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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 #: 1,311
(Continued from previous post)

To mention a different topic, there is, however, a defect in the book that I have recognized quite a while ago, and I have retained that defect in subsequent writing, sort of wishing that I could easily do something about it.

The term “rational ethics” is really not entirely appropriate. There is no difference in method of legitimating between rational ethics and authoritarian ethics; the only difference is in content. The difference in content is brought about by the difference in the ultimate ethical principle (which is also content, not method of legitimating). Thus, there could be any number of other kinds of ethics, also, depending upon different ultimate ethical principles.

To call the ethics that I advocate for “rational ethics” implies that no other kind of ethics is “rational,” that is, uses the rules of logic and the rules of evidence, this being the meaning of “rational” used in the book.

I really believe currently that I should use the term “Humanian” ethics.

When I wrote the book, the term “Humanian” with the meaning that I have been using it for did not exist (nor did “Humanianity” as I use the term). But the whole book, even the title, uses “rational-ethical.” And the website on Humanianity does also. To make the change would require an enormous amount of work and time. Also, it would tend to detract from the belief that it would be worthwhile to explore the line of thinking, because of the atypicality of the term (and its tendency therefore to evoke ridicule rather than exploration).

And another comment to you, Derik. I have the impression that you are becoming substantially more conscientious in the reading of the book and in the effort to properly address defects in it. I do appreciate that effort.

I again do recommend and request that rather than taking arbitrary numbers of pages to critique each time, you address specific topics or concepts in the book (in the order they are presented, of course). An example would be to comment on a whole chapter. Or, even better, you could comment on each specific concept arising in a chapter that seemed to contain something unclear or incorrect. Also, in order to reduce the length of the posts, if you did one at a time, then we could address that issue prior to moving on to the next. I think that would make it easier for both of us and any readers who might be following this effort.
Derik T.
user 23955602
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 101
I just realized that I constructed and posted Response 5 of 8 at the same time the author was posting his own response to Response 4 of 8.

Bill, if you prefer for me to remove Response 5 of 8 and repost it after we've sufficiently problem-solved Response 4 of 8, I'd be happy to do so. Just let me know.
Bill Van F.
wvanfleet
Group Organizer
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 1,312
Well, I don't see a reason necessarily to do so, unless you believe that what you have posted would have been different if you had seen my post, or unless you have some responses to my response. At least they didn't get posted out of order, in that I posted my response to your Response 4 of 8 before you posted Response 5 of 8. I do wish you would wait for my response before moving ahead.

And I do think, as I have said, that stopping with the first problem you come across (after completing reading about that whole concept) and allowing for us to have dialogue about that prior to moving ahead is more optimal than this rapid running through arbitrary sets of pages.

I think it requires much more work on my part to respond to your responses than it does for you to construct your responses, so the rapidity of this process is a substantial burden for me. However, it is a valuable process, so I remain grateful to you for engaging in it.

Please let me know if you are going to alter your Response 5 of 8 now that you have seen my response to your Response 4 of 8, or if you are going to respond to some of the points that I have made in my last set of posts. If you aren't going to alter it or respond to my previous posts, then I will get busy on reviewing it and responding. But I would, again, ask you to wait for my response before rushing ahead with your next one.

Thanks!
Derik T.
user 23955602
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 102
Thanks, Bill--let's continue exploring Response 4 of 8, but I anticipate Response 5 of 8 will undergo little or no change (in case you want to give some advance thought to those points).

- - -

Per your response to my first point...

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

Per your response to my second point...

Even if there were a way to identify the existence of an “objective value,” whether someone chose to make that his or her own personal “value” would be arbitrarily chosen by that individual. He or she could say “Yes, that is objectively valuable, but I personally don’t value it.” There is a subtle difference between “objectively valuable” and “valued by me.” It is only this second phrase that I am talking about in the book. The book does not take a position with regard to whether the first exists or not.
...there is a difference between "arbitrarily chosen" and "arbitrarily legitimated". Yes, someone can choose to personally value anything they want. But if objective value exists, and one attempts to base their legitimization of their ultimate ethical principle in that value, such an exercise is far from "arbitrary". For one with an objective value worldview, their ultimate ethical principle will be their best attempt to manifest a life aligned with that which has quality/worth in an absolute sense. I'm not asserting here that this perspective is correct or incorrect, just something to take into account when considering a broad readership.

Per your response to my third point, thank you for your open-mindedness. There remains an important follow-on implication worth exploring in the following statement you made:

So the error that I have made is to use the word “anger” for the more accurate term “anger-generated motivational states,” without at least clarifying that “anger” was a shorthand term to refer to the total set of anger-generated motivational states.
To claim that emotions can generate motivational states by necessity makes them an influencing factor in decisions. For this reason I asserted that a decision is more correctly modeled as a function of three inputs: beliefs, motivational states, and emotional states--to which you replied:

No, that would produce a confusing and somewhat inaccurate model. Emotional states are only one set of states that can produce motivational states, unless you consider itching, hunger, sleepiness, etc. to be emotional states. This would be a very atypical use of the words, and my effort was to stay close to the way words are generally used by most people most of the time, where possible.
I would contend that "My arm itches", "My body is showing signs of hunger", and "My body is showing signs of sleep deprivation" would meet your characterization of "beliefs" on page 35:

Let us let “belief” refer to “whatever it is in the nervous system” that “corresponds to,” or models, “something in or about the world,” such that this something in or about the world could conceivably have some effect on the animal’s decision-making (and therefore behavior) in certain situations.
Whereas the attendant emotional states for one having these beliefs might be "irritation", "frustration", and "lethargy" respectively. Let's consider a full case in which my model is laid out in full, a fun one:

Beliefs: It's October 31. I'm in the US. October 31 is Halloween in the US. People go trick-or-treating on Halloween. People who go trick-or-treating get candy.
Emotional state: I am excited. (or "anticipating getting candy makes me feel excited")
Motivational state: I want to go trick-or-treating
Decision: I go trick-or-treating

Or even consider your decision to adopt the REUEP--by your own admission, you choose it because it makes you "feel happy". You can believe that adopting it will make you feel happy (belief) and want to feel happy (motivational state), but without the final piece of the puzzle, the emotional state of actually feeling happy itself, the whole thing falls apart.

(continued...)
Derik T.
user 23955602
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 103
(...continued)

Per your response to my fourth point...

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

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

“Obeying” is doing what you are told to do, whether you think it is right or not. Thinking that obeying is the right thing to do simply because of who it is that is wanting you to do something is authoritarian ethics. Thinking that certain things are the right thing to do simply because it is God (or Hitler) who wants you to do them is authoritarian ethics.
...I disagree with you in the following two respects:
- To the extent that your book is advocating an ultimate ethical belief to live by, "an existential belief that carries with it the ethical sense", this advocacy takes the requisite form of "One should...", which implies to the reader, "You should..."--one's response to this proposition is either obedience/disobedience
- You are making quite a mess of the term "obedience", so much so that I suspect it may be a result of a wound in your past. Specifically, you are ascibing to it a raft of negative connotations and claiming these are "according to usual word usage". For this reader at least, obedience in usual word usage is quite neutral, meaning merely that one conforms or complies with what another asks of them. What goes through your mind when you read, "Bill asked Derik to hand him a book, and Derik obeyed." If your past comments are any indication, you might imagine Bill in this example as a jackbooted superior figure hovering over Derik. I see nothing of the sort. I see merely one human conforming/complying with another's request. Now change the example to, "Bill asked Derik to live according to the REUEP, and Derik obeyed." Similarly, you're probably imagining Bill as a dictatorial figure here, though I am not. The example might as well say, "Bill asked Derik to live according to the REUEP, and Derik complied." Choose whichever word you like as the last word, but the implications are the same: I am responding to an ethical proposition, the advocator of which is, to me, its author.
Bill Van F.
wvanfleet
Group Organizer
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 1,318
Okay, Derik, since you have responded to my responses to your response 4, I think it would be better to take out your 5 and save it for when we are finished with 4. That will be less confusing and burdensome for the reader. I also will make a copy so that I can think about it when I can. But I am eager to answer your latest responses to my response to your 4.
Derik T.
user 23955602
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 104
Okay, Derik, since you have responded to my responses to your response 4, I think it would be better to take out your 5 and save it for when we are finished with 4. That will be less confusing and burdensome for the reader. I also will make a copy so that I can think about it when I can. But I am eager to answer your latest responses to my response to your 4.

Done!
Bill Van F.
wvanfleet
Group Organizer
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 1,320
Derik,

Here are my responses to your responses to my responses to your Response 4 of 8 to the book.

Per your response to my second point...

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

...there is a difference between "arbitrarily chosen" and "arbitrarily legitimated". Yes, someone can choose to personally value anything they want. But if objective value exists, and one attempts to base their legitimization of their ultimate ethical principle in that value, such an exercise is far from "arbitrary".

Here I believe you are obscuring what is being talked about. The choice to do this will be an arbitrary choice. That is what I mean by the (choice of the) ultimate ethical principle being an arbitrary choice. Once that arbitrary choice is made, then those choices made based upon that original choice are of course no longer arbitrary. You refer to the making of those subsequent choices as “an exercise.” That exercise is, I agree, no longer arbitrary. But that is not contradictory to my statement regarding the ultimate ethical principle. The ultimate ethical principle is arbitrary because it is ultimate, meaning that it is, by definition (in the book), accepted without being legitimized by any higher (more ultimate) ethical principle.


For one with an objective value worldview, their ultimate ethical principle will be their best attempt to manifest a life aligned with that which has quality/worth in an absolute sense. I'm not asserting here that this perspective is correct or incorrect, just something to take into account when considering a broad readership.

Then, please note, the person’s choice of an ultimate ethical principle would be one that says that he or she should attempt to manifest a life aligned with that which has quality/worth in an absolute sense, and the choice of this ultimate ethical principle would be arbitrary. The problem with this principle as an ultimate ethical principle, or even an ethical principle, would be in defining and identifying “that which has quality/worth in an absolute sense.” I continue to maintain that this concept is a linguistic mistake because the word “worth” is incomplete without the word (stated or implied) “to.” And “quality” (as used with the meaning in this sentence) would be completed with the phrase “as judged by.”


Per your response to my third point, thank you for your open-mindedness. There remains an important follow-on implication worth exploring in the following statement you made:

So the error that I have made is to use the word “anger” for the more accurate term “anger-generated motivational states,” without at least clarifying that “anger” was a shorthand term to refer to the total set of anger-generated motivational states.

To claim that emotions can generate motivational states by necessity makes them an influencing factor in decisions.

You are simply complicating a model needlessly. Of course motivational states are caused by things, just as beliefs are caused by things. Motivational states and beliefs are also caused by genetics, and by the physiology of the brain, and by situations, and by cellular processes, etc. There may indeed be a reason to study what has caused the motivational state, and what has caused it could be the activation by a situation of a particular belief, or the ingestion of a substance, or even the occurrence of a partial complex seizure. And there would be a cause of that seizure, and a cause of that effect that a substance has in the brain, etc. But it may be entirely satisfactory under certain circumstances to stick to beliefs and motivational states when trying to understand (model) behavior.


For this reason I asserted that a decision is more correctly modeled as a function of three inputs: beliefs, motivational states, and emotional states--to which you replied:

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

I would contend that "My arm itches", "My body is showing signs of hunger", and "My body is showing signs of sleep deprivation" would meet your characterization of "beliefs" on page 35:

Yes. Of course. But they are different statements than “I want to scratch my arm”, “I want to eat”, and “I want to go to sleep.”


Let us let “belief” refer to “whatever it is in the nervous system” that “corresponds to,” or models, “something in or about the world,” such that this something in or about the world could conceivably have some effect on the animal’s decision-making (and therefore behavior) in certain situations.

Whereas the attendant emotional states for one having these beliefs might be "irritation", "frustration", and "lethargy" respectively.

Here you are mistaking what the model is a model of. It is not a model of a person’s thoughts or a description of what the person has to say. It is a model of a process in the nervous system. So the “emotional state” (probably better described as a “drive state”) is not produced by the belief that one’s body is showing signs of hunger. It is produced by cellular processes over a period of time. The belief that one’s body is showing signs of hunger is produced by the observation of hunger.


Let's consider a full case in which my model is laid out in full, a fun one:

Beliefs: It's October 31. I'm in the US. October 31 is Halloween in the US. People go trick-or-treating on Halloween. People who go trick-or-treating get candy.
Emotional state: I am excited. (or "anticipating getting candy makes me feel excited")
Motivational state: I want to go trick-or-treating
Decision: I go trick-or-treating

Okay, if that is the model you wish to use, that is fine. I believe that the model I am describing will be more useful for most purposes.

(Continued in next post)
Bill Van F.
wvanfleet
Group Organizer
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 1,321
(Continued from previous post)

Or even consider your decision to adopt the REUEP--by your own admission, you choose it because it makes you "feel happy". You can believe that adopting it will make you feel happy (belief) and want to feel happy (motivational state), but without the final piece of the puzzle, the emotional state of actually feeling happy itself, the whole thing falls apart.

Why?

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

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

And it can continue as:

I want to live according to the REUEP. (Motivational state)
If I engage in this specific act, I will be living according to the REUEP. (Belief)
I want to engage in this specific act. (Motivational state)

One of the most important aspects of this model is the demonstration of the importance of having accurate beliefs, in order to avoid mistakes (decisions leading to behavior producing outcomes contrary to what was predicted).


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

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

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

...I disagree with you in the following two respects:
- To the extent that your book is advocating an ultimate ethical belief to live by, "an existential belief that carries with it the ethical sense",

I did not clarify that the ultimate ethical principle is not an existential belief, as opposed to the ethical principles legitimized by it. That’s a very fine point that should be obvious from context, but maybe not, so I can clarify this if I do a second edition.


this advocacy takes the requisite form of "One should...",

It should be obvious from context that this advocacy is, to the contrary, of the form, “Let’s all agree to live by the principle that ‘one should…’.”


which implies to the reader, "You should..."--one's response to this proposition is either obedience/disobedience

Again, you are distorting the meaning of what I wrote, using the fact that words have multiple meanings, some metaphoric.


- You are making quite a mess of the term "obedience", so much so that I suspect it may be a result of a wound in your past. Specifically, you are ascibing to it a raft of negative connotations and claiming these are "according to usual word usage". For this reader at least, obedience in usual word usage is quite neutral, meaning merely that one conforms or complies with what another asks of them.
Again, it seems to me that you are taking advantage of the ambiguities of language to misrepresent what I have written. You can use the word “obey” to refer to doing the same thing that someone else is requesting or suggesting that you do, but this is somewhat of an atypical use of the word. It could be completely coincidental that you are doing that which someone else wants you to do. But it would be obedience if the only reason you were doing it were because you believed you should do what the other person wants because of who the other person is.

- What goes through your mind when you read, "Bill asked Derik to hand him a book, and Derik obeyed."

Again, “asked” and “obeyed” have multiple meanings. “…and Derik did (what Bill asked him to do) would be another way to state that sentence. But it is also true that a statement implying obedience could be euphemized to state, “The policeman asked the person to get out of the car….” Much of this discussion is exemplary of the problem I talked about in “Basic Methods In This Book.” It is one of the reasons that we humans cannot agree with each other. These ambiguities in language can result in misunderstanding and can be used as a way of avoiding agreement if there is a wish to do so or giving an incorrect impression of agreement if there is a wish to do so. Obviously, despite extremely careful efforts to avoid such vulnerabilities, I was not completely successful.

(Continued in next post)
Bill Van F.
wvanfleet
Group Organizer
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 1,322
(Continued from previous post)

If your past comments are any indication, you might imagine Bill in this example as a jackbooted superior figure hovering over Derik. I see nothing of the sort. I see merely one human conforming/complying with another's request. Now change the example to, "Bill asked Derik to live according to the REUEP, and Derik obeyed." Similarly, you're probably imagining Bill as a dictatorial figure here, though I am not. The example might as well say, "Bill asked Derik to live according to the REUEP, and Derik complied." Choose whichever word you like as the last word, but the implications are the same: I am responding to an ethical proposition, the advocator of which is, to me, its author.

Again, this is distorting what I am saying in the book (that ought to be clear from context), involving the multiple meanings of words, allowing for ambiguity of meaning and even distortion of meaning. If you are living according to the “REUEP,” as it has been spelled out for you, for no other reason than that you should do it because I am someone who should be obeyed, you indeed would be using authoritarian ethics, and the “REUEP” would not be your ultimate ethical principle, but instead would be that you should do whatever I want you to. If you have run across the “REUEP,” with or without knowing who put it into those words, and you are impressed by it and want to live by it under any and all circumstances, then it will be your UEP, and you will be using “rational ethics” according to the meaning of that term as used in the book. (Remember that I have concluded that the term is probably not the best term, because it would seem to imply something that is not true, that authoritarian ethics is not rational. However, there are pros and cons as to its usage.)

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