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epistemologue posted a topic in Psychology and Self ImprovementI wanted to start a thread just for general discussion of a benevolent or malevolent sense of life, and in particular, the concepts of a benevolent universe premise (BUP), malevolent universe premise (MUP), benevolent people premise (BPP), and malevolent people premise (MPP). Which of these do you identify with personally, and why? And do you have any reservations or disclaimers you want to add? In general, one can have a benevolent or malevolent sense of life. A "sense of life" is the basic emotional stance one has on life that comes from one's implicit metaphysical value judgments. Metaphysical value judgments are one's overall value judgments or feelings about the essential nature of existence, of man, and of man's relationship to existence.1 If one has an overall positive judgment about the metaphysical nature of reality and of man, then one's basic emotional stance on life will be positive. One will have a benevolent sense of life. Likewise, if one has an overall negative judgment about the metaphysical nature of reality and of man, then one's basic emotional stance on life will be negative; one will have a malevolent sense of life. Someone with an overall benevolent sense of life has a philosophical conviction that their life and the universe are good and valuable, a conviction that is not shaken simply by going through trying circumstances. They have a conviction that joy, exaltation, beauty, greatness, and heroism are the meaning of life, and not any pain or ugliness that they may encounter. They believe that happiness is what matters in life, but suffering does not, and that the essence of life is the achievement of joy, not the escape from pain. Pain, fear, and guilt are inessential and are not to be taken seriously as a scar across one's view of existence. Their basic stance when it comes to any question is that they love being alive, and they love the universe in which they live. "We exist and we know that we exist, and we love that fact and our knowledge of it" (Augustine). One's sense of life can be further analyzed into two basic categories: one's judgment of the universe, and one's judgment of man. An overall positive or negative judgment about the nature of the universe is what Rand calls the "Benevolent Universe Premise" (BUP) or "Malevolent Universe Premise" (MUP), respectively; a positive or negative judgment about the nature of man is the "Benevolent People Premise" (BPP) or "Malevolent People Premise" (MPP)2. A fully benevolent sense of life will combine a benevolent judgment of the universe and a benevolent judgment of man: both BUP and BPP. One may have a characteristically mixed sense of life, with a benevolent universe premise but a malevolent people premise (BUP/MPP), or a malevolent universe premise but a benevolent people premise (MUP/BPP).3 A benevolent universe premise (BUP) is characterized by a reverence for the Universe, and the belief that the universe, by nature, is intelligible to man, and that his happiness is possible in a place such as this. It's the belief that the things around you are real and ruled by natural laws, and that reality is stable, firm, absolute, and knowable. Tragedy is the exception in life, not the rule. Success, not failure, is the to-be-expected. It's the conviction that man is not ultimately doomed in this universe, but rather that a human way of life is possible. A benevolent people premise (BPP) is characterized by a reverence for Man, and the belief that man, by nature, is to be regarded as rational and valued as good. It's the belief that man has the power of choice, the power to choose his goals and to achieve them, and the power to direct the course of his life. It is the conviction that ideas matter, that knowledge matters, that truth matters, that one's mind matters. It's this conviction that leads to a respect and goodwill toward men, and an attitude, in individual encounters, of treating men as rational beings, on the premise that a man is innocent until proven guilty. One is unable to believe in the power or triumph of evil; evil is regarded as impotent and unreal, and injustice is the exception in life, not the rule. Consequently one has confidence in one's ability to judge others, to communicate with others, and to persuade them by rational argument, and a belief that the great potential value of men is the to-be-expected. The rationality in others is what matters, not their irrationality, and in essence they are a potential source of value, not a potential threat of dis-value. 1. For more on "sense of life", see the chapter "Philosophy and Sense of Life" in The Romantic Manifesto, by Ayn Rand 2. "Benevolent People Premise" is a term coined by Objectivist Dan Edge in blog posts back in 2007. You can find them here and here. Also see his thread here on Objectivism Online here. 3. See how Ayn Rand applies the BUP/MPP and MUP/BPP mixtures to the field of literature in her chapter "What is Romanticism?" in The Romantic Manifesto, where she discusses "volition in regard to existence, but not to consciousness" and "volition in regard to consciousness, but not to existence".