What Principled Reasoning Is and How I Use It as a Social Critic


What is "principled reasoning"?

Principled reasoning is an approach to problem solving that is based on logic--not tradition, not doctrine, not opinion--and upon principles that have nothing to do with personal interest. It is a good approach to take for a social critic--and for politicians, as well. This is the approach I use in my writing and speaking as a social critic.

What I set out below

It is only fair for social critics to be up front with the public about three things:

  • The assumptions about life that they start from.
  • Their values, the things they will defend to the end.
  • Their process: How they go about detecting and solving social problems, and meeting social challenges.

This is what I set out below. As a group, they amount to an even dozen principles, numbered consecutively below.

(Incidentally: you should not assume that all social critics, opinion writers, commentators, or politicians have the same premises, principles, or process that I do. They may say they do, but look at the actions they take or the policies they support.)  

The Assumptions


Principle 1. We create our future.

The future does not exist. Here's what I mean by that: the future is not set in stone; the future is not some ready-made place, like a hotel room, that we just check into. We create the future, by what we do, and by what we fail to do. It's not about "finding our way to the future"; it's about deciding what kind of future we want, and then paying the price in effort and assets to create that future. Whether we are talking about individual live or the life of an entire society, this principle holds true.

You can argue about notions of fate and inescapable destiny with someone else. As far as I am concerned, we create our own fates, we build our own destinies, and we must take responsibility for what happens with our society.


2. Humanity is a race of Explorers and Builders.

People have tried to define what is unique about the human species for centuries. This is what matters to me: humans are the species that explores and builds. It has happened countless times in human history: we move someplace far from where we started, and we build communities and families there. We do it across countries, across continents, and we've taken a tentative step towards doing it across planets. Sure, other organisms explore and build, but not remotely on the scale that humans do. Yes, ants travel great distances and build large colonies. Humans have been to the Moon and will colonize Mars. As a NASA video put it: "Exploration--it's what we do."

This is what gives people a sense of forward momentum, as a families, as nations, as an entire species. In an age where so many people feel without direction or purpose, this is a principle worth remembering.

Explorers and builders: we're happiest when we're living those lives. 


3, Science establishes facts that we can all agree on.



4. American principles and the American people must survive and thrive.


The Values


5. America is one nation made of many peoples.



6. Compassion sets America apart from dictatorships, totalitarian regimes, rule by mob or bully.



7. The people's rights must be preserved.



8. Public servants must keep the public trust in good faith.


The Process


9. Face reality--as defined by the facts.



10. Understand the true problem.



11. Create the greatest good for the greatest number.



12. Use your assets and exert effort to reach your goals.