What general values can we identify as important, beyond culture-specific or species-specific or otherwise context-specific moral codes or ethical values?
To put the question another way, an earlier version of this Manifesto began with the definition:
Cosmism: a practical philosophy centered on the effort to live one’s life in a positive way, based on ongoingly, actively increasing one’s understanding of the universe in its multiple aspects
Later this got modified into:
Cosmism: a practical philosophy focused on exploring, understanding and enjoying the cosmos, in its inner, outer and social aspects
- pursuing joy, growth and freedom for oneself and all beings
- ongoingly, actively seeking to better understand the universe in its multiple aspects, from a variety of perspectives
- taking nothing as axiomatic and accepting all ideas, beliefs and habits as open to revision based on thought, dialogue and experience
One difference is that when I wrote the latter I decided to specify what I mean by “a positive way.” I.e., I decided to get a little more concrete about the critical question of: what are the important values?
There are many Cosmist values, and it would be folly to attempt a definitive enumeration.
However, as reflected in the above proclamation, four values seem particularly essential to me: Joy, Growth, Continuity and Choice.
I’‘ve discussed most of these above, but will now revisit them from a “value-system” perspective.
Growth is perhaps the simplest: the creation of new patterns, out of old ones.
I don’t want stasis. Nor degeneration. Some old patterns may need to cede to the new, but overall there should be an ongoing flowering of more and more new patterns.
Note that growth is not just the constant appearance of new patterns—it implies some continuity, in which old patterns are expanded and improved, yielding new ones that go beyond them.
Joy I have analyzed as the feeling of increasing unity, togetherness, order.
We want more and more new patterns to be created and we want them to get bound together into unities and wholes, to have the joy of coming together.
We want there to be minds that can experience this joy—the joy of coming together with their environments and each other.
Choice is the most complicated of the three values I’ve identified—but it’s also the only one that implies the existence of integral, individual minds in anything like the sense that humans have them.
You could have growth and joy in a cosmos without individuals—but choice requires individual minds. Valuing choice means valuing individuals that decide. These individuals don’t need to have illusions of all-powerful, unpredictable free will—they may well be more realistic about understanding their choices as being associations between their internal dynamics and broader entropy-reducing dynamics in their region of the cosmos. But still they have their own intentionality.
Compassion, in this view, comes down to valuing joy, growth and choice in a way that goes beyond the boundaries of one’s individual mind, body or self.
A cosmos of individuals, choosing their actions and experiencing joy, growing in a joyful growing cosmos—this is close to being the crux of what Cosmism values.
Living life in a positive way: living life in a way that promotes and embodies universal joy, growth and choice.
This brief article is part of the overall Cosmist Manifesto.