IGS Discussion Forums: Learning GS Topics: Good on a moral level
Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Friday, April 20, 2007 - 03:26 pm Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

Check out Philosophy in the Flesh by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson (1999). Also look at Lawrence Kohlberg's Stages of Moral Development.

I do not think mentioning the terms 'good' or 'evil' have any useful meaning outside of the context of an utterance by a human being or a person reading the terms in formulations generated by a human being. Use the terms in discourse. As for religion, see this.

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Saturday, April 21, 2007 - 07:16 pm Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

For me "Good" gets instantiated in mobile living organisms as a physiological orientation by the organism towards a thing or activity, nomally self-serving in the interest of survival or reproduction. See The Philosophy of Mobile Life and Think-Feel and Know-Act. What "good" means varies over time with the circumstances the indivdual organism finds itself in. As humans with symbolic and semantic environments, this relative good gets abstracted, externalized, and objectivized into a projected abstract quality argued to be desirable by all, and at higher levels of abstraction, gets projected on "entities" consisting of groups of individuals, as in "the greatest 'good' for the greatest number". With time-binding many behaviors and objects are "infused" with this abstract quality and new time-binders are taught to orient towards the words that describe these things and events, such as "Money", "Love", "Family", "Freedom", "Health", etc., etc., and their referents. Metaphorically all "boil down" to that which provides comfortable survival and reproduction, (all up and down the phylogenetic scale). That's what "good" means to me.

Evil, however, is not the "opposite" of good.

Evil, for me, is intefering with the persuit of "good" by others, but not unnowingly, not for simple competition, not for revenge, not for any ideological concept of balance, and not for any logical reason. Evil does it for some preverse pleasure in causing others pain, distress, and loss - without justification for seeking such "pleasure". It's the personification of the one who grants a wish which causes many more times harm than good throughout which the one cackles with glee.

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Monday, April 30, 2007 - 03:49 pm Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

Brent wrote, "I want to unite people who agree with me."

Curious. This is what all the major religions, political parties, heroes and despots alike, etc., want to do - especially those who "truly care".

Wouldn't it be better to unite people who disagree?

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Tuesday, May 1, 2007 - 08:45 am Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

Uniting those who disagree by no means means convincing them to agree. See this.

It's better to unite those who disagree in order to move towards achieving tolerance and acceptance for differences. See The Foundations of Prejudice. According to Will Schutz, these groups "evolve" through three stages labeled as inclusion, control, and affection.

The Earth's population as a whole is largely stuck in control issues. Smaller groups have used the knowledge of group dynamics that has developed in processes known as OD Intervestions (Organizational Development). While I was in, the US Navy used the technique to achieve awareness of racism (Project UPWARD - Understanding Personal Worth and Racial Dignity) and other issues. It was not as successful as the Navy had hoped, because some individuals thought they were being given more power (control) than they actually were, but awareness was significantly enhanced. This was a consciousness raising experience for the vast majority of participants. (Participants became significantly more aware of their abstractions and abstracting than they had been.)

As far as organizations are concerned, it has become a maxim in the OD consulting population that, in order for an OD Intervention to work, the top level of the organization must be committed to the process. In the world at large, we don't even have a top level organization.

Not only that, but we have this notion of "freedom" which certain of the self-appointed seem to be trying to shove down the throats of the rest of the world.

This brings up the next level of abstraction. People attach value to formulations of "you name it", and once so done, tend to fractionate over differences and compete for "their own" over "the others".

Some people do not believe in multi-culturalism. Some people do not believe in tolerance for other cultures.

Ethical problem: How can those who do believe in multi-culturalism and tolerance survive without forcing their beliefs on those who do not?

Can there be co-existence between tolerance and intolerance? Clearly the semantic reactions to the binary distinction (two-valued orientation) implied by the formulation suggest not. But what if the words were not used; what if the people were just thrown together without direction and without organization? Does anyone have any authority to make such a thing happen?

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Tuesday, May 1, 2007 - 03:51 pm Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

Usually "lack of cooperation" is based on competition for resources - at more extensional levels, the means to survival and procreation, as well as at very abstract and symbolic levels, such as politics and ideology. We recently (2003) had an international general semantics conference on the topic Confronting the Challenges of Conflicting World Views. Perhaps Brent would find some time-binding value in the other papers actually presented at that fourum.

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Thursday, May 3, 2007 - 12:47 am Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

Brent said ...there are also many [activities and beliefs] that I believe should not [be accepted], and which I support the active elimination of.

And what happens when you and someone else differs on whether a particular activity or belief should be accepted or eliminated? How is such a situation to be resolved? By giving in to the stronger ("might makes right")? By flipping a coin (Who would agree to such a process?)? Etc.?

Your expression seems to just put you into a category that says "My beliefs and values are such that I'm justified in working to eliminate yours that do not agree with mine." This sounds no different, to me, than all the religions and politics. How are you not "guilty" of "personal choice chauvinism" - to coin a phrase? -- Oh, I forgot. You don't believe in ("pure") tolerance and multi-culturalism.

In the context of the US, we have, in principle, "majority rule" but with "minority rights" - and a constitutional specification of the major set of such inalienable rights. Practical administration leaves something to be desired, but I know of no better system on Earth, and I committed twenty years of my life definding the system. That practical application, however, does not make the ethical problem go away. It has floated in the back of my "mind" ever since I was forced to do things I really did not believe in - subjected to the whims of intolerant others in a position to exercise coercive power over me.

Some of us grant others the status of equal rights; some do not. Who's to say who is right? How? When? I consider my views consistent with Kohlberg's stage 6. And, yes, I do know that general semantics does not, in principle, acknowledge "equality" as a valid notion. See Sentient Sovereignty and Reciprocity. How did I get this way (besides at my mother's knee)? Here's how.

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Friday, May 4, 2007 - 01:38 pm Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

That's not my logic at all.

Your first premise is wrong.

Organized groups with individuals exercising power have done the harm.

You overgeneralized from groups to individuals and took the individual out of the context of the group. Organized groups pushing an ideology without tolerance have done the harm.

Saying that there are things that should be eliminated makes a generalization without acknowledging that there are always value judgements by persons involved. We cannot have elimination without persons or persons doing the eliminating.

It's a conflict between ends and means, and it's not a simple problem.

Here's a generalizaton for you. The greatest evil has been done in the name of the greatest good.

I will take individual action - I recycle to the max. Even used staples go into the metal recycle box. I drive a Prius hybrid to save energy.

I "urge" others to do the same. I shake my head when I am reminded of Bush's actions vis-a-vis energy, but I communicate with my representative.

But is there or can there be any general process to resolve diferences? I have not found one. The historical evidence is not favorable.

The greater question might be what "is" "good"?

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Friday, May 4, 2007 - 02:49 pm Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail


You have just illustrated why what "is" "good" "is" the greater question, and why I put it in quotes. You aren't allowed to "take away" my quotes by saying "with our without quotes".

What is (perceived as) 'good' drives peoples persuit of resources, power, etc., and is the forerunner of differences. As I said in another context, "without difference there are no choices, without choices there is no freedom".

Action follows from values. Values follow from choices or decisions. Choices follow from differences.

When it comes to "good" the differences in what individuals and populations evaluate or decide as "good" seems to be a better place to start than trying to resolve conflicts after people are already committed to their idea of good.

Poverty is certainly a significant factor, but it's more the degree of shortage that increases the stress.

Mathematical catastrophe theory illustrates the nature of the problem where the stress dimension is competition for resources. The shorter the supply, the greater the stress, and the more "catastrophic" the cusp. One can tolerate a lot of differences when one has one's needs met, but the greater the unmet need, the more likely the differences becomes focal points for cusps, and with higher stress, conflict. Low stress would translate into greater mobility between the haves and the have-nots. If I can get what I need/want, I'm much less concerned about those with much, much, more. But if I cannot get a significant portion of what I need/want, then those that have a lot more become a much more irritating factor. The "terrorists" idealogues (themselves have nots) have little trouble guiding the severely impoverished into hostile action against the massively haves.

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Friday, May 4, 2007 - 04:13 pm Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

Nora wrote, Alternatively, I might say "Choice follows from values. And differences follow from choices." I'm not trying to be cute here. To me, your chain of "follows" represents only one way to describe the interrelation. In my view, once I have established a value for myself, it plays a role in my future choices. And what I choose draws a difference between me and someone else who chooses something else.

I see that sequence as a reversal of the natural order of abstracting. I said distinguish, decide, and value. Until we have abstracted a distinction into figure and background and done it again, we do not have two figures to choose between. Even with a single distinction we have the choice between which to figure and which to background. But without at least one prior distinction we have nothing to choose between. Our lowest level of abstraction is perceiving a difference. Then we can "go for" one or the other side of the distinction. We can grab for the fruit and get it, or we can grab for the background and not get the fruit. Those of us whose ancestors grabbed for the fruit survived to give us that tendency. If we, in repeated circumstances, grab for the fruit, then its a higher level of abstraction to note that the surviving lineage "values" the fruit.

We cannot "reverse" the normal order of abstraction unless we have a large history of distinctions, choices, and values already learned, but we must first have followed the normal order of abstraction previously.

We don't have "values" to start with without a prior history of distinctions that allowed choices.

Normal order from low to high: distinguish, choose, value.
Reverse order from high to low, value, choose, distinguish.

The have nots in this country do little to inhibit the haves. The history is in the Reagan and Bush tax cuts that have significantly widened the gap between the rich and the poor. If the poor were as hostilly active as you say, they would have succeeded in getting a better tax deal, good single payer health insurance, and a host of other wealth disparity decreasing actions. The reverse is true. Wealth disparity has been increasing, and that means that what my mother always told me is "truer" that your statement.

"Them that has, gets."

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Friday, May 4, 2007 - 06:20 pm Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

Six Stages

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Saturday, May 5, 2007 - 07:30 am Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

Look, for instance, at the six stage model of levels of moral and ethical development as formulated by Lawrence Kohlberg. How "good" is understood varies with each level.

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Saturday, May 5, 2007 - 08:56 am Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

Gee, don't you think arguments about "good" vs "evil" are a waste of time?, he said, with an evil grin. evil grin

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Tuesday, May 15, 2007 - 11:32 am Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

Here's one more thought.

Contrast "The ends justify the means." with "Do not violate the ends to achieve them.".