Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Good, the Bad, and the Confused

In reading a post by the wonderful and talented Amie I was inspired to document an internal quarrel of sorts that has been brewing in my brain-parts for a while now.  While not directly on point with Amie's likely more important thesis, I suggest it is not far off.  My conflict involves weighing acting in your own self interest versus constantly doing what, as Amie described, is "the right thing".

I am of two minds in this regard.  For most of my life I have followed what I thought was a kind of Kantian theory on "doing the right thing". I have always been absent of religion and thus found my own sense of morality from reason.  I simply did what I felt was the right other words, what I would want others to do in a given situation if I were in control of them and were looking out for the whole world instead just myself.

The benefits of this practice are nice.  People generally accept it and appreciate your consideration.  Also, you get a heightened sense of self satisfaction from "doing the right thing"...a martyr pride so to speak. However, it does have its drawbacks.  Specifically, you don't always get what you want.  Life appears to be a zero sum game in the end.

This is where my other mind starts screaming.  The little red devil on my left shoulder starts asking where the money and the women are. This inner struggle has festered in me for a few years but has started seriously perculating in the last year or so.

I have been playing Poker for about thirteen years now, fairly competitively.  If there is one thing I have taken away from the chaos and game theory of poker it is that your best mathematical chance of winning is to always take the option in your own self interest.  My question is, do I apply this to life?

When you look around it seems most, though not all, other people are acting purely in self interest.  How are you supposed to "win" if you aren't doing that same?  Is it not just like the poker table?  Or is the act of "doing the right thing" winning in and of itself?

I have found in recent times I am leaning towards acting in self interest. Life is short and all that jazz and I like having things that I want. Women are pretty and money buys fun things.  BUT, I still worry I'm not doing the right thing.


pauline said...

i was raised catholic and, even though i left that religion a long time ago, i still have a hard time shaking those ideas of "right" and "wrong" in some respects. i have yet to find a good balance between helping others and helping myself and i think everyone goes through that--fortunate are those who find it and are happy.

also, remarkably thoughtful post considering your bar-studying situation. props.

Amie said...

Really interesting post. I think it's best to have a mix of the two - self-interest and interest in others. For example, if you're applying for a job, it's stupid to do poorly in the interest of giving your competition a leg up. But, it's also stupid to defame your competition to get a leg up. Toot your own horn, but not at the expense of others.

Doing the right thing isn't winning, unless you view being a good person with moral high ground as winning. Money and women is a good way to win, but if you want the good women you probably have to also be a decent person. Or something.

I'm not sure. I don't follow dogma re: being good or doing right, and I probably have some opinions that many people would view as morally very questionable, and that if I ever acted on, would certainly cause harm to people I care about.. but I'm still not convinced it's the wrong thing. If that makes sense. Hm.

Must think more on this whole thing.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps it's too late at night, but I am curious as to how this relates to me..

At any rate, I try to do the right thing, at all times. Luckily, for the most part, what has been right has also worked to my benefit. There were times when I did what I wanted. Those times were called "college," collectively. Nowadays, I'm 95% the right thing, 5% what I want. ;)