Unlucky Thinkers and Doers

How much luck do we need to think correctly? How much luck do we need to act correctly?

If I had been born five thousand years ago, or even today in a backwards community, I would think that the Earth was stationary. I would be wrong, because unlucky. Put positively, I was born rich in astronomical knowledge because of the hard work and courage of human beings who came before me. I just lucked out to be born in an era and community where I learned the truth about heliocentrism.

Similarly if I had been born without the cogntiive skills to understand heliocentrism I would, through a piece of bad luck, not understand the solar system. When it comes to the harder areas of modern physics and cosmology I in fact am a victim of this kind of bad luck — I don’t have the brain power.

Similarly if I had been born in a rigidly stratified society I might think that it was okay to oppress the unfortunate because they are of a lower metaphysical status than I am. I would be a gigantic jerk, because I was not lucky enough to have been born as the heir to more refined and compassionate moral thinking.

Am I in the same position regarding the right course of action now? Am I unlucky enough to be morally blinkered. Almost certainly.


5 thoughts on “Unlucky Thinkers and Doers

  1. Michael Thaddeus says:

    My grandmother used to predict that in two hundred years the eating of meat (which she much enjoyed) will be considered unspeakably barbaric. I would add: in that distant time, the literary critics, who nowadays fuss over each tiny reference to colonialism in Mansfield Park, will instead fuss over each tiny reference to meat.

  2. We seem to be lucky to even perceive of your great post in the rational manner in which it was intended. If you’ve read any of Oliver Sacks’ work, he chronicles the lives of those who are not so lucky. We are quite fortunate to possess both a long term and a short term memory, for instance. We are lucky that the sound of music doesn’t make us cringe.

  3. Excellent point…I think about this a lot. This unlucky thinking and doing occurs in all areas of life…throughout history…even, as you say, most certainly now. It is tantalising to consider what our current unlucky thoughts and doings are. I agree with Michael’s grandmother about meat…though I suspect it will because why find a more efferent and convenient way to feed ourselves…than for the poor animals.

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