Subjective beliefs grounded in fiction should not be of greater importance than objective truths rooted in reality. A friend sent me an article from the Harvard Business Review titled “How Will You Measure Your Life?” The 4th principle the author, Clayton M. Christensen, states is “avoid the ‘marginal costs’ mistake.” This theory is supposed to address a question he discusses with his students. The question is “how to live a life of integrity?” Clayton believes you should 100% hold yourself to your principles/commitments. Never wavering. The consequences of being committed only 98% of the time is a high probability of getting into trouble. He goes on to discuss how the marginal cost of using the reason “just this once” seems enticingly low. It manipulates you. It’s the reasoning behind infidelity and dishonesty.
For the most part, I’d agree with Clayton. Staying committed to your principles is a virtuous trait. It spares you from causing or falling into unfavorable circumstances. But, there are no guarantees in life. There are times when events make it necessary to break one of your principles/commitments. For example, if you’re committed to a healthy lifestyle it’s unreasonable to never waiver on your diet. You could live life never having any unhealthy foods but, will a single donut every so often kill you? Of course not. Staying only 99% committed to health is preferable. Balance is fundamental to life.
Another justification Clayton makes is giving in to “just this once”, leads you to do it again and again. He relates this to an example from his life. I will discuss this later it relates to the deeper argument of this article. Anyway, that reasoning of his is a logical fallacy. The slippery slope fallacy. Yet, he states it as a strong defense for his claim.
Here is the example from Clayton’s life I briefly mentioned earlier. This story he says is “about how I came to understand the potential damage of ‘just this once’.” He was the starting center on the Oxford University varsity basketball team. They worked hard and made it to the British equivalent of the NCAA tournament. The team made it to the championship game. It fell on a Sunday. Clayton made a commitment to God at 16 years of age that he would never play ball on Sunday. He told his coach and teammates his dilemma and they were understandably upset. He states in the article every one of his teammates said to him you have to play, can’t you break the rule just this once? He prayed to God asking what to do. Ultimately, he didn’t play in the championship game.
Subjective beliefs grounded in fiction should not be of greater importance than objective truths rooted in reality. Yet, Clayton did just that. The fundamental problem I’d like to address is valuing the commitment to the fictitious over reality. Clayton had two conflicting commitments. One to God. The other to his team and everyone involved with the varsity team. As the starting center, he is a key component of the team dynamic. On average starting players play 70-80% of the game. So it is quite easy to imagine how big of an impact losing a starting player is to a team.
One may attempt to argue this by stating God is more important than a game. But, the argument I’m making isn’t contingent on the basketball game. It’s a general one. His decision had real consequences for real people. Whereas, him not praying to God one Sunday effects no one. Also, there are multiple other ways he could’ve made up his commitment to God. Pray before the game. Pray after. Read the bible later that day. Etcetera. God is with you all the time according to the Abrahamic religions. Thus, it shouldn’t matter that much. Reality comes before the fictional.
To the religious God is more real than the material world. Therefore, their actions are completely rational from that perspective. An extreme example being suicide bombers. They believe that they will be greatly rewarded for killing infidels. 70 virgins, paradise, and rewards beyond their greatest imagination for serving God. Shit, I’d kill myself too if I knew that much pussy and pleasure awaited me at death(This is a joke). Obviously from a framework like that reality is of 0 importance in the grand scheme of the afterlife. What is 1 to infinity? Let’s explore a less extreme example now. Take religious parents with a closeted atheist child. In many cases, the parents would reject their child for God. Just read this advice given to atheists about coming out to one’s parents. TLDR: Don’t do it unless you don’t live at home. No greater sin exists than denying god. From a subjective standpoint, the parents did the right thing. But, it’s a logical fallacy to accept subjective views over objective statements about the material world. Whether they’re cultural, societal, or otherwise. No reasonable person should deny rigorously proven scientific truths because of claims written in archaic bible verses. The universe evolving over billions of years or God made it in 7 days? Hence why one shouldn’t reject their child because of an imaginary God. Objectively they have a responsibility to their child. Parents have one job, loving their children unconditionally. Fictitious beliefs should not interfere with reality. No matter what one’s personal views are. And in the case they do. It’s fair to claim the decision made is wrong. Some may argue that who are you to tell others what beliefs are right or wrong. There is some truth to that. Believe what you will. Although, if any of those beliefs impact the objective reality we live in. They should not be accepted. Reality trumps fiction.
Here is the article How Will You Measure Your Life by Clayton M. Christensen