really led me to think a lot more on it. I was inspired by utilitarianism's strict desire to optimize and developed a belief that defined value on the survival of the human species. However, I had not thought of a reason for humanity's unique yet. Eventually near the end of the year I would think of binary free-will. However, this is not my current theory. I was pretty proud of that theory on binary free-will though: it solved the trolley problem and ensured a lot of ideals which I had formalized at this point. The independence from physical systems (otherwise free-will would be susceptible to evolution and non-binariness) fit nicely with my belief in an independent truth. At this time I had read "How to be an Anti-racist" and firmly believed and formalized equality, meritocracy, and free-will. These ideals would eventually fail (as referenced in https://listed.to/@vt/33768/free-will). The climate crisis also began to take a much bigger presence in my morals. It lead me to reconsider what I had previously wanted as a career: I began to consider environmental or nuclear engineering to better the environment. It also greatly influenced my thoughts before doing an action and my purchasing behavior. My hatred of greed and selfishness grew significantly from all of them, forming my modern view.
I also began to take action on privacy. I converted a lot of my software to privacy-alternatives, and eventually I even switched my OS to linux. This change would fuel my view of software (later blog post). This view of privacy also dissolved my favorabe view of corporations - I remember in 9th grade I firmly believed Google to not be a monopoly: this was mostly driven by my positive experience and fun I had exploring and stretching the limits of Google's products. This view of software would also play with my view of enforced power. AP World prompted me to rigidly believe in atheism. I found the mass persecution done my religion to be extremely troubling. I also found the idea of a Deist god no better than if one did exist, as it doesn't answer the question of how did that god form. I also formed a distaste of other non-STEM majors during this time as I saw them as contributing nothing to the evolution of human thought. This would change with Nabokov's Good Readers and Good Writers. I also formulated a reason for the universe's existence as a tautology: if before the universe there is no thing, but we can classify the state of "no thing" as a thing, then there must be a thing. Therefore there is a universe. This would eventually change.
Finally, after all this buildup I'm going to explain what prompted me to change my binary view of free-will. It began with English class. My English teacher believed thought to be ramped up by the development of language. As I believed in binary free-will, I had to reject the idea that some humans don't have as much thought as others or change my beliefs. He presented us with an experiment and anecdotal evidence supporting his view. I had no evidence of mine. Then there was psychology. The very success of psychology in recent years as the science of human behavior implied that humans weren't very free. Then there was the study by Wundt that implied human consciousness followed the body. Then there was the corpus callosum severing that implies our "mind" had two minds. These did not sit well with the idea that we had one free-will that was independent of physical systems. In addition, I realized that binary free-will had no logical system by which it could work (what classified humans? what exactly is offering the ideas? a spirit? what differentiated it from religion? what exactly is free will? [I reasoned that it couldn't be what my current definition is as it implies that quantum systems have free will], etc). All in all, a bunch of attacks, but I persevered. The straw that broke the camel's back though was an event I don't really want to put on the internet that caused me to reconsider the Discord server and how personality related to success. At this time, I believed in meritocracy and the ability to succeed independent of the people around you. However, my charisma had increased quite a bit and a return to in-person made school quite fun and easier as I had others I could ask for help. This led to a thought nibbling at the back of my mind: how can I attribute merit to my academic success if all these previous factors were at play. This event caused me to reject meritocracy (an English essay on this topic formalized the logistical issues with it as well). This then implied I had to reject binary free-will and egalitarianism. Now we're at the present.
There time periods are not completely rigid. They are simply approximations that are easy for me to anchor and focus recall with.