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
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
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.
Mark Peaty CDES
Stathis Papaioannou wrote:
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.
Date: Thu, 28 Dec 2006 16:51:08 +0900
From: [EMAIL PROTECTED]
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.
Mark Peaty CDES
[EMAIL PROTECTED]<mailto:[EMAIL PROTECTED]>
** 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:
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.
Date: Thu, 28 Dec 2006 01:15:34 +0900
From: [EMAIL PROTECTED]<mailto:[EMAIL PROTECTED]>
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
So let me wave my imaginary staff and rail from the top of my
'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
Mark Peaty CDES
You received this message because you are subscribed to the Google Groups
"Everything List" group.
To post to this group, send email to email@example.com
To unsubscribe from this group, send email to [EMAIL PROTECTED]
For more options, visit this group at