“Good vs. Evil, Light vs. Dark Triad: The Evolution of Morality” was part of a full-day seminar I gave at the Intercontinental Resort Bali on 1 June 2019. In this keynote talk to a group of private coaching clients, I give my personal perspective on the age-old question of “Why be moral?” informed by evolutionary psychology, Asian and Western philosophy, clinical psychology, and life experience. The talk begins with an examination of the Light Triad scale proposed by Scott Barry Kaufman as a counterpoint to the Dark Triad. I then argue that we experience the most enjoyable and meaningful benefits of life in direct proportion to our moral goodness and in inverse proportion to the extent of our Dark Triad traits.
For over a decade, David Tien, Ph.D., has helped hundreds of thousands of people from over 87 countries find happiness, success, and fulfillment in their social, professional, and love lives. His presentations – whether keynotes, seminars, or workshops – leave clients with insights into their behavior, psychology, and keys to their empowerment. His training methodologies are the result of over a decade of coaching and education of thousands of students around the world. Join him in this special seminar series as he explores deep questions of the psychological bases for mating in the modern world. Subscribe now.
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Good v. Evil, Light v. Dark Triad, PUAs & Red Pill: Morality in the Survival of the Fittest Shownotes
0:06 Introduction to the Dark Triad
5:04 Is relativism the enemy of morality?
11:09 What is moral relativism?
17:05 What’s good? What’s evil?
23:08 How the “death of God” is related to the survival of the fittest
28:55 Does significance and achievement make you better?
34:21 How to ground ethics properly
39:10 Why should we be good?
43:14 This is responsible for the popularization of moral relativism
48:22 Why a lot of men like the Dark Triad
53:52 If you have these traits, you won’t trust other people
58:32 The desirable positive measures that Dark Triad types don’t get to experience
1:03:08 What makes life worth living
1:08:13 What leads to happiness?
1:14:10 How to solve your deeper problems
1:18:46 What happens when there’s no objective morality?
1:22:26 This happens when you pursue goodness
1:27:03 Is human nature good or bad?
David Tien: Okay, welcome back. Thanks for your patience. So, as you might have guessed, the light triad thing is all about the dark triad. The dark triad, you’ve probably heard this before, narcissism, psychopathy, and Machiavellianism. I’ve done multiple lectures and seminars and videos on the dark triad. We’re going to touch a little bit of the dark triad. Not that old of a science, 2002. I don’t know. I’m a Humanities person, so I do work on literature that’s thousands of years old. But 2002, I guess, is pretty old for psychology. And since that time, in the past, since 2009, there have been dozens of studies on the dark triad. So, it’s become really popular, maybe as a counterpoint to all the happiness studies and positive psychology that exploded in the 80s and 90s, is now a focus on the dark, right? And so, we have a whole movie on the Joker coming out, and we love to look at the psychology of villains. It’s really fun in my opinion as well.
And among red pillers and men’s rights activists, the dark triad is something that they are very interested in. The science shows the dark triad type of individuals, this type of personality, gets laid more and gets ahead in career generally more. Of course, there are lots of other downsides which we’ll be getting into. What are these three things? A quick way of encapsulating them is: narcissism, which could be something like grandiosity or entitled self-importance… Again, I’ve done a four-video series on narcissism and how it relates to dating and attractiveness; Machiavellianism is like game playing. It’s exploitation and deceit, the use of strategy to get ahead, and psychopathy, which is…
Obviously, psychopaths are also narcissistic and Machiavellian, but psychopaths add in an element of callousness, and cynicism, and lack of feeling or care. All three of these traits were studied originally in criminal populations. So, they discovered that, among criminals, they have these common traits. And they also then were able to group them together as a personality type and have other things that it would predict. We’ll get into that. Clearly though, these are on a continuum. So, it’s not like you’re dark or you’re not, or you’re evil or you’re not. We’re somewhere on that continuum, all of us. We can all be put on that continuum somewhere.
And many people, especially people who are achievers, have some degree of narcissism, have engaged in Machiavellianism at some point in their lives. It’s part of growing up. And probably at some point in your life, if you’re honest with yourself, you experience a bit of psychopathy. Maybe it was because you are mad at the neighbor’s dog who couldn’t stop barking and you did something cruel, or maybe you tortured your little sister or something like that. There’s a little bit of all that in us. So, it’s not a question of “Are you evil or are you good?” but the question is “How evil or how good are you?”
Well, why are we talking about this? This is a cover of a really good book by Don Carson. Way back when I was a studying in seminary, he was one of the eminent scholars in theology. And this book is this huge book. It changed my life back then and I’ll explain why. So, in these times, goodness and talk about morality seems unpopular in the West. And why is that?
Well, let me give you a background about myself. So, originally my view, growing up as a good Christian boy, was what philosophers would call non-natural moral realism, which is basically to say that I believed, as good Christians would, that what good is is what is in the Bible, what God says what is good. So, good and evil are not relative. They’re proclaimed to us by God, or at least you could get much more sophisticated by whatever God is is good, and whatever God is not is not good. Very simple, right?
And the view was if there were no God or God turned out to be different from what we believed as Christians that he is, then anything goes, right? So, if there isn’t somebody or something to show you what is objectively good or evil, then it’s all up for grabs. It’s just your preference. It’s just your perspective. It’s all relativist or subjectivist. And this was the enemy as far as theology goes, you always attacking moral relativism. Because if there’s no God, then there’s no good. Or at least there’s no good that you could use to apply to anything besides yourself.
And in fact, what you think is good is just your opinion, or just your preference, or your proclivities to something, and it doesn’t mean that it applies to anyone else. Pick something that you think is an evil… And this is, by the way, what we do in the academy. Your morality does not apply to the Amazonian tribes, or your morality does not apply to China. That was a common one when I was going through school in the 90s. Human rights in China said, “You have a western view of human rights. That’s just your thing. We believe something different.”
Christians would say, “Well, I think human beings actually do have value in and of themselves, not just as a part of a community. They have individual human rights.” And maybe some other country says, “No, they don’t.” So, this is actually really matters, moral relativism. Okay, so we’re going to talk a little bit more about that. But anyway, I came to see that for myself, anyway, that it’s probably true that God does not exist. So, God probably doesn’t exist on the Christian view.
And this was like coming up to 30 years old I had before that lived my life as if it were true, as if God, the Christian God, the Christian story was true. Because if it’s true, then everything changes. And I know a lot of Sunday Christians don’t see it that way. They still lead a hedonistic, promiscuous life, and then they go to church on Sunday acting as if nothing’s changed and there’s not going to be a reckoning. But I did it. I really tried to live out the principles, that your whole life is to glorify God.
So, when I came to the eventual belief that probably God doesn’t exist, one of the concomitants to this, one of the things that fell out, was my morality. Because, actually, I did believe what the theology says, that if there’s no God then it’s just whatever you decide is good or evil. That really, really matters. Because I don’t think any of you here are Christian, and maybe you haven’t thought about it. So, it’s time to think about it.
So, let’s say that I think skinning cats alive — yeah, it’s not great. “Look, they’re a lesser beings. It sucks to be them.” And if it’s a tiger and the tiger takes it out of me, I had it coming, right? It’s revenge. But you know, survival of the fittest. I’m fitter than that cat. So, why can’t I skin it alive? By the way, the way we eat lobsters is pretty cruel too, and yet you eat them, right? So, hey, skin the cat alive. And you might think, “No, that’s really bad. That’s really, really wrong.” Yeah, that’s just your opinion. And I’m going to steal your money, by the way. It’s because you weren’t looking. It’s your fault. You didn’t look. So, survival of the fittest, evolution.
I’m not even joking. That’s what happens. So, I still believe that to be true. You have no basis for your morality. This is why in NUS, when I already stopped being a Christian for a couple years at that point, and they were trying to — at NUS, I came out as a dating coach which was pretty innocent and harmless. So, in fact when the article came out, it was a very positive one in the paper. They brought me on as a weekly columnist. So that was their introduction to the weekly columnist. “And now, we’ve hired David Tien to write our weekly dating column.” I’m now the weekly columnist, but it was a three-page spread on my life.
Because in little conservative, staid, strict, uppity, uptight, anal-retentive Singapore, this was news. In California, it would be nothing. “Here’s another guy who helps guys with women.” In Singapore, it’s like, “Whoa. Sex?” They didn’t even have sex ed at that point in 2008. They were debating whether to even have sex ed in the curriculum, right? What it came down to was they were saying, “Look, this is a bad influence on the kids. This is wrong. This is morally wrong.” And as a philosopher, I was in the Department of Philosophy as a professor. It was very easy for me to challenge the philosophers and say, “Well, what is wrong about it? Show me anything that I’ve done that’s wrong.”
And so, they always had to fall back on policy, but they couldn’t find anything in the policies that I had done or had contravened. So, it’s just like, “We are uncomfortable.” That’s to my face, through written communication. But behind closed doors, they’re all like, “Yeah, you make professors look cool, man. That’s great.” I’m like, “Yeah, it’s fucking great. Of course it’s fucking great.” Who wouldn’t want to have a good life? Who wouldn’t want to have friends and be able to have that skill to have a dating life going? What’s wrong with this?
I put it right in their faces. We’re philosophers. We do this for a living. We debate what morality means for a living. And yet, now, because you’re a little uncomfortable because of your own triggered shit — that I didn’t understand psychology back then, like the clinical psychology, but I’m just like, “You’re the chair of the department or whatever old-fashioned people. You’re uncomfortable, and now you check your brains at the door. There’s no argument here. There’s no moral argument. Where’s your argument to show me what’s right or wrong, what’s good or evil here? Nothing.
And in fact, no one who is not a philosopher, who hasn’t thought about this deeply enough, that’s like 99% of people. So, if you don’t know what non-natural moral realism means, it means you haven’t done the meta ethics to even get into this right. But maybe you have, or maybe someone watching the video has. So, cool. We can discuss that because there are moral relativists. I’m actually going to be coming down on that side of moral relativism in a minute. And maybe you want to defend moral relativism like I am. Cool. I will present to you a new definition.
But the moral relativism that I think is actually true is an irrealist position. That is, the morality that is actually true for us is only true for us because of the way evolution played out. It’s based on certain truths about human biology. That doesn’t mean that what’s good and evil on Mars or some other planet — Thanos, Titan – might be different. So, if Thanos wanted to come down here and kill all of us with a snap, who am I to say anything? That’s actually how it works. That’s moral relativism. That’s good on his planet, wherever the fuck he’s from. And he claims that’s good.
It’s just my opinion as a human being, as an Earthling. Earthling morality, Titan morality… I don’t like it, but I actually have no claims to it. Survival of the fucking fittest in the universe. You could take whatever you want. The only thing preventing you from doing that is the fucking law. That’s awful, isn’t it? There’s something about that that irks you, right? “You mean, there’s no good or evil?” That’s right. So, when you take God away, and this is what I actually believe, and I still believe it. There’s nothing by which you can define goodness that is objective, that is outside anybody else’s opinion.
So, if the Christian God were to actually exist, he would exist regardless of any human beings, right? That’s objective. It’s outside of our realm of existence. And some of you embrace it. Let’s go hedonism, “Life is just about what I can get and I’ll give because it makes me feel good.” So in a way, it’s still I’m getting — I’m getting some good feelings. But it’s still very much about me, right? It’s still very much about you.
You’re only nice to people because you can’t be mean, or you’re only nice to people because it feels good for you. So, you’re still selfish. You’re still being nice because it feels good. You’re still hedonist, right? Everything you’re doing, all of morality boils down to ‘because it feels nice.’ Now, sometimes, you’re like, “No. I’m going to do what’s good even when it doesn’t feel nice.” And I’m like, “Yes, that’s real integrity. That’s real courage.”
Unfortunately, that’s very wrong for you. Imagine this situation. You’re Mother Teresa or whatever saint, and you believe that God existed. And because God exists, the Christian God or whatever good god, he says, “Help the poor and sacrifice certain comforts so that you can benefit other people.” So, you end up actually taking that for real. You actually do that, and you live as a missionary, and your life is pretty miserable on the surface. You have leprosy because you’re working with lepers, and then you die young because you’re trying to bring the gospel or whatever truth to some native people, and they spear you, and they also eat your children. Okay, so they burn them alive and eat your children.
And you’re like, “This is worth it because I’m bringing God to them, and that’s good.” And this suffering is worth it for good, for goodness, because that’s what good is, and I’m going to suffer some for good. Another example is, you lay your life down on the line for your country. I don’t know how many of you are military. Eventually, if you were active military, you’d have to storm some enemy battle thing and you might lose your life or a limb. And then, what if you were to find out that the whole thing was just to get some more oil for some some greedy rich guys back in your home country? And you lost your life, or your limb, or your best friend’s life for that?
That’s going to be like shit, man. And that’s sort of like me when I was 30, coming up to 31. It took about a year after understanding, “If I think that God probably doesn’t exist…” That was just like, “Woah, then everything goes out the window. What the fuck was I doing? Why would I ever sacrifice anything for anybody?” Because there’s no point, unless it makes me feel good. And if I love somebody, then I’ll sacrifice. That’s how most people live. That’s why it’s scary, actually, is I can’t trust most people in the world because they’re just out for themselves.
But if it feels nice for them to give me an extra dollar to help me at the Starbucks because I’m out of change or whatever, it’s really just because they feel good doing it. It’s not because they’re doing it because it’s actually good. And there are few people who will do it because it’s good, because of moral principle, and I feel sorry for them. Because I actually believe there is no Christian God or there’s no God at all. Like, if there were some divine being, maybe he’s some alien that super advanced. But he doesn’t really care about us because look at the world. What kind of loving God would create something like this?
We’re in the wrong place for that statement, actually. Read the news, or the history of humanity in the 20th century with the world wars after World War, so there’s a lot of suffering and all that stuff. I can run through all the existence of God. I don’t want to do that. So, I’m just making the point that one of the things that happened to me when I was 30, 31, was the realization that, holy shit, if you gag God…
In other words, there’s no morality because morality was originally based on this objective outside the human realm force, no matter how humans turned out, there’s still this thing called goodness and it exists outside of it and for all time. If you get rid of that, then you have nothing except evolution, and evolution is just survival of the fittest. And if it’s a world of evolution and it’s just get ahead, just get ahead, and stay alive, and fuck a lot — stay alive and have kids, survival and replication. That’s it.
And if you don’t like that, that’s fine. All you MGTOW guys who just want to check out, fine. We don’t care. We don’t want you. The world that doesn’t care. You’re irrelevant. So, if you just want to go that route, that’s fine. That’s your thing. And I can’t tell anybody what’s good or evil, no one can. It’s just what you feel like. So I thought, shit, that’s the way it is. There actually is no such thing as good. That’s just stuff we make up or for convenience.
So, if that’s the case, fuck. I’ve got to make up for lost time. Because all these guys who weren’t Christian knew this when they’re 18, that’s why they were banging chicks, downing beer kegs and shit. No wonder I’m a fucking nerd who’s socially awkward, because I had a whole other world view that said my life is about glorifying God. And then when I realize, “Holy shit, there’s no God. Well then, I better catch up. It’s time for some pleasure. It’s time for David to stop sacrificing his life for some heaven that will never come, and it’s time to figure out dating, figure out how to be cool, how to fit in.”
Because my whole life up to that point was purposely not fitting in because my mission, as all good Christians should, is to go to a place where there is no Christianity, to be the light in the darkness, right? That’s our calling, not to stay with our own Christian friends, although many of them do because they suck as Christians. But if you’re a good Christian, you go and bring that good news. This is like everyone has cancer and you have the cure. Well, you’re supposed to go and give it to them if you really fucking love them. You fuck. Are you a fucking good Christian or not?
Anyway, I was a fucking good Christian. And then I realized, oh shit, that shit’s not even true anymore. Well, if that’s not true, then all we have is moral relativism. And if all we have is moral relativism, then anything goes. Even harming other people. Because after all, what was evolution? Killing. Survival of the fittest means you survive, and sometimes that means you got to take a stone to that attacker or you kill off the competitor so that you can plant your seed some more.
Now, there’s a theory, of course. How did we evolve altruism? How did we evolve morality? But if you read Nietzsche or if you’ve caught up on any of Jordan Peterson material, there’s a reason; there’s master and slave morality, right? There’s all these different ways of treating those who are beneath to keep them down, so they don’t foment rebellion and rise up against the elite. But the elite 1%, anything goes. As long as you don’t fuck things up and the poor people rise up against you, just don’t do that. But anything else goes.
“Hey, have 500 wives. Go for it. King Solomon had 700 concubines, 300 wives. You rock, dude. If you fucked a new girl every day, you wouldn’t finish for a whole two years. Where’s the equality there, Mr. Christian-Judaic? Well, you find out later, as you look into it from an evolutionary lens, everything there makes sense. Now, I see why King David had 700 wives or whatever. Yeah, baller. Anything goes. And then sometimes, not anything goes.
So, he sees Bathsheba bathing on her roof top and sends her husband off to the front lines to get killed so he can take her for his own. Who stopped him? Nobody. He can do that shit because he’s the king, because survival of the fittest and evolution. Except there’s this Prophet Nathan who comes and gives a great story and shames him. Why? Because actually, if a king becomes a tyrant, then everything falls apart. So, it is good to have checks and balances. So in other words, don’t fuck up the little people too bad, alright? Otherwise, just stay in your palace and everything’s good.
Just don’t go and steal people’s wives because then they’re going to be rebelling against us. That’s just a cynical view of the story of David and Bathsheba, but that’s evolution. Actually come to grips with that, because nobody can tell you or me anything about good or evil. When you say that’s evil, all you’re saying is you don’t like it. When you say, “That’s good.” All you’re saying is you like it or you prefer it.
And there’s a whole view on this, norm expressivism. That when you say X is good, what you’re saying is, “Yay, X!” That’s actually how they write it in the books. “Yay, exclamation mark.” When you say X is evil, you’re saying “Nay X. I don’t like it.” That’s all it is. It’s just a language, a way of expressing some preference. Now, then it gets co-opted so that we can control the masses. It’s good for them to think good and evil because then we don’t have to have so much police, and army, and whatever. Keep them under control, give them some ideology to live to. Especially now much in religious or especially in religious structures, when you get to the top, how much corruption there is. Because then you find out like what that ideology was really for at the bottom.
So ten years ago, I was like, “There’s no good or evil. There’s just preferences.” I don’t want to get in trouble with the law so I’m not gonna do anything illegal. I don’t go to jail or shit like that, and I don’t want to cause any unnecessary stress, right? But so, when you start living the life of a player, you can create lots of unnecessary drama and stress. So then, you start to like — you’re not stepping back from it just because it’s good or evil, if you’re smart, because there’s no such thing. It’s just like your preferences. So now, it’s more of an instrumental, like… “There’s just too much drama. I don’t like it, so I’m going to do this.” And it just happens to be what a good person or what they call a good person would do.
So, I lived this way for several years. I lived it so well that people paid me to show them how to live that life. And I challenge anyone to prove me wrong. Even I was a professional philosopher going up to other professional philosophers whose full-time job is to sit there and debate stuff like this. That’s all. Read and write, and then talk about it. That’s it. So, you might have a normal day job and do philosophy on the side. These guys did philosophy all day. And there’s actually been studies that showed philosophers are less moral in their behavior, just from little things like not returning library books.
Especially moral philosophers, they make allowances for themselves a lot more. Well, not a lot more, a little bit more. So, death of God, the death of God equals survival of the fittest. And I realized when I started out, I was not fit in the social sphere, so I went out and got it done. What happened? Well, after five or six years of living basically for myself, I developed feelings. Because after all, when you’re just a hedonist, the only feeling you have is yay or nay. Like, yay women, nay amoks. Yay, drinking and fun, nay hangovers. That’s your morality.
Then, I developed emotions that were deeper than just sexual desire, pleasure, sadness… I actually developed emotions of love, things like this. And the turning point for me was helping to raise my goddaughter at the time. She was like this big. She’s three months. That was completely different from any lifestyle I was having at the time. And that was my portal into exploring vulnerability, authenticity, and what really matters.
And I went through a phase of realizing the outcome of moral relativism. Even if moral relativism is true, it sucks. Alright, so some of you may not have experienced that, because for your ideal day… Or like if you were to die in a year, you’d still just party it up. During the break, I’ll show a clip from Wolf of Wall Street. It’s a great movie. It’s a very entertaining movie. And it starts with him snorting coke up a hooker’s ass. Great movie to watch with your parents. I had some friends who did, they watched with their parents.
And then it just goes even crazier from there like Quaaludes and all that shit. And then it ends with him in jail and the whole voiceover shit, Scorsese style. In Singapore, that movie immediately spawned a whole industry of how to be like Jordan Belfort. Even now. You can see Facebook ads for Jordan Belfort, The Wolf of Wall Street, ‘Learn how to be the Wolf of Wall Street.’ But it’s interesting because the whole movie, in America at least, was a satire on a true story. It’s a cautionary tale of what happens when you have excess.
But not in Singapore. It’s an example of how you can do if you have money. So, you know, that was like me when I was 30. I was like, “Shit, I’ve been trying to lead my version of Mother Teresa’s life for 30 fucking years as a missionary to the current universities.” Just so you know how hardcore a good Christian should be, your whole life, everything, the moment you wake up to the moment you pee to how you shit should be about glorifying God. I know that sounds weird, but you should think about that.
So, one of the things was, “How do you choose a career?” It’s not just because you’re good at it or you can make money out of it. That’s not Christian. How will this help the Christian Mission? So, I chose to specialize in Asian religions. I was good at it, and I enjoyed it, but also because it’s heathens. I’m going to bring the Christian Gospel to the Asian religions. I’m going to be the world’s best specialist in Buddhism, Confucianism, and Daoism. After 50 years of this illustrious career, I will then turn around and say, “Oh, by the way, I’m Christian and I think Christianity is far superior to all of these other religious. I know because I’ve been studying them for 40 fucking years.”
So, I got funding from Christian foundations to do this mission of an undercover Christian apologist. Hopefully, you know what apologist means. So, that went out the window. My whole purpose in life went out the window, and then I embraced hedonism, because after all, survival of the fittest, and get what you can because we’re all going to die anyway. So, enjoy it while you can. There’s no good or evil. And a lot of it was just catching up.
But what happens after four or five years of that and trying to live my version of excess, like Wolf of Wall Street, is… “Well, what’s the point? There’s still no point. There’s no goodness. It’s just what you can do to get ahead.” And so many people can’t do that. So, they’re still at the animal level of just trying to get ahead. They didn’t win that game.
Okay, so a lot of the world isn’t able to understand what I am saying. I try to add the word fuck in there a lot just to keep your attention, but for all I know people watching this have no idea that this is not relatable to them, and I don’t fucking care. I wanted to tell this, the truth. This is what happened — actually happened to me, and maybe you can’t. So, hurry up and get there. And that might mean just date a lot more. Fuck more girls. Do more alcohol. I don’t know, do more drugs, whatever it is that you think is the promised land.
Make more money. That’s a big, big one for all you. Make more money and realize that it will give you nothing beyond — you get to a certain point, so you can afford food and shelter. Get there, and then you can ask some deeper questions. Or maybe you’ll never get it because even at Tony Robbins events, I think 90% of those people don’t get it. I think Tony’s partly to blame because he needs to sell you the next course. And it’s that you got to be all you can be. There’s always just another achievement, more significance, creating more wealth, creating more accomplishments. Somehow, that’s supposed to make you feel better.
And all of the psychological research shows that all of that’s temporary. All right. So, anyway, I went and tried to do all of that. Make more money. I made enough money that I didn’t have to worry about it for — for that time, for my needs, which were basically clubbing. So, I had enough money to buy some cool clothes, go clubbing, track the women I want, and the friends I wanted, and just live that life for four or five years and even coached other guys to do it.
Eventually, it became quite meaningless and empty. What’s the point? What’s next? And I just tried to push it further. Well, yeah, I’m kind of bored. So, maybe if I have more women then I won’t be. Oh, man. I can’t even fit them in my schedule now, maybe I need more alcohol. Maybe I need to be out of control a bit more because everything’s too easy now. So, drink a bit more, make it harder. Well, no, that’s boring too, and it actually really sucks to be hungover. What’s the point of life?
You actually have no point of life unless you create it because you’re not a Christian or you’re not a religious person so you have no objective basis for good or evil. It’s just your preferences, right? So, everyone in the world, if they stop to think about it, if they turn their brains on and did a little thinking, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t just take from your neighbor.
Like, no philosophical reason, except for the cops will get you. Well, let’s just go to a place like the Wild Wild West in the 1800s in America when the nearest cop was like a day’s ride away on the horse or whatever. Why should you or why shouldn’t you? Why should you act what’s called morale? There’s no church. There’s no God.
There are reasons. You could do it. There’s lots of different positions, but they all fall back to the fact that — there are a few. We can discuss it in the break but none of them have much practical implication, right? That one I liked for years was that good was a property in the natural universe. Like, color is a secondary property. That’s real. Good is like one of those things. Or good could be like shape, like there’s a physical, primary quality, Cartesian primary quality, and goodness is like that. There’s real goodness there.
You want to make the claim that goodness is somewhere in the universe. Well, where is it? In fact, this is a view that neo-Confucians and Chinese philosophers for thousands of years believed. They believed that good and evil, good and bad, existed in the universe like real, physical things. Let’s say there’s a goodness, there’s a thing to do like a principle, moral principle in this situation. You’re arguing with your mom. There’s actually a real good and a real bad outcome.
And you’re looking at it, and it’s somewhere in that interaction of the physical particles. There’s also this floating good principle. Yeah, okay, whatever, right? So, what’s the practicality of that? How do you get to the good? So, you might just say there is objective good. Okay, maybe there is. What is it? Now, any attempt to say what it is can be turned into, “That’s just your point of view. That’s just your preference.” And it turns out to be yay or nay.
So, I’m going to fast forward to my solution. So, I went through a cathartic experience over about a year and a half starting with me having to babysit this three-month-old kid, and eventually morphing into my motorcycle trip through Vietnam thinking I could just end my life. I thought about it a few times in my life, ending it, and one way to go out which would be great — because my life was so empty and meaningless at that point — would just be the ride off into the sunset. Like, the sun was setting over these limestone karst. It was gorgeous. We’re carving through the mountains.
I knew beyond this day, it’s just going to be muddy. I wasn’t looking forward to the mud day the next day. I wasn’t looking forward to just — I didn’t actually know what was coming next, but I thought it would just be like rocky roads. I didn’t know that we’re going to be riding through rice fields. It was gorgeous too, but I didn’t know that. So, I thought, this is the height of this trip and it’s a great way to go out. I will literally just take this motorcycle and go poof off into the sunset. And I’ll, you know, probably not feel anything, it’s just out.
And the only thing that kept me carving those roads was that I wanted to see this goddaughter grow up, this little girl. I wanted to see what would happen. I wanted to make sure she was all right. And I was like that’s pussy, that’s so beta. You know, back home. When I got home and showered, I was like, “Wow, is this what it’s like to grow up? Am I maturing?” This is before Wolf of Wall Street came out, but one way to put it is like, “Am I no longer the Jordan Belfort here? Can I actually see beyond myself?”
Anyway, that was just the beginning and I wasn’t even very far. It was just like encountering my inner child and so on. But that began the whole thing. And now, I think that there is a way to ground ethics in case you’re interested, but it’s just a working theory, but it’s enough to keep me from killing myself. It is a metaethical relativist position, which I think is pretty much the only way to go. But it’s grounded in human biological characteristics, and I’ll give you a quick example of it that we have evolved alliance strategies.
This is still grounded in evolution, but I like people who are honest. And honesty is like one of those virtues that you see a lot in the list of various virtues around the world in history, so honesty seems like a good thing. But if you were a pure relativist, it’s just like honesty is something you like. It’s not necessarily good. I can assent to that but I also think we can also call it good because we’ve evolved it. We’ve evolved a preference for honesty. We’ve evolved a preference for integrity.
And this makes sense from evolution from an evolutionary perspective, because if you’re not honest or if I think you don’t have integrity, I have to do a lot more mental work to deal with you. I’ve got to make sure that you’re not going to fuck me over behind my back. I got to make sure you’re not going to steal my wife, or steal my business, or whatever. And even if you can help me out a lot, it’s just so much extra stress that I’d rather not work with you.
And that’s just a pure preference. That’s just a subjective thing. You might like working with psychopaths. I just don’t because I can’t sleep. I have to keep one eye open because they might just go psycho on me and stab me while I’m sleeping, right? That’s not fun. So, we human beings have evolved a preference for what we now call, or what many people around the world call, good. It’s nice to have that in alliances.
You can relax. You can trust somebody. And when you start to see that somebody lacks integrity, you should stay away from them. This is a purely evolved preference. And this is why a lot of guys from the States they like to protect their homestead, and that’s one of the reasons why they have the gun thing. They want to just keep their home safe because they don’t trust anyone else, because they haven’t figured out that the morality is there so that you don’t have to walk around with guns all the time, so that you can fill your society with people that you can trust and you can relax.
In fact, all of civilized society requires this. If you thought anybody could just come up and stab you and take your money, that’s a pretty insecure life. But we can now walk around thinking, “It’s going to be okay because we have this trust.” But then again, a lot of it has to do with the police, and laws, and punishments. And the more laws and punishments, the more we have to rely of law and punishment to maintain social order, the worse that society will be. So, morality is actually just a way of smoothing or making our lives less stressful and smoothing things out socially.
And even more importantly, this is what I discovered later, is that it has psychological benefits. So in other words, I like life more when I can relax, when I don’t have to check to see whether I can trust you. So, when I’ve decided you’re a good person because you show compassion, you displayed empathy, you helped the kitten across the road, you have a good heart, these are all traits that show me I can relax around you and we can be friends. I don’t have to sleep with one eye open with you, and that has morphed into thousands and hundreds of thousands of years down the road into morality.
And it feels good. I’m happier as a result. And you should test it because that’s what I did. I’ll show you the research that proves it. That if you’re a good person, you will be happier. Now, many people realize that goodness involves sacrifice. Because otherwise, you should just go and leave your hedonistic life and stay away from me. Because if you literally just wanted to do more babes, more drugs, more fun, more accrual to you, more accomplishments, then I can’t trust you. And a lot of people haven’t developed that because they haven’t lived enough life and haven’t been screwed over enough times to realize that.
But I have to sleep with one eye open with you. That’s why we’re always checking these legal contracts when you enter a partnership. There’s always that, “Is this guy going to fuck me over later?” This is good. This is an evolved strategy. This is a good thing. But the more you can relax and just trust a handshake, the better your life will be, the happier you will be. Alright. So, just purely for the psychological benefits, you should be a good person. Because this research shows that it will bring all of these psychological benefits. Now, why were you — or I, why was I pursuing pleasure in the first place?
Pursuing babes and whatever, you know, clubbing, women, ego, gratification, all of that. It feels good. Actually, I’m appealing to that. So, if you are an immature hedonist like I was when I started out, and I got really good at it, and many people don’t get good at it, and that’s why they’re in sorry states, and they worship The Wolf of Wall Street looking at it like it’s a morality tale… Like, “No. It’s an example of how their lives could be if they just worked harder” instead of seeing it for what it’s originally intended to be.
I can even appeal to them with the same argument that you’re actually looking for good emotions. You can get them better by being a good person. And maybe that will save you years of heartache, but maybe it won’t. I don’t know, because I didn’t do it that way. I had to go the hard route the long route for years just pursuing self-interest, and finding how empty and meaningless that was. And you come out of that, and they haven’t really made any real friends.
You ever made club friends? Like, they’re always there because they’re happy? When you come to the club, they’re like, “Yeah, David!” And they just pour vodka in your mouth, cheers, shots, everyone loves you. Yeah, because you bring girls to the table, or yeah, because you make them look cool or whatever. But then do you ever sit with them at lunch or have tea on a Wednesday and you have nothing to talk about? Because you find out they really don’t care about you. They don’t actually care about anyone unless it makes them feel good.
And maybe in that moment it doesn’t feel good, and you realize, “Shit, if I were to die, no one would really care that much.” That’s sad. And in fact, this has happened. I’ve lived long enough. This sort of excess started about 13 years ago that some of my clubbing friends have died. And you know how Facebook keeps their profile? You go to it now and it has little notice that this is a deceased — it sounds a lot better than deceased person, but a legacy profile or something like that.
Anyway, you can still post nice things on their walls and memorial type of stuff. And sometimes, I’m shocked, because like it comes up on my feed, and I click over it, and I didn’t realize the person died. It’s really sad, but I guess that’s how long we’ve lived. It seems like their immediate family is very, very sad, but the hundreds of clubbing friends they have — because they have thousands of friends on Facebook — didn’t even notice.
It’s a sad life, leading the life for yourself, living for yourself. It doesn’t even make you happy. But that’s what you were hoping for the whole time. We pursued those things because we thought they would make us happier. They make us feel better. But moving into it, like there’s one person that I would like to see grow up and that kept me in the world. And that was my portal through discovering the virtues again, and discovering pretty much everything that I learned up till I was 30 and specializing in, moral philosophy, theology, coming around full circle to that, but from a self-interested kind of hedonistic perspective, that it actually makes you feel good.
So, that was a longer explanation for why I discovered this. And one thing that I forgot to put in my bullet points is: the world, because of the gagging of God from postmodernism… So, if you don’t know about post-modernism you can read Derrida, Foucault, Richard Rorty, the godfathers of post-modernism, and you can also read or watch Jordan Peterson’s attacks on neo-Marxist post-modernism. And post-modernism is responsible for the popularization of moral relativism, that there is no good or evil, it’s just what you feel, what you prefer. That’s it.
Eventually now, after decades of that, you have kids in the universities who don’t care about truth. Because after all, there’s no such thing as truth, capital T truth or real truth, and they even will debate whether there’s objective truth about mathematics. So, it’s coming to STEM field, which is bizarre, right? “Yeah, in your opinion, there are nuclear bombs, but not my opinion.” Flat earth, yeah, it’s just a conspiracy. Everything’s a conspiracy. So, it’s all coming even to the hard sciences.
Nowadays, we could claim STEM but before that, you can see this on YouTube, students who believe that their feelings give them a right to take away your right to express yourself because they don’t like it. And that’s actually true. That’s moral relativism, yay or nay. So, there’s a horrible video of these students surrounding Nicholas Christakis, the professor at Yale in sociology, who wrote Connected. Everyone should read Connected or at least have it on their shelves and he’s published many other great books. They surrounded him because of the Halloween costume controversy where Yale said, “Please don’t wear offensive costumes, cultural appropriation type costumes.”
So, don’t dress up as Pocahontas and don’t wear Rastafarian outfits. And then the Dean of that residential college wrote an email just to the people in the residential college saying, “We trust that you’re adults and you’ll make your own decisions.” Because of that, he was surrounded by basically a riot all day of students who were in his face crying. And he’s saying, “We’re going to have a discussion here.” And they’re like, “That’s not how it works because you hurt me! I can’t deal with these feelings.”
And that’s what happens when there’s moral relativism. Whoever shouts loudest wins, and it’s the outrage culture. That part should be obvious now as a result of diving into moral relativism. I think I’m preaching to the choir here for that. Moral relativism is morality is relative, and then it’s survival of the fittest; whoever is stronger wins. Whoever is stronger gets to impose their morality on others because there’s no… You can’t appeal to anything objective. There’s nothing outside of yourselves. It’s like, “I like that. I don’t like that.”
And whoever can impose their will on the other person wins. Well, that’s an awful way to live. And if you don’t like that, it’s a result of moral relativism. So, you better confront it because that’s the outcome of it. I have a lot of people who would say pick up is evil; manipulating women or lying to them is evil. Says who? What’s the argument for that? You just don’t like it. But you have no claim to it because you have no God. You have no objective standard by which to measure good or evil. You just don’t like it.
That’s fine. I don’t like you. So who the fuck are you to tell me whether it’s one way or the other? That’s moral relativism. And now, we get to the dark triad. The dark triad of narcissism, psychopathy, and Machiavellianism produces a lot of the outcomes that hedonists want: more sexual partners, more conventional power, more money. They’re more aggressive. They get ahead farther. And a lot of dudes that I’m happy I didn’t get too close to but are in the pickup world… I will assent, this is a personal preference, but these people online who say it’s evil or wrong, I ask you to defend your fucking cell if you don’t have a God. It’s just your fucking preference and you don’t like it, but that’s because you’re a nerd, or you’re socially awkward, or you just don’t like these guys. It’s just a preference.
All you’re saying is, “I don’t like it.” And we might not like the dark triad, but it turns out, a lot of guys do because it looks like, “If I can be like the dark triad, I can get what I want better or faster.” I didn’t learn about the dark triad just a few years well about five years ago, but it turns out… So, while I was training to be a good player, I was basically becoming these three things. Psychopathy maybe a little less but it was more of like, it’s easy to just turn off your feelings. That’s why I said I started to feel. Because to be a good player, you shouldn’t feel anything. You just execute, and the only thing you feel is sexual pleasure.
You’re sort of like an animal but don’t grow a conscience. That’s horrible. You ghost a girl. Ice cold, right? If she does something stupid, you punish bad behavior. That’s psychopathy. That’s actually part of psychopathy, callousness. And the Machiavellianism, obviously the entirety of pick up. If she says this, say this. And not just pick up, but any kind of dating strategies like in Cosmopolitan Magazine and stuff women do. It’s a version of Machiavellianism. It’s game-playing. So, I got really good at being Machiavellian, got good at game-playing.
All those Robert Greene books, The 48 Laws of Power, that’s all Machiavellianism. So, I got good at that stuff. And then of course, it was all about me, because that’s all that mattered, because there was no more morality, because God does not exist. If God is dead, there is no good or evil. It’s just your preferences. That actually happened. And when Nietzsche proclaimed God is dead, that was part of why he feared that. He wasn’t saying, “Yay, God is dead.” He’s saying, “Fuck us, God is dead. We are fucked.”
Because if Hitler won, Hitler gets to say what’s good and evil. Hitler gets to say “Jews are evil, kill them.” Okay, he gets to say it because survival of the fucking fittest. Who are we to say no? I mean, obviously, if you’re a Jewish person and you say no, that’s just because you’re biased. You’re going to die. That’s why you’d say that’s evil, just like the ants would object when we crush it. This sounds horrible, and I feel it now because I have regrown my conscience. I’ve paid more attention to it instead of being callous to it as a player, but that’s part of it. Narcissism is the outcome of moral relativism.
Unless you think — I’ve already presented a more sophisticated version of moral relativism where there is morality. It is based on how we evolved. So, the alliance strategies and the psychological benefits that result. But if you don’t realize the psychological benefits, and you are an evil motherfucker — because I don’t believe God exists, and I don’t believe there’s any objective morality because of that. There’s nothing I can point to that’s outside human beings that I can say, “That is good.” or “That is the source of goodness or evil.” Because there is no such thing.
I can only state accurately that I do not prefer you. I do not prefer your behavior. I do not like it, but that’s it. And if you’re very powerful, I will definitely not challenge your claim to exist to continue to fuck people over. But you know, I don’t want anything to do with you. That’s a personal preference. But then there are actual real downsides to being in the dark triad, and that’s what I was presenting to you. Why would I be suicidal? I had all of that Wolf of Wall Street stuff, my version of it, obviously. I didn’t have any yachts or anything like that.
Well, the science has shown it’s hard to see in this light. Like I’ll read it out. “The science has shown that the dark triad outcomes include aggression and violence.” So, if you have the dark triad that also correlates to these things, aggression and violence. And you might be really good at violence. But like, having to pick a fight every day is stressful, right? And you might lose some, so it’s not a great way to live.
Low empathy. Again, if you’re a good dark triad, you don’t feel much. You don’t feel loved, because that would require vulnerability, that would require uncertainty. That would require being comfortable with uncertainty and not knowing whether it will come back. Love means opening up, right? That’s a pretty deep emotion, but there are smaller ones like compassion, even realizing kindness. Because kindness is being good to somebody or treating somebody well when you don’t get anything out of it.
And you’ll think everyone gets something out of being good. Like, that’s the only reason you’d be good. You wouldn’t do random, like the random acts of kindness, there’s no term for that in Chinese. That comes from this Machiavellian thought like, why would you need a separate term for that, random acts of kindness? It’s just being a good person. This is why service standards in Taiwan and Thailand are so much better. You go to a Western Country and you’re like, “What? The attitude on this motherfucker.”
And they’re only nice when they know there’s a tip coming. I notice that that’s different in Australia. I was very pleasantly surprised by that. They don’t expect a tip and they were really nice, but that’s part of the thing. Again, if you have these traits, you’re not going to trust other people because they will assume that they’re like you. And that’s what you see. Red pillers are projecting their own evil or their own dark dispositions onto the women that they interact with.
There’s also strong motives for self-enhancement. By the way, this is the part of the Tony Robbins thing that I don’t like, the 10% or less of his content that’s trying to get you obsessed with improving yourself. We can talk about that later.
Obsessed with self-enhancement, power, money, hedonism, and short-term instrumental sex. So, I think that’s what a lot of nerdy people who can’t get that judge us for, judge me for, my old self. “Oh, he gave into short-term instrumental sex.” I looked at that guy like… “You didn’t even get the opportunity to give in, you fucking nerd. Who would want to fuck you except that other nerd bitch you’re with? And they’re both judgmental, and neither of them are Christian or any religion. Where the fuck they get off? They just don’t like me. I don’t like them, fair game. Step off or we’ll fight.” Eventually, that’s what it is, right?
If there’s no morality, the most powerful person wins. “I don’t like you. You don’t like me? Come. Bang, let’s go. And then I take you down, I kill your wife, get the fuck out of here. You’re done.” Right? Hitler had every right to do what he did. And that’s, in fact, what America is doing: Invading countries. Why? Because they’re powerful and they can. Imagine Iraq says, “We had nothing to do with this 9/11 thing.”
Who cares? There’s no morality. I’m not saying either of them are right or wrong because there is no right or — Well, there’s no good or evil. There’s right or wrong because right or wrong has to do with other things, with rules, and laws, and things like this. There’s no good or evil, it’s just what you can get away with. And too bad, Iraq was too weak so America gets to rewrite history. And maybe I like it. Maybe I like America, so I’m on America’s side. But I’m under no illusions that, because there’s no God, that there’s some good or evil there. I just don’t like it. But now I have a new story.
Because life is more stressful when you’re evil. That’s actually the reason I can’t sleep soundly if I know you’re evil. That’s all. I don’t like evil people, block them up because we can’t trust them. They can just suddenly go crazy and kill my kids. So, I can’t be at McDonald’s with a psychopath. That’s all. We can talk about your own pet theory. This is just my pet theory. And if ask me in a year, I might have a totally new theory. Because who cares? Like really, who cares? It’s just about, what’s your life like now? And if you don’t want to have… Well, and the last one I wrote is… Oh, I haven’t finished reading these out.
If you don’t want to have a stressful life or a life of devoid of emotions like love, and hope, and faith, and grace, and joy, and true happiness — not just pleasure which is a low-level type of happiness, then you should be good. I’m giving you an instrumental reason to be good. And maybe this will turn you into a good character because it might be that you’re just being good because of what it gets you, so you’re not really good yet, but you’re just going through the motions of being good, but the theory is, as all of Confucianism says, ritual li. Li matters.
I’ve covered this in Bangkok the last two summits ago, right? If you go through the motions of being good long enough, it will actually shape your mind and it’ll create a character. And then you will actually… Maybe you will actually be good naturally. So, it just comes naturally to you to be kind, and you don’t have to do random acts of kindness. All of your acts of kindness are random.
Coercive behaviors in the workplace also correlate with dark triad. High levels of infidelity, active prowling, game-playing, practical utility, avoidant attachment styles — don’t want to get too close to anyone, preference for one-night stands and friends with benefits all documented in the research literature; as well as of course immature psychological defense mechanisms such as isolation, stone walling, things like this because they’re in denial of their emotions or they don’t feel anything.
So, this sucks. Normally, I would just take a break here and leave you all depressed and stuff, but let’s prime you with some positive things. Over the past four decades, psychologists have moved away from just studying disorders, and trying to be like medical doctors in that way, and trying to actually do something positive. So, positive psychology, grew up from that, and we’re still getting the benefits of that. So, there’s mindfulness teachers, and Google, and so on, right?
What are some desirable positive measures that dark triad types don’t get to experience? Life satisfaction… All of these are negatively correlated with the dark triad: life satisfaction, personal growth, altruism, some character traits, gratitude, forgiveness, intellectual humility, and what scientists call a quiet ego. A quiet ego is something that many Singaporeans need. I’m just picking out Singapore because I know that area so well. A quiet ego is where you stop thinking about yourself. So even if you do well, you don’t go, “Yeah, I did really well.”
You take pleasure in the job, not pleasure in the fact that you did a good job. You see there’s a difference, right? Quiet ego. There’s a lot more to be said about quite ego. Hope. Mark Manson just wrote a book on hope. It’s really good, actually. Courage, mindfulness, positive connection, positive romantic relationships. So, if you’re a dark triad, you’ll have very unstable romantic relationships. Grit, self-efficacy, healthy self-esteem, meaning, engagement and flow, awe, self-transcendence and spirituality, morality… That lumps together a whole bunch of things. Character strengths, again, that’s a broader category. Mature coping styles, vulnerability or authenticity.
I’m just going to try to get through all this so if you need to go and grab any snacks please do so because we’re not going to take a break. We’re going to go right into lunch around 12:30 so got about half an hour left and then I want to be able to discuss this. So the light triad that’s what you just did. You did the light triad scale. You’re welcome, Scott Barry Kaufman. How did you all do that one? Did anyone have negative scores like a minus percentage?
I’ll show you how they plotted the average here on the score. You might just do the test again to get the result and they’ll just give you a number. You’d say you’re tilted to the light or tilted to the dark. Okay, so there’s some people who are tilted to the dark, as you can see on this plotted scale of 1,516 people. So, this was the distribution when they stopped the servers. What it turns out is, most of the people who filled it out… These are all self-reports, by the way. Even the dark triad scales are self reports. So, it’s like assuming they know themselves and are being honest. But assuming you know yourself well and are being honest, and everyone else was too, it turns out most people are good. They’re trustworthy. Like, you could relax around them, and that’s really positive. So, part of the light triad, what it was testing for, is a constellation of these three character traits.
Kantianism, where we treat people as ends in themselves and not mere means, this is one of Kant’s dictums. Humanism, valuing in the dignity and worth of each individual, and then thirdly, faith in humanity, believing in the fundamental goodness of human beings. Okay, so, these aren’t an inverse relation to the dark triad, by the way. They’re lightly, negatively correlated, but it’s not the exact opposite. So, they wanted to be clear, the research that they presented is that the light triad is not just the opposite of the dark triad. They’re not just opposites.
Scott Barry Kaufman. Here’s a quote that sums it up, “The person who isn’t constantly strategic about their giving but who emits unconditional love naturally and spontaneously because that’s just who they are.” This is like what Tony Robbins says. You love when that’s just who you are, and this is unconditional love. That’s how to actually realize it in your life.
And it’s interesting that we’re coming off the back of Date with Destiny, about more than half of us. And a big part of that event is realizing that experiencing love is what makes life worth living. Like, these other emotions that have nothing to do with money, or power, or sex. Well, actually love is a little bit related sex bit you know it’s separate. So, these other emotions that you want. Now, if you did your power emotions exercise and you came up with power. “I am domination. I am power. I am manipulation.” And you really feel good when you say those, like, “Manipulation, yes! Narcissism, yeah! Callousness! Winning, winning, I am winning!”
That could happen. The exercise is calling out from your unconscious mind, your subconscious, what you value. But it turns out that most of the people who go to a Date with Destiny Event value kinder things like love, and joy, and happiness, and grace, and things like this. For some dudes, it’s power-related. Like, I am strength. I am courage. Those are also depending on what strength means. Those are also virtues.
But it might be like, “I am domination.” That’s a little scary. Part of the event was to lead you into the real experience, that being good feels good. Loving feels good. That’s why you love. Being loved feels good too. We all, hopefully, at some point in our lives have felt that from a parent or somebody, maybe even just a dog. But you can’t control whether somebody loves you. So, a big part of that event is experiencing it yourself.
And what’s it required for you to love, like truly love? Because that’s just who you are. You give it unconditionally. Even if this person were to fuck you over, you’d still be like, “Fuck, he fucked me over.” And it hurts your heart, and you still love them, and you just realized they’re too immature, or they’re too whatever. Tony Robbins says the innocence story. That person’s innocent because of their shit that’s going on in their lives, but you can still direct love towards them, but keep your safe distance. Because you want to survive and they’re coming at you with a fucking knife.
If your parents suddenly gets Alzheimer’s and gets kind of like psycho, crazy, get scared, psychotic or something, taking a knife at you and you’re like, “Shoot, mom. Stay away.” And then you’re like, you know, but you still love her. This would have been hard for me 10 years ago to actually enter into, like, I can see how that could be the case. But now, it can be, right? Imagine your child grows up to be a cold-hearted murderer and hate your guts, and you can still love them even though you’ve got to lock them up in juvie. And there’s actual really good outcomes for it.
The light triad thing, I’m presenting this just for your consideration. This is brand new research, the first studies on light triad were March of this year. Okay, so this is brand-new. There’s only been like two articles on this, but it’s really cool. I think it’s really great for us to study what it’s like to be a saint, because all we do is study the psychos. So, this is one theory. I actually disagree with the faith in humanity thing as being part of goodness.
So, the dark versus the light… in this case, the dark triad is correlated with all of these, the light triad, which is not just the opposite of the dark triad. That was the point I was trying to make there. The light triad is correlated with the inverse of all of these. So, the dark triad is these, the light triad is not these. So, greater childhood unpredictability, aggression, utilitarian moral judgments, selfishness, power, money, conspicuous consumption in socio sexuality, that means promiscuity, like, you’re a slut and you have lots of sexual partners and you don’t care about any of them in particular.
And immature defense styles like stonewalling, isolation, and so on. The light triad is correlated with all of these, and the dark triad is negatively correlated with all of these. So again, the light triad is not just the opposite of the dark triad. So, that’s why this is interesting. So, they’re not just polar opposites. You can have some dark triad in some light triad in you. But the more light triad you have, the more likely you will experience these. The more dark triad you have in you as part of your personality, the less likely you will experience these.
What are these? Life satisfaction, relationship satisfaction, conscientiousness, agreeableness, self-transcendent values like thinking beyond yourself, and giving, contribution. Love, kindness, compassion and empathy, curiosity, perspective, and zest for life, forgiveness and gratitude, teamwork, quiet ego, the belief that humans are good, the belief that one’s own self is good, and a secure attachment style, and intimacy and self-transcendence values.
So then, my thesis is that goodness leads to happiness. I thought this was a good image so I put it there, but you can tame the elephant you can tame the elephant. So this is the imagery from Jonathan Haidt’s rider and elephants analogy, but by being good, that’s the idea. Goodness equals happiness, and happiness makes you more good. So, let’s look at the three corners of the triangle briefly. Kantianism, probably one of the most influential Western philosophers in history.
Immanuel Kant is probably the most pivotal figure in the enlightenment philosophy. Anyway, here’s a quote from Immanuel Kant, “Always recognize that human individuals are ends, and do not use them as means to your end.” One of the reasons why I pick up artists creep people out so much is because they treat women as a means to an end, as a means to self-gratification like pleasure, sex, and so on, or ego gratification, like validation, making themselves feel good.
They care about the women in so far as it gets them that end. But if the women didn’t give them sex, or ego gratification, didn’t make them feel good when they got her attention, they didn’t exist. How do you know this? Most dudes don’t notice ugly chicks in the club. Women are the same way. They don’t notice the ugly dudes. They’re just invisible to them. And you’re constantly just scanning like, “Oh, a hot girl.” And then everyone just sort of disappears. This is because you’re not a Kantian.
You probably aren’t that bad in the sense of like, if a fat girl walked up to you and started talking to you, you wouldn’t be like super mean or anything. But you’d be like, like most dudes, be like, “Yeah just being polite enough to get the fuck out.” Right? Because if you know anything about game, you know, you don’t want to be seen with the ugly people because that’ll just give you negative social proof, and you might get negative lumping, so they think you’re uglier because you’re with uglier people.
So, if you’re a Machiavellian and you know the game, you don’t value people as ends in themselves. You value them as means, and that’s partly why we think that’s creepy. When you feel like that’s creepy, or when somebody approaches you and starts talking to you, and you just get this — what you know in pop culture is called creepy, you feel like they’re creepy, it’s because you feel like they’re just using you for something, and they’re not actually interested in you as a person, you on your own.
So, those who value other individuals as an end and not a mean, they’re actually interested in you, not what you can give them or what they can get out of you, then that’s good, isn’t it? That’s part of the light triad. So, you just got tested on that in that survey you just did. How much are you like this? So, the more you’re like this, the more I would want to be around you. Because even if I was a hawk and you’re a dove, this is nice. Like, I can relax as a hawk. Maybe I’ll eat you today, but maybe I won’t. But you’re not a hawk, so I don’t have to watch you, you know? So, I want to surround myself with doves. They’re nice. But ideally, like, my alliances will be with doves who can turn into hawks, and that’s actually the best game strategy: tit for two tats. I think we talked about that.
So, fuck me over once, that’s on me, but I’m not going to let you get away with it again. They’ve run this simulation for that. Okay, so the second part of the triangle is humanism: valuing the dignity and worth of each individual. And to me, all of that debate was around human rights, but it’s not obviously just around human rights. The United Nations has proclaimed this Universal Declaration of Human Rights. And in the 80s and 90s, this was an object of much debate among scholars of Chinese philosophy. You can see all of these books published, all of these conferences in the 80s and 90s whether it makes sense that China doesn’t sign this or that they abstain from supporting it.
And even now, they’ll say, “Don’t impose your Western values on China. We will detain whoever the fuck we want and throw them in the jail because that’s what we believe is right? Now, the Westerners in the 80s and 90s who didn’t yet succumb to postmodern relativism said, “We believe this, and if you don’t believe it, you’re wrong. You’re evil.” And I actually think that this is a really, really good thing. I like a world where they value my dignity and worth just because I’m a human being. I really like that, and I would really like to… and I agree to value the dignity and worth of others. I can do that. I’ll sign it. I can do that. It’s nice to live in a society like that. But again, if you don’t believe in God, it’s just nice. You just like it.
A lot of ancient philosophy also subscribed to something like this, but it’s not clear. They didn’t state it clearly. So, slaves in ancient Greece were not considered human, fully human. So, you can treat them like property, like cattle. They’re just like really advanced animals, and slavery in the 1800s in America… They’re Christians, right? But they treated slaves really disgustingly, partly because they had not yet accorded the rights of the individual to black slaves, so they weren’t seen as fully human either.
Tony Robbins. one of his points that he made at Date with Destiny recently is that if you stay in your head, you’ll never solve it. You won’t be able to solve these deeper problems. And that’s what we’ve been doing. That was my point earlier, right? I guess I also didn’t make it as clear. So, I stayed in my head. The death of God is in the head. In my heart, I still wanted to believe in something like good and evil, but my head said, “You stupid fuck. You naive idiot. There is no God, and we just all evolved over millions of years.”
That’s why you shouldn’t sacrifice yourself for some Amazon tribe. They don’t give a fuck about you. And you know, a lot of you are sacrificed for the greater good. So, I grew up as a Christian, and even… It took me a while to throw that off. It took me years. So, I’m sitting in moral philosophy class in university as a graduate student, and there’s the example of how to figure out trade-offs. Would you give an arm to save somebody’s life? So, we have the trolley example and the example of, “Would you kill five people?” You have to divert the trolley. Would you save this person, one fat person lying on the tracks, or say, five people, in the train car?
You have to make a choice. How do you choose? And one time, the professor asked, “Would you give your arm to save somebody’s life?” And it was a rhetorical question it turned out, but I was like, yeah. Maybe he was in dialogue with me in front of the class, but I came out saying, “Yeah, I would. That’s what we should do, right?” And then everyone else in this class of 30 kids, 30 students, laughed because it just seemed so preposterous to them as Americans that they would do that, but I was raised as a Christian. That’s what you’re supposed to do. That’s what the Good Samaritan did in the parable; he’s supposed to do that.
Now, it’s hard to do that. Yeah, of course, it’s fucking hard. It’s hard to get into heaven. It’s hard to do what’s good. That’s why we have the sinful nature. The average atheist says if it’s hard then you shouldn’t ask people to do it. And even some Christian philosophers would say that. Well then, what’s the fucking point? If it’s easy for you to be good, then what merit is there? And it’s just you being you, so are you any better? And actually, it goes a lot deeper, right? If it’s not hard for you, if it takes no effort for you to be good, then maybe you’re not actually good. I tend to agree with that.
But anyway, how do you get it out of your head? Because if you stay in your head, all you do is philosophy, philosophy doesn’t get you any fucking where. I just told you too, like moral philosophers are probably less moral than the average unthinking person, because now they’ve done all the thinking and that feels makes them feel superior. They feel like they can get away with it because, “Well, you know, I’m going to keep this moral philosophy book one week longer from the library, even though it’s overdue. Because well, I’m going to do more with it.” Or something like that. But to solve these issues, you go to your heart, you go to your feelings. That’s why I was saying five or six years into this… It wasn’t until I developed feelings. Before that, it was just… Well, that’s the wrong word. I developed these emotions of love.
Before that, it was just me, how my dick felt, how my mouth felt, how my body felt, the self-aggrandizement; how my accomplishments were viewed or whatever. But it’s really when you get to your heart that you develop the fact that there are psychological benefits to being good, to loving people.
Audience: I have trouble with the heart concept and I mean I get it because there’s some internal state where I’d like to care about other people, I do. There are things which I appreciate and relate to so I have emotions and they do guide me but my mind wants to rationalize and dominate that reason and it is very hard for me to justify the part without having analytical reason around. Now in your case I think you put in [INAUDIBLE] so it’s really hard to understand this heart piece. It’s very confusing.
Dr. David Tien: So, you started with that, but then you also said you need to have an analytical reason to trust your heart or to even go to take that step. And I fully agree. That’s why it took me so long to get there, because — well, I’m actually appealing to your head for all of this. I’m telling you that the ramifications of a moral relativist position, of any position where it’s not based on an objective morality, is going to just be chaos. I mean, it’s going to be chaos because it’s just what you feel, your subjective preferences.
I’ve come up with a story of why we’ve evolved goodness, this idea of goodness. We call that the kind of shit that we would like our friends and partners to have. Because when we have partners like that, we can relax, and enjoy life, and not always keep score, or check our backs or whatever. We’ve also probably evolved the psychological benefits as a result. So, imagine a community or a tribe of mostly dark triad people. They probably tore themselves to shreds, or they were such warlike people that they had a lot of cortisol in their system and they were constantly going from one tribe to the next just killing a whole tribe. They’re just warlike people.
That would be a high-stress environment. Especially, it’s not just war right, because war can be quite honorable. We’re adding in psychopathy and Machiavellianism. They’re not just narcissists. But that would be a shitty community. So, we’ve evolved that it’s good to be in a good tribe, a tribe of light triad people. It feels good and we live longer as a result, and then the universe rewards us for it by letting us have more babies, and those babies have more babies. And meanwhile, the dark triad people are still tearing each other to shreds, and then they realize they can’t have a community all of dark triads because it’s not going to last very long and it’s no fun.
So then, they start to spread out, and then you have these odd mutants. So, you have dark triad mutants. They’re just like parasites. They show up among healthy selves and they just start eating one at a time, right? So you get like a Jack the Ripper, these random serial rapists and stuff like that, dark triad. That’s a good strategy for them because they’re in a society of doves. So, if you’re in a society that’s operating around the light triad, it’s very advantageous for you to be a dark triad. And you still have no good emotions, by the way, you’re just very low level like an animal, like a wolf just eating and stuff. You never experience real love.
So, part of the rational argument for why you should be going to your heart and being a good person is because it does bring good feelings. So, that’s why I was saying I’m still — I can — hopefully, this is just flowing out of you because it’s who you are, then you don’t have to think about it, then you just obey your conscience because you’re so used to it. This is just the way you operate. But at the beginning, if you spend a lot of time in dark energy, like I did back several years ago, the argument can be made that you should pursue the light strategy because it feels good.
Because you think if you are a dark triad, it’s a good way to get those feelings, but it’s not. It’s not a good way to get love. It’s not a good way to get self-esteem, or confidence, or any of those things. It’s a good way to maybe cheat people out of money or to get short term sex, those things, but they’re not going to give you the emotions that you want. So then, the rational argument is being light triad actually gives you the emotions that you think the dark triad will give you, and that’s why it’s so elusive for all of these red pill guys because they keep pursuing dark triad strategies and wondering why every girl they meet is a cheating, lying slut, and they can never be trusted.
Well, it’s because you’re a dark triad. You’re putting that energy out there, but try pursuing goodness first: love, and loving unconditionally, without expecting or waiting for return and not keeping score. Then things change, then your experience of reality is different. Now, that’s the argument for trying to go to your heart. And then where I thought you started with was, “I don’t know how to go to my heart.” Like, let’s say you accept that, “Okay, let me go to the heart first.” And then the question is how?
Audience: Like I have feelings, I can relate to it a bit but it’s not everything I do I have [INAUDIBLE] used to have a chain of justification.
Dr. David Tien: Well, yeah, but we’re justifying it already.
Audience: But if it’s not rational it’s not consistent.
Dr. David Tien: Okay, but we already dealt with that so it’s not irrational to be good. There are three different types: there’s rationality, irrationality, and then the middle is arational. All right, so it’s neither rational or irrational, and even if it’s arational, you should try it. There are lots of things that are arational, like drinking beer. Not too excess. Maybe it’s not rational, it may not be rational. But try it. Now, I’m saying being good is actually rational. So, the argument is, as I presented, it gets you all these good things. If you want these good things, you should be a light triad because they correlate with light triad and negatively correlated with dark triad.
If you have a child, what psychologists would call immature. So, you take a child and you want them to eat vegetables. And you could say all the stuff about how vegetables are good, the kid does not want to eat the fucking vegetables. So, you say, “Look, if you eat the vegetables, you get to play for an hour outside.” And they eat the vegetables. That’s what I’m saying to you right now. I know you’re not going to eat the fucking vegetables because you’re too immature like I was, because you haven’t fallen in love with a little child. You haven’t had that switch yet.
And if I were to talk to myself 10 years ago, I wouldn’t be able to make that argument. “It’s all moral relativism, so, why would I bother sacrificing anything? Why would I open myself up to be hurt? That’s stupid.” Right? “I don’t want love.” I would say, “I just want women.” “Okay, well, here’s these other things that are really good. Do you want any of these?” “Oh, yeah, that’d be nice. It’d be nice to have some of this kindness.” I want to be able to have that come back to me, compassion and empathy.”
“Alright. Well, the best way to go is to become more along these lines.” This is what all of philosophy would tell you. We sneak you into the room, and then the more you do these things, the more kind behaviors you do, the more thought patterns where you value people as ends in themselves, the more saintly things that you do, the more you will have that character, the more of a good person you will actually be. You’re not pretending to be a good person eventually anymore. You actually become a good person. So, how do you make somebody into a good person if they’re not good?
You can’t say, “You should do it because it’ll be good” because they’re not good. They’re not going to do it. So, it’s a paradox. So, how do you do it? You can trick them, but this is actually not a trick. These are just facts. The science shows that these negative traits correlate with the dark triad and these light traits correlate with the light triad. Now, I actually would take issue with some of… Well, Kantianism I totally agree with. I think this is really nice to have. But the final one on whether people are good, faith in humanity.
Stephen King, “I believe most people are essentially good. I know that I am. It’s you I’m not entirely sure of.” This is funny, but a lot of people actually take this view. There are many debates in ancient Asian philosophy, especially Chinese, on whether you should have faith in humanity or not. In Bangkok, we spent quite a bit of time covering the debate between mengzi and xunzi on whether human nature is good or bad. And the examples to jog your memory of grass versus clay, are human beings like grass in their moral nature or clay?
So, grass is the mengzi view, which is that you have the sprouts of goodness and you just need the conditions for those sprouts to grow. Xunzi’s view is that we’re like clay. If you just left them alone, then nothing would happen. You have to shape them. So, Jordan Peterson is actually a Xunzian. He believes that human beings will tend towards badness, or decay or chaos, unless there is order imposed on them, or if they develop principles of order and follow them.
And a lot of dudes respond better, nowadays at least, to the clay message, that you need discipline and order, and you need willpower, and you need to get up at 4:30 in the morning, and you need to power through because that’s what men do. Men respond to that these days. But it wasn’t always like that. But then the question is, even if it’s grass or clay, the end result is often the same. That’s why we still call Xunzi a Confucian. He still looks to Confucius as his model.
And so, you can still say human nature is inert. You have to important pose rituals and order, but the end result is still the same. You have a harmonious society. But what if we’re like pesticide? Hopefully, you’ve seen this movie.
Well, I was going with grass there, and so I thought pesticide… But a virus, a parasite. And part of why the dark triad gets those results that many men, mostly men, would like is because it is pessimistic, it’s cynical, it’s not trusting. And that’s what protects… If you were to take that and incorporate it into your lightness, it would protect you from naivety. So, if you can combine Dove and Hawk… So, I think actually it’s not necessary to have that faith in humanity, but they’ve already done the tests, and apparently, that correlates to those nice things. Science maybe comes down on the side of mencius instead of xunzi. But that clip from The Matrix, hopefully we can discuss it over lunch. It raises a lot of other interesting questions.
But eventually, what we get to is the connection between goodness and happiness. You can find this, obviously, in Western philosophy. Aristotle has written a lot about happiness. This is maybe not the best translation for the word in Greek, but anyway, I’ll run with it. “Happiness is a certain activity of soul in conformity with perfect goodness.” So, one of the earliest Western philosophers was making that claim already that the real reason to be good is because it’s the happy life or the good life. To be good is the necessary requisite for the good life.
And you’ll find this exact thing in almost all of Asian philosophy, that the reason… One of the benefits of being good is enjoyment of life. It’s a big part of the appeal to be good. And you can see how this would have evolved if it indeed is something that would give you these nice feelings, and these nice feelings also have adaptive benefits. It keeps you alive longer. The science around actual happiness leading to longer life is pretty strong. So, happiness is good for you. You’ll live longer, you’ll be healthier. But of course, just in and of itself, being happy feels good.
And one of the best routes to that, one of the necessary components to it is being a good person or trying to be a good person, trying your best to be a good person, or pursuing goodness even if we fail. That’s what I propose. That in fact, the pursuit of narcissistic ends, or using a narcissistic means, or Machiavellianism, or adopting psychopathic traits… And it’s fun because pickup artists like to say, “We adopt all the bad boy traits, but inside, we’re really nice guys,” like that kind of BS. You can actually take some of that properly on as somebody from the light, and the light triad, but maybe just temper it with maybe a more realistic view of humanity. And eventually, you too will come to the conclusions of the greatest philosophers around the world in history of all time, this link between goodness and happiness. And with that, we will adjourn to lunch. Alright. Thank you.