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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 #: 1,293
(Continued from previous post)

Here is the next point you wanted to make.

- The "sphere of influence" concept introduces the optimization of local maximums that undermine global maximums.

Now please note that you are using your own terms that are used nowhere in the book, and without defining them. In addition, what you are about to present sounds very strange to me.


Consider the following from pages 59 and 60 respectively:

The basic ethical philosophy for the individual that would appear to be the most realistic, the most valuable to everyone, the most productive of good self-esteem, and the most consistent with the rational-ethical ultimate ethical principle would be, I propose to the reader: I should do my part to make the world a better place, within my sphere of influence, and within the limits of my capabilities.

By sphere of influence, I mean that set of individuals upon whom the behavior of oneself can have some impact, now and/or in the future. The center of one’s sphere of influence would be oneself, since oneself is the person upon whom one has the most effect. Close to the center of this sphere of influence would be those that one is “closest to” psychologically, meaning those upon whom one has the greatest influence or effect. Obviously, this sphere has an undefined outer boundary, since we never know the total set of outcomes of our behavior. On the other hand, just as there are obviously individuals that one can easily see are impacted by one’s own behavior, there are other individuals that one can not imagine having any effect on, so the concept is not meaningless.

One’s sphere of influence has no definable outer boundary. We have the most influence over that which is close to the center of the sphere of influence, and that is where the most effort should be directed. First we should treat ourselves well, so that we can do other things well. Then we should think the most about those who are “closest” to us, that is, are most affected by what we do. And what we should do is anything that will enhance the lives of others, now and in the future. The more we treat each other well, the more everyone benefits from the benevolent and pleasant interpersonal environment that we create. A good deed or kind act may have all sorts of beneficial outcomes that we will never see. And when we act well, we model for others how to do so, thereby helping others to behave similarly. The effects of our little deeds (good or bad) ripple away from us in ways we cannot see.

I disagree that acting in this manner would be consistent with the rational-ethical ultimate ethical principle. Acting in greatest benevolence towards the center of one's sphere of influence and with decreasing benevolence toward those farther out would not be acting in such a way as to "most likely promote the survival of and the good life for our species, that is, for everyone, now and in the future."

It seems to me rather obvious that we should do the most where doing it will make a difference. If what you do for certain people will have no impact on them, then why do it? Why should you not give priority to your wife and children and parents and friends upon whom you have the most impact? If you are going to prioritize, why not do the things that will do the most good?


Acting in greatest benevolence towards the center of one's sphere would, in fact, promote an ever-widening gap with those on one side surviving and living an exponentially-improving good life while those on the other side experience significantly more death and, for those that live, a very slowly-improving life.
Here you are talking about, not what you personally should do, but what we, or a group, or a nation should do in the way of devising procedures that result in benefit to everyone.

But life for Obama is indeed different from that of you and me, in that he has a much larger sphere of influence, and I believe he does indeed balance his priorities accordingly.

This phenomenon is caused by the difference in "starting places" of different spheres.

Let's consider two lineages starting in the present day with two very different families: one is a well-to-do, stable, loving family in the suburbs of Charlotte, the other an impoverished, HIV-infected, fatherless family living in Somalia. How many generations of the above approach of "think the most about those who are 'closest' to us" would have to go by until the Somalia family's sphere experienced a dramatic improvement in survival and "good life"?

To be consistent with the REUEP, would there not have to be a reversal of this concept for those with the best starting places?

To accelerate the change fastest, would not the families with already-great lives need to spend a disproportionate amount of resources promoting the good life for the least fortunate on the edges of their spheres of influence?

If you are able to influence significantly such people, then they are not at the edge of your sphere of influence, as the term is used in the book. If you have the ability to help, then you “should,” I would maintain, but you “should” not neglect those that are even closer to the center of your sphere of influence. So I just can’t follow what you are saying, if you are using words the same as in the book.

What does sadden me is that this book, that in some ways represents my life’s work, and that I think is a valuable contribution, is indeed not likely to be read by most people to find out what is actually in it, and that this dialogue, although helpful to me in considering revisions to make the book better, in no way conveys to others what is actually in the book. But that is the nature of the problem that the book addresses, the great difficulty that our species has in not being self-destructive. I perhaps could do more to promote the ideas and the book, but currently I just do not have the time. What would be great would be if someone joined me in the effort. Such effort would be perhaps just a small part of the effort that humanoblasts all over this planet are putting forth to help our species. So much is needed and so much is being done, but it competes with the effort that humanoclasts put forth, and we still turn out large quantities of such individuals by our standard model of child rearing.

At any rate, Derik, I do appreciate your effort. I hope you will work on representing what the book says more accurately as you look for defects. Whether such misrepresentations are purposeful or are the result of skimming and not really understanding, I hope that you will work on reducing them. Clearing up misrepresentations takes an awful lot of my time. But of course it does help me to think more clearly, and that is of some substantial value to me. (It is just that there are other things of even greater value.) And please don’t feel you have to say the right thing (praise something about the book) in order to find and report the defects.
Derik T.
user 23955602
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 82
Thanks for your response, Bill, and for taking the time to write it.

Looking over the last few pages, I've noticed a pattern that may be evidence of a recurring cycle. It goes something like this:
- I post my review of the perceived strengths and potential unclear/incorrect concepts for a given 20-page segment
- You post a response that says my review is rife with misrepresentation motivated by a desire to trash it
- I post a response that attempts to restate my original position
- You post a response saying my second post was very helpful and you intend to make edits accordingly

In the end we got to a semi-constructive place on the question of "self-evidence"--in the future, however, I would love to explore how we could get to similarly constructive places while skipping steps 2 and 3 above. While I understand your reactions to my review are natural amygdala "fight-or-flight" responses, they are ultimately less-than-constructive.

I'll try to ask again what I've asked before: to the extent that my reviews are neither profane nor disrespectful, and that they maintain a dispassionate tone that considers each point in the book calmly and without judgement, could I ask that your responses mirror this approach?

- - -

Concerning this important question of the term "obedience", your response might imply that you've unknowingly loaded the term down with some undue pejorative baggage. At one point in your last response, you even correlated the thought of "obedience" with that of "dictatorship". As you originally requested I do, I looked to your own words when defining how "obedience" should be used in the context of this book:

Let us first attempt to identify the ultimate ethical principle in our NATURALLY occurring ethics. We may notice that ultimately this ethics derives from “authors” of the ethical propositions, and that the response to these propositions, about what I should and should not do, is obedience or disobedience. We may therefore say that the naturally occurring ethics, that which derives from our basic animal nature, is “authoritarian” ethics, which is modeled according to the concept of obedience (or disobedience) in response to the author of the ethical propositions. This is true even though we may have lost track of who the author is or was. If we search for the ultimate authoritarian ethical principle, we will find it to be that we should do whatever the author (who is the most powerful one, for instance, parent, leader, group, or deity) says or said we should do, no matter what the author’s reason is for wanting us to do it.

The underlined portion seems to say that, given an author's ethical proposition, my response is either obedience or disobedience. What have I misrepresented about this?

Further, using your construction of ethical propositions, is not a mother's proposition of "You should make your bed" an ethical proposition?

Much might be clarified if I made my own attempt at reframing the AEUEP in a way that is consistent with both your above description of obedience and what I've observed in naturally occurring ethics:

...the authoritarian-ethical ultimate ethical principle is that I should do what an agent in authority wants me to do. "An agent in authority" is, more specifically, a person (or proxy, e.g., written law) that wields significant legitimizing influence or "warrant" (power, love/empathy, interconnectedness/connectivity, prominence, group consensus, etc.) for asserting ethical propositions from the perspective of one or more people.

If you are insistent on the AEUEP being grounded in the power of the author, why? Do you deny that there are other influences an author has on a person that, from the perspective of that person, legitimizes the author's assertion of ethical propositions? Are these influences not "naturally occurring"?

- - -

So because I am the author of this book, and am trying to put into words a principle that is becoming increasingly influential, I am now being portrayed as the “author” of the REUEP. That then, presumably, makes the REUEP just another AEUEP! So if I advocate that we become aware of a principle that we are increasingly making use of, and putting it into words so that we can see it better, then anyone agreeing with me is obeying me!

It's worth noting that the author is in no way attempting to coerce the reader through power. But, as shown above, power is not the only means by which to inspire obedience.

Again, why call this obedience. This portrays my effort at advocacy as dictatorship.

Love/empathy, interactivity/connectedness, yearning for approval, and prominence are all forms of influence that authors (knowingly or unknowlingly) use. In Bill's case, he is attempting to use reason. While an arguably more nobler form of influence than power, the inescapable fact remains that the rational-ethical ultimate ethical principle, in this form, owes its authorship to Bill. These ethics are therefore authoritarian ethics.

Very skilled trashing, I think. There goes the whole main concept of the book, which is now meaningless, presumably. The REUEP is really an AEUEP, and Bill is the new dictator! Very skilled misrepresentation.

Who said anything about dictatorship? Your pejorative baggage associated with the word "obedience" is your own.

1) Your articulation of obedience/disobedience in the book suggest that they are a form of response to the ethical proposition of an author.
2) You are articulating and advocating REUEP in a very specific form and, in so doing, are its author.
3) By advocating REUEP, you are in no way a dictator; but, by your own words, my "response to these propositions, about what I should and should not do, is obedience or disobedience."

If this is a "trick", as you maintain, you have yet to demonstrate how this is so.
Bill Van F.
wvanfleet
Group Organizer
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 1,294
Derik,
Thanks for your response, Bill, and for taking the time to write it.

Looking over the last few pages, I've noticed a pattern that may be evidence of a recurring cycle. It goes something like this:
- I post my review of the perceived strengths and potential unclear/incorrect concepts for a given 20-page segment
- You post a response that says my review is rife with misrepresentation motivated by a desire to trash it
- I post a response that attempts to restate my original position
- You post a response saying my second post was very helpful and you intend to make edits accordingly
I do not believe that this is an accurate description of the “pattern.”

You post a statement of praise of some part of the book, and then go on to give your criticisms. Your criticisms are of things the book presumably is saying that the book is not saying. This is done by using different meanings to words used in the book that are defined specifically in the book for the purposes of the book, or by disagreeing with those definitions. You do that for some reason or reasons. We know you like to bait atheists. But you may also be interested in “seeking truth.” You may be skimming the book and not really understanding it. We know that you are strongly theistic and probably see yourself on a mission to demonstrate to atheists that they are wrong. You are very skilled at saying the right thing, so as to make it look like anyone disagreeing with you is not a very good person. But whatever the motivations and methods may be, some of your efforts have been helpful. Any lack of clarity or ambiguity in the book makes it more vulnerable to misrepresentation and misunderstanding. I put much effort into attempting to prevent misrepresentation and misunderstanding, but the nature of language is such that it is almost impossible to do so. But correcting misrepresentations builds my skill at doing so. And doing that also suggests ideas for improvement in a next edition of the book.

In the end we got to a semi-constructive place on the question of "self-evidence"
Yes, some of your responses have called my attention to improvements that I can make to head off misunderstanding and misrepresentation.

--in the future, however, I would love to explore how we could get to similarly constructive places while skipping steps 2 and 3 above. While I understand your reactions to my review are natural amygdala "fight-or-flight" responses, they are ultimately less-than-constructive.
Misrepresentation is destructive. My reactions are those of one who has put a major effort into providing something valuable for our species, because of a wish to participate in making the world a better place, and when I see someone taking on the project of destroying it, I feel a natural wish to preserve it, by clarifying what is going on so that others can form their own opinions on the basis of a broader understanding than just taking what is being written for granted. I believe that if the book is indeed valuable, I should indeed protect it from vandalism. On the other hand, if the book is not valuable, then I should not care. So far, there is nothing that you have pointed out that to me shows me that the book is not valuable. But you are demonstrating what can happen to it, something I am already aware of and have written about in the book.

I'll try to ask again what I've asked before: to the extent that my reviews are neither profane nor disrespectful, and that they maintain a dispassionate tone that considers each point in the book calmly and without judgement, could I ask that your responses mirror this approach?
In your misrepresentations you do indeed say the right thing. A person can be destructive while saying the right thing, being non-profane, being “respectful,” and being seemingly dispassionate. Dispassionate destruction is still destruction. Misrepresentation such that others come to believe things about the book that are not so is destructive. If your misrepresentation is deliberate, I would ask you to stop. If it is the result of misunderstanding based upon skimming, then I would ask you to read more conscientiously. But mixed in with all of this is the fact that indeed the book is not perfect and probably does have significant defects that can be improved on. So whatever your motivations are, I am likely to get some value out of having to deal with the misrepresentations. And I will continue to feel a necessity to point them out when they occur.

You have told us that you are a theist and a “military man.” You have expressed enjoyment at getting atheists upset. You are quite good at saying the right thing. There is no way that I can have any other feeling than that you have taken on the destruction of my book as a special project. I see your method primarily as misrepresentation. On the other hand that does not mean that there is no value to me in what you are doing, because I wish the book to be relatively secure from misrepresentation and misunderstanding. You are giving the book and me a good “workout.” It is just sad to me that you could not put your obvious intelligence to work in behalf of improved understanding of what I consider to be some important developments. I am assuming that your religion stops you from doing so. “Obedience to God” is a concept that is contrary to what the book is maintaining is best for our species. I understand how you probably feel quite committed to going to war against things like my book. So you are doing what you believe to be the right thing, just as I am. Fate (or God?) has brought us together such that our respective primary motivating forces keep us locked into this dialogue and its background efforts. I guess we will have to see where it all leads. Maybe in the end I will bow down to your God, having thrown away my book.

(Continued in next post)
Bill Van F.
wvanfleet
Group Organizer
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 1,295
(Continued from previous post)

Concerning this important question of the term "obedience", your response might imply that you've unknowingly loaded the term down with some undue pejorative baggage. At one point in your last response, you even correlated the thought of "obedience" with that of "dictatorship". As you originally requested I do, I looked to your own words when defining how "obedience" should be used in the context of this book:
(Bolding restored)

Let us first attempt to identify the ultimate ethical principle in our NATURALLY occurring ethics. We may notice that ultimately this ethics derives from “authors” of the ethical propositions, and that the response to these propositions, about what I should and should not do, is obedience or disobedience. We may therefore say that the naturally occurring ethics, that which derives from our basic animal nature, is “authoritarian” ethics, which is modeled according to the concept of obedience (or disobedience) in response to the author of the ethical propositions. This is true even though we may have lost track of who the author is or was. If we search for the ultimate authoritarian ethical principle, we will find it to be that we should do whatever the author (who is the most powerful one, for instance, parent, leader, group, or deity) says or said we should do, no matter what the author’s reason is for wanting us to do it.

The underlined portion seems to say that, given an author's ethical proposition, my response is either obedience or disobedience. What have I misrepresented about this?
This sentence right here is a misrepresentation. Why, or how? Because what is left out is the whole idea that is being presented in what is a whole chapter. “Given an author’s ethical proposition, my response is either obedience or disobedience” is stating something that has no identifiable meaning without the context in which it is written, that context being that I am talking only about a particular kind of ethics. What I am saying in the book is that obedience in response to coercive “power” on the part of those who are more powerful has been a predominating reason given (to self and others) for believing that one “should” do something. I have also said in the book that there are other reasons that have naturally been present, but have been much less influential than the first reason and are only recently beginning the process of, in a major way, supplanting the first reason.

See, as I was writing the book, I was assuming that the reader would be understanding what he or she was reading in the same way I was when writing it, because I was assuming that the reader was reading everything in the order I was writing it. So each statement has a “background.” It is the result of all that came before it. So when one sentence is lifted up out of the book and presented all by itself, it loses all of that context that contributes to its meaning. Then anyone is likely to fill in his or her own meaning to the sentence, based upon his or her beliefs already existing in that area of thought, and upon the denotative and connotative meanings of the words as they seem for that person, for whatever reasons. So when I ask you to report the first sentence that seems unclear or incorrect, what I mean is “unclear or incorrect in the context in which it is written.”

For me as writer, there is the responsibility of trying to make sure that the context is evident to the reader, and that requires skill, which can always be improved. So a benefit I get out of trying to undo the misrepresentations is that I become more skillful in restoring context and therefore more skillful in providing it in the first place.

Further, using your construction of ethical propositions, is not a mother's proposition of "You should make your bed" an ethical proposition?
It is. But the question remaining is whether I consider the proposition accurate or not. In order to determine that it is accurate, if it is, I must have a criterion for legitimization. Ultimately, this will be consistency with my ultimate ethical principle (which is arbitrary). I may say that I should make my bed because I should do whatever my mother tells me to do (because I always should obey her), or I may say that I should do it because doing so will make the world a better place, that is, increasing JCA and or decreasing PSDED, considering the TOTALITY of all the outcomes of my making my bed (vs. not making it). It is possible that, according to one’s ethics, one should disobey an authoritarian ruler, including perhaps even God (with his threat of hell for the disobedient).

Much might be clarified if I made my own attempt at reframing the AEUEP in a way that is consistent with both your above description of obedience and what I've observed in naturally occurring ethics:

...the authoritarian-ethical ultimate ethical principle is that I should do what an agent in authority wants me to do. "An agent in authority" is, more specifically, a person (or proxy, e.g., written law) that wields significant legitimizing influence or "warrant" (power, love/empathy, interconnectedness/connectivity, prominence, group consensus, etc.) for asserting ethical propositions from the perspective of one or more people.
You are free to do this in the writing of your own book. It is not something I would say or did say in my book.

If you are insistent on the AEUEP being grounded in the power of the author, why?
It is being used that way by definition in the book, for the purpose of understanding what the book is saying. You could use different definitions and come up with different statements.
Do you deny that there are other influences an author has on a person that, from the perspective of that person, legitimizes the author's assertion of ethical propositions? Are these influences not "naturally occurring"?
One problem to note here is that you are taking one little incidentally used word (“author”), that I thought might help in understanding selecting the term “authoritarian” to describe the phenomenon I label the AEUEP, and assigning your own meaning to it (e.g., since I put into words the REUEP, that I believe is becoming more and more accepted, though not verbalized in this exact manor, I become its “author.”) It would be somewhat more accurate to describe me as the “discoverer” and “labeler.” An analogy would be my discovering a new kind of beetle and giving it a name, whereupon you would say that I was the author of the beetle. So one of the values of your doing this is that it makes me think about the possibility of removing that word from the next edition of the book.

(Continued in next post)
Bill Van F.
wvanfleet
Group Organizer
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 1,296
(Continued from previous post)

So because I am the author of this book, and am trying to put into words a principle that is becoming increasingly influential, I am now being portrayed as the “author” of the REUEP. That then, presumably, makes the REUEP just another AEUEP! So if I advocate that we become aware of a principle that we are increasingly making use of, and putting it into words so that we can see it better, then anyone agreeing with me is obeying me!

It's worth noting that the author is in no way attempting to coerce the reader through power. But, as shown above, power is not the only means by which to inspire obedience.

Again, why call this obedience. This portrays my effort at advocacy as dictatorship.

Love/empathy, interactivity/connectedness, yearning for approval, and prominence are all forms of influence that authors (knowingly or unknowlingly) use. In Bill's case, he is attempting to use reason. While an arguably more nobler form of influence than power, the inescapable fact remains that the rational-ethical ultimate ethical principle, in this form, owes its authorship to Bill. These ethics are therefore authoritarian ethics.

Very skilled trashing, I think. There goes the whole main concept of the book, which is now meaningless, presumably. The REUEP is really an AEUEP, and Bill is the new dictator! Very skilled misrepresentation.

Who said anything about dictatorship? Your pejorative baggage associated with the word "obedience" is your own.
No, it is using the concept of “obedience” the way it is used in the book, even though “dictator” is not specifically used.

1) Your articulation of obedience/disobedience in the book suggest that they are a form of response to the ethical proposition of an author.
Yes, one form of response.

2) You are articulating and advocating REUEP in a very specific form and, in so doing, are its author.
No, I am the articulator and advocate of the REUEP, in the book of which I am the author.

3) By advocating REUEP, you are in no way a dictator; but, by your own words, my "response to these propositions, about what I should and should not do, is obedience or disobedience."
No. If you decide to become an advocator of the REUEP because after reading what I have written, you come to believe that the REUEP is better than the AEUEP, you will not be doing it because of obeying me. Even if you did it to please me, you would not be obeying me.


If this is a "trick", as you maintain, you have yet to demonstrate how this is so.
Hopefully I have. Just because you do something someone would like you to do does not mean that you are “obeying” that person, at least in the way that the word is being used in the book, as should be obvious from reading and really understanding the book. If I advocate for a cause, and you become convinced it is the right thing to do and therefore join me in the effort, that does not mean you are obeying me. On the other hand, maybe for you the concept and desirability of “obedience” is very strong, and it may be important to you to see yourself as always obedient, ultimately to God. Am I right?

The term “authoritarian” as used in the authoritarian-ethical ultimate ethical principle is used only to distinguish it from the rational-ethical ultimate ethical principle.

If I asked you why you were doing something and you said because you believed you should, and if I asked you why you believed that, and you said, “Well, ultimately,
1-because I believe I should make the world a better place (more JCA and/or less PSDED),” you would be using rational ethics, as the term is used in the book.
2-because I believe I should do what God (or Hitler) wants me to do,” you would be using authoritarian ethics, as the term is used in the book.
Derik T.
user 23955602
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 85

If I asked you why you were doing something and you said because you believed you should, and if I asked you why you believed that, and you said, “Well, ultimately,
1-because I believe I should make the world a better place (more JCA and/or less PSDED),” you would be using rational ethics, as the term is used in the book.
2-because I believe I should do what God (or Hitler) wants me to do,” you would be using authoritarian ethics, as the term is used in the book.

For a reader of this book, #1 above is more accurately rendered, "because I believe I should do what Bill wants me to do in order to make the world a better place." The same would be true if I was acting upon a book by you, or Marx, or Martin Luther King, or the gospel of Mark.

- - -

This whole discussion started because you left the confines of "definitions used for the purpose of this book" and asserted something you believe true of the world outside the book:

Let us first attempt to identify the ultimate ethical principle in our NATURALLY occurring ethics.

At this point, the reader is at liberty to consider whether or not his observations of the world align with this assertion. As is clear from my posts, I disagree with your viewpoint that the ultimate ethical principle in our naturally occurring ethics is power-based. I've observed that there are many legitimizing influences authors use (knowingly or unknowingly) to inspire responses to ethical propositions, and power is indeed among them. Here I will have to leave it to you, the author, to decide whether your observations of naturally occurring ethics are more accurate than mine.

My review of pages 40-60 will have to stand as-is as I move forward in my detailed and exhaustive reading effort, and so you obviously have full liberty to completely discard my comments, fully act upon them, or undertake any number of editing gradations in between.

Happy Halloween, Bill.
Bill Van F.
wvanfleet
Group Organizer
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 1,297
Derik,

I don’t believe I have done the best job I could have done in dealing with the confusion in this discussion. The problem is that to really do a good job, I would need to post the whole chapter on ethics, and that would be too long. I’m going to try to clarify what we are dealing with by giving some excerpts. The first excerpt provides the key point that I think I should have made in the confusing discussion we have had. That key point is the last sentence of this excerpt.

So for our purposes, ethics consists of a set of ethical beliefs, that can be modeled by ethical propositions. Ethical beliefs produce in certain situations the ethical sense, which is a (complex) motivational state.

In my discussion of ethics, I will be referring to a tendency for there to be a hierarchy of ethical beliefs, from the most concrete and specific to the most general, even ultimate. Let us look at this tendency with a specific example of a hierarchy of ethical beliefs.

Let us imagine that I am looking at an object that does not belong to me, which I might nevertheless want to take (motivational state). I also have the ethical belief, “I should not take this object,” which motivates me (by the ethical sense) not to take it. Now, the reader becomes aware that I have this ethical belief, and asks, “But why should you not take this object?” The reader could be said to be asking me to tell him or her why I believe, and why he or she should believe (agree), that the proposition is “true.” My answer, according to our terminology, would be the legitimization of my proposition (or belief), that is, why I believe it to be true and why the reader should agree. So I say to the reader, “I should not steal, and if I take this object I will be stealing, so I should not take this object.” The statement, “I should not steal” would be a “higher level” (more general) ethical belief, quite easily referred to as an “ethical rule of conduct.” But now the reader may ask me, “Well, why should you not steal?” My answer might be, “I should do no things that violate the rights of others, and if I steal, I will be violating the rights of others, so I should not steal.” The statement, “I should do no things that violate the rights of others” would be a still higher level ethical belief, quite easily referred to as an “ethical principle.” (Remember that definitions are arbitrary, and that there is often no clear dividing line between one term and the next. Thus, there is no clear dividing line between an ethical rule of conduct and an ethical principle.) Now, if all of the ethical principles could be subsumed under one, highest level ethical proposition, beyond which one could not go, then that proposition could be called the “ultimate ethical principle.” The concept of the “ultimate ethical principle” will be extremely important in this discussion.

Now I described above the development of our naturally occurring ethics. The thesis of this book, however, is that we are just beginning to observe a (third) psychosocial exponential change in our species, hard to see at this point because the acceleration has only just begun, and that this change will produce a dramatic and beneficial change in the quality of life for our species. The most fundamental part of this change, I believe, can best be described as a change in the nature of our ethics, which will in turn produce drastic changes, hard to imagine at first, in how we will live our lives.

This change in the nature of our ethics will consist ONLY with regard to the ultimate ethical principle.

So the structure of the ethics will be the same. The content (our ethical beliefs about what we should do) will be different, because many of the things we believe by virtue of the AEUEP we will not believe because they are inconsistent with the REUEP. So next I will post some excerpts saying some things about the AEUEP.

If we search for the ultimate authoritarian ethical principle, we will find it to be that we should do whatever the author (who is the most powerful one, for instance, parent, leader, group, or deity) says or said we should do, no matter what the author’s reason is for wanting us to do it.

So, the child asks the parent, “Why should I do it?” and the parent says, “Because I want you to!” And the subject asks the autocratic leader, “Why should I do it?” And the autocratic leader says, “Because I want you to!” And the group member asks, “Why should I do it?” and the group says, “Because we want you to!” And an individual is asked why he should do it, and he replies, “Because God wants me to.” Of course, the “author” could give a reason as to why he, she, or it wanted it to be done, but that would be extra information, not a required part of the answer. That the author wanted it to be done would be considered by the author to be a sufficient reply. A parent might say to a child, “I don’t have to explain to you why I want you to do it. You should do it because you are supposed to obey me.” And we could well imagine a deity, or anyone “in authority,” giving the same answer. Obedience is a phenomenon that is part of our basic animal nature.

So in other words, the authoritarian-ethical ultimate ethical principle is that we should do whatever X wants us to do, X being whoever or whatever is most powerful.

(Continued in next post)
Bill Van F.
wvanfleet
Group Organizer
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 1,298
(Continued from previous post)

Now note that we are talking only about the ultimate ethical principle, not about lower level ethical beliefs, rules of conduct, or principles. We are talking about what will be the final answer as to why the person believes he or she should or should not do something. For many people they will ultimately say that the reason that they are doing what they are doing is that they are obeying God. So there may be many lower level answers, but if asked why they believed they should do A, and they answered because they believed they should do B and doing A would be doing B, and then if they are asked why they should do B, and they answered because they believed they should do C and doing B would be doing C, and so forth, ultimately they would stop and say that that ultimate answer was all they could say. And for many people, if we kept asking them why they believed they should some particular thing (whether they actually did it or not, of course), they would say that that’s what God wanted, or that’s what their country demanded of them, or that’s what their parent told them to do. So I will next post some of the problems relying upon the AEUEP.

Before looking at the new ethics, let us examine in detail some of the problems associated with authoritarian ethics, that explain why it has never worked, and never will, assuming that by “work” we mean “optimize the chances of the good life for everyone.”

The following are the main problems with authoritarian ethics:
Different authors issue different, sometimes conflicting, rules.
Intermediaries at times disagree as to what the author’s rules or wishes are.
There may be disagreement or confusion about the author’s specific meaning of some rules.
There may be disagreement as to which author to obey.
Situations usually can be imagined in which to obey the author’s presumed wish would seem to be awful.
The absence of the author weakens the motivation to adhere to the author’s wishes.
There is no guidance about those things the author doesn’t care about.
The fantasy of and hope for the author’s ultimate forgiveness weakens the motivation to adhere to the author’s wishes.
When two individuals or groups have acquired different rules from different authors, they tend to avoid and fight each other.

(Continued in next post)
Bill Van F.
wvanfleet
Group Organizer
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 1,299
(Continued from previous post)

Remember that in authoritarian ethics the ultimate criterion for legitimization of an ethical proposition is the demonstration that the proposition indeed models the motivational states and beliefs of the author. One can ask the author, if he or she is around. One can ask an intermediary, someone who we believe knows what the author wants or wanted. Or we can guess at what the author probably has in mind or had in mind. And if, after doing the above, we disagree, we can either agree to disagree (avoid each other or avoid talking with each other about it), or we can fight (emotionally, physically, or militarily).

If you really tried to pin a suicide bomber down with regard to why he or she was doing it, what do you think his or her final answer would be? My bet would be that the answer would be that God wanted him or her to do it.

Next, let’s look at the REUEP, that has always been around to a certain extent, but has seldom been given as the highest level reason for any specific ethical belief, rule of conduct, or principle.

Now in order to understand the new ethics that is just beginning to emerge, let us review the first two exponential changes, as related to ethics.

We have noted that the first exponential change involved the development by our species of the ability to use symbols, and the rules of syntax to form propositions, to an essentially infinite extent. That new ability, however, has been in the service of our basic animal nature. Authoritarian ethics is an example. With our authoritarian ethics, we are able to do exactly what other animals do, only much better. Other group animals engage in coordinated behavior, but our species can do this with much greater precision, creativity, and consequent effectiveness, an extreme example being a well-disciplined army. This has made our species much better able to survive. And if it were not for the development of the second exponential psychosocial change in our species, the story might end here.

The second exponential change, the development of rationality, the reader may remember, has been the development of the rules of logic (beginning to escalate about 2500 years ago) and the development of the rules of evidence (beginning to escalate about 500 years ago) that have allowed us to construct models of the world that have amazing accuracy, meaning that they allow us to make amazing predictions of the outcomes of our potential and actual acts or behavior. By virtue of this new ability, we now have been transforming our lives in a manner that one can easily see has been exponential, with the development of amazing new abilities to do things, referred to as science and technology. However, these new abilities have, for the most part, once again, been in the service of our basic animal nature. This being true, we see that the ability to do what most of us would regard as good has been equally matched by the ability to do what most of us would regard as bad. And so, for the most part, the members of our species have continued to treat each other both well and badly, on the interpersonal level and on the international level, and all in between. Rationality helps us to predict more accurately the outcomes of our behavior, such that we can do much more good, or much more harm, depending on what we want to do, that is, depending upon our motivational states. Thus, rationality as here defined does not, in itself, help us to avoid doing harm. Rationality does not, in and of itself, tell us what we should do, just what will happen if we do it.

The third exponential change, which I am attempting to point out to the reader, consists of a change in our ethics, from the natural, authoritarian ethics to a new kind of ethics that is now feasible by virtue of the second exponential change.

So what is the new ethics, that will work better?

It should be noted that natural selection tends to foster the survival of the species, but has nothing to do with the quality of life for the species. Both pleasure and pain or suffering are motivational states that produce behavior that may promote the survival of the species. Therefore, pain and suffering are a natural part of the world, and are built into our basic animal nature as the ability to experience pain and suffering and as the ability and tendency to induce pain and suffering. But we humans, having learned so much about how the world works, and therefore so much about how to do things, are able to aid each other in ways such as to reduce pain and suffering, that is, improve the quality of life. So we humans have a goal that goes beyond what natural selection produces. Natural selection has produced authoritarian ethics in the manner described above. But we have the opportunity to do differently than our basic animal nature would have us do, with a consequent improvement in our QUALITY OF LIFE. We have the opportunity to develop a different kind of ethics that will immensely improve the quality of life for all the members of our species, in addition to its chances for survival. I believe that this is happening, and this belief of mine is what this book is about.

And how are the ethical propositions in the new ethics to be legitimized? What criteria will be used?

In rational ethics (the term I propose for the new ethics) the criterion for legitimization of an ethical proposition is that the proposition is consistent with the ultimate goal of promoting BOTH the survival of AND the good life for all of us, now and in the future. This, then, would be the rational-ethical ultimate ethical principle.

So if a person used the REUEP to attempt ultimately to legitimize becoming a suicide bomber, how could he or she do it? With the AEUEP it’s easy: God wants me to do it. But how can becoming a suicide bomber promote the good life for everyone, now and in the future? If the good life means as little PSDED as possible, how can becoming a suicide bomber become justified? Or embezzling? Or environmental destruction?

So now Derik, my assumption is that your ultimate ethical principle is that you should obey God. Mine is that I should do whatever will promote not only the survival of our species, but also as much joy, contentment, and appreciation as possible and as little pain, suffering, disability, and/or early death as possible, for everyone, now and in the future. If I am right, you would only do that if doing so was obeying God. Now, am I right?
Derik T.
user 23955602
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 86
Thanks, Bill. As I said in my last post, whether you use or not use my comments is completely up to you. I am reading your book and undertaking this review because I know it is important to you and I care about you, so communicating that is of the highest import to me.

From pages 40-60, my concerns remain as follows:

1) Though the ultimate ethical principle in naturally-occurring ethics is traceable to authors, my experience has been that authors' influence is not strictly based on power

2) The REUEP is actually a lower-level ethical proposition of the AEUEP in that you are the author of this specific form of the ethical proposition, rendering a reader's response to it obedience/disobedience (by your own articulation that obedience/disobedience are forms of response to an author's ethical proposition)

3) Focusing on one's innermost sphere of influence would have an outcome inconsistent with the REUEP in that the healthiest spheres would improve extremely quickly and the unhealthiest spheres improve quite slowly

- - -

But how can becoming a suicide bomber promote the good life for everyone, now and in the future? If the good life means as little PSDED as possible, how can becoming a suicide bomber become justified?

Putting on a suicide vest and running into a summit of the northeast mafia's top captains would have a significant beneficial effect at reducing PSDED.

Or embezzling?

If embezzling from an institution that is causing early death (e.g., tobacco companies) and giving the money to the poor, would this not be consistent with the REUEP?

Or environmental destruction?

How shall we undertake calculating the joy-to-pain ratio of one person using petroleum or not? The Amish are arguably a very joyful group with minimal impact on the environment, but I'm fairly certain I didn't see you ride a horse to our last philosophy group session?


So now Derik, my assumption is that your ultimate ethical principle is that you should obey God. Mine is that I should do whatever will promote not only the survival of our species, but also as much joy, contentment, and appreciation as possible and as little pain, suffering, disability, and/or early death as possible, for everyone, now and in the future. If I am right, you would only do that if doing so was obeying God. Now, am I right?

I'm happy to discuss this question on another thread--I encourage you to post it, and shortly thereafter I'll respond fully. In that this thread is intended for the review your book, perhaps we should maintain that singular focus.
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