Excerpt About Thinking

Everybody Does What He Thinks, in the Moment, is the Good

By mind, I don’t necessarily mean just our thoughts; I mean the totality of the psyche. The mind acts according to what it knows, or thinks it knows. A simple example is that when you want something, you try to get it because you think it is good for you. If you don’t believe it is good for you, you won’t try to get it. It’s as simple as that. When I called this talk “Knowledge and the Good,” I meant that usually everybody does what they think is good. At every moment of our lives, what we are engaged in depends on our belief about what is good for us or others. Even the killer, or the thief, is doing what he thinks at the moment is a good thing to do. The thief who goes and robs a bank clearly thinks it’s a good thing for him to do. At that moment it seems the best thing to do. Otherwise he wouldn’t do it. That’s the first thing I want to establish: everyone does what he believes at that moment to be the good. In his book Protagoras, Plato elaborates on this point, that everyone does the good. This point may not seem obvious; you may think of experiences in which you are acting or reacting in a certain way, and thinking, “Why am I doing that? It seems to be harmful.” But you are rather compulsive about doing it. This might indicate that maybe we don’t always do what we believe is good for us. But with deeper investigation you will see that, in fact, what you are doing depends on a belief about what is good that is unconscious at that moment.

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