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Charlotte Philosophy Discussion Group Message Board › For Those Reading "Homo Rationalis" (The Book entitled For Every

For Those Reading "Homo Rationalis" (The Book entitled For Everyone: Rational-Ethical Living and the Emergence of "Homo Rationalis")

Bill Van F.
wvanfleet
Group Organizer
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 1,375
(Continued from previous post)

For any reader who is interested in what we are talking about, it will be necessary to go back and follow the conversation that led up to that “representative statement” and see how and why it was introduced.

And, for that matter, in all of this, the actual value of the book is completely lost. A reader of the posts in this topic could not have the faintest idea as to what the book is actually about and whether the book has value. Therefore, for the benefit of the reader of this post, I will present the first part of the chapter that is being discussed. It will be apparent, I believe, that the posts in this topic do not appear to have much similarity at all with the material about which the discussion is occurring. The chapter begins as follows:

(Excerpt from beginning of chapter on “Basic Concepts: Determinants of Behavior”)

We humans do good things, sometimes really wonderful things, which bring us happiness and joy. But we also do bad things, sometimes really terrible things, which bring us unhappiness and suffering.

What would life be like if we did more of the good things and stopped doing the bad and really terrible things? Would not such a change promote the good life for all of us? And what would be required for us to make this change? What we are talking about is changing our behavior. What is required to change our behavior?

We must understand what the DETERMINANTS of our behavior are, and how to CHANGE those determinants into ones that help us do the good things and help us avoid doing the bad things. That is what this book is about.

But I wish first to encourage the reader to persist in reading, and to study in detail, what I predict will be the most difficult chapter to read, difficult because it attempts to deal so specifically and basically with concepts that are generally taken for granted in ordinary conversation. The effort will be rewarded with a much more thorough understanding of the rest of the book, and a much greater sense of the importance of the ideas presented in this book. We will be developing a highly useful model of the determinants of our behavior, useful especially by virtue of the development of an agreed-upon set of words that will be unusually precise in their definitions. Such precision of definition, though a difficult undertaking, will enable a much greater capacity for communication and therefore agreement.

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.

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.

This book, then, as an effort to help our species to achieve optimal living, is a recommendation to the reader that he or she put forth some effort to develop some skills that will not only benefit the reader personally, but will benefit those around him or her and will be a contribution to bringing about a change in our species that will promote the survival of and the good life for our species in general, meaning for all of us, now and in the future.

In order to develop these skills, we will have to understand (believe accurately) how to do so. In order to understand how to do so, we will have to have a set of concepts (models) to guide us. These concepts, to be of use, must be as simple, clear, and consistent as possible, because the alternative is ambiguity, uncertainty, lack of agreement, indecision, and inefficiency, and probably even failure. The purpose of this chapter, therefore, is to present a basic set of concepts that will serve as our tools in this effort.

By basic, I do not mean that the concepts cannot be further analyzed, nor do I mean that the reader should not do so, if he or she wishes. What I do mean is that, for our purposes, I believe (predict) the reader will not find it necessary to do so, beyond what is carried out in this chapter.

The reader is reminded that any word, like “behavior,” may have different meanings to different people, and that the method of this book includes establishing how words will be used in this book, for the purposes of this book. Thus, the reader is asked to agree to these usages while reading this book, in order to grasp the ideas presented in the book. However, I also believe that the model I am proposing is approximately the usual one according to which all of us operate and communicate most of the time, even though we do not explicitly say so, and even though we do so with much inaccuracy, ambiguity, and variability of meaning.

(End of excerpt)
Derik T.
user 23955602
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 126
Bill,


So I now fully recognize and accept that I cannot expect reasonable progression of dialogue based upon a cooperative effort to obtain as great clarity of thought as possible about the actual ideas in the book. (My hopes had been stimulated by what you said in an earlier post.) But it is a kind of exercise that improves the precision of thinking, and there is benefit in that, and I may indeed find that there are significant problems in the book that can be corrected. So I guess we have to proceed with this process, even though it leaves me with some disappointment and sadness.

I'm not entirely sure if this means you want to discontinue our exploration of the book's definition of "optimal living"--I certainly hope not! Your characterization of my object being to maximize confusion notwithstanding, I remain optimistic that we can reach understanding about each other's ideas, perhaps even agreement.

Assuming you're still game to continue our exploration, it appears that three things have led to our impasse (and subsequently, your most recent amygdala hijack):
1) your perception that I continue to post quotes out of context and skew their original meanings to some alternate meaning
2) your perception that I avoid answering your questions
3) our disagreement about the nature of the definition of "optimal living"

In the text that follows, I'll examine each and propose a path forward that I hope you'll find agreeable.

- - -

1) your perception that I continue to post quotes out of context and skew their original meanings to some alternate meaning

O, how regrettable that we are undertaking this exploration using so crude a tool as a message board! I imagine our cave-dwelling forefathers used similar methods for communicating with each other when coming in from hunting at intervals. Perhaps they discussed this selfsame topic in their scrawlings!

Let me be clear about the rationale I use when I post a quote of yours. I aim to post the minimum amount of words I deem necessary to point to the earlier post in the discussion. Because the full post (or the full book) is there for you and I to refer back to, I quote only the scant text necessary to "point" to the excerpt in question.

Why do I do this? Because I consider you and I to be the only interested parties in this discussion. Here I may be totally wrong. If you believe that many more are reading (or will read) this discussion and that it is our philosophical duty to provide the full context each time, I'm happy to comply. But where do we draw the line?

Perhaps we should introduce a "chunking" method by which we put "- - -" at the top and bottom of each discrete thought? In that way, we would always know what the other considers "context" and provide it faithfully each time.

- - -

2) your perception that I avoid answering your questions

Here I have no specific rationale to offer, only my poor ability to discern what it is you want answered. Perhaps there is a structural solution here as well: henceforth, shall each of us put the question(s) we'd like answered in bold blue? That way we'll (a) have something concrete to quote in the next post and (b) be sure not to miss a question asked by the other.

- - -

3) our disagreement about the nature of the definition of "optimal living"

The fault is mine for not catching it until now, but it appears that you've been substituting "statement of presumed fact" for my original term "descriptive definition" for some number of posts now. I should never have let this misunderstanding go so long and become so "seated" into the discussion--but now having noticed it, let me do my best to clarify (a) what a descriptive definition is, (b) why I believe your book's definition of "optimal living" is a descriptive definition, and (c) my recommended path forward in this exploration.

(a) what a descriptive definition is

From page 9 of this discussion:

Thanks for your response--it helped me clarify that there are at least two types of definitions you use in your book.

Declarative definitions: Definitions made internal to the book "synthetically" for uses internal to the book (e.g., ethical sense, beliefs, mistakes, etc.)

Descriptive definitions: Definitions made internal to the book that attempt to accurately describe or model a past, present, future, or desired state of the world (e.g., optimal living, naturally-occurring ethics, etc.)

...when your definition becomes descriptive of how the world actually was, is, will be, or should be, the reader must treat this type of definition altogether differently and assess whether or not the definition matches his observations of the world.

I'm not sure how the above context around descriptive definitions made the unfortunate transform into "statement of presumed fact", but a more accurate rendering would be "description of an observed or desired state".

(b) why I believe your book's definition of "optimal living" is a descriptive definition

Below I'll include both your book's definition of "optimal living" and the paragraph that follows. Please note that it is in no way my intention to leave out any other context you deem valuable. I only see that as of now I have a mere 1670 characters left in which to conclude this post, so I am including this small excerpt for brevity's sake alone.


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.

This book, then, as an effort to help our species to achieve optimal living, is a recommendation to the reader that he or she put forth some effort to develop some skills that will not only benefit the reader personally, but will benefit those around him or her and will be a contribution to bringing about a change in our species that will promote the survival of and the good life for our species in general, meaning for all of us, now and in the future.

In so much as the second paragraph makes clear that this definition of optimal living is a description of your desired state of the world, it is a descriptive definition. This being so, the reader must take a unique approach to this definition and ascertain whether or not it aligns with her own observations and experience of the world.

(c) my recommended path forward in this exploration

As stated elsewhere, I believe your definition of "optimal living" to be incorrect. Naturally, I thought it reasonable to provide my own descriptive definition of "optimal living" to compare side-by-side with yours:

"optimal living" refers to "hypothetical best decision-making" refers to "the hypothetical sequence (or sequences) of decisions that fulfill the purpose(s) for which God created man"

Shall we continue the exploration by assessing which of the two definitions of "optimal living" best serve the goal of maximizing JCA and minimizing PSDED?
Bill Van F.
wvanfleet
Group Organizer
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 1,376
Derik,
I'm not entirely sure if this means you want to discontinue our exploration of the book's definition of "optimal living"--I certainly hope not! Your characterization of my object being to maximize confusion notwithstanding, I remain optimistic that we can reach understanding about each other's ideas, perhaps even agreement.
I will continue to discuss this issue with you, but I have no wish to continue correcting the same misrepresentation over and over. So I am again stating that I am defining (informally) “optimal living” only in the sense of saying what I mean by the phrase when I use it in the book. I am not doing what you claim I am doing, namely, making a statement of fact (to be clarified below) that presumably can be shown to be correct or incorrect. So hopefully this will be my last effort to clarify that.

Assuming you're still game to continue our exploration, it appears that three things have led to our impasse (and subsequently, your most recent amygdala hijack):
So this is your subtle way of doing exactly what I predicted, ridiculing me by claiming that I am “upset” and not rational, but instead carried away by emotion. I will say that my amygdala indeed is an alarm system set by evolution to call attention to something that seems to be going wrong, and generally functions fairly well. If your implication is that my response to the alarm going off is a non-rational one, I do not agree. But of course the degree to which each of us is rational in our responses will be a matter of opinion.

1) your perception that I continue to post quotes out of context and skew their original meanings to some alternate meaning
2) your perception that I avoid answering your questions
3) our disagreement about the nature of the definition of "optimal living"

In the text that follows, I'll examine each and propose a path forward that I hope you'll find agreeable.

- - -

1) your perception that I continue to post quotes out of context and skew their original meanings to some alternate meaning

Let me be clear about the rationale I use when I post a quote of yours. I aim to post the minimum amount of words I deem necessary to point to the earlier post in the discussion. Because the full post (or the full book) is there for you and I to refer back to, I quote only the scant text necessary to "point" to the excerpt in question.

Why do I do this? Because I consider you and I to be the only interested parties in this discussion. Here I may be totally wrong. If you believe that many more are reading (or will read) this discussion and that it is our philosophical duty to provide the full context each time, I'm happy to comply. But where do we draw the line?
I do believe others are reading this topic, and since I believe they are, I feel a sense of responsibility to be accurate. The discussion means more to me than some sort of recreation, like an Internet game, as should be evident from the book we are discussing and from my comments. So when I see the book misrepresented, I feel an obligation to correct such misrepresentation. That takes time and energy. Therefore, I will appreciate any effort on your part to reduce such misrepresentation. The method of doing so is not simple, and involves conscientiousness and of course benevolence.

Perhaps we should introduce a "chunking" method by which we put "- - -" at the top and bottom of each discrete thought? In that way, we would always know what the other considers "context" and provide it faithfully each time.
I cannot imagine this being feasible or useful. Misrepresentation involves B taking what A says and presenting it in his or her own words in such a manner as to cause C to think that A is communicating something different than what A is actually trying to communicate. A’s words may be quoted accurately, but it is the surrounding words of B that become a new context for A’s quoted words, and that is where misrepresentation can occur, by responding to A’s words as if they had different meanings than those fairly evident from their original context. So avoiding misrepresentation is the responsibility of B, that first consists of studying what A is saying and what that seems to be meaning according to A. Ideally, B would ask A whether B’s representation of A’s thoughts appears accurate to A (if A is available to reply). So I would say that asking whether I am in agreement with your formulation of my thoughts would be good, as would not proceeding onward until such agreement was attained.

- - -
(Continued in next post)
Bill Van F.
wvanfleet
Group Organizer
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 1,377
(Continued from previous post)

2) your perception that I avoid answering your questions

Here I have no specific rationale to offer, only my poor ability to discern what it is you want answered. Perhaps there is a structural solution here as well: henceforth, shall each of us put the question(s) we'd like answered in bold blue? That way we'll (a) have something concrete to quote in the next post and (b) be sure not to miss a question asked by the other.
That sounds like a great idea! Let’s start doing that. If I slip up and forget to do it, please remind me, but I think I will remember.

- - -

3) our disagreement about the nature of the definition of "optimal living"

The fault is mine for not catching it until now, but it appears that you've been substituting "statement of presumed fact" for my original term "descriptive definition" for some number of posts now. I should never have let this misunderstanding go so long
I believe I will demonstrate below that this is not a misunderstanding at all, but that instead I am quite correct.
and become so "seated" into the discussion--but now having noticed it, let me do my best to clarify (a) what a descriptive definition is, (b) why I believe your book's definition of "optimal living" is a descriptive definition, and (c) my recommended path forward in this exploration.
Let us first note, however, that the term “descriptive definition” is a term that you are producing for the purpose of this discussion. It is not (correct me if I’m wrong, please) a generally recognized and used term with a usual definition. And of course it is okay for you to do this. But then we must first make sure that we both are understanding the same thing by the term (are using the same meaning). And here you are objecting to my representation of your concept of “descriptive definition” as (in part) a “statement of presumed fact” (which could then be considered potentially correct or incorrect). So this is indeed what we need to clarify, as I already have attempted to do. We can try again.


(a) what a descriptive definition is

From page 9 of this discussion:

Thanks for your response--it helped me clarify that there are at least two types of definitions you use in your book.
Now remember, I mean by definition only a statement as to what the meaning of a term (word or phrase) is to be within a stated context (in this case, the book). (For most words, the context is “most usual meaning,” which can be found by reference to a dictionary. That is not the case here with regard to “descriptive definition,” nor is it the case with regard to “optimal living,” as I am using the term in the book.)

Declarative definitions: Definitions made internal to the book "synthetically" for uses internal to the book (e.g., ethical sense, beliefs, mistakes, etc.)
I believe I mentioned earlier that I do not know what you mean by “synthetically.” But this may not be important enough to put it in the form of a blue question. But we should note here again that this term, “declarative definition,” is a term you are defining for the purpose of this discussion; it is not (correct me if I am wrong) a commonly used term with a usual definition.

Descriptive definitions: Definitions made internal to the book that attempt to accurately describe or model a past, present, future, or desired state of the world (e.g., optimal living, naturally-occurring ethics, etc.)

...when your definition becomes descriptive of how the world actually was, is, will be, or should be, the reader must treat this type of definition altogether differently and assess whether or not the definition matches his observations of the world.

I'm not sure how the above context around descriptive definitions made the unfortunate transform into "statement of presumed fact", but a more accurate rendering would be "description of an observed or desired state".
Yes, this is indeed the central point at which we are having this breakdown in communication. And I say that “description of an observed or desired state” is an example of a “statement of presumed fact.” The description is presumed to be correct (or considered to be incorrect, possibly incorrect, etc.).

The first point to make again is that I do not believe it is helpful for you to add these terms, “declarative definition” and “descriptive definition.” I believe that it is most helpful to retain only the word “definition,” which should mean what it usually does, namely, a statement of the meaning of a term. A definition can be stated formally, of course, and we are not bothering to do that here, because both of us see that as unnecessary for the point we are discussing. But a definition is a statement, stating what a term is to mean. It is a statement as to what attributes an entity must have in order to qualify for having the label being defined. As far as I can tell, this is what you mean by “declarative definition.” “Definition” (as usually defined) appears to have the same meaning that you are assigning to “declarative definition.” Is this correct?

Now I already have described in an earlier post why I think that your term “descriptive definition” should not be considered the same as “definition,” and why I don’t believe it should be applied to my definition of “optimal living.” (So we are going in circles.) It is because your definition of “descriptive definition” says that it is a statement that declares a presumed fact. You deny that it does, but if you look at your wording, I believe you can see what I mean. Let us look at your “more accurate rendering.” You say that it is a "description of an observed or desired state." We are talking about a statement (that is a description). We are saying that that statement is a description of X, X being an observed or desired state. Now indeed I agree that such a description of X (the observed or desired state) may be accurate or inaccurate (or correct or incorrect), and therefore one could call it a “presumed fact.” But in order to determine that, we first have to know what we mean by “X.” So first “X” must be defined (accomplished by a statement called a “definition”), and then and only then can the description of X be evaluated as to correctness or not. So what you are saying is that my definition, for the purposes of the book, is both a definition and a description.

(Continued in next post)
Bill Van F.
wvanfleet
Group Organizer
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 1,378
(Continued from previous post)

Now you are correct that the entity that I am defining is also something that I desire. But that does not mean that the statement under consideration (the definition) is a statement also as to what I desire. For example, I could define a “house,” and I could also want a house, but the fact that I want it is not a part of the definition of “house.” If after defining “house” I added a statement that I wanted one, that statement would be a presumed fact, correct or incorrect (I could be lying). So now we need to look at the book’s definition of “optimal living,” to see whether that definition is a statement about what I want. Remember, that I want it is true, but is a statement to that effect part of the statement that is the definition? (Not blue, because rhetorical. But feel free to answer it.)


(b) why I believe your book's definition of "optimal living" is a descriptive definition

Below I'll include both your book's definition of "optimal living" and the paragraph that follows. Please note that it is in no way my intention to leave out any other context you deem valuable. I only see that as of now I have a mere 1670 characters left in which to conclude this post, so I am including this small excerpt for brevity's sake alone.


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.

This book, then, as an effort to help our species to achieve optimal living, is a recommendation to the reader that he or she put forth some effort to develop some skills that will not only benefit the reader personally, but will benefit those around him or her and will be a contribution to bringing about a change in our species that will promote the survival of and the good life for our species in general, meaning for all of us, now and in the future.

In so much as the second paragraph makes clear that this definition of optimal living is a description of your desired state of the world, it is a descriptive definition.
It is clear, indeed, that I want the survival of and best quality of life for everyone, now and in the future. I hope that you want that also. But those statements are not part of the statement that is the definition of “optimal living” as used in the book. I did not make a statement that everyone wants the survival of and best quality of life for everyone, now and in the future. (You may in fact want that only for certain people.) Nor does the statement (definition) contain any statement about what I want. What I am letting the reader know is how I am using the term. I do assume that many want what the term refers to, but that is a separate issue.
This being so, the reader must take a unique approach to this definition and ascertain whether or not it aligns with her own observations and experience of the world.
The terms “unique approach” and “aligns with” are examples of ambiguous terms that obscure the issues we are talking about. But it is indeed true that the reader may want to see death and destruction for many people, or for himself or herself, or for everyone. And indeed such an individual will be inclined to put the book down, if that is so.


(c) my recommended path forward in this exploration

As stated elsewhere, I believe your definition of "optimal living" to be incorrect. Naturally, I thought it reasonable to provide my own descriptive definition of "optimal living" to compare side-by-side with yours:

"optimal living" refers to "hypothetical best decision-making" refers to "the hypothetical sequence (or sequences) of decisions that fulfill the purpose(s) for which God created man"

Shall we continue the exploration by assessing which of the two definitions of "optimal living" best serve the goal of maximizing JCA and minimizing PSDED?

Actually, that is a separate discussion, but a very interesting one. It involves giving up going through the book systematically, but I am willing to discuss it (preferably in a separate topic), and here are my first thoughts.

You are asking the question, “What will be the impact, or outcome, of using our separate definitions of “optimal living.” How much JCA and PSDED will there be? And I would say that it would depend upon what we did with those terms. I believe my use is part of a total effort that will indeed lead to more JCA and less PSDED than the total effort you would engage in, that includes your use of your definition of those words. But I could be incorrect.

So you are saying that we have the same goal, but we have two methods. Bill’s methods are described in his book. Derik’s methods are yet to be described, but they should be consistent with fulfilling the purpose(s) for which God created man.

I would say that my methods are much easier to imagine and to be certain about, and that your methods could backfire more easily.

An example would be that you might believe that God created us because he wanted to be admired and adored (because He was lonely), and that it really bothers Him for that not to be happening, and that’s why you will spend your life finding ways to kill off those who don’t even believe He exists. (In fact, didn’t He tell us to do that? Not blue.) I could imagine a lot of PSDED resulting--much, much more than would be true by virtue of people doing what I advocate in the book.

So once and for all (?), the term “optimal living” will be defined in the book, for the purposes of the book, as “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.” And by best quality of life I will mean “as much joy, contentment, and appreciation as possible and as little pain, suffering, disability, and early death as possible.

And the book will suggest ways to optimize such decision-making. And you are free to write another book, and define optimal living in some other way, and to present to us your methods of accomplishing what you have defined as optimal living.

Are you willing to give up the use of your terms, “declarative definition” and “descriptive definition,” as not being useful to our discussion, and are you willing to use, in our discussion, the terms defined in the book with the meanings assigned to them, for the purpose of understanding the book?
Derik T.
user 23955602
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 128
Bill,

How refreshing! It appears as though we are once again in the zone of friendly debate, and I thank you for taking the time to compose such a thorough response.

It also appears as though exploring together the three things that led to the impasse has been constructive in a number of ways. I'll share what I learned from your responses to each, respond (in places) to some of your comments, and answer your blue questions.

- - -

1) your perception that I continue to post quotes out of context and skew their original meanings to some alternate meaning

So I would say that asking whether I am in agreement with your formulation of my thoughts would be good, as would not proceeding onward until such agreement was attained.

I take your point and agree with it. Going forward, I'll strive to be more conscientious about asking if you are in agreement with my formulation of your thoughts and suspending further problem solving until such agreement is attained. I may not be perfect in this regard (as my imagination is wont to run ahead!), but I will take your feedback to heart and try.

- - -

2) your perception that I avoid answering your questions

Here I have no specific rationale to offer, only my poor ability to discern what it is you want answered. Perhaps there is a structural solution here as well: henceforth, shall each of us put the question(s) we'd like answered in bold blue? That way we'll (a) have something concrete to quote in the next post and (b) be sure not to miss a question asked by the other.

That sounds like a great idea! Let’s start doing that. If I slip up and forget to do it, please remind me, but I think I will remember.

Exciting!

- - -

3) our disagreement about the nature of the definition of "optimal living"

Let us first note, however, that the term “descriptive definition” is a term that you are producing for the purpose of this discussion. It is not (correct me if I’m wrong, please) a generally recognized and used term with a usual definition.

You are correct, I created it when I typed out the original post. But on a lark, I punched in "descriptive definition" in Google and found that the philosophical world agrees! What I called "declarative definitions" the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy calls "stipulative definitions"; and what I called "descriptive definitions" it calls, well, "descriptive definitions"!

Encourage you to read the entire page at http://plato.stanford...­, but the excerpt below relates to the two types of definitions:


1.3 Stipulative definitions

A stipulative definition imparts a meaning to the defined term, and involves no commitment that the assigned meaning agrees with prior uses (if any) of the term. Stipulative definitions are epistemologically special. One has a right to stipulatively define terms as one sees fit; the constraints here are practical, not epistemological. Yet, stipulative definitions yield judgments with epistemological characteristics that are puzzling elsewhere. If one stipulatively defines a “raimex” as, say, a rational, imaginative, experiencing being then the judgment “raimexes are rational” is assured of being necessary, certain, and a priori. Philosophers have found it tempting to explain the puzzling cases of, e.g., aprioricity by an appeal to stipulative definitions.

1.4 Descriptive definitions

Descriptive definitions, like stipulative ones, spell out meaning, but they also aim to be adequate to existing usage. When philosophers offer definitions of, e.g., ‘know’ and ‘free’, they are not being stipulative: a lack of fit with existing usage is an objection to them.

It is useful to distinguish three grades of descriptive adequacy of a definition: extensional, intensional, and sense. A definition is extensionally adequate iff there are no actual counterexamples to it; it is intensionally adequate iff there are no possible counterexamples to it; and it is sense adequate (or analytic) iff it endows the defined term with the right sense. (The last grade of adequacy itself subdivides into different notions, for “sense” can be spelled out in several different ways.) The definition “Water is H2O,” for example, is intensionally adequate because the identity of water and H2O is necessary (assuming the Kripke-Putnam view about the rigidity of natural-kind terms); the definition is therefore extensionally adequate also. But it is not sense-adequate, for the sense of ‘water’ is not at all the same as that of ‘H2O’. The definition ‘George Washington is the first President of the United States’ is adequate only extensionally but not in the other two grades, while ‘man is a laughing animal’ fails to be adequate in all three grades. When definitions are put to an epistemological use, intensional adequacy is generally insufficient. For such definitions cannot underwrite the rationality or the aprioricity of a problematic subject matter.

The bold sentences say what I've been trying to say more perfectly than I could have dreamed possible:
- It is a type of claim to aprioricity (that is, a priori true) to state that your definition of "optimal living" is a stipulative definition (an aprioricity that you've said pertains "only for the purposes of this book")
- Moreover, because the definition is not epistemologically neutral for most readers ("optimal living" and "best decision" are both terms present in existing usage), the definition for "optimal living" must necessarily be a descriptive definition
- The definition fails to be adequate in the first two grades as there are (a) actual counterexamples to it, (b) possible counterexamples to it
- The final sentence is the key: "such definitions cannot underwrite the rationality or the aprioricity of a problematic subject matter"

Yes. In your book, you are attempting to put "optimal living" to epistemological use--and what more important use than how one should live his/her life! And this subject matter is obviously also "problematic" given the considerable effort and difference of opinion on the topic of "optimal living" down through the ages. Therefore, is it not clear that your definition cannot underwrite the rationality or the aprioricity of the problematic subject matter of "optimal living"?

“Definition” (as usually defined) appears to have the same meaning that you are assigning to “declarative definition.” Is this correct?

I hope this was covered fully above--you seem to consider all definitions "stipulative", though this is not a philosophically sound way of thinking about definitions of terms that are put to epistemological use and enjoy existing usage.

{continued...}
Derik T.
user 23955602
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 129
{...continued}

This being so, the reader must take a unique approach to this definition and ascertain whether or not it aligns with her own observations and experience of the world.

The terms “unique approach” and “aligns with” are examples of ambiguous terms that obscure the issues we are talking about. But it is indeed true that the reader may want to see death and destruction for many people, or for himself or herself, or for everyone. And indeed such an individual will be inclined to put the book down, if that is so.

Consider instead if your definition of "optimal living" was "picking 3 bushels of strawberries every calendar day (except in inclement weather)":
- Happening upon this definition, the reader says, "I believe this is incorrect"
- The author replies, "This cannot be correct or incorrect, it is merely a stipulative definition for the purposes of this book"
- The reader reads on to the next paragraph. "But here it says you want me to achieve your 'optimal living' in my own life and in the lives of our entire species, and to develop the skills to do so."
- The author says, "Yes."
- "But I believe your view of 'optimal living' is incorrect."
- "It cannot be correct or incorrect, it is merely a stipulative definition for the purposes of this book."
- "But you want me to align my life with it?"
- "Yes."

And around and around it goes. At what point is it reasonable for a reader to disagree with your recommendation of 'optimal living'? At the time it is defined? At the end of the book? After a life lived in conformity to the REUEP? When?


Shall we continue the exploration by assessing which of the two definitions of "optimal living" best serve the goal of maximizing JCA and minimizing PSDED?
So you are saying that we have the same goal, but we have two methods. Bill’s methods are described in his book. Derik’s methods are yet to be described, but they should be consistent with fulfilling the purpose(s) for which God created man.

I would say that my methods are much easier to imagine and to be certain about, and that your methods could backfire more easily.

How curious that you consider "ease of imagining" and "self-assuredness" to be advantageous when considering the methods for 'optimal living'! It strikes me--as it struck Tolstoy, Solomon, Shoengard, Buddha, and countless others--how utterly absurd and meaningless life becomes if each of us in our billions are seen as careening through our few days with nothing but our imagination and self-assuredness in what we consider optimal.

Rather than rely on these, should we not endeavor instead to identify one historical example--the best one that personifies each of our respective definitions--and compare which life generated the most JCA and removed the most PSDED?

- - -


So once and for all (?), the term “optimal living” will be defined in the book, for the purposes of the book, as “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.” And by best quality of life I will mean “as much joy, contentment, and appreciation as possible and as little pain, suffering, disability, and early death as possible.

And the book will suggest ways to optimize such decision-making. And you are free to write another book, and define optimal living in some other way, and to present to us your methods of accomplishing what you have defined as optimal living.

Are you willing to give up the use of your terms, “declarative definition” and “descriptive definition,” as not being useful to our discussion, and are you willing to use, in our discussion, the terms defined in the book with the meanings assigned to them, for the purpose of understanding the book?

If you respond to this post as I anticipate and remain steadfast in the resolution that all definitions in the book, including the definition of "optimal living", is merely stipulative, we have reached the terminus of our exploration, summarized as follows (and I welcome your comments to see if you agree with this formulation):
- You contend that the definition of "optimal living" is a stipulative one for the purposes of the book and cannot be considered "correct" or "incorrect"
- I disagree, contending that (a) the definition of "optimal living" is a descriptive definition due to its epistemological use in your book and the existing usage it already enjoys (https://www.google.co...­, (b) the definition fails in the extensional and intensional grades, and (c) the definition is incorrect

I can continue to read the book for understanding of what you were trying to say, but my doing so would be the same sort of exercise I would undertake if you had defined "optimal living" as "picking 3 bushels of strawberries every calendar day (except in inclement weather)". Ever disagreeing with the foundational element on which the entire work is built and thus eschewing its recommendation to ascribe it to my own life, I would still read on in hopes of finding practical advice that succors a more correct definition of "optimal living".
Bill Van F.
wvanfleet
Group Organizer
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 1,381
Derik,

I, too, googled “declarative definition” and “descriptive definition” prior to my last post, and although there looked like there were hits, when I went to the actual sites, they were talking about something else. But you persisted longer than I, or were luckier than I, and indeed came up with material that would seem to be relevant, at least at first glance.

My observation is that, yes, the concept of “definition” has been dissected, analyzed, and debated extensively, in the course of which activity many very abstruse words and concepts have been used. The bottom line appears to be that there is no general agreement except for a recognition that one can simply get lost in a sea of contending statements. So one has the option of studying all that and demonstrating how educated one is by being able to quote those various statements with their unusual words and their authors. I have no wish to do so.

This unfortunate tendency is what is described briefly in the chapter “Basic Methods in This Book,” where it talks about the difficulty we have in agreeing with each other because of breakdown in communication of the sort that is occurring here. I have written my book for everyone, not just for those who enjoy being able to quote what lots of people have said. I wrote my book to be understood in a meaningful and useful way by everyone (although obviously there are limitations for some people). So what we are observing, in my opinion, is the very process that results in our being so slow at stopping all this horrible tragedy.

You seem to be attempting to show how my book, designed to save lives and prevent enormous tragedy, is really quite flawed and thus a lot less worth reading than I believe it to be. Where we are now is with the following situation, as I understand it. The difficulty lies in the below quoted passage, in which I am describing how I am using certain words in the book and clarifying further what the book is about, and to which you are objecting, saying that I am incorrect, in your opinion, as to how I am using the term “optimal living.” So this is the passage:

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.

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.

This book, then, as an effort to help our species to achieve optimal living, is a recommendation to the reader that he or she put forth some effort to develop some skills that will not only benefit the reader personally, but will benefit those around him or her and will be a contribution to bringing about a change in our species that will promote the survival of and the good life for our species in general, meaning for all of us, now and in the future.

Now as I understand it, you are saying that if you wrote something similar to what I am writing, you would say,

By optimal living, I am referring to "the hypothetical sequence (or sequences) of decisions that fulfill the purpose(s) for which God created man".

In the place of my saying:

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.

Furthermore, you are saying that, in your opinion, your statement would be correct whereas mine would not be.

Am I correct in this understanding? If not, what statement of mine is it that you are disagreeing with, and what would you say instead?

---------

I will now respond to all your blue questions.

Therefore, is it not clear that your definition cannot underwrite the rationality or the aprioricity of the problematic subject matter of "optimal living"?

I’m sorry, but I don’t understand the question. I don’t understand your language.

At what point is it reasonable for a reader to disagree with your recommendation of 'optimal living'? At the time it is defined? At the end of the book? After a life lived in conformity to the REUEP? When?

How to engage in optimal living is what the whole book is about. I recommend reading the whole book and seeing if it makes sense and appears to be valuable in the ways it claims to be.

Rather than rely on these, should we not endeavor instead to identify one historical example--the best one that personifies each of our respective definitions--and compare which life generated the most JCA and removed the most PSDED?

I can’t imagine such an effort to be at all helpful.

(and I welcome your comments to see if you agree with this formulation)

As you can see, I do not agree. I am simply telling you how I am using words in this book, so you will understand what I am saying as clearly as possible. If something is unclear, I welcome your asking me what I mean. Regarding your concern about how I am using the term “optimal living,” I again state that this is the way I am using it for the purpose of this book, as stated in the book, and that you of course can use the term differently if you wish, but if you attempt to do so while reading my book, you will not understand my book.
Derik T.
user 23955602
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 130
Bill,


You seem to be attempting to show how my book, designed to save lives and prevent enormous tragedy, is really quite flawed and thus a lot less worth reading than I believe it to be.

Just for a moment, assume something else is true: here's a guy--whom you stated (not I) is in possession of some measure of intelligence--who wants to explore how BEST to generate JCA and remove PSDED.

Yet instead of assume this and embrace me as a brother in this exploration, you persist in a mode of "must save book". I'm prepared to continue this discussion on email, if you wish, to prove to you that my goal here is not to discount the value of your book in the eyes of others, but rather to let the book be a starting point from which to approach the BEST answer. Your protectivism is astonishing in light of the brilliant chapter you wrote on anger management and problem solving principles.

- - -

Now as I understand it, you are saying that if you wrote something similar to what I am writing, you would say,

By optimal living, I am referring to "the hypothetical sequence (or sequences) of decisions that fulfill the purpose(s) for which God created man".

In the place of my saying:

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.

Furthermore, you are saying that, in your opinion, your statement would be correct whereas mine would not be.

Am I correct in this understanding? If not, what statement of mine is it that you are disagreeing with, and what would you say instead?

Yes, this is correct!

Having learned quite a bit from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (http://plato.stanford...­) on the topic of definitions, I see now that I would also need to demonstrate that the predominant counterexample definitions of "optimal living" in existing usage are incorrect:
- Making decisions that promote what's generally accepted as good and reduce what's generally accepted as evil
- Maximizing one's pleasure
- Perfecting oneself in mind and body
and likely others...

- - -

I will now respond to all your blue questions.

At what point is it reasonable for a reader to disagree with your recommendation of 'optimal living'? At the time it is defined? At the end of the book? After a life lived in conformity to the REUEP? When?

How to engage in optimal living is what the whole book is about. I recommend reading the whole book and seeing if it makes sense and appears to be valuable in the ways it claims to be.

So it appears that in our ongoing vacillation between "stop at the first sentence that seems to be incorrect" and "one needs to read the entire book to see if it makes sense", we've returned once again to the latter. Shall I pick up reading where I left off?
Bill Van F.
wvanfleet
Group Organizer
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 1,383
Derik,

You seem to be attempting to show how my book, designed to save lives and prevent enormous tragedy, is really quite flawed and thus a lot less worth reading than I believe it to be.

Just for a moment, assume something else is true: here's a guy--whom you stated (not I) is in possession of some measure of intelligence--who wants to explore how BEST to generate JCA and remove PSDED.
Yes, I wish I could see it that way.

Yet instead of assume this and embrace me as a brother in this exploration, you persist in a mode of "must save book".
Indeed, when I observe that you misrepresent what is in the book such as to convey the impression to others that the book is flawed and thus probably not worth reading, since I consider the book to be a valuable contribution, I feel motivated ethically to correct that misrepresentation.

I see your portraying me as persisting “in a mode of ‘must save book’" as a subtle way of painting a picture of me as futilely and pitifully trying to protect myself and my book from your superior intellectual power. Instead, I simply feel obligated to protect something I believe is valuable to others, as a way of doing my part to make the world a better place.

I welcome our exploring together how best to make the world a better place, and I would love to continue exploring the actual ideas in the book as one way of doing such exploration.


I'm prepared to continue this discussion on email, if you wish, to prove to you that my goal here is not to discount the value of your book in the eyes of others, but rather to let the book be a starting point from which to approach the BEST answer.
I have no wish to engage in email dialogue about this. You will demonstrate what your goal is by how you engage in the discussion. I have stated my conclusions so far, and others will form their own judgments. I have no objection to having the content of the book be the starting point in such discussion, but not a misrepresentation of the content of the book.

Your protectivism is astonishing in light of the brilliant chapter you wrote on anger management and problem solving principles.
So here you portray me as engaging in something labeled with the pejorative label of “protectivism,” and thereby imply that my effort to stop you from misrepresenting the book is motivated just by defensive anger, rather than by an ethical need to make a positive contribution and protect that contribution from damage. What is the goal of that portrayal of me?

(Continued in next post)
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