Sep 29 2008

The point of conversation

I suppose this entry could have just as easily been titled “What am I doing here?”, or “On Conversation”, but really how many of those can we have?

I find myself frequently bringing up in conversation what my goal is, or rather, what I think the goal of conversation in general is and thought I should maybe jot it down for posterity’s sake.

To me, conversation is a way of exchanging information and most importantly a medium through which people work together to mutually benefit. I guess I’m somewhat less concerned with the strictly information exchanging subset of conversation (“How do I get to Main St?” etc), and focus more on the meatier idea-exchanging conversations (“What should I do when he does that?” and the like) which I try to maximize in my own life.

I’ll back up for a second to get a running start.

What I’m trying to do here, is do the right thing at every moment which I roughly equate as trying my best to be a moral person. I try to think through my beliefs on things and then when I’m presented with a situation that requires action I’m prepared to act in the way most consistent with my morals. Thus I’m spending a good deal of my mental energy every day thinking about my impact on the world and how I can make that most closely line up with my ideal impact.

Conversation then, is a tool towards that end, a way to critique the logical process and also the outcome of a moral decision. A good conversation presents both participants with the opportunity to grow and learn from the experiences and insights of the other and arrive at the end better prepared to make the correct moral decision. For me, as a huge subjectivist, the correct moral decision is nothing more than the decision most compatible, or least inconsistent with a person’s ethical beliefs. So… the terminus of any conversation should be either:

  1. Both people arrive at the same correct moral answer or course of action
  2. OR, the fundamental moral belief which differs between them is identified

What is meant by “fundamental moral belief which differs between them?” Well, my view of morality is that there are these faith-based precepts, (where “faith in x” means “there exists no possible counter argument that would make you believe that x is false”) which underlie all of our other beliefs. They are atomic, in the sense that they depend on no other moral beliefs, although other beliefs depend on them. These fundamental moral beliefs are the structural foundations upon which all the rest of a person’s morality are constructed. Since logic is taken to be objective, any two people with the same “fundamental moral beliefs” should arrive at the same practical set of morals. Therefore, in communication, we should either be finding each other’s errors in reasoning and converging to the one correct set of logical inferences, or else we should be able to point to the one (or more) fundamental precepts which are the source of our difference in decision.

That’s my sketch anyways. Let me know if I’ve missed something…