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Charlotte Philosophy Discussion Group Message Board › HUMANIANITY: The Most Important Religion

HUMANIANITY: The Most Important Religion

vincent
user 8236565
Kannapolis, NC
Post #: 94
I have not read your book (I'm in the middle of several others) but I will say that there is probably several things your saying that I'm not getting. I think that that is just a part of human communication. Words can cause quite a lot of confusion. Keep knocking these ideas against me ands its perfectly possible one of them will stick.
*Actually, they probably do, but they are unable to do what we are able to do, namely, to put our ethical beliefs into words. Also, our criteria of legitimization of ethical beliefs are more complex, just as is our behavior.
I consider ethics to be the domain of human beings only. But I'm not a biologist and could be way wrong.
*Your representation of my set of beliefs is inaccurate, primarily because of oversimplification.
Thats probably true. I am trying Bill none the less. I apologize if I'm jumping to some conclusions to quickly.
*I believe that is so because you did not really understand what I am saying. Your view of my views is, I believe, very oversimplified and perhaps stereotyped (by an anti-psychiatry orientation). Is you were to read my chapters on rational-ethical anger prevention, child rearing, and belief management, you would have a much more in-depth understanding. (They are in the 1st free book at homorationalis.com.) And if you read the chapters before those chapters, you would really understand what I am advocating to a much greater extent.

I wish to apologize for having taken so long to respond. I have been very busy. It takes me a very long time to reformat your posts so that they can be followed adequately by other readers. I cannot be certain that I have avoided mistakes in doing so, but hope that I have been successful.

You have indeed been successful. I understand its a busy world and there is a lot to get done in life. I appreciate the reply and its inconsequential to me the time it took to get back to me. I will get around to reading your book at some point, there is always someone trying to advocate for you to read something, at least if your me. Time is also something that I dont have that much of myself. Whoever wrote that song which says time is on my side was a lucky man indeed! I will wait with patience for the next time you reply.
Bill Van F.
wvanfleet
Group Organizer
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 1,548
Vincent,

I was talking about your statement that even if it does provide us with some explanations, we are assuming we know more than we do. I could imagine that to be true in some cases, but why in all cases?

Because of the way the left hemisphere of our brain works. It fills in the picture when we dont have solid data on matters. Its a human and unavoidable thing to fill in the blanks with assumptions that hold no basis. A person's personal memories are nothing more then reconstructions of past events, so even coming from the person themselves they are not reliable.
Yes, I absolutely agree, and have written about this in my book. So we can be aware of this phenomenon and not make the assumption that what we feel certain about is necessarily accurate. So this would be a case when we do not assume that we know more than we do.

The fact that we cannot arrive at a complete explanation as to why someone does something does not mean that we have to respond in a hostile, vengeful, punitive fashion. It seems that you are saying that because we cannot understand a person fully, we should just condemn them and punish them, since that's a simpler thing to do.
You always equate punishment with justice and I dont feel that they are the same. We place some people away to preserve the safety of others. That is not revenge. People I believe should be punished, but we would have to have a context of what a person did and the circumstances involved. A person shouldnt be punished in every single case. It would depend on what they did and the circumstances.
I say that “justice” seems to mean the fair distribution of resources and the fair distribution of punishment. It is true that some people need to be quarantined, for the safety of everyone else, but this is not “punishment.” However, making such people suffer through various deprivations, including social isolation, because of what they have done is what is meant by “punishment,” and is revenge, I assume you would agree. But you and I do not agree in that you believe that punishment is a good thing and I do not. You would say that punishment, as it is actually carried out, sometimes is bad and sometimes is good. I would say that it is bad. However, I do need to make clear that in no way do I think that simply doing away with punishment, in our current context, either with regard to adults or with regard to children, is feasible. We first have to learn how to rear our children without punishment, and we are far, far away from that point. As increasingly we become a species that is not reared with punishment, we will, I believe, abandon its usage with regard to non-optimal behavior of adults. Life at that time, at some time in the future, will be drastically better than it has ever been. I know that this seems silly to you, and to almost everyone else, but I stand by my contention, and this is what I write about. Since what I am maintaining sounds silly, it can easily be disregarded, and it is easy to come to the conclusion that whatever I write about is not worth reading. I have understood that from the beginning.

Brain biochemistry/physiology and psychology are 2 ways of studying the same reality. It is the brain that is doing it. We see the same changes toward normalization of obsessive-compulsive disorder on brain imaging following treatment with either an SSRI or an appropriate psychotherapy.
I dont feel that is quite true. Isnt it the case that usually when a mental illness is shown to have a neurological cause it is usually treated through neurology because neurology concerns the neuronal structure of the brain and psychology simply deals with unfavorable behavioral patterns?
No, absolutely not. I realize that you are speaking from a particular frame of reference with regard to the mind-body problem. You are probably dividing things up into the “physical” and the “mental.” Thus, you probably believe that some of what we do and feel is due to “biology,” and some is due to “psychology.” You probably believe that the “mind” can be changed without changing the “brain,” and vice versa. That is an untenable position, and I refer you to some of the posts that Terry W has posted, especially in the topc about what constitutes acceptable sexual behavior.

Your replying demonstrates how important the mind-body problem in philosophy is to our functioning as a species. Also, you seem to define all efforts to help someone who has not requested help as simply being efforts to control him or her, an evil motive.
If someone insists they dont want help or need help and you force help on them then to me that is an evil motive. Or if not evil then I do believe it is arrogant. To take that position it seems to me you must have to say that you know better for what someone should want then the person themselves. To me that position is rip for abuse.
Of course that position can be abused, as can anything else that is basically good. Children need guidance, and some adults do also. What is needed is a context in which that guidance is what it should be, and not distorted by non-rational factors. It seems to me that you look at certain good things, and noting that there are times when those good things are distorted and made into bad things, the good things should therefore be thrown away. I would say that we should continually work on purifying, so to speak, the good things, getting the bad things out of them. This, for instance, is my approach to religion. The religions are in many ways good things, but they also have some bad things in them. Our religions need to improve, just as we, who create them, need to improve. As we improve ourselves, the things we create we will also improve.

It seems to me that you are saying that because we can't understand the causes of behavior completely, we should take the simpler route of simply punishing individuals who manifest behavior this is not optimal, on the basis of holding them responsible for their behavior. We can take either a “free will” frame of reference or a “deterministic” frame of reference and use it in order to arrive at an “explanation.” It seems that we make that choice depending upon what we want to do with or to the individual who has behaved non-optimally.

More extensive damage to me has come from treating humans with the deterministic model then has come from treating people with the free will model. If people are nothing more then causes, why is it immoral to do what we want to them? You dont worry about harming a force of nature (deterministic). You shouldnt force yourself on a person who is an end in themselves, or who is self made. (free will)
Again, the mind-body problem, with its associated free will versus determinism problem, is at the bottom of much that we humans have difficulty with. Your question with regard to why it is immoral to treat people a certain way is a part of a vastly greater topic having to do with the legitimization of ethical principles. This is covered in the chapter on “Ethics,” in Book1. Your clause “If people are nothing more than causes” includes a hypothesis that I would never agree to.

(Continued in next post)
Bill Van F.
wvanfleet
Group Organizer
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 1,549
(Continued from previous post)

Studies show that psychiatrists help people, through medication and psychotherapy.
I have nothing against people going through counseling. I dont think a person should have to look hard to find plenty of examples of psychiatric abuse. Why do you quote these vague studies, and then ignore the numerous studies which contradict skinner and say that punishment works? Arent you just believing whatever you want regardless of evidence?
I have never said that punishment does not work. I have said that it has very negative unintended consequences, that we have overlooked because we consider those unintended consequences not to be unintended consequences but instead to be just the way the world is. For instance, we regard “teenage rebellion” as “normal.”

You are advocating, just as I am. Each of us is trying to make the world a better place, I am assuming. I know that I am.

The world will be as it is. The universe unfolds as it wishes. We can do good works to those we run into. We cant make the world a better place in the abstract.
I do not know what you mean by “in the abstract.” I also do not know what you mean by “the world will be as it is.” I do not regard the universe as being a mind that has wishes in it, although I know that some people do. But I do believe that we can make the world a better place, and I believe there are many examples of that fact. And I am trying to do so, as well as advocating that we all try to do so.

-I have stated over and over, i see nothing wrong with helping people who want to change. I see something very wrong in trying to get people who dont want help to accept help.

It will probably be best for you to avoid the field of suicide prevention.
People who call suicide prevention are seeking help. I would be proud to try and help such people. I dont think you are getting what I'm saying.
There are some people who are suicidal who are not calling suicide prevention, who nevertheless can be helped.

See, some of the difficulty is that you and I use a different lexicon. If you were to read my book, we could have a more fruitful discussion. It is not true that my term “motivational state” can be replaced with “emotion.” There are many motivational states that would not be considered emotions. Hunger, itching, the wish to do the right thing, and wanting to understand something are not usually referred to as “emotions.” When you say that all that matters is the actions (behavior) of individuals, I would say that what matters varies from person to person and situation to situation. Whether or not a person suffers is something that matters to me. My whole life has been involved in things that are important because that matters to me.

I see the difference. I will keep this in mind in the future.
I believe you are trying to make the world a better place by advocating as you are doing.

So a parent who is abusing a child, causing serious physical and psychological injury, knows more than a child psychiatrist or psychologist who has spent decades helping parents to improve the lives of their children?

A parent who abuses a child should have the child removed from their custody immediately. In those types of situations I would say that a psychiatrist or psychologist or social worker would be better then the parents themselves. However, those situations are far more rare then common.
And I would say that such situations are far, far more common then you and most other people realize. But I would also say that removing the child from the custody of the parents in all such situations is a very oversimplified approach and very non-feasible just from the standpoint of resources, and from other standpoints also, probably.

We have social workers for just such bothersome situations.
I agree that we use social workers so that we don't have to be bothered, but unfortunately doing so does not work well at all. We need a basic change in our way of regarding ourselves and each other and of treating ourselves and each other. We need to get to the root of the problem, rather than try to treat a small proportion of the problem with Band-Aids and sympathy. Rather than continuing to pull people out of the water, we need to go upstream and find out what is going on and what can be done about it.

In advocacy, one is asking another or others to think more deeply, or rethink, about certain belief that he, she, or they have had up to this point. We humans need to do a lot of deep thinking about the way that we live and the things that we do, if we want to achieve a far better life then has been true so far. Your reaction to advocacy is to define it as “being told what to do.” There are many people who would be grateful for advocacy, because of the opportunity for improvement.

But what in your opinion is the difference between advocacy and telling people what to do?
The difference between recommendation and coercion. You seem to interpret the former as being efforts at the latter.

I never said that punishment was not effective. I do say, however, that it has awful side effects, and that we are insufficiently aware of those awful side effects because we look at them as being simply a part of normal life. I do also say that there are better ways than punishment to promote more optimal behavior.

I'm not in conflict with this statement. I feel it would depend on the situation. It would depend on whos getting punished and for what.
Yes, I understand that is your position. You think that some punishment is good, and you believe the need for it will always be there.

I don't think that I will be able to change your mind.

Perhaps I come off as closed minded, but I really dont think that I am.
No, I think you simply have not considered some alternatives because, being a product of your culture, certain things seem “obvious” to you. And one does have to make certain assumptions to move ahead and live life. However, it is possible also, simultaneously, to recognize that those assumptions are questionable, and even to question them, operating according to them until being convinced of more optimal assumptions. Doing that requires making a considerable effort to understand opinions different from one's own. Many, many people consider such effort to be a waste of time.

The feeling of certainty is a neurological state that is not dependent upon the belief that feels certain being accurate. The feeling of certainty it is no good evidence of the correctness of the belief.
I completely agree. It seems that you are accusing me of being closed minded to the point of not hearing you.
See above. I am not making that assumption. I think you are increasingly thinking there is reason to question some of your assumptions, and I see that as a good thing.

(Continued in next post)
Bill Van F.
wvanfleet
Group Organizer
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 1,550
(Continued from previous post)

I have not read your book (I'm in the middle of several others) but I will say that there is probably several things your saying that I'm not getting. I think that that is just a part of human communication. Words can cause quite a lot of confusion. Keep knocking these ideas against me ands its perfectly possible one of them will stick.
I agree with you completely, having written about that problem in the book, and it is good that you are persisting in the effort at dialogue. You are doing what many people would never do.

Actually, they probably do, but they are unable to do what we are able to do, namely, to put our ethical beliefs into words. Also, our criteria of legitimization of ethical beliefs are more complex, just as is our behavior.

I consider ethics to be the domain of human beings only. But I'm not a biologist and could be way wrong.
You would have to first define “ethics,” and think about the “ethical sense.” Again, all of this is in the chapter on “Ethics.”

Your representation of my set of beliefs is inaccurate, primarily because of oversimplification.
Thats probably true. I am trying Bill none the less. I apologize if I'm jumping to some conclusions to quickly.
It is a normal process, and not anything that anyone should feel the necessity to apologize for.

I believe that is so because you did not really understand what I am saying. Your view of my views is, I believe, very oversimplified and perhaps stereotyped (by an anti-psychiatry orientation). Is you were to read my chapters on rational-ethical anger prevention, child rearing, and belief management, you would have a much more in-depth understanding. (They are in the 1st free book at homorationalis.com.) And if you read the chapters before those chapters, you would really understand what I am advocating to a much greater extent.

I wish to apologize for having taken so long to respond. I have been very busy. It takes me a very long time to reformat your posts so that they can be followed adequately by other readers. I cannot be certain that I have avoided mistakes in doing so, but hope that I have been successful.

You have indeed been successful. I understand its a busy world and there is a lot to get done in life. I appreciate the reply and its inconsequential to me the time it took to get back to me. I will get around to reading your book at some point, there is always someone trying to advocate for you to read something, at least if your me. Time is also something that I dont have that much of myself. Whoever wrote that song which says time is on my side was a lucky man indeed! I will wait with patience for the next time you reply.
And your reply is very much appreciated. I do look forward to the time when you do read the book, if that time does come. If you decide to do so, I make the same request of you that I do of others, namely, that if and when you come across the first sentence that seems either or unclear or incorrect in the context in which it is written, you quote that sentence (in its context) for me, and give your reasons for believing that it is unclear or incorrect. (I have had the experience of people reading it rapidly and superficially, and then disagreeing with some representation of what the book presumably says, that representation being a misrepresentation, but not easily correctable because my actual statements, with their context, are not what are being looked at, but instead, simply the misrepresentations of my viewpoints. Having to respond to such misrepresentations is time-consuming and discouraging.)
vincent
user 8236565
Kannapolis, NC
Post #: 95
*Yes, I absolutely agree, and have written about this in my book. So we can be aware of this phenomenon and not make the assumption that what we feel certain about is necessarily accurate. So this would be a case when we do not assume that we know more than we do.
Yes. Agreed.
*I say that “justice” seems to mean the fair distribution of resources and the fair distribution of punishment. It is true that some people need to be quarantined, for the safety of everyone else, but this is not “punishment.” However, making such people suffer through various deprivations, including social isolation, because of what they have done is what is meant by “punishment,” and is revenge, I assume you would agree. But you and I do not agree in that you believe that punishment is a good thing and I do not. You would say that punishment, as it is actually carried out, sometimes is bad and sometimes is good. I would say that it is bad. However, I do need to make clear that in no way do I think that simply doing away with punishment, in our current context, either with regard to adults or with regard to children, is feasible. We first have to learn how to rear our children without punishment, and we are far, far away from that point. As increasingly we become a species that is not reared with punishment, we will, I believe, abandon its usage with regard to non-optimal behavior of adults. Life at that time, at some time in the future, will be drastically better than it has ever been. I know that this seems silly to you, and to almost everyone else, but I stand by my contention, and this is what I write about. Since what I am maintaining sounds silly, it can easily be disregarded, and it is easy to come to the conclusion that whatever I write about is not worth reading. I have understood that from the beginning.
You are most certainly correct. It would be easy to stand back and ridicule your stance on punishment simply because it is so unusual. However, most of the revolutionary and correct thoughts that created progress throughout history were scoffed at when first proposed, and some of what sounded like the silliest propositions I have personally heard people utter were not quite so silly when treated with an opened mind and listened to in full. I have noticed that you are absolutely obssessed with this concept of punishment and revenge. It seems to me that you have got what looks from my point of view as a misguided concept of people's motivations behind why punishment happens, and I know that you have noticed that when you bring this subject up almost everyone I have seen seems to also believe that there is a difference between keeping the public safe and revenge. Revenge is personal and all of society is not trying to get back at people who have wronged certain individuals. Most people seem to see things the way I'm seeing them, but I want to stress that that has no weight as regards who is actually right here. I would be fascinated to know what got you so obssessive and fixated on this subject. You have mentioned it at every meeting I've been to, you seem almost desperate to veer the conversations towards it, and you even mentioned it on here as the topic you wanted to discuss at the last meeting. Its a large issue, but it is your main issue in a very big way. Why? What caused this unusual view and what is with the fixation on it? There may be no answer to this question, I couldnt explain what neccessarily leads me into what I'm fascinated by, but rarely does a person meet someone who seems so determined to speak in detail on one subject in particular, especially when most people seem to be at odds with their view. What gives? The only thing that I want to point out about this in a questioning way is who decides the fair distribution of punishment. When you say a fair distribution there is always someone who decides what is fair and what is not.
*No, absolutely not. I realize that you are speaking from a particular frame of reference with regard to the mind-body problem. You are probably dividing things up into the “physical” and the “mental.” Thus, you probably believe that some of what we do and feel is due to “biology,” and some is due to “psychology.” You probably believe that the “mind” can be changed without changing the “brain,” and vice versa. That is an untenable position, and I refer you to some of the posts that Terry W has posted, especially in the topc about what constitutes acceptable sexual behavior.
You have pegged me in the exact opposite position from the one I hold. It is an established position in my view that the brain is the mind. I do not believe there is a difference between mind and brain. I think the mind is a word we use to describe the concious aspect of mental phenomenon the brain is causing. Just as you are with being a psychiatrist, and I can tell just by the few times you have briefly discussed the issue in person, you understand that any change in the mind is a change in the brain. Were in complete agreement on that issue. I'm going to school for neurodiagnostics. I understand as you do that its all the same.
*Of course that position can be abused, as can anything else that is basically good. Children need guidance, and some adults do also. What is needed is a context in which that guidance is what it should be, and not distorted by non-rational factors. It seems to me that you look at certain good things, and noting that there are times when those good things are distorted and made into bad things, the good things should therefore be thrown away. I would say that we should continually work on purifying, so to speak, the good things, getting the bad things out of them. This, for instance, is my approach to religion. The religions are in many ways good things, but they also have some bad things in them. Our religions need to improve, just as we, who create them, need to improve. As we improve ourselves, the things we create we will also improve.
I dont think that you have me judged right here either, but I understand why you would think that. I think that religion should be discarded. I see no reason to keep it, and just because some good works and ideas came out of it, that is no reason in my view to keep it around. There is nothing that religion addressed which cant be addressed by philosophy or science. Its an outdated human phenomenon, just like we no longer use sundials to tell time, we should also update and get rid of this outdated means of explaining the mysterious.
*Again, the mind-body problem, with its associated free will versus determinism problem, is at the bottom of much that we humans have difficulty with. Your question with regard to why it is immoral to treat people a certain way is a part of a vastly greater topic having to do with the legitimization of ethical principles. This is covered in the chapter on “Ethics,” in Book1. Your clause “If people are nothing more than causes” includes a hypothesis that I would never agree to.
All I can really say is to advocate looking at causes to change behavior the person who forces the change is ignoring the fact that they also have behavior which could be viewed as determined. Why grant one person the right to subjugate someone else based off of their views of normalcy?
vincent
user 8236565
Kannapolis, NC
Post #: 96
*I have never said that punishment does not work. I have said that it has very negative unintended consequences, that we have overlooked because we consider those unintended consequences not to be unintended consequences but instead to be just the way the world is. For instance, we regard “teenage rebellion” as “normal.”
Are there any cultures where it isnt normal? Everyone is different. Punishement has negative consequences depending on whos getting punished and for what behavior. There are no black and white rules that apply in every case as pertains to human behavior. Can you name a culture that has completely done away with teenage rebellion. The problem I find with your contentions is you seem to fit the facts around your belief instead of basing your beliefs on the facts. What about the atrocious outcomes of parents who dont punish at all, and how egotistical and self important their children usually end up.
*I do not know what you mean by “in the abstract.” I also do not know what you mean by “the world will be as it is.” I do not regard the universe as being a mind that has wishes in it, although I know that some people do. But I do believe that we can make the world a better place, and I believe there are many examples of that fact. And I am trying to do so, as well as advocating that we all try to do so.
In the abstract means "making the world a better place." What in the world does that mean? How is one peron going to make the "world" a better place? That is a vague statement that isnt really getting at anything I can see. That statement is abstract. The world is completely unable to be improved although people can help each other face to face or indirectly and can make situations better for a myriad of different people. I assume when you say make the world a better place its a euphemism for helping other people, which I am all for. However, the universe and the world are not really improvable as far as one person is concerned, because I dont think we can judge the outcomes of our actions in a very general way (which is another way of saying in the abstract).
*There are some people who are suicidal who are not calling suicide prevention, who nevertheless can be helped.
And what if they have a legitimate reason to commit suicide. If the reason is rational do you have a right to stop them? If you do then where did this right arise? Does that person own their own life and are they a free moral agent, or do you have power over their life and have some obligation to stop them. I dont want to talk about convencing them not to. I mean force used to prevent a person from ending their own existence. I'm as obssessed with force I suppose as you are with punishment.
*I believe you are trying to make the world a better place by advocating as you are doing.
I'm not trying to make the world a better place. The world will do as it does. I'm challenging myself and others and trying to learn.
*And I would say that such situations are far, far more common then you and most other people realize. But I would also say that removing the child from the custody of the parents in all such situations is a very oversimplified approach and very non-feasible just from the standpoint of resources, and from other standpoints also, probably.
I really dont feel I know enough about the topic to make a judgement. Its a very sensitive and complex issue.
*I agree that we use social workers so that we don't have to be bothered, but unfortunately doing so does not work well at all. We need a basic change in our way of regarding ourselves and each other and of treating ourselves and each other. We need to get to the root of the problem, rather than try to treat a small proportion of the problem with Band-Aids and sympathy. Rather than continuing to pull people out of the water, we need to go upstream and find out what is going on and what can be done about it.
Individually that is probably true, but I have a feeling you are alluding to punishment being the problem. If this is so I would have to disagree. If not you may have a valid point.
*The difference between recommendation and coercion. You seem to interpret the former as being efforts at the latter.
Is recommendation asked for or given through arrogance and self righteousness. That makes a huge difference.
*No, I think you simply have not considered some alternatives because, being a product of your culture, certain things seem “obvious” to you. And one does have to make certain assumptions to move ahead and live life. However, it is possible also, simultaneously, to recognize that those assumptions are questionable, and even to question them, operating according to them until being convinced of more optimal assumptions. Doing that requires making a considerable effort to understand opinions different from one's own. Many, many people consider such effort to be a waste of time.
I dont. I'm not here to convert or win an argument. I'm here to discuss and open my mind not to close it or close anyone elses.
*You would have to first define “ethics,” and think about the “ethical sense.” Again, all of this is in the chapter on “Ethics.”
I thought we had both agreed it pertains to statements containing the word should.
*And your reply is very much appreciated. I do look forward to the time when you do read the book, if that time does come. If you decide to do so, I make the same request of you that I do of others, namely, that if and when you come across the first sentence that seems either or unclear or incorrect in the context in which it is written, you quote that sentence (in its context) for me, and give your reasons for believing that it is unclear or incorrect. (I have had the experience of people reading it rapidly and superficially, and then disagreeing with some representation of what the book presumably says, that representation being a misrepresentation, but not easily correctable because my actual statements, with their context, are not what are being looked at, but instead, simply the misrepresentations of my viewpoints. Having to respond to such misrepresentations is time-consuming and discouraging.)
That is not an unfair request and I would be happy to abide by it. Maybe one day you will read my book, even though I doubt I will ever write one. I'll probably just get older and yell at people as they pass me on the street. I prefer the direct route.
Bill Van F.
wvanfleet
Group Organizer
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 1,577
Vincent,

I say that “justice” seems to mean the fair distribution of resources and the fair distribution of punishment. It is true that some people need to be quarantined, for the safety of everyone else, but this is not “punishment.” However, making such people suffer through various deprivations, including social isolation, because of what they have done is what is meant by “punishment,” and is revenge, I assume you would agree. But you and I do not agree in that you believe that punishment is a good thing and I do not. You would say that punishment, as it is actually carried out, sometimes is bad and sometimes is good. I would say that it is bad. However, I do need to make clear that in no way do I think that simply doing away with punishment, in our current context, either with regard to adults or with regard to children, is feasible. We first have to learn how to rear our children without punishment, and we are far, far away from that point. As increasingly we become a species that is not reared with punishment, we will, I believe, abandon its usage with regard to non-optimal behavior of adults. Life at that time, at some time in the future, will be drastically better than it has ever been. I know that this seems silly to you, and to almost everyone else, but I stand by my contention, and this is what I write about. Since what I am maintaining sounds silly, it can easily be disregarded, and it is easy to come to the conclusion that whatever I write about is not worth reading. I have understood that from the beginning.
You are most certainly correct. It would be easy to stand back and ridicule your stance on punishment simply because it is so unusual. However, most of the revolutionary and correct thoughts that created progress throughout history were scoffed at when first proposed, and some of what sounded like the silliest propositions I have personally heard people utter were not quite so silly when treated with an opened mind and listened to in full. I have noticed that you are absolutely obsessed with this concept of punishment and revenge. It seems to me that you have got what looks from my point of view as a misguided concept of people's motivations behind why punishment happens, and I know that you have noticed that when you bring this subject up almost everyone I have seen seems to also believe that there is a difference between keeping the public safe and revenge. Revenge is personal and all of society is not trying to get back at people who have wronged certain individuals. Most people seem to see things the way I'm seeing them, but I want to stress that that has no weight as regards who is actually right here. I would be fascinated to know what got you so obsessive and fixated on this subject. You have mentioned it at every meeting I've been to, you seem almost desperate to veer the conversations towards it, and you even mentioned it on here as the topic you wanted to discuss at the last meeting. Its a large issue, but it is your main issue in a very big way. Why? What caused this unusual view and what is with the fixation on it? There may be no answer to this question, I couldnt explain what neccessarily leads me into what I'm fascinated by, but rarely does a person meet someone who seems so determined to speak in detail on one subject in particular, especially when most people seem to be at odds with their view. What gives? The only thing that I want to point out about this in a questioning way is who decides the fair distribution of punishment. When you say a fair distribution there is always someone who decides what is fair and what is not.
First, I would like for you to become aware of how you have portrayed me by the use of the words that I have bolded above. I have indeed been expressing some opinions, and I do indeed advocate for some things. You have characterized my doing so as being the manifestation of mental illness and desperation, rather than actually responding to the issue being introduced and advocated. I, myself, do not do that in discussions, and I do not believe that it is a helpful way of proceeding.

I am indeed aware that I mention this issue fairly often, and I believe I have reason to do so. My effort is to be helpful, in a setting in which it is indeed appropriate, I believe, to express one's opinion and to advocate for it if one feels sufficiently confident that one probably does indeed have something to offer that can be of help (recognizing, of course, that one can be wrong, and therefore listening to the responses to such expression of opinion and advocacy).

In my book, I believe I have made it adequately clear that the phenomena that I am referring to cause enormous amounts of suffering and tragedy, affecting the lives of each and every one of us. What almost everyone considers to be a regrettable but inevitable and normal set of phenomena I consider to be a preventable consequence of our not having yet learned some very important principles. I additionally believe that we are on the way to learning those, and I see my effort as being a part of that total process. That is what I write about.

I am fully aware that people who are unaffected by what an individual has done may look at punishment as simply an appropriate method of conditioning the individual so that he or she will not repeat the behavior. But if you take a look at the vast, vast majority of individuals who have been affected by that behavior, you will find that there is a strong motivation to "get back" at the individual, by making the individual suffer. "An eye for an eye" does not have to do with exchange of organs, but instead with exchange of suffering, called "revenge."

If it were found that there was substantial evidence that treating well those who have been "brought to justice" increases the likelihood of improved behavior and reduced risk of recidivism, I think that the majority of people would still turn down such an idea, because of the widespread belief that something wrong is being done if the person who has done something harmful to others is not made to suffer. When something bad has been done, there is a search for someone who can be made to suffer. The desire for revenge is great, and is understood as being normal and okay even by those who are uninvolved. Almost everyone in our nation understands that the Colorado shooter must be made to suffer, unless somehow he is found to have a mental illness of such severity that he can be excused. Since someone has to suffer for a bad act, justice is the process whereby that suffering is "distributed" in a fair manner. If more than one person is involved, the degree of suffering that is to be undergone by such individuals is carefully worked out in a manner that would be considered, hopefully, fair. And individuals accused of doing something bad are subject to a process that is supposed to be fair, so that the right amount of punishment and revenge is apportioned to the right person or people and the nature of what he, she, or they have done. Justice is supposed to be "impartial" and therefore "fair" in making such judgments.

(Continued in next post)
Bill Van F.
wvanfleet
Group Organizer
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 1,578
(Continued from previous post)


No, absolutely not. I realize that you are speaking from a particular frame of reference with regard to the mind-body problem. You are probably dividing things up into the “physical” and the “mental.” Thus, you probably believe that some of what we do and feel is due to “biology,” and some is due to “psychology.” You probably believe that the “mind” can be changed without changing the “brain,” and vice versa. That is an untenable position, and I refer you to some of the posts that Terry W has posted, especially in the topc about what constitutes acceptable sexual behavior.
You have pegged me in the exact opposite position from the one I hold. It is an established position in my view that the brain is the mind. I do not believe there is a difference between mind and brain. I think the mind is a word we use to describe the concious aspect of mental phenomenon the brain is causing. Just as you are with being a psychiatrist, and I can tell just by the few times you have briefly discussed the issue in person, you understand that any change in the mind is a change in the brain. Were in complete agreement on that issue. I'm going to school for neurodiagnostics. I understand as you do that its all the same.
Okay, I was indeed incorrect. But I think the context in which I made that statement had to do with a way of looking at things that suggested this impression of your frame of reference. It seemed to me that you were dividing problems up into ones that were physical, and should be treated, and ones that were psychological, necessitating something like holding people responsible, etc.

Of course that position can be abused, as can anything else that is basically good. Children need guidance, and some adults do also. What is needed is a context in which that guidance is what it should be, and not distorted by non-rational factors. It seems to me that you look at certain good things, and noting that there are times when those good things are distorted and made into bad things, the good things should therefore be thrown away. I would say that we should continually work on purifying, so to speak, the good things, getting the bad things out of them. This, for instance, is my approach to religion. The religions are in many ways good things, but they also have some bad things in them. Our religions need to improve, just as we, who create them, need to improve. As we improve ourselves, the things we create we will also improve.
I dont think that you have me judged right here either, but I understand why you would think that. I think that religion should be discarded. I see no reason to keep it, and just because some good works and ideas came out of it, that is no reason in my view to keep it around. There is nothing that religion addressed which cant be addressed by philosophy or science. Its an outdated human phenomenon, just like we no longer use sundials to tell time, we should also update and get rid of this outdated means of explaining the mysterious.
See, you are looking at religion as an effort to explain the mysterious, whereas I am looking at religion as our efforts to figure out how to live our lives. Most religions do also have an explanatory worldview, now obviously outdated by the explanatory worldview provided by science, but the explanatory worldviews of religion can gradually be reduced in importance and understood as metaphors with underlying meaning, while ethical issues are examined in great detail, providing help for those who participate in the religion. I do not believe that the study of philosophy is personal enough to provide what religion provides for people, at least within some religious organizations. And science does not answer ethical questions, but instead existential ones (meaning questions about the way the world is, was, and/or will be, rather than about what we should or should not do.)

Both inquiries, ethical and existential, are needed in order to work toward an optimal existence for us humans. Science tells us what will happen if we do something, and religion helps us to decide whether to do it or not. That does not mean that I think religion currently does a very good job, and it does not mean that I think religion does not have bad, archaic aspects to it. But there is no other social institution that is specifically designed for this function. It therefore, I believe, should not be removed, but instead improved.

Again, the mind-body problem, with its associated free will versus determinism problem, is at the bottom of much that we humans have difficulty with. Your question with regard to why it is immoral to treat people a certain way is a part of a vastly greater topic having to do with the legitimization of ethical principles. This is covered in the chapter on “Ethics,” in Book1. Your clause “If people are nothing more than causes” includes a hypothesis that I would never agree to.
All I can really say is to advocate looking at causes to change behavior the person who forces the change is ignoring the fact that they also have behavior which could be viewed as determined. Why grant one person the right to subjugate someone else based off of their views of normalcy?
But we have different approaches to the mind-body problem. Supervision of children and some adults will always be necessary. Currently, we find that using the model involving "free will" is required for us to feel okay about such supervision and, in addition, punishment, whereas "determinism" is required for us to feel okay about engaging in the effort to understand individuals rather than judge and punish them. You are looking at these two frames of reference as if only one of them can be right, whereas I see them as simply two frames of reference that can be helpful in different kinds of situations and with different kinds of goals. This is a complex subject, and I do not expect agreement with me simply on the basis of what I have so far said.

(Continued in next post)
Bill Van F.
wvanfleet
Group Organizer
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 1,579
(Continued from previous post)


I have never said that punishment does not work. I have said that it has very negative unintended consequences, that we have overlooked because we consider those unintended consequences not to be unintended consequences but instead to be just the way the world is. For instance, we regard “teenage rebellion” as “normal.”
Are there any cultures where it isnt normal?
I believe not.

Everyone is different. Punishement has negative consequences depending on whos getting punished and for what behavior. There are no black and white rules that apply in every case as pertains to human behavior. Can you name a culture that has completely done away with teenage rebellion.
No, but then again I am not completely knowledgeable about that.

The problem I find with your contentions is you seem to fit the facts around your belief instead of basing your beliefs on the facts. What about the atrocious outcomes of parents who dont punish at all, and how egotistical and self important their children usually end up.
But the problem is that you do not understand what my beliefs are. You make the assumption that there are parents who "don't punish at all," but I would say that that is not so. Also, I do not say that simply eliminating punishment would have a beneficial effect. I don't believe it would. It's all that you would do instead of punishment that would make the difference, and I would not then and therefore predict the results that you claim result from not punishing it all.

I do not know what you mean by “in the abstract.” I also do not know what you mean by “the world will be as it is.” I do not regard the universe as being a mind that has wishes in it, although I know that some people do. But I do believe that we can make the world a better place, and I believe there are many examples of that fact. And I am trying to do so, as well as advocating that we all try to do so.
In the abstract means "making the world a better place." What in the world does that mean? How is one peron going to make the "world" a better place? That is a vague statement that isnt really getting at anything I can see. That statement is abstract. The world is completely unable to be improved although people can help each other face to face or indirectly and can make situations better for a myriad of different people. I assume when you say make the world a better place its a euphemism for helping other people, which I am all for. However, the universe and the world are not really improvable as far as one person is concerned, because I dont think we can judge the outcomes of our actions in a very general way (which is another way of saying in the abstract).
The interpretation that you use of the phrase is, I believe, the same as mine. I talk about making the world a better place within one's own sphere of influence. I do not mean that the whole world is being made a better place, but instead that one part of it is. Making it a better place is making it have more that promotes joy, contentment and appreciation, and less that promotes pain, suffering, disability, and early death.

There are some people who are suicidal who are not calling suicide prevention, who nevertheless can be helped.
And what if they have a legitimate reason to commit suicide. If the reason is rational do you have a right to stop them?
I am not opposed to assisted suicide. But it is a very tricky issue because the person who is thinking about suicide may or may not have a major distortion in judgment produced by abnormal brain function. I do believe it is appropriate for us to carefully try to determine when people need supervision because of impaired judgment, the care being taken to use methods that are as accurate as possible in determining whether such judgment is indeed impaired. I acknowledge that this is an extremely difficult set of issues.

If you do then where did this right arise? Does that person own their own life and are they a free moral agent, or do you have power over their life and have some obligation to stop them. I dont want to talk about convencing them not to. I mean force used to prevent a person from ending their own existence. I'm as obssessed with force I suppose as you are with punishment.
I do not regard you as "obsessed." You have an opinion that is somewhat different than mine, but based upon much thought.

I believe you are trying to make the world a better place by advocating as you are doing.
I'm not trying to make the world a better place. The world will do as it does. I'm challenging myself and others and trying to learn.
For what purpose? Simply because it's fun to do, or because you believe that conscientiously challenging yourself and trying to learn makes you more able to be the kind of person who can make the world a better place within your sphere of influence?

And I would say that such situations are far, far more common then you and most other people realize. But I would also say that removing the child from the custody of the parents in all such situations is a very oversimplified approach and very non-feasible just from the standpoint of resources, and from other standpoints also, probably.
I really dont feel I know enough about the topic to make a judgement. Its a very sensitive and complex issue.
I understand and agree.

I agree that we use social workers so that we don't have to be bothered, but unfortunately doing so does not work well at all. We need a basic change in our way of regarding ourselves and each other and of treating ourselves and each other. We need to get to the root of the problem, rather than try to treat a small proportion of the problem with Band-Aids and sympathy. Rather than continuing to pull people out of the water, we need to go upstream and find out what is going on and what can be done about it.
Individually that is probably true, but I have a feeling you are alluding to punishment being the problem. If this is so I would have to disagree. If not you may have a valid point.
Punishment, I believe, is indeed a major part of the problem, but certainly not the totality of the problem.

(Continued in next post)
Bill Van F.
wvanfleet
Group Organizer
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 1,580
(Continued from previous post)


The difference between recommendation and coercion. You seem to interpret the former as being efforts at the latter.
Is recommendation asked for or given through arrogance and self righteousness. That makes a huge difference.
What I have noticed is that people sometimes try to negate someone's opinion by the ad hominem attribution of "arrogance" and "self righteousness" labels to them, as if to say that the opinion itself is evidence for the appropriateness of such labels. I, myself, do not use those labels.

No, I think you simply have not considered some alternatives because, being a product of your culture, certain things seem “obvious” to you. And one does have to make certain assumptions to move ahead and live life. However, it is possible also, simultaneously, to recognize that those assumptions are questionable, and even to question them, operating according to them until being convinced of more optimal assumptions. Doing that requires making a considerable effort to understand opinions different from one's own. Many, many people consider such effort to be a waste of time.
I dont. I'm not here to convert or win an argument. I'm here to discuss and open my mind not to close it or close anyone elses.
You are, then, a good member of our group. But you would still be a good member of our group if you advocated for what you believed in and hoped for agreement.

You would have to first define “ethics,” and think about the “ethical sense.” Again, all of this is in the chapter on “Ethics.”
I thought we had both agreed it pertains to statements containing the word should.
We would have to go back and look at the statement or statements that my statements are in response to.

And your reply is very much appreciated. I do look forward to the time when you do read the book, if that time does come. If you decide to do so, I make the same request of you that I do of others, namely, that if and when you come across the first sentence that seems either or unclear or incorrect in the context in which it is written, you quote that sentence (in its context) for me, and give your reasons for believing that it is unclear or incorrect. (I have had the experience of people reading it rapidly and superficially, and then disagreeing with some representation of what the book presumably says, that representation being a misrepresentation, but not easily correctable because my actual statements, with their context, are not what are being looked at, but instead, simply the misrepresentations of my viewpoints. Having to respond to such misrepresentations is time-consuming and discouraging.)
That is not an unfair request and I would be happy to abide by it. Maybe one day you will read my book, even though I doubt I will ever write one. I'll probably just get older and yell at people as they pass me on the street. I prefer the direct route.
And I believe I am doing the equivalent of that when I express my opinions in the group.
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