Mark Peaty writes:

Sorry to be so slow at responding here but life [domestic], the universe and 
everything else right now is competing savagely with this interesting 
discussion. [But one must always think positive; 'Bah, Humbug!' is not 
appropriate, even though the temptation is great some times :-]
I am not entirely convinced when you say: 'And the psychopath is right: no-one 
can actually fault him on a point of fact or a point of logic'
That would only be right if we allowed that his [psychopathy is mostly a male 
affliction I believe] use of words is easily as reasonable as yours or mine. 
However, where the said psycho. is purporting to make authoritative statements 
about the world, it is not OK for him to purport that what he describes is 
unquestionably factual and his reasoning from the facts as he sees them is 
necessarily authoritative for anyone else. This is because, qua psychopath, he 
is not able to make the fullest possible free decisions about what makes people 
tick or even about what is reality for the rest of us. He is, in a sense, 
mortally wounded, and forever impaired; condemned always to make only 'logical' 
decisions. :-)
The way I see it, roughly and readily, is that there are in fact certain 
statements/descriptions about the world and our place in it which are MUCH MORE 
REASONABLE than a whole lot of others. I think therefore that, even though you 
might be right from a 'purely logical' point of view when you say the 
following: 'In the *final* analysis, ethical beliefs are not a matter of fact 
or logic, and if it seems that they are then there is a hidden assumption 
in fact, from the point of view of practical living and the necessities of 
survival, the correct approach is to assert what amounts to a set of practical 
axioms, including:
 *   the mere fact of existence is the basis of value, that good and bad are 
expressed differently within - and between - different cultures and their 
sub-cultures but ultimately there is an objective, absolute basis for the 
concept of 'goodness', because in all normal circumstances it is better to 
exist than not to exist,
 *   related to this and arising out of it is the realisation that all normal, 
healthy humans understand what is meant by both 'harm' and 'suffering', 
certainly those who have reached adulthood,
 *   furthermore, insofar as it is clearly recognisable that continuing to 
exist as a human being requires access to and consumption of all manner of 
natural resources and human-made goods and services, it is in our interests to 
nurture and further the inclinations in ourselves and others to behave in ways 
supportive of cooperation for mutual and general benefit wherever this is 
reasonably possible, and certainly not to act destructively or disruptively 
unless it is clear that doing so will prevent a much greater harm from 
It ought to be clear to all reasonable persons not engaged in self deception 
that in this modern era each and everyone of us is dependent - always - on at 
least a thousand other people doing the right thing, or trying to anyway. Thus 
the idea of 'manly', rugged, individualism is a romantic nonsense unless it 
also incorporates a recognition of mutual interdependence and the need for real 
fairness in social dealings at every level. Unless compassion, democracy and 
ethics are recognised [along with scientific method] as fundamental 
prerequisites for OUR survival, policies and practices will pretty much 
inevitably become self-defeating and destructive, no matter how 
well-intentioned to start with.
In the interest of brevity I add the following quasi-axioms.
 *   the advent of scientific method on Earth between 400 and 500 years ago has 
irreversibly transformed the human species so that now we can reasonably assert 
that the human universe is always potentially infinite, so long as it exists 
and we believe it to be so
 *   to be fully human requires taking responsibility for one's actions and 
this means consciously choosing to do things or accepting that one has made a 
choice even if one cannot remember consciously choosing
 *   nobody knows the future, so all statements about the future are either 
guesswork or statements of desires. Furthermore our lack of knowledge of times 
to come is very deep, such that we have no truly reasonable basis for 
dismissing the right to survive of any persons on the planet - or other living 
species for that matter - unless it can be clearly shown that such killing or 
allowing to die, is necessary to prevent some far greater harm and the 
assertion of this is of course hampered precisely by our lack of knowledge of 
the future
This feels incomplete but it needs to be sent.
Mark Peaty  CDES

I agree with you as far as advice for how to live a good life goes, but I guess where I disagree is on the technical matter of what we call reasonable. Peter Jones said that a system of economics designed to create universal poverty is not reasonable. I would agree *given* that the purpose of an economic system is not to create poverty. If we are talking about a system designed to destroy the economy of a country in order to soften it up for invasion, for example, then an economist can apply all his skill and knowledge in a perfectly reasonable mannner in order to achieve this. The human values driving an economic system, although we can predict what they might be in the majority of cases, are subjective states and are beyond reason: this is what I want, this is what I like, and you can't tell me otherwise. This stands in contrast to empirical statements such as "the Earth is flat", which is true or false independently of what anyone thinks or wants.
Stathis Papaioannou
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