Cut Once


[RealitySyndrome]’s last post (“Don’t Think, Forget It“) triggered the last working neuron in my brain (cavity). Since it’s only one neuron, and it works part-time, it took me a few days to gather some coherent thoughts – but here we are, finally.

To start, the idea behind “Don’t worry until you need to” resonated with me as soon as I read the words. See, I’m a Software Developer[1], and in the last few years the software industry has been debating a lot about the way we do things. To make a long story short, here’s a few principles/guidelines that have emerged out of that debate so far:

Yes, there’s a pattern there: “Don’t worry until you strictly have to”.
Of course I see people every day in my job that take this to the opposite extreme – extremes are a bad place to be in 99% of the times – so I must warn you that you should follow this idea of not worrying until you have to, only if you are mature enough to recognize when you have to worry.

Secondly, [RealitySyndrome]’s words brough to mind a quote by Terry Goodkind:

Cut. Once committed to fight, Cut. Everything else is secondary. Cut. That is your duty, your purpose, your hunger. There is no rule more important, no commitment that overrides this one. Cut.[3]

This quote is actually but a sample of a recurring theme in the Sword of Truth series. Richard, the hero of the series, has carefully weights pros and cons of his decisions. Sometimes this is a lengthy process, other times it’s quite fast; nonetheless, the decision-making process is always complete. Every perspective, every consequence is weighted. Then, the masterpiece: once the decision is taken, commit to it, get through it and move on. In the context of a fight: “Cut. Once committed to fight, Cut.”, but Richard applies the same principle to all of his decisions.
Sure enough, these decisions will have repercussions, and quite often they are not pleasant for someone. Our hero figures out most of these consequences up front in order to make his decision. Once the decision is made, there is no turning back, and no point in mulling it over and over. The decision was made based on all the information available, presumably with a good moral compass, and it is the best decision that could be made. We’ll have to deal with the resulting unpleasant consequences, because they are un-avoidable given the circumstances. Trying to avoid them would force us to take a different decision, which would be overall less optimal.

Finally, I’m no expert on this, but the whole idea behind “Don’t Think, Forget It”, seems to me to make more sense, and sound more solid when it is linked to a foundation layer in the philosophy of Objectivism[4]. I guess the part that Objectivism brings to the plate is the ethical topic:

“To live, man must hold three things as the supreme and ruling values of his life: Reason, Purpose, Self-esteem.”

This quote from Any Rand might seem to praise a quite selfish attitude, but it’s just a starting point. Her ethical discourse moves on to distinguish between a rational selfishness and a “selfishness-without-a-self“, at which point she rejects the ethical doctrine of Altruism. So, is Objectivism’s ethics all about selfishness?
Not quite, since the values that one should strive for are not subjective or arbitrarily chosen. Rather, there is a set of universal human values, and one should consciously chose to strive for them. In the end, this leads to a new form of altruism, one consciously accepted, and encompassing of one’s own individual rights as well as the ‘greater good’ of the others.
In my mind, that’s the most intriguing part of the Objectivist ethics: ethical choices should be conscious choices.

…gah! I still owe you all a post on the topic of ARGs ! And look at what I’m posting about.. really.. I promise I’ll try to get to that topic next time. Until then, Godspeed.


[1] Actually, I prefer the label of “Software Craftsman”, but that’s another story…

[2] Note how Jeff’s linked post on the topic is entitled “KISS and YAGNI”; are we coming full circle already?

[3] Spoken by Richard in “Phantom”.

[4] Note that the aforementioned Terry Goodkind has openly discussed his personal philosophy, tagging himself as an Objectivist.

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