Shepard’s Pole of Good & Bad

Cool versus uncool, evil versus good, and right versus wrong have been discussed for thousands of years. I propose that there is a scale, or a pole with opposite ends, and actions can fall anywhere within the spectrum. Evil is a word used by some, and “poopy” is a word used by others, like Larken Rose.

Philosopher Patrick Smith refers to things that are in the middle portion of this area as aesthetic whereas Evil is an “on-off” switch. If something is “evil” it is a violation of the NAP. Perhaps he is right, and the switch is at 70 inches or perhaps 2 inches?

I imagine looking at a pole sticking vertically out of the ground, and when I think of this metaphor, I consider only the portion that is sticking out of the ground. It extends upward and stops at 6 feet off of the ground. This concept of a 72” pole not only helps me visualize the scale of good and bad, it also helps my addition and subtraction skills.

I think of things at the 6 foot level as being the best of the best, and the things at the bottom that are less than an inch as being the worse. Hovering around the middle are things that are only slightly preferable, cool or uncool. If I drove past a neighbor on the street and they wave at me and I am too lazy to wave back, I see that somewhere around the 35-inch mark. If I see my neighbor before they see me and I wave first, I see that as about 37 inches.

Shepard’s PoleHaving never spoken a lie over the last 30 years earns a 72 inch mark. Raping and murdering are at the very bottom of the pool. My goal in life, as I take actions, is to have most of them be very high on the pole. 

Because of the subjective nature of value, we will not all place things at the same level on the pole. Imagine for example, if I have jumper cables in my trunk, and I drove past someone who needs a jumpstart but I am excited to go on my day-long hike and choose not to stop and help them for five minutes. It is probably impossible for 10 people to all contemplate this scenario and come to the exact same conclusion to 1/64 of an inch. This is OK.

Some people would argue that there is no such thing as a positive right, and that I did not have a positive obligation to stop and give of my time and the use of my property to help another person, and perhaps they would argue that this action is not below the midline of 36 inches. I think that I would personally view this action as being somewhere around 35 1/2 inches.

A couple of the reasons that I like this visualization of a pole, is that while I could use a scale of 1 to 100 or 1 to 10 or even 1 to 5, I find something that is divisible to such a tiny amount to be interesting. 4,608 one-64ths exist on my pole, and perhaps as we argue in the future, some issues will be benefited by such a minute measurement? Perhaps not.

I find my pole to be most useful in contemplating individual actions, not human beings. For example, one person might do 5,000 things that are all in the top 2 inches of the pole, and then murder one person. 

Perhaps you will find this Shepard’s Pole to be of use in your conversations with others, and if I ever mention it when we are speaking, you’ll have an idea what it is that my silly jargon really means. Thank you for arguing with me and my friends!