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  1. What Kind of Inquiry Can Best Help Us Create a Good World?,.Nicholas Maxwell - 1992 - Science, Technology and Human Values 17:205-227.
    In order to create a good world, we need to learn how to do it - how to resolve our appalling problems and conflicts in more cooperative ways than at present. And in order to do this, we need traditions and institutions of learning rationally devoted to this end. When viewed from this standpoint, what we have at present - academic inquiry devoted to the pursuit of knowledge and technological know-how - is an intellectual and human disaster. We urgently need (...)
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2015-09-04
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
What kind of academic inquiry can best help humanity make progress towards as good a world as possible?  Why are philosophers apparently so uninterested in this question?  Is it because most believe the kind of academic inquiry we have today, devoted primarily to the pursuit of knoweldge and technological know-how, is the best that we can have, judged from the perspective of helping humanity make progress towards a better world?  Why are philosophers apparently so uninterested in arguments which seem to show decisively that inquiry restricted to the pursuit of knowledge is both profoundly irrational, and a menace?  The successful pursuit of knowledge and technological know-how, dissociated from a more fundamental concern to help humanity resolve conflicts and problems of living in increasingly cooperatively rational ways, is almost bound to lead to trouble.  Scientific knowledge and technological know-how enormously increase our power to act - for some of us at least - without increasing our power to act wisely.  It is not surprising that this has led to most of our current global problems: population growth, destruction of natural habitats and rapid extinction of species, the lethal character of modern war, and above all the threats of climate change.  It is hardly too much to say that the modern world is suffering from a bad philosophy - a bad philosophy of inquiry built into the academic enterprise that we have inherited from the past.  Surely philosophers ought to be doing all they can to alert everyone to the unprecedented harm and danger of this state of affairs?  So far, philosophers seem blithely unaware of the situation.  What can be done to awake them from their dogmatic slumbers?

2015-09-05
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?

Well, as in understand it, analytic philosophy claims to be in pursuit of “timeless” truths – truths free from contamination by the “contingencies” of the historical moment. So even if we were going to hell in a handbasket, it would presumably not feel inclined to take any notice.

DA


2015-09-08
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
In my understanding, your question presumes that philosophers are qualified authorities on issues such as:
 "population growth, destruction of natural habitats and rapid extinction of species, the lethal character of modern war, and above all the threats of climate change"


2015-09-08
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Reply to Derek Allan
There are decisive and devastating arguments against such a conception of the task of philosophy: see my "From Knowledge to Wisdom" (and subsequent publications).  Why is this body of work so resoundingly ignored - to the point that it is not even seen as of sufficient interest to refute?  What can be done to awake these philosophers from their slumbers?

2015-09-08
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
No!  My question assumes that the philosophy of inquiry comes within the proper scope of philosophy, and philosopers ought to be debating very seriously questions about what the aims and methods of inquiry are and ought to be.  Especially, they ought to be considering the question: What kind of inquiry can best help humanity make progress towards a better world?  They are not.  If they did, they might quickly discover that the academic enterprise, as at present constituted, devoted primarily to the pursuit of knowledge, is an intellectual and humanitarian disaster.  Humanity suffers from possessing institutions of learning that are damagingly irrational because they are shaped by a very bad philosophy of inquiry - one I have called knowledge-inquiry.  Philosophers ought to be shouting from the rooftops about this intellectual and humanitarian disaster.  They are not.  It is an intellectual and moral scandal and disgrace.  None of this presumes that philosophers need to know all about population growth and the rest - although I would have thought they ought to take an interest in these current global problems.

2015-09-09
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Hi Chris

But not being a “qualified authority” does not prevent large numbers of analytic philosophers from commenting at great length on neuroscience and science in general. Indeed this is one of their mainstays at the moment. So, they seem to pick and choose...

DA

2015-09-09
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?

Hi Nicholas

RE: What can be done to awake these philosophers from their slumbers?

I don’t really know.  But take heart, increasing numbers of writers are questioning the foundations of analytic philosophy and highlighting its basic flaws.

But it will all take time, and there are, I think, two major sources of resistance. First, and most obviously, the large vested interests involved. Enough said about that…

But, in addition, analytic philosophers feel much safer ignoring criticism because they are simply not good at defending their basic assumptions. Why? Mainly, I think, because their training seldom involves that kind of fundamental questioning. They’re taught analytic philosophy as if it is simply “philosophy”, and there’s no other kind. So they’re not well equipped intellectually to question their assumptions, or defend them.

An example: Here’s a recent quote from an analytic philosopher who, exceptionally, makes a brief attempt to defend the approach:   “…all these earlier thinkers [in the context this takes in just about everyone] might have been confused in their analyses so why dwell on mistaken views. Analytic philosophy seeks the truth about the subjects it addresses, and timeless truth as far as that is attainable”. First, the obvious non sequitur: “might have been mistaken" becomes “mistaken views” full stop. But what on earth, one wonders, were “these earlier thinkers” doing? Not seeking the truth? Only seeking “temporary” truths (pending the happy day when analytic philosophy came along)? And how will analytic philosophers distinguish their “timeless truths” from the non-timeless ones”? Do the former come with little labels while the non-timeless ones carry little warning flags? (And it’s worth noting that analytic philosophy has rejected some of its own earlier “timeless" truths).  And finally, we get the little weasel-word escape-hatch of as far as that is attainable”.

All this is obviously woeful. But it helps understand why analytic philosophy so seldom ventures onto this terrain: their weaknesses become all too obvious. Much better and safer to maintain a discreet “professional silence”.

DA


2015-09-09
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
It seems you have determined that philosophers are ignoring your work. Perhaps this is not the case; perhaps they don't even know that it exists. Are you aware of everyone else's work? 
Or, perhaps they ARE ignoring your work. Possible reasons include, a) it's not very good philosophy , b) it is good philosophy, but not a topic of interest, c) it is good philosophy, and a topic of interest, but they are preoccupied... the list goes on.  


2015-09-12
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
What seems to me to be shocking is that philosophers ignore the question: What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?  My work, devoted to tackling that problem, is ignored because the basic problem is ignored.  It is the latter that is the scandal.

2015-09-14
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Nicholas was kind enough to send me links to some of his work. I might have different views on some of his specific points, but I do agree with his basic concern about the “dogmatic slumber” of much modern philosophy – especially “analytic”.

Perhaps one of the forces holding analytic philosophy back is its very name. Calling it “analytic” makes it sound precise, professional etc. In fact, large areas proceed on the basis of very narrow and woolly thinking (the “philosophy of consciousness” is a prime example; analytic aesthetics is another.) Which doubtless explains why it so often gives the impression of never getting anywhere. (Name me one – just one – important intellectual breakthrough in either of the aforementioned areas in the last, say, 40 years.) The result is a kind of tedious, inward-looking philosophy that, for lack of anything more substantial to do, resorts to splitting hairs over issues that are important only to those who, for one reason or another, are happy to settle for philosophy that is little more than a game of philosophical trivial pursuit.

Given this, it’s not at all surprising that some philosophers, such as Nicholas, lose patience and attempt to point out that in fact the emperor has no – or very few – clothes. And of course, these days, he is by no means the only one doing so.

DA

2015-09-14
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Reply to Derek Allan
The problem, in my view, is that analytic philosophy never properly rejected the view it stems from, namely that the task of philosophy is the analysis of concepts.  Analytic philosophers felt that that was all that was left for them to do, after so much had been lost to science: natural science, the social sciences, logic, linguistics.  But there is another, entirely different idea as to what philosophy should be and should do, namely articulate and try to help solve our most urgent, fundamental problems.  Karl Popper is the best representative of this conception of philosophy.  I have devoted my working life to doing philosophy in that way.  For my defence of it, see my What Philosophy Ought to Be ( http://philpapers.org/rec/MAXWPO ).

2015-09-15
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?

Hi Nicholas

RE: The problem, in my view, is that analytic philosophy never properly rejected the view it stems from, namely that the task of philosophy is the analysis of concepts. 

Yes, I think that’s true. Many still seem hooked on the belief that language can be “purified” to a point of absolute transparency and that once this point is reached, philosophers will be able to make statements of such absolutely incontrovertible veracity that no one could think of disagreeing with them. A kind of philosophers’ nirvana in other words.

Problem is that even assuming this blissful condition is reachable, the statements are likely to be about issues of such abysmal triviality that no one would really care whether they are true or not.

The signs are there already: the subject matter of analytic philosophy is typically very trivial. 

DA


2015-10-01
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
This discussion should have top priority on all scientific institutions, however, it isn't. It is obvious that humanity has big problems, even the survival of homo sapiens as a specy is uncertain. What are our most urgent global problems, and how to access these problems and its solutions scientifically?

To achieve some sort of consensus about what our main problems are, is in itself difficult.
Can we agree on the definition of our most urgent global problems, for instance,  the huge economic unequality between humans, or,  the decline of eco systems and biodiversity?
Are our most urgent problems the consequence of technological innovation, or the lack of technological innovation? In other words, what is the most fundamental definition of our most serious problem, and how did this problem rise in the first place?

Suppose we can get consensus on the most objective problem formulation, it would take the brainpower of the best scientists of several relevant scientific disciplines to come up with the best solutions for world improvement.

Some sort of a Manhattan project. Looking at my own discipline ( I am an electrical engineer), there has been much progress in telecom technology, however, hardly any progress in energy transport and energy conversion technology. Telecom frequencies went from kilo Hz to Tera Herz (or much higher with optic fiber tech). Electricity transportation is kept on 50Hz or 60Hz during a century. We are still burning fuel mainly for our needs  (except for the very dangerous fission industry that is destroying the planet) and we distribute the burned fuel energy inefficiently via 50/60Hz networks.

The social sciences should explain the lack of funding for new technologies that actually solve our problems. Who controls our money and science funding anyway? The "bankers"? And what is their agenda? Get real, hard and soft scientists, and actually do something worthwhile.

2015-10-02
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Thank you for your comment.  A part of my argumnt is that academia ought to give intellectual priority to the tasks  of articulating our global problems, and proposing and critically assessing possible solutions - possible actions, policies, political programmes, ways of living.  Intelligent public education about what our problems are, and what we need to do about them, ought to be the central task of universities.  A more widespread, enlightened awareness of what our problems are and what we need to do about them might then lead to better funding of technological research, the development of the kind of technology we need.

2015-10-03
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?

Hi Koenraad

Interesting comments. But they raise a thorny problem.

You seem to be assuming that the most important problems facing us are ones that science can solve, given enough funding.

A little historical perspective is useful here. In the nineteenth century, it was widely assumed that although the problems facing mankind seemed insoluble, the twentieth century would solve them via major advances in science. But as we know, the twentieth century solved nothing and while there were indeed major scientific advances, some of them magnified the problems rather than solving them. And the present century has seen no change in that regard. We have the marvels of modern medicine but we also have missiles with pinpoint accuracy and nuclear weapons…

Could it be, then, that problems facing mankind go deeper than science? You write for example; “Can we agree on the definition of our most urgent global problems, for instance,  the huge economic unequality between humans, or,  the decline of eco systems and biodiversity?” Let’s suppose that we somehow solved – or at least greatly reduced – the problem of economic inequality, and put a stop to the decline of ecosystems and biodiversity (both laudable goals I agree), would we then see a brave new world of universal peace and happiness? That sounds uncomfortably like the nineteenth century dream all over again.

Perhaps modern humanity has developed a kind of death wish, or at least a deep self-hate that predisposes it to inflicting suffering on itself. Sounds far-fetched? Even a glance at the history of the twentieth century makes one wonder, don’t you think? And perhaps the only thing preventing the present century from starting another world war is the certain knowledge that it would be the last.

In short, it seems possible that the fundamental problems of the modern world may lie in the depths of the modern human psyche, far out of the reach of science. If so, they are problems more relevant to the humanities than to the sciences. Or they would be if, alas! so much of what goes on in the humanities today (e.g. in philosophy, literature ) were not of such a trivial nature…

André Malraux (a 20th-century French writer) once said that there is little point in going to the moon if it is just to commit suicide. That more or less sums up my point.

DA


2015-10-05
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Reply to Derek Allan
We are, above all, the species that can learn.  It is vital that our insitutions of learning are devoted to helping us learn what we most need to learn.  But they are not.  From the past we have inherited this idea that, first we need to acquire knowledge and technological know-how, and then apply it to help solve social problems.  This is profoundly irrational,  If the task is, ultimately, to help promote human welfare, then the problems we need to solve are, fundamentally, problems of living, problems of action in the real world.  Rationality requires that academia gives intellectual priority to articulating problems of living, and proposing and critically assessing possible solutions - possible actions, policies, political programmes, ways of living. Solving problems of knowledge would be important, but secondary.  What humanity fundamentally needs to learn is: what our problems are, and what we need to do about them.  Academia as at present constituted is not devoted to the task of public education that is required.  Instead, as a result of being devoted to the pursuit of knowledge, we have all the benefits that that has brought us, plus all the bad consequences, made possible by scientific kknowledge and technological know-how: population growth, the lethal character of modern war, destruction of natural habitats and extinction of species, pollution of earth, sea and air, and above all the impending disasters of climate change.  The key factor in these global problems is the strcutural irrationality of our institutions of learning - our failure to give intellectual priority to learning how to resolve conflicts and problems of living in increasingly cooperatively rational ways.

2015-10-05
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Nicholas, I have not read your entire book. But, based on the abstract, I agree that technological "know-how" needs direction from some kind of non-technological "know-what" and "know-why" that help decide which machines to build and why we should build them. It is true, though, that most of the complex problems of our modern world will be solved by building some sort of machine or systems of machines. But these constructed solutions will be effective only to the extent that they are informed about what a good world would be and why we should believe that being or existence itself is such that it is, or could be, good. 
Philosophy still ought to be about what it has always been about -- being, knowledge and goodness -- the 3 separate but unified "branches" of philosophy, -- ontology, epistemology and ethics. Modern philosophy, beginning with Descartes, marks the turn toward epistemology, and its analysis of concepts, as the primary or the sole subject that philosophy ought to be about. I agree with you that this is source of the lack of interest contemporary philosophy seems to have in making the world a better place. 

Dogmatism, to Kant, was rationalistic metaphysics, in which philosophy slumbered. It was Hume's empiricism that awakened him and the Enlightenment was the result. The idea that the reason and science-based technology could solve all of humanity's problems became the mainstream belief of European culture, generally. The uncritical acceptance of reason and science as the sole sources of our potential salvation is the naivete of the modern and post-modern eras we coincide with. 

So, for me, the awakening needed will be to return to ontology and ethics as equally fundamental, with epistemology, to what philosophy ought to be about. But if that is conducted using only "rational" analysis, we will only head back to the dogmatic slumbers of Kant's day. We should let the sleeping dogmas lie....  Instead, our awakened philosophical inquiries must be empirical and naturalistic.

Thanks for a compelling question!

DCD 

2015-10-05
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Kia ora Nicholas
First world issue.

There is plenty of this work going on in the Indigenous World - but the Euro-centric academia will not recognise it as serious academic work. 

2015-10-06
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?

Hi Nicholas

In general I agree with you, but I suppose, if I may be forgiven a cliché, that the devil is in the detail.

You say: “If the task is, ultimately, to help promote human welfare, then the problems we need to solve are, fundamentally, problems of living, problems of action in the real world.

It would be hard to dissent from the proposition that the task of philosophy – indeed of all education – should be to promote human welfare and address “problems of living, problems of action in the real world.”  But what does that really mean?  For example, as is doubtless obvious from my various posts, I am no fan of modern “analytic” philosophy, but I imagine that those who defend this school of thought might claim that, at least in some ultimate way, they are concerned with “problems of living, problems of action in the real world.” They might simply argue that they are tackling these problems in a basic, analytical way (examining confusions of language etc). And I doubt if they would have problems with your emphasis on rationality since most “analytics” seem deeply wedded to idea that if only human beings would act “rationally”, all would be well.

I say all this through gritted teeth because I have very little time for modern analytic philosophy, but I guess you see my point?  How exactly would you re-orient philosophy? What would you delete and what add? Do you think both schools – analytic and continental – need reforming?  And so on.

I guess I’m just trying to get a clearer idea of what you have in mind. Though I imagine you might find it difficult to give a brief answer to that.

DA


2015-10-06
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Reply to Derek Allan
The proper task of philosophy, in my view, is to keep alive awareness of our most urgent, fundamental problems and, if possible, improve our attempted solutions.  Above all, philosophy ought to promote sustained imaginative and critical discussion of our most fundamental problems of all:-

How can our human world, and the world of sentient life more generally, imbued with the experiential, consciousness, free will, meaning and value, exist and best flourish embedded as it is in the physical universe?


See my (2013) What philosophy ought to be. In: Tandy, C, (ed.) Death And Anti-Death, Volume 11: Ten Years After Donald Davidson (1917-2003). (pp. 125-162). Ria University Press: Palo Alto, California, available online at http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/view/people/ANMAX22.date.html .

The remark of mine you quote referred, however, to academic inquiry as a whole, not specifically to philosophy.  I am arguing against the kind of inquiry we have inherited from the past which seeks, first, to acquire knowledge and then, secondarily, to apply it to help solve social problems.  Social science, subservient to this idea, puts all the emphasis on acquiring knoweldge of social phenomena.  The upshot of my "from knowledge to wisdom" argument is that priority ought to be given, within social inquiry and the humanities, to articulating, and improving the articulation of, problems of living, and proposing and critically assessing possible solutions - possible actions, policies, political programmes, social arrangements, ways of living, to be assessed from the standpoing of their capacity, if enacted, to help us realize what is of value in life.  A basic task of univerisites ought to be intelligent public education - education about what our problems are, and what we ought to do about them.  In my "From Knowledge to Wisdom" (1984; 2007), I looked specifically at economics, and found the discipline has been pursued as a science, as one devoted to acquiring knowledge, not, as it ought to have been pursued, as helping us to develop good economic policies designed to solve economic problems - develop economies that create wealth sustainably and distribute it justly.

A lamentable failure of academic philosophy is to entirely overlook the fact that academia is dominated by a profoundly irrational and damaging philosophy of inquiry.  Academic philosophers do not even ask the question: What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?


2015-10-06
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Reply to Daniel Davis
Thank you for your comment.  In my book "From Knowledge to Wisdom", first published long ago in 1984 (2nd ed. 2007), I argue that what we are suffering from is a damagingly irrational philosophy of inquiry that dominates academia, and which, these days, I call "knowledge-inquiry".  This holds that first, we need to acquire knowledge; then, secondarily, we can apply it to help solve social problems.  I argue that this is profoundly and damagingly irrational in a wholesale, structural way.  Put these intellectual defects right, develop a more rational kind of inquiry, and a new kind of inquiry emerges which I call "wisdom-inquiry".  We suffer from irrationality masquarading as rationality.  What we need is more rationality, the authentic article, not less.

For a summary of the argument, see my (2007) From Knowledge to Wisdom: The Need for an Academic Revolution. London Review of Education , 5 (2) 97 - 115, available online at http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/view/people/ANMAX22.date.html , or indeed here, at PhilPapers.

2015-10-06
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Reply to Daniel Davis
Thank you for your comment.  In my book "From Knowledge to Wisdom", first published long ago in 1984 (2nd ed. 2007), I argue that what we are suffering from is a damagingly irrational philosophy of inquiry that dominates academia, and which, these days, I call "knowledge-inquiry".  This holds that first, we need to acquire knowledge; then, secondarily, we can apply it to help solve social problems.  I argue that this is profoundly and damagingly irrational in a wholesale, structural way.  Put these intellectual defects right, develop a more rational kind of inquiry, and a new kind of inquiry emerges which I call "wisdom-inquiry".  We suffer from irrationality masquarading as rationality.  What we need is more rationality, the authentic article, not less.

For a summary of the argument, see my (2007) From Knowledge to Wisdom: The Need for an Academic Revolution. London Review of Education , 5 (2) 97 - 115, available online at http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/view/people/ANMAX22.date.html , or indeed here, at PhilPapers.

2015-10-06
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?

Hi Nicholas

I imagine one objection that might be raised to your position is that it runs the risk of politicizing the pursuit of knowledge - or, at least, of doing so more than is the case already. How would you respond to that?

DA


2015-10-06
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Reply to Derek Allan
Wisdom-inquiry is political, moral, religeous, but also rational - indeed more rational than what we have at present.  Value and political assumptions are built into academic inquiry as it is at present constituted, but in an implicit, denied way - built into academia in choices and priorities of research, and how research is made available to people.  Wisdom-inquiry is more rational in two ways.  First, these implicit assumptions are made explicit, and thus are made available to criticism and improvement.  But, far more fundamentally, wisdom-inquiry is more rational than what we have at present because it would implement aim-oriented rationality - a generalization of aim-oriented empiricism - which provides us with a metamethodology for improving problematic aims as we proceed.  Value and political assumptions of wisdom-inquiry are open to sustained imaginative and critical improvement.  All in all, a great enhancement of rigour over what we have at present.  (See my papers on PhilPapers - indeed "What Kind of Inquiry Can Best Help Us Create a Good World?".

Is the academic community listening?  No!!!!!!!!!

2015-10-06
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Nicholas,
I'd rather have a conversation with you than simply be referred to your book. What is rationality to you? Why do we think that reasoning brings us any closer to the truth than anything else? What good are your pronouncements about it if you cannot speak in an empirical way about how rationality happens to appear in nature? Empirical inquiries into the nature of things seem to me to be more basic than non-empirical rationality. Is your wisdom-inquiry based on facts or a priori judgement?

I would appreciate your direct replies.

To any "monitors", I have a PhD in Philosophy, years of teaching experience and have posted many times in PhilPapers in the past.

Thanks, DCD    


2015-10-07
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?

Hi Nicholas

Thanks for your reply.

You mention two aspects of wisdom-enquiry: (1) implicit assumptions are made explicit, and thus are made available to criticism and improvement. And (2) aim-oriented rationality - a generalization of aim-oriented empiricism - which provides us with a metamethodology for improving problematic aims as we proceed...

In my experience, few, if any, university researchers would deny the importance of these goals.  To do so, surely, would be tantamount to embracing dogmatism.

The problem, it seems to me, is less one of goals than performance: it’s one thing to subscribe to sound objectives and good methodology but quite another to genuinely pursue them.

In other words, the issue in the end boils down to the quality of university study, don’t you think? Which in turn involves the whole education system. Very tricky issues…

DA



2015-10-09
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Reply to Derek Allan
The sad truth is that few have even heard of aim-oriented empiricism, even though it was first expounded over 40 years ago in the leading journal in the subject, Philosophy of Science: see my The Rationality of Scientific Discovery, Phil. Sci., 1974.  Aim-oriented empiricism is most certainly NOT put explicitly into practice in science.  Before this could be done, a revolution would be needed in our understanding of science, and the way science is done.

And the same applies to aim-oriented rationality, its generalization.  No field of social science or humanities takes it as its basic task to help institutions to put aim-oriented rationality into practice.  These disciplines do not themselves put aim-oriented rationality into practice, and practitioners, again, have not heard of aim-oriented rationality.  The very idea is not known about.

If academics took seriously the task of exploring and critically assessing problematic aims, it would have been generally realized, long ago, that academia is profoundly and damagingly irrational in a wholesale, structural way, long, long ago.  No such awareness exists within academia - or if it does, then it is even more scandalous that hardly anything is being done about the situation.

2015-10-10
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?

Hi NIcholas

Thanks for your reply.

I must have misunderstood your position. 

Can you provide a succinct description (here on this thread) of what you understand by the two ideas in question (“aim-oriented empiricism” and “aim-oriented rationality”)?

I've read one of your articles and am still at a loss, so I’d much prefer a clear statement here than being referred to another article.

The two problems I see, as I have indicated, are: (1) your position seems very close to what universities profess to do anyway (emphasis on “profess”); and (2) in some respects, you seem to run the risk of politicizing university study - which in some cases suffers enough from this already.

You tell me I’m wrong on both counts, which I am quite happy to accept, but I need to see why this is the case.

DA


2015-10-10
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Reply to Derek Allan
Aim-Oriented Empiricism (AOE) stems from the observation that theoretical physics persistently accepts unified theories, even though endlessly many empirically more successful, but seriously disunified, ad hoc rivals can always be concocted.  This persistent preference for and acceptance of unified theories, even against empirical considerations, means that physics makes a persistent untestable (metaphysical) assumption about the universe: the universe is such that no seriously disunified, ad hoc theory is true.  Intellectual rigour demands that this substantial, influential, highly problematic and implicit assumption be made explicit, as a part of theoretical scientific knowledge, so that it can be critically assessed, so that alternative versions can be considered, in the hope that this will lead to an improved version of the assumption being developed and accepted.

AOE provides physics with a meta-methodology for the improvement of its (at present only implicit) metaphysical assumptions concerning the knowability and comprehensibility of the universe.  AOE specifies a hierarchy of such assumptions, and associated methods, assumptions becoming less and less substantial as one goes up the hierarchy, and so more and more likely to be true, and more nearly such that their truth is required for science, or the pursuit of knowledge, to be possible at all.  There are 7 levels to consider.

At the top, level 7, there is the relatively insubstantial assumption that the universe is such that we can acquire some knowledge of our local circumstances. At level 6 there is the assumption that the universe is such that we can improve our methods as we proceed.  At level 5: the universe is comprehensible in some way or other (there exists something that exists everywhere in terms of which everything can in principle be explained).  At level 4: the universe is physically comprehensible.  At level 3: the most empirically progressive specficic version of the level 4 thesis available.  At level 2: our accepted fundamental physical theories, at present general relativity and the standard model.  At level 1: accepted empirical phenomena.

Criticisms, attempts at improvement, are kept as low down in the hierarchy as possible.

Aim-oriented rationality generalizes all this to any aim-pursuing endeavour with problematic aims.


2015-10-10
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Hi Nicholas

A number of queries but one quick one now:

You write: "Criticisms, attempts at improvement, are kept as low down in the hierarchy as possible".

Wouldn't you say this is the case now? Science is not my field (I am surprised your comments only mention science) but, surely, good scientific method involves constant monitoring of one's methodology and attempts to improve it if necessary? What would the alternative be? A kind of one-off hit or miss approach? Does any scientific field operate like that?

So again, I have genuine difficulty distinguishing your "Aim-Oriented Empiricism" from what happens already.  Where is the key difference do you think?

DA


2015-10-13
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Hi Nicholas, hi Derik, all,

About the death wish of mankind, do we really have the wish to end homo sapiens? That would be unnatural for any biological species, but I do understand that this feeling of personal quilt (for the destruction our planet earth) is also a great sign of consciousnes and of taking great responsibility. However, this death wish is a form of mind control: the overwhelming majority of people is innocent (and naive), since a rather small group of people is steering mankind into the abyss on purpose. This group is the global financial and political elite, a small circle of families, sharing the same religious faith that is based on lies. This group does not have a very deep level of understanding about their actions and policies.  Global control over money means control over everything else that matters to humans, including control over scientific theories, indeed. This is the 'soft scientific' definition of humanity's biggest trouble, if you ask me. I don't want to beat around the bush.

About aim-oriented empiricism, applied rational thinking, and knowledge versus wisdom. Maybe there is a way to avoid the politization of science, and yet pursue new knowledge that can be applied wisely and for the good of humanity, beyond the numerous new and useless facts that are "nice to know" only, such as the outrageously expensive Higgs particle.

Each scientific discipline has its roots, its foundation, and if you want to open up a new door with the widest view, question the scientific foundation of your discipline first. The questions should be examples of rationality. A thorough rational review of a scientific discipline does not require financial budget, however, if such a review leads to a new hypothesis it does. Then it is time to sell the hypothesis to a range of possible financers. Don't expect much from those financers closely tied to the hierarchy of the global finance elite; the better your research proposal, the smaller your changes there. The dilema is to communicate a good and rational new hypothesis to a wide audience of 'independent' potential financers with small budgets. I don't have a good answer to this problem.

Only to show (not for self promoting purposes I can assure) that I practise this philosophy:  my discipline is electrical engineering, and I questioned the foundation of classical electrodynamics, encouraged by Tesla's mysterious references to "longitudinal electric waves in the natural media", which seemed quite useful, to me years ago. After a long study I came to the shocking conclusion that classical electrodynamics is at odds with classical mechanics: the Lorentz force violates Newton's third principle of motion, so either the conservation of momentum is false (not proven), or the Lorentz force law is incorrect (proven many times).  Much of this was already known by a select company of scientists, however, this inconsistency has been obscured by an irrational definition of 'stationary electric currents' aka Magnetostatics. Expressed widely in standard literature, it is assumed that  div J =0  (stationary currents do not diverge/converge), which is a false statement.  So I have to redefine 'magnetostatics' in order to open up this new window with very wide view:  2/3 of all electrical engineering is unexplored territory. To practise the art of formulating better definitions, as simple and rational as possible, that is my job, in order to redefine clasical electrodynamics in full agreement with classical mechanics. In the near future it will be crucial to get financial support for experimental research.

All of this is heartfelt and in full support of Nicholas' views and intuitions. Ask yourself very fundamental questions: how good is the foundation of your scientific discipline? I think that is the way out.

2015-10-13
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Nicholas, I'll follow you now on Research Gate. I'm starting to read your Einstein article and may have some specific comments about that too. I, too, think scientific methodology is flawed, leaving physics blind to basic aspects of what exists. But I believe I differ with you about science needing to undergo a rational-oriented inquiry to make up for its deficiencies. 
Rather, empirical methodology is a broader application of using the world to determine our beliefs about it as much as possible. Common sense is just the application of empirical method to the everyday challenges and problems of life. Science is a specific application of that same method in that it uses precise measurements and theories expressed in mathematical equations, to predict experimental outcomes that also require precise observations. What science confirms by its experiments are the laws of nature that enable the prediction of repeatable outcomes, sufficient to create industrial machines and technology.

Science is a kind of legalism in that the most basic thing it discovers about the world are laws of nature. Einstein's theories of relativity are based on principles like the light postulate or the equivalence between inertial and gravitational free fall. They were all contrived to find ways to adjust the reference frames of our observations about observations on other inertial and absolute reference frames, so the Newton's laws hold the same way in every reference frame or "worldline". 

He was not happy with quantum mechanics or Minkowski's geometrical interpretation of special relativity. He came to appreciate it later and built it in to the general theory. He wanted to eliminate what he called "absolute objects" from physics, principally the notion of absolute space. These were "objects" that were acted on by material objects but did not affect matter in any measurable way. Unfortunately the mathematical disparity between the inertial reference frames of the STR and the absolute reference frames of the GTR is the  problem that physics cannot solve. 

I still would appreciate some direct reply.

Thanks, 
DCD

2015-10-14
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Reply to Daniel Davis
Thank you for your comment.  You do not, however, say what is wrong with my argument that physics only ever accepts unified theories, even though endlessly many empirically more successful disunified rivals are always available, this having the implication that physics implicitly accepts a substantial, problematic assumption about the universe: it is such that all (precise) disunified theories are false.  It is that argument that lies behind my advocacy of aim-oriented empiricism.  In connection with Einstein, his doscovery of special and general relativity put something close to aim-oriented empiricism into scientific practice, and he came close to advocating the view: see Nicholas Maxwell (1993). Induction and Scientific Realism: Einstein Versus Van Fraassen Part Three: Einstein, Aim-Oriented Empiricism and the Discovery of Special and General Relativity. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 44 (2):275-305.

2015-10-20
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
What is a better world? The world where all the people are free of oppression, can pursue their rational goals without coercion and can voluntary cooperate while doing so. The philosophical enquiry which could lead to such a world should be able to affirm that man is an autonomous rational being who lives in the knowable objective universe, his senses and his mind are valid tools of knowledge and his survival and his ultimate standard of value is his own life. 

2015-10-20
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?

If “his ultimate standard of value is his own life” I imagine he would only “voluntarily cooperate” when it suited him? What if it didn't when others were relying on him?

DA  


2015-10-21
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
A better world would be one in which there is less unnecessary suffering and death.  A good world would be one in which everyone can realize what is of value in life, in so far as this is possible.  The aim of achieving a "good world" is, of course, profoundly problematic, for all sorts of more or less obvious reasons.  (We have different ideas about what is of value.  What is of value to one person, or group, may well conflict with what is of value to another person or group.  In order to maximize individual liberty we need to restrict it, just one aspect of the inherently paradoxical character of legislation for a good society, or good world.)  It is because this aim is inevitably so profoundly problematic that it is absolutely essential that we put something like aim-oriented rationality into practice in our attempts to make progress towards it, to facilitate improvements in our aims as we act.

2015-10-21
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Reply to Derek Allan
An autonomous independent being primary relies on himself. Voluntary cooperation presupposes free exchange of values for mutual benefit. All other forms of reliance requires coercion, that is -initiation of force. That for sure wouldn't make the world a better place. Besides, a person who relies on others without to give any value in return is a parasite. Genuinely incapacitated people who need help are small minority in any society and can rely on help of family or charity. One doesn't construct an ethical system based on exceptional cases.

2015-10-21
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Value is that what one acts to get and /or keep. Man pursues values in order to sustain and better his life. To do this he needs a freedom of action in social context. The only limitation which could be rationally imposed on him is prevention of freedom's infringement of others. Since such an infringement could be done only by initiation of force,  the use of retaliatory force is justified and by no means paradoxical. Collective is a group of people, it's a conceptual, not metaphysical unit. Collective as such cannot have goals or values, only people could. People of course could voluntary cooperate in order to achieve common goals. Between such a people there is no and cannot be clash of interests. 

2015-10-21
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Hi Nicholas

Please excuse me butting in.

Re: A better world would be one in which there is less unnecessary suffering and death.

As a general principle who could disagree? But things are much more debatable in the real world when it comes to distinguishing suffering and death that is “unnecessary” from suffering and death that is not.

Did the A bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki cause “unnecessary” suffering and death? Should attempts to stamp out “Islamic State” be condemned as causing “unnecessary” suffering and death? There are endless examples, large and small.

DA

2015-10-22
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?

Re: “An autonomous independent being primary relies on himself. Voluntary cooperation presupposes free exchange of values for mutual benefit.”

Is cooperation an “exchange of values” or working towards a shared value?  The individual necessarily gives up a degree of his autonomy in such cases, doesn’t he?

DA


2015-10-22
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Reply to Derek Allan
I am inclined to think that there is an awful lot of suffering and death in the world which could be prevented by a more equable distribution of wealth and ressources.  Some violence and war, causing suffering and death, may be justifiable, but problems associated with that suffering and death should not obscure the existence of a vast amount of unnecessary suffering and death caused, primarily, by poverty.  In the long term, of course, war is a manifestation of political failure - the failure of humanity to resolve conflicts without resorting to war.  It could be a priority of the democratic countries of the world to work peacefully towards establishing a peaceful world. At present it is not.  (Isis is, in part, a product of the Iraq war.)  That people suffer and die as a result of (problematic) justified action - such as self-defence - does not, as far as I can see, pose a problem for the general idea that a better world would be one in which there is less unnecessary suffering and death.

The aim of creating an ideally good world seems to me to be deeply problematic.  The aim of making progress towars a better world seems to me to be rather less problematic, because there is so much that we could do that would be rather obviously beneficial that we are not doing. 

    

2015-10-23
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?

Hi Nicholas

You write” “there is so much that we could do that would be rather obviously beneficial that we are not doing.”

Who is the “we” here? You? Me? The "system"? The US (it's often singled out as the culprit)? Evil capitalists worldwide? Religions? Philosophers?  Do we need another revolution maybe? (though the results of previous ones have not always been promising...)

If "we" are letting all this unnecessary suffering happen, a first step would seem to be to identify who "we" are.

DA


2015-10-23
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Reply to Derek Allan
"We" includes all those on the planet with the opportunity, the power, to do a bit more that is beneficial.  To oneself.  To those one loves, family, dependents, neighours, even strangers.  And even of benefit, a tiny bit perhaps, to humanity, to life on earth.  In one of my books I suggest we might perhaps devote 5% of our resources to contributing to the welfare of humanity.

A basic idea behind wisdom-inquiry is that a fundamental aim of our institutions of learning ought to be to engage in intelligent, interactive public education about what our problems are, and what we ought to do about them.  A better educated humanity about what our problems are, and what we ought to do about them would be no miracle cure for all our ills, but it would help.  The scandal is that universities, in implementing knowledge-inquiry - or knowledge-inquiry debased by the drive for money - betrays humanity in not implementing wisdom-inquiry, and thus not giving priority to the task of public learning about what our problems are, and what we need to do about them.  It is that scandal - a scandal of philosophy, in that it involves the unthinking instutionalization of a bad philosophy of inquiry - that all philosophers ought to shouting out about from the rooftops.  That is where are energies ought to be concentrated.

Incidentally, for a list of 23 structural changes that need to be made to universities to transform knowledge-inquiry into wisdom-inquiry, see
http://www.ucl.ac.uk/from-knowledge-to-wisdom/whatneedstochange .

2015-10-24
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?

 Hi Nicholas

The problem I see in a lot of what you say is that although you are ostensibly targeting a “bad philosophy of inquiry” in a quite neutral way, in fact, when it boils down, your agenda is inescapably political. That’s fine of course. We’re all entitled to our political views and we’re all entitled to take action to prosecute them if we so desire, but we're talking here about the nature and content of university study and I really think you need to call a spade a spade and recognise that there is a strong political flavour to what you are recommending.

Which is not, of course, to deny that some university courses are politically tinged already. And there is one fashionable doctrine that says that “all knowledge is political anyway” and that one is therefore entitled to be as political about it as one likes. I don’t accept that. The ideal of objective truth is doubtless unattainable but that doesn’t give us licence to abandon it and give up pursuing it as best as we humanly can. This applies to all education at all levels but especially to universities.

Perhaps I am still misinterpreting you…?

DA


2015-10-24
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Reply to Derek Allan
 I thought I had already answered that objection.  My argument is that wisdom-inquiry is more rigorous and objective than knowledge-inquiry for a number of reasons.  Aim-oriented empiricism, central to wisdom-inquiry, does far better justice to the pursuit of factual truth in science than does standard empiricism (a basic component of knowledge-inquiry).  Wisdom-inquiry is more objective than knowledge-inquiry when it comes to values and politics because:-

1. Knowledge-inquiry has values and politics built into it, as a result of the priorities of reseach, and to whom, and by what means, the results of research are made available to those outside academia, but value and political commitments are officially denied, and so not scrutinized - and there is no adequate methodology for such scrutiny.  Wisdom-inquiry, by contrast, is absolutely explicit about value and political assumptions.

2.  Wisdom-inquiry puts aim-oriented rationality into practice - a generalization of aim-oriented empiricism - a methodology designed to facilitate improvement of problematic aims, and problematic value and political assumptions inherent in such aims, by representing them in the form of a hierarchy.  Knowledge-inquiry has nothing like this at all.  It is the implementation of aim-oriented rationality which utterly transforms the situation, and renders value and political assumptions rational and objective.

Wisdom-inquiry is needed in order to transform present implicit, irrational, unacknowledged value and political commitments of academia into explicit, acknowledged, rational, objective ones. 

2015-10-24
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?

Hi Nicholas

RE: Wisdom-inquiry, by contrast, is absolutely explicit about value and political assumptions.

But how does this overcome the problem? If I say, explicitly, that I am researching climate change (for example) from the point of view of someone who is a long-standing member of the green movement, totally convinced that present govt policies around the world will result in global climate catastrophe within (say) 10 years, how does this make my research “wiser”, or reassure my readers that they are getting something that represents an attempt to assess all the evidence as impartially as possible?

Merely providing an explicit statement of one’s values and political assumptions does not neutralise their effect on research (or teaching). Indeed, it may conceivably aggravate the problem by encouraging the researcher/teacher to believe that doing so gives him/her carte blanche to be as partisan as he/she likes.

DA


2015-10-25
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Reply to Derek Allan
I understood you were raising an objection to academic inquiry having value and political assumptions inherent in its aims - inherent in what is done, not merely what is said.

A fundamental commitment of academia would be to help the world learn how to put aim-oriented rationality (AOE) into practice in life in the interests of realizing what is of value in life.  Academia could not do that without itself implementing AOE in practice.  Basic value and political commitments, high up in the hierarchy of aims (or assumptions) of AOE, are unspecific, unproblematic and uncontroversial.  More specific, problematic and controversial aims (or assumptions), low down in the hierarchy of aims of AOE, are conjectural and open to improvement.

In chapter five of my "From Knowledge to Wisdom" (1984; 2007), I put the matter like this:-

"Among other advantages, aim-oriented rationality is more helpful than 'problem-solving' rationality when it comes to resolving conflicts between people. The way we formulate our problem depends on what we take our aim to be. Thus two people, caught up in some common enterprise, but with conflicting aims, will formulate their common problems in different ways. As a result, each may regard the other as illogical, merely self-interested, engaging in trickery, bluff, propaganda. This does not help cooperative rationality to develop. By contrast, putting aim-oriented rationality into practice enables us to avoid such unnecessary, destructive misunderstandings, and helps us – if we so wish – to develop gradually more cooperative ways of resolving our conflicts. In roughly increasing levels of desirability, conflicts between people are settled by: force, threat, manipulation, some more or less arbitrary procedure (such as tossing a coin or voting), bargaining, the cooperative discovery of the most desirable, just resolution. The general adoption of the aim-oriented conception of reason is in all our long-term interests in that it offers us the best hope of increasing our capacity to resolve our conflicts in rather more desirable ways – even though, of course, it provides no magic procedure for resolving conflicts.

"Aim-oriented rationality can be regarded as a kind of empiri­cism, in that it specifies a general methodology for 'learning from experience'. However 'experience' must be understood here in commonsense terms as that which is acquired through action, doing things, living, actively engaging in some enterprise. And what is learnt is how to do things, how to live, how to achieve that which is desirable and of value, varieties of wisdom."

 

2015-10-25
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Reply to Derek Allan

In addition to my response below, the passage here, taken from my paper "We Need an Academic Revolution", Oxford Magazine, No. 309, 2011, pp. 15-18, (http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1750905) is perhaps relevant.

     "One outcome of getting into social and institutional life the kind of aim-evolving, hierarchical methodology indicated above, generalized from science, is that it becomes possible for us to develop and assess rival philosophies of life as a part of social life, somewhat as theories are developed and assessed within science.  Such a hierarchical methodology provides a framework within which competing views about what our aims and methods in life should be – competing religious, political and moral views – may be cooperatively assessed and tested against broadly agreed, unspecific aims (high up in the hierarchy of aims) and the experience of personal and social life. There is the possibility of cooperatively and progressively improving such philosophies of life (views about what is of value in life and how it is to be achieved) much as theories are cooperatively and progressively improved in science. In science, ideally, theories are critically assessed with respect to each other, with respect to metaphysical ideas concerning the comprehensibility of the universe, and with respect to experience (observational and experimental results). In a somewhat analogous way, diverse philosophies of life may be critically assessed with respect to each other, with respect to relatively uncontroversial, agreed ideas about aims and what is of value, and with respect to experience – what we do, achieve, fail to achieve, enjoy and suffer – the aim being to improve philosophies of life (and more specific philosophies of more specific enterprises within life such as government, education or art) so that they offer greater help with the realization of what is of value in life.  This hierarchical methodology is especially relevant to the task of resolving conflicts about aims and ideals, as it helps disentangle agreement (high up in the hierarchy) and disagreement (more likely to be low down in the hierarchy)."


2015-10-25
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?

Hi Nicholas

Yes, I am talking about academic inquiry primarily. Essentially my concerns about your proposed approach are twofold:

  1.  I wonder if your “aim-oriented rationality” will be any more effective in removing value and political assumptions than present practices are.
  2. I have the uncomfortable feeling that you yourself have certain value and political positions that you would like to import into academic inquiry (more so than they are already). Your opening statement on the thread, and especially your list of “current global problems”, seems to suggest this.

DA


2015-10-26
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Reply to Derek Allan
Not really. In order to achieve the common goal each and every member of a collective should use the best of his ability and independent judgment. Think about soccer team. The group has a common goal -to win the game. Each player cooperates with others but doesn't forfeit his autonomy or part of it. It is "I" in the team-.all of them. Even if a player follows coach's instructions, he doesn't do it mindlessly . Achieving of common goal pressuposses an exchange of values for mutual benefit. If our common goal is prosperity, health, elimination of suffering and unnecessary death there is no other way to do that. That what mutual benefit means. 

2015-10-26
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Reply to Derek Allan
All violent deaths are unnecessary and preventable. People should learn that their basic tool of survival is mind, not force, their ultimate value is their own lives and they should not sacrifice them to imaginary or real Idols. 

2015-10-26
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
The solution of poverty is production, not distribution. As a matter of fact with increasing production world poverty is steadily decreasing. But production requires political and economical freedom. The lack of freedom is a main cause of poverty. By what means you suggest to ensure more equal distribution? If you want to use coercion then you would negate the principle of freedom and eventually contribute to the poverty. Coercion which became a leading political principle is a source of all wars.Besides pouring money to the poor doesn't make them richer, it makes them dependent. Pouring money to the corrupt 3rd world countries simply enrich fat cats in charge. If one genuinely wants to eliminate the world poverty and wars one should teach a rational philosophy which negates initiation of force by all and first of all by the state. It should demonstrate that the only source of wealth and prosperity is an independent human mind and man's life, his happiness is an ultimate value. 

2015-10-26
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Reply to Derek Allan
The main culprit is of course philosophers. Their ideas create a dominant philosophy of the society, translated into mass media and mass culture. Since Kant the main course of philosophy was and is an attack on human mind. The results are all around to see. 

2015-10-26
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Hello. I'm new here, retired from a research career in physiology and with a deep interest in what would guide us to a better world. Thank-you for discussing it. It is clear I need to do some reading but will jump in anyway.
The first thought from me is that what seem to be fundamental assumptions in the discussion may be flawed. It seems to me that the ultimate wisdom of relevance to this topic is Natural Selection. Do we really think that what we consider to be wisdom is up to the task of bettering Natural Selection? And do we believe that we can come up with a process that can do better than the evolutionary process that brought us into existence?
I'm also not sure what a 'good' world could be like. Putting 'good' and 'world' together gathers in a whole 'world' of worthy 'others' which far outnumber humankind and may not be best served by the same 'good'. Even parts of human history may not have been well served by a single 'good' We exist because of mass extinctions. Some probably caused by climate change.Wars have changed civilization, often for the better, although they may have become ineffective a  century and more ago.
Why pick on scientists as the scapegoats for the criticism in this thread? Surely they aren't the only ones responsible for the pursuit of knowledge. The real problem to me is synthesizing all of this knowledge into a universal model. It isn't just scientists who debate what is good for us. Politicians do it, economists do it, industrialists do it. Everyone seems to do it to some degree and there seems to be very little agreement on what a 'good' world will be. Perhaps that is why many worthy people avoid the issue. Ultimately, our creator will decide. The processes of evolution haven't stopped because homo sapiens arrived on the scene. The image of our creator rendered in humankind was perhaps not a hominid, but a creator.. Our purpose is to create and offer our creations to the wisdom of Natural Selection. To be 'good' in a creative way. How do we best create? By cooperating - and by competing. By providing humanity with the best means of creating. By growing and distributing knowledge as a foundation for creation.
Evolution has been one constant in our journey to now and science has helped us to understand its accomplishments from the Big Bang to stars, life and humankind.  We have found plenty of signposts to guide us but, in my opinion, haven't made much use of them.
Cooperation isn't just a nice idea, it has been a fundamental mechanism for growth since the first fundamental particles came together to form subatomic particles.  Our own bodies demonstrate the remarkable potential of billions of cooperating individuals to accomplish things inconceivable for any one of those individuals. Then see humankind as a single 'organ' Reliant on the solar 'organ' for energy to sustain it, and reliant on the photosynthesizing 'organ' to transfer the energy from sun to humankind. We are a part of something bigger than ourselves. Cooperation in the sense I present here isn't a conscious choice, it is the natural selection (at many levels of existence) of a coexistence in which similar or dissimilar individuals operate together to accomplish novel stable conditions that benefit the survival of participating individuals.
In all of this, I see a foundation for a logical morality based upon the inevitable process of evolution.. We must cooperate - and assimilate differences rather than discriminate. We must provide opportunities for creation in as large a population as possible - lift individuals from poverty and educate them - provide a productive emotional environment in which individuals can focus on creativity, not self - preservation. Realign economics to optimize creativity rather than monetary returns. Industry should follow economics. Recognize that our existence is dependent upon the existence of non-human, non-sentient and even non-biological objects/phenomena that we can impact in positive and negative ways - and not necessarily along the lines that we would intuit.  Much of current morality seems to readily arise from such considerations and the role of pursuing knowledge simply for the sake of knowing more seems to take a decisive role in providing the raw materials for greater creativity. Science - and other knowledge/understanding seeking endeavors need to keep on doing what they are doing but there is also a pressing need for a multi-disciplinary synthesis to explore the relationships, applications and impacts of new knowledge.


2015-10-26
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Rationality means non-contradictory identification of objective reality by creating hierarchical concepts and principles. Thus there is not and cannot be clash of interests between rational people. It only could be a misunderstanding based on honest mistakes which could be corrected by using mind, not force. Teaching rational philosophy which pertains to reality will prevent conflicts. 

2015-10-26
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Reply to Derek Allan
To take your two points in reverse order:-
2. I am always very open about what I think the value commitments and conjectures of academic inquiry ought to be: see my From Knowledge to Wisdom.

1. Removing value and political assumptions from academic inquiry is neither possible nor desirable.  If academia has the aim of promoting human welfare, then of course values and politics cannot be eliminated.  (Not politics as the manipulative use of power, but politics as the activity of making choices about policy: rational politics.)  But even the purest pursuit of knowledge must make value assumptions in deciding to try to develop knowledge about such and such, rather than endlessly many other possibilities.

It is not desirable to remove values from academia, because, again, even the purest pursuit of knowledge seeks to develop knowledge that is, in some way or other, of value: significant, interesting, or useful.  A science that acquired a mass of knowledge of irredeemable triviality would not be judged to be making progress.

What matters is that academia goes about helping humanity learn what is of value, and how it is to be realized, in the best possible way- that is, rationally.  I have already tried to indicate how AOE could achieve this.  If you want to know more, I suggest you read my "From Knowledge to Wisdom", or my more recent, much shorter "How Universities Can Help Create a Wiser World".

2015-10-26
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?

Hi NIcholas

RE: It is not desirable to remove values from academia, because, again, even the purest pursuit of knowledge seeks to develop knowledge that is, in some way or other, of value: significant, interesting, or useful.

Yes, I thought I had made it clear that I agree with this general point. What bothers me about your approach is that you seem to want to add in political values of a pronounced and specific kind – to over-politicise academic study in other words.

(And you can see by the reactions of Fainbetg and Hodgson – although I don’t agree with them – that such approaches can quickly generate opposition from people with different political views.)

DA


2015-10-26
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Reply to Derek Allan
You are wrong.  I suggest, again, that you have a look at my From Knowledge to Wisdom.  The whole point of aim-oriented rationality is that the basic value commitment is to something almost all sane people can agree to: more specific values, ideals and ams are conjectural, which aim-oriented rationality enables us to improve as we act, as we live.  Once again, you ignore the whole point of aim-oriented rationality and wisdom-inquiry.  Your comments would be more interesting if they exhibited some understanding of what it is I am arguing for.

2015-10-27
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?

Hi Nicholas

Re: Once again, you ignore the whole point of aim-oriented rationality and wisdom-inquiry.  Your comments would be more interesting if they exhibited some understanding of what it is I am arguing for.

I have read a fair slice of what you have written, Nicholas. Some of it, I must say, is not entirely clear. But if you think I haven’t understood you, the best way to fix that is to point out where I am wrong, here on this thread. (In general, I don’t like being sent off to read articles etc; and it rather defeats the purpose of a discussion thread, don’t you think?)

But, as even your opening statement on this thread makes fairly clear, you do seem to have an “agenda”. (You speak of “population growth, destruction of natural habitats and rapid extinction of species, the lethal character of modern war, and above all the threats of climate change.”) Your "basic value commitment", you say, is “something almost all sane people can agree to”; but sanity on issues like this is often in the eye of the beholder. (You can see, even on this thread, that there are doubters.)

Of course, it’s fine to have an agenda; everyone is entitled to their value commitments. But once you propose importing them into academic study as a kind of governing principle, I get uncomfortable. If nothing else, it starts to infringe on the principle of academic freedom – and, God knows, there are enough holes in that particular suit of armour already…

DA

2015-10-27
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?

Hi Leonid

RE: In order to achieve the common goal each and every member of a collective should use the best of his ability and independent judgment. Think about soccer team. The group has a common goal -to win the game. Each player cooperates with others but doesn't forfeit his autonomy or part of it. It is "I" in the team-.all of them. Even if a player follows coach's instructions, he doesn't do it mindlessly.. .

My point was that “The individual necessarily gives up a degree of his autonomy in such cases.” And surely he does. Take your soccer example. It’s quite true that players can’t – or shouldn’t – play “mindlessly”; but equally, each player is obliged to follow the rules. He can’t “autonomously” decide to follow the rules of basketball instead, or no rules at all. Cooperation in a joint enterprise necessarily involves surrender of a degree of one’s autonomy. Of course, one can always quit, but then one is no longer part of the joint enterprise.

DA


2015-10-27
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Reply to Derek Allan
I was puzzled by your statement "I wonder if your “aim-oriented rationality” will be any more effective in removing value and political assumptions than present practices are."  I thought I had made it very clear that aim-oriented rationality does not seek to remove value and political conjectures - let us call them conjectures rather than assumptions - from academia.  It provides a methodolgy which enables us to improve the conjectures we adopt, the aims we pursue.

In my From Knowledge to Wisdom I make it abundantly clear that my basic view is that academia should promote the "agenda" of tackling conflicts and problems of living, towards the cooperative rationality end of the spectrum of ways of deciding issues, and away from the violent end.  That seems to me to be a reasonable agenda for academia to adopt - especially when qualified in the ways I indicate.  (There are limits to the applicability of full cooperative rationality, in all sorts of circumstances.)

Aim-oriented rationality, as I have depicted it, devoted to helping us make progress towards as good a world as possible, has six levels of aims, and associated values and ideals, these becoming increasingly conjectural and revisable as one goes down the hierarchy from the top.  At the lower levels in the hierarchy, there will be alternatives, the respective merits of which are explored and assessed by diverse social, political endeavours.

What exactly in the above do you find objectionable?


2015-10-27
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Reply to Derek Allan
I was puzzled by your statement "I wonder if your “aim-oriented rationality” will be any more effective in removing value and political assumptions than present practices are."  I thought I had made it very clear that aim-oriented rationality does not seek to remove value and political conjectures - let us call them conjectures rather than assumptions - from academia.  It provides a methodolgy which enables us to improve the conjectures we adopt, the aims we pursue.

In my From Knowledge to Wisdom I make it abundantly clear that my basic view is that academia should promote the "agenda" of tackling conflicts and problems of living, towards the cooperative rationality end of the spectrum of ways of deciding issues, and away from the violent end.  That seems to me to be a reasonable agenda for academia to adopt - especially when qualified in the ways I indicate.  (There are limits to the applicability of full cooperative rationality, in all sorts of circumstances.)

Aim-oriented rationality, as I have depicted it, devoted to helping us make progress towards as good a world as possible, has six levels of aims, and associated values and ideals, these becoming increasingly conjectural and revisable as one goes down the hierarchy from the top.  At the lower levels in the hierarchy, there will be alternatives, the respective merits of which are explored and assessed by diverse social, political endeavours.

What exactly in the above do you find objectionable?

2015-10-27
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Reply to Derek Allan
To follow rules doesn't necessarily mean to give up autonomy. We all have limitations and rules imposed by reality. You also can't decide to eat stones and to breath water if you want to live and yet you are an autonomous being with Free Will and independent judgment. As long as you follow rules by your own independent choice you don't give up your autonomy or any part of it. 

2015-10-27
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Reply to Derek Allan
Philosophy is an objective rational comprehensive enquiry of existence, knowldge and human conduct in broad terms . It's not a science. Philosophy wouldn't answer whether or not global warming takes place or how to vote. But by establishing trues about existence and human nature philosophy provides a guidance for practical applications. Such an enquiry cannot be political. If that what you call wisdom then I totally agree. 

2015-10-28
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?

Hi Leonid

RE: “…We all have limitations and rules imposed by reality”… “you are an autonomous being with Free Will and independent judgment….”

 But you seem to be conceding my point. If, as you say, we live under ”rules imposed by reality”, our “autonomy” is necessarily limited isn’t it?

DA


2015-10-28
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?

Hi Nicholas

RE: “I was puzzled by your statement "I wonder if your “aim-oriented rationality” will be any more effective in removing value and political assumptions than present practices are."

Well, you say for instance that you want to turn “present implicit, irrational, unacknowledged value and political commitments of academia into explicit, acknowledged, rational, objective ones.”

My point was that, as a rule, university teachers and researchers already claim that they examine their assumptions or “commitments”. They don’t always do it very well in my experience (though it’s not always as easy as some people assume) but at least that’s the objective. And it’s obviously an objective to be encouraged; indeed I would call it a sine qua non of worthwhile intellectual endeavour.

Now, it does seem to me – and I may be wrong – that despite the rather involved process of “Aim-oriented rationality" you describe, your essential interest is in replacing whatever the present assumptions/commitments may be with other ones – those you exemplify by your list of “current global problems”.

You ask me what exactly I find “objectionable”. If my interpretation is correct, I do find that objectionable. Anything that looks as if it might burden intellectual endeavour with a predetermined mind-set – and, as I say, there’s a lot of that around already – is a worry as far as I’m concerned. 

DA


2015-11-02
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Reply to Derek Allan
Not really. Autonomy doesn't mean omnipotence. It means an ability to perform a self-determined action within limitations imposed by the law of identity and causality. They are natural laws which pertain to objective reality. 

2015-11-02
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?

    Thank-you Derek for including me in the conversation, albeit in an indirect way. I'm not sure which part of my narrative you disagreed with, but the most critical point (as you seem to agree) is that there is room for disagreement. A common reaction to disagreement is to ignore it by selecting one option which is personally more acceptable than others. I seem to be short of the neural circuitry to do this which sometimes adds a great deal of confusion to a settled life, but also offers an opportunity to be more pragmatic in viewing reality. It's not that I necessarily believe Nicholas is wrong. Rather that I see other possibilities and remain suspicious of a relatively widespread attitude that even pervades some areas of social academia. That if it feels good, it must be right. It isn't that Nicholas, or the many who similar views are wrong. It is that they haven't provided persuasive enough arguments to justify their viewpoint. The world is the way it is because people make it that way. And the ones who make it that way are often not coerced into doing it. I've had many discussions with people who are opposed to helping the poor and homeless. They are quite adamant about it, yet when asked about the consequences (do they want these people to die?), the answer is always 'of course not' – but they can't articulate a solution other than stating that the poor are responsible for helping themselves.

    Nicholas must strike a chord if he has made a career out of his beliefs and if he has recently republished a book that he wrote several years ago. His sentiments strike a cord with me and in the spirit of academic progress (and as Nicholas prompted) I hope to offer a different perspective. It is an academic reality that disagreement (when properly treated) is a vital part of a cooperative effort to make real progress. That is my goal here.

    As a scientist, my funding comes from NASA, keen to prevent muscle atrophy in spaceflight and NIH, keen to treat muscular dystrophies and the muscle wasting that is a common consequence of aging. In this I seem to participate in Item (4) of Nicholas' rules of problem solving rationality and am funded by organizations that are looking for ways to improve the human lot, suggesting that there are academic mechanisms along the lines that Nicholas suggests are needed. Every funding proposal I submit to NIH is required to have a section describing the benefits to mankind and every review of a proposal has a section reviewing the potential medical benefits. Again, I offer this as an insight into my point of view.

    Derek illustrates what seems to be the most fundamental of fundamental problems as defined by Nicholas in his “What Philosophy Ought to Be”. It is difficult to prioritize problems when there is no agreement on what the most critical problems are. The most fundamental problem therefore seems to be the lack of motivating consensus. In the language of Dawkins in “The Selfish Gene”, we have competing memes. In evolutionary terms, the best meme will win. A question is whether we are 'wise' enough to identify the 'best' meme and abbreviate/accelerate the evolutionary process. I haven't done enough reading yet to better understand Nicholas' defininitions of a 'good' wortld or what he means by 'flourishing'. There certainly seems to be a humanist leaning to his sentiments for which evolution has no preference. I truly believe that we need to understand what evolution may choose and then determine how humanity may fit into that unyeilding determinant. If you wish to bring God into the equation, my guess would be that there would be a significant consensus that he accomplished his creation generally along the lines that science has described. 'Flourishing' surely leads to overpopulation unless we choose to restrict the natural process of reproduction as China has chosen to do. Here we have an experimental test of population control. Has it improved China relative to the rest of the world? I don't know the answer, but it illustrates the confusion I currently have with Nicholas' world view and potentially conflicting criteria. It also illustrates that if we look carefully, we may find clues that provide some pointers to what may or may not be good 'memes'.


2015-11-02
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?

We seem to have wandered from soccer teams to something like metaphysics. I think the point has been lost along the way.

DA

2015-11-03
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Reply to John Hodgson
Hi John

I agree with you that these are complex issues.

You write that you are funded by organizations that “are looking for ways to improve the human lot”. Who could quarrel with that objective? The problem is knowing what really has that effect.

Some things seem obvious, of course. I read in this morning’s paper about efforts being made to cure blindness from cataracts etc in rural areas of China where medical aid is thin on the ground. Who could deny that this is worthy cause and that it improves the human lot?

Yet some will argue, plausibly enough, that measures of this kind are just band-aid solutions and that the real causes of human suffering lie deeper – in the “system”. Hence various revolutionary ideologies – political, religious etc.

Others reply that every revolution has caused more suffering than it set out to cure. And that view seems plausible enough too – witness the Russian Revolution and the brutalities being committed in the name of religion today.

I don’t pretend to have the answer. In fact I seriously doubt if there is “an answer”. And I sometimes suspect that this feeling of “perhaps there is no answer” is very widespread today in populations right around the world, resulting in a kind of guilty despair – guilt because one feels one should be “doing something” (and there are still plenty of people ready to tell us what should be done) and despair because one suspects that all the would-be solutions are probably only likely to make matters worse in the end.

Not a cheerful outlook!

DA

2015-11-03
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Reply to Derek Allan
What is a value of metaphysics if you can't apply it to the soccer team. The point is that we try to establish the nature of human autonomy-which is a metaphysical problem. You claim that this autonomy could be somehow limited and I claim that limited autonomy is a contradiction in terms. To be a bit autonomous is like to be a bit pregnant. 

2015-11-03
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Reply to John Hodgson

RE: 'Flourishing' surely leads to overpopulation unless we choose to restrict the natural process of reproduction as China has chosen to do. Here we have an experimental test of population control. Has it improved China relative to the rest of the world? I don't know the answer, but it illustrates the confusion I currently have with Nicholas' world view and potentially conflicting criteria. It also illustrates that if we look carefully, we may find clues that provide some pointers to what may or may not be good 'memes'."



John,
John, I really appreciate the concrete, professional approach you recommend here. Here's what I have to add.

It's interesting and relevant to your stated position here that China has recently seen problems with its one child policy and now allows two. That's a lot of new workers and consumers to add into the already bloated population vs. resources mix. 

But it points out that population growth is an important societal factor to manage but, also, that how to do so continues to be a work in progress. Same goes for climate management, health care management, wealth management and many other global factors that are manifest in local actions.

We don't know from rational inquiries or moral proclamations exactly what to do. These considerations certainly provide us with ideas or ideologies that serve as theories and, sometimes, even organizations set up to champion one or another or many of these alternatives together. But what is missing here is the recognition that philosophy cannot be just the dreamer-upper of these ideals. It's own process must be just as empirical as anything physicists, biologists, earth scientists, etc. are doing but it is not the same thing they are doing.

My general point in these conversations, when I can find time to jump in, is to promote the notion that philosophy, in its ontology, metaphysics, epistemology, ethics and aesthetics must be conducted as an empirical inquiry. We can't simply reason or conjecture our way out of these dilemmas. We need an empirical theory that argues to the best naturalistic explanations of what exists, how such an existence could come to know itself and what can these things tell us about what we should now be doing, as parts of this whole world in which we now live. We are beings, knowings and doings. The best explanation is just the one that explains the most about the world with the least number of assumptions about what exists, how such an existence could come to know itself and what can these things tell us about what we should now be doing, Culture, like biology, is something that evolved to become the present moment and will continue to evolve, as the various "solutions" to the  "what is best" equation is worked out as the "best practices" we continue to seek.

China's recent big number change to "2" shows how the work continues to progress. Not towards any predetermined or anthrocentric aims but, as it has always done, toward the way to do the most with the least. 

I welcome your replies... and dread the inevitable narcissistic pessimism of the ubiquitous Derek Allen. 

Thanks, 
DCD 

2015-11-03
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?

As I thought, we had wandered from the point.

You had written: “Voluntary cooperation presupposes free exchange of values for mutual benefit.”

I replied: “Is cooperation an “exchange of values” or working towards a shared value?  The individual necessarily gives up a degree of his autonomy in such cases, doesn’t he?”

I think we might have different understanding of what autonomy means, but in any case I think it is better to describe voluntary cooperation as working towards a shared value than as an exchange of values. What values do I “exchange” with the other players on my soccer team (your example) during a match?  But we certainly share a value, don’t we – to beat the other team? To which we subordinate various others (e.g. just doing what we feel like doing).

Unless I am misunderstanding you, you want to advocate a fiercely individualist view of life. Everyone should look after numero uno and things will be better all round?  Am I on the right track?

DA


2015-11-04
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Reply to Daniel Davis

RE: “…and dread the inevitable narcissistic pessimism of the ubiquitous Derek Allen”. (Allan actually)

Hello Daniel!

How nice to hear from you again. I see you haven’t lost your taste for a bit of the good old ad hominem.

But down to business. You write: “Culture, like biology, is something that evolved to become the present moment and will continue to evolve, as the various "solutions" to the  "what is best" equation is worked out as the "best practices" we continue to seek."

You suggest I’m pessimistic (I’ll pass over the puzzling “narcissistic”  – though I do like the word). Don’t you think you might be being unduly optimistic if not downright Pollyanna-ish? If culture has “evolved” (shades of Herbert Spenser!) has that been for the better or the worse? Modern culture has produced inter alia: two catastrophic world wars with millions of civilian dead, extermination camps, a revival of brutal religious fanaticism complete with beheadings and sexual slavery, the capacity to destroy the human race with nuclear weapons, political repression and armed conflict in country after country, and so on and on. We’re doing well, eh?  Good old evolution, eh?

DA


2015-11-10
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Reply to Derek Allan
Shared value is a value for each and every member of the team. To achieve it everyone has to exercise his best individual ability, his independent mind. But there is a division of labour. Different members contribute different values independently and individually The work of the goalkeeper is different from that of halfback. Voluntary exchange of these values is cooperation. But all values produced individually. Team,  collective, society are not metaphysical but conceptual entities. Metaphysically only individuals exist. Is it fierce individualism? Maybe. But it's also undisputable and easily observable fact of existence. Autonomy is an ability to exercise man's mind freely and without coercion, to act on one's best judgment. If man has to forfeit this ability or to limit it. I doubt that he can achieve any values. 

2015-11-10
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Reply to Derek Allan
"Everyone should look after numero uno "-man's primary concern is his own wellbeing. If you don't prosper how you suppose to look after others? And after whom one should look? There are 7 billions people on this planet. Can one look after all of them equally or one should use some hierarchy of values? For example look after his loved ones first? 

2015-11-10
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?

Oops - I hope this conversation doesn't get too nasty!

Each football team player is surely autonomous since it is they who are making the decisions. You could possibly even argue that they are acting purely out of self-interest. The team coach, administrators etc. also act out of self interest. They select the players and can select for players who appear more likely to make the decisions (or be trained to make the decisions) that improve the overall performance of the team. Thus, the way the player expresses self-interest is a selected behavior. Players who don't live up to the expected performance are exchanged for others, so a good team evolves by selection. Morality – and our behavior in general, were undoubtedly also selected for where they improve the performance of the human population.

As I think about the issue behind Nicholas' suggestion here, I move more towards the notion (possibly much to Nicholas' dismay) that evolution is the unifying principle we need to embrace in order to move towards a better world. Not just for humanity, but for everything – and very much for the future. Even within the religious communities, there are many who accept evolution as our creator, even if it was merely the mechanism by which something else brought our world into existence. As a scientist, I have no argument with the notion that I may be asking how God did it (though I personally have no need of a Christian-type God). The issues behind many of our current problems seem more of interpretation and understanding that the direction taken in our hunt for knowledge.

I'm not sure if Derek interprets the word evolution in in a specific (Spenserian) sense to acknowledge it in such pessimistic terms. Evolution is about building upon what already exists, not fighting for first prize. Spenser coined the phrase “survival of the fittest” which Darwin adopted and later regretted. Much of Darwin's world thrives rather than merely surviving and the “fittest” is often interpreted too narrowly to recognize a “fitter” individual may be “fitter” because it enhances the performance of a group. I feel more fortunate than my parents, who felt more fortunate than their parents. You can certainly select examples to support a view that the world is degenerating, but I suspect that is just selecting bad apples to support a distorted view of the world. Infant mortality rates in the US in the early1900s were between 20 and 30%. This has now dropped to between 1.0 and 0.6%. US births have grown steadily from about 2 million to 4 million over the same period. You could argue that change in mortality rate had the potential to save 50 million babies in the last century in the US alone – about 60% of the worldwide casualties in WW2 (~75 million) which was the most deadly world event on record. The second most deadly was the Chinese wars of the Three Kingdoms in the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD which seems to support my sense that nasty things have been going on for a long, long time.

It seems David leans towards my position that our entire existence is in the inevitable process of evolution. I don't believe that it is something that we can avoid, although we can influence it – not necessarily to our own benefit. I suspect the biggest hurdle to this view is the distaste that some people hold for evolution because they fail to understand it and therefore see it as an undesirable influence in our lives. It probably comes back to “survival of the fittest”. Few want to accept that their life is a struggle for survival, or that they are in a struggle to be the fittest. Most miss the point that evolution is about progress and a part of that progress has always been cooperation – gaining an advantage from operating together as a unit. It is a lesser known feature of evolution and still something of a puzzle to those who research evolution ( http://users.tpg.com.au/users/jes999/5.htm, http://www.academia.edu/11963087/Cooperation_in_Evolution ), but cooperation clearly plays a role in the world, from the cooperation of genes, to multi-cellular organisms, and to societies. It is even an inevitable part of competition. Football teams, for example, but also an essential part of most business enterprises in the world. Even though businesses may be competing, they rely on the cooperation of their employees to provide them with the means to compete. Unlike Derek, I see evolution as a solution to problems, not a cause of them. We need to evolve from where we are currently but I don't think we are intellectually capable of predicting evolution. All we can do is try things out and the more people doing that, the better our chances of evolving. And really, that is why we exist.


2015-11-11
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
RE; "The work of the goalkeeper is different from that of halfback. Voluntary exchange of these values is cooperation."

How does the goalkeeper "exchange" his values with the halfback? They share a value - to win - but I fail to see how they "exchange" values. What would be an example of a value they might "exchange"?

DA.

2015-11-11
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Reply to John Hodgson

Hi John

Re: "nasty things have been going on for a long, long time."

I couldn't agree more. But those who want to believe that the world has got less nasty seem to me to be living in an alternate universe. Think of the huge and unprecedented numbers of civilians killed and maimed in the 2nd World War, and the unspeakable evil of the extermination camps. And while, as you say, science has brought many benefits it has also made it possible to kill and maim more people much more quickly, and even to annihilate the human race.

And in the Middle East, of course, we are now even revisiting some earlier forms of barbarism like beheadings and sexual slavery.

So any talk of "cultural evolution" strikes me as hot air, pure and simple. The world according to Pollyanna.

DA

2015-11-11
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Re: " If you don't prosper how you suppose to look after others?"

True. I just wasn't sure whether your philosophy had any place for others at all.

DA

2015-11-11
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Reply to Derek Allan
DA,
Yes, Derek, pessimistic about nearly every point of view, except your own. Your own words are the source of my comments. 

"I don’t pretend to have the answer. In fact I seriously doubt if there is “an answer”. And I sometimes suspect that this feeling of “perhaps there is no answer” is very widespread today in populations right around the world, resulting in a kind of guilty despair – guilt because one feels one should be “doing something” (and there are still plenty of people ready to tell us what should be done) and despair because one suspects that all the would-be solutions are probably only likely to make matters worse in the end. 

Not a cheerful outlook! 

DA"


Not a cheerful outlook at all. Ever. Your answer, always, is that there is no answer. Fortunately, humans don't think that way most of the time.

Yet, there is a serious conversation to be had here, which your self-pleasing rhetoric is designed to disrupt.

BTW, my friend, bad ad hominem arguments are fallacies of relevance. But my personal references are to your behavior and statements and the comparisons made are arguably quite valid and relevant. When the shoe fits ..., as it were.

Now may I please talk to John and Nicholas about this topic of interest, sans aspersions from your chimeric mix of Narcissus and Eeyore? 

DCD 


2015-11-11
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Reply to John Hodgson
Evolution is a survival of the most adapted to the environment. It's an advantage in competition with others but great disadvantage when environment changes. Dinosaurs is an example and a lesson. People don't adapt to environment but adapt environment to them. More precisely, people live in artificial environment which they create. So how people as individuals and societies could evolve? In such conditions human evolution has to be a volitional cognitive process guided by certain premises. In other words human evolution is not spontaneous and requires philosophy. We are back to square one. 

2015-11-11
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Reply to Derek Allan
Each one contributes his part in exchange for the part of the others.The ultimate goal is to win the game, but each player has his own goals, creates his own values and exchanges them with others. One prevents the scoring and in exchange another one tries to score. But suppose goalkeeper failed to produce and relies on others to win the game. What will be the outcome? Others simply would have to work much harder. If they win the game a goalkeeper will share the results as a parasite. 

2015-11-11
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?

Hi Leonid

RE: “But suppose goalkeeper failed to produce and relies on others to win the game. What will be the outcome? Others simply would have to work much harder. If they win the game a goalkeeper will share the results as a parasite.”

If the goalkeeper “relied on others to win the game” (e.g. just sat down and watched) I suspect the coach would take him off immediately and replace him. And he would hardly “share in the results”, as a parasite or otherwise. He would be more likely to be treated as a pariah.

You seem determined to think of a game of football as if it were a philosophy seminar – with people “exchanging values” (though, even there, it’s an exchange of ideas rather than values). My sporting days are over (alas!) but I can’t recall ever “exchanging values” with other players on the field while the game was in progress. Occasionally, I may have exchanged the odd value with an opposing player!

DA


2015-11-12
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Reply to Daniel Davis

Hello again Daniel

RE: “Now may I please talk to John and Nicholas about this topic of interest, sans aspersions from your chimeric mix of Narcissus and Eeyore? “

Daniel, you were the one who drew me in to the conversation with your reference to “the inevitable narcissistic pessimism of the ubiquitous Derek Allen”. I could just have ignored that of course. But I often get a kind of wry amusement out of my conversations with you, despite your endless stream of ad hominems.  

By the way you write: “Your answer, always, is that there is no answer.” Actually, I didn’t quite say that. I said “I don’t pretend to have the answer. In fact I seriously doubt if there is ‘an answer’. And I sometimes suspect that this feeling of ‘perhaps there is no answer’ is very widespread today.” “Pessimism”? (as you argue). Or realism? Debatable, wouldn't you say?

But I do think, as I also said, that that the idea that the world is getting better though a species of “cultural  evolution” is very dubious. I wanted to say this because I notice that this idea seems to be gaining currency in some philosophical circles – usually “analytic” ones. I’m not entirely surprised by that, of course, because analytic philosophy often prefers to live in a fantasy world (zombies, time machines, etc) and ignore the real one. Still, one can’t just let things like that go unchallenged.

DA


2015-11-13
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Darwin suggested that the 'fittest' were those best able to adapt to change. The environment is always changing. Human cognitive processes introduce options that natural selection may favor, but human expectations aren't necessarily favored by natural selection. Eugenics comes to mind, and several attempts to manage environments such as eradicating wolves in Yellowstone, suppressing wildfires in redwood forest, restriction of childbirth in China. I'm not sure what 'spontaneous means in the sense that you use it here. New things have always arisen from the emergent properties of the existing population. Human populations have very complex emergent properties which many seem to feel qualifies humanity to regard itself as special and therefore different from everything else. Evolution progresses by natural selection from the offerings that exist at any given time. It doesn't involve philosophy. Perhaps philosophy can help in the production of offerings for selection which certainly contributes to evolution but it doesn't necessarily drive the change.

2015-11-13
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Reply to Derek Allan
Each player benefits from the efforts of others. This is a trade of values for the mutual benefit. If one of the players fail to trade his values he would be removed as you observed. But suppose that coach keeps him, citing his poor background,  former discrimination and difficult childhood and asks other players to contribute their efforts for his benefit without any return. Sounds ridiculous, isn't it?  Game is a simplified imitation of life and good example for philosophical discourse. So why we practice in life a morality which we would never allow on the soccer field? 

2015-11-14
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Hi Leonid

RE: “Each player benefits from the efforts of others. This is a trade of values for the mutual benefit.


I think it is more accurate to say that the team benefits from the efforts of all. If we win, it’s not my personal win; it’s a team win. Ditto for a loss.  And again, playing a team sport is in no sense a “trade of values”. It’s a contribution of one’s skills to a joint effort.

RE: “But suppose that coach keeps him, citing his poor background,  former discrimination and difficult childhood and asks other players to contribute their efforts for his benefit without any return. Sounds ridiculous, isn't it?”

If there was no “return” at all (i.e. if the player just couldn’t play at all) I doubt if he/she would be included in the team (as much for his/her benefit as for the team’s.) If he/she could make some contribution, and was included, a sensible coach might explain the situation to the rest of the team and try to get their agreement to make allowances. Assuming we are not talking about professional sport, the team might well agree, as an act of human kindness.

RE: Game is a simplified imitation of life.

No. It just bears some resemblance to life in a number of limited respects, in particular`where life calls for a joint effort of some kind.

DA


2015-11-16
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Reply to Derek Allan

Recent events in Paris must presumably provide food for thought for those who think that humanity is “evolving” and becoming morally better.

What cowardly butchery!  If this is any guide, we are regressing, not progressing.

DA



2015-11-16
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Reply to John Hodgson
My point is that humans are living in the artificial environment which they themselves create and therefore are not part of the natural selection anymore. They became independent from environment, don't live in the ecological niches could exist in any conditions on the land, sea and even in the outer space. The laws of natural selection are not applicable to them.Humans stand and fall on the merit of rationality. The harmful intervention with the nature, social engineering, wars are results of irrational behavior. Mind is a great tool of survival and provides huge advantage but its use is volitional and optional. Animals equipped with automatic means of survival but man has freedom of choice-to think or to avoid the effort. Unlike animals, man is the only creature which can act toward his own destruction and often does just that when he fails to employ reason. If philosophy has a place in the struggle for the better world, it has to be a philosophy of Reason

2015-11-16
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Reply to Derek Allan
1.Team is a conceptual not factual unit. Qua team it cannot benefit. The expression "team benefits " simply means that each and every member benefits. 2 the purpose of the game is to win, not to make allowances to the failed players. And unlike in welfare society no coach will treat any player as a charity case and force other to pay for it with their efforts. Game represents major values and virtues which life requires -reason, purpose creativity self-esteem independence That why it is similar to life. The difference is that in the game one cannot sacrifice or forfeit these values.. But in altruist society one can easily afford that. 

2015-11-16
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Reply to Derek Allan
Exactly my point. Unlike animals,  human evolution is a volitional process not determined by adaptation to environment and competition over limited resources but on use of mind and rational morality. So man could progress without limits or regress to the murderous savagery of bloody mystics against whom the mainstream philosophy has nothing to offer. 

2015-11-16
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?

RE: “Team is a conceptual not factual unit.”

The teams I played in were very factual. We trained together, rejoiced together if we scored, felt dejected together when we were scored against, felt sorry together when one our team members was injured and so on.

I am not a sports fanatic and my sporting days, as I said, are over, but it’s true nonetheless that team sports are one of the very few, real opportunities in modern life in which people can briefly put their perosnal lives on hold and share in a genuine collective endeavour.

DA


2015-11-16
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?

RE: Unlike animals,  human evolution is a volitional process not determined by adaptation to environment and competition over limited resources but on use of mind and rational morality.

Volitional evolution? That’s a new one on me.   

And who decides what is “rational”? Human history is littered with disasters that stemmed from someone’s version of the “rational”? Recent examples: Hitler, Stalin, people today who tell us that ISIL just needs sympathy and understanding…  The list, Leonid, is endless. And many people’s list would be quite different from mine – or yours.

If only life were as simple as you suggest, Leonid…

DA


2015-11-23
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Reply to Derek Allan
Rationality is application of mind, an ability to integrate percepts into concepts in non-contradictory way in accordance with objective reality. Hitler, Stalin, ISIS are examples of non-rational, mystical thinking based on arbitrary premises. As I mentioned before, thinking is a volitional process and mind is the only tool of man's survival. When man abandones it, he acts towards self-destruction. The endless list of disasters and bloodsheds just confirms that. If philosophy has a place in making the world a better place it has to be s philosophy which advocates core human values-reason, independence, self-esteem. So far the mainstream philosophy failed to provide that. And this is why we observe such a regress. 

2015-11-23
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
on use of mind and rational morality.
What is rational morality?
Are your views outlined in a recent article in The Rational Argumentator?

2015-11-23
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?

Hi Leonid

RE: Hitler, Stalin, ISIS are examples of non-rational, mystical thinking based on arbitrary premises.

I would agree. But Hitler and Stalin would not have agreed and neither would ISIS. That’s one of the weaknesses of the term “rational”. It so easily means “what I think is reasonable”. So it conjugates this way: “I am rational”. “You are doing your best.” “He is plain crazy”.

John Hodgson asks you a good question: “What is rational morality?” There have been n answers to that question…

DA


2015-11-30
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Reply to Derek Allan
Rationality is a cognitive faculty which allows to create concepts by non-contradictory integration of perceptual data. In other words rationality is a way of thinking which pertains to objective reality. Rational morality is the one which pertains to the nature of man as an autonomous thinking volitional being. Whatever promotes life of man qua man is good. Rational morality is based on the objective standard of value which is man's life. Any morality based on subjective or arbitrary standards like God, race, society, state etc...will inevitably leads to Stalin, Hitler, inquisition or ISIS 

2015-11-30
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?

RE: “rationality is a way of thinking which pertains to objective reality.”

Before WWII, Hitler, the Nazis, and millions of Germans thought that “objective reality” was that the reparations imposed on it by the other Western nations after WWI were punitive, revanchist and intolerable. Many historians believe that this was a major cause of WWII. Was the German reading of the “objective reality” correct?

There are countless other examples. E.g. Stalin thought that if the Soviet Union were to defend itself against the West, it needed to catch up industrially. He and many others in the USSR saw this as quite simply an “objective reality”. Hence the draconian measures Stalin imposed (which caused millions of deaths).

Like beauty, “objective reality” is often in the eye of the beholder.

DA


2015-12-01
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Perceptual data can be contradictory itself.  Look at Descartes' experiment with the three bowls of water - one "cold" on "hot" and one "lukewarm".  Desartes excperienced "hot" and "cold" at the same time in the same bowl of water. 

Not everyone would agree that man is "an autonomous thinking volitional being"  and there is no "objective standard of value which is a man's life". 

And all morality is subjective.  There is nothing that has ever been a universal ban - many cultures have praticed cannibalism, rape, incest, some cultures still practice female genetallia mutilation.    Many cultures have practices that other cultures would consider unethical. 

2015-12-01
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Reply to Derek Allan
DA and everyone:
If evolution can regress, why can it not also progress?

To call ISIS cowardly butchers, which they are, is to suggest that you and everyone (including members of ISIS) can tell the difference between good or evil and right or wrong. That in itself is evidence of the progression of our species beyond the capabilities of any other species we know of. There were many other similar such species in the past but they were either defeated by nature or by the animals from whom we descended. This is not Polly Anna pie in the sky. It is just the set of traits, generated by our genome, that best fits the Earth's nature. 

That's just because our genome gives us the ability thinks and reason about the best way to do stuff ... all the stuff that needs t be done. Reasoning is imperfect. But it is also correctable. We progress and regress. And progress again. ISIS is a regression to the Western European civilization. But to the Muslim world, ISIS is perceived by many as a liberation from the oppressive dictators set up and supported by Europe and the USA, ever since their colonial periods. They also represent, to Muslims, a return to a purer, more orthodox version of their religion. Establish the caliphate for Allah. That's progressive. Right? 

It might be right, except for the fact that civilization HAS progressed beyond the 7th century Arabic culture that re-emerged with a vengeance in the  20th  century. In a similar way fundamentalist Christian orthodoxy has re-emerged and is being milked here by Trump, Carson, Cruz and the Tea Party to try to bring regressive changes to our country. ISIS and the Tea Party result from the same reactions to progress in culture worldwide. Change is inevitable and it is always met with resistance from whatever institutions have already been established and are working, however imperfectly. 

There is no over-riding "progressive principle" guiding cultural evolution. There is only us, as we are the only agents on the planet who have the power to understand and guide such things. Truth, beauty and goodness are processes undertaken by beings who can reason, with the goal of making things better. Not sitting around like Eyeore all woebegone and pessimistic about the inevitable victory of the cowardly butchers.

PS: To the cowardly butchers at PhilPapers who continue to delay my messages to the discussion by denying me the "Pro Status" that I had from the time I joined this supposedly professional organization --- your regressive procedures are evidence of how truly unprofessional your status is in my opinion.           


2015-12-01
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Reply to Derek Allan
Objective reality is not what one thinks but what is it. In other words existence exists independently from Man's consciousness. It's a principle of the primacy of existence. Socialism, communism,  Nazism, religion violate this principle and therefore incompatible with man's wellbeing. If one wants to make the world a better place, he should accept this principle first. The objective nature of man is such that in order to live and prosper he requires the freedom of action. 

2015-12-02
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Reply to Daniel Davis

Hi Daniel

RE:” Not sitting around like Eyeore all woebegone and pessimistic about the inevitable victory of the cowardly butchers.

Personally, I don’t for a moment believe that said butchers are headed for inevitable victory. I suspect there’ll be lots more innocent blood shed, but I believe – and certainly hope - they’ll eventually be stamped out, or perhaps implode and wither away. Though at the moment I suspect the top dogs are raking in far too much money, from oil and various detestable trades (drugs, sexual slavery etc), to even think of packing it in. Moreover, they obviously have large numbers of useful idiots willing to do their bidding and throw away their lives when instructed to do so ...

On the general question of “cultural evolution”, I think the notion is quite untenable. At certain periods of history, humanity has occasionally shown signs of acting more humanely but there have always been relapses. Even the relatively “civilized” eighteenth century, beloved of philosophers, ended with the bloodbath of the French Revolution, followed by the Napoleonic wars. And then of course came the twentieth century ...

I don’t see this as pessimism. Realism rather. And the message is not: “Give up hope all ye who enter here”; it is simply: “Don’t delude yourself with the idea that the human race has 'evolved' morally." We are as dangerous and unpredictable as our forebears – more so, no doubt, because we have far more powerful weapons at our disposal.

DA


2015-12-02
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?

Hi Leonid

RE: Objective reality is not what one thinks but what is it. In other words existence exists independently from Man's consciousness.

I assume you meant to write “Objective reality is not what one thinks but what is.”? But now we just start going around in circles again. What “is”? Stalin thought he was describing “objective reality” when he signed the decrees that resulted in millions starving to death. Robespierre thought he was responding to “objective reality” when he sent large numbers of people to the guillotine with only the semblance of a trial. Etc, etc.

“Objective reality” is a very slippery customer.

DA


2015-12-02
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
You said: "In other words existence exists independently from Man's consciousness"

I agree that if existence exists then it is independent of Man's consciousness but:

1  How do you know that there is any existence outside your own mind?  This is a reference to Descartes' Cogito Ergo Sum.  But Descartes also believed in God, adn took that as the beginning or knowign what reality exists around us.  Remove God and all we can know is our own mond. 

2  If existence exists then the only way we can know it is through our minds aided by sense data.  This means there is no way to check any objective statement - except to step outside thwe world, outside our own minds, and look into the world - which is an impossibility. 

There is nothing "objective" we can say about any Objective Reality that might exist.  In that case we should disregard the concept. 

2015-12-02
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Reply to Ian Stuart
No, perceptual data is self-evident. It tells us exactly what it is. Descartetes' experiment simply demonstrates that we don't perceive an absolute temperature but a difference between the temperature of objects and our bodies. And this difference is objective. If you want to know temperature you should use a thermometer. However man operates on conceptual, not perceptual level. His mind is a tool of knowledge. If man is not autonomous then he doesn't need mind. Morality is a concept, a code of values accepted by choice. It presupposes existence of mind and free will. Robots don't need any morality. If morality is based on concepts which pertain to reality then it's objective. If not, then you have a society of cannibals. 

2015-12-02
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Reply to Daniel Davis
Progress is a process which set man free from men. It not determined but dependent on volitional ability to think. What is right or wrong defined by ultimate value.There is only one objective ultimate value which could be rationally demonstrated and this is man's life. The rest- like God, race, state, collective or Comte's altruism are arbitrary standards and inevitable lead to sacrifice, to society of cannibals. The degree of progress or regress therefore depends on degree of rationality. The refuse to recognize a rational autonomous natiure of man and objective morality based on this nature is a main cause of the moral relativism and all unspeakable atrocities throughout human history. 

2015-12-02
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Reply to Derek Allan
Objective reality is what exists independently from Man's consciousness. Stalin and other tyrants also thought that it's a slippery customer and they can create any reality they wish. In fact they only created piles of corpses. I reiterate the principle of primacy of existence. It doesn't depend on what one thinks. But man has volition. He can act rationally, that is -in accordance with reality of nature and man or may ignore it. In the latest case the result is always destruction and death. In order to know what is man should use his senses and mind in to create non-contradictory concepts and non-arbitrary premises. That exactly what sundry mystics of mind and muscle failed to do.

2015-12-03
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?

Hi Leonid

RE: Stalin and other tyrants also thought that [objective reality] is a slippery customer and they can create any reality they wish.

I very much doubt that Stalin thought that reality as he perceived it was “slippery”. Rightly or wrongly, he feared that Russia would be overwhelmed by the West unless it was quickly transformed from a semi-feudal agrarian nation into a modern industrialised one. Whether he was right, and whether his draconian measures were in any way justifiable, are obviously matters for debate, but he did not just “wish” his reality into being. If he could have, no doubt he would have wished it away!

Now, your view of this period of Russian history might be very different, Leonid. You might, for example, think that Stalin was simply a megalomaniac, blood-thirsty tyrant and that explains everything.  Some would agree with you; some not.  As`I say, "objective reality" is a slippery customer.

DA

2015-12-07
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Reply to Ian Stuart
1. How do you know it is not? Knowledge is an awareness of certain facts of existence. Consciousness has to be conscious of something before it conscious of itself. If there is no existence then no knowledge is possible. Perception is a tool of consciousness. If perception not valid, then nothing is. Validation means inference from perceptual data. Existence perception   and consciousness are self-evident irreducible axiomatic primaries. In order to deny them one has to accept them. 

2015-12-07
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Reply to Derek Allan
Existence is not what you wish but your consciousness is. Although perceptual data is always valid, the way of its integration into concepts is not. In other words your mind could be a slippery customer, not existence. As for Stalin and other social engineers, they really wanted to change the metaphysically given nature of man. They wanted his mind to operate under coercion. That cannot be done and result was a total destruction. That's to prove that reality is not a slippery customer and doesn't require your agreement. It simply is. 

2015-12-07
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Reply to Derek Allan
DA,
What evolved was morality, the ability to make moral or immoral choices. This is unlike any of the other animals who cannot use language and therefore, cannot use reasoning, including moral reasoning to guide their behavior. You continue to confuse this uniquely human capability with somehow always making the right choices in your opinion.

I agree that we are more dangerous and unpredictable as a species than ever. We  are much more lethally armed and cognitively dissonant, given sharply accelerated technology growth and the resulting pluralism and diversity of life everywhere.

But we are also vastly more knowledgeable and experienced at being human than ever before. Reason generates arguments both good and bad, which get tried out over time until the argument that best resolves the conflict emerges. Like it or not, Daesh (the disrespectful term) uses arguments to convince people who are not idiots.

But this time it's going on all over the world, through the wonderful Western inventions of the internet, international travel, globalized culture and the "self-evident truth" that we all have an inalienable right to believe whatever crock of antiquated anthropomorphic bullshit we please. We are basically hoist on our own cultural petard.

So, yeah, more dangerous and unpredictable than ever. But realistically, Derek, et al, however complicated, these are all problems we created ourselves. It is just like biological evolution: each new part is built upon the parts that came before it. Old parts, like religions never go away, but are built upon in various ways to make other parts, like philosophy and science... new tools to help us cut to the chase.

The sword of truth is double-edged and can as easily cut us, who would wield it without wisdom, as our intended target. Here is where those who always stop to "love wisdom, even when they don't necessarily "know truth", are needed now, maybe more than ever. Philosophers are the only academicians that love the process of discovering the truth and believe (even without knowing) that the ways to the truth we can discover will eventually lead to the truth. The Greeks of the 3rd century BCE  are my superheroes. They get my agape not just my phileo because of the realism, the reality of the principles (logos) that they discovered underlying geometry, music, mathematics, poetry, theater, dialectic, logic, sculpture, architecture, government, politics, theology, morality, justice and excellence of loving wisdom are all undeniable components of the world --- not just the Western world. And, ultimately, that's why Western civilization, warts and all, is most likely to prevail in this situation.

DCD
                 
         


2015-12-07
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
"No, perceptual data is self-evident."

How do you know that ? 

2015-12-07
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Reply to Ian Stuart
It's an axiom. In order to refute it you have to admit it. Suppose you say prove to me that senses are valid source of data. But proof means or ostensive referral to the percepts or inference from the perception. In other words validity of perceptual data can't be proven but all proofs depend on it.

2015-12-08
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?

Hi Leonid

Re: "As for Stalin and other social engineers, they really wanted to change the metaphysically given nature of man..."

“the metaphysically given nature of man”? What is that exactly? There have been umpteen explanations of the “nature of man”. Christian, Buddhist, Confucian, eighteenth century rationalist, Freudian, Marxist, existentialist ... the list goes on and on. Neuroscientists, I notice, are currently trying to get us to accept their depressing version.

DA


2015-12-08
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Reply to Daniel Davis

Hi Daniel

You write (inter alia):

What evolved was morality, the ability to make moral or immoral choices. This is unlike any of the other animals who cannot use language and therefore, cannot use reasoning, including moral reasoning to guide their behavior. You continue to confuse this uniquely human capability with somehow always making the right choices in your opinion.

Surely, we would assume that “the ability to make moral or immoral choices” emerged when human consciousness first emerged, which was presumably when language emerged also – i.e. at the very dawn of homo sapiens as such (whenever that was).   If that’s the case, “the ability to make moral or immoral choices”, in itself, has surely not evolved. It has been there right from the outset.

One might want to argue that the nature of human moral standards has improved (not evolved) over the millennia – so that we are superior in this respect to, say, the people of the Palaeolithic. But aside from the fact that we know nothing at all about the moral beliefs of Palaeolithic times, the attempt to judge and compare the moral standards of different cultures and epochs always strikes me as a risky business. Take the Aztecs. They practised  human sacrifice on a large scale. Yet this was part of a deeply felt religious belief and, from their point of view, doubtless a highly moral thing to do. And if they were around to defend themselves today, they might perhaps suggest that a civilization that engages in a world war that kills 16 million men, women and children might need to answer a few moral questions itself …

So I’m not disagreeing with you that the ability to make moral or immoral choices is something that distinguishes us from other animals. But I do question whether this human ability has “evolved” in any way since the earliest times – or even, as I say, whether moral standards have improved.

Generally speaking, I regard attempts to apply the notion of evolution to cultural issues (such as morality) as very dubious. I note it has some following in certain areas of modern philosophy (mainly analytic, I think). I see it as a naive and potentially dangerous line of thought, and I'm amazed that this 19th century Spencerian nonsense is being given a second life.

(I’m not quite sure what you mean by the last sentence in what I’ve quoted above. I don’t equate the ability to make moral choices with always making the right ones.)

DA


2015-12-08
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Yes.  Now we are down to it.

The validity of perceptual data cannot be proven.  It is therefore an assumption that perceptual data is accurate.  It is therefore a possibility that our perceptual data deceives us about any "real world" that might exist, and it is also possible that any "real world" may not exist.

This is not a complete refutation, just the possibility that it may well be wrong.  This is sufficient, as it poses an unanswerable challenge to the validity of perceptions as showing us the real world. This means that "proofs" which flow from the assumption that perceptual data is valid are not proofs either.   

Now, we act as if our perceptual data is valid, and we act as if the real world exists.  Acting otherwise seems pointless - and in fact leads to solipsism. But acting on perceptual data is not the same as validating perceptual data , at least in my use of the words it is not. 

But the only real ground for our knowledge is a use value – the knowledge is useful to act in the world. But the knowledge remains unsubstantiated by any proven link to what may or may not exist.  

In my own work this is important, because there is nothing that privileges Indigenous Knowledge over the knowledge of the European-derived cultures. It may be argued that the knowledge of our European-derived cultures is more useful, but I would respond that Indigenous Knowledge has been useful for Indigenous populations over thousands of years, ensuring their survival and development over that period. We therefore have a level playing field.

And I don't have to admit the axiom to refute it.  And I don't admit it. I may well consider that the words I see on what appears to be an object we call a computer screen are merely figments of my imagination.  But this would not be a useful starting point.  I act as if it is all “real” while admitting I may be wrong.




2015-12-08
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Reply to Derek Allan
Morality is a code of values accepted by choice and defined by the standard of values.The only objective standard is man's life as a rational being. Throughout history people failed to recognize man's life as an ultimate value and therefore their morality was morality of sacrifice starting from cannibals to Aztecs to Inquisition to Hitler to isis.The results are here for everyone to see.Even Christianity which professes love view people and Jesus himself as a sacrificial lamb.The whole human history is a carnage of sacrifice with one shining exception. American society has been found on the moral principle of man as an ultimate value. One can observe the difference between American history and that of Russia or Germany.

2015-12-08
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Reply to Derek Allan
The metaphysical nature of man is his rationality. Unlike other animals man has mind and volition. His actions are not preprogrammed but defined by thinking and choice. Therefore in order to live man requires freedom of action in the social context, this is -rights. Since this freedom could be denied only by force, man's metaphysical nature prohibits its initiation.Metaphysically man acts primary in order to sustain and to better his life and to pursue his own happiness. He's not a sacrificial animal,nor he is a social insect.His nature is that of autonomous rational free being. Exactly that sundry religionists and social engineers violated and continue to violate with predictable outcome of misery poverty and piles of corpses.

2015-12-08
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?

RE: American society has been found on the moral principle of man as an ultimate value. One can observe the difference between American history and that of Russia or Germany.

I seem to recall that in its relatively short history (much shorter than Russia or Germany) America has had a brutal civil war with hundreds of thousands of dead and wounded.

And then US foreign policy over the past century or so has had many critics…

I think you perhaps need to widen your horizons a little, Leonid. Your patriotism does you credit, but don’t let it blind you to unpleasant realities.  I live in Australia. Great country (which, like the US and many others, by the way, also respects the rights of the individual), but like all countries, our past has not been blameless.

DA


2015-12-09
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Reply to Ian Stuart
"It is therefore a possibility that our perceptual data deceives us about any "real world" that might exist, and it is also possible that any "real world" may not exist." This proposition has inherent contradiction. Concepts of validity and possibility presuppose existence of the standard of knowledge. If  senses are invalid, these concepts become meaningless. To validate something means to infer from perceptual data. That why validity of senses is axiomatic. Even in order to deny them you have to accept them. Existence is real and invariant and so is knowledge. Therefore it's no such a thing as indigenous or not indigenous knowledge. There is no Native American astronomy, Arian mathematics orJewish physics or Aboriginal genetics. Knowledge is one and inferred from perceptual data by means of non-contradictory creation of concepts. 

2015-12-15
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
"This proposition has inherent contradiction. Concepts of validity and possibility presuppose existence of the standard of knowledge."

Yes, that is true.  There is a pre-existing standard of knowledge - is this separate from me?  Does it exist without human beings? 

And if there is a pre-existing standard of knowledge, then knowledge that there is a real world around us does not come up to that standard. 

 "If  senses are invalid, these concepts become meaningless."

Yes. What entitles us to make the asumption that the sense data is valid?  

"To validate something means to infer from perceptual data." 

Yes, What entitles us to make that inference? 

If you are using inductive reasoning, then you can only say that it is probable there is a real world around us. Inductive reasoning uses premises to give strong evidence for (not absolute proof of) the truth of the conclusion. The truth of the conclusion of an inductive argument is probable, based upon the evidence given.

Deductive reasoning,  is the reasoning from one or more statements (premises) to reach a logically conclusion.

Deductive reasoning links premises with conclusions. If all premises are true, the terms are clear and the rules of deductive logic are followed, then the conclusion reached is necessarily true.

If you use inductive reasoning, then your conclusion, that there is a real world around us, is only probable. Deductive reasoning leads to a logical coclusion, that there is a real world around us, but,  how do we know that the premises are true?  We do not know they are true.  The conclusion is the premise and the argument is circular. 



"That why validity of senses is axiomatic. Even in order to deny them you have to accept them. 

No, I disagree.  I would also make it clear that I am not denying the validity of sense data as you seem to imply.  I am questioning the validity of this data.  There remains a possibility that we are deceived by sense data and therefore all knowledge built on the assumption that sense data is valid is knowledge without a concrete basis in reality. It is based on an assumption. 

"Existence is real and invariant and so is knowledge."

How do you know that?  How do you know that existence is "real"?  We assume it is, but what entitles us to make that assumption?   As above, inductive reasoning tells us it is only probably true, while, in this case, the premisies of deductive reasoning can be questioned and therefore the deductive conclusion may well be logically necessary, but that logical conclusion may be based on false premises and os is not "true". 

 Your argument appears to be circular - as shown by Richard Rorty (Metaphilosophical Difficulties of Linguistic Philosophy, in The Linguistic Turn, Essays in Philosophical methods, page 1)  I.e.  The world is real and we can know "things" about the world - and therefore the world is real and we can know "things" about the world. 

How do we know the world is real?  

"Therefore it's no such a thing as indigenous or not indigenous knowledge. There is no Native American astronomy, Arian mathematics orJewish physics or Aboriginal genetics. Knowledge is one and inferred from perceptual data by means of non-contradictory creation of concepts." 

I would not disagree.   However, how do you deal with the contradictions in knowledge - such as betwwen Quantum Physics and Quantum mechanics? 

2015-12-16
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Reply to Ian Stuart
Standard is a tool of measures. It could be arbitrary or objective. I refer to the objective standard which is existent reality to which knowledge should correspond. If there is no standard and reality is only a probability then no knowledge is possible. Reality and consciousness which includes perception are self-evident axioms. You cannot deny them without to accept them. If you say " there is no existence or existence is just a probability" this includes you as well and your statement is self-refuting. If you say " my senses are not valid " you have no other non-mystical means to infer your conclusion from  but your senses. Induction is based on observations and deduction is impossible without induction. Possibility, probability or certainty pertain to inference from perceptual data but percepts are always absolute. If you see a curved stick in the glass of water your senses didn't deceive you. They dully reflect a physical phenomenon of refraction. It's your inference wrong. There is no and cannot be an argument about reality of existence and validity of senses because all inferences and arguments are based on them. 

2015-12-16
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
The direction of this thread seems to underline my original comment that a fundamental foundation required to answer the question posed by Nicholas is the ability to reach an accord on what our goals should be. As I see the responses in the thread, I wonder if the first step for academia and especially philosophy is to develop a better thinking and communication process to evaluate contributions to an intellectual effort. Many of the responses here have included a dismissal of ideas put forward by others with very little justification other than acceptance of differences. What discussion there has been seems to suffer from some ignorance of the themes discussed or in other cases seem little more than appeals to emotion, perhaps appropriate for debating competitions, but hardly a productive intellectual strategy. We seem to recognize this - as Derek noted - analytic philosophers feel much safer ignoring criticism because they are simply not good at defending their basic assumptions. This seems to be a very poor strategy and science may provide a useful example in requiring clear assumptions which are subject to vigorous testing and potential rejection. As Popper noted, information content is high when an assumption can be rejected and much lower when it remains acceptable. There is little point in developing theories based upon competing assumptions if there is no effort to develop critical and testable differences to determine those more appropriate to reality.

The problem even appears in the opening paragraph of the thread in the comment above all the threats of climate change and later Koenrad states even the survival of homo sapiens as a specy is uncertain. An appeal to emotion is considered a fallacy in debating but this one is certainly a widespread opinion, but what is the source? Modern(ish) man has already survived global warming 2 degrees higher than today's temperatures (~100,000 years ago) and earlier homo has survived several similar cycles of climate change. The notion that man is the first organism to disrupt the climate of the planet ignores the much more dramatic change wrought by photosynthesizing bacteria in the great oxygenation event which increased the oxygen content of the atmosphere manyfold, allowing oxygen respiring organisms to evolve and creating the ozone layer which paved the way for terrestrial life. This isn't to argue that climate change shouldn't be a concern, rather that sober evaluation may be much more productive than the initial emotional appeal that seems to be favored currently. The greatest pollution event we know of brought about the evolution of humankind. Again, not to argue that pollution should be embraced, but that our current perspective may be somewhat skewed by our ignorance and failure (as a species) to truly understand our world. The comments on evolution and other issues are saddeningly inaccurate also. Evolution is constant and inevitable in many forms. The field of memetics (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meme) arose following Dawkins' discussion in his book 'The Selfish Gene' suggesting that even human ideas (such as democracy, technology, science, war, unbridled pollution, pacifism, environmentalism) are potentially rapidly evolving replicators that are subject to natural selection. Humans are probably the greatest source of memes on earth and a significant contributor to the 'natural selection' of available memes. There is also a growing sentiment that silicon has the potential to overtake carbon lifeforms as the leading intellectual 'organism'. Evolution doesn't necessarily 'improve' things, it is just an expression of inevitable unidirectional development based upon the criterion of survival. Nothing more. Then we have the notion that humans are somehow special. A couple of centuries ago, there was a relatively widespread notion that African hominids were not human, justifying the less than human treatment many people of African descent endured at the hands of 'humanity'. When I was a student it was widely believed that animals were not conscious creatures, merely a collection of reflexes. Now I see it argued that animals are not 'rational' or cannot 'reason' like humans so deserve separation on that basis. What about the research on communication with other primates, and the invention, manufacture and use of tools by many creatures (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tool_use_by_animals)? Now we have at least 3 participants using the 'specialness' of humans to derive morality. Ethologist identify social evolution and associated complex interactions among a multitude of organisms including insects and even unicellular organisms. The most widely recognized is altruism, but it is clear that there are many mutually beneficial behaviors that favor highly organized cooperation, even with punishment for non-compliant individuals. An alternative view of morality is that the behaviors we define as moral are highly beneficial to our survival and have therefore resulted in the evolution of moral individuals merely by the process of 'survival of the fittest'. Morality isn't a human choice, it is a result of evolutionary pressure and at the moment, we barely understand any of the evolutionary benefits of morality, but if you take this position, you may consider such understanding to be absolutely critical to moral progress. The recent links between moral behavior and feeling good about what we do may simply be a part of that evolutionary process, shaping our 'conscience' to favor certain social behaviors, but also giving us a mechanism to weigh our emotional currency against other life currencies to come up with a minimum loss outcome (Such as the uncomfortable choice to inflict pain or even death to discourage an undesired behavior). It isn't that we have a divine 'moral compass' pointing to a better way to behave. It is that our past experience has wired our nervous systems to behave in ways that we call moral, simply because it is a more successful way to survive.

As Ian has now pointed out, we are horribly deluded by our own prejudices, whether originating in false logic or emotion. It seems clear to me that academic institutions at every level have failed miserably to bring humanity even close to its intellectual potential. Perhaps this is the first priority for the question that Nicholas posed.

I act as if it is all “real” while admitting I may be wrong. And perhaps also watchful for alternatives or tests which may reveal more insights into “reality” and how we should act.

Like it or not, Daesh (the disrespectful term) uses arguments to convince people who are not idiots.
But this time it's going on all over the world, through the wonderful Western inventions of the internet, international travel, globalized culture and the "self-evident truth" that we all have an inalienable right to believe whatever crock of antiquated anthropomorphic bullshit we please. We are basically hoist on our own cultural petard.
And we fail to recognize in the demonstrated differences we see, that each position is far from convincing for every participant/victim. Thus we have no generic (axiomatic?) basis that we can use persuasively to universally motivate the goal of creating a 'good world'. Does this mean that such a basis is unrealistic, or does it mean we should be looking for better arguments than the ones we have at the moment?


2015-12-18
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Reply to John Hodgson
Hi John

RE: “Daesh (the disrespectful term) uses arguments to convince people who are not idiots.”

I suspect a good percentage of them are. The young men (most are men) who have fallen for this stuff in Australia have  often been people who’ve dropped out of the education system, who haven't been able to hold down a job, who’ve lived marginal lives, often including brushes with the law (e.g. re drugs or violence), who have tried to escape into the fake world of computer games, and who have obviously been looking for “a solution” – an alternative to all this pointlessness. I gather the same often holds true in other countries.

They are easy prey, in other words - and doubtless seen as useful idiots by those who do the recruiting (but usually manage to avoid doing the shooting and dying).

DA

2016-01-12
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
That's a very good question. Social sciences suffers from myopia and lack of scientific discipline. The most good would be facilitated by growing a generation of social scientists liberated from the pseudo-science of postmodernism and assorted nonsense. Social science must be built on sound science like neuroscience rather than on pseudo-science of french postmodernists. Furthermore, social sciences must be restructured to yield beneficial outcomes, rather than rhetorical, useless, volumes of non-information.

Likewise for art, artists must not be exempt from an enhanced scientifically and philosophically informed world-view. Ignorant people shouldn't be artists.

In philosophy, we must also encourage salient, scientifically informed, philosophy of ethics. I see a lot of nonsense today, like suggesting that ethics is defined best by "human preferences". Or the kind of vapid, repulsive pseudo-philosophy of the likes that Sam Harris pens. That kind of sloppy and malicious thinking will surely make sure humanity regresses.

Regards,

Eray

2016-01-15
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Reply to Eray Ozkural
Kia ora Eray
I think you have a naive view of science - a view that accepts "science"as a rigourous and disciplined way of creating knoweldge, which is clearly different from the social science approches to knoweldge creation.  In other words - a view that accepts the mythology of the objectivity and rigourness of science. 

However, your position is not sustainable.

Firast, as Leonid Fainbertg (above) has shown, the acceptance of sense data as valid is dogmatic/ideological.  Fainbergt may declare it axiomatic (and he is not the only philosopher to do so).  However, in stating that this is unchallengable, it is clear that it is dogmatic/ideological. So, any statements that are made about the world, which may or may not exist around us,  are based on a dogmatic/ideological acceptance of sense data. 

(In discussing the link between sense data and knowledge I would use a Kantian-type argument - and say that sense data is interpreted in social contexts - it is socially constructed.  Different cultures interpret sense data in different ways and name and describe the world in different ways. Nothing priviligies the Euroecentric knowledge systems over the other knoweldge systems.  In that case the question can be asked; Which world is real?  Yours or ours? The answer will be ideologically based and therefore anything we can say about the world is ideological and culturally based) 

Futher, respected scientists who have made major advanced in their areas, speak of intuition as an important part of their work.  Ernst Mach and Albert Einstein in particular. Mach writes of intuitive knowledge (Mach, E. (1901). The Science of Mechanics (4th ed.). Seaside, Or: Watchmaker Publishing. pp1, 26-28, 83, 304)  Mach, E. (1914). The Analysis of Sensations, and the Relation of the Physical to the Psychical. Lexington, KTY: Forgotten Books. pp 319, 327, 328)  This emphasis on intuition would seem to undermine the structurely disciplined and mechanical approach to science. 

In The Structure of Scientific Revolutuions (Kuhn 1962)  Thomas Kuhn says scientists speak of "the scales falling from their eyes" "lightning flash" moment and answers to problems coming dreams (Kuhn, 1962, pp122-123).  Dreams?  This undermines your naive aceptance of science as a logical and disciplined approach. 

In his chapter The Resolution of Revolutions (pp 144-159) Kuhn outlines the arguments around the acceptance of a new scientific paradigm, and quotes Max Planck "a new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its oppnents eventually die ..."  (Kuhn, page 151) So, the "logical" of science is not even convincing for scientists? 

This undermines the efficacy of logical, scientific arguments.  It can be seen that the proponents of the older paradigms are holding onto their ideologies and dogmas, so the question can be asked;  What ideologies and dogmas does the new paradigm rest on?

Kuhn also says that "We may, to be more precise, have to relinquish the notion, explicit of implict, that changes of paradigm carry scientists and those who learn from them closer and closer to the truth"  (p170)

Now, I would suggest that what Kuhn calls "normal science" does proceed in a logical and disciplined way.  However that logical and disciplined way is based on the dogma/ideologies accepted by the discipline.  These dogmas and ideologies are only challenged during scientific revilutions, but only in a limited way, never at the very base level. 

Feyerabend's work (Feyerabend, P. (1993). Against Method (3 ed.). London: Verso.  and Feyerabend, P. (1987). Farewell To Reason. London: Verso. Against Method is the first work, even though my edition is post my edition of Farewell to Reason) adds to Kuhn and simplifies Kuhn's chapter The Resolution of Revolutions to a concise statement - whoever has the best argument has his material taken as knowledge.   This places the physical sciences on the same bases as the sociel sciences - it is all in the argument/discourse. It is all socially constructed. 

Particularly in Against Method Feyerabend goes back to how scientists say they work (scientists such as mach and Einstein) rather than the way Popper says they work, and shows that science does not proceed in a logical way, but in fact by flashes of inspiration, intuition and fantasy. Feyerabend argues that the "methodology" of science as a logical and disciplined approach is a myth - that in fact methodologically "anything goes" and whoever has the best argument has their material taken for knowledge (once their opponents have died). 

Feyerabend, echoing Kuhn, also asks how we know we are closer to the truth?  Maybe we were closer to the truth 200 years ago.  And if we know where truth lies, why not just go straight there, rather than mesing around taking smaller and smaller steps ... 

All these works show that science is not the disciplined and logical system that you seem to think it is. Once the dogma and ideologies are challenged, science has no stronger a base than social sciences. It is all socially constructed.

I will just walk away from your comment about art and artists ...

This would seem to be enough for now.  I will give a second response to your request for a scientific ethics ... 


2016-01-16
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Reply to Eray Ozkural

RE: “Likewise for art, artists must not be exempt from an enhanced scientifically and philosophically informed world-view. Ignorant people shouldn't be artists.”

Yes, I think it's outrageous that Shakespeare, for example, is still admired despite the fact that he didn’t know the first thing about modern physics! Same goes for Michelangelo and Mozart. Ban them I say! Ban them - and any artist like them!  The can only make humanity regress!

DA


2016-01-19
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Reply to Ian Stuart
You mix perception and conception here. One may interpret percepts in any way he wish since concept formation is a volitional act. But that doesn't change perceperception itself. Tree is tree and red is red. As for intuitive thinking, it doesn't negate mind. Intuitive conclusions are results of processing data by subconscious mind. One is not always aware of the mechanism of thinking. Yet I doubt that you would agree to have a surgery based on intuitive diagnosis. You would ask a hard fact confirmation first. The same applies to all other intuitive conclusions. They require a vigorous scientific tests. There is nothing cultural in establishing of fact that person has a brain tumour or speed of light is final. 

2016-01-19
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Reply to Ian Stuart

science does not proceed in a logical way, but in fact by flashes of inspiration, intuition and fantasy

But logic occurs also when we are not aware of our thought processes so we cannot even sense if our Eureka moment was a result of a logical process. 


whoever has the best argument has his material taken as knowledge.....Feyerabend, echoing Kuhn, also asks how we know we are closer to the truth?


Too often intellectual efforts are shoehorned into some favored trendy definition. One important test for science (and sometimes art) is predictability. We don't necessarily know where truth lies, but we are encouraged to follow paths that help us make more accurate/reliable predictions. Even that doesn't guarantee that we are on the best path. 

2016-01-19
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Reply to Eray Ozkural
"In philosophy, we must also encourage salient, scientifically informed, philosophy of ethics."

OK.  If science is not as rigous as you think (see my post above) then basing ethics on science is not better than the approaches you criticise.  The difference is dogma/ideology.  Yours supports science and its accompanying mythology. 

Second, as Vine Deloria writes  "Western science has no moral basis and is entirely incapable of resolving human problems except by the device of making humans act more and more like machines".  (Deloria, V. (2003 (1973)). God Is Red; A Native View of Religion. Golden, Co: Fulcrum.)

Science does not claim to have anything to do with ethics - it is a purely mechanical explanation of what the European-derived cultures see as a mechanical world. 

Third, "scientific approaches" was the major issue with Scientific Marxism.  Human experience is far wider than the mechanics of science.  Human beings are not mechanical functionaries within a mechanical world.  

Fourth, and probably most important, On what, within science, would you base human ethics? You seem to emphasize "beneficial outcomes"  but who would decide what those beneficial outcomes are?  Are you suggesting a calculated version of Utilitarianism? If so, who decides the benefits?  The person about to receive $1milion or the million people about to recieve $1? 

It is easy to argue, from a Darwinistic point of view (the science of evolution - survival of the fittest) in favour of Eugenics, because the removal of undesirable genes benefits the human race.  I, and many others, would not condone Eugenics as an ethical practise, nor sterilizing handicapped people, or deranged people.  But all of those cases can be argued on the basis of "benefits" to the wider humanity.  And the world occurs in such a way as to promote the fittest individuals of any population, therefore we shoud assist that process. That's what science tells us ought to be.

It is also possible to argue for an ethics based on social violence - the survival of the fittest.  Science Ficton writer Robert Heinlein uses this as part of his philosophies in the fictional world of Starship Troopers and Beyond this Horizon. So, the "fittest" who survive are those who survive in the Government-approved milieu of social violence. Murder no longer exists - merely "fitter" genes ... 

We should do nothing to assist sick people?  Sick people have poor genes and the human race would be better off without them.

Bind people ? - Sorry, not fit for this world.  Poor people - proven not fit for this world. 

All of these arguments have been run, either recently or at some time in the past - and they can all be supported by "science".   But none of them we would regard as ethical, at least I hope not.

I fail to see how you can base an ethics on mechanical explanations of the world that make no claim to ethics. 

  

 

2016-01-20
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Kia ora Leonid
Am I mixing conception with percerption?  I'm sure that a Kantian-type argument would do just that - we perceive what we are conditioned to perceive. We learn what exists in the world and the names for what exists in the world within a culture.

For example, your example of trees - yes, trees exist.  Our word for trees is also used to mean some of the artifacts and articles made from wood (we have no word for wood separate from trees) and for the weapons also made from wood.  The wood is rakau - and the use of the word across a range of things that English would call by different names maintains a mauri and a whakapapa link between these items.   Do we perceive a "thing" or do we perceive a named 'thing' - in this case "tree'  with all the things we know about trees? Do we have direct knowledge of the object or is our perception and knowledge conditioned by 'trees' and what we know about them? 

Do we perceive things in different ways? That's an interesting question- and I believe the answer to be Yes, we do.  Let me recollect where some of these arguments are made and I will get back to you. But now I would suggest that Indigenous perceptions of time are cyclic, while the perceptions of time of the European-derived cultures is linear.  This Euro-centric linear perception of time is learnt, because our experiences of time suggest it is cyclic. The learnt percpetion overrides the experiential perception.

So, if this one perception is learnt - how many other perceptions are learnt?  I would asuggest all of them are. And therefore it is impossible to separate perception from conception.

I'm interested in your use of 'mind'  We have no word in our language for 'mind'.  Human beings, the Ira Tangata, are made up of three things - Tinana, Hinenakau, Wairua.  None of those equates to 'mind' or even 'soul' or 'spirit'.  Tinana is certainly the physical body - but neither wairua or hinengakau equate to mind.  We have no word and no conception of 'mind' like English and other European languages does and do.  Without 'mind' then we have no conception of the subconsious mind.  Does the subconscious exist?  Freud declared it so - but was he right?  I have never seen, felt or experienced such - I do not have that conception in my worldview. 

So you are suggesting that a subconscious mind, which may or may not actually exist, does our reasoning for us?  That throws open a huge range of challenges to European conceptions "knowledge".  I would be hard pressed to say what the difference was between knowledge generated by the subconscious and dreams/fantasy.   This would seem to completely undermine the rationality/logical of science. 

Does "mind" exist?  - Descartes declared the world to be made up of two things - material and mind.  But that's completely Eurocentric and we would not agree with him. 

So there is certainly something cultural about deciding wither the mind and the subconscious exist.

I'm intrigued by your use of the speed of light as 'final'.  Contemporary Science suggests it is not.  Go here.  This references the European Physics Journal.  
http://www.livescience.com/29111-speed-of-light-not-constant.html

 So while we may be able to measure the sped of light, using a Euro-centric measurements of time, space and therefore being able to calculate velocity  (except the same science that says the speed of light is a constrant, also says that time and space are the same thing, so velocity, which measures changes in space against changes in time, does seem to be quite culturally based, in that it is based in the culture of Newtonian science.  The finality of that calculation appears to be quite culturally based as well, or at least wrong.

Medicine is an interesting one - and there are culturally based medical practises.  The only way that you can argue that the medicine of the European-derived cultures is factual is to privilege the European-derived knowledges over non-European-dervied medical knowledge - a completely Eurocentric argument with no validity. 

I certainly would not have surgery based on an intuitive diagnosis - however sometimes I wonder if doctors really do know what they are talking about - I have seen quite a lot which has proven them wrong on many occassions. (I have refused treatment based on a Europen-derrived medical diagnosis and I would do so again)   However, if intuitive knowledge is the results of data processing by our subconscious mind (in your terms) then why not rely on it?  Doesn't all knowledge, whether it be intuitive or the results of data collection and analysis, require rigorous testing?  What counts as 'rigorous' is surely culturally dependent - including the culture of the physical sciences - so what counts as knowldge is culturally based.

You say "One is not always aware of the mechanism of thinking.'  Surely that undermines argumetns for rationality and logic. In your world, rationality and Logic are conscious processes are they not? 

Finally, I think your arguments are Euro-centric and privilige the knowledge of Europe and it's derived cultures with no basis for doing so. 




2016-01-20
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Reply to John Hodgson
Yes, I agree.  All knowledge has two parts - an explanatory part and a prediction part.  If the prediction comes about, then the explanation has validity.  (I don't know where I got this from - it's not mine but I think I pickledf it up soemtime back in the 1970s.)


2016-01-20
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Reply to Ian Stuart
It is unfortunate that "science" is usually separated from other "intellectual stuff", often by criteria that suit the individual separating them. At the moment the film animation industry is doing far more to understand our perceptions of what is real than all of the scientific efforts combined. The impressionist painters with their sometimes childlike Images taught me more about non-stereoscopic depth perception than the entire community of vision scientists. Artists knew about mixing colors long before Newton. The blinkered vision advocated by "separatists" isolates and diminishes other kinds of intellectual efforts and discourages efforts to evaluate their validity. It probably also encourages a defensive overreaction to opposition of ideas from competing disciplines, often based upon insufficient knowledge and understanding which boils down to opposition based upon ignorance and misunderstanding. An effort to constructively engage and understand the spectrum of intellectual processes available to humanity may be revealing and very instructive. A first step would be to rephrase denunciations (from both sides) of the intellectual processes that are less familiar to us. Is it impossible to reflect upon the shortcomings of our own intellectual processes and learn how to respect and leverage the intellectual  approaches offered by other, unfamiliar disciplines? Communicate instead of dismissing.

In this spirit, I challenge Ian's position on the value of science to morality. Science has failed to communicate the realities of "evolution" and the perception of science as irrefutable truth strengthens the stubbornness of society against the opinions it forms based upon science. Simple "sound bytes" become the mean's of communication rather than considered opinion. Darwin didn't use the phrase "Survival of the fittest" in the first editions of his book and a much later letter to his son revealed that he regretted ever using the phrase because of the misunderstanding it encouraged. "Evolution" was a word he used only once in the first edition of his book. Relegated to the last paragraph of his text. He preferred the expression "Descent with modification". The layperson's understanding of Darwin's ideas is based upon 19th century sound bytes.

Science still struggles to understand the complexities of evolutionary "fitness" while the "ignoracenti" (including some scientists) forge ahead with misguided notions such as eugenics, a general misguided belief that science will cure all and a failure to recognize that logical decisions based upon science can be disastrous if the underlying (mis)knowledge is not critically examined. The reality is that the process we misnamed as evolution is inevitable. New developments are inevitable and the integration of those new developments into an existing world invites functional comparisons with potential consequences for popularity and possibly long-term existence. Thus the notion of survival plays easily into the perception of evolution. Survival can have negative connotations and ignores the very real fact that the "fittest" don't merely survive, they thrive. This leads to huge numbers of "competitors" which generally seem to have eschewed fighting for individual survival and accepted living together. A new environment of many similar individuals offers opportunities for socialization and specialization for a group that then becomes "fitter" than the individuals of which it is composed. Did those early individuals logically deduce the appropriate conditions for group survival or did evolution naturally select individuals who contributed to "fitter" groups? Note also that the early manifestations of groups occurred in the unicellular organisms which eventually evolved into the societies we now recognize as human individuals. Was it intellectual design that drove these individual cells towards mutual support and even organized specializations of function which led to utter reliance on other individuals for survival? Are these perhaps early manifestations of behaviors that we now categorize as moral, derived purely from natural selection? Is it impossible to consider that, like the monosynaptic reflex, natural selection has shaped the wiring of the parts of our brains which determine how we behave socially? There is a substantial scientific literature on the role of cooperation in evolution, though it is barely recognized in popular accounts of evolution. Morality is a significant factor in the optimization of cooperation and it should therefore be no surprise that morality is a positive trait for thriving.

2016-01-22
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Reply to John Hodgson
John,
RE: "There is a substantial scientific literature on the role of cooperation in evolution, though it is barely recognized in popular accounts of evolution. Morality is a significant factor in the optimization of cooperation and it should therefore be no surprise that morality is a positive trait for thriving."

I agree with you here. People confuse the fact that scientific-empirical arguments are not moral arguments, with the notion that science has nothing to say about morality. In fact, empirical ontology and metaphysics can show that evolutionary theory can explain how and why we are moral beings; in a word, "language". Language gives us a moral point of view because it forces us to consider the processes and conclusions that lead to our moral behaviors, as choices we make for (sound or unsound) reasons. 

The competitions driving cultural evolution currently are primarily those among capitalists, to determine which can build the the biggest and best (most profitable and powerful) corporations. We, meaning the rest of us, are just the pieces they move about to try to win the games that most of don't know anything about. But until we come to understand the nature of culture, it's pretty much impossible to make rational decisions about what sorts of societal institutions we should have.   

I'd like your comments.

Thanks,
DCD


2016-01-22
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Reply to Ian Stuart
Yes, I agree.  All knowledge has two parts - an explanatory part and a prediction part.  If the prediction comes about, then the explanation has validity.You make many good points Ian. The notion of the validity of a prediction is a well accepted part of the scientific method. Its popularity is usually ascribed to Karl Popper, discussed in his Logic of Scientific Discovery. It is something of a misquote. Popper pointed out that validation of an explanation is impossible. (There can always be another explanation). Science constantly demonstrates that current explanations are incorrect, showing that the explanatory part is really an illusion.
As for the existence of conscious/unconscious processing, there is substantial scientific literature reporting evidence that complex high level decisions are sometimes made by the brain before we are consciously aware of them. On  much simpler basis, the withdrawal of a limb from a sharp object and perhaps even standing and walking can be considered rudimentary logical processes but are independent of conscious processes. Indeed, they don't even need a brain (Sherrington, Grillner, Rossignol, Edgerton). The difference here is that we can (partially) explain/demonstrate them so we don't need the magic of consciousness to explain them. We thus have a capacity for unconscious logic that we may describe as an idea coming out of nowhere - intuition, which we can consciously calibrate against our database of predictability and assign a potential for utility. Regardless of such assignments, we can choose to "go with our gut" and sometimes benefit from appropriate unconscious processing that could not be consciously validated. If such "gut feelings" help creatures thrive, then the brain wiring that gave rise to those feelings will thrive also, providing a basis for the development of unconscious behaviors (including feelings) that improve our ability to thrive. Perhaps morality has its basis in such scientifically reasonable logic.

2016-01-22
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Reply to John Hodgson
Just a comment on what is said here about scientific explanation.  In order to be acceptable, a physical theory must satisfy two requirements.  It must be (a) sufficiently empirically successful, and (b) suffciently unified.  Both are essential.  And it is very difficult to meet both - which is why it is so difficult to think up a theory better than the extraordinarily empirically successful and explanatory theories we have in physics: Newtonian mechanics, classical electrodynamics, quantum theory, general relativity, QED, the standard model.  (A physical theory in order to be explanatory must be unified, and must have substantial empirical content.)  But what is it for a physical theory to be unified?  And how can we be justified in persistently accepting unified theories, even in preference to endlessly many empirically more successful disunified rivals that can always be concocted?  My solution to these two problems is outlined here: Maxwell, N; (2013) Has science established that the cosmos is physically comprehensible? In: Travena, A and Soen, B, (eds.) Recent Advances in Cosmology. Nova Science Publishers Inc.: New York, available online at:-
http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/view/people/ANMAX22.date.html  

2016-01-26
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Reply to John Hodgson
Kia ora John

Yes, I think it is unfortunate that science is usually separated from other intellectual stuff. This is very clear to me when the "intellectual stuff" of the indigenous world is also separated out - but for the negative reasons that it does not come up to the 'standards' of "western" intellectual stuff. 

I suppose my point would be that there is nothing that privileges western knowledge over indigenous knowledge and nothing that privileges science over other disciplines. 

Once that is recognised, then a true communication can take place.  But while some people privilege some disciplines, and some cultures, there can be no true communication. 

My use of evolutionary science within the discourse of morality was really to challenge the position that the only basis of morality is science,  by showing how science can be used to reach decisions that many of us would not take to be moral - such as Eugenics. And yes, the phrase "survival of the fittest" has been misused - misused to suggest that "fittest' means most physically able.  However, in human terms, we are one of the least physically able species - our evolutionary advantage is our intellegence.   What makes us "fit" to survival is our intellegence. 

It does appear that the ability to co-operate has been advantageous in evolution, however there are also species which do not practice co-operation, such as the solitary big cats, rhinocerous, etc, which are well adapted and survive very well.  I do wonder, however, whether that ability to co-operate for survival has prompted us to consider co-operation as an ethical position.  Is that a social way to ensure co-operation or is it a moral action within itself? I'm unsure ... 

I do agree that science can make a contribution to morality - but wonder how it might contribute to discussions about Assisted Dying/Euthenasia, to debates on Abortion ...  a range of ethical/moral issues which are currently debated within society. 



2016-01-29
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Reply to John Hodgson
Ngā mihi John (thank you)
Thank you for the Popper reference.  I had not thought of looking in his work.

I am thinking of 'validity' in a different kind of way.  In the indigenous world we talk a lot about worldviews, which are quite primary for us as we see and experience the differences between indigenous worldviews and those of the Europe and its derived cultures. We see and experience these differences on a daily basis as we are confribnted with different worldviews.  The European-derived cultues are not cionfrotned to quite the same extent, unless peope like me make the confrontation occur. 

To me 'validity' is based on the worldview as a plausibility structure. (Sire, J. (2004). Naming the Elephant: Worldview as a concept. Downers Grove, Il: InterVarsity Press. p112)  The explanation forms part of the plausibility structure. 

New explanations must fit within an existing plausibility structure  (this can apply to science, which has its own well defined plausibility structure).  If the new explanation fits within the existing plausibility structure and the resulting prediction ocurs, then the new knowledge is valid.  This is a different conception from Popper and means that validation is possible.  But only validation within a worldview, not a generalised validation.

Anyway.  I didn't intend to get involved in another epistemological discussion.  I will return to Nicholas' original question - but it's our summer here and I have leave for a few days.  I will come back to this next week. I think the indigenous world offers some interesting responses to Nicholas' question and a pathway to progress this discussion. 


2016-02-01
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Nicholas - thank- you for the reference. It helps to clarify you idea of AOE. I'm a slow reader, especially when it comes to assimilating new ideas in an unfamiliar field, so haven't finished reading yet.Ian's comments crystallized for me a part of the problem we are facing - that of contrasting worldviews - even among the individuals participating in this debate and very much in the focus of the world as the U.S. presidential race gathers momentum. Even within a single nation, the range of worldviews is sufficient to trigger hot debate and, as the past has frequently demonstrated, violence. My comments in previous posts have mentioned the challenge of reaching a group consensus that could form the foundations of a strategy to reach the goal of a better world.
At least in the U.S., universities are currently integrating disparate worldviews by mandate which (in my opinion) merely hides the problem. The focus on competition, comparison, success, winning etc. on the other hand serve to emphasize and encourage contrast and dissent. To me, there is a difference between "debate" and "discussion" that mimics our comments on ' survival of the fittest'. Debate seems to be about an individual winning at all costs, discussion seems more about a group gaining globally from the efforts of all participants.
Clearly, in order to find a path to a "good word", we need to define the " good world" that we wish to move towards and that definition needs to be inclusive of the disparate worldviews that exist. The alternative is perhaps to develop a 'unified' worldview using the process Nicholas outlines. However we approach this, I feel we must redirect the energies put into 'debating" these issues into a more productive 'discussion' and a first step may well be to acknowledge and formalize the difference between these processes. At least that is my worldview!

2016-02-01
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Reply to John Hodgson
There is no magic solution to the problem you raise.  Aim-oriented rationality, AOR, (a generalized version of aim-oriented empiricism) is intended to help.  It requires us to represent problematic aims in the form of a hierarchy, aims - and worldviews when implicit in aims - becoming less and less substantial and specific, and so less and less problematic, as one goes up the hierarchy.  This could help groups with conflicting aims and worldviews get on together by enabling them to distingguish what they agree about - high up in the hierarchy - from what they disagree about - low down in the hierarchy.  It is a framework designed to help people improve problematic aims and methods as they act.  I spelled this out at some length in my From Knowledge to Wisdom (1984, 2nd ed 2007).  It makes it possible to assess and improve ideas for action, philosophyies of life, as we act, in the light of our experiences, what we enjoy and suffer as we try to put our ideas into practice, and other considerations.  But things are so bad that it is not just that we have failed to put AOR into practice in personal, social and institutional life; nor is it just that we have failed to try.  We have not even had the idea that this is what we ought to be trying to do.  The very conception of AOR is not common currency.  Work on the concept of reason does not, as far as I am aware, include a mention of AOR - leaving aside my own work.  And yet it ought to be the epistemological backbone of all of academic inquiry and education.  The universal acceptance of the elementary point that our aims, our ideals, our worldviews, are bound to be problematic in some respects, we all have things to learn, and we need to learn from each other, would transform utterly our capacity to get on with each other in life.  Once again, as I see it, the real betrayal is that of the academics, who have failed to provide the most elementary intellectual tools to help us resolve conflicts and problems in increasingly cooperatively rational ways.
Best wishes, Nick

2016-02-02
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
I have felt for many years now that most (not all) philosophers are not interested bucking the situation of modern philosophy because it has become a consumerist field (doing it for the pay/prestige vs. doing it for the love) as a means of surviving capitalism (the same with many fields).  
If a philosopher speaks out against something within the field that is widely accepted then they are at risk of losing their jobs, funding, career, livelihood, etc. 

Then there is the other likelihood - they speak out and no one cares because it is not "hot" enough to warrant a response and therefore they make no make no money and decide to scrap their passion for what is "hot" and "trendy" within the field.

Inquiry restricted to the pursuit of knowledge no longer sells at the average American university.  It's all about churning out workers for a failing economy.

This was a huge problem I felt even as an undergraduate.  Most of my professors were there for the paycheck alone and not the pursuit of knowledge or academic inquiry.  It was just a job to them.  Something to do that didn't require something else.  One went so far as to say, "at least I'm not working at McDonald's".

2016-02-02
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
It is my argument, of course, that the ideal aim is wisdom, not just knowledge, wisdom being the capacity, the active endeavour and the desire to realize what is of value in life for oneself and others, wisdom in this sense including knowledge, technological know-how and understanding, but much else besides.  One reason why it is so important to get proper aims and methods, and so intellectual standards and ideals, in place is that even those who pursue fame merely, or careers, nevertheless may well make valuable contributions because, standards being what they are, the way to advance a career is to make a valuable contribution.  This works much better in natural science than it does in philosophy!  There may be quite a lot of cynicism around in philosophy precisely because official ideas about what one should do in philosophy are so inadequate.  If what seems to be on offer is pretty dreary, from an intellectual point of view, no wonder other considerations win over.
Best wishes, Nick

2016-02-09
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?

Kia ora koutou

Nicholas asked us:

“What kind of academic inquiry can best help humanity make progress towards as good a world as possible?”

I suggest that just that kind of enquiry has been going on in Indigenous Philosophy for some time now.  In fact it is the base question of what we do in the indigenous world.  We do this within Worldview approaches.

Sire (Sire, J. (2009). The Universe Next Door: A Basic Worldview Catalogue (5 ed. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press) states that the first two questions in building a worldview in the European and  its derived worlds are: What Exists (Ontological) and How do we know (Epistemological).   Sire states that the order of the questions is important.  His worldview is Christian so for him the first answer is God exists, and the second answer echoes Descartes – God made me a knowing being, God is not a deceiver, so we can know.  Sire’s question about ethics is Question 8 out of 10 questions.

I think the order of the questions is important; however after about question five, the order is less important so I would not attribute any specific significance to Sire placing ethics at number 8 within the European-derived worldviews.  

In the Indigenous world, Ethics is Question One. ( Deloria and others (Deloria, V. (2003 (1973)). God Is Red. Golden, Co: Fulcrum. Deloria, V. (1979). The Metaphysics of Modern Existence. Golden, CO: Fulcrum. Deloria, V.,&Wildcat, D. (2001). Power and Place: Indian Education in America. Golden, Co: Fulcrum.)  point out that from an Indigenous point of view Western philosophy starts with the wrong questions. 

The question to start from is always ethics – how do we live our lives? How do we interact with the world around us?  This is, of course, Nicholas’ question …  in a different form.   In indigenous worldviews How should we behave is always the first question , it is always and ethical question – and means that everything else that follows is infused with our ethics.

To pause for a mometn and place my discussion within our worldview contexts, indigenous worldviews tend to see the world as a continually evolving process that has not yet been completed.  This is certainly true of a Māori worldview and differs from the European-derived worldviews which, influenced by Christianity, see the world as finished, fixed and knowable.  We do not share that view …

Also, in Indigenous worldviews, knowledge is experiential knowledge (Burkhart, B. (2004). What Thales and Coyote Can Teach Us: An outline of American Indian Epistemology. In A. Waters (Ed.), Modern American Indian Thought (pp. 15-26). Malden, Ma: Blackwell.  Gehl , L (2014) The truth that Wampum Tells Us, BlackPoint Nova Scotia. Fernwood   and others). This means knowledge is incomplete (because we have not experienced everything) and knowledge is a process, not fixed.  What we know today may change tomorrow as the world changes and evolves andas  we experience more things.  Knowledge is also found in relationships and as those relationships change and grow so too does the knowledge.  This means knowledge has a certain amount of built in uncertainty and incompleteness.  This is different to the knowledge of the European-derived cultures which is ether correct or incorrect (instead of right or wrong, which can also carry ethical connotations).

That’s the Background and enough information about Indigenous worldviews for you all to get the point of the rest

Generally, (some indigenous groups may well disagree – but most would agree) in the indigenous world, ethics revolve around two principle aims – flourishing people and maintaining the environment for future generations. The two concepts are, therefore, clearly linked as people are part of the world, not separated from the word, or the prime life form in the world, (as Deloria shows Christianity places people).  Some links have been made between Aristotle’s concept of Eudaimonia as flourishing people, and while I would not disagree, I would say that comparing ideas developed within differing worldviews is fraught with danger.  In this case indigenous identity tends to be group focused, rather than individual focussed, so “flourishing people” may possibly be better expressed as “flourishing groups of people”.  This would then lead to slightly different actions and outcomes, to achieve a flourishing group over flourishing individuals.

Now, Burkhart says that life is both a meaning making activity and an ethics-making activity (Burkhart, B. (2004). What Thales and Coyote Can Teach Us: An outline of American Indian Epistemology. In A. Waters (Ed.), Modern American Indian Thought (pp. 15-26). Malden, Ma: Blackwell.)  There is a similarity here to Sam Keane’s: “ Do not ask what is the mean of life – life asks what is the meaning of you?”  (Kean, S (1991) Fire in the Belly. Bantam Books)    Unlike the European-derived cultures, for us Life is.  Just is.  We make the purpose of life.

So, this world, which in Māori terms is known as Te Ao Marama (the world of light), is an ethical place – in that it has everything within it for human beings to flourish.    As we live our lives with give meaning to those lives by what we do in this world and how we maintain and promote te Ao Marama for future generations.  This is why life is an ethics-making process.  We are creating the ethical conditions for ourselves and future generations – the not-yet-born members of our groups.  (Group membership is not limited to those who are alive now but includes members gone and members not yet born – these are all part of our group and part of our identity.)  And all our knowledge and other production systems are judged not by truth content but by ethical content. 

I would suggest that our research methods, which are generally focussed on improving conditions to allow for flourishing people and a health environment ( see concepts of kaupapa Māori research approaches)  are about producing meaning rather than knowledge, and must be judged on ethical bases. Wildcat (in  Deloria, V., & Wildcat, D. (2001). Power and Place: Indian Education in America. Golden, Co: Fulcrum.) discusses academic work as the co-construction of meaning rather than the production of knowledge.)

So, the question; How should we live our lives is answered as we live our lives, and with continual interaction with our ethics, with questions of who we are and our place/role within an every-changing and every evolving world.   Here, formal philosophy can play a part – but it must recognise the changing nature of the world and the changing nature of human experience within the world.

Here’s I’d also make reference to Heidegger and his idea of continually interrogating the nature of being.  This is what Indigenous Philosophy does al the time – interrogates the nature of being.   We do this because we are continually confronted with the European and derived culture’s view of being, which conflicts with our own.  So we are confronted with the differences and continually asked to justify ours.

This experiential approach shows the importance of the elders within our societies and groups.  These are the people who have the experience and knowledge to help us act within the world in ethical and appropriate ways.

This is from Beauchamp on Aristotle’s person of practical wisdom:  “.. a person of practical wisdom knows which ends should be chosen and knows how to achieve them in particular circumstances, at the same time keeping emotions within proper bounds and carefully selecting from among a range of possible actions that might be taken. The required factor is the practical judgement that skilled and admired group leaders exhibit when they combine experience and good judgement.” (Beauchamp, T. (1991). Philosophical Ethics. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.)

The Indigenous world would recognise this as an apt description of our elders.  We look to our elders not just for decisions on what the European-derived cultures would see as ethical decisions, but on all decisions (because they are all transfused with ethics) but also in the wider contexts.  We look to their practical wisdom for guidance. (Notice I said guidance.  This is not a dictatorial stance on the part of our leaders  - well some can be – but whether or not such leaders last long is another matter.)

Returning to that question:  “What kind of academic inquiry can best help humanity make progress towards as good a world as possible?”    I would answer that, primarily, the way we live our lives is the inquiry that we undertake.  Our philosophy is an articulation of our experiences, our practical wisdom and our relationships with the physical and social world.    Academic work in our world is a little different from the European-derived culture’s academic work.  Let me pause here.  I can articulate that later.

 


2016-02-09
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Kia ora Nicholas 
Precisely.   That has been the aim in the indigenious world for more generations than I can count. 

2016-02-09
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
I appreciate the spirit of your question. First of all one must understand an effective philosophy before commenting generally about the seeming complacency of the philosophers in awakening the world. There are very many philosophies out there in the world, some extremely relevant and some totally useless. If you ask me, I would say a spiritual inquiry can best help us create a good world. Vedanta philosophy, an Indian philosophy from the sacred scriptures of the Hindus called "Veda", is one such philosophy that deals with the individual, the composition of the individual personality and the individual's right approach or appropriate method to relate with the world. The beauty of Vedanta is that it proceeds from the known world into the quest of Truth or Reality or Transcendental consciousness often known as God in spiritual/religious circles. The philosophy that Vedanta professes is Self Realization/God Consciousness. If you notice the world, the unit of a society is the individual. So, enlightenment or Self Realization of the individual is the ultimate purpose of the life of an individual. There are different paths to achieve this Self realization depending on the personality composition of the individual. Karma Yoga (Path of action) is for the predominantly physical or active people. Bhakthi Yoga (Path of Devotion) is for the predominantly emotional people. Finally, Gnana Yoga (Path of Knowledge) is for the predominantly intellectual people. These practices of Karma, Bhakthi and Gnana in appropriate proportions depending on the various permutations and combinations of the individual personality composition, takes the individual to the ultimate ideal of Self Realization. True service to the society can therefore be this Self Realization by the individuals in the society. If all the individuals attain Self realization, the world/society/humanity will evolve towards its pinnacle of perfection. 
The point is, Mother Nature's creation is quite complex and unfathomable or impossible to be comprehended by the Human intellect. Therefore any true philosopher would first accept his limitation of the logical and reasoning intellect or in other words accept one's own ignorance about this incredible Creation. This acceptance of one's ignorance is the beginning or basic of the spiritual quest. On this basis philosophers neither interfere with the world unnecessarily nor get disturbed by the world. That is the reason for the genuine philosopher's aloofness or disinterest in awakening the world.

  


2016-02-22
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Science and many other pursuits don't necessarily tell us what to do. They tell us what we CAN do and help us see the potential consequences of our actions. Other factors (wisdom, morality etc.) can help us make better choices. Experience arises from 'other pursuits' too. As Derek has pointed out, our efforts have led to potentially disastrous developments for humanity but we seem to have managed to exercise some restraint rather than using them to their fullest potential. The foundations of those developments have also led to significant benefits. We are the ones who choose how to use the fruits of our progress.
An article on Down Syndrome prompted me to write since Ian asked about eugenics. Some decades ago individuals with Down Syndrome in the U.S. were forcibly sterilized so that they wouldn't reproduce. Richard Dawkins recently created an uproar when he tweeted that fetuses with Down Syndrome should be aborted. Between these two, creationists in the U.S. have argued that there has never been an example of a human genetic mutation that added genetic material to DNA so there could be no possibility for humans to have evolved. Down Syndrome is precisely what they argue has not happened - a duplication of chromosome 21, providing opportunities for future genetic changes to take advantage of the additional genetic material. Down Syndrome is highly survivable with a high level of functionality in some individuals (even university degrees). It seems that an equally scientific view may be that the prejudice against people with Down Syndrome is holding back an opportunity for the human race to evolve. Science doesn't give us the answer. It leaves that up to you.


2016-02-27
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Reply to John Hodgson
Kia ora John
I would argue that philosophy is the discipline that covers the other factors - Wisdom, Morality (or ethics if you prefer)  that help us make better choices.  It's precisely those fields that philosophy should be engaged in, and in many ways, it is engaged in those areas.  It could be more engaged in those fields, instead of the wishy washy discussion of "multiple truths" ... 

Interesting response to Creationists from Downs Syndrome ...  

2016-02-27
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Reply to Derek Allan
Derek,
Morality came into existence because animals capable of using language evolved from those who didn't.The biological evolution of the brain, the larynx, the hands and other functional parts of speaking, writing, etc. has changed very little over the course of human evolution. But culturally, the use of language has become increasingly powerful and refined in guiding human behavior. 

Arguing that cultures do evolve toward increasingly perfect programs to guide how we act as a species is quite opposed to the traditions of analytic philosophy. You have always lumped me in with that school of philosophy which I consistently oppose. I am definitely arguing that when existence is well understood by empirical ontology, "is" can indeed explain, if not imply, "ought". 

Reducing my view to Spencerian nonsense is also a complete misreading what my argument. Moral standards certainly have changed in the direction of greater individual freedom and self-determination, greater value placed on life-quality for populations as a whole, rather than only those in higher social strata an the actual power and the overall power that we have individually and collectively to do moral or immoral things. If you don't define goodness in terms of some Divine command or pronouncement (and maybe even if you do), standards of morality must derive from the use of human moral reasoning to justify not only behaviors but the standards themselves.

Say "nay" all you want but your appeal is to the same standards of moral reasoning that I refer to. Morality is not perfect, and these days it appears to falter under assaults from its many enemies, but without it, we would never have come this far and we are not built to abandon it. Moral will is free ... but it isn't cheap. You just don't see the big picture.

DCD

2016-02-29
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Reply to Ian Stuart
The example of Down Syndrome was an attempt to demonstrate that science hasn't provided sufficient knowledge to make good decisions on some topics such as eugenics although some people have been deluded into thinking that they had sufficient knowledge.It has also been my argument that we don't have sufficient knowledge to know what a 'good world' should be. The importance of 'knowing what you don't know' must factor into the morality issue and favor caution in using science to determine ethical practices. Conversely, I believe it supports prioritizing intellectual pursuits of any kind in order to expand our knowledge so that we can make better decisions.
It also occurred to me that reproduction borders on an expression of morality. An altruistic behavior that disadvantages the participants but is essential for survival of the species. It is perhaps easier to recognize that this particular behavior evolved rather than arose by some intellectual process. Could example help to recognize that evolution can influence brains to accomplish certain behaviors, among which, I would argue are ethical behaviors and decisions?

2016-03-04
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Reply to Daniel Davis

Hi Arnold

RE: “Arguing that cultures do evolve toward increasingly perfect programs to guide how we act as a species is quite opposed to the traditions of analytic philosophy.”

Yes, I think you’re right. But over the last two or three decades, analytic philosophy has drifted away from its traditions. At least that’s my impression. I think it ended up being bored out of its mind by its original program (who wouldn't be?) so it's taken up various pet ideas like this one. (I guess it had to go somewhere!)

Re: “standards of morality must derive from the use of human moral reasoning to justify not only behaviors but the standards themselves.

Belief in the value of “human moral reasoning” (as distinct from divine Revelation etc) dates from the 18th century. Yet since then we have had war, destruction, cruelty, and atrocity on an unprecedented scale.  Who now really believes in the civilized, rational man that the 18th was so enthusiastic about? We pay the idea lip service because we can hardly do otherwise. But “rational man” is an empty dream now, is he not?

DA





2016-03-07
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Daniel:- I strongly disagree that language is an essential requirement of morality - at least as I interpret your meaning of language. There are many examples of ethical behavior in animals which I assume (from other comments) you do not consider use language. http://www.ted.com/talks/frans_de_waal_do_animals_have_morals is a TED talk by Frans de Waal on the topic.

I would also suggest that much of cultural evolution is about better cooperation. A part of natural selection is undertaken by the subjects of selection. Partner selection, for example. Humanity also has the capacity to fabricate selection goals – such as the power and profitability you mention in a capitalist society. Those choices themselves are subject to natural selection determined by the success of the society that adopted them. Choices can be corrupted by misinformation such as deceptive marketing which may undermine the original purpose of selection goals or simply distort the perceived value of a product or action. To me, the capitalist version of evolution distills simply into an individual evaluation based upon rank order of net worth and there seems to be a strange force at work within some individuals to climb that rank order without regard to how their actions impact others.

Nicholas:- Your paper formalizes a process that I think already exists but as you point out is mostly informal or even adopted unconsciously. One of the things that I have often felt about education is that people are not really taught to think, let alone how to think or how to approach problem solving. Even as a professional scientist, my introduction to scientific method was minimal and mostly learned as I went along. For a long time I wasn't even aware that Popper had critics, even though I never felt comfortable with the notion of discovery by rejected hypotheses. Unification seems to be a philosophical imperative for explaining the world in scientific terms which seem to imply ever-evolving emergent properties of more complex systems from simpler systems. Reverse the process and the asymptote is a simple singularity upon which everything else is built. I've never encountered the notion of unification as a requirement for a new theory, rather as a strong corroborative evidence for a single (unifying!) theory that condenses multiple previous theories into a single explanation.

I certainly agree with your comment that we have things to learn and need to learn from each other. I think it is central to our civilization and to our future and also believe it underlines a moral imperative that to be our best we have to get along together to optimize our mutual performance.

It is hard for me to see how you can really embrace the compromised academic standards you suggest as you also campaign for more specific intellectual goals. Surely academia is best served by setting academic goals rather than capitulating to capitalist goals which I have already suggested are subject to the potential for serious debilitating infections. Currently valued contributions in academia are research funding to garner overheads for universities, a flood of 'learned papers' which encourages minimal intellectual content per paper, reduces intellectual signal to noise ratio and distracts the required reviewing peers from conducting their own intellectual pursuits and a consequent drift of academic selection towards individuals with the people and managerial skills to oprtimise their success in an environment that seems to be making it harder and harder for a true academic to succeed. Lee Smolin in his unfortunately named book 'The Trouble with Physics' has some interesting comments on the scientific community amongst which he points out that many prominent physicists were unable to find or were uninterested in appointments in academia. Einstein was one of them. The oft-quoted response to this notion is “cream always rises”. Obviously these folks haven't heard of homogenized milk, nor must they have pondered shoreside scenery and the widespread opportunities to note the less desirable materials floating around. Smolin wondered how much more cream would rise with better encouragement.


2016-03-07
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Reply to Ian Stuart
Ian:-Thank-you for your description of an indigenous worldview, but first a comment on cooperation. Most members of the two “solitary” species you cite are on the endangered species list and you may also note the disproportionate number of 'solitary' creatures on that list. You may also note that all sexually reproducing organism need to cooperate with other individuals at some time in their lives in order to propagate the species. Even if that cooperation means getting eaten as part of the reproductive process! Cooperation however isn't just an issue of biological survival, it is a cornerstone of existence as we know it. Our world is built upon cooperation from fundamental particles to solar systems. Silicon and oxygen must cooperate to create a grain of sand. Grains of sand must cooperate to form a beach. All that exists in our world is the emergent properties of ever more complex levels of cooperation.

You seem to base a Western worldview on the Judeo-Christian religions. I think it is much more complex than that, although you could argue that they provide a default position for those not scientifically well informed. If you look at the scientific position there seem to be more correlations with your indigenous worldview. Science certainly sees the world as continuing to evolve and the continued existence of the scientific (and other) communities requires that we accept that our knowledge is incomplete. Popper's position is that we can never be certain of correct knowledge only of what is incorrect. As I have pointed out in previous comments, there is a scientific recognition of the evolutionary value of cooperation which seems to me to be a function of a group. To me the comparison of differing worldviews leaves me surprised that a similar basic notion of “goodness” seems to be a common theme throughout worldviews. It leaves me wondering if the foundation of similar ethics arose from deliberations of disparate worldviews or if the differing worldviews are the result of multiple interpretations of a fundamental ethical theme that runs through humans and many other species.

Though it may not be explicitly stated, the Western view of evolution must result in accord with your statement that "the way we live our lives is the inquiry that we undertake".  We offer our interpretations of life and natural selection grades us. Surely the Western academic goal is an attempt to "articulate our experiences, our practical wisdom and our relationships with the physical and social world" as you define the philosophy of an indigenous worldview..


2016-03-17
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Reply to John Hodgson

Kia ora John

Ian:-Thank-you for your description of an indigenous worldview, but first a comment on cooperation. Most members of the two “solitary” species you cite are on the endangered species list and you may also note the disproportionate number of 'solitary' creatures on that list.

I would suggest that those species are on the endangered species list largely because of inappropriate human interventions in our environment.   It is true that species can naturally find they own way to extinction – by not adapting to a changing environment.  However, human changes to the environment are having a much greater impact than in the past. And these changes are detrimental to our world.  Science shows us that.

 You may also note that all sexually reproducing organism need to cooperate with other individuals at some time in their lives in order to propagate the species. Even if that cooperation means getting eaten as part of the reproductive process!

Yes, reproduction may well involve cooperation.  Though I have raised chooks (sorry, chickens) and if you watch a rooster chasing hens and then reproducing it looks a lot more like rape than co-operation ..

Some species of beetle have “interesting” peni – the males have developed spikes on their penis, which extend during intercourse, piercing and damaging the female reproductive organs.  This is painful for the females, which avoid intercourse – clearly an example of a species which may well head into extinction, caused by its own adaptations.  But hardly co-operation.

Cooperation however isn't just an issue of biological survival, it is a cornerstone of existence as we know it. Our world is built upon cooperation from fundamental particles to solar systems. Silicon and oxygen must cooperate to create a grain of sand. Grains of sand must cooperate to form a beach. All that exists in our world is the emergent properties of ever more complex levels of cooperation.

I would suggest that co-operation involves some form of conscious process.  We decide to co-operate or not.  While I would agree that the world is a co-dependent existence, a completely interactive system, I would be reluctant to attribute co-operation to it.   Silicon and Oxygen have no intention of forming a grain of sand when they link.  That’s an automatic function of the atomic process.  Just as a piece of iron does no co-operate with a magnet when it moves towards the agnet.  It’s a function of the way the world is made.  To call this co-operation, to me, is anthropomorphism.

You seem to base a Western worldview on the Judeo-Christian religions.

The Middle Eastern derived religions have certainly set the scene for the worldview of Europe and its derived cultures.  The contemporary world is busy removing God (or Allah, or Jehovah) but the major outlines and elements of the worldview remain.   So while I acknowledge that the religion has gone, its influence can still be seen today.

 I think it is much more complex than that, although you could argue that they provide a default position for those not scientifically well informed.

Maybe.  It certainly is much more complex because all members of a society, a culture, a group, may share certain base beliefs in outline only, with no specifics, or may not share the beliefs at all. That does not preclude the group from co-operating and functioning as a group. And many of my scientific colleagues are also Christian – there need not be any conflict, nor does being Christian mean a person has to stop thinking. 

I can see certain elitism in your response here.  I’m not sure if it really is, or just the way I’m reading this.  So I will point out what I see, but I will leave it at that.

What I will say is that the indigenous world tends to see things on a much more collective level.  So we see things in terms of the views of a society/culture/group – shown in the wider social discourse and in the actions of the group.  We see the influence of the Middle Eastern Creation story every day in the contemporary world. To paraphrase Thomas King (‘cause the book is not at work)  ‘When I meet new people I hope they tell me a story, and I hope it’s a creation story, because that will tell me the most about how they see the world around them’.  (King, T. (2003). The Truth About Stories: A Native Narrative. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.)

We use and teach our creation stories every day.  So we see the impact of creation stories on how people think, act and behave.  We see how the Judeao-Christian Creation Story does the same thing in the cultures of Europe, and those of its colonies.  That creation story sets up a culture to dominate and exploit this world. As Europe and its derived cultures does.

Your response has a different emphasis – that of the views of the individual. Individuals do not have to share the beliefs of any group they belong to. Co-operation si not founded on belief, but mutual benefit.  And the focus on the individual has significant impacts on how people see the world and themselves in it.  “Themselves” is a collective individuality. This differs from the indigenous collective. (hmmm .. the language is interesting.  I hope you can see my point.  I’m unsure how else to express what I’m thinking.) So when talking about the beliefs and worldview of a society it becomes much more complex in an individual-focused group.

But all your cultures and societies are heavily influenced by the Middle Eastern Monotheistic traditions, even if you no longer acknowledge that base as having any reality.

 If you look at the scientific position there seem to be more correlations with your indigenous worldview. Science certainly sees the world as continuing to evolve and the continued existence of the scientific (and other) communities requires that we accept that our knowledge is incomplete.

Yes, and our writers and philosophers already acknowledge the similarities betwen science adn indigenosu thought.  See Deloria, V. (1979). The Metaphysics of Modern Existence. Golden, CO: Fulcrum, and Deloria, V.,&Wildcat, D. (2001). Power and Place: Indian Education in America. Golden, Co: Fulcrum.  And a lot of others.  We've been saying this for years.  The thinkers of the European derived traditions are only just startng to see this. 

Popper's position is that we can never be certain of correct knowledge only of what is incorrect.

That's an interesting one.  I'll leave that until I finish my thesis and articulating what I have so far sketched so I can show it in a complete form.  I have a different foundation for knowledge, which responds to Popper, as well as Descartes and Neitzsche, Feyerabend, Lakatos, etc ... and provides a very different answer.  It's an answer developed in the indiogenous world, but when the framework is applied to the knoweldge of Europe and its derived cultures, it reframes knowledge and shows significant changes to the philosophy of knowledge (I hope - wait to see what my markers say - I might yet not pass). 

More to come - I'll keep this post to this space. 


2016-03-17
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Reply to John Hodgson

Part Two

As I have pointed out in previous comments, there is a scientific recognition of the evolutionary value of cooperation which seems to me to be a function of a group.

For humans, yes, that does seem to be a valid argument.  For other beings ?  I’m completely unsure, as species have evolved that only co-operate occasionally – and even that is debatable.  

To me the comparison of differing worldviews leaves me surprised that a similar basic notion of “goodness” seems to be a common theme throughout worldviews. It leaves me wondering if the foundation of similar ethics arose from deliberations of disparate worldviews or if the differing worldviews are the result of multiple interpretations of a fundamental ethical theme that runs through humans and many other species.

Interesting questions.   I would go with a similar ethics arising from disparate worldviews – with the proviso that the similarities may well be on first appearance only, as the differing worldviews are different ways of perceiving the world, and so the ethics may look similar in action, but is base beliefs and perceptions may actually be widely disparate.

But then in ethics actions are the thing – acting ethically.  The base beliefs and perceptions are important – but ethics is about actions, not beliefs.

Though it may not be explicitly stated, the Western view of evolution must result in accord with your statement that "the way we live our lives is the inquiry that we undertake".  We offer our interpretations of life and natural selection grades us. Surely the Western academic goal is an attempt to "articulate our experiences, our practical wisdom and our relationships with the physical and social world" as you define the philosophy of an indigenous worldview.

I so want to say “yes”.  However, I’m unsure about “natural selection grades us”.  A theistic view would place the grading in the hands of the deities.  And I’m not sure I want such a mechanistic grading of my life and actions. 

Indigenous people, though, do not accept concepts of evolution.  (While I do, I find myself in somewhat of a minority amongst my peers and students.)  That presents us with certain problems of being in accord with evolutionary theory.

However, when I said the way we live our lives is the inquiry that we undertake  I see this as an experiential journey.  Life is an unbounded experiment. We create meaning and ethics as we live, not as we theorize. 


2016-03-17
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Path Three  (after contemplation)

If you look at the scientific position there seem to be more correlations with your indigenous worldview. Science certainly sees the world as continuing to evolve and the continued existence of the scientific (and other) communities requires that we accept that our knowledge is incomplete.

Popper's position is that we can never be certain of correct knowledge only of what is incorrect.

After a little contemplation I think I will put up some sort of response to this.

First, if this is true – then how does science provide the answers that you seem to rely on it to come up with?  If there can be no certainty, then why should we rely on science?  

If we rely on science then we are relying, in quite a major way, on it being certain.  If can only know what is wrong, then what is right is up in the air and cannot serve as a guide.  Tomorrow that knowledge that we rely on may move into the ‘incorrect’ basket …

How do we rely on science? 

Second, the divisions of your knowledge system seem strange to some of us.

For instance – The Theory of Gravity – this is a theory primarily because it states that all objects in the universe attract all other objects – but we have not seen or measured all objects in the universe so we cannot make that a definitive law.

But have you tried ignoring gravity recently?  (Sure, this comment is thrown around internet social forums willy nilly – but it’s an excellent question which challenges the concept of the difference between a scientific theory and a scientific law.) 

There are many such – the theory of evolution for instance (or does Archaeopteryx “prove” evolution?).  If this is a theory only, how can we rely on it to tell us how we should live our lives? 



2016-03-18
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Reply to Daniel Davis
Hi Daniel

I just realized that my reply to you of 2016-03-04 began with "Hi Arnold". My apologies. Mind clearly not on the job.

DA .

2016-05-13
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Reply to Ian Stuart
Thank-you for your stimulating comments Ian. Perhaps the most revealing was your suggestion that my comments on cooperation were anthropomorphic. Communication requires at least two processes to accomplish the transmission and reception of information. Both processes are subject to distortions and I sense that there is a tendency for the recipients of comments to apply anthropomorphic interpretations and argue based upon such potential misinterpretations. One could perhaps even argue that the bulk of philosophy is anthropocentric, using anthropocentric assumptions to evaluate arguments in favor of human interests or biases. A derived problem of significance to this thread is that an already overly narrow outlook upon the world becomes even more sharply defined and contentious when arguments become group-centric within a population. It even seems common in the realms of philosophy to become self-centered where a participant in an argument will redefine an expression or word in their own terms and then use the new definition as a foundation for refutation of ideas presented using a potentially different meaning than the redefined version.

As for specific arguments, in my post on 2015-10-26 I noted.... Cooperation in the sense I present here isn't a conscious choice, it is the natural selection (at many levels of existence) of a coexistence in which similar or dissimilar individuals operate together to accomplish novel stable conditions that benefit the survival of participating individuals. There is a related notion of cooperativity in the sciences, from the influence of ions on water molecules (http://science.sciencemag.org/content/328/5981/1006.full) to the actions of enzymes and even participating groups of scientific investigators (http://www.nature.com/nchembio/journal/v4/n8/full/nchembio0808-433.html) in which certain interactions become easier to accomplish when multiple participants are involved. You accurately note that “Silicon and Oxygen have no intention of forming a grain of sand when they link”, Nevertheless, they indeed link and link in such a way that macromolecules of sand are inevitably formed. What you fail to question is whether our perceived, human “intents” are the results of any less inevitable process. You offer a comment that implies a belief that chickens don't like to reproduce. Yet their reproduction is, contrary to the intent you infer, inevitable. If it wasn't, chickens would quickly cease to exist which suggests that nature has designed a situation in which the aspirations of a sentient organism are preempted by biological necessity. Chickens – and the other examples you cite evolved to do what they do because what they do allows them to continue existing. They evolved to survive. Human brains are designed to help humans survive too – driving behaviors as complex as ethics because those behaviors have been determined to benefit our survival on this planet. Our brains are wired to survive, and wired to think like a survivor.

How do we rely on science? We rely on science, not because it provides a path to “truth” but because it provides us with degrees of predictability. Newton's theory of gravity worked well and provided a firm foundation to predict the positions of stars and planets to facilitate worldwide navigation. However, there were some inconsistencies between theory and observation which were corrected when Einstein suggested that gravitational forces did not act instantly as Newton suggested but traveled at the speed of light. General relativity and Quantum theory are not unified so there is still progress to be made in understanding gravity. When it matters, there is an assumption that the laws of physics apply at all locations in the universe (and will continue to apply) but that assumption is only a best guess until observations inform us to the contrary. If such observations ever arise, more observations and tests will be made and current theories will be updated to reflect new information. There is no assumption of “truth”. Merely the comforting notion that we have ways of helping our lives be predictable.

Life is an unbounded experiment. We create meaning and ethics as we live, not as we theorize. Precisely, but theorizing contributes to the meaning and ethics we create and meaning and ethics influence our survival - which is the "mechanistic" grading of our effort by natural selection.


2016-05-24
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Reply to John Hodgson

Kia ora John.

 Thank you for your responses.

 Perhaps the most revealing was your suggestion that my comments on cooperation were anthropomorphic. Communication requires at least two processes to accomplish the transmission and reception of information. Both processes are subject to distortions and I sense that there is a tendency for the recipients of comments to apply anthropomorphic interpretations and argue based upon such potential misinterpretations.

 Yes – I get that.  Pretty close to what I meant/intended.  Specifically, it was around the way you used ‘co-operation’ which to me implies intent – but you have explained that very well below.  So yes, I did misinterpret your use of the word ‘co-operation’.

  One could perhaps even argue that the bulk of philosophy is anthropocentric, using anthropocentric assumptions to evaluate arguments in favor of human interests or biases.

 Yes.  I do sometimes lean towards Werner Heisenberg’s position – that we project onto the world our vision of the world. This means, in Western terms, all of our knowledge, our systems and our views of the world would be anthropocentric. 

 A derived problem of significance to this thread is that an already overly narrow outlook upon the world becomes even more sharply defined and contentious when arguments become group-centric within a population. It even seems common in the realms of philosophy to become self-centered where a participant in an argument will redefine an expression or word in their own terms and then use the new definition as a foundation for refutation of ideas presented using a potentially different meaning than the redefined version.

 Yes – an issue I recognize and one I am busy avoiding in my current project. And one I sometimes see in the works I am reading and using.

Let me take this in a more positive direction – I am aware I have not been entirely positive and helpful in this discussion, as I have critiqued western approaches without offering too much detail of an alternative.

Indigenous philosophy does not put human beings at the centre, or at the pinnacle. In western thinking, we (indigenous philosophers) see this as a hangover from the monotheistic religions that arose in the Middle East.  Despite the secular nature of modern thinking, we see quite a few traces left of these religions in today’s western thought.

Indigenous people see people as a part of the world – and not the most important part.  Deloria and Wildcat (in Power and Place) talk of the North American Indian approach - “us” and “our” include all the animals and even the plants that surround people.

In Māori traditions, the rest of the world was created before humans, so the birds and animals are our elders – our tuakana.  In our social groups position is determined by birth so tuakana is a being older them myself and teina is a being younger than myself (there are other complications, but you’ll get the idea.)  In our worldviews, all other life forms are senior to us ..

This changes the approach to the environment around us.  It is not something to be exploited for our needs, but something to be guarded and cherished for ALL the beings in our world, and for the future generations.

The concept of the person is also different – we are a part of a group, with the focus on the group, rather than the individual of western thinking.

If we truly want to answer Nicholas’ question: ‘What kind of academic inquiry can best help humanity make progress towards as good a world as possible?’  and then do that academic enquiry, I would suggest a short reading list.  (PS This is NOT a plug for Amazon.com – just links to the books.)

I’m not offering this list because these books give us answers, but rather this material shows the kind of inquiry that Nicholas is asking about – and they will progress the discussion.

 

Vine Deloria Custer Died for our Sins.  This is not specifically a philosophy book, but it is amusing and the most easily read of Deloria’s work.  It will get you into his style and basic concepts. Not essential for the topic – just a good introduction to Deloria’s work.

http://www.amazon.com/Custer-Died-Your-Sins-Manifesto/dp/0806121297/ref=sr_1_4?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1464038984&sr=1-4&keywords=Vine+deloria+Jr

Deloria God Is Red .  An awesome book that builds a North American Indian worldview and engages with Western philosophy as well.  (Ignore catastrophism – it will be a red-herring argument in this context.)

http://www.amazon.com/God-Red-Native-Religion-Anniversary/dp/1555914985/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1464038931&sr=1-3&keywords=Vine+deloria+Jr

Deloria and Wildcat Power and Place   An interesting work.

http://www.amazon.com/Power-Place-Indian-Education-America/dp/155591859X/ref=sr_1_10?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1464038984&sr=1-10&keywords=Vine+deloria+Jr

Vine Deloria The Metaphysics of Modern Existence.   One of Deloria’s less read and more difficult books.  Probably because it’s philosophy and his usual readers aren’t that much into Philosophy – but we are.

http://www.amazon.com/Metaphysics-Modern-Existence-Vine-Deloria/dp/1555917593/ref=sr_1_6?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1464038984&sr=1-6&keywords=Vine+deloria+Jr

These books present the work of a developed Indigenous philosopher engaging with both Indigenous philosophies, western philosophies and knowledge. 

 

I would also suggest the work of Ian Barbour.  While Barbour is a theologian, he does offer ways to progress this discussion.

Barbour Ethics in the Age of technology

http://www.amazon.com/Ethics-Age-Technology-Gifford-Lectures/dp/0060609354/ref=sr_1_7?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1464039106&sr=1-7&keywords=Ian+Barbour

Myths Models and paradigms

https://www.amazon.com/Myths-Models-Paradigms-Ian-Barbour-ebook/dp/B00APGJZSW?ie=UTF8&keywords=Ian%20Barbour&qid=1464039106&ref_=sr_1_4&s=books&sr=1-4

Earth Might Be Fair

http://www.amazon.com/Earth-Might-Fair-Reflections-Religion/dp/0132226871/ref=sr_1_9?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1464039106&sr=1-9&keywords=Ian+Barbour


2016-10-18
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Reply to Ian Stuart

Not sure if anyone is still participating here, but I wanted to point out a possible flaw in the reasoning between an evolutionary approach to "morality" and a psychological (perhaps even philosophical) approach using the following quote.

Yes, reproduction may well involve cooperation.  Though I have raised chooks (sorry, chickens) and if you watch a rooster chasing hens and then reproducing it looks a lot more like rape than co-operation ..

Some species of beetle have “interesting” peni – the males have developed spikes on their penis, which extend during intercourse, piercing and damaging the female reproductive organs.  This is painful for the females, which avoid intercourse – clearly an example of a species which may well head into extinction, caused by its own adaptations.  But hardly co-operation.

In reality, these described behaviors are cooperation, and specifically altruistic in the biological rather than the psychological sense. At least one of the pair is negatively affected by the act (in a biological/survival sense) but the act is a requisite part of the continuation of the species - thus directed towards the benefit of individuals other than participants. As with all reproductive events, the act is thus an essential part of the survival of the species regardless of the "approval" of the participants - and in spite of the burden it places upon at least one of the participants. This is all that is required of biological altruism and points towards a situation where this particular altruism is "hard wired" into the behavior of organisms. It is of indisputable and essential benefit to the species rather than to the individual participants of the species and "hard wiring" such a behavior forces sexual reproduction to be an essential activity of many species, regardless of participant approval.

I suspect the requisite for a more cerebral motivation in psychological altruism (or other "moral") behaviors arises from the perceived correlation between moral behaviors and "feeling good" about acting morally or "feeling bad" after behaving badly. The correlation does not imply causation. Indeed, evolution may have wrought such a correlation for situations where essential outcomes are not as clear-cut as reproduction. "Conscience" may have evolved to provide a counterbalance in ethically grey areas - such a the dilemma of killing in which circumstances determine the "good" or the "bad" of the act, bringing into play the concepts of "the greater good" or "the lesser of two evils". Perhaps rather than driving our moral decisions our "feelings" are evolved rewards or punishments for the appropriateness of our response to ethical dilemmas in areas where circumstance participated in the determination of an appropriate ethical response. An evolved response to that which best serves the species rather than a universal ethic divinely bestowed.


2016-10-18
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Reply to John Hodgson
Do you really believe you can apply evolution to human moral choices? This experiment with social Darwinism leads straight to gas chambers. Or do you really believe you can substitute reason by feelings? You feel good by been altruist but I may feel quite different. Do you think that ethics are subjective and could be whatever one wants? If so there is no difference between Isis and salvation army.

2016-10-18
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
I don't understand your comments as I suspect you don't understand mine. Social Darwinism is often interpreted as a specific subset of evolutionary possibilities that many feel is distasteful. Your reference to gas chambers implies eugenics which is based on the assumption that a group believes they know what is best for a better individual. I am suggesting that natural selection determines what is most successful after a trait has been introduced. Such traits include behaviors - and those behaviors include behaviors that enhance survival of a group rather than just individuals - some you may consider "ethical" behaviors. In other words, ethical behaviors enhance survivability and are therefore positively selected.
Substitute reason by feelings? Doesn't eugenics presume to use reason? The notion of feeling good or bad about moral behaviour is favored by "sentimentalists" and was noted by Hume. I am utterly baffled by how you draw the conclusion "there is no difference between Isis and salvation army" from my comments. My point is that adoption of behaviors that are generally considered ethical and the rejection of behaviors that are generally considered unethical enhance survival and thus subjected to selection pressure. Ethical decisions are sometimes complicated with ethical dilemmas ( the latest example perhaps being the Mercedes Benz revelation that their autonomous cars are programmed to protect occupants rather than swerve to protect a child) in which all potential choices fall short of perfection. My point about feelings was that they provide a mechanism by which various options can be weighed in order to determine an optimum outcome in such circumstances. Of course individuals respond differently - because evolution is a gradual process of change through selection within a range of offered options within a population. The long-term outcome however favors the more survivable options. Current events suggest that the Salvation Army is doing much better than Isis.


2016-10-18
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Reply to John Hodgson
And that exactly what eugenics are all about-survival of the fitest or most adapted. Those who were generally considered to be maladapted for different reasons ended up in the gas chambers. Besides, what exactly generally considered means? Considered by whom and on which ground? Is there any objective criteria for such a consideration or it depends on subjective cultural religious historical and other arbitrary norms? If the later is true, then there is no difference between dominant ethnical norms of radical Islam and American Constitution, Inquisition and enlightenment, slavery and freedom. Everything goes.

2016-10-19
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Reply to John Hodgson
Jane Goodall tells a nice story about a male chimp that seizes an infinite chimp about to be trampled to death by a rampaging male, out of danger.  The mother comes up, seizes the infant, and gives the rescuing male chimp an almighty blow about the head for his troubles.  A moral act, unrecognized and unrewarded.  Putting human morality and immorality into the context of history, evolution and animal morality and immorality gives a proper, wider context to our moral life, and may of course reflect very badly on our species - just how immoral we can be (as Mary Midgley sought to point out).
Nick Maxwell

2016-10-19
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Presumably we would want to distinguish between (a) an evolutionary explanation of the existence of moral actions, and (b) an evolutionary justification, or analysis, of morality - the latter presupposing that morality is to be interpreted as something that has survival value.  (a) does not imply (b).

2016-10-19
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?

RE: Jane Goodall tells a nice story about a male chimp that seizes an infinite chimp about to be trampled to death by a rampaging male, out of danger.  The mother comes up, seizes the infant, and gives the rescuing male chimp an almighty blow about the head for his troubles.  A moral act, unrecognized and unrewarded....

Yes, but is this what we call “morality”?  Or is it the instinctive drive of a mother to protect her young (and sometimes other mothers’ young) which one often sees in the animal kingdom? Crocodile mothers are very protective…

DA 


2016-10-20
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Interesting ...  
The concepts you are all talking about work far better in Indigenous frameworks, which do not privilege human beings over other life forms, and which consider human beings to be a part of the wide world in which we live.

Then, all decisions, including ethical ones, must consider the impact on the total system that we live in .. Thus, we do not consider how actions affect each species - we consider how actions impact the whole system .. 

2016-10-20
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Reply to Ian Stuart

RE: Indigenous frameworks, which do not privilege human beings over other life forms,

Is this really true, Ian? I’ve heard it said often enough, but I wonder. After all, most indigenous peoples lived by hunting… (and not all were cannibals)

DA


2016-10-20
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Reply to Derek Allan
I will accept that the statement is a generalization.  And here, Indigenous people live in the towns and cities and have jobs .. 
There is also the issue of completely knowledge of what impact human behaviour is having, and many indigenous societies had no complete knowledge.  In my own cultural history for example, there were something like 65 birds in Aotearoa/New Zealand made extinct by human activity, and before the European colonizers arrived.  I would suggest that they did not know what they were doing.
So I will also accept a criticism that it is very easy to romanticize the past - and that is done often in Indigenous circles (by people who would object to actually living in a society with only natural/herbal medicines - no surgeons etc, would be hard pressed to give up their cellphones and TVs . etc ).   That is not my intention. 

In the contemporary world, Indigenous groups now incorporate scientific knowledge into our worldviews, and use it to inform how we interact with the world around us.  We have better knowledge than once was available to us, and we make use of that knowledge. So I'm not talking about the old cultures - but rather the adaptation of the old cultural values into today's world.

The practice you highlight is a good example.  Indigenous people do not hunt to extinction. Sure, in pre-contact times my ancestors were responsible (probably unknowingly) for the extinction of a large number of birds - I accept that) Nor do we hunt purely for pleasure.  I enjoyed hunting (I'm now old) but I only killed what I needed for food - and used as much of the animal as possible.  Now I fish ... I enjoy it and I like being able to put food from ocean-to-plate on my table. 

Indigenous cultures have their own approaches and explanations of hunting.  North American Indians often talk to the animals, apologist for killing them and thanking them for giving their lives so people can eat.  This is a huge shift from the practice of, say, safari hunting.  Rich people paying to kill lions, giraffes and elephants - few of which provide any food, but are killed purely for pleasure. 

Indigenous hunters also choose select animals to kill. Don't kill the Alpha male, don't kill nursing mothers ...  culling the herd to maintain its health and continuation ... 

Hunting here is different as all species that are hunted are introduced, are noxious pests destroying our environment and the Government policy is total eradication - so it's open season on all game.  An approach that many of us actively support.  

The best example I can think here comes from fishing.  In New Zealand we have size limits - most species have a lower limit (snapper must be over 30cm long, kingfish must be over 75 cm long.  This are all size limits put on by the immigrant Government.  But there is no upper limit.  Some of us think there should be no lower limit, but there should be an upper limit.  This way we preserve the breeding stock.  By having no upper limit it is acceptable to kill the breeding stock.  Bad move.

So yes, it is still true, given that Indigenous groups are not the same as each other and will have different approaches.  And given that people are people and not all members of indigenous are in agreement. 

Yes, it is certainly true for those of us who work in the area of Indigenous philosophy in the contemporary world.   And it is certainly true for those who hold their indigenous worldviews and practice them in the contemporary world. 

Phew .. that's a lot of words.  I hope my meanings are clear. Next ... 

 


2016-10-20
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Reply to Derek Allan
If you look at Indigenous Ethics they are frequently values-based and share a lot in common with Aristotelian ethics.   This is most obvious in the idea that all actions should lead to "flourishing people" -  Eudaemonia. 
In many cases (see Deloria and Wildcat's Place and Power  for instance)  "People" does not mean just human beings, but includes all the other life forms - our brothers and sisters.  In Māōri worldviews all other life forms were created before human beings and therefore they are our Tuakana - a word that is not easily translated, but means "senior to whom we must show respect".  Tuakana is a statement of position within a social structure - our social structures are not limited to human beings, but include all other lifeforms and the spiritual beings which exist within our worldviews. . 

When considering what is best to achieve flourishing people then all other life forms in our environment need to be considered as part of people and needing to flourish.  

This is very much a contemporary ethic for many Indigenous people (It's not contemporary for North American Indians - it's their tradition).  This contemporary ethic derives from old approaches as well as arising from the sharing of concepts and ethics across the Indigenous world.  This is a natural process as Indigenous groups make contact with the European powers and now with each other. 

2016-10-20
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Reply to Ian Stuart
It's very strange to look on on indigeous people as an example of value based ethics. Their life was anything but eodemonia before arrival of modern civilization. Wars, disease, starvation and early death. And they destroyed environment by hunting, polluted air and burned forests with their fires. As for Aristotle, he never established why happiness is a value. He considered it as an irreducible self-evident primary which is not. This philosophical gap allowed to him to support slavery. 

2016-10-20
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Reply to Derek Allan
It was the male chimp that rescued the infant from injury or death, and was punished for it, who performed the moral act, not the mother!
Nick Maxwell

2016-10-20
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?

Sorry. Read too quickly. (Actually, the story is hardly an advert for chimp morality, is it? After all, the heroic chimp got punished by the mother for protecting her child!)

In any case, is this about what we call “morality” anyway?  It raises the basic problem – almost always glossed over in philosophical discussions involving human consciousness – of whether we can equate human consciousness with whatever it is that animals – even chimps – have. We can never know the answer to that of course, which is why I am always sceptical about suggestions that animals are somehow as moral, more moral, etc than humans. It glosses over far too many unanswered – and unanswerable – questions. It’s like making claims about a planet we have never visited and will never be able to visit.

So by all means let’s  talk about morality – and humans have an extremely patchy record in that department – but let’s stick to what we can at least hope to know a little about – ourselves.

DA 


2016-10-20
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?

RE: ‘It's very strange to look on on indigeous people as an example of value based ethics. Their life was anything but eodemonia before arrival of modern civilization. Wars, disease, starvation and early death.”

But this is surely a questionable point of view. Being without the benefits of modern medicine, farming techniques etc is hardly a moral failing. And as for wars, well, we Westerners are scarcely in a good position to claim the moral high ground there.

I don’t think cultural comparisons of this kind take us anywhere useful. Each culture has had its own values. (I say “has had” because most have been swamped by Western values now anyway.) Has any culture been inherently better than another? How would we judge? There’s no “happiness meter” we can put to use. Take even an extreme example - the Aztecs. Barbaric culture, we might say. It murdered tens of thousands of innocents. Yet the Aztecs seem to have been quite a sophisticated culture and no less happy than any other. They certainly fought to the last man against the conquistadors.

DA


2016-10-20
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
A moral act, unrecognized and unrewarded. The phrase "No good deed goes unpunished" suggests that this is a common situation so why should it be a surprise? I suspect the answer is the possible fallacy in the assumption that morality is essentially a conscious act. As I noted above, breeding falls within the definition of an altruistic behavior. It has resulted in extensive evolutionary adaptations that include brain circuitry to assure propagation and even evolution. The recognition and reward are survival of the species. Moral acts do not necessarily require conscious recognition or reward - unless you specifically define morality as a consequence of conscious processes. Layered over such "biological" morality is a derived "memetic" morality that is more aligned with cerebral processes such as consciousness.Thank-you for the introduction to Mary Midgley. I am not a philosopher and hadn't previously encountered this interesting lady.
The subtlety of your second comment took a while to understand. Does (a) refer to the question of WHY morality exists? That seems to belong in the category philosophical quandraries like why WE - or anything else exists.

2016-10-20
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
I don’t think cultural comparisons of this kind take us anywhere useful. That was my sentiment also, especially framed as one better than another. It is so easy to be blinkered by incomplete information. Mary Midgley, mentioned in Nickolas' post, worked with Margolis and Lovelock on the Gaia hypothesis which seems to be a Western viewpoint in alignment with the "indigenous worldview". The Western worldview, probably like the indigenous worldview likely evolved to meet the most pressing challenges of the time. As those challenges are met, or change, worldviews may change. That seems to be happening now, as it probably always has. You can view it as worlds colliding or as a collaborative synthesis as ideas from both views become assimilated into a new worldview. Surely the advisable path is learn from each other rather than debating which is best.

One certainly has to wonder what the Aztec worldview was. Unfortunately an overzealous priesthood destroyed most of the records available to determine this, possibly because of a contradicting and misguided worldview. Consequently it is difficult to divine correct numbers for sacrifices in this apparently barbaric culture. In the same month that Columbus was given permission to sail in search of the Americas, the same royalty of the same "civilized" nation gave hundreds of thousands of jews 4 months to leave the country. Not long afterwards, a slew of religious wars in Europe killed millions of people in the futile pursuit of religious unity. Like Aztec sacrifice, the death toll from the European Inquisition is somewhat controversial although the executions by these civilized, churchgoing people (burning at the stake) seem no less barbaric. Barbarism is in the eye of the beholder!

2016-10-20
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
From the Indigenous perspective, it's very strange to look at the non-Indigenous world, which seems to have no ethics.
The "developed" world is destroying our planet, with pollution, with widespread destruction of environments for farming and profit. This destruction exceeds anything the Indigenous people's have done.   These countries which wage wars in countries they do not inhabit.

The "civilized" British arrived in my country with slaves aboard their ships, and only abolished slavery in 1833.  Britain was heavily involved in the slave trade and only made it illegal in 1833.

The methods of tuture and execution invented y the European powers rival or even exceed, any cruelty invented by Indigenous people. 

New Zealand writer Anne Salmond makes the point (In Two Worlds) that at the time the Europeans arrived in New Zealand life expectancy in Paris, due to starvation, poverty, disease etc, was 28-years-old, while life expectancy among Māori was 298 years old.  She says that the only difference was Māori were better fed. 

So let's not get into any cross-cultural comparison.  All peoples have a brutal and bloody history.  We, the people alive today, are the survivors - the survivors of the fittest. All our ancestors did nasty things to survive. 

Let's talk about the contemporary world as it is, and let's talk about what Indigenous philosophy offers the wider world, especially in terms of the original question: What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?   

Indigenous philosophers and thinkers have been answering that question for quite some time now.  I'm suggesting that the philosophers and thinkers of Europe and it's derived cultures engage with the philosophers and thinkers of the Indigenous world to find answers.   

Thank you to those who answered similarly.  I responded to Leonid before reading the rest .. 


P.s.  There are alternative translations of Eudaemonia.  In indigenous contexts we do have the concept of "flourishing"  which I why I used that as the translation.  I deliberately did not use "happiness" as the translation.  

2016-10-20
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Let me make my point very clear.
The scientific approach to ethics, which many here have labelled Eugenics, works well within an Indigenous frameworks.  "Survival of the Fittest" leads to "flourishing". 

This must be considered for the whole system - the complex living processes of this planet.  Science tells us a lot about how this system functions, and it is the whole system which must flourish so each part of it can flourish. 

The Indigenous world will share this view, this way of interacting with the world, for the benefit of all of us - the Indigenous world and our brothers and sisters in the non-Indigenous world.  

Is the non-Indigenous world ready to listen or are we the "savages with nothing worthwhile to say"?  

2016-10-20
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Reply to Ian Stuart

Re: "Survival of the Fittest" leads to "flourishing". 

Presumably not for the “unfit”!

Frankly I have never understood that word “flourishing” which seems to be so popular these days. Hitler’s Germany would have “flourished” if it had won the war. And Japan would have had a vast empire (which would have doubtless included NZ).

DA


2016-10-20
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Reply to Ian Stuart
Re: while life expectancy among Māori was 298 years old:' 
I'm assuming this is a typo, Ian?

RE: "Britain was heavily involved in the slave trade and only made it illegal in 1833."

A brutal trade certainly. But Europe was far from being the the only offender, or indeed the earliest...

DA

2016-10-21
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Reply to Derek Allan
Yessss .. very hesitant reply.
There does need to be discussion about this, and in indigenous communities it is a group discussion.  In our contemporary world it would take an aberration, such as Adolf Hitler, for indigenous groups to go down that path again.  

Of course the concept of what constitutes "flourishing" is open for debate ..  

Hitler's Germany may well have flourished if it won the war - but I doubt it. The inherent negativity of their Nihilist base proved, and would have proven, their downfall.  I'm with Camus on this one - his critique in The Rebel is excellent.  

2016-10-21
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Reply to Derek Allan
Yes, a very bad typo ...  should be 28.  Identical to the life expectancy of Paris at the time...

Yes, most culture's have been slave-owning cultures at some stage.  I think I was reacting/over-reacting when I wrote that.

No culture has a moral high ground.  All cultures have brutal and bloody histories .. let's deal with the contemporary world rather than the historic world. 

2017-01-07
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Reply to Ian Stuart
"The scientific approach to ethics, which many here have labelled Eugenics, works well within an Indigenous frameworks."

Eugenics applies only to genetic manipulation and uses science to justify its ends just as many religions (and other) use their specific beliefs to further dubious interests. They are examples of a widespread affliction which convinces people that they understand much more than they really do. It has been raised in this thread when we have asked if we really know what a "good" world is.

Most of the comments here, relating science and eugenics aim to equate the two and provide a basis for the the fallacious argument "eugenics is bad therefore science is bad".

Adolph Hitler's rise to power was helped, and probably even triggered by draconian sanctions against Germany after the 1914-18 war. Sanctions imposed by other Western countries in the belief that such punishment would discourage further wars. Instead they triggered one. Human logic defeated. I suspect that much of the current world terrorism is also based upon the unsound justification of historical exploitation and maltreatment of the Middle East in the era of colonial and later American "manifest destiny" continuing into the present. 

There currently seems a strong justification for the notion that humanity often doesn't know what is in its best interests, whether based on science, philosophy, art, or whatever. The criticism in this thread suggests we can't even agree on if we are improving. We all seem to identify good and bad, each with our own differing opinions and we all attempt to validate those opinions with our own forms of logic. A significant problem seems to be a lack of humility to recognize that the "truth" derived from any intellectual deliberations may be wrong, providing a shaky foundation for further deliberations on truth itself or how to conduct ourselves based on our perceived truths.

If, as Ian suggests, the indigenous world anticipated much of what science has discovered (and I believe they did), there is a strong argument for recognizing, reaching out to and recruiting the diverse populations of the world to supplement our intellectual resources, regardless of our perceptions of their "sophistication".

2017-01-07
What kind of inquiry can best help us create a good world?
Reply to John Hodgson
Hi John

RE: There currently seems a strong justification for the notion that humanity often doesn't know what is in its best interests, whether based on science, philosophy, art, or whatever. … A significant problem seems to be a lack of humility to recognize that the "truth" derived from any intellectual deliberations may be wrong, providing a shaky foundation for further deliberations on truth itself or how to conduct ourselves based on our perceived truths.


Yes, I agree.

For example, one of the things that amuses me about the current fashions for so-called “posthumanism”, "transhumanism" etc, is that we no longer have any clear idea what humanism itself means. So, I find myself wondering: post/trans-what?

DA