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Working from original principles, or explanations of consequences

23 Feb 2015


We have gone through enough history as mankind that we can generally learn from the precedents of our forefathers, but is it enough to “one-up” those who have gone before us?

Different Mentalities

It occurred to me that people take one of two approaches in understanding a situation.  They will either work from an original principle, or they will explain the resulting consequences.  Of course, since all actions have consequences, working backwards from an explanation of the consequences will generally serve as a good identifier of the original cause.  But there is a problem with this:  the original principles aren’t really considered, but rather “discovered”.  From this “consequence explanation” mentality, the solution is found by working backwards from understanding the consequences, instead of going to the source directly to start with a fresh new action from the beginning

Correct beginnings

It seems that certain terms have been assigned a lot of value in our culture today, but for the sake of discussion, I want to bring up a few.  The conservative mentality is one that generally works from the principle first, and then carries out the action in a consistent manner.  This would explain why conservatism often favors authority libertarianism.  While this is all well and good, there should be a grain of salt considered here when trying to find the “perfect” model.  Conservatives can often stubbornly sit on a fundamental principle, even though it has become outdated, and it’s approach needs to be reevaluated.  In the extreme form, conservatives can be legalistic.  They will work one way, and not consider any other options, because that’s always the way its been done.  They seek to “conserve”.

Logical Induction

Those on the other end of the spectrum have some other approaches that are problematic.  Extreme liberalism (as I understand it) sees the results in society, and seeks to correct the problems at hand, and sees the methods necessary to fix those problems as an accurate solution.  While the problems observed are usually undisputedly in need of solving, the method of taking the many different results, and then making a new action never allows for observation of the original action or cause that produced those results.  The consequences produce the resulting solution.  There is a subconscious decision-making process that happens through this method of resolution that is not intentionally addressed.  As the result, actions are taken, and decisions made that were not consciously and intentionally arrived at, but rather were apart of the rationalization of solving the problems after the action had been carried out.

Finding the balance

While neither side is perfect, there are some characteristics that are important from both sides.  Having good principles are important for starting the sequence correctly and seeing where the trajectory is, and being able to predict outcomes.  On the other hand, being able to observe and assess after-effects and consequences allows for seeing a more practical perspective of the original legislation.  Having both the beginning and the end of the cause and effect process in view simply allows the mechanism to work better.  But with a balance, there cannot be any extremes.  Accepting some elements of liberalism means that extreme conservatism is not possible.  Genuinely adopting principles from one side means that the side has some merit and credibility.  We must be able to hold strong convictions, and yet be able to recognize the potential for success from differing convictions, and that they have been arrived at patiently, and with at least some basis of reason.

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