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The answer is discipline.

That’s not the answer people generally like, but it is real and honest.

I wake up at the same time every day, have the same routine every day, and have the same commute most days. To an extent, software has made it possible to chuck my own bad habits in the bin and start anew, but it doesn’t have a say in how I spend my time.

I read Hacker News and comment here because I like to, but if I need to stop for any reason during the day, I’m losing nothing by doing so, and if something is worth reading, then it is worth writing down what I’ve read. To me this is just a part of my reading time that I’ve allocated for each day, and not even the largest share of it. Same with /r/AskHistorians or /r/DepthHub. If you treat each thing like it is just a book you haven’t stopped reading yet, then you know you can always come back to it and read some a bit more whenever you want to. There’s no guilt, no stress, it’s just another part of my daily routine. Just like my job is. Just like listening to podcasts is. Or going for a walk. Or drinking a cup of coffee. Or cooking my meals and eating. Or brushing my teeth.

You are the master of your own destiny. You don’t have to spend time in any way that you don’t choose to, so you might as well spend time taking care of yourself rather than trying to figure out how.

Social media might be the digital equivalent of crack, but there isn’t a gun to your head telling you to use it.




>You are the master of your own destiny. You don’t have to spend time in any way that you don’t choose to, so you might as well spend time taking care of yourself rather than trying to figure out how.

Fundamentally, I don't think this is true. I think free will is a meme.

When you exercise self-possession to change your habits (insofar as you really did it consciously to begin with[0]), you're moving within a predefined space whose boundaries are encoded by myriad factors beyond your control. If, in that space, there's both "succumb to bad habits" and "break bad habits", and you managed to move to "break bad habits", great. But what if the space is only confined to "succumb to bad habits" for some people? That's the fundamental difference here: the conventional concept of agency assumes everyone's decision space is equally voluminous or that they can navigate with equal effort.

Especially disgusting to me is that holders of this view can recline in the comfortable callousness their ignorance or mythology affords them. If someone hasn't improved their circumstances, it's their moral failing, so they deserve their misery.

On the other hand, the callousness that materialist elitism affords you, that someone who can't improve their circumstances deserves their misery, is less comfortable, so it's a better kind of callousness. Many of us couldn't survive without the coddling of our parents and our civilization, and, on average, our civilization is a better place for our participation in it. Given our highly collective world of artifice, why would someone have a worldview that emphasizes some kind of Darwinism? It's a little silly and less palatable than the handwaving of moral virtue, so the end the result is that you're more forgiving of people's failures and proactive in their success.

0: https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/free-will-...


> But what if the space is only confined to "succumb to bad habits" for some people?

No person would be so constrained. The space of possible behaviours is simply too large, so you're arguing a moralistic stance from an unreasonable assumption.

Furthermore, free will and determinism are not at odds. Even if someone were fully constrained to act in only a single way, that doesn't entail they would not be morally blameworthy.

The mistake you and others who argue against free will make, is that you assume moral blameworthiness necessarily entails punishment. While this is often the case in religious beliefs, it simply does not follow without additional assumptions. Your beef is not with free will. Don't throw out the baby with the bathwater.


> No person would be so constrained. The space of possible behaviours is simply too large, so you're arguing a moralistic stance from an unreasonable assumption.

Can you elaborate on why the space is simply too large to make this a possibility? From my observations of people suffering from severe addictions, it seems entirely possible that they have no agency when it comes to combating their addiction. They either are completely unable to grok the consequences of their actions or unable to choose actions that they know will benefit themselves.

> The mistake you and others who argue against free will make, is that you assume moral blameworthiness necessarily entails punishment

I don't think GP assumes moral blameworthiness necessarily entails punishment. I think, rather, he assumes that immoral acts are worthy of punishment. That is, if we happen to decide to punish a certain set of actions, we should punish immoral actions. I think this is a fair assumption. The primary goal of morality discussions is to determine which actions we want to strive for and which actions we want to avoid.


> From my observations of people suffering from severe addictions, it seems entirely possible that they have no agency when it comes to combating their addiction. They either are completely unable to grok the consequences of their actions or unable to choose actions that they know will benefit themselves.

I think you'd agree that the space of choices falls on a sort of spectrum, with comatose patients on one side, and the most intelligent or able people on the other. The set of choices available to comatose patients is the empty set, the set of choices available to the other end are enormous. Addiction will carve out a segment somewhere on this spectrum that is not the empty set. If it were the empty set, they would not be able to satisfy their addictive impulses. They're clearly rational enough to be able to figure out how to get their next fix. Agreed so far?

> I don't think GP assumes moral blameworthiness necessarily entails punishment. I think, rather, he assumes that immoral acts are worthy of punishment.

Immoral acts are morally blameworthy. I don't see the difference you're trying to point out.

> That is, if we happen to decide to punish a certain set of actions, we should punish immoral actions. I think this is a fair assumption. The primary goal of morality discussions is to determine which actions we want to strive for and which actions we want to avoid.

Nothing in this paragraph justifies punishment over say, rehabilitation. And that's the point: you simply can't get to retributive justice, or any form of justice, merely from the conclusion that free will exists.

You always require an additional assumption, but I've had countless arguments with people like the OP where they start with the assumption that punishment isn't justifiable, and then work backwards and conclude that therefore we should eliminate the concept of free will as if that solves the problem. It doesn't, it introduces a whole other set of problems, and punishment remains as a viable option given the right assumptions even without free will.


> From my observations of people suffering from severe addictions, it seems entirely possible that they have no agency when it comes to combating their addiction.

The easy solution here is to simply claim that free will is something you can give up, and once lost it can be near impossible to regain.

I also pretty firmly believe that it's a self fulfilling prophecy. Without the belief in the ultimate power of your own free will, it would seem perfectly obvious that you can be constrained the the point of impotence. I don't judge or disparage people who choose not to believe as I do, for me it is a tool to enable myself to take responsibility and own my outcomes.


How can we possibly escape Darwinism? Isn't it always present in one form or another? There will always be some particular traits will lead to better rates of survival in a particular society. In a world of abundance, discipline could be key - I have seen strong men destroy themselves through a lack of discipline. In a world of scarcity, those same men may have been heroic survivors. In modern society, we try to transform the selection process of Darwinism into something more abstract and therefore less noticeable to our primitive brains.


The answer is discipline.

If the OP had discipline then they wouldn’t be asking the question. That response is as useless as telling a fat person not to eat so much.


It's not useless at all. That the answer is simple does not imply the journey to fulfilling the answer is also simple.

If a person lacks discipline, it is generally within their control to look at themselves and their choices and figure out how to become more disciplined. If they cannot figure out some way, it is generally within their control to figure out how to ask someone for help about how to build discipline. I recognize that there are people with a mental makeup for whom asking for help is extremely difficult.

I do not know what to tell those people, but to continue to make progress in their lives means they have to overcome those blockers somehow.


What you’re saying is certainly true but that doesn’t mean it’s helpful.

It’s good to remember that ultimately discipline is what’s needed, but it’s also helpful to discuss specific intermediate steps, habits, and tools that are helpful in creating that discipline.


I often find myself in fear of good stuff being buried down. But I suppose an RSS setup should solve this.


> I wake up at the same time every day, have the same routine every day, and have the same commute most days.

"Consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds."


The correct quote is "a foolish consistency." And the context of the quote has nothing to do with self-discipline. It is a call to boldly speak the truth today, and then boldly do the same tomorrow. If you contradict yourself, then so be it. The truth might not be found in only making logically consistent statements. "To be great is to be misunderstood."


I can just feel Emerson smiling contentedly at this comment. :-D Thank you.


It isn’t what you do everyday, it is how and why and with what amount of intent.

Just some thought for food.




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