How do we act ?

There are two categories in which we act :


We are so overwhelmed by our emotions that we do stupid shit that sometimes seriously jeopardizes us.

I am not going to talk about this category of actions in this post.


  1. We have hopes, dreams and desires.
  2. We gather information from our surroundings.
  3. Based on this information we act in a way that we hope fulfills our hopes, dreams and desires.

This is why we get mad when someone lies to us, because they fucked with our step 2.

So we should never feed bad information to anyone, i.e, people should be allowed to form an accurate perception of their surroundings. Anything, including telling part of the truth, hiding the truth, saturating their mind with only one type of information so they think there is no other type ( for example, at a job fair, only talking about the perks of working at a company and not talking about the bad aspects ) etc is evil and should be avoided.

Done. Mystery Solved. Amirite ? Not quite.

So I was reading this entertaining story of Ms Karen Owen, who slept with half the men in Duke University and then proceeded to make a thesis paper out of it, which went viral.

What followed was what anyone would imagine : death/rape threats, lawsuits, harassment etc. I noted a comment made by some woman online. She said that the problem was that Ms Owen labelled the thesis as a ‘Fuck-List’. If she had labelled it as ‘The Best 15 men I ever had’ there would not have been that much of a blow back. I remember thinking to myself : ‘Well, that is not lying, but I still feel somewhat uneasy about it. I don’t like the idea that someone can control your actions by presenting the facts in a particular way, but I also do not feel that Ms Owen would be at fault if she had done that’.

Hannibal Lecter
Hannibal was a master of manipulation

So I started asking myself why I thought that. Now, it might be a good time point out that I am fairly liberal when it comes to this. I currently feel that women should be allowed to use their bodies in a way that she sees fit so long as it does not hurt others. I realized that there is only one way to respond to her actions : ‘Congratulate her on managing to have a good time at school’. On the other hand it was not OK to send her death/rape threats and force her to change her name or whatever. So in my mind since there was only one course of acceptable action, I was OK with someone presenting the data in a way that brought about that outcome.

Just as I cannot support Ted Bunty’s autonomy to have sex with fresh dead bodies of women he killed, I cannot support a mob’s autonomy to ruin someone’s life.

Let me try to explain this with another example.

Imagine, you are walking through the park, and you find a young boy running towards you screaming. There is a fork in the road and he takes the left fork.
Soon after, here comes a known child molester who is running after the boy. He sees the fork in the road and asks you : ‘Which way did he go ?’. The molester is already leaning towards the left fork and if you say nothing he will run after the boy and possibly rape him.

Should you be honest ? I think you should be dishonest and send him the wrong way to spare the child.

What we see here is that you do not have to respect the autonomy of others to make this world a worse place. Therefore ethics of manipulation can be defined as :

Respect the rights of others to ‘absorb correct information from their surroundings and act to fulfill their hopes and dreams in a way that cannot hurt others’.

Benevolent manipulation

Some people claim that there is a benevolent form of manipulation : motivating. I think it is alright, if executed carefully. I have taken motivation from the words of others and it has benefited me. The problem here is that you can easily misjudge what they want from life and end up sending them in a path that could cause them a lot of misery. Be careful of that.

Another exception to this ‘Respect the Autonomy of People‘ rule is when you find that someone is incapable of taking care of their own interests. For example, children, drug addicts, mental patients etc.

Hopefully with these rules in mind we can live an honest life.


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