SP: ' I don't thereby think it is OK for anyone to do any horrible thing they want. I have my own values, as it happens broadly in agreement with what you have outlined below.'

MP: I assumed as such  :-)

Furthermore I tend to think that we also will agree on a tenet I believe is attributed to Socrates:
'The unexamined life is not worth living!'

Now there is an embedded assumption and a half ! :-) And now I look at it a bit, it seems to embody both the truth of your assertion about the 'pure arbitrariness' of values, and the essence of what freedom we humans really have. [Note: I refuse to digress into discussions of 'free will'.]

A key issue is self-reference. I think this is well illustrated by what may be the one true free gift of nature, after the fact of being born of course. Doctors and researchers call it the placebo effect. I like to characterise it by its shortest expression in mantra format - in English anyway - the injunction:
'Think positive, it's better for you!'

This can be confronting to those of us who may have been habituated to a negative disposition and all the rationalisations that entrench it: [one of mine was 'B negative, not just a blood group, but a way of life!' :-]. The evidence is good however, that positive thinking - choosing to say 'the glass is half full' rather than 'the glass is half empty' - has beneficial effects of one's general health and also on the breadth and quality of thought. It is not a criticism to say that it is just a matter of belief, because this in fact is the key point! If one believes that the placebo effect is a real process occurring in the real world, and it IS, then there is nothing illusory or otherwise false in choosing to 'think positive', because that is the key process involved. Tout simple, n'est ce pas! Everything else in life must be paid for: things are either made by people who must be paid or borrowed from nature which must be paid back.

In the case of examining one's life, again there is an element of 'it pays for itself' but perhaps it is more in the nature of a surfboard ride [which I have observed but never done] or an endless roller coaster. I mean the energy source is the life giving energy of the sun which lifts us up and carries us along like the surfer's wave. The inevitable entropy of our progress can be passed off to the blackness of the night sky, so long as we determine to avoid harm to self and others where it is avoidable and avoid causing suffering to other creatures where that too is avoidable. I personally choose to believe that in the examination of one's own life, the interdependence of what is and what ought, become ever more clearly manifest. Not that we can impose anything of this on others - Hah! I can't even impose it on myself. BUT discovering the truth of what I am seems to lead ever more clearly to an inherited core [of genetic/memetic combination] which I share with others, and an ever wider sweep of life affirming possibilities which I can share with others. If I deny this then it seems to me that I am, in the final analysis, saying that I am of a different species from at least some other Homo sapiens around the world.

The reflexive nature of our human experience seems to carry with it the necessity of choosing the 'truths' that we affirm. If we gain the ability to contemplate the bases of our actions and decisions and then say: 'Oh, I don't have time to do that.' or some such, then we are none the less choosing by default and making ourselves less than what we thought ourselves to be.

That was longer than I expected but hopefully not too verbose.

Regards
Mark Peaty  CDES
[EMAIL PROTECTED]
http://www.arach.net.au/~mpeaty/



Stathis Papaioannou wrote:


Mark,

Let me make it clear at this late point in the debate that, just because I don't believe there is any absolute morality, I don't thereby think it is OK for anyone to do any horrible thing they want. I have my own values, as it happens broadly in agreement with what you have outlined below. I judge actions reasonable or unreasonable given that a certain end is desirable, but only my values will tell me what this end is, and the values themselves are beyond reason: they simply are what they are.

Stathis Papaioannou

________________________________
Date: Thu, 28 Dec 2006 16:51:08 +0900
From: [EMAIL PROTECTED]
To: everything-list@googlegroups.com
Subject: Re: 'reason' and ethics; was computer pain

OK Stathis, I happily concede your point in relation to our word 'logical', but not in relation to 'reason'. Logic belongs to the tight-nit language of logico-mathematics but reason is *about* the real world and we cannot allow the self-deluding bullies and cheats of the world to steal *our* language! I like the way Dr Dorothy Rowe, a psychologist and writer [ another useful Australian export **] puts it: "Power is the ability to get others to accept your description of the world." The cynical manipulators and spin doctors have no qualms about abusing language, in big part because they have no intention of accepting responsibility for all their actions. Of course none of us is guiltless in this regard but it falls to us who stand well away from the levers of power to speak the truth. We who are forced to watch as OUR hard earned tax dollars and investment savings [superannuation savings for example] get splurged on grand projects, invasions, and so forth, have a duty to SAY what is right. We may be wrong about some details but we sure as hell are not wrong when insisting that the truth be told. I certainly agree also that, in the case of the person standing on the parapet, what he or she believes about what they are doing - if we can find it out - should cause us to try different methods of persuasion. Quite how one would tackle the 'logic' of the superhero's thinking, I don't know, perhaps offer to make improvements to his cape to improve the effect? :-) Whatever the details, I think that one aspect of the interaction that either type would require is the establishment of rapport, some degree of mutual empathy; not easy. The economist preparing to make war not love is very like the supposed scientists cooking up ever more 'attractive' tobacco products 'for our smoking pleasure'. I think that the only way people can bring themselves to do this is by cutting themselves off from those others who will become the victims. This is like so many other situations where a group or social class cuts it/themselves off from another class of persons. It may seem 'reasonable' where everyone involved in the planning agrees that there is no real alternative, or that the potential disadvantages accruing from not doing so will be too heavy a burden to bear. But it also entails a denial of empathy, and a closing off from a part of the world, an objective assertion that 'they are not us and we are not them'. This contains within it also a diminution of self, something that may not be recognised to start with and perhaps never understood until it is too late.
Regards
Regards
Mark Peaty  CDES
[EMAIL PROTECTED]<mailto:[EMAIL PROTECTED]>
http://www.arach.net.au/~mpeaty/
** who probably, like so many others, left Oz because not enough people could put down their bl**dy beer cans long enough to actually listen to what she was saying.
Stathis Papaioannou wrote:
Mark,
I would still draw a distinction between the illogical and the foolish or unwise. Being illogical is generally foolish, but the converse is not necessarily the case. The example I have given before is of a person who wants to jump off the top of a tall building, either because (a) he thinks he is superman and will be able to fly or (b) he is reckless or suicidal. In both cases the course of action is unwise, and we should try to stop him, but in (a) he is delusional while in (b) he is not. It isn't just of academic interest, either, because the approach to stopping him from doing it again is quite different in each case. Similarly with the example of the economist, the approach to stopping him will be different depending on whether he is trying to ruin the economy because he wants to or because he is incompetent or making decisions on false information.
Stathis Papaioannou
________________________________
Date: Thu, 28 Dec 2006 01:15:34 +0900
From: [EMAIL PROTECTED]<mailto:[EMAIL PROTECTED]>
To: everything-list@googlegroups.com<mailto:everything-list@googlegroups.com>
Subject: Re: 'reason' and ethics; was computer pain
And yet I persist ... [the hiatus of familial duties and seasonal excesses now draws to a close [Oh yeah, Happy New Year Folks!] SP: '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 manner in order to achieve this.' We should beware of conceding too much too soon. Something is reasonable only if it can truly be expected to fulfil the intentions of its designer. Otherwise it is at best logical but, in the kinds of context we are alluding to here, benighted and a manifestation of fundamentally diminished 'reason'. Something can only be 'reasonable' it its context. If a proposed course of action can be shown to be ultimately self defeating - in the sense of including its reasonably predictably final consequences, and yet it is still actively proposed, then the proposal is NOT reasonable, it is stupid. As far as I can see, that is the closest we can get to an objective definition of stupidity and I like it. Put it this way: Is it 'reasonable' to promote policies and projects that ultimately are going to contribute to your own demise or the demise of those whom you hold dear or, if not obviously their demise then, the ultimate demise of all descendants of the aforementioned? I think academics, 'mandarins' and other high honchos should all now be thinking in these terms and asking themselves this question. The world we now live in is like no other before it. We now live in the Modern era, in which the application and fruits of the application of scientific method are putting ever greater forms of power into the hands of humans. This process is not going to stop, and nor should we want it to I think, but it entails the ever greater probability that the actions of any person on the planet have the potential to influence survival outcomes for huge numbers of others [if not the whole d*mned lot of us]. I think it has always been true that ethical decisions and judgements are based on facts to a greater extent than most people involved want to think about - usually because it's too hard and we don't think we have got the time and, oh yeah, 'it probably doesn't/won't matter' about the details of unforeseen consequences because its only gonna be lower class riff -raff who will be affected anyway or people of the future who will just have to make shift for themselves. NOW however we do not really have such an excuse; it is a cop-out to purport to ignore the ever growing interrelatedness of people around the planet. So it is NOT reasonable to treat other people as things. [I feel indebted to Terry Pratchett for pointing out, through the words of Granny Weatherwax I think it is, that there is only one sin, which is to treat another person as a thing.] I think a reasonable survey and analysis of history shows that, more than anything else, treating other people as things rather than equal others has been the fundamental cause and methodology for the spread of threats to life and well being. You can see where I am going with this: in a similar way to that in which concepts of 'game theory' and probabilities of interaction outcomes give us an objective framework for assessing purportedly 'moral' precepts, the existence now of decidedly non-zero chances of recursive effects resulting from one's own actions brings a deeper meaning and increased rigour the realms of ethics and 'reason'. I don't think this is 'airy-fairy', I think it represents a dimension of reasoning which has always existed but which has been denied, ignored or actively censored by the powerful and their 'pragmatic' apologists and spin doctors. To look at a particular context [I am an EX Christian], even though the Bible is shonk as history or any kind of principled xxxxxxological analysis, it is instructive to look at the careers of the prophets and see how each involved a seemingly conventional formative period and then periods or a whole life of very risky ministry AGAINST the establishment because being true to their mission involved the prophet denouncing exploitation, greed and corruption. So let me wave my imaginary staff and rail from the top of my imaginary mountain: 'Sin is against reason! And that's a fact! So THERE! And don't you forget it, or you'll be sorry, or at least your children and their children will become so! Put that in your pipes all you armchair philosophers!'
Regards
Mark Peaty CDES


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