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Charlotte Philosophy Discussion Group Message Board › For Those Reading "Homo Rationalis" (The Book entitled For Every

For Those Reading "Homo Rationalis" (The Book entitled For Everyone: Rational-Ethical Living and the Emergence of "Homo Rationalis")

Bill Van F.
wvanfleet
Group Organizer
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 310
This thread is only for those who are engaged in the special project of reading, in the order written, the free book at HomoRationalis.com, For Everyone: Rational-Ethical Living and the Emergence of Homo Rationalis: The Most Important Book.

My request of such readers is that they report here the first sentence they come across that seems either incorrect or unclear in the context in which it is written. (Sometimes, of course, the next few paragraphs will provide some explanations or qualifications that will impact the apparent correctness and/or clarity of a sentence.)

At the time of this post, I am aware of two group members who are in the process of reading the book, and I am very grateful to them. I hope they will use this thread to report their progress, ask questions, present ideas, etc.

I am requesting that those who are not reading the book in the order written, but wish to comment on or debate about the ideas as they understand them, use a different thread (such as "HOMO RATIONALIS": Rational-Ethical Living). The reason is that it is always true that statements can be taken out of context, and therefore be perceived to have a different meaning than that intended by the author, and using space to correct such misunderstandings will tend to dilute and obscure the contributions of those who are indeed reading the book for maximum understanding.

If a sentence is found that seems either incorrect or unclear in the context in which it is written, and if that sentence can't be fixed, then the book fails. Such feedback is therefore very important to me, and I offer my thanks in advance to all who will undertake this project.

I know of two individuals, not in this group, who have read the whole book in the order written and have found nothing in it that seemed incorrect or unclear (though some sentences do indeed need rereads).

I believe that the book can be a positive contribution to the life of the reader, and that the ideas in it are ones of substantial value to our species.

Bill Van Fleet
A former member
Post #: 54
This book is an effort to share a set of observations and conclusions, and to share a set of proposals based upon those observations and conclusions.

The word 'observation' is commonly used in several senses. The two primary ones are: "an act or instance of noticing or perceiving" and "a remark, comment, or statement based on what one has noticed or observed." Or, to state them another way either a perception or a judgement about that perception. However, a judgement is also known as a conclusion.

Thus the first part of your opening sentence could be read as "to share a set of conclusions and conclusions."

I doubt that is what you intended.

However, it is what we are left with since you make no mention of how you get from "observations" to "conclusions" or if there is even any connection between the two.

A rational author would start with some facts, proceed with the logical implications of those facts, and only then arrive at some conclusions derived from those facts.

Instead, we are told that you are going to start with some "observations" and some (perhaps unrelated) conclusions and then you are going to "share" (what a weasel word!) some "proposals."

If the first sentence of the Introduction is so amorphous as to be meaningless, what hope can there be for what follows?
Bill Van F.
wvanfleet
Group Organizer
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 322
A rational author would start with some facts, proceed with the logical implications of those facts, and only then arrive at some conclusions derived from those facts.

None of the literature that I read is like that. The author makes an effort to give an overall orientation to the reader, often at the beginning giving the conclusions to be arrived at. This orientation would be to let the reader know why the "facts" were going to be given.

Will you share with us why you regard the word "share" as a "weasel word"? Or will you keep your thinking on this to yourself, so that we will have to guess?

As will be covered later in the book, language is a very imperfect tool. Any statement can be disfigured by assigning unintended meanings to the words, and any first statement can be criticized for not having statements preceding it that define what the words in it are to mean and why the statement is being made.

I am hoping that if you continue to read the book you will make an effort to understand, and if and when you don't that you will ask for clarification.

But I do think that you point to a quite valid overlapping of meaning, in at least nontechnical language, regarding "observations" and "conclusions." This will be easier to talk about after you have read the chapter on "Basic Concepts: Determinants of Behavior," in which the use, in this book, of "belief" is clarified. Suffice it here to say that in a sense, at least in nontechnical language, there is an element of conclusion in any observation. And there is a significant difference, I believe, between the use of such words in technical vs. nontechnical language.
A former member
Post #: 7
I am gradually reading my way through "Homo Rationalis"(about halfway so far).
As someone who has come to philosophy and the search for personal beliefs somewhat late in life, this book is giving me insight into ways of behaving.
Bill Van F.
wvanfleet
Group Organizer
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 353
I am impresssed with your dedication.

I ask anyone reading the book to let me know of the first sentence that seems either incorrect or unclear in the context in which it is written. If such a sentence can't be fixed, the book fails. Any feedback at all will be very welcome.

What chapter are you in?

Really good hearing from you.

Bill Van Fleet
Derik T.
user 23955602
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 68
In response to Bill's strong urging and my own desire to understand him better, I've begun reading the book.

For the purposes of providing helpful feedback that he and others can respond to, I'll be providing reactions to the book in page increments of 20.

Response 1 of 8 (referencing pages 1-20)

Strengths:
- Exhaustive rigor with which Bill has thought through the "case" for the book
- Detailed treatment of concepts of agreement, language, definition, legitimizing, etc.
- Strong, inspiring sense of purpose for writing a book that promotes the improvement of mankind

Potentially incorrect/unclear/incomplete elements:
- In a number of places, this segment of the book treats the influence of emotions somewhat derisively (e.g., pages 11, 13) An example:

A major consequence of often having many different words for more or less the same thing is that we tend to choose words for their poetic overtones (emotional connotations), with the idea that doing so will evoke feelings in the listener that will aid in the process of convincing the listener. Poetry, wonderful and helpful in promoting empathy, nevertheless is often not really conducive to agreement, especially when there is already an impression of disagreement and a strong wish to convince.

Does this perspective allow for the very important (yet emotion-laden) role of trust in facilitating agreement between two or more humans? In other words, don't the emotions and memories created by seeing evidence of one's reliability rightly play a role in fostering agreement? Perhaps this is addressed later in the book.

- This section presupposes in a number of places an a priori commitment within the reader for improvement of him-/herself and mankind. The following as an example from page 16:

If it appears to the reader that what I am proposing is not only probably correct, but also important to our species and/or important to the reader and those close to him or her, the reader should attempt to understand the ideas further and attempt to make use of them in his or her decision-making.

Use of the word "should" and the exhortation that follows it seems to invoke some higher-level ethical norms without providing a rationale for why the reader should be presupposed as finding them valuable. For the hedonist, who ascribes the highest value to activities that promote his own pleasure, why should he heed this "should"?
Bill Van F.
wvanfleet
Group Organizer
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 1,268

Potentially incorrect/unclear/incomplete elements:
- In a number of places, this segment of the book treats the influence of emotions somewhat derisively (e.g., pages 11, 13) An example:

A major consequence of often having many different words for more or less the same thing is that we tend to choose words for their poetic overtones (emotional connotations), with the idea that doing so will evoke feelings in the listener that will aid in the process of convincing the listener. Poetry, wonderful and helpful in promoting empathy, nevertheless is often not really conducive to agreement, especially when there is already an impression of disagreement and a strong wish to convince.
I see no evidence of derisiveness, nor was that my intention. Perhaps you could explain what leads to your impression of derision?

Does this perspective allow for the very important (yet emotion-laden) role of trust in facilitating agreement between two or more humans? In other words, don't the emotions and memories created by seeing evidence of one's reliability rightly play a role in fostering agreement? Perhaps this is addressed later in the book.
You are correct that such happens. You are talking about agreement based upon trust of the person advocating a viewpoint. But that criterion for agreement is unreliable. Witness the dedicated followers of Hitler and the dedication of suicide bombers, based upon reliable, though I would maintain inaccurate, belief systems. Those feelings of trust are not facilitators of agreement that will result necessarily in good, or result necessarily in agreement to that which is accurate. This is indeed addressed later in the book, and is one of the things the book is about. Under what circumstances is agreement warranted? What are the best criteria for the legitimization of belief?

- This section presupposes in a number of places an a priori commitment within the reader for improvement of him-/herself and mankind. The following as an example from page 16:

If it appears to the reader that what I am proposing is not only probably correct, but also important to our species and/or important to the reader and those close to him or her, the reader should attempt to understand the ideas further and attempt to make use of them in his or her decision-making.

Use of the word "should" and the exhortation that follows it seems to invoke some higher-level ethical norms without providing a rationale for why the reader should be presupposed as finding them valuable. For the hedonist, who ascribes the highest value to activities that promote his own pleasure, why should he heed this "should"?

This higher-level ethical norm is part of what the book is about. So the reader will have to read the book to see whether it is an appropriate “exhortation” (advocacy) or not. There are indeed many who do not care about our species, including our future generations, and they will be very unlikely to read this book.

But please note that that which is being “exhorted” (advocated) is advocated only if the conditions described in the first part of the sentence (“If the reader…”) are met. Those conditions are not, however, “presupposed.”

And my statement as to what the reader should do is just my opinion, and is not anything that I am asking to be taken “a priori.” That “a priori” is something you are adding.

I hope you will be careful not to misrepresent what is written in the book. You are providing a very important service, I believe, that could possibly have significant effects on many people’s lives. I hope you will be dedicated to doing the best job you can. If the book does indeed have potential value for generations to come (in addition to some currently alive), then your reviewing of it can either foster the likelihood of benefit to those people or inhibit such benefit. If the book does not have such value, then of course misrepresenting it will not make much difference. I hope you are not undertaking your review with the forgone conclusion that the book has no value. I hope you will keep an open mind and give the book a chance.
Derik T.
user 23955602
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 70

I hope you will be careful not to misrepresent what is written in the book. You are providing a very important service, I believe, that could possibly have significant effects on many people’s lives. I hope you will be dedicated to doing the best job you can. If the book does indeed have potential value for generations to come (in addition to some currently alive), then your reviewing of it can either foster the likelihood of benefit to those people or inhibit such benefit. If the book does not have such value, then of course misrepresenting it will not make much difference. I hope you are not undertaking your review with the forgone conclusion that the book has no value. I hope you will keep an open mind and give the book a chance.

Indeed, I do have an open mind and know how much this means to you. I'll use the extent of my little intelligence and knowledge of philosophy to create the best review I can.

For this reason, I was a bit dismayed that your response jumped straight to the deficits I cited. I try whenever possible to recognize strengths where they exist, and found some very notable ones from the first 20-page segment. I encourage you to spent material time celebrating what is good vice just focusing on the deficits. :)

I see no evidence of derisiveness, nor was that my intention. Perhaps you could explain what leads to your impression of derision?

On page 13 you ascribed emotion-laden language (labelled "poetic") to the realm of politics... I can imagine no greater derision! :)


You are correct that such happens. You are talking about agreement based upon trust of the person advocating a viewpoint. But that criterion for agreement is unreliable. Witness the dedicated followers of Hitler and the dedication of suicide bombers, based upon reliable, though I would maintain inaccurate, belief systems. Those feelings of trust are not facilitators of agreement that will result necessarily in good, or result necessarily in agreement to that which is accurate. This is indeed addressed later in the book, and is one of the things the book is about. Under what circumstances is agreement warranted? What are the best criteria for the legitimization of belief?

It probably does warrant suspending this part of the discussion until later in the book, but I'll say in passing that there is a VERY critical role for trust-based agreement in a healthy society. Parenting wouldn't work without it. My three boys feel my hugs, see me cheer for them at their soccer games, eat the dinner I provide for them every night... they trust me. This gives me, and every parent, the requisite "in" to have more influence on them than our next door neighbor, their buddies, or their teachers at school. To propose that kids, or any other humans, remove this trust-based component from how they learn and teach others seems quite dangerous. Not saying you're doing this, but my antennae are definitely up...

This higher-level ethical norm is part of what the book is about. So the reader will have to read the book to see whether it is an appropriate “exhortation” (advocacy) or not. There are indeed many who do not care about our species, including our future generations, and they will be very unlikely to read this book.

I'm asking something slightly different--what gives you authority/license to assert an ethical system to others at all? It seems there are only two options, both of which you covered in your historical recap of agreement in Western philosophy:
- Absolute: there is a set of ethical norms that, if followed, yields a life that is good in an absolute sense
- Pragmatic: there is a set of ethical norms that, if followed, yields a life that "works" to have many beneficial outcomes

Having spent some time with you on other topics, I suspect you wouldn't claim the first--but the latter seems somewhat unsatisfying as well.

Perhaps it's important that the first part of a book such as this would establish your authority/license to make an ethical assertion at all, whether the assertion is absolute or pragmatic, and why. Why is "caring about our species" a "good" thing?
Bill Van F.
wvanfleet
Group Organizer
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 1,269
Derik,

I hope you will be careful not to misrepresent what is written in the book. You are providing a very important service, I believe, that could possibly have significant effects on many people’s lives. I hope you will be dedicated to doing the best job you can. If the book does indeed have potential value for generations to come (in addition to some currently alive), then your reviewing of it can either foster the likelihood of benefit to those people or inhibit such benefit. If the book does not have such value, then of course misrepresenting it will not make much difference. I hope you are not undertaking your review with the forgone conclusion that the book has no value. I hope you will keep an open mind and give the book a chance.

Indeed, I do have an open mind and know how much this means to you. I'll use the extent of my little intelligence and knowledge of philosophy to create the best review I can.

For this reason, I was a bit dismayed that your response jumped straight to the deficits I cited. I try whenever possible to recognize strengths where they exist, and found some very notable ones from the first 20-page segment. I encourage you to spent material time celebrating what is good vice just focusing on the deficits. :)
I appreciate that you have mentioned some things that you found that seemed good. But my effort is not to celebrate. My effort is to look objectively at what I have written by seeing it through the eyes of others, you in this case. But no eyes are perfectly objective, so of course I have to evaluate the evaluations. In particular, though, I am looking for places where the book miscommunicates or communicates inadequately. I can suspect that when I see a response that implies or states that I believe something that I do not in fact believe. The only problem is that sometimes the reason for that happening is not because of faulty communication on my part. Nevertheless, when I see you concluding that I believe something that I don’t believe, I believe it is important for me to clarify that. First, I would feel very bad if people got the wrong idea of what I have written. Second, I would want to try to understand why that was happening. (I may use such understanding to make corrections.)

I see no evidence of derisiveness, nor was that my intention. Perhaps you could explain what leads to your impression of derision?

On page 13 you ascribed emotion-laden language (labelled "poetic") to the realm of politics... I can imagine no greater derision! :)

Why do you see this as derision? Is it not a simple, well-recognized fact? Don’t political speeches appeal to the emotions in addition to the intellect? Don’t politicians use poetic devices in their speeches? I can’t understand why this doesn’t seem obvious to you. Or is it that my mentioning it is automatically somehow derisive? I can tell you it is surprising to me to have you say that. Please help me to understand.


You are correct that such happens. You are talking about agreement based upon trust of the person advocating a viewpoint. But that criterion for agreement is unreliable. Witness the dedicated followers of Hitler and the dedication of suicide bombers, based upon reliable, though I would maintain inaccurate, belief systems. Those feelings of trust are not facilitators of agreement that will result necessarily in good, or result necessarily in agreement to that which is accurate. This is indeed addressed later in the book, and is one of the things the book is about. Under what circumstances is agreement warranted? What are the best criteria for the legitimization of belief?

It probably does warrant suspending this part of the discussion until later in the book, but I'll say in passing that there is a VERY critical role for trust-based agreement in a healthy society. Parenting wouldn't work without it. My three boys feel my hugs, see me cheer for them at their soccer games, eat the dinner I provide for them every night... they trust me. This gives me, and every parent, the requisite "in" to have more influence on them than our next door neighbor, their buddies, or their teachers at school. To propose that kids, or any other humans, remove this trust-based component from how they learn and teach others seems quite dangerous. Not saying you're doing this, but my antennae are definitely up...
Please be assured that I also believe that trust, where appropriate, is very important, just as is behavior that makes trust appropriate. That is not what I was talking about. The book claims, rightly or wrongly, that the reader will agree with what is written because it will make sense. It does not in any way say, “Please just trust me.”

This higher-level ethical norm is part of what the book is about. So the reader will have to read the book to see whether it is an appropriate “exhortation” (advocacy) or not. There are indeed many who do not care about our species, including our future generations, and they will be very unlikely to read this book.

I'm asking something slightly different--what gives you authority/license to assert an ethical system to others at all?

I claim no authority. I claim the same license as anyone else to express his or her opinion, about anything, and to advocate for it. But the question is whether or not I am correct. I believe and hope that what I have written will turn out not only to be correct, but if correct, to be convincing to others. Your review will provide evidence one way or another.

It seems there are only two options, both of which you covered in your historical recap of agreement in Western philosophy:
- Absolute: there is a set of ethical norms that, if followed, yields a life that is good in an absolute sense
- Pragmatic: there is a set of ethical norms that, if followed, yields a life that "works" to have many beneficial outcomes

Having spent some time with you on other topics, I suspect you wouldn't claim the first--but the latter seems somewhat unsatisfying as well.
Neither of them sound exactly right to me either. But what I have to say about it will be in the chapter on “Basic Concepts: Ethics.” To understand that chapter it will be important to read the ones before it, for reasons I have already given.

Perhaps it's important that the first part of a book such as this would establish your authority/license to make an ethical assertion at all, whether the assertion is absolute or pragmatic, and why. Why is "caring about our species" a "good" thing?

Again, this issue will become clearer upon reading the chapter on ethics. But I am not claiming any authority/license to make an ethical assertion. I am just advocating for my viewpoint, and waiting for dialogue, which it appears you will be generous enough to provide. And I do want again to express my gratitude for what you are doing.
Bill Van F.
wvanfleet
Group Organizer
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 1,271
Derik,

- This section presupposes in a number of places an a priori commitment within the reader for improvement of him-/herself and mankind. The following as an example from page 16:

If it appears to the reader that what I am proposing is not only probably correct, but also important to our species and/or important to the reader and those close to him or her, the reader should attempt to understand the ideas further and attempt to make use of them in his or her decision-making.

Use of the word "should" and the exhortation that follows it seems to invoke some higher-level ethical norms without providing a rationale for why the reader should be presupposed as finding them valuable. For the hedonist, who ascribes the highest value to activities that promote his own pleasure, why should he heed this "should"?

I have been thinking about this sentence since you called attention to it, and have come to agree with you that there is something wrong with it. I wish to correct any flaws in the book, if that is possible, and I believe you found one. I think the following would be the appropriate correction:

If it appears to the reader that what I am proposing is not only probably correct, but also important to our species and/or important to the reader and those close to him or her, then I would predict that the reader will conclude that he or she should attempt to understand the ideas further and attempt to make use of them in his or her decision-making. That is my wish and hope.

Thank you for spotting that problematic sentence.

[Edit:]

Whoops! I just noticed that the sentence under consideration was presented out of context. It is in a paragraph that explains that the sentence is a proposal of mine. That metacommunication regarding the sentence alters somewhat the meaning in the direction of what the book is about. Here is the paragraph:

There is one other proposal that I am making to the reader. If it appears to the reader that what I am proposing is not only probably correct, but also important to our species and/or important to the reader and those close to him or her, the reader should attempt to understand the ideas further and attempt to make use of them in his or her decision-making. Notice that one would no longer say, “Yes, but you can’t prove what you are saying, so I don’t have to listen to you anymore.” It is my belief that we all suffer when this happens, and that it happens a lot. I am not advocating “blind faith” nor obedience; I am advocating recognizing an obligation to understand as much as possible about those issues that are important to us all. This would be being a good citizen. The bottom line is the advocacy to do the best we can in behalf of us all. The effort to understand may turn out to be our most important obligation.


However, the meaning of “proposal” is somewhat unclear, so this is what I believe the paragraph should say:

There is one other proposal that I am making to the reader. If it appears to the reader that what I am proposing is not only probably correct, but also important to our species and/or important to the reader and those close to him or her, I would then propose that the reader attempt to understand the ideas further and attempt to make use of them in his or her decision-making. Notice that one would no longer say, “Yes, but you can’t prove what you are saying, so I don’t have to listen to you anymore.” It is my belief that we all suffer when this happens, and that it happens a lot. I am not advocating “blind faith” nor obedience; I am advocating feeling an obligation to understand as much as possible about those issues that are important to us all. This would be being a good citizen, according to usual word usage. The bottom line is my advocacy to do the best we can in behalf of us all. And if we accept what I am advocating, then we may come to agree that the felt obligation to put forth the effort to understand is probably our most important felt obligation.

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