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How do you determine which values to live by?

Hi Sebastian,

Found your blog a while ago via HN; you seem like someone who has either though these questions through carefully, or would like to.

You mention "good" a lot in your writing, and allude to values which you ostensibly find good. How do you determine which values are the ones to live your life by, and having determined them, at least in part, are they set for life? If not, does changing them devalue them?

Unless you base your values on those of some specific culture or society, you are picking and choosing anyway. Why not just become a complete hedonist? Even if you delay gratification, you are still a hedonist if what you do is for yourself. And if not for yourself, for whom?

Staying consistent and meaningful in any sort of value system other than hedonism seems impossible. The sole value you might take could be happiness–"whatever makes me happy is good"–and the only problems you might have would be balancing short-term satisfaction and long-term satisfaction. That is unsatisfying to me from a philosophical angle, and a pragmatic one: because it's not how society likes us to think, it is harder to get along with the rest of the tribe.

Build Future Ability, Regardless of What Path You End Up On

Hi Sebastian,

I came across your blog while reading Dan Shipper's blog which I came across while reading Lifehacker which I probably found during some random web crawl. I usually don't write to bloggers/people-online much but you seem pretty cool about receiving and answering mail so here goes. I am not sure where your usual readership comes from but I am writing to you from Sri Lanka, which would most likely in the minority when it comes to your readership. :)

Your interests seem pretty varied on your blog, so I was wondering, how do you choose your particular 'line' or career, or where you ultimately want to head. Ideally one would want to specialize in something, but when your interests are varied, how do you figure out what you want to be. In various times of my life I have been interested in the pure sciences (Physics, Chemistry kind of stuff), computer science, I dabble in some photoshopping even though I am not great at it, I like music even though I am not great with an instrument, I like the idea of programming even though the thought of becoming good at it is too daunting, I like writing, even worked a bit on international relations, but haven't come across something I can devote myself to. It would be nice to find my calling before I grow old and die.

How would you choose where you want to go with your life if you just like everything?


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