What do you want? How can you get it? How do you know?
- "Ideas about value—about what we want and how to get it—are future-oriented. They rest upon prediction. Science, sole demonstrated means for making predictions better than we can make by chance, is how we more accurately discern and more fully realize value." ~ David Schrom, Valuescience
Valuescience: Shedding Illusion to Live and Die Well
- Stanford University PSYC 136A/236A (autumn); PSYC 136B/236B (spring)
- 3 units without practicum; 4 units with practicum
- Tu, Th 10:30am-11:50am
This is a course about living and dying well. We speak of living and dying because each of us is contemporaneously engaged in these, and we've evidence that acknowledging this is essential to doing either well. We address this topic because we perceive it to encompass most, perhaps all human concerns.
Humans live and die well by discerning and realizing value, by knowing what we want and getting it, and by generating satisfaction with what we get. Because we're evolving organisms in a dynamic environment we make ongoing adjustments to what we value—ends and means of our lives.
We live in an era of unprecedentedly rapid, large, and novel changes—many anthropogenic—to individual selves, society, other parts of nature, artifact we fashion from nature, and information we've accumulated. Today more than ever before we live and die well by cultivating proficiency in bringing to awareness, questioning, and evolving to be more reliable information about value, especially ideas about how we can know and realize value.
This course is an opportunity to bring accurate, pertinent findings from many disciplines to bear upon three questions central to our lives: (1) "What do I want?" (2) "How can I get it?" and most importantly, (3) "How do I know?" We ask questions (1) and (2) about everything from big choices like career and marriage to little ones like what we'll eat for lunch today. We ask question (3) far less often, yet only to a degree that we rely upon sound means of knowing can we make what we think we know as faithful a representation of self and surrounds as we're able, and only to an extent that we represent self and surrounds with fidelity can we get what we want and generate satisfaction with what we get.
All of us have experienced getting what we thought we wanted and feeling disappointed, and all of us have sometimes done what we thought sufficient and come up short. Again and again we think we know how to secure satisfaction only to discover that we're mistaken. With current approaches to value we repeatedly generate overconfidence and error. Though we work to learn from missteps, we rarely delve deeply enough to re-examine our approaches. Even when we do ask, "How do I know?" we're often quick to answer with long-held, well-practiced justifications yet to be critically examined to their roots, and poorly able to withstand such scrutiny.
In this course we explore history, philosophy, ecology, economics, sociology, linguistics, psychology, and more to learn how we may apply science—defined here as behaviors by which we predict with success greater than we can achieve by chance—to more accurately discern value—what we want and how to get it—and to realize value more fully.
We begin by framing our inquiry within a larger context of ecology, evolution, culture, and education. We consider how we've come to current ideas about value, about science, and about their relationship. We examine how we underpin personal, social, and environmental well-being and ills with those ideas.
We then present a case for valuescience, and apply it to achieve more accurate understanding of human past, present, and prospects, to know better what we want, and to get it. We pay particular attention to perceptual, cognitive, and social impediments to valuescience, and to strategies for overcoming and circumventing these, and we offer opportunity to create sangha, community of practice, while doing so and contributing to others' doing so.
If you are engaged or want to engage in such inquiry and practice, we welcome your partnership in valuescience.
Development of this Valuescience course is an educational endeavor of Magic, a Palo Alto based public service organization founded in 1972 and incorporated in 1979 under Section 501(c)(3) of the U.S. Internal Revenue Service Code.