Charlotte Philosophy Discussion Group Message Board › Dialogue between Derik and Bill (but others are welcome) related to the book

Dialogue between Derik and Bill (but others are welcome) related to the book on the Mind-Body Problem and other matters

Bill Van F.
wvanfleet
Group Organizer
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 1,806
(Continued from previous post)

Quoted from the chapter on “Basic Concepts: Ethics” in Book1:

Now let us return to the issue as to whether there is any difference between ethical beliefs and existential beliefs.

Existential beliefs are phenomena in the nervous system that are manifested as consistent potential predictions about the world, all of which may be modeled by propositions such as, "In situation X, Z will happen," and many of which may be modeled by propositions such as "In situation X, if I do Y, Z will happen."

We also remember that motivational states are phenomena in the nervous system that can be modeled by propositions of the form, "I want to bring about outcome Z," or "I want to experience Z," or "I want Z to happen."

And we also remember that some beliefs produce motivational states, an example being the belief that the current situation is dangerous.

Well, ethical beliefs, modeled by propositions of the form, "I should do Y," are beliefs that produce a motivational state, namely, wanting to do Y, referred to in this book as the ethical sense. (I may want also to refrain from doing Y, for other reasons.) (Admittedly, there are some individuals in whom an ethical belief does not produce a very strong ethical sense.) The quality of the ethical sense produced by an ethical belief will be somewhat different, depending on whether the individual is responding to authoritarian ethics or rational ethics, as we shall see, but in both cases we may say that the ethical sense is a pleasant state produced by deciding to do what the ethical proposition states and/or an unpleasant state produced by deciding not to do what the ethical proposition states, and whether this motivational state is pleasant or unpleasant will increase or decrease the tendency to carry that decision-making process in the nervous system to completion in the form of actual behavior. Statements of an individual that might reflect this are, "If I decide to do Y, I will feel good about myself. If I decide not to do Y, I will feel guilty." The sought-for outcome would be the attainment of good feeling about oneself and the elimination of guilt.

Now we remember that decisions are determined by motivational states and beliefs. So we may construct a "syllogism" as follows:
• I want to feel good about myself. (motivational state)
• If I do Y, I will feel good about myself. (existential prediction or belief)
• Therefore, I want to do Y. (motivational state)
or,
• I want to reduce guilt. (motivational state)
• If I do Y, I will reduce guilt. (existential prediction or belief)
• Therefore, I want to do Y. (motivational state)
or,
• I want to please (the author). (motivational state)
• If I do Y, I will please (the author). (existential prediction or belief)
• Therefore, I want to do Y. (motivational state)
or,
• I want to make the world a better place. (motivational state)
• If I do Y, I will make the world a better place. (existential prediction or belief)
• Therefore, I want to do Y. (motivational state)

Notice that, in each syllogism above, the second proposition is an existential belief (prediction) about something in or about the world. ("The world" as used here means everything that exists, has existed, and/or will exist.) But also notice that in each syllogism above, the first and third propositions are also existential, reporting the existence of a motivational state. (One could say that the propositions modeled a belief regarding what the individual was experiencing.) Finally, notice that, in each case, the syllogism could indeed be summarized simply by, "I should do Y." So an ethical belief is simply an existential belief that carries with it the ethical sense. The format of the ethical proposition, having the word "should" in it, is just a shorthand way of modeling the whole syllogism, which consists of existential beliefs.

So a prediction, involved in decision-making, that happens to produce the ethical sense as a motivational state, then, is a manifestation of an existential belief. It is no different from an existential belief that one's house is burning down, producing predictions that cause various other motivational states.

Let us state this idea in another way:

"I should do Y" is an ethical proposition, modeling an ethical belief.
• This ethical belief may be that the author will be displeased if I don't do Y.
• This ethical belief may be that I will feel guilty if I don't do Y.
• This ethical belief may be that I will be punished if I don't do Y.
• This ethical belief may be that I will make the world a better place (however defined) if I do Y.

But each of these four propositions is an existential prediction (belief).

Each of these four propositions may be part or all of the meaning of "I should do Y."

An ethical proposition may therefore be restated as one or more existential predictions or beliefs.

There is thus no difference between an ethical proposition and an existential proposition, except that the ethical proposition models a belief that consists of predictions that produce, for that person, the "ethical sense."

However, in another sense there is still something that sets ethical beliefs apart from existential beliefs, and that has to do with how such a belief is legitimated.

In authoritarian ethics, the ethical belief is legitimated by the ultimate ethical principle, "I should do that which the author of the ethical proposition wants me to do." The ethical sense has to do with my belief about the author's wishes and the author's responses to whether I obey or not.

In rational ethics, the ethical belief is legitimated by the ultimate ethical principle, "I should do that which is most likely to promote the survival of and the good life for my species, meaning everyone, now and in the future." The ethical sense has to do with my belief about the outcomes of my contemplated behavior with regard to the survival of and the good life for my species (within my sphere of influence and within the limits of my capabilities, of course).

Given the particular kind of ethics, a specific ethical proposition entails a prediction, or predictions, as to whether the outcomes of the act will indeed be most likely to be consistent with the ultimate ethical principle. This is, as we have seen, a belief about the world, and a proposition modeling it will be no different from any other existential proposition.

(Continued in next post)
Bill Van F.
wvanfleet
Group Organizer
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 1,807
(Continued from previous post)

But now we come to the ultimate ethical proposition itself. Here, there would seem to be a difference from existential propositions. We may clarify this by asking, "Well, which ultimate ethical proposition is correct (or more accurate)?" This same question can be asked of any existential proposition. It may be impossible to answer it, since we may simply not have enough information, understanding, computational power, etc. But it is at least answerable in principle, by the utilization of a criterion, namely, for example, how well it allows us to predict accurately.

But can we ask this same question with regard to the ultimate ethical principle? We have at least two principles to consider, and perhaps there may be more, such as the one that says that what should be done is that which would promote the greatest diversity of species on our planet (such a principle suggesting that we should exterminate ourselves). How are we to conclude which ultimate ethical proposition is the correct one? What criterion shall we use to make the decision?

My answer to this problem may be a little surprising. We must go back and look more closely at the criterion for legitimating existential propositions. We have said that existential propositions may be legitimated by determining how accurately they allow us to predict. But notice that, in actuality, this is not the only way in which existential propositions are legitimated. This is the rational way (consistent with the rules of logic and the rules of evidence). In actuality, however, existential propositions are also at times legitimated by how they make us feel to believe them. In other words, it would not be too difficult to find someone saying, "I don't care what science has to say about this; I feel much better believing the opposite, and that is why I believe as I do." So, in point of fact, the criterion that one uses to legitimate existential beliefs is every bit as "arbitrary" as the ultimate ethical principle is. Indeed, there is the question as to which criterion one should use to legitimate existential propositions, and the answer is therefore an ethical proposition!

So one can attempt to have existential beliefs that are as accurate as possible, or one can attempt to have existential beliefs that make one feel as good as possible. Similarly, one can attempt to please an author of ethical propositions, or one can attempt to do his or her part to foster the survival of and the good life for our species. What should we do? And by this question we see that we are always faced with an ethical choice. We must and will decide how we are going to live our lives, and our decisions will drastically influence what happens to us, individually and as a species, but the decision will ultimately be arbitrary! There is no way to say which we should do that is not arbitrarily chosen, and no one that is in a position to make the decision who is not arbitrarily chosen to be in that position. Therefore, it is a matter of arbitrary choice as to what to do, and no one can do more than what I am doing, namely, doing what feels right to me by virtue of as much thought and dialogue as possible, and urging others to do the same.

So I am proposing ARBITRARILY that we all agree that we should attempt to live rationally, that is, in accordance with beliefs that are legitimated by being consistent with the rules of logic and the rules of evidence, and that each of us should attempt to do his or her part to make the world a better place, within his or her sphere of influence and within the limits of his or her capabilities. And I am proposing that we do both of these things because doing so is most likely to promote the survival of and the good life for our species, that is, for all of us, now and in the future. So this is a proposal that we engage in rational-ethical living, as the phrase is used in this book. But it is not just I that am advocating this. Others are also advocating this, in various ways, and the increasing tendency to do so is what I am referring to as the THIRD EXPONENTIAL CHANGE. We are very early in this change, but to a greater and greater extent the change is becoming a significant determinant of how we live.

Bill Van F.
wvanfleet
Group Organizer
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 1,808
Derik,

I was taking another look at your “supervenience” method. Let’s look at the example you gave (showing the form that you thought I might use to legitimate the ultimate ethical principle). We should already be clear that I do NOT legitimate the ultimate ethical principle. But you are thinking that the method you give could possibly do so (according to my understanding of what you are trying to do). So here is the model:
I should do that which will promote as little PSDED as possible
WSO
I do not want other children to experience the PSDED I did
WSO
My parents inflicted PSDED on me
WSO
Parents can inflict PSDED on their children
WSO
Humans can inflict PSDED on other humans
WSO
Humans experience PSDED
WSO
Humans exist
WSO
Life exists
WSO
A universe exists, the cause of which is indeterminate
Now what I want to point out is that if your first statement is supposed to be what is being legitimated, it simply does not follow from the next statement. In other words, one cannot deduce from “I do not want other children to experience the PSDED I did” the ethical statement “I should do that which will promote as little PSDED as possible.” In fact, this is true with regard to any of those statements, namely, that such a statement cannot be deduced from, and therefore cannot be legitimated by, the statement given after it.

You can go in the other direction in that for some, but possibly not all, of those statements, each statement models a belief that implies the belief modeled by the next statement. But that is not each statement being legitimated by the statement that follows it. The necessity is going in the wrong direction.
Derik T.
user 23955602
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 166
My ability to communicate these concepts continues to prove insufficient, this time in two respects:
(1) Somehow giving you the impression that legitimization and justification are the same
(2) Somehow giving you the impression that "supervenes on" is the same as "logically follows from"

- - -

Per the first . . .

What is and always has been flawed about limiting your chain of reasoning to ethical legitimization is that it suggests a false terminus in justification of your beliefs. Ethical legitimization is only one special case of justification of beliefs, and there comes a point at which an ethical belief supervenes on one or more non-ethical beliefs.

You'll notice that in my chain of supervenient beliefs, only the highest level states something as an ethical principle ("I should..."). Assuming you and and I both share a belief about promoting as little PSDED as possible, we each must justify it somehow?

. . . I'm not sure how, from the above, you could have arrived at the conclusion that I consider legitimization and justification to be the same thing.
- Justification, as treated by philosophers, is merely giving reasons for having a belief by stipulating one or more other beliefs
- Ethical legitimization, as you've formulated it, is a special case of justification in so much as it is giving reason for an ethical belief by stipulating
(a) a higher-level ethical belief, and
(b) an existential belief

Even though there may be no ethical beliefs by which you legitimate the REUEP, surely you must realize there are non-ethical beliefs by which you justify the REUEP? Such is the reason why nearly all of the beliefs in my example chain didn't begin with "I should..."--the REUEP rests on successive "platforms" of beliefs, like the platforms of a building. The beliefs at the lower levels are non-ethical, or "existential", and are as yet unspecified by you.

- - -

Per the second, let me take a moment to elaborate on what "supervenes on" does NOT mean:
- "logically follows from"
- "is proven by"
- "can be deduced from"

What it DOES mean: "is justified by a lower-level platform of beliefs, one of which is..." By "lower-level", I mean "more fundamental".

For example, in an efficient conversation with you on this topic, you might hear me say,
"Your belief that [humans exists] supervenes on your belief that [life exists]"

Given we don't yet have a firm grasp of this concept of supervenience, I might say instead,
"You justify your belief that [humans exists] with a lower-level platform of beliefs, one of which is [life exists]."

Continuing this process indefinitely leads one to articulate the lowest-level platform of beliefs one has, the BIOS. The beliefs you have at this lowest-level platform is necessarily non-ethical or, in your terminology, "existential".
Bill Van F.
wvanfleet
Group Organizer
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 1,809
Derik,
My ability to communicate these concepts continues to prove insufficient, this time in two respects:
(1) Somehow giving you the impression that legitimization and justification are the same
(2) Somehow giving you the impression that "supervenes on" is the same as "logically follows from"

- - -

Per the first . . .

What is and always has been flawed about limiting your chain of reasoning to ethical legitimization is that it suggests a false terminus in justification of your beliefs. Ethical legitimization is only one special case of justification of beliefs, and there comes a point at which an ethical belief supervenes on one or more non-ethical beliefs.

You'll notice that in my chain of supervenient beliefs, only the highest level states something as an ethical principle ("I should..."). Assuming you and and I both share a belief about promoting as little PSDED as possible, we each must justify it somehow?

. . . I'm not sure how, from the above, you could have arrived at the conclusion that I consider legitimization and justification to be the same thing.
- Justification, as treated by philosophers, is merely giving reasons for having a belief by stipulating one or more other beliefs
- Ethical legitimization, as you've formulated it, is a special case of justification in so much as it is giving reason for an ethical belief by stipulating
(a) a higher-level ethical belief, and
(b) an existential belief
But here you are not comparing “justification” with “legitimization.” Instead, you are comparing “justification” with “ethical legitimization, as you’ve formulated it.” (And note that I have described what I have said is the usual method of legitimizing ethical beliefs, not necessarily the only method.) So in order to correct this complication, let me quote to you from Book1 how I use the term (this also being stated in Book3, the Mind-Body Problem book). It is as follows:

What I mean by “legitimating” is “giving a reason for believing or agreeing.” In other words, if I were asked why someone should agree with me, and I gave an answer, I would be proposing that answer as a legitimization of the proposition. It could be asked about any proposition (usually a sentence), “Is this proposition true or false?” Then, someone could state that it was true (or false), whereupon that person could be asked why he or she believed that it was indeed true (or false). The answer given would be the proposed legitimization of that proposition. What would be necessary for agreement would be that the other person(s) agree that the reason being given was indeed a compelling (legitimate) reason. If not, there would be disagreement about the criterion of legitimization. One example of my attempting to legitimate a proposition would be my showing that it was deducible as the third statement in a syllogism, the first two statements being agreed to already by those involved in the discussion. If someone did not agree with one of the first two propositions, or thought that the structure of my syllogism was faulty, then my attempt to legitimate the proposition would fail to meet a criterion of legitimization. The meaning of legitimating will become more apparent in what follows.

(The above paragraph was a simplification in order to explain “legitimization.” Of course, two persons could agree, that is, have the same belief, but for two different reasons. They would be using two different criteria for legitimization.)
Now can you tell me how your concept of “justification” is different from the above concept of “legitimization”? (I have, BTW, adopted this term from philosophical usage that I have observed, so it is not something just invented by me, but I take care to be specific about how I am using words in what I write.



Even though there may be no ethical beliefs by which you legitimate the REUEP, surely you must realize there are non-ethical beliefs by which you justify the REUEP?
No. I do not legitimate nor do I justify the rational-ethical ultimate ethical principle, or any ultimate ethical principle. By definition it cannot be done. That’s what is meant by it being ultimate.

Such is the reason why nearly all of the beliefs in my example chain didn't begin with "I should..."--the REUEP rests on successive "platforms" of beliefs, like the platforms of a building. The beliefs at the lower levels are non-ethical, or "existential", and are as yet unspecified by you.
What it seems to me that you are saying is that the lower platforms “justify” (legitimate) the REUEP. They do not. Indeed if the higher level statements are believed, then by implication the lower platforms must probably also be believed, but that does not mean that the lower level platorms make it necessary to believe the statements above them. If I believe that I can drive a certain distance on the amount of gas I have, then that means that I believe I have a car to drive, etc., but believing that I have a car to drive does not justify believing I can make the trip on the amount of gas I have.


- - -

Per the second, let me take a moment to elaborate on what "supervenes on" does NOT mean:
- "logically follows from"
- "is proven by"
- "can be deduced from"

What it DOES mean: "is justified by a lower-level platform of beliefs, one of which is..." By "lower-level", I mean "more fundamental".
This is not justification or legitimization. If you believe the lower level platform of beliefs, that makes it possible to have the belief above it, but does not make it necessary to do so.

For example, in an efficient conversation with you on this topic, you might hear me say,
"Your belief that [humans exists] supervenes on your belief that [life exists]"

Given we don't yet have a firm grasp of this concept of supervenience, I might say instead,
"You justify your belief that [humans exists] with a lower-level platform of beliefs, one of which is [life exists]."
I believe that humans exist for other reasons than that life exists, and I cannot demonstrate that humans exist just by pointing out that life exists.

Continuing this process indefinitely leads one to articulate the lowest-level platform of beliefs one has, the BIOS. The beliefs you have at this lowest-level platform is necessarily non-ethical or, in your terminology, "existential".
Act­ually, the beliefs that you consider to be “the BIOS” are complex Objective Model beliefs, and don’t sound anything like a “BIOS.”

(Continued in the next post)
Bill Van F.
wvanfleet
Group Organizer
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 1,810
(Continued from the previous post)

The following excerpt from the Mind-Body Problem book may be relevant, in that it clarifies that our belief systems do not develop like geometry is presented in a textbook.

So far, we have been talking about the "Subjective Model" and the "Objective Model" as if these were two separate things and perhaps the only two alternatives as far as our modeling of "Reality" is concerned. And in one sense this would be true. We can indeed think of all those beliefs that develop from moment-by-moment subjective experience and that guide our behavior from moment to moment, and contrast that with all those beliefs that we have acquired instead primarily from others through the use of language and other sets of symbols, and that sometimes modify (often in very important ways) what we imagine and what we do.

If we think about the development of either the Subjective Model or the Objective Model, we will realize that the history of the development of those Models was not the orderly development of increasingly complex beliefs based upon the very simplest and most basic beliefs possible, as would be attempted in a geometry textbook. Instead, we can imagine that the development of each of these Models (Subjective and Objective) is similar to the development of many individual "lumps" within a fluid, lumps that ultimately will coalesce, such that the liquid presumably ultimately will become completely solid. According to this metaphor (model), each of those lumps is a model (or sub-model), useful for the purposes at that time, and it is only with the passage of further time that it perhaps becomes evident that two or more of those models are specific examples of a more general model, that represents an "underlying truth" of each of the more specific models. (This would be the coalescence of lumps in our metaphor.)

But since we know full well that models, or beliefs, can be inaccurate, or "wrong," it may come to pass that two lumps will not be able to coalesce, because they are logically incompatible in some way, such that the rules of logic (applied to linguistic models of those beliefs) will not allow both of them to be considered correct (because of resulting in opposite potential predictions).

So to a great extent we have lots of little "belief systems" about various seemingly unrelated topics. Within each of those little belief systems, if the beliefs are expressed in words, they will most likely be found to be non-contradictory according to the rules of logic. The beliefs will be logically consistent with each other, and indeed "hang together" like "systems." But it is also possible that if we take a close look at two "little belief systems" ("sub-models") within the total collection of belief systems, we will find two beliefs (one in each little belief system) that, if modeled linguistically ("put into words"), will be found according to the rules of logic to be contradictory to each other. And certainly we know that in the Objective Model (that is the "property" of our species in general) there is much disagreement, and thus there are contradictory sub-models within that Objective Model. So when we refer to the Objective Model, we must always remember that we are not referring to an internally consistent belief system, but instead to a collection of belief systems, some of which may be contradictory to each other.

We have also seen that the most important feature of a model is that it "works," that is, produces specific predictions that turn out to be, or would turn out to be, what actually happens or would happen (given certain specified circumstances). That most important feature is essentially the defining characteristic of a model. And we have seen that some models are easier to work with in some situations than are others. For almost all of our daily living, we do not need to go beyond Newton's laws to accomplish things satisfactorily. But to get our astronauts back from the moon, we need, as I understand it, to use the more precise, accurate, and comprehensive model of relativity. Similarly, there are some highly specialized fields that require using quantum mechanics, a model that is quite "counterintuitive," and usually very unnecessary. Furthermore, we do not even need to know anything at all about Newton's laws to get up and go into the kitchen, or even to get to the convenience store.

So we have been talking about how two models (or sub-models) can be incompatible with each other in that they are inconsistent with each other logically, because of contradiction according to the rules of logic when applied to the linguistic models of those two models, even though they may have some usefulness in certain (usually different) situations.
I hope that we have clarified that there is more than one way to attempt legitimization of a belief, meaning justification of it, and there are different kinds of beliefs (existential and ethical) which are usually legitimized somewhat differently, but that your “supervenience” concept is generally not one of those. It is clarification of what else (Y) you must believe if you believe X, but it does not legitimize the believing of X. And the clarification that you believe Y does not mean that Y is necessarily “true.”

You have demonstrated that ultimately we agree on certain things, such as that “life exists.” But also as you point out that does not mean that those things that we agree upon make it necessary to believe each other’s lower level platforms. We passed through things that we both believe, such as that life exists, but I have the impression that we would not necessarily agree on the last of those propositions that you regard as lower level “platforms.” So I don’t see what your “supervenience” method accomplishes.
Derik T.
user 23955602
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 167
And I've never once said that our belief systems develop like geometry is presented in a textbook.

What became clear from the excerpts you provided is that your concept of legitimization necessitates something like a syllogistic "proof" of the belief. My concept of justification does not. When I said, "is justified by a lower-level platform of beliefs, one of which is...", I am necessitating only coherence with the beliefs on the layer below it. This common manner of justification manifests in countless colloquialisms we use as humans, foremost among which is, "That makes sense."

Take the REUEP, worded exactly as you prefer: “We should do that which will promote not only the survival of our species but also as much JCA as possible and as little PSDED as possible, for everyone, now and in the future.” We can imagine a layer of beliefs underneath the REUEP, one of which is, "The death of a person can be early". How can the REUEP mention PSDED unless one first believes there is such a thing as ED? And deeper still, we would find a substrata of beliefs including the belief "people die" with which the higher-level beliefs (the REUEP and "The death of a person can be early") are coherent.

This necessary coherence is at the heart of my conception of justification, not syllogistic proof.

- - -

It may be prudent also for you to read back through a number of my recent posts keeping an eye out for phrases such as, ". . . beliefs, one of which is . . ." I've tried to make much of the fact that each layer of beliefs contains very, very many of them, but this appears to be lost as I read your interpretations of my posts. I've kept my examples to one-belief-per-layer for brevity's sake. An appropriate analogue might be a geologist taking a cylindrical sample of many geological strata of millenia-old sediment. To all sides of the hole from which she pulled the sample stretch vast expanses of other geological material. Such is the case with layers of beliefs each time I cite just one per layer saying, "...one of which is...".
Bill Van F.
wvanfleet
Group Organizer
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 1,811
Derik,
And I've never once said that our belief systems develop like geometry is presented in a textbook.

What became clear from the excerpts you provided is that your concept of legitimization necessitates something like a syllogistic "proof" of the belief.
But this is contrary to what I have actually said. You are referring to the usual method of legitimization of ethical beliefs. But I have clearly talked about the legitimization of existential beliefs by the sciences being based not only on the rules of logic but also on the rules of evidence.
My concept of justification does not. When I said, "is justified by a lower-level platform of beliefs, one of which is...", I am necessitating only coherence with the beliefs on the layer below it. This common manner of justification manifests in countless colloquialisms we use as humans, foremost among which is, "That makes sense."
That feeling of making sense comes about through a general impression that the belief under consideration is indeed logically consistent with a large number of other beliefs accepted as being accurate. But what good would the quoting of one of those other beliefs be in demonstrating the necessity of (justifying or legitimizing) the belief in question unless there was a logical (syllogistic) connection between that one belief and the beliefs being used to justify or legitimize it? If I believe my car is in my garage, my belief that I have a garage is a related belief, but it is useless in justifying or legitimizing my belief that my car is in it. I don’t need a “platform” of related beliefs; I just need two good ones (considered already legitimized) that satisfy a logical syllogism. But those two good ones need also to stand up to the test of the rules of evidence, or be logically consisted with ones that do.

Take the REUEP, worded exactly as you prefer: “We should do that which will promote not only the survival of our species but also as much JCA as possible and as little PSDED as possible, for everyone, now and in the future.” We can imagine a layer of beliefs underneath the REUEP, one of which is, "The death of a person can be early". How can the REUEP mention PSDED unless one first believes there is such a thing as ED? And deeper still, we would find a substrata of beliefs including the belief "people die" with which the higher-level beliefs (the REUEP and "The death of a person can be early") are coherent.

This necessary coherence is at the heart of my conception of justification, not syllogistic proof.
But why do you call it "justification"? To show that some beliefs are connected to other beliefs does not in any way demonstrate that those beliefs are "correct." When people thought that the earth was flat, they had large numbers of beliefs that were consistent with this belief.

- - -

It may be prudent also for you to read back through a number of my recent posts keeping an eye out for phrases such as, ". . . beliefs, one of which is . . ." I've tried to make much of the fact that each layer of beliefs contains very, very many of them, but this appears to be lost as I read your interpretations of my posts. I've kept my examples to one-belief-per-layer for brevity's sake. An appropriate analogue might be a geologist taking a cylindrical sample of many geological strata of millenia-old sediment. To all sides of the hole from which she pulled the sample stretch vast expanses of other geological material. Such is the case with layers of beliefs each time I cite just one per layer saying, "...one of which is...".

Then why were you requesting that I produce a set of layered beliefs, an example of which you gave? As you point out, there could be hundreds or thousands of beliefs all connected with each other at any of those "platforms." Why would there be any value in selecting out a few of those beliefs, one at each level or "platform"? Why would you think that my doing so would provide justification or legitimization of anything?

(Continued in next post)
Bill Van F.
wvanfleet
Group Organizer
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 1,812
(Continued from previous post)

Since we are talking about how beliefs are related to one another, and also talking about justification or legitimization, the following excerpt from Book1 might be particularly useful. It is broader than the concept of justification or legitimization, though including that concept. I have put brackets [ ] around the paragraph that talks more specifically about how one belief is related to many others, consistent with your idea that there are many beliefs that would exist at any one of your "platforms."



At this point, I wish to discuss the previously-mentioned extremely powerful effects that our having developed this ability to use propositions to model beliefs and predictions has had on our beliefs, compared to all other species. (But then I will also attempt to point out how little of this power we actually use, compared to what would be possible.) The four amazing effects on our beliefs are on their number, their precision, their consistency, and their accuracy.

The number of beliefs that we can attain is enormously larger than the number that other species can attain. We are able to bring about the development of new beliefs in each other simply by using these propositions, that is, by conveying “information” to each other, about things that we have no direct experience of. Our symbols work by means of a kind of imagination, such that when a symbol is used, it produces in the nervous system an activation of a model of something previously experienced (memory). With our propositions, these individual memories or memory fragments can be rearranged and combined in an almost infinite number of ways. We can therefore create stories (models) of events that have not yet happened, or happened long ago. We can create models of things which have never existed, have existed long ago, or will exist in the far future. And we can create models of (beliefs about) the way the world is, was or will be, consisting of things, events, and processes that we can never directly experience. For instance, someone can tell me about atoms and energy fields that I have never seen, and never will, and thereby leave me with beliefs about those things. A rat can have no beliefs about atoms and energy fields. A rat’s set of beliefs have been acquired through its own, personal experience, and not through induction in the rat’s brain (mind) of symbols by other rats. Only we humans can come to have beliefs about science, history, politics, religion, etc., as well as beliefs about what a friend has just done, or is planning to do, in another part of the world. Only we humans can come to believe the sun will one day engulf the earth. And increasingly higher level models in the brain may be modeled by increasingly abstract propositions.

The precision of our beliefs is enormously greater than that of other species. We have noted that the phenomena in the nervous system (belief and prediction), at least as far as we can describe them, are quite amorphous, vague, and confluent. But our use of propositions can be quite precise, primarily by virtue of precise, agreed-upon definitions of the symbols (words) in those propositions, along with use of agreed-upon rules of syntax. For instance, I can tell you that I will reward you if and only if you refrain from opening the door unless you hear three knocks, a pause, and then two knocks. I can say it once, and you will have a very precise belief that you can act according to, if you wish. The reader may imagine what would have to be done to train a member of another species to carry out this procedure, even if the animal was eager to obtain a reward by obeying correctly.

[The consistency of our beliefs is enormously greater than that of other species. Whereas we are dealing with amorphous, vague, and confluent phenomena in the nervous system, we are using a system of modeling of those phenomena that has built into it a rather marked capacity for consistency, by virtue of the ability to use the rules of logic. Building upon our acquired ability to model beliefs and predictions with precision, the rules of logic allow us to conclude whether, if proposition A is true, then proposition B must also be true, by virtue of whether a contradiction would otherwise occur. Thus, with the rules of logic, we can test our beliefs to see if they are contradictory to one another. And we can test a specific proposition, modeling a potential prediction, to see if it follows logically from another proposition that models a belief (to see if the prediction is a part of the meaning of the belief). Of course, these judgments are determined also by any number of other propositions, many of which are implied. For example, believing my car to be in my garage of course leads to predictions as to what will happen if I look in the garage, but such predictions are also dependent upon beliefs as to whether I have a car or not, whether I have a garage or not, whom I can trust, etc., and such beliefs, in turn, have their own sets of potential predictions. So we are able to develop “belief systems” or sets of beliefs, with their potential predictions, that are internally consistent with each other, in that their combination does not result in contradiction.]

The accuracy of our beliefs is enormously greater than that of other species. Because we can produce such precise and consistent predictions, we are then able to determine if our predictions indeed turn out to be correct. Failure to predict accurately what will happen implies that something is wrong with our beliefs. The accuracy of our beliefs has allowed us to do with confidence a large number of things that we would otherwise not even think about doing. Despite the fact that many of the things we do would be quite dangerous if not done correctly, we feel very confident most of the time when doing those things. Driving would be an example. Undergoing surgery or going to the moon would be others.
But, as stated above, we must realize that we fall far, far short of what we really could be able to do with regard to precision, consistency, and accuracy of belief, and this is because we have not yet learned to do well what is involved in attaining these goals.

(Continued in next post)
Bill Van F.
wvanfleet
Group Organizer
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 1,813
(Continued from previous post)

Please note that these goals (precision, consistency, and accuracy) are only appropriate for certain kinds of propositional behaviors, and they would actually be detrimental to other kinds of propositional behaviors. They are usually appropriate for making good decisions, sharing helpful information, giving directions or instructions, studying the way the world really is, was, or will be, coordinating our behavior, entering into contracts, carrying out legal proceedings, etc. They are usually not appropriate for fostering creative new ideas (including new scientific theories), “brainstorming,” sharing one’s feelings, entertaining, stimulating emotion, etc., or for fiction, poetry, vocal music, games, etc. The thesis of this book has to do with changing our behavior such that we stop making so many mistakes, and so precision, consistency, and accuracy of belief are the important focus of this book. Ideally, we should be able to aim for and to a great extent achieve those goals when appropriate, but also be able to do other things that add to our quality of life, including making use of some of the natural lack of precision, consistency, and accuracy that exists in the functioning of all of our brains. And we should have accurate beliefs as to which goals are appropriate to which kinds of situations.

But how do we fall far, far short of the precision, consistency, and accuracy that we really could attain?

Regarding precision, even in our most important efforts to solve our most important problems, we are unable to engage in efficient, effective comparison of ideas in order to choose those that are optimal. We have many different words for approximately the same thing, and we use the same word for many different things. Thus, when we debate, there is continuing apparent disagreement, and there is very little ability to focus on one idea to the extent that it is fully explored. Apparent disagreement because of different word usage leads to wandering discourse, and almost never to the changing of anyone’s original beliefs.

Regarding consistency, the above lack of precision fosters another problem, namely, failure to use the rules of logic. Logical inconsistency becomes most apparent only when the same words are used for the same things in sequences of propositions. In a debate, we often make logic impossible through “creative” use of words to promote confusion. On the one hand, we have seen that we are able to develop “belief systems,” sets of beliefs that are indeed internally consistent, but we also quite readily look the other way when apparent contradiction in our own belief systems is occurring. We do not have a strong need or commitment to apply logic to our most cherished beliefs.

Regarding accuracy, we do not readily follow, or even learn, the rules of evidence (generally acquired currently only through formal education), and therefore easily draw conclusions from our own personal experiences (which have been shown to be highly unreliable), and from listening to others who present what is to be believed in such a manner as to produce very good feeling that rewards accepting the beliefs offered. There are many, many belief systems, to some extent internally consistent (at least on the surface), but many of which are different from and contradictory to one another, and therefore cannot all be correct, and some of which have caused our greatest tragedies. Yet the adherents of those belief systems have strong beliefs that produce very confident predictions, and thus have strong tendencies to make mistakes, sometimes tragic ones. Consistency of belief is not enough. If we are consistently wrong, our quality of life becomes terrible, because of the mistakes we make. It takes our growing use of the rules of evidence to help us develop beliefs that accurately model the way the world really is and thus cause us to make decisions based upon predictions of the outcomes of our behavior that turn out to be the same as what actually happens. The rules of logic are necessary, but not sufficient. The rules of evidence are also essential. (And something even more is needed, something that is the primary focus of this book, and will be specifically discussed in the next chapter.)

So we humans have acquired, by virtue of our ability to use propositions, an almost unlimited number of beliefs, but we have a very long way to go before we globally, as a species, reward, teach, and model for identification the effort to attain, when appropriate, precision, consistency, and accuracy in our use of our propositions to model and manage our beliefs.

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