Monday, September 28, 2009

Speculations on Zugzwang

Zugzwang is a concept in chess. Essentially, it describes a position where any move taken has adverse consequences. One must move, but one doesn't want to move. The concept also has applications in other areas, such as game theory, I believe.

The concept may have application in life, as well. Consider the political status quo in this remarkable country (the USA). How is it possible for a mere citizen to analyze, let alone make reasonable judgments, concerning the issues of the day? Most are too busy with other things to give such issues any thought. So, we tend to react to them without much thought; frankly, this may be the only way we can address them, all things being equal. Consequently, the decisions we make are likely to be ill-informed, and adverse, to us and others. Nonetheless, decisions must be made. The reasonable course would seem to be to make decisions which will probably result in the least harm, to us and others.

The stoics teach us there are things within our control, and things outside of our control. The more we concern ourselves with things outside our control, the less happy, and tranquil, we shall be.

Perhaps the best we can do is strive to make reasonable decisions regarding matters within our control. For good or ill, such matters are limited. Perhaps we shouldn't try to make decisions regarding what others should or should not do. A selfish point of view, one might say. But if each tried to act reasonably in their personal lives, perhaps reasonableness would prevail in society as well.

Some hurried thoughts on how to live, and cope, in a world where so many seek to make others think, and act, as they think is best.

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