Happy 2020! I’ve gone with five foundational resolutions this New Year. They are: Love People. Love Animals. Improve Ideas. Do Good. Be Happy. I’ll add in the details as the year goes on.
Most people try to do good, consistently with their own beliefs, including people who disagree with us, and people who are mistakenly doing bad things. We should treat each other with empathy, compassion, cooperation, reciprocity, fairness, justice, and love.
We used to attribute rights to hierarchies and groups. We now see rights as being related to individual persons. It is a natural extension to extend our morality to nonhuman animals. They are sentient beings whose lives matter to them, and who can experience wellbeing and suffering.
People have rights. Ideas and beliefs do not. We can improve our ideas by testing them, to see if they are likely to be true. The best ways to do this are by applying reason to the best available evidence, minimising personal bias, and conducting experiments using the scientific method.
What is the best way to do good? Ask how would we rationally shape our society, if we didn’t know in advance what position we would hold in that society, including what species we would be? This veil of ignorance forces us to be impartial, and allows us to develop universally just principles.
In recent decades, scientists have tested what makes us happy. Pleasure is helpful, but you need increasingly higher doses to get the same feeling next time. What is more reliable is having good friends, being absorbed in activities that you love, and having a sense of meaning.