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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")

Derik T.
user 23955602
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 108

It makes me sad to see how this discussion involving word usage, etc., certainly must have a negative effect on the reader of these posts, in that he or she will be unable to understand the actual ideas in the book and the value to our species that I think the book can be, and therefore will be less likely to actually read the book. But few people are going to read it anyway, at least anytime real soon, so there does remain some value to me in looking for these vulnerabilities.

I'm a bit confused at the introduction of an alternative purpose for this review, to enable onlookers "to understand the actual ideas in the book and the value to our species that I think the book can be." From the very first post of this thread, I gathered (perhaps mistakenly) that you wanted perspectives from readers on potentially incorrect/unclear parts of the book as read in the order it is written? If you'd like to alter the charter of this review, you're welcome to do so and I'll do my best to comply with the revised goal.


I want to feel happy. (Motivational state)
If I live according to the REUEP, I will feel happy. (Belief)
I want to live according to the REUEP. (Motivational state)

The motivational state is channeled through a belief to a more specific motivational state. Where is the “breakdown”?

If you do subscribe to the above, have we not discovered that you hold a penultimate ethical principle even higher than the rational-ethical principle? Does not the above explicitly require that your ultimate ethical principle is, "I should feel happy"?

- - -

Response 5 of 8 (pages 80-100)

Strengths: In this portion of the book, the author deals with the concept of "anger prevention" and begins to take the reader through his perspectives on rational-ethical child rearing--and I must say he does both masterfully. I've learned a great deal I can apply in my own life from the "anger prevention" content, and am now armed with concepts I will proactively advocate to others. The author's extensive experience in pscychiatry is quite evident as he deconstructs the common problems that occur in daily life, provides a structure by which to consider these problems, and an algorithmic approach to dealing with them more constructively than is "normal" to humans.

Potential incorrect/unclear concepts:

- I'm tempted to juxtapose some of our back-and-forth postings in this review with the author's top seven principles of problem-solving behavior offered below...


So now we have covered the top seven principles of problem-solving behavior:
(1) One should not be hostile, even though one may be experiencing anger.
(2) One should maintain, and reassure the other that one has, the open, listening attitude.
(3) One should not interrupt the other.
(4) One should not talk too long.
(5) One should not change the subject.
. (a) One should not discount anger.
. (b) One should not comment on the other’s communicative behavior.
. (c) One should not comment on what the other has done.
(6) One should initiate discussion properly, by choosing what seems to be the best time (for uninterrupted discussion), and:
. (a) if anger has first arisen in self, get the other’s agreement for the discussion at that time or later.
. (b) if anger first seems to have arisen in the other, confirm that the other does believe a problem exists.
(7) In a hierarchical relationship, one should reassure the other of one’s concern to do right by the other.
. (a) The superior should reassure the subordinate that the subordinate will be listened to.
. (b) The subordinate should reassure the superior that the subordinate will do as the superior says (if ethical).

...but I could see how doing so would be "unfair" and, in a sense, perhaps being seen as using the author's own words as a bludgeon intended for punishment. That is not my intent. If, however, the author is game to reflect on how each of us have conducted ourselves in this review in light of the above problem-solving behaviors, I'd be willing to undertake such an exercise in order to learn how we might problem solve more constructively with each other in the future.

- On pages 80-94, a "tenor" runs through the author's guidance on anger prevention that seems to place value on the mitigation (or even elimination) of emotion as an influencing factor in decision-making. As I wrote in my review of pages 60-80, I'm more inclined to consider human decisions a function of three inputs (beliefs, motivational states, and emotional states) vice the author's two (beliefs and motivational states). Regardless of which method one chooses to model decision-making, I'd be interested to hear the author's reaction to the following clarifying questions: Does emotion play any valuable role in rational-ethical decision-making and, if so/not, why?

- This question is similar in nature to the above, but it relates more specifically to rational-ethical child rearing. (And please let me know if it would be more desirable that I should withhold this question until the end of the chapter on rational-ethical child rearing.) What is the role of "love" in the rearing of children, and how does this fit into the model of rational-ethical child rearing?
Bill Van F.
wvanfleet
Group Organizer
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 1,323
Derik,

It makes me sad to see how this discussion involving word usage, etc., certainly must have a negative effect on the reader of these posts, in that he or she will be unable to understand the actual ideas in the book and the value to our species that I think the book can be, and therefore will be less likely to actually read the book. But few people are going to read it anyway, at least anytime real soon, so there does remain some value to me in looking for these vulnerabilities.
I'm a bit confused at the introduction of an alternative purpose for this review, to enable onlookers "to understand the actual ideas in the book and the value to our species that I think the book can be." From the very first post of this thread, I gathered (perhaps mistakenly) that you wanted perspectives from readers on potentially incorrect/unclear parts of the book as read in the order it is written? If you'd like to alter the charter of this review, you're welcome to do so and I'll do my best to comply with the revised goal.
I think it should be evident from that first post in this topic that I was hoping that the actual ideas in the book would be discussed, especially if there seemed to be any questions about them. To instead be talking about misrepresentations of the ideas by taking statements out of their context and giving them different meanings does not do what I was hoping would be done. From that first post in this topic I quote:
My request of such readers is that they report here the first sentence they come across that seems either incorrect or unclear in the context in which it is written. (Sometimes, of course, the next few paragraphs will provide some explanations or qualifications that will impact the apparent correctness and/or clarity of a sentence.)
In writing this, I was assuming that the reader was reading in order to understand the ideas. What I was asking was that such sentences could be identified and discussed adequately before moving ahead with the reading, so that misconceptions could be cleared up and would not interfere with understanding subsequent material. This request was made not as the only thing that the reader would do (find incorrect or unclear sentences), but as an important thing to do while reading and discussing what the book is about. This should be even more apparent from reading the second paragraph after that one, which is as follows:
I am requesting that those who are not reading the book in the order written, but wish to comment on or debate about the ideas as they understand them, use a different thread (such as "HOMO RATIONALIS": Rational-Ethical Living). The reason is that it is always true that statements can be taken out of context, and therefore be perceived to have a different meaning than that intended by the author, and using space to correct such misunderstandings will tend to dilute and obscure the contributions of those who are indeed reading the book for maximum understanding.
So you can see that I was hoping that readers would be reading for maximum understanding, not just skimming the book for sentences that, out of context, could be seen as saying something “obviously” not correct. Your racing along as you are doing, reading arbitrary ranges of pages (20 at a time) without adequate discussion of any of the actual ideas in the book, and with me trying to keep up with you in correcting the trail of misrepresentations you are leaving behind, is certainly not anything I can feel good about, nor do I believe it is of particular interest to others.

If you are indeed asking me if I would like for you to do something different, the answer is, “Yes!! Absolutely!!” I would love it if you would go back even just to the first chapter on “Basic Concepts” (on “Determinants of Behavior”) and read about each concept that is introduced, and indeed stop at the first sentence that seems incorrect or unclear in the context in which it is written, and ask for clarification, presenting what problem(s) you believe to exist in what has been written and engaging in dialogue with me about those ideas until we had solved the problem(s), or stopping and engaging in dialogue about any of the concepts that seem interesting for any reason. Then you could go on through the next set of concepts with any similar comments or questions. We would then be having a meaningful discussion about the actual ideas in the book. I would indeed like to have such dialogue. You are obviously quite knowledgeable and also have a different belief system than mine, and such discussion should therefore be quite interesting and valuable.

And now your next point:

I want to feel happy. (Motivational state)
If I live according to the REUEP, I will feel happy. (Belief)
I want to live according to the REUEP. (Motivational state)

The motivational state is channeled through a belief to a more specific motivational state. Where is the “breakdown”?
If you do subscribe to the above, have we not discovered that you hold a penultimate ethical principle even higher than the rational-ethical principle? Does not the above explicitly require that your ultimate ethical principle is, "I should feel happy"?
No. How do you arrive at that? You are again taking something out of context and making it into something different than what I was saying. If you go back to my last post and read how the above was part of a reply to a different issue, a presumed “breakdown” that you were suggesting was present, you will see that it has nothing to do with what you are now making it out to be. And even what you say here is a confusion of the modeling of decision-making in the brain and the legitimization of ethical belief. The above “syllogism” (note the quotes) is simply an oversimplified modeling of the wish to commit to the REUEP; it is not a legitimization of the REUEP. You are either not understanding a very basic idea from the previous chapter or just trying to taunt. I will make the assumption that it is the former, produced because of skimming rather than really understanding.

(Continued in next post)
Bill Van F.
wvanfleet
Group Organizer
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 1,324
(Continued from previous post)

Your next point:

Response 5 of 8 (pages 80-100)
Potential incorrect/unclear concepts:

- I'm tempted to juxtapose some of our back-and-forth postings in this review with the author's top seven principles of problem-solving behavior offered below...


So now we have covered the top seven principles of problem-solving behavior:
(1) One should not be hostile, even though one may be experiencing anger.
(2) One should maintain, and reassure the other that one has, the open, listening attitude.
(3) One should not interrupt the other.
(4) One should not talk too long.
(5) One should not change the subject.
. (a) One should not discount anger.
. (b) One should not comment on the other’s communicative behavior.
. (c) One should not comment on what the other has done.
(6) One should initiate discussion properly, by choosing what seems to be the best time (for uninterrupted discussion), and:
. (a) if anger has first arisen in self, get the other’s agreement for the discussion at that time or later.
. (b) if anger first seems to have arisen in the other, confirm that the other does believe a problem exists.
(7) In a hierarchical relationship, one should reassure the other of one’s concern to do right by the other.
. (a) The superior should reassure the subordinate that the subordinate will be listened to.
. (b) The subordinate should reassure the superior that the subordinate will do as the superior says (if ethical).

...but I could see how doing so would be "unfair" and, in a sense, perhaps being seen as using the author's own words as a bludgeon intended for punishment. That is not my intent. If, however, the author is game to reflect on how each of us have conducted ourselves in this review in light of the above problem-solving behaviors, I'd be willing to undertake such an exercise in order to learn how we might problem solve more constructively with each other in the future.
Doing so would just be engaging in a contest before an audience where the contestants would get points for being able to skillfully say the right thing, and I have no wish to do that, nor would it be on topic. Even though you are not doing what I would hope a person would do in reading the book, I understand and accept that fact.

Your next point:

- On pages 80-94, a "tenor" runs through the author's guidance on anger prevention that seems to place value on the mitigation (or even elimination) of emotion as an influencing factor in decision-making. As I wrote in my review of pages 60-80, I'm more inclined to consider human decisions a function of three inputs (beliefs, motivational states, and emotional states) vice the author's two (beliefs and motivational states).
The book is talking about “emotions” when it is talking about “motivational states.” Your reintroduction of emotion into the model means that it will be there twice, first as “emotion” and second as “motivational states” that are how the emotion is being manifested. That would of course completely destroy the value of the model. It should be noted that motivational states are also manifestations of things other than what is usually referred to as “emotion,” for instance, “hunger.”

Your next point:

Regardless of which method one chooses to model decision-making, I'd be interested to hear the author's reaction to the following clarifying questions: Does emotion play any valuable role in rational-ethical decision-making and, if so/not, why?
That is what the book has been about. Your question comes from not understanding what the book has been saying. It is a broad question that would take much too much space here. But a specific example that is probably relevant to the question would be this excerpt that you have already read, as follows:
It should be noted that the original anger did indeed serve a purpose. It served as the “smoke alarm” indicating that there was a problem to be solved. The continuation of the motivational state of anger, however, is not what will help bring about the improvement for the future. What will help most is the development of the ethical sense in association with the ethical belief that a problem does definitely exist and should therefore be solved, in order to promote affection and intimacy, or at least stress-free interaction, in the relationship. Such ethical belief will motivate problem-solving behavior, that has the greatest chance of improving the relationship.
When the book is talking about motivational states, it is indeed talking about emotions (and other phenomena), as they are actually manifested in ways relevant to decision-making. In fact, “anger” in this quote is even, perhaps somewhat inaccurately, referred to as a motivational state. A more accurate statement would have been, “The continuation of anger produces motivational states that usually do not help, and will often hinder, behavior that will bring about improvement for the future." In the previous chapter, it pointed out the important role of motivational states in producing decision-making, that beliefs by themselves would not produce. Note also that the “ethical sense” has been described as a manifestation of complex and variable emotions. So quite central to the book is that emotions and other phenomena that manifest themselves as motivational states are essential in understanding decision-making and therefore behavior.

Your next issue:

- This question is similar in nature to the above, but it relates more specifically to rational-ethical child rearing. (And please let me know if it would be more desirable that I should withhold this question until the end of the chapter on rational-ethical child rearing.) What is the role of "love" in the rearing of children, and how does this fit into the model of rational-ethical child rearing?
The word “love” is extremely ambiguous and generally used for its effect rather than any specifically denoted meaning. For instance, parents may say that they are spanking or otherwise punishing their child because of “love” for the child and therefore concern for the child’s welfare. So because the effort in the book was to be as clear as possible, I did not use words that were highly ambiguous and laden with emotion.

If you tell me what specific meaning of the word you have in mind, I can probably answer the question.

I hope that you are not simply implying that, because the word is not used as a key term in the book, I am therefore an unfeeling person and don’t really care about children except as objects, etc. In general usage, the word “love” has to be used carefully. One has to say the right thing. Even calling attention to this fact can be dangerous to one’s reputation. Discussion of this word might make for an interesting topic that many people might love to participate in.
Bill Van F.
wvanfleet
Group Organizer
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 1,331
Derik,

You have recently continued to state that the REUEP (Rational-Ethical Ultimate Ethical Principle) is just another example of a non-ultimate ethical principle, legitimated by the AEUEP (Authoritarian-Ethical Ultimate Ethical Principle). This of course would be a complete invalidation of the whole book. So it seems to me that this issue would be an important one to explore in depth, if your goal is to understand the book and make a helpful evaluation of it for others that might be considering reading it.

I can again refer you to selections from the book that will clarify that what the book says is not consistent with your statement, but I will try to reproduce your proposed reasons and my answers to those reasons.

First, we need to review the basic concepts and terminology used in the book.

An “existential belief” (as used in the book) is a belief about the way the world is, was, and/or will be, including what will happen if we do certain things.

An “ethical belief” (as used in the book) is one that can be modeled by a sentence with the word “should” in it. (Note that there are also sentences that do not model an ethical belief that have the word “should” in it, such as “According to the map, it should be around the next corner” and “In order to do X you should do Y.” So we are talking about its use without an implied “in order to” or “according to.” Another way of describing such a belief is to say that one “ought to do it.”)

Ethical beliefs are generally legitimated by showing that they are consistent with higher level, more comprehensive ethical beliefs.
I should not do X. (Ethical belief)
Why should you not? (Request for legitimization)
I should not do Y. (Higher level, more comprehensive ethical belief, rule of conduct, principle)
If I do X, I will be doing Y. (Existential belief)
Therefore, I should not do X. (Ethical belief being legitimated)

But then I could be asked, “Well, why should you not do Y?” This would be a legitimization request for this higher-level ethical belief, rule of conduct, or principle. In a similar manner, then, I could legitimize Y with an even higher level, more comprehensive ethical principle. But ultimately I would have to stop the legitimization process, meaning that I would get ultimately to a highest-level principle that could not be legitimized because there was not a still higher level one that I was using. Thus, there is no way to legitimize the ultimate ethical principle. This could be stated as that the ultimate ethical principle is “arbitrary.” By definition, then, there is no way to legitimize it. It is where, for that individual, he or she stops attempting to legitimize and just settles arbitrarily on this one principle that legitimates his or her other ethical principles, rules of conduct, and beliefs.

We sometimes will use one ultimate ethical principle and sometimes another, but for most people most of the time, the ultimate ethical principle that is used is the “authoritarian-ethical ultimate ethical principle (AEUEP). It is that we should do whatever X wants us to do, X being whoever or whatever is most powerful (parent, leader, social group, deity). We are a group animal, and tend to establish power hierarchies. Much pain, suffering, disability, and early death (PSDED) results from such ethics.

But there is another ultimate ethical principle that is becoming more widely used to legitimize other ethical beliefs. In this book it is called the rational-ethical ultimate ethical principle, but it could just as easily have some other name. It is that we should do whatever will promote not only the survival of our species but also as much joy, contentment, and appreciation (JCA) as possible and as little PSDED as possible, for everyone, now and in the future. I believe this ultimate ethical principle will eventually be used to a much greater extent, replacing the AEUEP to a very great extent. People will choose this ultimate ethical principle because they will recognize that they want as much JCA as possible and as little PSDED as possible, for everyone, now and in the future, and they will realize that it is possible to have this to a much greater extent than we have ever known because of our recently increased use of rationality with its tremendous capability of enabling us to do things.

Now Derik, as I understand it, you are saying that people who come to accept this principle as an ultimate ethical principle will be obeying me, because I am the one who has put this principle into words, i.e., have become its “author.” This idea is contrary to what I maintain, and that is that I am simply reporting on an observation and making a prediction. I am not commanding people to live by this ultimate ethical principle; I am advocating that they do. I am not advocating that anyone obey me; I am advocating that if they want as much JCA as possible and as little PSDED as possible, a way of achieving that would be committing to live according to the REUEP. If someone decides to commit to the REUEP, they will be doing so because they want to have as much JCA as possible and as little PSDED as possible, not because I, Bill Van Fleet, have described it and somehow have become someone whom they feel it is appropriate to obey, no matter what I might say.

So to claim that for someone to commit to the REUEP requires that they are obeying me is a completely wrong idea, if we are talking about what the book is talking about. Just because one person advocates something and another person joins in doing the same does not mean the second person is obeying the first. If you don’t like a painting, but I do, and then I start pointing things out about it, so that eventually you come to like it, that doesn’t mean that you are coming to like it as an act of obedience to me. Your decision to look more closely at the painting may (or may not) be because you respect my opinion, but your eventually coming to like it, though helped along by me, was a process between you and the painting. The same thing could have happened without my doing anything, and after you came to like the picture, my changing my mind would not necessarily change yours back again. In the same way, you may come to like the REUEP, whether having heard about it from me or not.

Now if you still believe that the REUEP cannot be an ultimate ethical principle, because in order to commit to that principle a person would have to agree to obey me, please state why you believe that . Or if there is any sentence above that you do not agree with, please quote it and tell us why not.

Thanks, Derik!
Derik T.
user 23955602
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 109
Bill,

The below constitutes a response to your last post, starting with the following paragraph:

You have recently continued to state that the REUEP (Rational-Ethical Ultimate Ethical Principle) is just another example of a non-ultimate ethical principle, legitimated by the AEUEP (Authoritarian-Ethical Ultimate Ethical Principle). This of course would be a complete invalidation of the whole book. So it seems to me that this issue would be an important one to explore in depth, if your goal is to understand the book and make a helpful evaluation of it for others that might be considering reading it.

My position rests on two primary findings I've learned while reading your book:
1) Your adoption and advocacy of the rational-ethical principle in your own life has been legitimated--in the book, in your comments on this blog, and in your comments in our discussion groups--by the way it makes you feel. This renders the principle a child ethical belief to another ("I should feel good without harming others") and therefore not ultimate.
2) The rational-ethical principle, as described as an ethical principle others should adopt is, for that person, either author-based (in so much as they trust your wisdom) or positive-feeling-based (similar to #1 above) and therefore not ultimate.

Given your last post speaks primarily to #2 above, I'll explore that position in more detail.

We sometimes will use one ultimate ethical principle and sometimes another, but for most people most of the time, the ultimate ethical principle that is used is the “authoritarian-ethical ultimate ethical principle (AEUEP). It is that we should do whatever X wants us to do, X being whoever or whatever is most powerful (parent, leader, social group, deity). We are a group animal, and tend to establish power hierarchies. Much pain, suffering, disability, and early death (PSDED) results from such ethics.

If you find yourself constrained in your conception of X as "whoever or whatever is most powerful", I suppose our discussion would progress the smoothest if we conclude that the authoritarian-ethical ultimate ethical principle presupposes only these types of authors.

Let it be so.

But given the numerous other forms of influence one can have on a person (logic, appeal to friendship/loyalty, personal example, etc.) and the not uncommon motivational state that aims to provide aid (not domination), let us also suppose the existence of a "benefactorial ultimate ethical principle". Under this ethical principle, a well-meaning author proposes to another that he/she adopt a set of ethical beliefs. The receiving agent does so because:
- the ethical beliefs appear fit to provide the benefits the author purports
- the author is one who, by all measures, seems as though he/she wants to provide me aid

In other words, the "benefactorial ultimate ethical principle" is as follows: I should do that which a well-meaning author wants me to do, so long as it appears probable that the action's resultant outcomes will deliver the expected benefits.

(It should be clear why I was originally trying to fit this ethical principle into that of the authoritarian-ethical ultimate ethical principle. The two are very similar. The only difference is the author's influence of the one is derived from power, the other from a desire to be helpful.)

Now Derik, as I understand it, you are saying that people who come to accept this principle as an ultimate ethical principle will be obeying me, because I am the one who has put this principle into words, i.e., have become its “author.” This idea is contrary to what I maintain, and that is that I am simply reporting on an observation and making a prediction. I am not commanding people to live by this ultimate ethical principle; I am advocating that they do. I am not advocating that anyone obey me; I am advocating that if they want as much JCA as possible and as little PSDED as possible, a way of achieving that would be committing to live according to the REUEP. If someone decides to commit to the REUEP, they will be doing so because they want to have as much JCA as possible and as little PSDED as possible, not because I, Bill Van Fleet, have described it and somehow have become someone whom they feel it is appropriate to obey, no matter what I might say.

Try as you might to decouple the message from the messenger, it's not that simple for people. Across centuries and housands of books, many authors advocate fervently for the ethical beliefs they hold dear. Each reader's calculus into which to adopt and advocate themselves must weigh the value of the message, yes. But the reader must also weigh the messenger. "Does he care about me? Why does she believe this? What did he believe before he believed this, and why did he change his mind? Will she change her mind again?" And on and on.

If you have convinced anyone to adopt the rational-ethical principle, Bill, I'd guess their making the shift was as much a function of their trust in you (or your station, expertise, life experience, etc.) as in the rigor of your logic. Any who so adopted the rational-ethical principle did not do so "because they came to the self-realization that they liked the same painting". Rather, they demonstrated a "benefactorial ultimate ethical principle", of which the rational ethical principle is a child.

Alternatively, I suppose they could be exhibiting the same ultimate ethical principle as you are ("I should feel good without harming others").
Derik T.
user 23955602
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 110
Response 6 of 8 (covering pages 100-120):

Strengths:

- The author provides numerous examples of the deficiencies inherent in the mindsets and behaviors of modern parenting--as a parent of three young children myself, I found these examples extremely helpful as a means of challenging my own mindsets and behaviors concerning child rearing.

- The author's recommended system for giving children a weekly allowance and managing performance of duties through visible metrics in the home is quite thought-provoking and something I'll strongly consider implementing in my own household.

Potential incorrect/unclear areas:

- On pages 100-116, the author discusses rational-ethical child rearing. As a reader attempting to ascertain the benefits of raising my child in the way prescribed, I am left yearning for example "proof of concept" cases demonstrating when this has worked. Did the author raise his own children in this way? In his psychiatry practice, has he counseled families to raise their children in this way? What specific examples, research trials, etc. can he cite that show the efficacy of this method of child-rearing in raising respectful, responsible, and productive adults who make a positive impact on the world? Such data may very well exist. If it does, the author's advocacy will be strengthened immesurably if he provided meaty stories and examples in the book. If, on the other hand, data does not exist, how much stock should the reader place in the string of declarative sentences that constitutes this chapter?

- Also in the chapter on rational-ethical child rearing, there seemed to be a tenor throughout the chapter that emphasized the value of fostering certain "skills" in a child. The following paragraph illustrates:

We may look at a list of some general sets of skills that the procedures of child rearing should be designed to foster:
1) The ability to communicate accurately (symbol and syntax usage)
2) The ability to recall useful, relevant information (education)
3) The ability to utilize anger prevention principles (empathy and absence of hostility)
4) The ability to inhibit non-optimal behavior (ethical sense and rules of conduct)
5) The ability to negotiate (interpersonal and group interaction)
6) The ability to think rationally (rules of logic and rules of evidence)

Both the prioritization of rational "skills" over character, and the conspicuous absence of the following abilities, leave this reader quite disappointed:
- The ability to give generously to those who can give nothing in return
- The ability to put another's needs ahead of his/her own
- The ability to work his/her hardest
- The ability to defend one's loved ones or those who cannot defend themselves

Further, the author's persistent advocacy for sterile, emotionless reason results in a chapter on child rearing in which the words "loving", "caring", or "nurturing" do not appear once. As a parent, my heart aches for a child raised in a home in which he/she wakes each morning to be "programmed" in the sterile environment the author describes.
Bill Van F.
wvanfleet
Group Organizer
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 1,340
Derik,

Thank you for your willingness to explore this difference of opinion in greater depth.

I believe we can make it much clearer as to why this difference of opinion is occurring. The difference of opinion is occurring because you are changing the meaning of a word used in the book into a meaning not used in the book. You are changing the meaning of the word “legitimate” (as in “to legitimate”) from how it is defined and used in the book into one of the common meanings of the word “explain.” (Or we could say that you are assigning the meaning that the word “explanation” usually has to the word “legitimization,” and thus making it mean something different than it means in the book.) Therefore, you are able to arrive at different conclusions than those presented in the book, thus making it seem that the book has an error in it (and a bad one at that, one that ruins the value of the book).

So first we have to look at how the word is actually used in the book. The following is what the book says:
What I mean by “legitimating” is “giving a reason for believing or agreeing.” In other words, if I were asked why someone should agree with me, and I gave an answer, I would be proposing that answer as a legitimization of the proposition. It could be asked about any proposition (usually a sentence), “Is this proposition true or false?” Then, someone could state that it was true (or false), whereupon that person could be asked why he or she believed that it was indeed true (or false). The answer given would be the proposed legitimization of that proposition. What would be necessary for agreement would be that the other person(s) agree that the reason being given was indeed a compelling (legitimate) reason. If not, there would be disagreement about the criterion of legitimization. One example of my attempting to legitimate a proposition would be my showing that it was deducible as the third statement in a syllogism, the first two statements being agreed to already by those involved in the discussion. If someone did not agree with one of the first two propositions, or thought that the structure of my syllogism was faulty, then my attempt to legitimate the proposition would fail to meet a criterion of legitimization. The meaning of legitimating will become more apparent in what follows.

(The above paragraph was a simplification in order to explain “legitimization.” Of course, two persons could agree, that is, have the same belief, but for two different reasons. They would be using two different criteria for legitimization.)
Now next we need to look at what is meant, in the book, by the legitimization of an ethical belief (modeled by an ethical proposition), as follows:
From earlier in the book, the reader may recall the interaction between existential beliefs (about the way the world is, was, or will be) and ethical beliefs (about what we should do). This interaction produces our ability to legitimate our specific ethical beliefs by showing that they are deducible from more general ethical beliefs and therefore ultimately from the ultimate ethical principle.
And another:
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.
Please note that the “syllogism” referred to in the above quote consists of:

A higher level ethical belief.
An existential belief.
A lower level ethical belief (that is being legitimated by this “syllogism”).

So note that in order to legitimate an ethical belief, a higher level (more general) ethical belief must be used.

(Continued in next post)
Bill Van F.
wvanfleet
Group Organizer
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 1,341
(Continued from previous post)

Now we need to look at your responses.
My position rests on two primary findings I've learned while reading your book:
1) Your adoption and advocacy of the rational-ethical principle in your own life has been legitimated--in the book, in your comments on this blog, and in your comments in our discussion groups--by the way it makes you feel.
ABSOLUTELY NOT! First let us recognize that when you refer to the “rational-ethical principle” you are referring to the rational-ethical ultimate ethical principle (REUEP). I have never said that the reason why I should commit to the REUEP was because of how it made me feel. That might be an explanation, but not a legitimization. For that matter, I might actually do something that I considered unethical (inconsistent with my ethical beliefs) because of how it made me feel. Just because something makes me feel good does not mean that I should therefore do it. That it made me feel good might be a (partial) explanation, but not a legitimization. I have never legitimated the REUEP.
This renders the principle a child ethical belief to another ("I should feel good without harming others") and therefore not ultimate.
This statement in quotes is a statement that I have never made, and it is a statement that I don’t think I will ever make. And I have never indicated that that was what I believed was the reason I should commit to the REUEP. I have never made any statement as to why I should commit to the REUEP. And that is one of the two reasons why it would be called my “ultimate ethical principle,” the other being that I would expect all of my other ethical beliefs to be consistent with it.

2) The rational-ethical principle, as described as an ethical principle others should adopt is, for that person, either author-based (in so much as they trust your wisdom) or positive-feeling-based (similar to #1 above) and therefore not ultimate.
Here you introduce your own terminology, using the word “based.” That word is ambiguous, and obscures the issue that we are attempting to clarify. “Based” could refer either to “legitimated by” or to “explained by.” And I have never said that “others should adopt” it. I have said that there is a growing tendency for people to use it as their ultimate ethical principle, but that we have a long way to go. And I have said that I want and hope that eventually we will all do so. I advocate for doing so.

(Continued in next post)
Bill Van F.
wvanfleet
Group Organizer
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 1,342
(Continued from previous post)

Given your last post speaks primarily to #2 above, I'll explore that position in more detail.

We sometimes will use one ultimate ethical principle and sometimes another, but for most people most of the time, the ultimate ethical principle that is used is the “authoritarian-ethical ultimate ethical principle (AEUEP). It is that we should do whatever X wants us to do, X being whoever or whatever is most powerful (parent, leader, social group, deity). We are a group animal, and tend to establish power hierarchies. Much pain, suffering, disability, and early death (PSDED) results from such ethics.

If you find yourself constrained in your conception of X as "whoever or whatever is most powerful", I suppose our discussion would progress the smoothest if we conclude that the authoritarian-ethical ultimate ethical principle presupposes only these types of authors.

Let it be so.

But given the numerous other forms of influence one can have on a person (logic, appeal to friendship/loyalty, personal example, etc.) and the not uncommon motivational state that aims to provide aid (not domination), let us also suppose the existence of a "benefactorial ultimate ethical principle". Under this ethical principle, a well-meaning author proposes to another that he/she adopt a set of ethical beliefs. The receiving agent does so because:
- the ethical beliefs appear fit to provide the benefits the author purports
- the author is one who, by all measures, seems as though he/she wants to provide me aid

In other words, the "benefactorial ultimate ethical principle" is as follows: I should do that which a well-meaning author wants me to do, so long as it appears probable that the action's resultant outcomes will deliver the expected benefits.
Note that you might become a suicide bomber with this ultimate ethical principle. What if the “author” is inaccurate in his or her beliefs? He or she can be well-meaning and still make mistakes due to inaccurate beliefs. Also, it leaves unclear what the word “benefits” means. It is not an ultimate ethical principle that I would commit to. I understand that you may have this as an ultimate ethical principle, but I would advocate that you compare it to the REUEP.

(It should be clear why I was originally trying to fit this ethical principle into that of the authoritarian-ethical ultimate ethical principle. The two are very similar. The only difference is the author's influence of the one is derived from power, the other from a desire to be helpful.)
I agree, they are very similar, and can easily cause PSDED.

Now Derik, as I understand it, you are saying that people who come to accept this principle as an ultimate ethical principle will be obeying me, because I am the one who has put this principle into words, i.e., have become its “author.” This idea is contrary to what I maintain, and that is that I am simply reporting on an observation and making a prediction. I am not commanding people to live by this ultimate ethical principle; I am advocating that they do. I am not advocating that anyone obey me; I am advocating that if they want as much JCA as possible and as little PSDED as possible, a way of achieving that would be committing to live according to the REUEP. If someone decides to commit to the REUEP, they will be doing so because they want to have as much JCA as possible and as little PSDED as possible, not because I, Bill Van Fleet, have described it and somehow have become someone whom they feel it is appropriate to obey, no matter what I might say.

Try as you might to decouple the message from the messenger, it's not that simple for people. Across centuries and housands of books, many authors advocate fervently for the ethical beliefs they hold dear. Each reader's calculus into which to adopt and advocate themselves must weigh the value of the message, yes. But the reader must also weigh the messenger. "Does he care about me? Why does she believe this? What did he believe before he believed this, and why did he change his mind? Will she change her mind again?" And on and on.
Exactly, and all of these are good reasons that the authoritarian-ethical ultimate ethical principle (AEUEP) is problematic. It is what the UEP says, not who says it, which, I believe, is the best “basis” for accepting or rejecting it. If you really want 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, then I advocate you commit yourself to doing those things, whenever possible, which predictably will most likely promote these things. If there is something else you want even more, please let us know. Maybe I will switch.

If you have convinced anyone to adopt the rational-ethical principle, Bill, I'd guess their making the shift was as much a function of their trust in you (or your station, expertise, life experience, etc.) as in the rigor of your logic.
And neither of these would be good reason to commit to the REUEP. I do not logically demonstrate that the REUEP can be deduced from a higher level ethical principle (otherwise it would not be an ultimate ethical principle), and just having trust in me would not be a good reason, especially since there are millions of people (at least) who could be just as trustworthy. I do not claim to be more trustworthy than everyone else, nor do I advocate that you or others commit to the REUEP as an act of trust, of me or anyone else.

Any who so adopted the rational-ethical principle did not do so "because they came to the self-realization that they liked the same painting".
Then they are doing so for the wrong reason, in my opinion. I hope that they will come to the “self-realization” that the REUEP is indeed something they will like and will therefore adopt.
Rather, they demonstrated a "benefactorial ultimate ethical principle", of which the rational ethical principle is a child.
Then they have not adopted the REUEP as their ultimate ethical principle.

Alternatively, I suppose they could be exhibiting the same ultimate ethical principle as you are ("I should feel good without harming others").
Where?­ Derik, where have I said that this was my ultimate ethical principle? I have never said this, and it is not true.

So Derik, can you not see how you have arrived at your conclusions because of your changing of the meaning of “legitimization”? Of course there are reasons why I have committed to the REUEP. There are reasons for all of my behavior, thoughts, feelings, etc. Verbalizing these reasons would be “explaining” my having done so, not “legitimating” my having done so.

Now if any of this post seems incorrect, would you please quote the sentence(s) and explain why you believe it or them to be incorrect? And if what I have said seems to have resolved the difference of opinion, could you please state that?

And I do appreciate your having undertaken this effort at clarification.
Derik T.
user 23955602
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 111
Bill,

Thanks for the quick reply. On many occasions you've legitimated the rational-ethical principle--in your own use of the word "legitimated"--and highlighting two will serve our purposes here.

For context, I'll reprise your quote from the last post:


The following is what the book says:
What I mean by “legitimating” is “giving a reason for believing or agreeing.” In other words, if I were asked why someone should agree with me, and I gave an answer, I would be proposing that answer as a legitimization of the proposition. It could be asked about any proposition (usually a sentence), “Is this proposition true or false?” Then, someone could state that it was true (or false), whereupon that person could be asked why he or she believed that it was indeed true (or false). The answer given would be the proposed legitimization of that proposition. What would be necessary for agreement would be that the other person(s) agree that the reason being given was indeed a compelling (legitimate) reason. If not, there would be disagreement about the criterion of legitimization. One example of my attempting to legitimate a proposition would be my showing that it was deducible as the third statement in a syllogism, the first two statements being agreed to already by those involved in the discussion. If someone did not agree with one of the first two propositions, or thought that the structure of my syllogism was faulty, then my attempt to legitimate the proposition would fail to meet a criterion of legitimization. The meaning of legitimating will become more apparent in what follows.

(The above paragraph was a simplification in order to explain “legitimization.” Of course, two persons could agree, that is, have the same belief, but for two different reasons. They would be using two different criteria for legitimization.)
Now next we need to look at what is meant, in the book, by the legitimization of an ethical belief (modeled by an ethical proposition), as follows:
From earlier in the book, the reader may recall the interaction between existential beliefs (about the way the world is, was, or will be) and ethical beliefs (about what we should do). This interaction produces our ability to legitimate our specific ethical beliefs by showing that they are deducible from more general ethical beliefs and therefore ultimately from the ultimate ethical principle.
And another:
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.
Please note that the “syllogism” referred to in the above quote consists of:

A higher level ethical belief.
An existential belief.
A lower level ethical belief (that is being legitimated by this “syllogism”).

So note that in order to legitimate an ethical belief, a higher level (more general) ethical belief must be used.

Pay particular attention to the quote that comes after "And another:" and your mention of the syllogism that comes just after that--both will be crucial in a moment.

Instance #1: the "syllogism" you provided on page 6 of this thread


I want to feel happy. (Motivational state)
If I live according to the REUEP, I will feel happy. (Belief)
I want to live according to the REUEP. (Motivational state)

Now look again at this construction through the lens of your quote above:

I want to (or "I should") feel happy (higher level ethical belief)
If I live according to the REUEP, I will feel happy. (existential belief)
I want to (or, again, "I should") live according to the REUEP. (lower level legitimated ethical belief)

Instance #2: the in-person discussion we had two CPDG meetings ago

Terry, you, and I were chatting about the ascension chain of ethical principles, and you'll recall there came a point when I asked why you adhered to the REUEP--very much in the same way you describe two people undertaking a "why" progression in the third of your quotes above! The terminus of your answers in my chain of "why?" inquiries was "Because it makes me feel good". Now if you assert that, in ascending from the rational-ethical principle to your personal compulsion to feel good, we somehow left the ladder of "legitimating" and stepped onto an alternate ladder of "explaining", I'm utterly at a loss of how we can proceed in any constructive way.

If "I want to feel good" carries a different meaning from "I should feel good" at the top rung of a "why" ladder, the onus is on you to demonstrate how these two are different.
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