Friday, September 19, 2008

On Judging Character

The following are questions I came up with a few weeks ago when I was invited to a Barack Obama campaign house meeting. My intent was challenge the local Obama campaign organizers to see how well they knew their candidate and themselves. The questions are:

  1. Identify the proper role of government.
  2. What standard(s) do you use to differentiate good from evil?
  3. How do you know the answers to #1 and #2?
  4. If a reasonable person disagreed with your answers to questions 1-3, how would you convince them that your position is correct?

The questions are designed to reveal an individual's character and validate it for consistency. They are asked in order from most abstract to most specific and are conceptually hierarchical - in other words 1 is based on 2, 2 is based on 3, and so on. The purpose of the ordering is to prevent the subject from thinking through an inconsistent viewpoint on the spot (remember my goal is to reveal the subject's character to the questioner, not for the subject to discover it for the first time). The questions correspond to the subject's views on the four major branches of philosophy: politics, ethics, epistemology, and metaphysics.

Most individuals have political opinions and can state them easily in conscious terms. Question 1 is a benchmark that is used as a consistency check for the remaining questions. Question 2 uncovers the ethical standard or standards the subject accepts as true which can be use to validate their position on the proper role of government. Question 3 is intended to identify the subject's method of knowledge, this can also be used to validate the consistency of the previously stated ethical and political positions.

Question 4 will determine if the subject can link their beliefs back to perceptual reality (which is the only way to convince a reasonable person who disagrees). Up until this point the subject may find comfort in the realm of arbitrary opinion, but linking his or her views to reality is impossible unless the views are true in metaphysical reality; therefore, question 4 validates whether or not the subject's views are correct and proper.

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