Questioning an Assumption
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09-10-2011, 06:52 AM
 
RE: Questioning an Assumption
John Ralston Saul is a Canadian write and Philosopher. His best book to date is "On Equilibrium"

He identifies six qualities as common to all people: common sense, ethics, imagination, intuition, memory, and reason. He describes how these inner forces can be used to balance each other, and what happens when they are unbalanced.

Talking about reason:

Quote:…For every positive claim, someone can match it with a negative….a century of unprecedented physical progress and unprecedented violence. Even progress is a conundrum. It has been used willy-nilly to save lives and to take them, to process information efficiently and to limit citizens’ freedom, to run hospitals and to run death camps”.

Reason is a marvelous tool, if used right, in its own place, within its own limits.

I think the most important human quality, very seldom attained is BALANCE.

Peterkin is right: an organically developed belief system that is in harmony (balance) with its inner components and its environment provides the most stable and least neurotic (therefore better) society, regardless what myth (including science) it is based on .
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09-10-2011, 08:52 AM
RE: Questioning an Assumption
(08-10-2011 09:58 PM)Mr Woof Wrote:  PETERKIN....In other words ultra simple lanuguage is a poor coveyor of genuine effort to express ones' views, and needs elaboration relevant to the specific problems being addressed.

Yes, unless the view to be expressed is really as simple as "Us good; them bad." it's necessary to decide what degree of clarity is needed for which audience and for what purpose, then to choose appropriate language.

Quote:Convesely, complex arguments can be constructed also, to confuse the needs of genuine victims ,while satiating the needs of violating parties..
An example given by the semanticist philosopher Noam Chomsky refers to "freedom fighters" being stereoyped as "terrorists" and vice versa.

Yes again. In the present instance, i only intended to show that people's own words are not always a reliable source of evidence of their motives.

The only other thing i wanted was a definition of the qualitative comparison presented in the OP. The word "better" keeps bobbing to the surface, unanchored to any concrete meaning, yet used by people who advocate concrete reality as a basis for systems of thought and social organization. And that's in my own language, in my own cultural milieu, by people who share both.

Now think of the scope for misunderstanding and misconception, conclusion-jumping and judgment-snapping afforded by translation from the language that has grown up within one people's world-view to a language developed by a very different people with a very different world-view. That aspect of "assumption" hasn't even been touched upon.

If you pray to anything, you're prey to anything.
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09-10-2011, 09:30 AM
 
RE: Questioning an Assumption
"Crocodile Dundee" was a silly movie but there are 2 unforgettable lines in it.

One of them is appropriate here:

When the reporter asks Dundee what he thought about the claim that aboriginals own the land in Australia, he replied: "see that rock over there? It has been there for millions of years and will be there after we are long gone. Arguing about who owns the land is like flees arguing about who owns the dog they are feeding on".

Dundee was raised by the aboriginals and had their world view. He was thinking in concepts completely alien to the American reporter.

(The other unforgettable line was said by his mate when he realized that Dundee did not know what day of the week it was: "doesn't know...doesn't care...lucky bastard!")
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09-10-2011, 09:38 AM (This post was last modified: 09-10-2011 09:43 AM by Ghost.)
RE: Questioning an Assumption
Hey, Zatamon.

Quote:Peterkin is right: an organically developed belief system that is in harmony (balance) with its inner components and its environment provides the most stable and least neurotic (therefore better) society, regardless what myth (including science) it is based on .

Not only is that brilliant, but you brought in His Excellency John Ralston Saul! Love, love, love it, love everything about it.

BTW - If anyone is interested in humanism, you NEED to read On Equilibrium, The Unconscious Civilisation and The Doubter's Companion. John Ralston Saul’s work is excellent. And for those that already love him, prepare to be enjealousenated... I've seen him speak live. What what!

I'm a systems thinker and a memeticist. So for me, the content of cultures is not what is important, but rather the process.

Peterkin Wrote:What makes a society viable is not which kind of system they adopt, but the degree to which the population adheres to its tenets - the degree of consensus and co-operation within that society.

We tend to (since the Enlightenment anyway, speaking of reliance on ideas that are hundreds of years old) place primacy on the value of objective Truth; evidence being the road to such Truth. What is the single big T Truth? But when you examine how sensing works, how the human brain works, how semiotics works and how social constructivism works, you come to the conclusion that humans don't deal in reality, they deal in mutually agreed upon reality. Primacy should not be given to Truth, but rather to meaning. Truth is not what glues a belief system together, meaning is.

This is not to say that evidence doesn’t lead to meaning, of course it does, but that meaning can be derived in other ways as well.

To me, what is important in a belief system is internal consistency. When internal consistency breaks down, that's when the system breaks down.

Now one could make the argument that evidence-based belief systems are better because they are more self-correcting and have a higher degree of internal consistency. But, to me, the degree of internal consistency speaks only to stability, not value. A belief system is either internally consistent or it's not. Or perhaps it’s better to say that there can be inconsistencies but that there is some threshold, a tipping point, that causes crisis or collapse when crossed.

The Australian Aborigine belief system that is The Dreaming, for example, is based in reason but not only lacks evidence, it violates the rule of Occam's Razor and is demonstrably false. But it is internally consistent. And it functioned perfectly for tens of thousands of years.

I think it's important to point out that internal consistency is something that needs to be determined by the culture in question. It can't be determined externally because when it is it's being judged by external criteria and because the effects of discontinuity in the belief system are only felt internally.

In the film The Meaning of Existence, author of Ender's Game and Mormon Orson Scott Card says:
Quote:View the stories of religion as a hypothesis. Test them. If you live by these commandments, you will be happy. People around you will have better lives because of it.

Anyhoo, all of this is to say that my personal belief is that that which works is best. That's the Darwinian approach. If it works it flourishes, if it'd doesn't then it's self-eliminating. Internal consistency leads to the vitality of a belief system and the lack thereof leads to the extinction of a belief system. Darwin would never support the notion that there is one way to do anything. As Daniel Quinn points out:

Quote:There is no one right way for ANYTHING to live.

No one right way to hinge a jaw.
No one right way to build a nest.
No one right way to design an eye.
No one right way to move underwater.
No one right way to breed.
No one right way to bear young.
No one right way to shape a wing.
No one right way to attack your prey.
No one right way to defend your self against attack.
-Daniel Quinn, “Beyond Civilisation,” page 184.

I'm not saying that there isn't a case for the notion that basing beliefs on evidence isn't better, I'm just saying that:
1 - I have yet to see that evidence.
2 - There is a mountain of evidence that suggests that there is no such thing as a better way to build a belief system.

ON EDIT:

Peterkin Wrote:The only other thing i wanted was a definition of the qualitative comparison presented in the OP. The word "better" keeps bobbing to the surface, unanchored to any concrete meaning, yet used by people who advocate concrete reality as a basis for systems of thought and social organization. And that's in my own language, in my own cultural milieu, by people who share both.[emphasis added]

That's the issue. I don't think that there is a concrete meaning. No criteria is given for what better means. It's a blanket statement that doesn't seem to have any support. In the end, I think that it's a subjective statement that can only mean "we believe that it's better when..." rather than an objective truth.

BTW - The section I put in bold... awesome.

Peace and Love and Empathy,

Matt
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09-10-2011, 10:00 AM
RE: Questioning an Assumption
Well, gee, blush, thanks.... and add this:
People who proclaim that everything they themselves believe is based on evidence also haven't delineated their criteria for admissibility, sourcing, evaluation and application of evidence. Plus, i think they're deluding themselves: i think they go as much by gut reaction, gonad-reaction, sensory input, instinct, hope, hunch and fill-in-the-gaps conjecture as anybody else, only they later rationalize and justify their decisions to meet arbitrary standards set by a philosophy, not by personal experience.

If you pray to anything, you're prey to anything.
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09-10-2011, 10:42 AM
 
RE: Questioning an Assumption
(09-10-2011 10:00 AM)Peterkin Wrote:  People who proclaim that everything they themselves believe is based on evidence also haven't delineated their criteria for admissibility, sourcing, evaluation and application of evidence.

In a thread I started a long time ago: "What is, and how to find, Truth?" I tried to deal with a concept (Truth), related to the concept we are talking about: Evidence.

John Ralston Saul's "The Doubter's Companion" has a brilliant Introduction ("The Grail of Balance") to the concepts of truth and doubt.

Quote:Our civilization is unable to do what individuals cannot say. And individuals are unable to say what they cannot think. Even thought can only advance as fast as the unknown can be stated through conscious organized language, an apparently self-defeating limitation.

The power of dictionaries and encyclopaedias is thus enormous. But what kind of power? The very possibility of it invites positive or negative use. A dictionary can as easily be a liberating force as one of control.

In the humanist view, the alphabet can be a tool for examining society; the dictionary a series of questions, an enquiry into meaning, a weapon against received wisdom and therefore against the assumptions of established power. In other words, the dictionary offers an organized Socratic approach.

The rational method is quite different. The dictionary is abruptly transformed into a dispensary of truth; that is, into an instrument which limits meaning by defining language. This bible becomes a tool for controlling communications because it directs what people can think. In other words, it becomes the voice of Platonic elitism.

The arrogance of what I call the "Science Brigade" is almost matching what they are accusing the bible-thumpers of.

I am a scientists (Theoretical Physicist) and I love science (with proper humility), but I don't, for a second, believe it can provide 'evidence' for a prescription of HOW TO LIVE? or WHAT IS A BETTER LIFE?

Our needs, wants, goals are all physiological and emotional. Our reason is one of many tools that can chart a roadmap leading to our goals.

The concept of "better life" for an individual is completely subjective. For society, the only criterion I can think of is whatever provides stability of the whole, coupled with contentment of the individual.

Saul tells you to examine and reexamine all your evidence, all the time. Doubt is a VERY useful tool for sane, healthy survival.

ETA:

The "Science Brigade" I was referring to are those individuals who claim that science has ALL the answers (if not yet - soon) and are willing to ram the current, temporary, partial answers down everyone's throats.
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10-10-2011, 03:07 PM (This post was last modified: 10-10-2011 03:11 PM by Thomas.)
RE: Questioning an Assumption
I often hear the dismissal of "subjective" as if it is a useless path and disagree.
I also disaggreee that relativism is a dead end street.

We would like to have a set of moral and ethical rules that are completely objective, but that is not possible. Objective values do not exit.

We cannot know the other's sense, but we can ask the relative question of which is better to the individual.

So we can have a happyness scale and a moral scale, just not between each other. As a society we must have agreement on acceptable behavoir so that we can function. Therefore, everything is a trade-off. I don't want to be killed for my stuff so I agree not to kill you for your stuff. We are both better off as we have traded for moral goods of greater value than what we have given up.
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10-10-2011, 05:03 PM
RE: Questioning an Assumption
Hey, Thomas.

Welcome to the forum. I see you've been busy Smile

Quote:I don't want to be killed for my stuff so I
agree not to kill you for your stuff.

This nod to the importance of agreement made me think of East LA gangbangers. As violent as they are, they are cool with each other so long as they respect one another. But the violation of that simple covenant is punishable by death.

Peace and Love and Empathy,

Matt
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