What do you think constitutes human flourishing?

What do you think constitutes human flourishing?

Some very good parts of an answer here (Mark Sulkowski, Aun Rhys, Paul Coomber, Michael Gogins, Nick Lilavois, Daniel Kozup), and while each gets part of the answer, each also misses important aspects.

Certainly a starting point is meeting the hierarchy of needs, and that is somewhat more complex than any of Maslow’s approximations; and they are reasonable starting points.

Certainly we need our curiosity and our rational minds, and we also need a respect for culture and our intuitive minds. It seems clear to me that at every level of structure and complexity there is a need for a balance between order and chaos; and that balance point can vary a great deal between different contexts (which can be a hard thing for many people to accept and appreciate).

For me, clearly, flourishing is finding a personal and context sensitive balance between security and anxiety, between order and chaos, between the understood and the unexplored. Part of that comes from accepting that we are (each and every one of us) far more complex than we can possibly understand in detail. Another part comes from understanding enough science to see that reality is similarly complex beyond the ability of any entity to know in detail, and contains many levels of fundamental uncertainty and unknowability.

That demands of each of us that we accept a level of eternal and profound ignorance, even as we strive to become less ignorant where that is possible.

The more simple our models, the more certain we are.

The simplest modeling structure possible is one composed of binaries (true/false, right/wrong). Such modeling systems have the attribute of allowing rapid decision making, so have a certain utility in reality in contexts where rapid responses are required, but one does not need to go very far into explorations of science, logic or complexity theory to see that they are but the simplest of all possible systems, and are in many contexts very crude and inappropriate approximations to the complexity that actually exists.

How we each find a useful balance of when and where and in what contexts we can safely change modes of understanding and decision making is part of the art of wisdom and growth. In most contexts there are no simple answers to any of that class of questions.

So for me, human flourishing has a quality of having the security of having the physical aspects of existence (water, food, health, housing, travel, communications, information) met, and a context where if one is responsible to the needs of others, and the needs of the ecosystems within which we exist, then one is free to responsibly exercise freedom in whatever way one chooses.

And finding what is an acceptable balance of risk between the boundaries necessary to sustain the structures of individuals and community, and the freedom to explore the unexplored, will vary substantially between different communities. That seems to be an important aspect of what makes diversity secure, is actually having many diverse instantiations of reasonableness and balance; many sets of “safe to fail” experimentation in a very real sense (recurs to every level you are able).

And there is no escape from the responsibility for each and every one of us to make such assessments to the best of our limited abilities. There are many senses at every level in which the ancient adage will be eternally true – “The price of liberty is eternal vigilance”.

About Ted Howard NZ

Seems like I might be a cancer survivor. Thinking about the systemic incentives within the world we find ourselves in, and how we might adjust them to provide an environment that supports everyone (no exceptions) with reasonable security, tools, resources and degrees of freedom, and reasonable examples of the natural environment; and that is going to demand responsibility from all of us - see www.tedhowardnz.com/money
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