On the alone-time test for moral status

First, I do not recommend testing too often. There are a couple of reasons. The value of the stock being tested (character development) is analogous to the stock in the stock market. Daily fluctuations may or may not be a good indication of value. One can end up with a false positive or a false negative by testing on any particular date and not paying attention to macro-conditions.

The second reason I do not want to over-emphasize testing is that testing takes time and energy and they are better used on development. I do not want to say that it is wrong to test, but it is wrong to be too focused on testing–especially since here one has to be both tester and tested (trainer and trainee).

Third, I do not say ANYTHING about the usefulness for such a test empirically or in social settings. This is the in principle limitation of measuring anything like moral status from the third-person perspective. It cannot be safely done. I recommend the test only for the single-individual where the tester and testee are spatio-temporally the same.

Tests come in various kinds. What I am looking for is accuracy, cost-effectiveness, efficiency and availability. The test I propose as all of these features in spades.

The test is what an individual does when he is unwatched and unthreatened by punishment. One of the most powerful influences on an individual’s activity is what other people think. Of course what other people think is irrelevant given conditions of unobservability. So, it is natural for individual to express character (the content of the heart) much more freely than when under the gaze of others.

I do not say the test is perfect or that cheating impossible. One could wrongly take passing the test as proof of one’s character and so aim at competitive scoring rather than at virtue. This would be a mistake. But is a rather rarefied mistake. And my sense is that it would be difficult to maintain. The one who is interested in competitive ranking can only be so where verification and observation of performance are possible. Such is not possible in isolation under conditions of unobservability. The inability to verify ranking status will reduce this competitive individual’s willingness to compete in this metric.

For the average individual (whoever that is…I hope that I at least make it into that category, but I have questioned over and over again whether I make it that far) as far as I know him it is much more difficult to behave when alone. The human is a social rational animal. The social part is worth emphasizing here. Much of what we do is influenced by status in the social realm. But the one who pursues self-actualization/enlightenment/righteousness/blessedness/flourishing must look beyond the messy world of the social sphere and keep training set on the ideal…the transcendent.

What I have found useful about the test of activity given conditions of unobservability is that it much more accurately gives me an indication of my character divorced from the influence of my social needs. I have found it much more telling how I spend my alone time than how I spend my group time.

A final note on the single instance versus the repeated moment. If natural science, probability and statistics have taught us anything it is that we are much more likely to get at deep reality if we take it to be that which is involved in repetition. If you have studied such you know that in the short-term much can go wrong with betting on repetition. But the value of such repetition increases with time. So, the value of the alone time test of moral status is relative to its use over time. A single instant can be manipulated just to score well and move on? Over and over again? This is much more an indication of alone-time status than one instant.

There are all kinds of next questions? What do I do with the data collected? How do I move forward? What should I do with alone time if I find that I am susceptible to bad use? Those questions must be answered, but today I simply want to assert the value of alone time as a test of moral status.

Published by Purilib

Anonymously interested in grasping the good life.

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