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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 #: 71
Response 2 of 8 (referencing pages 20-40)

Strengths:
- Exhaustive rigor with which Bill has thought through the "case" for the book
- Detailed treatment of concepts of agreement, language, definition, legitimizing, etc.
- Strong, inspiring sense of purpose for writing a book that promotes the improvement of mankind

Potentially incorrect/unclear/incomplete elements:
- The following excerpt on page 21 makes a claim about the essential powers and liabilities of chimpanzees and humans:

We have been able to demonstrate that other species, primarily primates, do indeed have some capacity to use symbols. Chimpanzees have been taught (laboriously) to use several hundred, and to use them creatively. However, the distinguishing characteristic for us humans is our ability to make infinite use of them. By this, I mean that it is difficult to imagine any limit to our use of them, and this infinite use appears to be quite easy for us.

The above presupposes the existence of conscious intent in both chimpanzees ("use them creatively") and humans ("make infinite use of them"). I too believe in the existence of conscious intent, but for theistic reasons. By what reasons does the author presume the existence of conscious intent (vice determinism).

- The following excerpt on page 21 uses a term "we" in an unclear / unmeaningful way:

If we imagine the limited amount of symbol usage back when we were little different
from chimpanzees, one or more millions of years ago perhaps, and look at the state of our symbol usage today, it is not hard to imagine that this growth has been, not linear, but exponential, in that at a certain relatively recent period of time, perhaps especially with the development of writing, it has been accelerating at an enormous rate. (bolding mine)

The above construction is somewhat puzzling. I have never been, to the best of my knowledge, a chimpanzee. If the author is trying to say, "If we imagine the limited amount of symbol usage in an earlier era of primates' evolutionary development...", the intended meaning may be delivered more clearly. This does not, however, presuppose the reader's alignment with both the theory of evolution and the author's belief in a million-year old absence of symbol usage that is far from empirically-based.

- The following excerpt on page 22 constitutes anthropomorphism, or the attribution of human characteristics to non-humans:

For the purposes of this book, let us define our basic animal nature as consisting of those aspects of us that are shared with many other of the higher animals (primarily mammals, especially primates). If we watch documentaries about other mammals, we may be impressed that there is little of our behavior and feelings that is substantially different from that of at least some of the other animals. They eat and drink, defecate and urinate, play, make love, make war, deceive and play pranks on each other, manifest jealousy, mourn, and even sing and dance. (bolding mine)

The bolded activities are the specific instances of anthropomorphism. It may be right and proper to endow animal activities and attributes the same designation as the activities and attributes credited to humans, but it remains a matter of acute debate among scientists and therefore incumbent upon the author to articulate why he legitimizes this belief.

- The following excerpt on page 24 overlooks the fact that the scientific method itself is at once a fallacy of deductive logic and an example of inductive reasoning:

Combined with the rules of logic, and aided by
the development of instruments to increase the accuracy of our observations, the rules of evidence have culminated in our scientific method, that has given us a truly amazing ability to predict accurately what will happen if we do certain things, since our models apparently very accurately capture the regularity that is inherent in our world.

The scientific method, simplified:
If A, then B.
B.
Therefore, A.

This is a logical fallacy called "affirming the consequent". Yet it is used as the scientific method. Why?

Because this is how inductive reasoning takes place--attributing child phenomena to parent cause(s) and expecting the relationship between the two to have predictive extent and novelty for future events. The author gives no mention of this, though perhaps he intends it to reside in the "rules of evidence."

- The following excerpt on page 26 suddenly introduces the concepts of "good" and "bad":

Unfortunately, our basic animal nature is such that we use the rules in ways that both enhance and interfere with survival and the good life. We can make love more effectively, but we can also make war more effectively. We can use the resources in our environment much more efficiently and effectively, but we can also deplete and forever destroy those very resources. We can be more creative in producing what most of us would regard as good, but we can also do more effectively and efficiently what most of us
would regard as evil, such as developing hi-tech ways of disposing of millions of people. Any tool can be used for bad purposes as well as good ones, and we, as is true of all animals, sometimes make decisions that lead to bad outcomes rather than good ones. As the ability to do good increases, so does the ability to do bad.

If any "symbols" could be considered of utmost importance to a work such as this, would "good" and "bad" not top the list? Instead, the author appeals to a phantom consensus: "...what most of us would regard...". This is the weakest paragraph of the entire book thus far and undermines the credibility of the work, perhaps catastrophically so.

- Beginning on page 29, I am beginning to see the terms "good", "good life", "bad", and "terrible" appearing with astounding frequency. These terms are ethical in nature and yet I've found no grounding in any definition heretofore provided by the author.

(To be continued)
Derik T.
user 23955602
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 72
Response 2 of 8 (referencing pages 20-40) (cont.)

- Also on page 29 this excerpt, especially the closing portion on optimal living, is neither self-evident nor consistent with my process of inductive reasoning:

I will use the term optimal to refer to the hypothetical best. It is a goal to aim for. In some cases, it will indeed be possible to say that a particular entity (act, belief, outcome, etc.) is, has been, or will be optimal. Usually, of course, there is some degree of uncertainty. Sometimes an entity will obviously be non-optimal, or less than optimal, even though what instead would be optimal is not clear. “More optimal” will mean closer to optimal. Aiming for the optimal is an effort to improve, insofar as is possible. To optimize is to improve as much as possible. By living, I am referring to all decision-making. By optimal living, I am referring to the hypothetical set of all decisions most likely to lead to the survival of and best quality of life for everyone, now and in the future.

Do actions/outcomes have value in an objective sense? The author appears to believe that those that "lead to the survival of and best quality of life for everyone" are objectively valuable. Why? It is not self-evident to me that this is accurate. As a theist, I too believe actions/outcomes have objective value, but that the value is contingent upon alignment with the nature of God.

- In the following excerpt on page 35, the author attributes "belief" to a state of affairs in the nervous system:

The above description of “belief” has referred to a “state of affairs” in the nervous system brought about by learning. It is conceivable (and even perhaps probable) that there are similar “states of affairs” (beliefs) in the nervous system that are brought about by the genetic make-up of the animal.

To equate animal learning to belief is anthropomorphism in the same sense as that which appeared earlier. To consider belief in human consciousness as a state of affairs in the nervous system is a odd construction and in no way an observable, empirical fact.

- The exposition of how the brain works beginning on page 37 is ungrounded in neuroscience and serves an unclear purpose in the book
Bill Van F.
wvanfleet
Group Organizer
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 1,273
Derik,

Potentially incorrect/unclear/incomplete elements:
- The following excerpt on page 21 makes a claim about the essential powers and liabilities of chimpanzees and humans:

We have been able to demonstrate that other species, primarily primates, do indeed have some capacity to use symbols. Chimpanzees have been taught (laboriously) to use several hundred, and to use them creatively. However, the distinguishing characteristic for us humans is our ability to make infinite use of them. By this, I mean that it is difficult to imagine any limit to our use of them, and this infinite use appears to be quite easy for us.

The above presupposes the existence of conscious intent in both chimpanzees ("use them creatively") and humans ("make infinite use of them"). I too believe in the existence of conscious intent, but for theistic reasons. By what reasons does the author presume the existence of conscious intent (vice determinism).

The mind-body problem and the free will vs. determinism problem of course are manifested everywhere, but to digress into this topic would not be consistent with what the book was trying to cover at this point. You and I have had much discussion regarding these two problems, and probably will have additional discussion, so I know it is important to you. It’s just not relevant here, at least in my judgment. (Other readers will decide for themselves regarding this.)

Additionally, please note that I made no reference to “conscious intent.” That terminology, I believe, is something you are introducing because of a wish to justify theism. I know this has much meaning for you, but you are really introducing a topic of interest to you and saying that is what should be talked about rather than what I am talking about in the passage. I believe that this can be said about any literature, namely, that some topic should have been covered that wasn’t, because there are always topics that have not been covered.

So I am not going to consider that this part of the book should be changed. Your wish (I am imagining) to challenge viewpoints that do not seem consistent with the Bible may indeed cause you to maintain that something is missing or not correct. I have not written the book, however, as a polemic against fundamental Christianity or any other religious perspective.


- The following excerpt on page 21 uses a term "we" in an unclear / unmeaningful way:

If we imagine the limited amount of symbol usage back when we were little different
from chimpanzees, one or more millions of years ago perhaps, and look at the state of our symbol usage today, it is not hard to imagine that this growth has been, not linear, but exponential, in that at a certain relatively recent period of time, perhaps especially with the development of writing, it has been accelerating at an enormous rate. (bolding mine)

The above construction is somewhat puzzling. I have never been, to the best of my knowledge, a chimpanzee.
Nor does the book say anything like that. Why are you implying it does?
If the author is trying to say, "If we imagine the limited amount of symbol usage in an earlier era of primates' evolutionary development...", the intended meaning may be delivered more clearly.
That is indeed what I was meaning, and was assuming the reader would understand. In fact, it seems evident that you understood it. You may be correct that your wording would be a little more rigorous, but I am skeptical that it would contribute that much more. So I am currently not believing that this section needs revision for accuracy or clarity.
This does not, however, presuppose the reader's alignment with both the theory of evolution and the author's belief in a million-year old absence of symbol usage that is far from empirically-based.
I think that most readers will agree that language has grown in complexity with time. The book states the following, which I think is adequately clear:

We have been able to demonstrate that other species, primarily primates, do indeed have some capacity to use symbols. Chimpanzees have been taught (laboriously) to use several hundred, and to use them creatively. However, the distinguishing characteristic for us humans is our ability to make infinite use of them. By this, I mean that it is difficult to imagine any limit to our use of them, and this infinite use appears to be quite easy for us. This is true of no other species that we know of. Thus, although the use of symbols is not restricted to our species, the infinite use of symbols is so dramatically different from what any other species can do, I believe the infinite capability of using symbols, especially with rules of syntax, can reasonably be considered an emergent, essentially a new entity on this planet.

This ability to use symbols has accelerated. If we imagine the limited amount of symbol usage back when we were little different from chimpanzees, one or more millions of years ago perhaps, and look at the state of our symbol usage today, it is not hard to imagine that this growth has been, not linear, but exponential, in that at a certain relatively recent period of time, perhaps especially with the development of writing, it has been accelerating at an enormous rate. For some of us (especially those of us in some technical schools), our vocabulary and our set of concepts grows almost daily, and we can not easily imagine an end to this growth. More than ever in the past, each generation has some difficulty understanding the language of the next younger generation. And it is not just the vocabulary that grows, but also the combinations of words in phrases, sentences, and works of literature, science, and art. There is no way of imagining any limit to this process; therefore, we can, for all intents and purposes, consider our use of symbols (and syntax) to have become infinite.

I think that most people will agree that it is likely that if we go back far enough in time, the number of symbols in use would be much smaller. Now if you believe that humans were created by God 6000 years ago, consisting of two people, Adam and Eve, then this book will probably be quite hard to make use of. I do not believe that the Garden of Eden story is even a metaphor regarding the development on this planet of our species. Instead, I see it as a metaphor for the creation of each of us individually, and for the breakdown in the relationship between parent and child by virtue of the child naturally engaging in behavior that angers the parent and stimulates punishing behavior on the part of the parent. But all of that is not relevant at this point in the book. So I am not making any change so far.

(Continued in next post)
Bill Van F.
wvanfleet
Group Organizer
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 1,274
(Continued from previous post)

- The following excerpt on page 22 constitutes anthropomorphism, or the attribution of human characteristics to non-humans:

For the purposes of this book, let us define our basic animal nature as consisting of those aspects of us that are shared with many other of the higher animals (primarily mammals, especially primates). If we watch documentaries about other mammals, we may be impressed that there is little of our behavior and feelings that is substantially different from that of at least some of the other animals. They eat and drink, defecate and urinate, play, make love, make war, deceive and play pranks on each other, manifest jealousy, mourn, and even sing and dance. (bolding mine)

The bolded activities are the specific instances of anthropomorphism. It may be right and proper to endow animal activities and attributes the same designation as the activities and attributes credited to humans, but it remains a matter of acute debate among scientists and therefore incumbent upon the author to articulate why he legitimizes this belief.
I am simply defining “basic animal nature.” If you don’t believe any animals other than humans play, then play would by definition not be a part of “our basic animal nature.” The same would be true for any of the other material bolded by you. I used those examples because of things that I believe most people have heard about, and are accepted by most everyone as phenomena observed in both humans and some other animals. If you wish to remove some, believing, for instance that there are no other animals than humans that mourn, then you are free to do that. I don’t think many people would be bothered by the examples I gave.

- The following excerpt on page 24 overlooks the fact that the scientific method itself is at once a fallacy of deductive logic and an example of inductive reasoning:

Combined with the rules of logic, and aided by
the development of instruments to increase the accuracy of our observations, the rules of evidence have culminated in our scientific method, that has given us a truly amazing ability to predict accurately what will happen if we do certain things, since our models apparently very accurately capture the regularity that is inherent in our world.

The scientific method, simplified:
If A, then B.
B.
Therefore, A.
This is a very strange portrayal of the “scientific method” (actually, a set of very complex procedures, none of which look like what you have presented). Maybe you could give a concrete example of what you have presented.

This is a logical fallacy called "affirming the consequent". Yet it is used as the scientific method. Why?
Again, a strange comment, not sounding like anything I have ever heard or seen in descriptions of scientific methodology.

Because this is how inductive reasoning takes place--attributing child phenomena to parent cause(s) and expecting the relationship between the two to have predictive extent and novelty for future events. The author gives no mention of this, though perhaps he intends it to reside in the "rules of evidence."
Can you clarify what you mean by “predictive extent and novelty for future events”?

I am rather concerned about how you are approaching the review of this book. You have, you report, read the several pages describing the way of looking at the scientific methods in terms of modeling, but your comments about the scientific method are as if you hadn’t read any of that. You are presenting your own ideas, some of which I do not agree with, as arguments against material in the book that you do not quote. So all you are doing when you do that is saying that you don’t agree with some things, without presenting what others could use to evaluate your evaluation. I am looking to you to find things in the book that seem incorrect or unclear, but doing as you are doing here does not accomplish that.

- The following excerpt on page 26 suddenly introduces the concepts of "good" and "bad":

Unfortunately, our basic animal nature is such that we use the rules in ways that both enhance and interfere with survival and the good life. We can make love more effectively, but we can also make war more effectively. We can use the resources in our environment much more efficiently and effectively, but we can also deplete and forever destroy those very resources. We can be more creative in producing what most of us would regard as good, but we can also do more effectively and efficiently what most of us
would regard as evil, such as developing hi-tech ways of disposing of millions of people. Any tool can be used for bad purposes as well as good ones, and we, as is true of all animals, sometimes make decisions that lead to bad outcomes rather than good ones. As the ability to do good increases, so does the ability to do bad.

If any "symbols" could be considered of utmost importance to a work such as this, would "good" and "bad" not top the list? Instead, the author appeals to a phantom consensus: "...what most of us would regard...". This is the weakest paragraph of the entire book thus far and undermines the credibility of the work, perhaps catastrophically so.
I cannot imagine many people finding fault with that paragraph. It is a paragraph in the middle of several paragraphs all elaborating on a particular set of ideas. This would not be the place to enter into a discussion of the sort you mention, having to do with the philosophy of “value.” You can always imagine parts of a discussion that could have been elaborated on or delved into, but an author has to keep in mind what the primary thoughts are that he is trying to get across. I understand your interest in the concept of “value,” and whether it exists independent of individual humans, because of the implications for theism, but that is just not the topic here. Maybe you could state what you believe is the mistake a person might make in attempting to understand what I am writing about. Now that would be helpful.

- Beginning on page 29, I am beginning to see the terms "good", "good life", "bad", and "terrible" appearing with astounding frequency. These terms are ethical in nature and yet I've found no grounding in any definition heretofore provided by the author.
There will be a discussion of ethics later in the book. I don’t see the necessity of getting into that issue now. I believe it will be clear to most people what I am talking about. I don’t think anyone would be likely to disagree with what I am saying. If you think so, please quote what you think they would disagree with and why.

(Continued in next post)
Bill Van F.
wvanfleet
Group Organizer
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 1,275
(Continued from previous post)

- Also on page 29 this excerpt, especially the closing portion on optimal living, is neither self-evident nor consistent with my process of inductive reasoning:

I will use the term optimal to refer to the hypothetical best. It is a goal to aim for. In some cases, it will indeed be possible to say that a particular entity (act, belief, outcome, etc.) is, has been, or will be optimal. Usually, of course, there is some degree of uncertainty. Sometimes an entity will obviously be non-optimal, or less than optimal, even though what instead would be optimal is not clear. “More optimal” will mean closer to optimal. Aiming for the optimal is an effort to improve, insofar as is possible. To optimize is to improve as much as possible. By living, I am referring to all decision-making. By optimal living, I am referring to the hypothetical set of all decisions most likely to lead to the survival of and best quality of life for everyone, now and in the future.

Do actions/outcomes have value in an objective sense? The author appears to believe that those that "lead to the survival of and best quality of life for everyone" are objectively valuable. Why? It is not self-evident to me that this is accurate. As a theist, I too believe actions/outcomes have objective value, but that the value is contingent upon alignment with the nature of God.
I’m just telling you how I am using the words in what is written in this book. I have not made any statement about the meaning of absolute or objective value.

- In the following excerpt on page 35, the author attributes "belief" to a state of affairs in the nervous system:

The above description of “belief” has referred to a “state of affairs” in the nervous system brought about by learning. It is conceivable (and even perhaps probable) that there are similar “states of affairs” (beliefs) in the nervous system that are brought about by the genetic make-up of the animal.

To equate animal learning to belief is anthropomorphism in the same sense as that which appeared earlier. To consider belief in human consciousness as a state of affairs in the nervous system is a odd construction and in no way an observable, empirical fact.
You are again referring to the mind-body problem, never solved so far by anyone. Also, you are misrepresenting what I have written. I did not say that human consciousness was a state of affairs in the nervous system. Taking a comment out of context and restating it in different words that mean different things is not a helpful contribution. I know that your review of this book is an unspoken contest you are conducting with me with regard to your theistic beliefs and your recognition that I do not have the same beliefs as you. That is okay, as long as you are fair and appropriate in your review of the book. If you make it seem like the book is saying things it is not, and criticize the book without showing what you are criticizing in enough detail so that others can evaluate your evaluation, than you are not accomplishing anything more than simply ruining the reputation of something.

- The exposition of how the brain works beginning on page 37 is ungrounded in neuroscience and serves an unclear purpose in the book

Here is what the book specifically says:

It will be helpful at this point to speculate, for the next 20 paragraphs, about how the brain works. The validity or adequacy of the speculations will not be essential for understanding and using the concepts in this chapter, but they will again serve as a best-model-so-far to help us think more clearly and easily about the other material in this chapter. We will be trying to tie the above “psychological” terms tentatively to a “physical” model of brain functioning, not only to help us conceptualize more clearly, but also to produce a greater sense of confidence that our model will not produce beliefs that are contradictory to beliefs acquired by means of the physical sciences. We must remember that these speculations will necessarily be oversimplified and inaccurate, but I believe they will be of help to the reader.

So how can you say what you have said about it? What is unclear about the purpose? Why are you criticizing it for being “ungrounded”? And what are you referring to that you think is ungrounded? Do you have an example?

Can you not see that reviewing the book in this manner is unfair and destructive to the book’s reputation? I believe you think that what is presented in the book is in some way contradictory to your theistic beliefs, and that may or may not be so. I certainly am willing to discuss such differences in belief systems, and think that it could be beneficial to both of us. But we cannot expect such discussion somehow to already be embedded in this book, which is dealing with different topics than the ones you are trying to introduce.
Derik T.
user 23955602
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 73
I am spending my time, quite a bit actually, reading your book because it is important to you. I care about you as a person and have a sincere desire to give you something you value to show that I value you.

But in so doing, I also have an obligation to do it the way you've asked me to: "to do the very best I can." You may have meant that differently, but I took it to mean using what little intelligence and understanding I have to evaluate the book on its own terms, namely the extent to which it fulfills it's stated purpose. Out of respect for my commitment to this review and the extensive time I'm spending to do so, please refrain from speculating as to my motives in future responses. These speculations are mistaken and hurtful.

- - -

A common thread I see running through your above responses is "I think it will be obvious to the reader that...". This reliance upon the self-evidentiary nature of your writing is, for this reader, insufficient. It is possible that I am not intelligent or structured enough to grasp what you refer to as self-evident... but I am not going to fake it. You wanted a reader to review your book, your book says it hopes what is contained within will be self-evident, and I've pointed out the areas that I believe are not self-evident.
- Meanings of "good", "bad", "good life", etc.
- Linking the symbol "optimal living" with "survival and best quality of life for everyone"
- Anthropomorphism through use of symbols linked to human emotions (e.g., "mourn")
- and so on
Your response of, "But I think it will be self-evident to others..." is obviously your choice. I am but a sample size of one, so please take it as such.

The other common thread I see running through your above responses is to believe I am introducing other topics for discussion or alternative belief systems. In each and every case (and I encourage you to go back and read my responses through this lens), I am introducing a concept that violates the self-evidentiary principle you lay out early in the book. For example, defining words such as "opinion", "mistake", etc. in the way you have presupposes free or quasi-free choices--this is not my attempt to derail your discussion, it's my way of illustrating that the correctness of your definitions are not self-evident.

It's worth noting that this requirement for self-evidence sets a VERY high bar for your book, and unnecessarily so. Why do the topics you descibe need to be "self-evidently correct"? Why not simply add a paragraph in your introduction that establishes the "brute facts" that the book doesn't have time to get into, and ask readers to evaluate the book in this context?
- Life developed according to an evolutionary model per the consensus of scientists circa 2012
- There is no God
- All vertebrates exhibit enough free will to choose between two or more possible actions
If you did this up front, I would be forced to evaluate the book in this context and my review would be quite different (and quite positive!). What you've done instead, to my extreme puzzlement, is place the whole enterprise on the shaky foundation of the content being self-evident to the reader!
Bill Van F.
wvanfleet
Group Organizer
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 1,277
Derik,
I am spending my time, quite a bit actually, reading your book because it is important to you. I care about you as a person and have a sincere desire to give you something you value to show that I value you.
Not only do I not believe this is completely accurate, but also this is a wrong reason to be reading the book, and if that were the only reason, I would ask you to stop. We know each other only through the CPDG, very recently, and are not personal friends. There would be no reason for you to value me more than anyone else that you had met in any similar setting. The only reason for you to spend your time reading the book that would be pleasing to me would be that you would want to learn something new and contribute to my learning something new and others who might read what we are writing learning something new. But also, I do not believe what you have said is accurate. I believe you have other motivations that are causing you to do as you are doing, whether you are aware of them or not. They may or may not be in addition to the motivation you reported. And I accept that. And I know that part of the skill needed in achieving interpersonal success is learning to say the right thing.

But in so doing, I also have an obligation to the way you've asked me to do it: "to do the very best I can." You may have meant that differently, but I took it to mean using what little intelligence and understanding I have to evaluate the book on its own terms, namely the extent to which it fulfills it's stated purpose.
That is indeed what I would hope for, in addition to your quoting parts that seem incorrect or unclear, and stating why you believe so. You are doing that to a certain extent, but the process is getting distorted, I believe, by other phenomena, about which I am commenting.
Out of respect for my commitment to this review and the extensive time I'm spending to do so, please refrain from speculating as to my motives in future responses. These are mistaken and hurtful.
It is normal and natural to do such speculation, and not speculating is not going to change the fact that your motives are not necessarily completely as you have stated. I think if there are things going wrong with your review, any reader will speculate as to why. If the reader knows that you spend much time on atheist boards challenging their viewpoints and noting (with some evidence of pleasure and humor) how upset they get, as you told us in our group, and if the reader knows that you consider me to be atheistic (not actually an exact categorization for me, but satisfactory for these purposes), then I and other members of the group may understandably believe that such challenging is one of your motives and might quite possibly be the main one. If this natural human process of trying to understand the other person’s motives is hurtful to you, then that may be one of those unavoidable discomforts in life. And I comment on the existence of such motivations within you because you have introduced your motivation as a reason why I should not express my opinion about what you are doing. When you misrepresent what my book says and make derogatory comments based upon such misrepresentation, that is “hurtful” to me, but I accept that my putting this book out there for others to read is going to bring such discomfort to me, and I know that some individuals will engage in such activity without even being aware of it. I don’t think that the person is a bad person just because he or she does that, but I also think it is important for me to try to help the person stop doing it and, for the sake of the reputation of the book, help the reader consider that that might indeed be what is happening. I also acknowledge that I could make a mistake in making such a judgment, just as you could make a mistake in understanding something I have written. To correct such mistakes, the only way that really works is to look more closely at the specific details.

- - -

A common thread I see running through your above responses are, "I think it will be obvious to the reader that...". This reliance upon the self-evidentiary nature of your writing is, for this reader, insufficient.
I think that this is a perfectly appropriate and inescapable part of writing. It is an honest statement of what I believe will be true of the reader. It of course could be a mistake. It would be unrealistic and impossible to start with a sentence and, before going on to the next sentence, explaining everything implied in that first sentence and continuing to do so with those sentences in turn. This would be something on the order of an infinite regress. Rightly or wrongly, the writer must assume that the reader, or at least most of them, will know what the writer is talking about, sufficiently to continue on with learning what the writer is trying to convey.
It is possible that I am not intelligent or structured enough to grasp what you refer to as self-evident... but I am not going to fake it. You wanted a reader to review your book, your book says it hopes what is contained within will be self-evident, and I've pointed out the areas that I believe are not self-evident.
The book says:
Second, the reader may comment that just because a belief has been easy to come by, or is generally held, the belief is not thereby necessarily accurate. I would say, however, that if the belief is not contradicted by evidence, especially scientific evidence, and the belief seems self-evident, then we can at least say that it is probably correct, until such time that evidence does arise to the contrary. And that is the spirit in which the offerings of this book are made.
So of course if you believe that there is evidence to the contrary, it would be good to know that. I don’t believe, however, that that is what is happening.

- Meanings of "good", "bad", "good life", etc.
I believe that when I have used those words, they have been sufficiently meaningful that the reader would feel satisfied that he or she knew what I was talking about. If you think that war and needless suffering are not bad, then you could certainly state your opposing opinion. But to say that I should have stopped presenting what I was presenting, and enter into an extensive presentation of the philosophy of “value” immediately upon having said something with such an implication, I think is not a helpful suggestion, and to say that the book is less valuable because I did not do so is just, I believe, finding a way to presumably devalue it.
- Linking the symbol "optimal living" with "survival and best quality of life for everyone"
That linking is simply letting the reader know what I am meaning by what I have just said. To stop and digress into whether there would be other possible meanings that some other people might assign to the phrase would lead to deterioration in the quality of the writing and the ability of the reader to follow the main point. Sure, you might use the phrase in a different way, but I am telling you how I am using the phrase in what I am writing. It is essentially a definition, not a statement of fact.

(Continued in next post)
Bill Van F.
wvanfleet
Group Organizer
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 1,278
(Continued from previous post)

- Anthropomorphism through use of symbols linked to human emotions (e.g., "mourn")
If you believe that other animals than humans do not mourn, or have other emotions that humans have, such as anger, I think you will be running against modern science. You are free to state that you do not believe that they mourn. But that is totally irrelevant to what I was conveying, namely, how I was using a particular phrase (“basic animal nature”) in the book, namely, whatever is true of us that is also true of other animals, that is, is not just true of humans. I gave examples that would help the reader to understand what I was meaning. If you would like to discuss whether other animals mourn or not, that might be an interesting thread, but it would not be a reason to derogate the book by using a pejorative label such as “anthropomorphism.”
- and so on
Your response of, "But I think it will be self-evident to others..." is obviously your choice. I am but a sample size of one, so please take it as such.
The following is a relevant quote from the book:
As I have already stated, I am making an extreme effort to construct this book in a manner that will be convincing by virtue of being self-evident (rather than being dependent upon accepting ideas that only those in specialized fields can feel confident about).
That is the only use I make of the “self-evident” concept.

The other common thread I see running through your above responses is to believe I am introducing other topics for discussion or alternative believe systems. In each and every case (and I encourage you to go back and read my responses through this lens), I am introducing a concept that violates the self-evidentiary principle you lay out early in the book. For example, defining words such as "opinion", "mistake", etc. in the way you have presupposes free or quasi-free choices--this is not my attempt to derail your discussion, it's my way of illustrating that the correctness of your definitions are not self-evident.
Here you are making the mistake that I wrote about in discussing why people cannot agree. I am defining words as they are to be used in this book, so that you will know what I am talking about. You are referring to “correctness of your definitions,” making the assumption that there is a “correct” definition. Here is what you presumably read about that (earlier in the book), having to do with why it is so hard for us humans to come to agreement about important things:
The second reason consists of a problem that further intensifies the first one. The second problem is that there is often an erroneous belief, not fully recognized, that there is a “true meaning” of a word. This phenomenon is recognizable when individuals are disagreeing with one another as they are discussing the nature of some entity. They will claim that a particular word does not mean what the other person’s use of it implies. Someone will say, “But that’s not what (word or phrase) is!” or “But I don’t agree that that is what (word or phrase) means!” An appeal to the dictionary is often made for determining the “real” meaning of a word, and often with disappointment when it turns out that there are several meanings listed, with perhaps none of them really satisfying the requirements of one or more of the participants in the discussion. There is a tendency to believe that, if we have a word for something, then there is, somewhere in the world, a something that precisely goes with that word, and that it is a matter of armchair analysis or empirical study to ascertain what that something is. This tendency is the very opposite of what should occur. We should recognize that the goal remains the conveying of a mental state from one mind to another, and that the best way of doing this is to agree, for the purposes of the current discussion, that a word will be used in a particular, specified manner. This would be called “defining” the word. In other words, the discussion should include an agreement on the definition, for the sake of that discussion, of any important words, rather than an argument about what the definitions of the words “really” are.
You continue:
It's worth noting that this requirement for self-evidence sets a VERY high bar for your book, and unnecessarily so.
What requirement for self-evidence? Again you misrepresent what I have written.
Why do the topics you descibe need to be "self-evidently correct"?
Where does it say that? Again you misrepresent.

(Continued in next post)
Bill Van F.
wvanfleet
Group Organizer
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 1,279
(Continued from previous post)

Why not simply add a paragraph in your introduction that establishes the "brute facts" that the book doesn't have time to get into, and ask readers to evaluate the book in this context?
Again you misrepresent. And you introduce a term that you keep using in our meetings which you never defined, namely, “brute fact.” This is an important term in your belief system, and it seems apparent to me that you are in the process of trying to defeat a belief system by asserting yours, rather than trying to understand the one being presented in the book.

- Life developed according to an evolutionary model per the consensus of scientists circa 2012
- There is no God
- All vertebrates exhibit enough free will to choose between two or more possible actions
The first of the above is a correct statement that I am assuming in the book. The second two are not statements that are stated or implied in the book, nor would I present as needing to be agreed to by the reader. It is true that I assume that if the reader believes that our species began 6000 years ago with Adam and Eve, the reader will not read my book.
If you did this up front, I would be forced to evaluate the book in this context and my review would be quite different (and quite positive!). What you've done instead, to my extreme puzzlement, is place the whole enterprise on the shaky foundation of the content being self-evident to the reader!
This is your subtle misrepresentation. Nowhere do I state this. The only kinds of “self-evidence I am referring to are things like “It is impossible to predict completely accurately the weather.” But you are correct that I do not attempt to convince people that evolution has taken place on this planet. That is not self-evident, but it is a belief of mine that you have noticed comes across in what I write. I do not say that that belief is self-evident. I do say that it is a belief that is similar to our new belief that the earth is approximately a sphere. This is not self-evident either. It is now widely believed, as is the idea of evolution among those people most likely to read my book. So if you don’t believe in evolution, and I gather you don’t, then we could talk about that in another thread and we could note that indeed the book does make the assumption that evolution has taken place. In your review of the book, you would then need to point out that the believability of what is written in the book will probably be quite low among those who do not believe in evolution. And I would agree with you, and thank you for pointing that out. You, yourself, may then decide to give up reading the book, concluding that it probably has nothing to offer you. Or, if you like to challenge, you can keep on reading and challenging. That will be okay with me, but it will not be as satisfying as feeling that you and I are working together to deepen our understanding and that of others about some very important problems.

So in a situation like that, where you believe the book is making an assumption that you do not agree is correct, we can discuss that in another thread and note it in this one. That is indeed a valuable contribution, and I do thank you for bringing that to my attention with regard to the evolution issue.
Derik T.
user 23955602
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 75
What requirement for self-evidence? Again you misrepresent what I have written

A few quotes of yours:

I believe the reader will agree with me, not because he or she will assume that I must know what I am talking about, but because what I will be pointing to will be seen easily by the reader himself or herself. If the reader is not able to come to the same conclusions, then what I am saying is probably wrong.

I would say, however, that if the belief is not contradicted by evidence, especially scientific evidence, and the belief seems self-evident, then we can at least say that it is probably correct, until such time that evidence does arise to the contrary. And that is the spirit in which the offerings of this book are made.


However, I stand by what I have said, and ask only that the reader form his or her own opinions on the basis of his or her own conscientious reading, and that, prior to rejecting the book, he or she read it until he or she does indeed find something that does not make sense to him or her.

As I have already stated, I am making an extreme effort to construct this book in a manner that will be convincing by virtue of being self-evident (rather
than being dependent upon accepting ideas that only those in specialized fields can feel confident about).
(page 27)


I wish now to describe a rather “basic” observation that is likely to be evident to everyone and that will allow us to elaborate our basic ethical philosophy, namely:
There is hardly a single thing that we can have, or a single thing that we can do, that does not require others having done their part.
(page 58)

And a quote from what you shared at the start of this thread:

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.

Your stated and re-stated intent to "construct this book in a manner that will be convincing by virtue of being self-evident" combined with your request that I, the reader, "report the first sentence I come across that seems either incorrect or unclear" seems quite clear to me. Self-evidence is a high bar, but it's your bar. If you'd like to revise the above quotes and ask me to read the rest of the book accordingly, you're welcome to do so. Otherwise, I'll continue surfacing which sentences seem incorrect or unclear to me through the lens of self-evidence.

- - -

That linking is simply letting the reader know what I am meaning by what I have just said. To stop and digress into whether there would be other possible meanings that some other people might assign to the phrase would lead to deterioration in the quality of the writing and the ability of the reader to follow the main point. Sure, you might use the phrase in a different way, but I am telling you how I am using the phrase in what I am writing. It is essentially a definition, not a statement of fact.

In other words, the discussion should include an agreement on the definition, for the sake of that discussion, of any important words, rather than an argument about what the definitions of the words “really” are.

Just prior to this undertaking, let us note and understand that this book is about trying to achieve, as much as possible, optimal living on the part of our species.

You provided the first quote above in reference to your definition of optimal living. The second is from your descriptions of how definitions will be used. The third is your intended use of the definition of "optimal living" in the book.

I, the reader, am a part of the species and so must conclude that you are trying to achieve optimal living--as you have defined it--in me. I may agree to your use of the definition in many informative contexts "for the sake of discussion", but when the use of the definition is framed in the context of an imperative for my life, am I not at liberty to determine whether it is self-evident that I should adopt it for this purpose? And if it is unclear to me that I should, am I not at liberty to report that as a part of my review?
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