Label

Putting labels on people is necessary to convey complex ideas with few words, yet we often overestimate the level of detail we should derive from them. Being a German atheist doesn't make me Hitler. Therefore, please be careful to give more weight to what someone is saying themselves than whom labels are associating them with.

Labels can be useful as shorthand, but it is vitally important that we recognise that that is all they are. And when the entirety of a belief system or the way that we view the world is predicated on labels — on labelling ourselves, on labelling other people, on labelling all those poor cats — then we've created an immensely distorted view of ourselves, of the world, of all our feline friends, of other belief systems, of everything. All of those concepts will be flattened by these labels that we apply to them.

—Colin Wright in Let's Know Things: Wear This Label

Because philosophy has such precise and abstract labels, they offer a much better framework to commit to than those identity labels making prescriptions for everyday life, as found in diet, religion, and politics. Philosophical terms enable discussion instead of turning it into accusations.

I was happy to find inspiration from Milan Griffes, giving me words for my most basic philosophical constitution. I will formalise these here, to encourage others to challenge me on my most basic assumptions, and so I can apply my choices more easily:


Ethically, I am a consequentialist who, similar to a hedonistic utilitarian, tries to maximise overall well-being. I practise empiricism1 wherever practical; Skepticism2 is my default when encountering untested knowledge.


Recommended reading: Paul Graham – Keep Your Identity Small


  1. This means that I only hold those beliefs that are both falsifiable and have not been falsified. ↩︎

  2. stressing the uncertainty of our beliefs to oppose dogmatism ↩︎