We Have Principles

I keep getting in my own way when I try to explain too much at once. Let’s lay some groundwork and see if it comes in handy later.

We live in a world that runs according to knowable principles and laws. We have a good understanding of some of them and a poorer understanding of others. Physics is at the well-understood end of the scale, matters of human life and society tend toward the poorly-understood end. I’ll refer to the totality of the principles and laws governing human existence as “the Principles”. It’s not perfect but it’ll do for now.

The Principles are implicit in human nature and the structure of the universe, not unlike mathematics and physics. Given the observable nature of the world, they should be discoverable in principle. The complexity seems daunting but other things have seemed impossible until they weren’t.

Seen from the inside, the causality of the Principles runs through us. We are free to choose our beliefs, attitudes and actions, but not their outcomes. Once a choice is made, its consequences will play out according to the Principles, until another choice intervenes. Every choice matters but it’s never too late to improve.

Even with full knowledge of the Principles, it would be prohibitively complex to try and reason out the exact implications of individual choices. However, the Principles may imply sets of behaviors, attitudes and beliefs that tend to produce good outcomes, both individually and in aggregate. With perfect knowledge, it would be possible to come up with an optimal set in terms of comprehensibility and outcome.

The existence of the Principles is axiomatic given that we live in a lawful universe. Their origin is a matter of metaphysics but their details are an empirical matter, if one beyond our present reach.

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