Should you be flamboyantly good?

Jesus (Matthew 6:1-6)

Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.


Jesus was wrong, you should donate in public. (Can’t find the quote, sadly)



Aka: should I publicize the good things I do, to gain status? Should you award status to me for the good things I do?

  • Public goodness can raise people’s view of what’s possible
  • One view: Jesus is trying to retroactively award status to people who did good, without receiving status at the time
    • Which means that status motivator is fundamentally correct!
  • Status/community/belonging/approval is a powerful, human motivator, and to not tap into it would be a shame. Do what works!
  • Extrinsic rewards (status, money, etc) are a good way to bootstrap intrinsic rewards (meaning, satisfaction)
  • Jesus’s words came in a Jewish cultural environment where lots of status was already awarded for typical forms of doing good (almsgiving, prayer)
    • But we live in a fairly different cultural environment, so we should set up that cultural environment to encourage goodness
    • Today’s cultural environment awards status for… power? Which is worse?
      • Well, maybe. Increase in power/agency has made us rich and solved hunger
  • Spectrum: reward goodness, or reward agency?
    • Is life struggle between good vs evil? Or is life struggle between action vs nonaction?
    • If Good vs Evil: award goodness. Solve alignment. Admire saints.
    • If Action vs Nonaction: award action. Foster growth. Admire billionaires.


  • Flamboyancy is demanding, “holier-than-thou” can cause people to turn off
  • If you do good in pursuit of praise/reputation/status, can I trust you to do good if no status was awarded?
    • But: will status always be awardable? Maybe goal is to just shorten status feedback loops
  • Intrinsic rewards are the ultimate goal?

Should saving the world be fun?

  • FTX flew out a bunch of pretty well-off people to the Bahamas to meet with each other and hang out and work on their work
    • On the face of it, seems absurd. If each visitor cost (ballpark) $12k, that’s like 3-4 deaths averted
      • But I don’t really endorse this framing. Isolated demand for rigor, and all that.
  • Making saving the world fun = more people want to save the world
  • Worry: if people then have to choose between having fun and world-saving, they might choose fun

Aside: Scott on religion

(Things I mostly independently derived, cool to see the writing afterwards)