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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 #: 1,384
(Continued from previous post)

- - -

Now as I understand it, you are saying that if you wrote something similar to what I am writing, you would say,

By optimal living, I am referring to "the hypothetical sequence (or sequences) of decisions that fulfill the purpose(s) for which God created man".

In the place of my saying:

By optimal living, I am referring to the hypothetical set of all decisions most likely to lead to the survival of and best quality of life for everyone, now and in the future.

Furthermore, you are saying that, in your opinion, your statement would be correct whereas mine would not be.

Am I correct in this understanding? If not, what statement of mine is it that you are disagreeing with, and what would you say instead?

Yes, this is correct!

Having learned quite a bit from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (http://plato.stanford...­) on the topic of definitions, I see now that I would also need to demonstrate that the predominant counterexample definitions of "optimal living" in existing usage are incorrect:
- Making decisions that promote what's generally accepted as good and reduce what's generally accepted as evil
- Maximizing one's pleasure
- Perfecting oneself in mind and body
and likely others...

That a particular definition of a term is the most commonly used one, or a commonly used one, is something that could be considered correct or incorrect. The definition itself is simply a label put on something. Anyone can put a label on anything. (Whether it is useful to do so is another issue.)

And it would not be optimal to use a widely used word with an established most common usage to label something new and different; that would indeed cause an outcry that that is not what the term (usually) means, and that therefore the use of the term was “incorrect.” But that is not what I am doing.

The purpose of a definition is to improve mutual understanding of each other’s communication.

(And of course there are other meanings of the word “definition” that what I have said might not apply to, this being another example of the ambiguities of language, caused by multiple meanings of terms, and the effect of those ambiguities on communication and possible agreement.)

- - -

I will now respond to all your blue questions.

At what point is it reasonable for a reader to disagree with your recommendation of 'optimal living'? At the time it is defined? At the end of the book? After a life lived in conformity to the REUEP? When?

How to engage in optimal living is what the whole book is about. I recommend reading the whole book and seeing if it makes sense and appears to be valuable in the ways it claims to be.

So it appears that in our ongoing vacillation between "stop at the first sentence that seems to be incorrect" and "one needs to read the entire book to see if it makes sense", we've returned once again to the latter. Shall I pick up reading where I left off?
I have not suggested and am not suggesting any change in procedure. And what you have portrayed me as suggesting is a misrepresentation of what I have said. The sentence we are talking about is about how I am using the term “optimal living.” The book is about my recommended methods of achieving that. You have melded those two issues into one ambiguous one when you used the phrase “your recommendation of ‘optimal living.’” This makes no distinction between the sentence, which states what I mean by the term, and the book, which suggests how to do what the term refers to.

You have indeed stopped at the first sentence that appears to you to be incorrect, and you have stated what you believe to be the correct sentence instead. That is fine.

That statement is simply a statement that says that the book is about methods for achieving, as a species, the goal of as good a quality of life as possible (or more thoroughly, not only our survival as a species, but also as much joy, contentment, and appreciation as possible and as little pain, suffering, disability, and early death as possible, for everyone, now and in the future). It is saying, therefore, that those methods of achieving that goal are what the book is about. (And of course reading the book will clarify what I consider those methods to be.)

You seem to me to be saying that the goal is okay but that those methods are wrong, in that they are not consistent with fulfilling the purpose(s) for which God created man. So we will have to compare (1) the methods recommended in the book with (2) the methods that you believe are consistent with fulfilling the purpose(s) for which God created man.

So I will be interested in your alternative proposals and how you come to your conclusions. For instance, I will be interested in what those purposes are and how we are to know what those purposes are.

What I currently believe is that it is very unlikely that we will come close to a species-wide agreement about the existence of God, the nature of God, and the purposes for which He created us. I think it is much more likely that we will come close to a species-wide agreement regarding the statements to come with further reading of the book. I believe that we as a species are moving away from some of the beliefs that you currently maintain.

I again suggest that we start another topic that addresses these questions about your position. Regarding the current topic, I will be interested if you believe that there are ideas of mine, as we come to them, that God would not agree with, and why you believe that.
Derik T.
user 23955602
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 132
Bill,

Was the final question here expecting an answer (bold blue)?

So here you portray me as engaging in something labeled with the pejorative label of “protectivism,” and thereby imply that my effort to stop you from misrepresenting the book is motivated just by defensive anger, rather than by an ethical need to make a positive contribution and protect that contribution from damage. What is the goal of that portrayal of me?

- - -

That a particular definition of a term is the most commonly used one, or a commonly used one, is something that could be considered correct or incorrect. The definition itself is simply a label put on something. Anyone can put a label on anything. (Whether it is useful to do so is another issue.)

The bold portion above represents an astonishing turn of events in this discussion. Am I understanding you accurately that, all along, you would have accepted the following formulation of my disagreement?

"Our species' widespread adoption of your definition of 'optimal living'--as is clearly your desire--would be incorrect."


- - -


I have not suggested and am not suggesting any change in procedure. And what you have portrayed me as suggesting is a misrepresentation of what I have said. The sentence we are talking about is about how I am using the term “optimal living.” The book is about my recommended methods of achieving that. You have melded those two issues into one ambiguous one when you used the phrase “your recommendation of ‘optimal living.’” This makes no distinction between the sentence, which states what I mean by the term, and the book, which suggests how to do what the term refers to.

You have indeed stopped at the first sentence that appears to you to be incorrect, and you have stated what you believe to be the correct sentence instead. That is fine.

That statement is simply a statement that says that the book is about methods for achieving, as a species, the goal of as good a quality of life as possible (or more thoroughly, not only our survival as a species, but also as much joy, contentment, and appreciation as possible and as little pain, suffering, disability, and early death as possible, for everyone, now and in the future). It is saying, therefore, that those methods of achieving that goal are what the book is about. (And of course reading the book will clarify what I consider those methods to be.)

You seem to me to be saying that the goal is okay but that those methods are wrong, in that they are not consistent with fulfilling the purpose(s) for which God created man. So we will have to compare (1) the methods recommended in the book with (2) the methods that you believe are consistent with fulfilling the purpose(s) for which God created man.

So I will be interested in your alternative proposals and how you come to your conclusions. For instance, I will be interested in what those purposes are and how we are to know what those purposes are.


What I currently believe is that it is very unlikely that we will come close to a species-wide agreement about the existence of God, the nature of God, and the purposes for which He created us. I think it is much more likely that we will come close to a species-wide agreement regarding the statements to come with further reading of the book. I believe that we as a species are moving away from some of the beliefs that you currently maintain.

I again suggest that we start another topic that addresses these questions about your position. Regarding the current topic, I will be interested if you believe that there are ideas of mine, as we come to them, that God would not agree with, and why you believe that.

This section presents several potential paths forward for this particular discussion, and in such a way that it is difficult for me to distinguish which you are recommending we discuss. Please find below my legend of potential paths, coordinated with the colors above:

- ORANGE: I've said before that I believe there is a higher order "best in order to what"; however, I do believe that my definition of optimal living just so happens to more fully achieve the book's "best in order to what" also. For this reason, I stated I'd be willing to argue the "bestness" of my definition with respect to the goal of maximizing JCA and minimizing PSDED. This is one potential path.

- GREEN: This topic may actually be two different shades of green, specifically (a) who is God, His nature, and His purpose(s), and (b) the critical mass of optimal living necessary to substantially increase JCA and reduce PSDED. Concerning (b), it strikes me as remarkably odd that you would automatically presuppose species-wide "D optimal living" would be required to outperform species-wide "B optimal living". I daresay if even 10% of the population were fervently living out "D optimal living", JCA would be higher and PSDED would be lower than the case of species-wide "B optimal living".

- RED: Would this path of discussion require that I revisit the content from the book I've already addressed in order to speculate on each's alignment with God? This strikes me as a somewhat odd exercise as I'd be saying an awful lot that sounds like, "Well, that certainly sounds practical, but WHY do it? What is the posture of the heart? If I want to use these principles to prevent anger with my boss because I'm hungry for wealth, it would not be aligned with God. If, however, I put these principles into practice to show undeserved love to my boss the way God first loved undeserving me, my heart and actions would be aligned with God." In so much as "D optimal living" hinges heavily on one's motives, would the exercise you're proposing be all that constructive?

And lastly, which of the above paths (or yet another I missed) are you recommending we follow on THIS discussion thread?
Bill Van F.
wvanfleet
Group Organizer
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 1,386
Bill,

Was the final question here expecting an answer (bold blue)?

So here you portray me as engaging in something labeled with the pejorative label of “protectivism,” and thereby imply that my effort to stop you from misrepresenting the book is motivated just by defensive anger, rather than by an ethical need to make a positive contribution and protect that contribution from damage. What is the goal of that portrayal of me?

No. It was a suggestion that you think about the answer.

- - -

That a particular definition of a term is the most commonly used one, or a commonly used one, is something that could be considered correct or incorrect. The definition itself is simply a label put on something. Anyone can put a label on anything. (Whether it is useful to do so is another issue.)

The bold portion above represents an astonishing turn of events in this discussion. Am I understanding you accurately that, all along, you would have accepted the following formulation of my disagreement?

"Our species' widespread adoption of your definition of 'optimal living'--as is clearly your desire--would be incorrect."


No. And I have no idea as to how you came up with that.

[Edit: But see my post on 12/30/11, in which I figure out the misinterpretation of what I wrote.]


- - -


I have not suggested and am not suggesting any change in procedure. And what you have portrayed me as suggesting is a misrepresentation of what I have said. The sentence we are talking about is about how I am using the term “optimal living.” The book is about my recommended methods of achieving that. You have melded those two issues into one ambiguous one when you used the phrase “your recommendation of ‘optimal living.’” This makes no distinction between the sentence, which states what I mean by the term, and the book, which suggests how to do what the term refers to.

You have indeed stopped at the first sentence that appears to you to be incorrect, and you have stated what you believe to be the correct sentence instead. That is fine.

That statement is simply a statement that says that the book is about methods for achieving, as a species, the goal of as good a quality of life as possible (or more thoroughly, not only our survival as a species, but also as much joy, contentment, and appreciation as possible and as little pain, suffering, disability, and early death as possible, for everyone, now and in the future). It is saying, therefore, that those methods of achieving that goal are what the book is about. (And of course reading the book will clarify what I consider those methods to be.)

You seem to me to be saying that the goal is okay but that those methods are wrong, in that they are not consistent with fulfilling the purpose(s) for which God created man. So we will have to compare (1) the methods recommended in the book with (2) the methods that you believe are consistent with fulfilling the purpose(s) for which God created man.

So I will be interested in your alternative proposals and how you come to your conclusions. For instance, I will be interested in what those purposes are and how we are to know what those purposes are.


What I currently believe is that it is very unlikely that we will come close to a species-wide agreement about the existence of God, the nature of God, and the purposes for which He created us. I think it is much more likely that we will come close to a species-wide agreement regarding the statements to come with further reading of the book. I believe that we as a species are moving away from some of the beliefs that you currently maintain.

I again suggest that we start another topic that addresses these questions about your position. Regarding the current topic, I will be interested if you believe that there are ideas of mine, as we come to them, that God would not agree with, and why you believe that.

This section presents several potential paths forward for this particular discussion, and in such a way that it is difficult for me to distinguish which you are recommending we discuss. Please find below my legend of potential paths, coordinated with the colors above:

- ORANGE: I've said before that I believe there is a higher order "best in order to what"; however, I do believe that my definition of optimal living just so happens to more fully achieve the book's "best in order to what" also. For this reason, I stated I'd be willing to argue the "bestness" of my definition with respect to the goal of maximizing JCA and minimizing PSDED. This is one potential path.

- GREEN: This topic may actually be two different shades of green, specifically (a) who is God, His nature, and His purpose(s), and (b) the critical mass of optimal living necessary to substantially increase JCA and reduce PSDED. Concerning (b), it strikes me as remarkably odd that you would automatically presuppose species-wide "D optimal living" would be required to outperform species-wide "B optimal living". I daresay if even 10% of the population were fervently living out "D optimal living", JCA would be higher and PSDED would be lower than the case of species-wide "B optimal living".

- RED: Would this path of discussion require that I revisit the content from the book I've already addressed in order to speculate on each's alignment with God? This strikes me as a somewhat odd exercise as I'd be saying an awful lot that sounds like, "Well, that certainly sounds practical, but WHY do it? What is the posture of the heart? If I want to use these principles to prevent anger with my boss because I'm hungry for wealth, it would not be aligned with God. If, however, I put these principles into practice to show undeserved love to my boss the way God first loved undeserving me, my heart and actions would be aligned with God." In so much as "D optimal living" hinges heavily on one's motives, would the exercise you're proposing be all that constructive?

And lastly, which of the above paths (or yet another I missed) are you recommending we follow on THIS discussion thread?

And lastly, which of the above paths (or yet another I missed) are you recommending we follow on THIS discussion thread?

I’m sorry Derik, but I can’t take the time to try to understand and deal with all of that. I believe I have stated clearly what I think would be useful. If you wish to discuss the actual ideas in the book, not misrepresentations of them, I’m all for that. I don’t rule out that you could mistakenly misinterpret something in the book, or that something in the book could be incorrect or unclear in the context in which it is written, in which case, if you simply quote the sentence with its surrounding context and explain why you think it is wrong or unclear and what you would say instead, then we can work on such apparent disagreements and see what their sources are.
Bill Van F.
wvanfleet
Group Organizer
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 1,390
Derik,

I reviewed your discussion, now having a little more time, and I think I can satisfy some of your wishes by doing as I have done, namely, starting another topic (on ultimate ethical principles) that speaks to what you are wanting to discuss. This will allow you to get back to the book in this discussion and yet deal with the issues that you feel have been raised that take us far away from the book. I hope this meets with your approval.
Bill Van F.
wvanfleet
Group Organizer
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 1,391
Derik,

You seem to me to be saying that the goal is okay but that those methods are wrong, in that they are not consistent with fulfilling the purpose(s) for which God created man. So we will have to compare (1) the methods recommended in the book with (2) the methods that you believe are consistent with fulfilling the purpose(s) for which God created man.

So I will be interested in your alternative proposals and how you come to your conclusions. For instance, I will be interested in what those purposes are and how we are to know what those purposes are.
- ORANGE: I've said before that I believe there is a higher order "best in order to what"; however, I do believe that my definition of optimal living just so happens to more fully achieve the book's "best in order to what" also. For this reason, I stated I'd be willing to argue the "bestness" of my definition with respect to the goal of maximizing JCA and minimizing PSDED. This is one potential path.

This will be best addressed in the new topic I started concerning ultimate ethical principles. In “best in order to what,” the “what” would seem to refer to one’s ultimate ethical principle.

My goal is the same as my ultimate ethical principle. I want to do what I believe I should do. My methods for doing so are outlined in the book, and are what I advocate for, along with the ultimate ethical principle (REUEP), which states the goal I believe I should aim for.

Could you state your ultimate ethical principle again, and then state your goal?

Again, that would best be answered in the other thread, where you could also describe your methods.
Bill Van F.
wvanfleet
Group Organizer
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 1,392
Derik,
What I currently believe is that it is very unlikely that we will come close to a species-wide agreement about the existence of God, the nature of God, and the purposes for which He created us. I think it is much more likely that we will come close to a species-wide agreement regarding the statements to come with further reading of the book. I believe that we as a species are moving away from some of the beliefs that you currently maintain.

- GREEN: This topic may actually be two different shades of green, specifically (a) who is God, His nature, and His purpose(s), and (b) the critical mass of optimal living necessary to substantially increase JCA and reduce PSDED. Concerning (b), it strikes me as remarkably odd that you would automatically presuppose species-wide "D optimal living" would be required to outperform species-wide "B optimal living". I daresay if even 10% of the population were fervently living out "D optimal living", JCA would be higher and PSDED would be lower than the case of species-wide "B optimal living".

(a) The phrase “critical mass of optimal living” is too ambiguous a phrase for me to deal with, in that it implies a measurement of something that cannot be measured with any satisfactorily definable units. Who God is, etc., would be good for another topic, but not this one, since it would be too remote from the book.

(b) This would be dependent upon what your and my methods of optimal living were. You can get a good idea of mine from reading the book. Perhaps we can get a good idea of yours from posts by you. I would suggest they be in the topic I have started, comparing our ultimate ethical principles. To discuss that here would be to abandon understanding the book by reviewing it in the order written.
Bill Van F.
wvanfleet
Group Organizer
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 1,393
Derik,
I again suggest that we start another topic that addresses these questions about your position. Regarding the current topic, I will be interested if you believe that there are ideas of mine, as we come to them, that God would not agree with, and why you believe that.

- RED: Would this path of discussion require that I revisit the content from the book I've already addressed in order to speculate on each's alignment with God? This strikes me as a somewhat odd exercise as I'd be saying an awful lot that sounds like, "Well, that certainly sounds practical, but WHY do it? What is the posture of the heart? If I want to use these principles to prevent anger with my boss because I'm hungry for wealth, it would not be aligned with God. If, however, I put these principles into practice to show undeserved love to my boss the way God first loved undeserving me, my heart and actions would be aligned with God." In so much as "D optimal living" hinges heavily on one's motives, would the exercise you're proposing be all that constructive?

I believe intentions are important, i.e., what it is that one wants to do. However, accuracy of belief is important also. You could become a suicide bomber with the best of intentions, but what if it is an inaccurate belief that there is a God that created you for the purpose of getting rid of people who did not believe in Him?
Bill Van F.
wvanfleet
Group Organizer
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 1,394
BTW, Derik,
I daresay if even 10% of the population were fervently living out "D optimal living", JCA would be higher and PSDED would be lower than the case of species-wide "B optimal living".

This is indeed a statement that I believe is incorrect. It is what the book is about.
Bill Van F.
wvanfleet
Group Organizer
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 1,395
Derik,

In the back of my mind, I have kept wondering about this particular post of yours because it seemed so strange. I wondered why you had made the comment (asked the question), because it seemed so non-understandable a conclusion. I didn’t have time initially to think about it enough, but I went back to it just now and suddenly have seen what happened. It is an interesting example of communication breakdown due to the imperfection of language. Here is what you said and what my initial response was, and then I’ll present my analysis.
­That a particular definition of a term is the most commonly used one, or a commonly used one, is something that could be considered correct or incorrect. The definition itself is simply a label put on something. Anyone can put a label on anything. (Whether it is useful to do so is another issue.)

The bold portion above represents an astonishing turn of events in this discussion. Am I understanding you accurately that, all along, you would have accepted the following formulation of my disagreement?

"Our species' widespread adoption of your definition of 'optimal living'--as is clearly your desire--would be incorrect."


No. And I have no idea as to how you came up with that.

Okay, so my statement was:

That a particular definition of a term is the most commonly used one, or a commonly used one, is something that could be considered correct or incorrect.

I can see how you interpreted the sentence and how that interpretation was different than my meaning. If I am correct, these are the two meanings (presented by more precise language with further explanation):

Bill’s intended meaning:

A belief that a particular definition of a term is the most commonly used one, or a commonly used one, could be a belief that is either correct or incorrect, and the determination as to whether it is correct or not could be made by referring to a dictionary, in which the most commonly used definitions of terms are given.

Derik’s interpretation:

A particular definition of a term may be the most commonly used one, or a commonly used one, but the people using that definition would be making a mistake in doing so, because there is a right definition for a term, irrespective of what most people may believe.

And of course I would not make such a statement, it being contradictory to what I have been saying all along.

A definition in and of itself is neither correct nor incorrect. It is just a proposed agreement to use a term to mean a certain thing for the purposes of that communicative process. But to state that a particular definition is what is generally used by people may be an incorrect statement, and to define differently (assign a different meaning to) a term that is already in general usage with a commonly used definition would be non-optimal because it would increase the likelihood of confusion (since people would still tend to use the commonly used definition sort of automatically).

So there has been no turn of events, astonishing or otherwise. I hope that answers your question.
Bill Van F.
wvanfleet
Group Organizer
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 1,410
On 1/13/12, in response to an email to Derik on 1/10/12 letting him know he was missed, I received an email from him saying that he had been "jarred" by my post of 12/22/11, which caused him to realize "that your passion for the discussion was merely an illusion," and saying that he has decided to abandon this discussion and probably stop posting on the Message Board. He may from time to time sit in on a meeting, but he wishes to spend his time doing other things that he sees as more valuable. He says that he has read my book, and recommends that I read Tolstoy's A Confession as a counterpoint to it.

There is probably a lot for both of us to learn from what has transpired here. I do appreciate his effort, and have learned some things that have been helpful. I would agree with him that something non-optimal was taking place, and of course he and I would have different opinions regarding what that was. I do hope that difference of opinion will not be a reason for ceasing communication here at the CPDG, because I believe difference of opinion offers an opportunity for deeper understanding, if pursued in an effective way. I will not give up hope that productive discussion of the ideas in the book can occur on this thread, and I welcome feedback regarding how discussion has gone so far.
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