Adar Kahiri

Personal Axioms

June 4, 2020

Ever since I can remember, I’ve questioned the orthodoxy around me. It started with questioning the existence of a God, which my family assured me was real, and has progressed to questioning all sorts of opinions, ideologies, and beliefs.

While I have a few deeply held convictions, most of my opinions are loosely-held, and often I have a hard time forming opinions which I consider a truly fair conclusion to a rigorous analysis of the issues at hand.

In fact, I’ve often wondered how people (especially smart ones) manage to have so many strongly-held views about all sorts of topics. Unsurprisingly, the answer is that many, if not most people don’t actually take the time to think deeply about their opinions, and instead simply parrot things they’ve heard or read somwhere [1]. They may have taken the time to think a little more deeply about a few issues, but no more.

The obvious reason for why this happens is because it takes a lot of effort to develop a nuanced opinion about any issue, let alone all of the points of contention, political and otherwise, which we regularly face.

And so, in an effort to reduce the time and effort it takes me to form nuanced opinions about various things, I’ve decided to try something new.

I figured that if I could develop a set of personal axioms which I can then just assume are true in any given situation, that would greatly expedite the process of reasoning through the situation and coming to a conclusion.

Granted, this isn’t a particularly novel idea. ‘Personal/company values’ are a common notion, Ray Dalio has essentially built his brand upon the idea of ‘personal and career principles’, and all sorts of philosophies most certainly operate on a set of axioms.

Despite all of this, I still think this is an idea worth pursuing for a number of reasons:

  1. Not knowing much about philosophy [2], I’m in a somewhat good position to arrive at conclusions which are less tainted by the thoughts of others. This isn’t to say that my conclusions will somehow be superior, but that it will force me to come up with my own methods for analyzing the world, which I think is valuable.
  2. If I succeed, I’ll have a really awesome framework for developing opinions.

This is project will take a while, and so I’ll be continuously adding new axioms onto this compilation as I think about them. If you happen to read this and have thoughts, I’d love to hear them :).

Entertain ‘good faith’ thought and speech

I’ve always strongly believed in freedom of thought and speech. A society can’t be free without dissent by definition, and freedom is important. Over time, however, I’ve both encountered and learned about people who have said some pretty bad things.

With this in mind, I sought after a general filter I could use to determine not only whose ideas I should pay attention to, but also whose thoughts were completely unacceptable and downright dangerous.

I had heard of people using one’s “good faith” to gauge whether they should be engaged with. I thought this was interesting, but I can’t recall hearing a good definition of good faith.

The definition that comes up when you search it up online is “honesty or sincerity of intention.” This is a good start, but it’s not enough, and I don’t think this is exactly what people mean when they say someone is acting “in good faith” in the context of a discussion of “high impact ideas” (e.g, structure of society, social justice). For example, one could be incredibly upfront about their insidious intentions, only very thinly disguising them as ‘good’.

So, for the sake of this axiom (and possibly others), here’s how I will define good faith (in the context of discussions described above): to act or to behave in good faith is to have an interest in increasing and/or preventing a decline of the long term wellbeing of the average human.

In other words, if someone genuinely wants the best for everyone, regardless of categories of identity they fall into, I will try to entertain their thoughts and opinions.

To be honest, I’m not entirely happy with this definition as ‘good faith’ can be difficult to measure, but I think using this axiom on a personal level (as opposed to, say, a societal level) yields a net benefit.


[1] Including myself, though I’d like to believe I think about things at least somewhat deeply.

[2] Even though I haven’t been exposed to too much philosophy, the content I regularly consume has no doubt been influenced by various philosophies.