This is because people are bad at making decisions, and have not gotten rid of the harmful concept of "should". The original comment on this topic was claiming that "should" is a bad concept; instead of thinking "I should x" or "I shouldn't do x", on top of considering "I want to/don't want to x", just look at want/do not want. "I should x" doesn't help you resolve "do I want to x", and the second question is the only one that counts.

I think that your idea about morality is simply expressing a part of a framework of many moral systems. That is not a complete view of what morality means to people; it's simply a part of many instantiations of morality. I agree that such thinking is the cause of many moral conflicts of the nature "I should x but I want to y", stemming from the idea (perhaps subconscious) that they would tell someone else to x, instead of y, and people prefer not to defect in those situations. Selfishness is seen as a vice, perhaps for evolutionary reasons (see all the data on viable cooperation in the prisoner's dilemma, etc.) and so people feel the pressure to not cheat the system, even though they want to. This is not behavior that a rational agent should generally want! If you are able to get rid of your concept of "should", you will be free from that type of trap unless it is in your best interests to remain there.

Our moral intuitions do not exist for good reasons. "Fairness" and it's ilk are all primarily political tools; moral outrage is a particularly potent tool when directed at your opponent. Just because we have an intuition does not make that intuition meaningful. Go for a week while forcing yourself to taboo "morality", "should", and everything like that. When you make a decision, make a concerted effort to ignore the part of your brain saying "you should c because it's right", and only listen to your preferences (note: you can have preferences that favor other people!). You should find that your decisions become easier and that you prefer those decisions to any you might have otherwise made. It also helps you to understand that you're allowed to like yourself more than you like other people.

Bad Concepts Repository

by moridinamael 1 min read27th Jun 2013204 comments


We recently established a successful Useful Concepts Repository.  It got me thinking about all the useless or actively harmful concepts I had carried around for in some cases most of my life before seeing them for what they were.  Then it occurred to me that I probably still have some poisonous concepts lurking in my mind, and I thought creating this thread might be one way to discover what they are.

I'll start us off with one simple example:  The Bohr model of the atom as it is taught in school is a dangerous thing to keep in your head for too long.  I graduated from high school believing that it was basically a correct physical representation of atoms.  (And I went to a *good* high school.)  Some may say that the Bohr model serves a useful role as a lie-to-children to bridge understanding to the true physics, but if so, why do so many adults still think atoms look like concentric circular orbits of electrons around a nucleus?  

There's one hallmark of truly bad concepts: they actively work against correct induction.  Thinking in terms of the Bohr model actively prevents you from understanding molecular bonding and, really, everything about how an atom can serve as a functional piece of a real thing like a protein or a diamond.

Bad concepts don't have to be scientific.  Religion is held to be a pretty harmful concept around here.  There are certain political theories which might qualify, except I expect that one man's harmful political concept is another man's core value system, so as usual we should probably stay away from politics.  But I welcome input as fuzzy as common folk advice you receive that turned out to be really costly.