Friday, April 29, 2011

Wicked Men Prospering

I was reading some on Bertrand Russell, since a few of the things he's said (primarily some of what he's said about mathematics) appealed to me. Then I came across this (rather common) fallacy:

In the part of this universe that we know there is great injustice, and often the good suffer, and often the wicked prosper, and one hardly knows which of those is the more annoying.
~Bertrand Russell


I think, for me, it is more annoying that this idea exists.

Let's take the view of life as a game. Any game will do, but because I happen to be thinking about it now, let's go with trading card games. Cheaters come about fairly often in these games, and there will be times when these cheaters win because of their cheating, and you might lose because you didn't cheat when you had the opportunity. This seems to prove Bertrand Russell's quote, but only if we don't look deeper.

Trading card games are about who can form superior strategy and tactics with a given set of rules. When a person cheats, they are effectively admitting that they cannot win within the set of rules. This means that they are admitting that you have superior strategy and tactics. When people bemoan how often cheaters win, they are themselves saying that they don't really care about who possesses superior strategy and tactics, only winning.

Similarly, people who complain about being a "good" person and seeing wicked men prosper are saying that they don't care about anything but physical comforts (since, after all, they point to the large number of physical comforts that these wicked men have as defining their prosperity). The problem with this is that anyone who understand the psychology of happiness knows that, no matter what the physical comfort is, it cannot bring happiness. In fact, physical comforts can actually cause depression.

The reason why the "good" person does not have happiness is because all he is focusing on is physical comforts. According to the psychology of happiness, you become happy when you stop caring about these things (something Taoists, Confucians, and really most any of the major religions have been saying for quite some time). The reason why the "good" person is not happy is that he has fallen prey to one of the most simple of faults: Envy. As we can see, this "good" person is not truly good, at least not in the way we normally define it. When you nod and agree with this "good" person, you are overlooking their envy, and betraying your own.

The wicked man does not have prosperity, nor does the man who complains that he does. Only those that do not look to others to measure their own happiness can find true prosperity.

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