Things I Actually Believe

I feel like I spend a lot of time disagreeing with other people. So I’m going to document some of the things I actually do believe. Partly it’s a stake in the ground, and partly it’s an invitation to others to challenge me. It’s also a way for me to track whether my beliefs change over time.

 

Metaphysics and Epistemology

There’s no god: and a fortiori no Christian, Muslim, Hindu, ancient Greek or other gods. No spirits, angels, magic, psychic powers, or anything similar, and no life after death.

There’s no inherent justice to the universe. No karma, no balance. No moral force, external to humanity, works for good or evil, rewards virtue, or punishes vice.

Similarly, things will not necessarily work out. There are real threats to human life and civilisation, and we need to be aware of them.

The fact-value distinction is real. It is crucial to thinking about the world, and to understanding our differences.

Science is the best tool for knowing the universe, and on most scales it’s the only tool that works at all.

 

Opinion and Persuasion

You’re entitled to your views. Anyone who tries to compel you to think in a particular way is committing an evil act.

You’re not entitled to respect for your views. You may get it if you can convince me that you came to them in a sensible way.

Words are tools, not rules. You cannot usefully define the world to be a particular way, and turning an argument about the world into an argument over language definitions is a waste of your time.

 

Personal Morality

There is no such thing as thought crime. You are responsible for your actions, not for everything you think.

 

Society and Technology

The anarcho-primitivists may be right, but they are irrelevant. We have voted with our wallets, and with our feet, and with almost every choice we have made, to use technology wherever we can.

The law must be blind to race, sex, sexuality, and religion. Probably some other things too. People are not the same, which rules out one sense of the word “equal”. That’s a confusing and often unhelpful word. Nonetheless, the law should treat people equally.

Unquestioned or unchecked power is always abused. Giving the police more powers will end in them being abused. Allowing MPs to set their own salaries was only ever going to have one outcome.

Violence must be a last resort, between people and nations.

 

Economics and Politics

Trade is good, between consenting partners.

Markets are useful tools, not moral necessities. One of their most useful traits is eliminating inefficient organisations.

Markets reward dollars, not people. There is more to morality than trade value. Moral goodness and profitability might not be orthogonal, but they’re close.

Taxation is not theft. It’s a cost of living in something other than anarchy.