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Charlotte Philosophy Discussion Group Message Board › HUMANIANITY: The Most Important Religion

HUMANIANITY: The Most Important Religion

vincent
user 8236565
Kannapolis, NC
Post #: 97
*First, I would like for you to become aware of how you have portrayed me by the use of the words that I have bolded above. I have indeed been expressing some opinions, and I do indeed advocate for some things. You have characterized my doing so as being the manifestation of mental illness and desperation, rather than actually responding to the issue being introduced and advocated. I, myself, do not do that in discussions, and I do not believe that it is a helpful way of proceeding.

I am indeed aware that I mention this issue fairly often, and I believe I have reason to do so. My effort is to be helpful, in a setting in which it is indeed appropriate, I believe, to express one's opinion and to advocate for it if one feels sufficiently confident that one probably does indeed have something to offer that can be of help (recognizing, of course, that one can be wrong, and therefore listening to the responses to such expression of opinion and advocacy).

In my book, I believe I have made it adequately clear that the phenomena that I am referring to cause enormous amounts of suffering and tragedy, affecting the lives of each and every one of us. What almost everyone considers to be a regrettable but inevitable and normal set of phenomena I consider to be a preventable consequence of our not having yet learned some very important principles. I additionally believe that we are on the way to learning those, and I see my effort as being a part of that total process. That is what I write about.

I am fully aware that people who are unaffected by what an individual has done may look at punishment as simply an appropriate method of conditioning the individual so that he or she will not repeat the behavior. But if you take a look at the vast, vast majority of individuals who have been affected by that behavior, you will find that there is a strong motivation to "get back" at the individual, by making the individual suffer. "An eye for an eye" does not have to do with exchange of organs, but instead with exchange of suffering, called "revenge."

If it were found that there was substantial evidence that treating well those who have been "brought to justice" increases the likelihood of improved behavior and reduced risk of recidivism, I think that the majority of people would still turn down such an idea, because of the widespread belief that something wrong is being done if the person who has done something harmful to others is not made to suffer. When something bad has been done, there is a search for someone who can be made to suffer. The desire for revenge is great, and is understood as being normal and okay even by those who are uninvolved. Almost everyone in our nation understands that the Colorado shooter must be made to suffer, unless somehow he is found to have a mental illness of such severity that he can be excused. Since someone has to suffer for a bad act, justice is the process whereby that suffering is "distributed" in a fair manner. If more than one person is involved, the degree of suffering that is to be undergone by such individuals is carefully worked out in a manner that would be considered, hopefully, fair. And individuals accused of doing something bad are subject to a process that is supposed to be fair, so that the right amount of punishment and revenge is apportioned to the right person or people and the nature of what he, she, or they have done. Justice is supposed to be "impartial" and therefore "fair" in making such judgments.

-Obsessed, misguided, fixated, and desperate are the words you highlighted. I want to as strongly as possible stick up for these words and to state adamently that in no way am I suggesting anything negative about you or that you are suffering from mental illness or desperation. That is a massive leap away from anything that I have said or am saying with those words. To take them all one at a time. I would like to say that to me you seem obsessed/fixated on the subject of punishment/revenge. After having said that I would like to point out that I have gone through YEARS worth of time myself in constant thought over certain subjects. If obsession/fixation is a negative psychological trait then I suffer from it myself in the most serious of ways. You have brought the subject up in practically every setting I've been in with you and that has been my observation and I only wondered what it was that got you involved in thinking about it that much more then other things. In my view you are misguided in your views, but I stand behind your stating them and advocating them. I wouldnt mind hearing your thoughts on the matter, I would be very interested hearing them because I imagine they are probably well thought out. Desperate was a bit of a stretch admitedly and an exaggeration, how about I replace that one with very eager. You are very eager to talk about the subject. What set you to thinking about these things? Thats all I'm asking. I am no expert on mental illness and am not trying to attack you in any way. I'm simply saying you bring up the subject a lot and that you appear to be rooted strongly to that particular topic. If my words are offensive I apologize but I dont feel my words are very insulting and that you are misreading them far more negatively then they are meant to be taken. I dont even know what words I could have used to avoid offense, but I dont see how I'm being offensive. I'm just asking a question, and am not saying or labeling you in any way with any word that I wouldnt use to describe myself. I would use any of those words as a self description (and probably have in quite a few situations) and therefore I myself would have to be suffering from as bad a mental illness as you or anyone else I point out. Despite how the common statement goes, I dont think that every psychiatrist is more neurotic then their patients.

*Okay, I was indeed incorrect. But I think the context in which I made that statement had to do with a way of looking at things that suggested this impression of your frame of reference. It seemed to me that you were dividing problems up into ones that were physical, and should be treated, and ones that were psychological, necessitating something like holding people responsible, etc.

-I totally understand why you would get that impression. I however think that all behavior is ultimately biologically based. I want to stress that I dont divide free will from determinism. I dont see them as seperate, I believe they are compatible. I think that people can be held responsible for their actions while at the same time recognizing that their behaviors are biologically based. Now that we know behavior is based on biology, it does not do away with free will as far as I'm concerned because it hasnt changed the state humans found themselves in when they came up with the concept of free will. We should update our understanding of free will and incorporate it into the modern lexicon.

vincent
user 8236565
Kannapolis, NC
Post #: 98
*See, you are looking at religion as an effort to explain the mysterious, whereas I am looking at religion as our efforts to figure out how to live our lives. Most religions do also have an explanatory worldview, now obviously outdated by the explanatory worldview provided by science, but the explanatory worldviews of religion can gradually be reduced in importance and understood as metaphors with underlying meaning, while ethical issues are examined in great detail, providing help for those who participate in the religion. I do not believe that the study of philosophy is personal enough to provide what religion provides for people, at least within some religious organizations. And science does not answer ethical questions, but instead existential ones (meaning questions about the way the world is, was, and/or will be, rather than about what we should or should not do.)

Both inquiries, ethical and existential, are needed in order to work toward an optimal existence for us humans. Science tells us what will happen if we do something, and religion helps us to decide whether to do it or not. That does not mean that I think religion currently does a very good job, and it does not mean that I think religion does not have bad, archaic aspects to it. But there is no other social institution that is specifically designed for this function. It therefore, I believe, should not be removed, but instead improved.

-Even though I believe that free will should be updated into a new usage of the term I dont feel the same way for religion. Our views here diverge pretty extensively. I do think that you are right when you say that often times religions are ways of looking at how to live our lives. You are right, I was thinking more along the lines of Christianity and Judaism then along the lines of the more eastern religions. To me the eastern religions concern themselves far more with issues concerned with how to live better and more fulfilling lives right now then with what happens after death. However, I think that though there are two types of religions, those who suggest how people should conduct themselves, and those that concern thmselves with god and the afterlife, (with some areas of overlap mind you) I dont think that there is any reason that I can see why philosophy cant step in and be the better way of confronting these issues reliigion used to address. I also dont agree about the science idea. I think that a lot of moral questions can be addressed through scientific understanding of biology, neurology, and people's genetics. I feel that most of peoples wants and desires and the actions which they lead to come from our biology and that "evil" acts or actions that cause pain can often times be better understood based off of a persons neurology. Although we must hold people responsible for their actions (to not would in my opinion be the ultimate example of dualism, stating that somehow people are not the same as their biological makeup, its peoples biological makeup that is what makes them responsible for themselves in the first place) and recognize people as responsible moral agents, the more neurology and biology discovers about how our brains work (and therefore our minds) the less that philosophy and religion will need to tackle the issue. I want religion to dissolve, philosophy to flourish, and science to discover the rest. In this area we may just have divergent views. I simply dont see anything religion has done that philosophy wouldnt have done on its own. Like Ayn Rand stressed "religion is an antiquated form of philosophy."

*But we have different approaches to the mind-body problem. Supervision of children and some adults will always be necessary. Currently, we find that using the model involving "free will" is required for us to feel okay about such supervision and, in addition, punishment, whereas "determinism" is required for us to feel okay about engaging in the effort to understand individuals rather than judge and punish them. You are looking at these two frames of reference as if only one of them can be right, whereas I see them as simply two frames of reference that can be helpful in different kinds of situations and with different kinds of goals. This is a complex subject, and I do not expect agreement with me simply on the basis of what I have so far said.

-I dont look at two frames of reference on this issue and dont think that only one can be right. I think that free will comes FROM biological determinism. People are their brains and bodies. Understanding a persons biology and disposition can help us determine the situations where punishment is helpful and the situations where rehabilitation might be possible. Determinism should not give anyone the right to treat another person as an object of causes. The whole is greater then its individual parts. People are paradoxes, both a collection of cells and an individual person. They must be treated as an individual person and researched as a collection of cells.

*But the problem is that you do not understand what my beliefs are. You make the assumption that there are parents who "don't punish at all," but I would say that that is not so. Also, I do not say that simply eliminating punishment would have a beneficial effect. I don't believe it would. It's all that you would do instead of punishment that would make the difference, and I would not then and therefore predict the results that you claim result from not punishing it all.

-I do believe that there are some parents who do not punish their children. It seems to me that you are suggesting moving into a society of non punishment gradually. Once the gradual change has occured in steps and over time then when the overall views of society have changed children would not react the same concerning the idea of not being punished. Is this the idea?

*The interpretation that you use of the phrase is, I believe, the same as mine. I talk about making the world a better place within one's own sphere of influence. I do not mean that the whole world is being made a better place, but instead that one part of it is. Making it a better place is making it have more that promotes joy, contentment and appreciation, and less that promotes pain, suffering, disability, and early death.

-I think I took the phrase to literally. I think you took my words to literally at the start of the message. Both cases were out of context from what was meant. With continued conversations I think that we will come to gain a better gauge and understanding of what we both mean. I will keep this in mind in the future.

*I am not opposed to assisted suicide. But it is a very tricky issue because the person who is thinking about suicide may or may not have a major distortion in judgment produced by abnormal brain function. I do believe it is appropriate for us to carefully try to determine when people need supervision because of impaired judgment, the care being taken to use methods that are as accurate as possible in determining whether such judgment is indeed impaired. I acknowledge that this is an extremely difficult set of issues.

-This is a very difficult issue. How decides who has impaired judgement and how do we know that the judge of judgement doesnt have impaired judgement? Who decides who is impaired? Do you know who I think have some of the most impaired judgements? The authority figures in society. Its a hard issue that might not have a solution.
vincent
user 8236565
Kannapolis, NC
Post #: 99
*I do not regard you as "obsessed." You have an opinion that is somewhat different than mine, but based upon much thought.

Once again I stick by my word. I think of myself as quite obsessive with the concept of force. What it is and when using it is appropriate? When does force become manipulation? Is the attempt to guide a persons behavior to your desire an example of force? Is there such a thing as indirect force, or is indirect force an example of manipulation? If I stand in your way and wont let you pass is that a form of force? These kind of questions consume a lot of my time and I dont consider being obsessed with them in any way negative. If Einstein hadnt been obsessive over the ideas of space and time to the point that it was all he thought about we wouldnt have the theory of relativity. If Darwin hadnt been obsessed over nature we wouldnt have the theory of evolution. We need more people obsessed with the beauty of being passionate about their ideas and interests. I'm proud to be obsessed over certain ideas. Not everything usually labeled so is an example of mental illness or neurosis.

* For what purpose? Simply because it's fun to do, or because you believe that conscientiously challenging yourself and trying to learn makes you more able to be the kind of person who can make the world a better place within your sphere of influence?

Because I am obsessed over ideas. Because I think that they are important. Because I am driven by the desire to know and because I want to understand others because their views are interesting. I am too self centered and I consider it a weakness that I hope to correct. I am not proud of being egotistical. The more that I have seen and thought over the issue the more it seems to be the case to me that being something between is the best way to be. So even though I could say and would like to be able to be honest about saying that its to make the world a better place in my sphere of influence it has nothing to do with things in my case. Its because I'm curious and inquisitive. Because I'm turned on by opened minds and hearts. Its because I want to be as right about things as I can, and only through hearing other people can I check myself from being wrong.

*What I have noticed is that people sometimes try to negate someone's opinion by the ad hominem attribution of "arrogance" and "self righteousness" labels to them, as if to say that the opinion itself is evidence for the appropriateness of such labels. I, myself, do not use those labels.

-I am not in agreement when it comes to those words. I'm sure that some people do try to throw out the opinion with the use of those words, but for me so many people seem to me to be arrogant and self righteous that I have a hard time of avoiding the use of them. To me I think that the words that people use to throw out opinions are examples of arrogance and self righteousness. I think that those two words can be seen in other words people use. Usually people can show themselves to be arrogant and narrow minded when they change the subject of a conversation turning to insults instead of arguments, or call another person stupid for holding a different opinion. I am a firm believer in the idea that the more direct and to the point a word is the more usefull that it is and that I have to say what I see in an indifferent manner when it comes to the truth. I never seek to offend, but I dont mind stating the truth as I see it. To me any other approach would be unfair. I would want someone else to tell me the truth because I believe that the more honest a person is about truthful matters, and especially ones that are painful, the more direct the knowledge is met the quicker a person can get over things and cope with them. Perhaps I'm wrong.

*You are, then, a good member of our group. But you would still be a good member of our group if you advocated for what you believed in and hoped for agreement.

-Perhaps, but I am very turned on by the idea of people disagreeing with me. I like diversity in lifestyles and views. I feel pretty tolerant of others and like the idea of people owning their own lives to live in the way they see most fit. I like a marketplace filled with different views that dont echo my own. I love to advocate what I believe in and when it comes to our last meeting it can probably seem obvious that at times I almost cant stop myself from doing so, but I dont hope or seek agreement. And I dont care about approval. Other people have their own life they own which they have to contend with figuring out. That is their responsibility to decide the correctness of their own views. I'm simply forming my own and its a full time task let me assure you. I am not one of those people who feels they have the answers. I certainly wish I had more of them I felt more sure about.

*And I believe I am doing the equivalent of that when I express my opinions in the group.

You really dont state very many opinions in the group I dont think. It seems to me you mostly introduce ideas to get a feel for how people feel about them. The only opinion that I can remember you stating during the meetings is your view on punishment, which is another reason why I equate that topic with you more then the other topics. Between me and you I am far more of the opinionated loudmouth. Perhaps its because I stand proudly beside my obsessions. (yes that was a bit of a jab at you. Please take it with good humor. I'm trying to end this message on a light note.)

Peace and love brother.
:)

Bill Van F.
wvanfleet
Group Organizer
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 1,590
Vincent,

-Obsessed, misguided, fixated, and desperate are the words you highlighted. I want to as strongly as possible stick up for these words and to state adamently that in no way am I suggesting anything negative about you or that you are suffering from mental illness or desperation. That is a massive leap away from anything that I have said or am saying with those words. To take them all one at a time. I would like to say that to me you seem obsessed/fixated on the subject of punishment/revenge. After having said that I would like to point out that I have gone through YEARS worth of time myself in constant thought over certain subjects. If obsession/fixation is a negative psychological trait then I suffer from it myself in the most serious of ways. You have brought the subject up in practically every setting I've been in with you and that has been my observation and I only wondered what it was that got you involved in thinking about it that much more then other things. In my view you are misguided in your views, but I stand behind your stating them and advocating them. I wouldnt mind hearing your thoughts on the matter, I would be very interested hearing them because I imagine they are probably well thought out.
They are in Book1.

Desperate was a bit of a stretch admitedly and an exaggeration, how about I replace that one with very eager. You are very eager to talk about the subject. What set you to thinking about these things? Thats all I'm asking.
All my life, for reasons beyond my understanding, I have believed in the possibility of, and hoped for, a better world, in which we stop doing such awful things to each other and to ourselves. So I have tried to understand what stands in the way of our changing and stopping doing things that so obviously cause so much PSDED.

I am no expert on mental illness and am not trying to attack you in any way. I'm simply saying you bring up the subject a lot and that you appear to be rooted strongly to that particular topic. If my words are offensive I apologize but I dont feel my words are very insulting and that you are misreading them far more negatively then they are meant to be taken. I dont even know what words I could have used to avoid offense, but I dont see how I'm being offensive. I'm just asking a question, and am not saying or labeling you in any way with any word that I wouldnt use to describe myself. I would use any of those words as a self description (and probably have in quite a few situations) and therefore I myself would have to be suffering from as bad a mental illness as you or anyone else I point out. Despite how the common statement goes, I dont think that every psychiatrist is more neurotic then their patients.
Don't worry about my “taking offense.” I understand all that you have said. I believe, however, that it is useful to be very aware of how the specific words that we choose often have subtle connotations that may or may not be what is intended in the communication. I think we fairly often see examples of efforts at logical demonstration by labeling. For instance, I have had the experience of people saying that my opinions were an example of X (a label), with the implication being that since that viewpoint had already been demonstrated to be flawed, so must, therefore, be mine, making it unnecessary, therefore, to explore mine any further. There are lots of ways in which the words we use, taken from a list of options, have an effect on our communication with each other. My effort was only to increase this awareness in general, because I am impressed with the need to improve communication among our species, in order to reduce pain, suffering, disability, and early death.

I know that I seem strange. Almost everyone believes the world cannot get any better, in any basic way, than it is currently. Therefore, almost everyone has no interest in trying. In fact, almost everyone thinks that significant efforts to make things better actually make things worse. And almost everyone thinks there is something wrong with someone who thinks he has ideas about how we can make things drastically better. Thus, you thinking I am obsessed and fixated and misguided rather than conscientious or dedicated or reasonable is fairly familiar to me. (But you are doing more than most with regard to having dialogue and seeking understanding, and I appreciate that.)

(Continued in next post)
Bill Van F.
wvanfleet
Group Organizer
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 1,591
(Continued from previous post)

Okay, I was indeed incorrect. But I think the context in which I made that statement had to do with a way of looking at things that suggested this impression of your frame of reference. It seemed to me that you were dividing problems up into ones that were physical, and should be treated, and ones that were psychological, necessitating something like holding people responsible, etc.

-I totally understand why you would get that impression. I however think that all behavior is ultimately biologically based. I want to stress that I dont divide free will from determinism. I dont see them as seperate, I believe they are compatible. I think that people can be held responsible for their actions while at the same time recognizing that their behaviors are biologically based. Now that we know behavior is based on biology, it does not do away with free will as far as I'm concerned because it hasnt changed the state humans found themselves in when they came up with the concept of free will. We should update our understanding of free will and incorporate it into the modern lexicon.
This is an interesting concept, but not one which I understand yet. I have always understood the concept of “free will” as being the idea that we humans (at least) have the ability to bring things about free of (and inconsistent with) the laws of the universe. Determinism, as I understand it, is the belief that everything happens according to certain rules, such that if we were able to completely understand those rules, and also to completely understand all of the circumstances in a given situation, we would be able to predict what happens next, there being no other possibility. Now I know that quantum theory has been added to our concept of the laws of the universe, implying that complete prediction is impossible. However, quantum theory does not add an idea that there is another set of determinants of that which happens in the universe, namely, the “intention” of certain beings (at least humans), who therefore can do that which will not be predictable according to the rules of the universe but will be predictable by the individual because of the capability of “intention.” If such a set of determinants were possible, then the actions, brought about by the intentions of certain beings would produce results different from those predictable by the laws of the universe, including being different from the probability distribution of events predictable by quantum mechanics. So I am interested in how you see free will as not being incompatible with determinism.

I see them as incompatible, but I do not see each one of them as being either true or false, but instead as being alternative frames of reference that are useful in different spheres of activity. I am not opposed to utilizing the frame of reference of free will, but I believe that it, just as determinism, can be used in a non-optimal way. An example would be our use of the free will frame of reference in order to justify our awful, but very strongly believed in, propensity for inflicting what we call “punishment,” “revenge,” and “justice.”

(Continued in next post)
Bill Van F.
wvanfleet
Group Organizer
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 1,592
(Continued from previous post)

See, you are looking at religion as an effort to explain the mysterious, whereas I am looking at religion as our efforts to figure out how to live our lives. Most religions do also have an explanatory worldview, now obviously outdated by the explanatory worldview provided by science, but the explanatory worldviews of religion can gradually be reduced in importance and understood as metaphors with underlying meaning, while ethical issues are examined in great detail, providing help for those who participate in the religion. I do not believe that the study of philosophy is personal enough to provide what religion provides for people, at least within some religious organizations. And science does not answer ethical questions, but instead existential ones (meaning questions about the way the world is, was, and/or will be, rather than about what we should or should not do.)

Both inquiries, ethical and existential, are needed in order to work toward an optimal existence for us humans. Science tells us what will happen if we do something, and religion helps us to decide whether to do it or not. That does not mean that I think religion currently does a very good job, and it does not mean that I think religion does not have bad, archaic aspects to it. But there is no other social institution that is specifically designed for this function. It therefore, I believe, should not be removed, but instead improved.

-Even though I believe that free will should be updated into a new usage of the term I dont feel the same way for religion. Our views here diverge pretty extensively.
So I look forward to understanding your concept of the revised free will concept.

I do think that you are right when you say that often times religions are ways of looking at how to live our lives. You are right, I was thinking more along the lines of Christianity and Judaism then along the lines of the more eastern religions. To me the eastern religions concern themselves far more with issues concerned with how to live better and more fulfilling lives right now then with what happens after death. However, I think that though there are two types of religions, those who suggest how people should conduct themselves, and those that concern thmselves with god and the afterlife, (with some areas of overlap mind you) I dont think that there is any reason that I can see why philosophy cant step in and be the better way of confronting these issues reliigion used to address.
But religion already exists and is our long-standing accepted social medium for this process. Certainly, philosophy and religion overlap in certain ways, but as far as what is available to the vast majority of people for this purpose (of figuring out how to live life), philosophy has been a relatively unknown entity, as opposed to religion, which has been central in the lives of the vast majority, at least to some extent. So I still believe that getting the bad out of religion and progressively improving it is far better than stamping it out and trying to convince people that philosophy is where they should always have been putting their effort. Why not improve that which we have, rather than almost starting from scratch? And how feasible would it be to stamp out religion and advocate that people become intensely invested in philosophy instead?

I also dont agree about the science idea. I think that a lot of moral questions can be addressed through scientific understanding of biology, neurology, and people's genetics. I feel that most of peoples wants and desires and the actions which they lead to come from our biology and that "evil" acts or actions that cause pain can often times be better understood based off of a persons neurology. Although we must hold people responsible for their actions (to not would in my opinion be the ultimate example of dualism, stating that somehow people are not the same as their biological makeup, its peoples biological makeup that is what makes them responsible for themselves in the first place) and recognize people as responsible moral agents, the more neurology and biology discovers about how our brains work (and therefore our minds) the less that philosophy and religion will need to tackle the issue. I want religion to dissolve, philosophy to flourish, and science to discover the rest. In this area we may just have divergent views. I simply dont see anything religion has done that philosophy wouldnt have done on its own. Like Ayn Rand stressed "religion is an antiquated form of philosophy."
I think that it is helpful to discriminate between existential beliefs (about the way the world is, was, and will be, including what will happen if we do certain things) and ethical beliefs (about what we should or should not do). Science helps us develop the former, and religion helps us develop the latter. Religion does a lot of good along these lines, especially when it works hand-in-hand with science. Religion by itself can kill people, but so can science by itself. Religion should turn over to science the legitimization of existential beliefs. But we need both existential and ethical beliefs in our decision-making, so we should make use of both science and religion. What is disturbing is to see how slowly religion improves, especially since we see how rapidly science has been improving. I see the improvement that we observe in science as being a part of our 2nd exponential change, and I'm looking forward to the 3rd exponential change, just beginning to occur, in which our religions will finally enter the modern era.

And BTW, Ayn Rand’s Objectivism has all the characteristics of a fundamentalist religion, except the belief in the supernatural.

(Continued in next post)
Bill Van F.
wvanfleet
Group Organizer
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 1,593
(Continued from previous post)


But we have different approaches to the mind-body problem. Supervision of children and some adults will always be necessary. Currently, we find that using the model involving "free will" is required for us to feel okay about such supervision and, in addition, punishment, whereas "determinism" is required for us to feel okay about engaging in the effort to understand individuals rather than judge and punish them. You are looking at these two frames of reference as if only one of them can be right, whereas I see them as simply two frames of reference that can be helpful in different kinds of situations and with different kinds of goals. This is a complex subject, and I do not expect agreement with me simply on the basis of what I have so far said.

-I dont look at two frames of reference on this issue and dont think that only one can be right. I think that free will comes FROM biological determinism. People are their brains and bodies. Understanding a persons biology and disposition can help us determine the situations where punishment is helpful and the situations where rehabilitation might be possible. Determinism should not give anyone the right to treat another person as an object of causes. The whole is greater then its individual parts. People are paradoxes, both a collection of cells and an individual person. They must be treated as an individual person and researched as a collection of cells.
I hope that you will elaborate on this. I find it very difficult to understand what you are saying. What I am maintaining is that, if we stop making the assumption that what we have always believed has therefore to be correct, and if we really look closely at what we're doing, we can see that our belief in punishment and revenge is one of the most important causes of a major part of our human-induced pain, suffering, disability, and early death.

But the problem is that you do not understand what my beliefs are. You make the assumption that there are parents who "don't punish at all," but I would say that that is not so. Also, I do not say that simply eliminating punishment would have a beneficial effect. I don't believe it would. It's all that you would do instead of punishment that would make the difference, and I would not then and therefore predict the results that you claim result from simply not punishing at all.

-I do believe that there are some parents who do not punish their children. It seems to me that you are suggesting moving into a society of non punishment gradually. Once the gradual change has occured in steps and over time then when the overall views of society have changed children would not react the same concerning the idea of not being punished. Is this the idea?
I’m not sure. It doesn’t sound like it at all. The chapter on Rational-Ethical Child Rearing explains it to some extent.

The interpretation that you use of the phrase is, I believe, the same as mine. I talk about making the world a better place within one's own sphere of influence. I do not mean that the whole world is being made a better place, but instead that one part of it is. Making it a better place is making it have more that promotes joy, contentment and appreciation, and less that promotes pain, suffering, disability, and early death.

-I think I took the phrase to literally. I think you took my words to literally at the start of the message. Both cases were out of context from what was meant. With continued conversations I think that we will come to gain a better gauge and understanding of what we both mean. I will keep this in mind in the future.
I sense some progress.

I am not opposed to assisted suicide. But it is a very tricky issue because the person who is thinking about suicide may or may not have a major distortion in judgment produced by abnormal brain function. I do believe it is appropriate for us to carefully try to determine when people need supervision because of impaired judgment, the care being taken to use methods that are as accurate as possible in determining whether such judgment is indeed impaired. I acknowledge that this is an extremely difficult set of issues.
-This is a very difficult issue. How decides who has impaired judgement and how do we know that the judge of judgement doesnt have impaired judgement? Who decides who is impaired? Do you know who I think have some of the most impaired judgements? The authority figures in society. Its a hard issue that might not have a solution.
So we need agreed-upon criteria for the legitimization of belief, transparency of decision-making, and accuracy of belief.

I do not regard you as "obsessed." You have an opinion that is somewhat different than mine, but based upon much thought.

Once again I stick by my word. I think of myself as quite obsessive with the concept of force. What it is and when using it is appropriate? When does force become manipulation? Is the attempt to guide a persons behavior to your desire an example of force? Is there such a thing as indirect force, or is indirect force an example of manipulation? If I stand in your way and wont let you pass is that a form of force? These kind of questions consume a lot of my time and I dont consider being obsessed with them in any way negative. If Einstein hadnt been obsessive over the ideas of space and time to the point that it was all he thought about we wouldnt have the theory of relativity. If Darwin hadnt been obsessed over nature we wouldnt have the theory of evolution. We need more people obsessed with the beauty of being passionate about their ideas and interests. I'm proud to be obsessed over certain ideas. Not everything usually labeled so is an example of mental illness or neurosis.
I just would not use that word.

(Continued in next post)
Bill Van F.
wvanfleet
Group Organizer
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 1,594
(Continued from previous post)

For what purpose? Simply because it's fun to do, or because you believe that conscientiously challenging yourself and trying to learn makes you more able to be the kind of person who can make the world a better place within your sphere of influence?
Because I am obsessed over ideas. Because I think that they are important. Because I am driven by the desire to know and because I want to understand others because their views are interesting. I am too self centered and I consider it a weakness that I hope to correct. I am not proud of being egotistical. The more that I have seen and thought over the issue the more it seems to be the case to me that being something between is the best way to be. So even though I could say and would like to be able to be honest about saying that its to make the world a better place in my sphere of influence it has nothing to do with things in my case. Its because I'm curious and inquisitive. Because I'm turned on by opened minds and hearts. Its because I want to be as right about things as I can, and only through hearing other people can I check myself from being wrong.
So I am not able to understand why you assign negative value to these interests and activities. I don’t see them as being harmful to you or anyone else.

What I have noticed is that people sometimes try to negate someone's opinion by the ad hominem attribution of "arrogance" and "self righteousness" labels to them, as if to say that the opinion itself is evidence for the appropriateness of such labels. I, myself, do not use those labels.
-I am not in agreement when it comes to those words. I'm sure that some people do try to throw out the opinion with the use of those words, but for me so many people seem to me to be arrogant and self righteous that I have a hard time of avoiding the use of them. To me I think that the words that people use to throw out opinions are examples of arrogance and self righteousness. I think that those two words can be seen in other words people use. Usually people can show themselves to be arrogant and narrow minded when they change the subject of a conversation turning to insults instead of arguments, or call another person stupid for holding a different opinion. I am a firm believer in the idea that the more direct and to the point a word is the more usefull that it is and that I have to say what I see in an indifferent manner when it comes to the truth. I never seek to offend, but I dont mind stating the truth as I see it. To me any other approach would be unfair. I would want someone else to tell me the truth because I believe that the more honest a person is about truthful matters, and especially ones that are painful, the more direct the knowledge is met the quicker a person can get over things and cope with them. Perhaps I'm wrong.
I have the same orientation, but I just don’t use those words. The reason is that the words are pejorative, and I believe in being understanding rather than judgmental. It all has to do with my beliefs and hopes regarding the third exponential change, the alternative being just awful to contemplate.

You are, then, a good member of our group. But you would still be a good member of our group if you advocated for what you believed in and hoped for agreement.
-Perhaps, but I am very turned on by the idea of people disagreeing with me. I like diversity in lifestyles and views. I feel pretty tolerant of others and like the idea of people owning their own lives to live in the way they see most fit. I like a marketplace filled with different views that dont echo my own. I love to advocate what I believe in and when it comes to our last meeting it can probably seem obvious that at times I almost cant stop myself from doing so, but I dont hope or seek agreement. And I dont care about approval. Other people have their own life they own which they have to contend with figuring out. That is their responsibility to decide the correctness of their own views. I'm simply forming my own and its a full time task let me assure you. I am not one of those people who feels they have the answers. I certainly wish I had more of them I felt more sure about.
I am more impressed with any ability we have to come to agreement about beliefs that are unusually accurate and therefore unusually useful in accomplishing really wonderful things.

And I believe I am doing the equivalent of that when I express my opinions in the group.
You really dont state very many opinions in the group I dont think. It seems to me you mostly introduce ideas to get a feel for how people feel about them. The only opinion that I can remember you stating during the meetings is your view on punishment, which is another reason why I equate that topic with you more then the other topics. Between me and you I am far more of the opinionated loudmouth. Perhaps its because I stand proudly beside my obsessions. (yes that was a bit of a jab at you. Please take it with good humor. I'm trying to end this message on a light note.)

Peace and love brother.
:)
Have no fear. Everything is good. And cognitive restructuring helps obsessions.
vincent
user 8236565
Kannapolis, NC
Post #: 101
Message preview:

All my life, for reasons beyond my understanding, I have believed in the possibility of, and hoped for, a better world, in which we stop doing such awful things to each other and to ourselves. So I have tried to understand what stands in the way of our changing and stopping doing things that so obviously cause so much PSDED.

-We'll Bill, First of all I would like to apologize for my lack of response. Its been a confusing and a hard year, but I have learned a lot. Or at least I think I have. But in the end we can all think that we have learned more then we really have. To answer this statement, I dont see how it is conceivable to hope for such a world and I suppose I could be labeled as quite the negative nelly, but I feel that people for the most part are far too rotten to the core to allow such a state of society to come into existence. My current belief concerning the problem is that we are all really sort of modern day Cavemen, with the structures of society attempting to keep in check our basic instinctual urges and drives. I think that if there were some way whereby people could be more in touch with their true instinctual natures and to be able to execute their deepest urgest most people would be a lot happier. Some of these deeper urges of course involve killing and assaulting other people and how in the world would a society allow individuals to do such things and stay afloat? I have no idea and I certainly dont think that such a society can work. I do feel as of right now that if people were allowed to use reason to navigate them to fulfill their inner most urges without guilt or restraint (which is hammered home by tradtions and religions) you would probably have the least amount of PSDED. Your welcomed to see contradictions in this view if you want. It is easy to poke holes in because I myself can see how weak it is in a way, but I will readily admit that its a half formed idea. Its where my thought is leading, its not the end result of my still evolving views.

Don't worry about my “taking offense.” I understand all that you have said. I believe, however, that it is useful to be very aware of how the specific words that we choose often have subtle connotations that may or may not be what is intended in the communication. I think we fairly often see examples of efforts at logical demonstration by labeling. For instance, I have had the experience of people saying that my opinions were an example of X (a label), with the implication being that since that viewpoint had already been demonstrated to be flawed, so must, therefore, be mine, making it unnecessary, therefore, to explore mine any further. There are lots of ways in which the words we use, taken from a list of options, have an effect on our communication with each other. My effort was only to increase this awareness in general, because I am impressed with the need to improve communication among our species, in order to reduce pain, suffering, disability, and early death.

I know that I seem strange. Almost everyone believes the world cannot get any better, in any basic way, than it is currently. Therefore, almost everyone has no interest in trying. In fact, almost everyone thinks that significant efforts to make things better actually make things worse. And almost everyone thinks there is something wrong with someone who thinks he has ideas about how we can make things drastically better. Thus, you thinking I am obsessed and fixated and misguided rather than conscientious or dedicated or reasonable is fairly familiar to me. (But you are doing more than most with regard to having dialogue and seeking understanding, and I appreciate that.)

-I completely agree with you concerning words. Its often times very important to get down to specifics on what another person means. Sometimes asking another person to elaborate further on the words they use can point out to the person flaws in their own way of thinking. Especially certain words like love, faith, technology, happiness.....are very fuzzy and are hard to define for anyone. I feel like you are assuming in the second paragraph though that things like me thinking you are obsessed, fixated and misguided somehow excludes the possiblity that you are ALSO conscientious, dedicated and reasonable. I think you are all those things, I see no contradiction except that the first three words have negative connotations and the last three sound more positive. I think your all the positives and the negatives and a lot of what your taking as nagatives (such as obsessed and misguided) I dont feel are negative. Obsessions are things all men of achievement have and to be misguided is something that everyone is at one point or another. I think it is perfectly possible to be both reasonable and misguided. Reasonable to me means assesing facts and using data realistically. Many people can do that and still come away with the wrong conclusions.

This is an interesting concept, but not one which I understand yet. I have always understood the concept of “free will” as being the idea that we humans (at least) have the ability to bring things about free of (and inconsistent with) the laws of the universe. Determinism, as I understand it, is the belief that everything happens according to certain rules, such that if we were able to completely understand those rules, and also to completely understand all of the circumstances in a given situation, we would be able to predict what happens next, there being no other possibility. Now I know that quantum theory has been added to our concept of the laws of the universe, implying that complete prediction is impossible. However, quantum theory does not add an idea that there is another set of determinants of that which happens in the universe, namely, the “intention” of certain beings (at least humans), who therefore can do that which will not be predictable according to the rules of the universe but will be predictable by the individual because of the capability of “intention.” If such a set of determinants were possible, then the actions, brought about by the intentions of certain beings would produce results different from those predictable by the laws of the universe, including being different from the probability distribution of events predictable by quantum mechanics. So I am interested in how you see free will as not being incompatible with determinism.

I see them as incompatible, but I do not see each one of them as being either true or false, but instead as being alternative frames of reference that are useful in different spheres of activity. I am not opposed to utilizing the frame of reference of free will, but I believe that it, just as determinism, can be used in a non-optimal way. An example would be our use of the free will frame of reference in order to justify our awful, but very strongly believed in, propensity for inflicting what we call “punishment,” “revenge,” and “justice.”
vincent
user 8236565
Kannapolis, NC
Post #: 102
-I think were just using words in different ways here. I dont use free will in the sense of a metaphysical view outside of the laws of nature. I mean that a person's inner drive to achieve an outcome should be ascribed to them as a individual entity. The "will" to initiate an action is not a will that exists outside of the laws of nature. In the most basic way possible I would say that my definition of free will is when someone "feels" that the actions they execute are in their control. To me free will is kind of a sense of wholeness and integration in action. To me I dont use the term in a supernatural way that steps it outside the bounds of nature. Your view is more in line probably with the way most people understand the term. However, I feel that it is a term that needs to be updated because what people meant back when about the individuals right to make a personal choice was just a more ignorant description of what we now understand far better.

But religion already exists and is our long-standing accepted social medium for this process. Certainly, philosophy and religion overlap in certain ways, but as far as what is available to the vast majority of people for this purpose (of figuring out how to live life), philosophy has been a relatively unknown entity, as opposed to religion, which has been central in the lives of the vast majority, at least to some extent. So I still believe that getting the bad out of religion and progressively improving it is far better than stamping it out and trying to convince people that philosophy is where they should always have been putting their effort. Why not improve that which we have, rather than almost starting from scratch? And how feasible would it be to stamp out religion and advocate that people become intensely invested in philosophy instead?

- It is true that religion has played this role far more extensively then philosophy. I think that that is because religion is infinitely easier to understand in all its forms as oppossed to a Neitzsche, Descartes, Spinoza or even someone as mediocre as Ayn Rand. I dont see anything to improve in religion. To me its just one big mess and I dont really feel that people should instead become invested in philosophy. I dont remember if I wrote they should (my thoughts change over time and its been a while since I wrote) but I dont think that people are not always bright enough or more accurately PATIENT enough to understand what most influencial philosophers have said. Most people are apathetic and lazy. They are seekers of truth. I also think that in some areas, such as morals in particular, that neuroscience and evolutionary biology are going to provide far better answers as to why we should behave in certain ways then philosophy will. Although in a great many areas philosophy will still have its place.

I think that it is helpful to discriminate between existential beliefs (about the way the world is, was, and will be, including what will happen if we do certain things) and ethical beliefs (about what we should or should not do). Science helps us develop the former, and religion helps us develop the latter. Religion does a lot of good along these lines, especially when it works hand-in-hand with science. Religion by itself can kill people, but so can science by itself. Religion should turn over to science the legitimization of existential beliefs. But we need both existential and ethical beliefs in our decision-making, so we should make use of both science and religion. What is disturbing is to see how slowly religion improves, especially since we see how rapidly science has been improving. I see the improvement that we observe in science as being a part of our 2nd exponential change, and I'm looking forward to the 3rd exponential change, just beginning to occur, in which our religions will finally enter the modern era.

And BTW, Ayn Rand’s Objectivism has all the characteristics of a fundamentalist religion, except the belief in the supernatural.

- I'm afraid that we have hit on an area here where we do not see eye to eye. I believe the first half of your statement. Science does help us understand the way the world is. However, I certainly dont believe that religion helps us to understand morals or is the basis of morals. I feel that morals are evolutionarily wired into us from a sort of social evoluiton. The seeds of morals reside in the brain and were there long before religion simply codified them. I think that morals are a combination of social evolution in societies institutions (religion being one of several) and the result of inborn hardwired feelings of empathy. This is one of the reasons I dont agree with Ayn Rand saying that altruism is the source of destruction in the world. I'm not an altruist, but I dont think that altruism is first and foremost a behavior tied into philosophy. I think that altruism is probably an evolutionary throwback to when we lived in hunter gatherer societies. Just the same as society provides humanity with a series of hoops to jump through to fulfil instinctive urges altruism is an outdated behavior from hunter gatherer days. When currency came into development it undermined hunter gatherer societies for a more individualized society, but our emotions were stuck back in time apart from the developments of society.


I hope that you will elaborate on this. I find it very difficult to understand what you are saying. What I am maintaining is that, if we stop making the assumption that what we have always believed has therefore to be correct, and if we really look closely at what we're doing, we can see that our belief in punishment and revenge is one of the most important causes of a major part of our human-induced pain, suffering, disability, and early death.

- I think you have a misguided and confused position on punishment and revenge. These two words to me dont even go together. Revenge is personal and society's punishement of lawbreakers doesnt involve revenge. WE dont want revenge. SOCIETY doesnt do anything. There is no OUR here. This is not something that society chose to do. The punishment of lawbreakers concerns a series of actions different people have come up with to keep order. The people who came up with these laws were not seeking revenge. The laws apply to situations all over the country they have no emotional investment in. I dont see how the word revenge can be batted around when the person executing revenge/punishment has no investment in outcomes concerning situations he knows nothing about.

- I decided not to cover the rest because it just seemed to be more disagreement over the use of words. I might come to the meeting tommorow, I'm not sure. Ever since Maddy left I kind of stopped going. School is almost done and I would like to sit in on another one. I'll just have to see how things play out. Like I said before, this has been a really hard year, but a very educational one as well. I am looking forward with hope to a more active and engaging upcoming year. (provided that the world doesnt end soon)
:)
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