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 #: 1,301
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.
And we both know that that is not at all what is going on. Your attempting to trash my book through misrepresentation, taking sentences out of context and using different meanings to words than the meanings used in the book in order to make the book look incorrect, an effort to destroy the culmination of my life’s work, is only through some reasoning perhaps on the basis of you as a good Christian trying to save my soul by correcting my misalignment with your God an effort in my behalf. The book, however, is not perfectly secure from such attack, and your doing this, though of course painful to me, nevertheless is presenting me with good experience in responding to such efforts, and is giving me ideas for improving the book when I upgrade it. My effort in the book was to attempt to present the ideas in as clear a manner as I could, anticipating and responding to all the ways that each statement could be misunderstood because of the inadequacies of the medium, namely, our highly ambiguous language that is in common use, the only language I can use because of the book being for everyone. But such effort can only be partially successful. Every sentence, in a book such as this, can be misunderstood or misrepresented by changing its context, that in which the sentence is embedded, so to repeatedly try to surround every sentence with its appropriate context would be non-feasible. One has to count on the reader reading conscientiously, that is, concentrating on each sentence enough to be sure of understanding its meaning, while keeping in mind the understanding of what has been read up to that point. If the reader is skimming only to find either things that support his or her own beliefs or things that can be attacked, then the value of the book, if there is such, will be lost for that reader.

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
Nor does the book say otherwise. What is not clear in what you have written is that we are talking only about the legitimization of the ethical beliefs of the individual, that is, the reason the individual gives for his or her ethical beliefs if he or she is continually asked, for each answer, “Okay, but why do you believe that?” It has to do with his or her final answer, beyond which he or she cannot go. It is therefore the basic ethical orientation of the individual. But that in no way means that the individual has no other motivational states and beliefs that might lead to the same behavior (decisions). We are influenced by many, many things.

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)
And this is the most blatant trashing of the book, by changing the meanings of words from the way they are used in the book. My use of the word “author” appears to have produced a major vulnerability to misrepresentation. It is hard for me to believe that for a reader who did not specifically have a need to misrepresent, such a misunderstanding would occur upon seeing the context in which the word is being used. Anyone reading the book conscientiously I believe will easily see that what I am doing is trying to put into words a growing alternative to the idea that our ethics must be based upon obedience to a powerful entity. This does not mean that I am substituting myself for that entity and commanding obedience. And the UEP component of those two abbreviations refers to “ultimate ethical principle,” meaning that the principle is not a lower level principle. And we are not talking about what exists independent of an individual; we are talking about what the ultimate ethical principle is for that individual. And I can tell you that mine is indeed the rational-ethical ultimate ethical principle. I am not living according to that principle in order to avoid being punished. I have no way of legitimizing it, and it is therefore my ultimate principle. It is not a lower level one.

(Continued in next post)
Bill Van F.
wvanfleet
Group Organizer
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 1,302
(Continued from previous post)

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
No, quite the opposite. And this is one of the strangest things you have said. But it is probably based upon some other meaning of the words being used than what the context in the book would indicate was being meant. To devote most of your attention doing things for people upon whom your efforts would be wasted because you have no ability to influence their lives, while neglecting your effect on your wife, children, family, and close friends, would only have a negative effect in the world, namely, on your wife, children, etc. If indeed you have found a way to impact the lives of people geographically or culturally remote from you, then those people become closer to the center of your sphere of influence, as the metaphor is being used in the book. And that should be clear to anyone reading the book conscientiously. It is a relatively simple concept.

- - -

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.
Okay, if you looked at the total set of outcomes and concluded that what you were doing was indeed consistent with promoting not only the survival of our species but also as much joy, contentment, and appreciation, and as little pain, suffering, disability, and early death as possible, for everyone, now and in the future, then indeed you should do it. But what would be the TOTAL set of outcomes? You would have a hard time convincing me that your way of doing this would be good in its totality, that the effects and side effects would all be positive. Is that the best way for you to use your life? What is the effect on the families of those mafia members? What is the effect of saying that it is sometimes good to blow people up? And what is the method that you use to decide whom to blow up? And is that method of decision-making a method that should be used always? When?

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?
I would like to see you justify it. Does embezzlement as a way of making the world a better place really work? When? How do you decide? Why would you advocate embezzlement from tobacco companies? Is that the way to deal with the tobacco problem that will have the best TOTAL effect on the world? Including what will happen if you are caught?

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?
What would be the TOTAL set of outcomes of my doing so?


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.
It is well-known that one’s motivations affect one’s judgment and decision-making. That is why judges recuse themselves and doctors giving presentations to other doctors are expected to reveal any conflicting interests, such as involvements with pharmaceutical organizations. I think it is important to our readers of this thread to know what is really happening, rather than keeping it secret. I think it is important for the reader to know that I, who wrote the book and know what is in it, do not agree that your presentation of it is a correct presentation, and that therefore your criticisms are not completely valid. And I think it is good for the reader to understand what factors might be operating in such misrepresentations and criticisms. However, it is fine for you to continue, and I will continue to attempt to correct the misrepresentations. In addition, you probably will be able to find some true defects in the book, and for that I will be especially grateful. We all have our motivations, and we all have our less than optimal tendencies. And it is often difficult to know how to respond to what life presents one with.

My hope is that, because of this thread, perhaps some people might develop an interest in finding out what we are talking about and therefore read the book themselves. After all, it is certainly quite clear that I am biased also!

And BTW, at least you are indeed actually reading the book and responding to what you are reading. I wish you were doing it differently, of course, but it is still far more than not reading it at all. And maybe we will at some point have fruitful dialogue, resulting in one or both of us becoming wiser.
Derik T.
user 23955602
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 88
Response 4 of 8 (pages 60-80)

Strengths:
- Linking ethical beliefs with existential beliefs (page 62)
- Positing that the proper orientation of ethics is that every decision we make has an ethical component (page 65)
- Framing the six explanations for anger in human-to-human interactions (page 75)

Potentially incorrect/unclear concepts:

- On page 62, the author inadvertently labels a "syllogism" what is actually the logical fallacy called "affirming the consequent":


I want to feel good about myself. (motivational state)
If I do Y, I will feel good about myself. (existential prediction or belief)
Therefore, I want to do Y. (motivational state)

I think I do see what the author is trying to say, which would be more properly rendered as

I will feel good about myself if and only if I do Y.
I want to feel good about myself.
Therefore, I want to do Y.

or even more properly

If a person wants to feel good about him/herself, they want to do Y
I am a person who wants to feel good about myself
Therefore, I want to do Y

- Concerning the legitimization of ultimate ethical principles, the author says the following on page 63:


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

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

The author and I have discussed at length the topic of objective vs. subjective value. In short, one can either believe that actions and their outcomes have value in an absolute/objective sense (e.g., helping someone who is hurt is a thing of inherent worth/quality) or subjectively valuable (e.g., each person assigns their own perspective of worth/quality to actions and their outcomes). The above assertion--that the choice of an ultimate ethical principle is arbitrary--is a result of a worldview that takes the position of subjective value. Many other worldviews take the position that certain actions and their outcomes have objective value, rendering the exercise of legitimizing an ultimate ethical principle non-arbitrary.

- While the author characterizes anger as a motivational state on page 67...

We have seen that all behavior (decision-making) can be understood (modeled) as being determined by motivational states “channeled through” beliefs, and that beliefs themselves, in addition to all other states of mind (perceptions, memories, fantasies, etc.), can come to be able to produce or intensify motivational states. Anger, to be further defined below, is one of the motivational states.

...it is unclear to me how to frame anger in a way that is consistent with the propositional format for motivational states provided on page 44:

Just as we have developed a way of modeling specific beliefs and predictions with propositions, we have also come to model specific motivational states with propositions. The “motivational state,” then, is a hypothetical state existing in a nervous system or “mind” (or metaphorically in a group) that can be modeled with a particular kind of proposition, namely, a sentence that follows the format, “(subject) wants (object).” The subject is the animal that has the motivational state. The object is a sought-for outcome.

The following could be some candidates for ways to frame anger as a motivational state using the author's format:
- I want justice
- I want my expectation to occur
- I want my pain to go away
- I want what someone else has

The difficulty I have in framing anger as a motivational state in the above ways is that experience suggests that all of these motivational states merely accompany anger; or perhaps more accurately, anger accompanies them. To say that the above motivational states ARE anger is a bit of an awkward construction.

It may be more consistent with the other parts of the book to frame anger as an emotional state that is attendant to some discrete set of motivational states, and the way to prevent the emotional state of anger is to decouple the emotional state with the motivational states.

For example:
- When financial leaders commit crimes without consequence (belief), I want justice (motivational state)
- When I want justice (motivational state), I am angry (emotional state)

In the above case, would not the aim of rational-ethics be to eliminate the influence of the accompanying emotional state on my subsequent actions? Therefore, a decision is more correctly framed as a function of three inputs: beliefs, motivational states, and emotional states.

(continued...)
Derik T.
user 23955602
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 90
Response 4 of 8 (pages 60-80) (cont.)

- On page 63, the description of how rational ethics are propogated to subsequent generations through authoritarian ethics provides conclusive evidence from the author himself that the rational-ethical principle is not ultimate, but rather a lower-level principle under authoritarian ethics:

It should be noted that the beginning of the attainment of the ethical sense was in infancy and early childhood, at a time when the approval of the parent is of supreme importance to the child. Thus, the ethical sense originally arises from authoritarian ethics, the need to please and not displease the parent. But the parent may (or may not) reward the attainment and development of rational ethics, so rational ethics, which does not come naturally, has to have its origin in authoritarian ethics. Just as we learn (or don’t learn) to be rational primarily from our parents or parenting figures, we also learn (or don’t learn) from them to move to rational ethics. Even if we do not learn these things from our parenting figures, they can be attained (with greater difficulty) later in life, but again, only from others

For each person who learns about rational ethics, the author will be different. For me, it's Bill. For a child three generations hence, it could presumably be that child's parent. Although the advocating agent is different in each case, that advocating agent is (in the eyes of the hearer) the author. The form of response the child takes to that author is either obedience/disobedience.
Bill Van F.
wvanfleet
Group Organizer
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 1,305
Derik,

This time I think you have identified some more actual vulnerabilities in the wording in the book.

Response 4 of 8 (pages 60-80)

Potentially incorrect/unclear concepts:

The following is Derik’s first point.


- On page 62, the author inadvertently labels a "syllogism" what is actually the logical fallacy called "affirming the consequent":


I want to feel good about myself. (motivational state)
If I do Y, I will feel good about myself. (existential prediction or belief)
Therefore, I want to do Y. (motivational state)

I think I do see what the author is trying to say, which would be more properly rendered as
Actually, in what is written below the meaning of what I am trying to say becomes completely lost. The context should show this is true, but the context is missing here.

I will feel good about myself if and only if I do Y.
I want to feel good about myself.
Therefore, I want to do Y.

or even more properly

If a person wants to feel good about him/herself, they want to do Y
I am a person who wants to feel good about myself
Therefore, I want to do Y

No, you apparently do not see what I am trying to say, and what you replaced it with would be totally different from what I was trying to say. But I think that I contributed to the problem. What you quoted was not meant to be a logical syllogism, but instead a “syllogism” (written with quotes), meaning that I was using the term “syllogism” in a metaphoric way, to model a process in the brain by which the ethical sense (a motivational state) is channeled through increasingly specific beliefs to produce specific decisions.

I was referring to a set of three propositions that sort of looked like a syllogism, but of course is not one in the sense that the word is used in logic. So the first time I used the word “syllogism” I put it into quotes to let the reader know that I was specifically not talking about syllogisms in a system of logic. To me, I thought that would be obvious to the reader.

Unfortunately, I did myself in because when I continued to refer to these sets of propositions in order to elaborate on the basic idea, I left off the quotes around “syllogism.” This led you, and possibly others, to think mistakenly I was talking about a process in symbolic logic rather than the modeling of a complex process in the brain. So to clarify this issue for anyone who might be reading this dialogue, I am reproducing the whole segment and putting quotes in parentheses around the subsequent uses of the word. So here is what the passage actually says (and please note that I am describing a brain process, not attempting to demonstrate the use of logic):

(Continued in next post)
Bill Van F.
wvanfleet
Group Organizer
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 1,306
(Continued from previous post)

….So here is what the passage actually says (and please note that I am describing a brain process, not attempting to demonstrate the use of logic):

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

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

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

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

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

Now we remember that decisions are determined by motivational states and beliefs. So we may construct a “syllogism” as follows:
(Please note the quotes, indicating these are not supposed to be actual syllogisms in the sense used in a system of logic.)

I want to feel good about myself. (motivational state)
If I do Y, I will feel good about myself. (existential prediction or belief)
Therefore, I want to do Y. (motivational state)
or,
I want to reduce guilt. (motivational state)
If I do Y, I will reduce guilt. (existential prediction or belief)
Therefore, I want to do Y. (motivational state)
or,
I want to please (the author). (motivational state)
If I do Y, I will please (the author). (existential prediction or belief)
Therefore, I want to do Y. (motivational state)
or,
I want to make the world a better place. (motivational state)
If I do Y, I will make the world a better place. (existential prediction or belief)
Therefore, I want to do Y. (motivational state)

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

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

Let us state this idea in another way:
“I should do Y” is an ethical proposition, modeling an ethical belief.
This ethical belief may be that the author will be displeased if I don’t do Y.
This ethical belief may be that I will feel guilty if I don’t do Y.
This ethical belief may be that I will be punished if I don’t do Y.
This ethical belief may be that I will make the world a better place (however defined) if I do Y.
But each of these four propositions is an existential prediction (belief).
Each of these four propositions may be part or all of the meaning of “I should do Y.”
An ethical proposition may therefore be restated as one or more existential predictions or beliefs.

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

So hopefully you and any readers of this dialogue can see that the whole idea of what I was trying to present got completely lost because of my use of the word “syllogism,” or perhaps did so without continuing to use the quotes. So this is indeed an inaccuracy or defect in the book that makes it more vulnerable to misunderstanding (especially if skimmed) and/or misrepresentation. If I do indeed produced a revised book, I will either take out the word “syllogism” completely or be sure quotes are around the word each time I use it, or perhaps put in parentheses “(not in the sense of a syllogism in logic),” or something like that. If I don’t use “syllogism,” I will need some other label for those sets of propositions.

(Continued in next post)
Bill Van F.
wvanfleet
Group Organizer
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 1,307
(Continued from previous post)

We continue on with Derik’s second point.

(And BTW, Derik continually refers to me as “the author” rather than as “Bill,” and I cannot help but believe that this is an attempt to further promote his idea that I am the “author” of the REUEP, thus distorting the whole idea of the book by presumably demonstrating that the REUEP is “authored” and therefore presumably just an example of another “authoritarian” ethical principle, in his wish to demonstrate that there can only be authoritarian ethics, consistent with his belief in God, and that therefore there can be no such thing as rational ethics, as described in the book. So I am suggesting paying attention to his use of the term “author.”)

- Concerning the legitimization of ultimate ethical principles, the author says the following on page 63:

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

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

The author and I have discussed at length the topic of objective vs. subjective value. In short, one can either believe that actions and their outcomes have value in an absolute/objective sense (e.g., helping someone who is hurt is a thing of inherent worth/quality) or subjectively valuable (e.g., each person assigns their own perspective of worth/quality to actions and their outcomes). The above assertion--that the choice of an ultimate ethical principle is arbitrary--is a result of a worldview that takes the position of subjective value. Many other worldviews take the position that certain actions and their outcomes have objective value, rendering the exercise of legitimizing an ultimate ethical principle non-arbitrary.
The above is a subtle change in topic and meaning. What I am talking about, as can be seen from what is quoted, is how a person legitimates his or her ethics, and how he or she makes a decision as to how to live life. I was not talking about “what in fact is most valuable and why.”

Even if there were a way to identify the existence of an “objective value,” whether someone chose to make that his or her own personal “value” would be arbitrarily chosen by that individual. He or she could say “Yes, that is objectively valuable, but I personally don’t value it.” There is a subtle difference between “objectively valuable” and “valued by me.” It is only this second phrase that I am talking about in the book. The book does not take a position with regard to whether the first exists or not.

So we know that individuals value (want) certain things, and that is what is being talked about in this book.

Whether there exist any things that are “objectively valuable” is a different subject, not addressed in the book.

I can, however, comment on this separate topic (“objective value”).

The word “value” or “valuable” as it is generally used is either overtly or by implication followed by the word “to.” Of value to whom? Valuable to whom? So to say that something is “objectively valuable,” implying that there is no person or entity that that something is valuable to is probably best considered a linguistic mistake. If by “objectively valuable” one means valuable whether to humans or not, then one is probably talking about a deity to whom it is valuable. But then that deity would be arbitrarily valuing it, whereas a different deity, perhaps one waiting in line to inherit the universe, might have a different set of values. Or the deity could be an undesirable one (to us) that we were just unfortunate enough to have to accept as our deity because of there being none other to choose from. But that would not mean that we would have to accept the values of that deity. “If there were just a way to get to our neighboring universe, that has a better deity….”

But, Derik, the bottom line is that as you read my book, you lose the meaning of it as you look for challenges to the book arising from your own belief system. On the other hand, at least doing that is resulting in finding some vulnerabilities in the book, vulnerabilities to misunderstanding and/or misrepresentation. And as I have said, that is valuable to me.

(Continued in next post)
Bill Van F.
wvanfleet
Group Organizer
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 1,308
(Continued from previous post)

We continue with Derek’s third point. Here, Derik, you have indeed found a defect in clarity. The context should reduce the likelihood of misinterpretation, but really I should have been more precise in terminology.

- While the author characterizes anger as a motivational state on page 67...

We have seen that all behavior (decision-making) can be understood (modeled) as being determined by motivational states “channeled through” beliefs, and that beliefs themselves, in addition to all other states of mind (perceptions, memories, fantasies, etc.), can come to be able to produce or intensify motivational states. Anger, to be further defined below, is one of the motivational states.

...it is unclear to me how to frame anger in a way that is consistent with the propositional format for motivational states provided on page 44:

Just as we have developed a way of modeling specific beliefs and predictions with propositions, we have also come to model specific motivational states with propositions. The “motivational state,” then, is a hypothetical state existing in a nervous system or “mind” (or metaphorically in a group) that can be modeled with a particular kind of proposition, namely, a sentence that follows the format, “(subject) wants (object).” The subject is the animal that has the motivational state. The object is a sought-for outcome.

The following could be some candidates for ways to frame anger as a motivational state using the author's format:
- I want justice
- I want my expectation to occur
- I want my pain to go away
- I want what someone else has

The difficulty I have in framing anger as a motivational state in the above ways is that experience suggests that all of these motivational states merely accompany anger; or perhaps more accurately, anger accompanies them. To say that the above motivational states ARE anger is a bit of an awkward construction.

You are absolutely right!. I can see how a person might wonder about this. What I am basically saying (and this is something that I was assuming, whether correctly or not, that the reader would understand), is that the emotion of anger generally manifests itself in a number of ways, one of them being that of one or more motivational states. The concept of the motivational state is described in what you have quoted. It is the wanting to do something. “Hunger,” when the word stands for “wanting to eat,” would be referring to a motivational state. But one could study its manifestations in the brain without any reference to what the organism “wanted to do,” and still call it “hunger.” So there is, I see, a slight inaccuracy in seeming to refer to the emotion of anger as one or more motivational states. There are indeed situations in which only the emotion itself is being referred to, as in the effect of anger on the immune system. There it is not relevant as to what the anger is making the person want to do.


It may be more consistent with the other parts of the book to frame anger as an emotional state that is attendant to some discrete set of motivational states, and the way to prevent the emotional state of anger is to decouple the emotional state with the motivational states.

For example:
- When financial leaders commit crimes without consequence (belief), I want justice (motivational state)
- When I want justice (motivational state), I am angry (emotional state)

I understand what you are saying, and it is a good point. The problem with what you are saying is that the concept of “motivational state” is not related only to “emotions,” as the term is generally used, because usually itching (wanting to scratch), hunger (wanting to eat), pain (wanting to stop a particular kind of sensation), sleepiness (wanting to go to sleep), etc., are not considered “emotions.” This issue is clarified in the book two chapters back (illustrating the problem of skimming and losing understanding because of loss of the context that has been built up previously in the book):

(Continued in next post)
Bill Van F.
wvanfleet
Group Organizer
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 1,309
(Continued from previous post)

….This issue is clarified in the book two chapters back (illustrating the problem of skimming and losing understanding because of loss of the context that has been built up previously in the book):

We have digressed from building this basic model by discussing the development, nature, and limitations of our new tools (symbols, syntax, propositions, rules of logic, and rules of evidence), so that we can use these tools in the construction of our model.

We now will continue to construct that model.

We now need one further concept to add to our conceptual model, to help us understand, in a very basic way, how decisions are made and therefore how mistakes are made, so that we can develop ways of influencing these processes for our benefit.

It is easy to see that just having beliefs in the nervous system, or even having them active in the form of predictions, is insufficient to account for behavior, that is, for the animal actually doing something. I may believe that I can get a particular item at the store, but this belief, in itself, is insufficient to cause me actually to do so.

I will now propose for our model the idea that there are two main sets of factors, which, operating together, are the determinants of decisions. (This model will correspond closely with how we talk in our normal language about decision-making.)

Any decision may be considered to be the result of one or more MOTIVATIONAL STATES and one or more BELIEFS relevant to the motivational state(s) and the situation.

The new term is “motivational state.”

We know that animals have a tendency to behave, to do things. This tendency may vary from time to time anywhere from an apparent lack of such tendency to a very strong tendency. For instance, we can place a harness around a rat and attach it to a string that is also attached to a scale, such that we can measure the amount of force with which the rat is pulling to try to get somewhere. In some experiments it can be shown that the closer the rat is to a goal (e.g., food), the harder it will pull to get there. We do not know at this point exactly what is going on in the nervous system and other parts of the animal that results in this variable intensity of motivational states, but it is quite an accepted fact that it happens. So, motivational states have variable amounts of strength.

These motivational states are quite varied, and go by different names. The most common general names for these states are “drives,” “emotions,” “feelings,” “wishes,” “wants,” etc. All of these states tend not only to produce behavior, but to produce specific kinds of behavior that are related to different kinds of outcomes, depending on the motivational state. For instance, hunger motivates different behaviors than does thirst, sexual drive, pain, itching, anger, fear, envy, etc. What motivational states have in common is the tendency to produce behavior or the tendency to change behavior from what it might otherwise have been if the motivational state had not been present.

This excerpt from the book shows how the term “motivational state” is going to be used in the book. So the error that I have made is to use the word “anger” for the more accurate term “anger-generated motivational states,” without at least clarifying that “anger” was a shorthand term to refer to the total set of anger-generated motivational states.


In the above case, would not the aim of rational-ethics be to eliminate the influence of the accompanying emotional state on my subsequent actions?

No. As used in the book, “rational ethics” simply means ethics that is legitimated by consistency with the rational-ethical ultimate ethical principle (REUEP).


Therefore, a decision is more correctly framed as a function of three inputs: beliefs, motivational states, and emotional states.

No, that would produce a confusing and somewhat inaccurate model. Emotional states are only one set of states that can produce motivational states, unless you consider itching, hunger, sleepiness, etc. to be emotional states. This would be a very atypical use of the words, and my effort was to stay close to the way words are generally used by most people most of the time, where possible.

(Continued in next post)
Bill Van F.
wvanfleet
Group Organizer
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 1,310
(Continued from previous post)

We continue to Derik’s fourth point. (Please note the use of the word “author.”)

--On page 63, the description of how rational ethics are propogated to subsequent generations through authoritarian ethics provides conclusive evidence from the author himself that the rational-ethical principle is not ultimate, but rather a lower-level principle under authoritarian ethics:

It should be noted that the beginning of the attainment of the ethical sense was in infancy and early childhood, at a time when the approval of the parent is of supreme importance to the child. Thus, the ethical sense originally arises from authoritarian ethics, the need to please and not displease the parent. But the parent may (or may not) reward the attainment and development of rational ethics, so rational ethics, which does not come naturally, has to have its origin in authoritarian ethics. Just as we learn (or don’t learn) to be rational primarily from our parents or parenting figures, we also learn (or don’t learn) from them to move to rational ethics. Even if we do not learn these things from our parenting figures, they can be attained (with greater difficulty) later in life, but again, only from others.

No, Derik, you are confusing how rational ethics comes to be with what it is.

What it is is the way in which a person legitimates his or her ethical beliefs. It is his or her ultimate manner of determining what he or she should do, the ultimate principle that he or she uses to legitimate all of his or her other ethical beliefs.

But the basic development of the phenomenon of ethics, the “ethical sense” associated with certain ethical beliefs, is initially out of the relationship with the parent(s) and other people seen to be “in authority over” him or her. The small child cannot, of course, have rational ethics. He or she can subsequently come to have rational ethics through life experience (e.g., imitation of and identification with models) and thought about that experience. (Imitation and identification are not phenomena that are usually referred to as “obedience.”) He or she can decide, for instance, that I, Bill, make a good point, and he or she can come to an agreement that he or she first and foremost should do that which 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 early death as possible, for everyone, now and in the future. Or he or she may first and foremost want to go along with (obey) God, or Hitler, or whoever is seen as most powerful.

But we also must remember that there is perhaps some tendency in many of us to legitimate our ethics with the REUEP (not necessarily in the specific words that I have chosen to describe it with), right along with the AEUEP. It’s just that you will see far, far more usage of the AEUEP than the REUEP currently and in the past, with, I am maintaining, only a beginning tendency for the REUEP to supplant the AEUEP in individuals’ minds. For instance, I perceive you as quite committed to obeying God, and I sort of think that you would say that doing so trumps trying to behave consistently with the REUEP. I believe that if you believed God wanted you to be a suicide bomber, that’s what you would do. Hopefully you would not come to believe that God would want you to do such a thing, but I believe most of us believe, accurately, that that is why many do it (along with, perhaps, the virgins).


For each person who learns about rational ethics, the author will be different. For me, it's Bill.

See, here is Derik trying to say that the REUEP (the rational-ethical ultimate ethical principle) is impossible, presumably because the only way Derik could have it would be as an act of obedience to me, the “author.” What that would mean would be that he would believe he should obey me, whatever I may want him to do. Learning about what it is from me is not the same as deciding to become committed to it.


For a child three generations hence, it will could presumably be that child's parent. Although the advocating agent is different in each case, that advocating agent is (in the eyes of the hearer) the author. The form of response the child takes to that author is either obedience/disobedience.

The “ethical sense” indeed develops in childhood, at a time when the child cannot think in a complex enough way to be able to utilize rational ethics. The parents can indeed utilize rational ethics, and model it for the child. They can do that, for instance, by telling the (older) child that he or she should obey the parents only if he or she believes it is the right thing to do, and that if he or she doesn’t believe the parents are correct, there should be much discussion in order to see who is right. This would be rational-ethical child rearing, though there would be much, much more to it than that.

To become convinced that someone is correct is not the same as obeying that person, according to usual word usage. For instance, I could believe one way, but get into a conversation with you and change my opinion to that of yours. Then, for some reason you could change your mind and believe the way I used to believe. However, I may remain convinced that you were right in the first place, so I continue believing the way you once did, even though you don’t believe that way anymore. Am I obeying you? No! Just because you convince me of something doesn’t mean that I am obeying you.

When I was using the word “author” (which may have been a mistake), I was not meaning the creator of sentences. I was meaning who it was that was telling me what I should do. Just because you tell me what to do does not mean that I must or should obey. If I believe it is right just because it is you who are telling me it is, that is, if I believe that I should do whatever you tell me to do just because it is you who are telling me to do it, then I am engaging in “authoritarian ethics,” as the term is used in the book. If I am the only one in the world that believes that children should not be punished, and yet that’s what I believe, because punishment produces more PSDED in the long run, compared to using the rational-ethical model of child rearing, then I am using “rational ethics” (as the term is used in the book)

“Obeying” is doing what you are told to do, whether you think it is right or not. Thinking that obeying is the right thing to do simply because of who it is that is wanting you to do something is authoritarian ethics. Thinking that certain things are the right thing to do simply because it is God (or Hitler) who wants you to do them is authoritarian ethics.

(Continued in next post)
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