When is persuasion a form of bad manipulation?

Some insights on this have become a lot clearer to me in the last few years….

The way I would frame this issue is in the context of expressions of personal will, and the impacts of those expressions on both the human agency of others and, ultimately, the good of All.

Inherent to my persuading someone is an impact on their agency - the imposition of my will on theirs. Beyond a specific threshold, this imposition is inherently problematic, regardless of intent or outcome. And what is the threshold? Well, it will be different for different people. Issues like personality disorders, anxiety disorders, PTSD, codependence, differences in social status (including gender status, familial status, positional influence, etc.), and level of ego development (e.g. moral maturity) can all result in a very different threshold for different people…or the same person in different situations. It is therefore incumbent upon me, wherever possible, to understand and appreciate the context and subjective conditions involved. For if I knowingly and willfully impose my will on someone and deprive them of agency, I consider this destructive manipulation.

The challenge here, of course, is in the phrase “wherever possible.” In posting this answer, I could conceivably persuade someone subject to the very vulnerabilities I’ve described to do something “against their will.” But I really can’t know that, can I? So the best I can do in this context is try to state my case and “let the chips fall where they may.” That changes in interpersonal situations, where I can hopefully be more sensitive and perceptive. Even so, some portion of responsibility still rests on a person who is easily persuaded (against their will) to signal their own vulnerability. Likewise, I am also responsible for communicating my own vulnerabilities to others in this regard. But of course both of these situations depend on a fair amount of self-awareness, ability to communicate, and self-control….

Which leads us to intent: what do I intend? If my intentions are sincerely focused on the good of the person I am trying to persuade, issuing from a place of compassion and affection, perhaps this can mitigate some level of manipulation (as imposition of will). Any parent knows this has to be true in regarding their children! But I must also be aware that, to whatever degree possible, if I really do wish for the good of others, then I need to empower them to make the best decisions on their own…that is, to provide good information and - whenever possible - insulate them from persuasion. If mutually agreed to, this helps keep everyone’s agency intact, and (in my observation and experience) enhances efficacy and positive outcomes ten-fold. Indeed, this is also true of parenting.

Lastly we come to outcomes: what is the result? The good of All - that is: the greatest good, for the greatest number, for the greatest duration? Of course this may be desired, but it is never guaranteed - just as the effectiveness of any approach to ethics is not always certain. Which is why wisdom comes into play - including factors of discernment, awareness, insight, timing, etc. And indeed constant practice and discipline; this is how ideal and praxis intersect.

So for shorthand, we could use the formula: compassionate intentions + situational awareness + self-awareness + appreciation of cultural/power dynamics + situationally adaptive skillfulness + predictive efficacy = non-manipulative persuasion.

As you can see, there is quite a complex balancing act here. And honestly I believe many cultural value systems promote this balancing act in the normal course of human interaction - in other words, it is tacitly implicit, and transmitted by example. Unfortunately, some cultures (and indeed some individuals) lack the emotional intelligence, language and perceptive ability to recognize, internalize or actualize such a formula. And such challenges can then be exacerbated by commercialism, consumerism, individualism, materialism, selfishness, family abuse, workplace stress, social injustice and so forth. For those cultures where tacit understanding and transmission are absent…or for individuals and relationships that have yet to fully invest in such compassionate dynamics…well, then it would have to become a more conscious enterprise. The challenge then becomes that, for certain folks who routinely capitalize on manipulative persuasion (i.e. profit-driven marketing and advertising, religious zealots, political ideologues, etc.), there is tremendous resistance to such awareness, sensitivity and caring about the agency of others.

My 2 cents.

From: https://www.quora.com/When-is-persuasion-a-form-of-bad-manipulation/answer/T-Collins-Logan

Is there evidence against (substance) dualism?

I suspect that will depend on what you will accept as evidence. Some possible avenues of exploration:

1. Quantum physics.

2. Unio mystica or “nondual” peak experience.

3. Sartre’s existential nausea.

4. Perceptions evoked by psilocybin.

On the other hand, we also have what can be considered “supportive” evidence for substance dualism, such as:

1. Experiencing astral projection.

2. Ian Stevenson’s research on reincarnation.

3. The reports of various religious adherents regarding visiting other realms of existence.

4. Encountering a ghost or spiritual entity.

Then again, having researched and/or personally experienced all of these myself, I’d have to say that dualism (of any sort) is an operational state that pulls at our consciousness like gravity, while nonduality is an enveloping and interpenetrating foundational substrate that - in a cyclical and iterative dialectic of creation and destruction - both generates and dissipates that duality. I suspect that the relationship between the two even hints at the origins of consciousness itself…like the impact of tidal zones on evolution. They are not, therefore, mutually exclusive, but synergistically linked.

My 2 cents.

From: https://www.quora.com/Is-there-evidence-against-substance-dualism/answer/T-Collins-Logan

What percentage of philosophers accept the Principle of Sufficient Reason?

I would offer two ways of approaching this question:

1. What percentage of philosophers - historically or contemporarily - explicitly and intentionally subscribe to, support or expand upon the PSR as a philosophical principle?

2. What percentage of philosophers - historically or contemporarily - unconsciously or implicitly demonstrate some acceptance or utilization of the PSR in their work?

These are very different questions, and the first is much easier to answer than the second. As to the first, the percentage is relatively small when including ALL philosophers in the West. The PSR wasn’t explicit until Leibniz, and since then has been the subject to a fair amount of debate - with just a handful of folks arguing for some version of the PSR. We might arrive at a formal percentage of around 15–20% of pro-PSR, post-Leibniz philosophers in this way - though of course debates over variations/extensions of the PSR have continued to this day.

The second question is much more difficult and conditional, relying on subjective assessments of an implicit reliance on - or demonstration of - the PSR, rather than explicit statements by the philosopher in question. It also will vary widely depending on which particular definition of the PSR is being employed (there are many - see Kant, Shopenhauer, Wolff, Hume, Leibniz, etc.). However, if we were to take every definition of the PSR into consideration, it becomes pretty clear that - at some point or other - nearly all philosophers in the West either employed a version of the PSR in their thinking, or it was otherwise implicit in their style of reasoning. Thus, using this approach to survey all philosophers in the West throughout recorded history, we arrive at close to 100%.

The real issue at hand, IMO, is what constitutes a priori (deductive) processes. That is really the ultimate “ground” from which the PSR arises, and why it is so difficult to escape. In psychological terms, we might say that PSR actually stands for the “principle of sufficient rationalization.” Human beings are quite clever at ordering their suppositions, evidence, language, semantics and logic around what they want to believe. And of course this includes the use of a posteriori (inductive) processes - resulting in various forms of bias. In other words, our tendency is to reinforce or affirm a priori beliefs with a posteriori experiential knowledge, despite all efforts at analytical rigor. Stepping back a bit, it is really rather humorous when philosophy attempts to escape the fetters of its own contingent parameters: to think itself out of a maze created by - and conditioned upon - human thought.

So I would say that, when attempting to answer such questions, it is important to examine one’s epistemology, hermeneutics and what I would call “semantic containers” (affinities/categorizations of thought and experience) before diving in. Because it is likely our methodology for defining, say, what a “brute fact” is, or what constitutes causality, that will likely be distorted by our a priori conditions - often to the point of glaring internal contradictions.

My 2 cents.

What reduces your free will?

A wide range of internal and external influences or conditions that constrain our ability to either formulate independent thought and action, or to follow through with them or expand on them. In my paper The Goldilocks Zone of Integral Liberty: A Proposed Method of Differentiating Verifiable Free Will from Countervailing Illusions of Freedom, I call these “variations of poverty.” They include things like:

· Poverty of existential security – lack of food, shelter, clothing, safety from harm.

· Poverty of justice and equality – experience of social prejudice, disruption of ability to obtain competent legal representation, inferior treatment under the rule of law, unequal treatment in the workplace, etc.

· Poverty of economic freedom – disrupted ability to generate disposable income or access desired goods, lack of opportunity to trade, disruption to development of desired skills and abilities, lack of employment opportunity.

· Poverty of trust and social capital – experience of alienation or disenfranchisement, lack of access to supportive social networks, consistently encountering closed doors rather than open ones.

· Poverty of knowledge & information – lack of access to established knowledge, or to accurate and independently verified new information.

· Poverty of self-reliance – disrupted capacity for confidence or independence, and lack of access to tools or experience that support a belief in own self-efficacy.

· Poverty of education – disrupted ability to think critically (i.e. carefully evaluate new information, challenge internalized assumptions, relax cognitive bias, escape conditioned habits), learn valuable skills, or gain a well-rounded understanding and appreciation of the world through diverse, interdisciplinary learning.

· Poverty of moral development – disrupted ability to mature past an egoic, tribal, or individualistic orientation (I/Me/Mine or Us vs. Them).

· Poverty of access or opportunity for advancement – being “in the right place at the right time” never seems to happen, no viable pathways out of one’s current situation seem available, no amount of effort seems to change these conditions, and barriers to access and opportunity persist.

· Poverty of emotional intelligence – disrupted ability to interpret social cues, facial expressions, emotional content of interpersonal exchanges, or to empathize with the experiences of others.

· Poverty of love – disrupted ability to develop compassionate affection for self and others, or experiencing a consistent lack of compassion from others.

· Poverty of self-expression – lack of opportunity and support for creative, athletic, intellectual or other form of self-expression.

· Poverty of spaciousness – lack of discretionary time, quiet, solitude.

· Poverty of common property – lack of resources held in common, or lack of access to those resources.

· Poverty of physical or mental health – poor nutrition, excessive stress, unhealthy family dynamics, genetic predispositions for illness or substance abuse, subjection to psychologically incompatible or physically harmful environments.

· Poverty of perception and awareness – disrupted ability to see past the spectacle, perceive or process things multidimensionally, or maintain a neutral holding field while assessing complex information.

· Poverty of spirit – disruption of connection with higher Self, spiritual insights and gnosis, and/or relationship with divine mystery.

· Poverty of holistic perspective and vision – disrupted ability to comprehend the bigger picture, cultivate a guiding purpose and intentionality, or to keep these in mind throughout the trials of daily life.

My 2 cents.

From: https://www.quora.com/What-reduces-your-free-will/answer/T-Collins-Logan

What is The Night of the World, as Hegel puts in?

Cheng Wen pretty much nails it. Here’s what I would add:

In one sense the “night of the world” is the undifferentiated unity of everything - of existence and non-existence, of being and non-being, of the “I” and everything that “I” symbolically projects within itself and outside of itself (including itself). From this perspective it is close kin to what Sartre would later describe as evoking an overwhelming experience of existential nausea. In another sense it is the fundamental consciousness of the soul (human/Divine Spirit) that intuits this undifferentiated unity as a negation to itself, and responds by differentiating, symbolizing, “naming” and organizing…thereby synthesizing an active interdependence of being. In another sense, the “night of the world” has the flavor of Jung’s collective unconscious. What Hegel then alludes to is that we can glimpse this night in ourselves and in others for the briefest of instants…and it is terrifying in its power of negation and nothingness. As a former existentialist and current mystic, I can attest to the accuracy of Hegel’s depiction of this encounter - both as an intellectual intuition, and as a felt experience of mystical gnosis.

From: https://www.quora.com/What-is-The-Night-of-the-World-as-Hegel-puts-in/answer/T-Collins-Logan

Georg Hegel (philosopher, author): What is the Hegelian concept of freedom?

Hegel’s conception of freedom contained these essential ingredients:

1. As a precondition of freedom, the individual may unconsciously or reflexively conform to social norms - and to the order of community and State - while at the same time cultivating a voluntary choice to do so (ideally as a consequence of learning, thinking, intuiting and understanding the deeper currents in play…such as the next three ingredients).

2. While inherently an expression of Divine, universal spirit that self-actualizes through human beings, the individual spirit can become aware of that essence, relationship and purpose, and in the process actualize its own freedom and will.

3. While previous iterations of society and the individual have inherently been more self-limiting and less free, they provide the groundwork and context for the next iteration of actualization, which is less limited and more free.

4. While the individual is alienated from a full understanding of themselves, their society and the world around them, they have very little freedom. But once they apply a rationally speculative dialectic process to these subject-object relations, they can liberate themselves from that ignorance.

To appreciate how all of these syntheses aggregate and interact within Hegel’s worldview, I recommend researching the term Aufheben, and then widening your reading out from there.

My 2 cents.

From: https://www.quora.com/Georg-Hegel-philosopher-author-What-is-the-Hegelian-concept-of-freedom/answer/T-Collins-Logan

What are the philosophical responses to emotivism?

I will approach this from my own framework regarding moral judgements.

To reduce moral judgements to any one thing is, in my view, an error. Why? Because they represent - realistically, pragmatically, observably, developmentally - a much more complex intersection of factors. These might include:

1. Innate, genetic predispositions (for example, a prosocial disposition vs. an antisocial one)

2. Learned and integrated responses from modeling observed in childhood (family of origin, peers, etc.)

3. Predictably observable, cross-culturally consistent stages of moral development (Kohlberg et al)

4. Conditioned conformance to societal norms (to facilitate survival, acceptance, social agreement, etc.)

5. Intuitions informed by emotional sensitivity and empathy, somatic responses, spiritual insights, intellectual leaps of deduction and synthesis, etc.

6. Conclusions and convictions that result from s reasoned analysis of prosocial efficacy (utilitarianism, virtue ethics, etc.)

7. Inculcation of formalized belief systems (religious education, military codes-of-conduct, study of philosophy of ethics, etc.)

Now of course most people do not consciously synthesize their values hierarchy - but neither do they reflexively adopt a rigid, unchanging one. So there is a spectrum of convictions, learned behaviors, experiences, insights and so forth that fluidly shape and maintain each individual’s moral thought-field. In addition, most moral responses are context-sensitive, and moral judgements in-the-moment will shift based on the relationships involved, being observed by others, the expectation of social obligation and reciprocation, current mental or emotional state, and so forth. These variables are what inevitably generate tensions between our ideal self, our perceived self, and our actual habits and proclivities as reflected back to us by others.

So can we really - with any intellectual honesty - maintain the meta-ethical position that individual moral judgements can be reduced to subjective emotions, or collective moral standards to a consensus agreement around such reactions? I really don’t think we can. In fact I think it would be a particularly foolish oversimplification.

My 2 cents.

From Quora post: https://www.quora.com/What-are-the-philosophical-responses-to-emotivism/answer/T-Collins-Logan

How did Aristotle influence the development of the West?

What a great question.

I might be overstating this…since I am a big fan of Aristotle…but I would say that Aristotle’s impact on Western civilization is probably only equalled by one other historical figure: Jesus of Nazareth. Although others - such as Aristotle’s teacher Plato - laid much of the groundwork for what became the philosophical tradition in the West, it was Aristotle who, more than any single influence, framed the trajectory of empirical observation, civic obligation and ethics, metaphysics, and analytic/reflective analysis that would lead to formal Christian theology, the scientific revolution, and the Enlightenment. Now I realize this may seem like an outrageous statement on the surface, but we can actually follow Aristotle’s profound influence on nearly all subsequent developments over the centuries - across innumerable hard and soft disciplines and specialities, including:

Civics and Democracy

Virtue Ethics


Christian Theology






Keep in mind, however, that I am not saying Aristotle’s conclusions were always correct or upheld by later thinkers and research. In fact you could say that Aristotle became important precisely because so many historically influential writers and researchers attempted to refute his assertions (sometimes succeeding, and sometimes not). In other words, Aristotle’s positions show up in nearly all of the later dialectics within areas of study to which he contributed (or invented)…all the way up into modern times. It’s incredible, really. As just one less-well-known example, most people in the West are familiar with Freud’s assertions about the pleasure principle, libido, id and ego in human motivation and ideation, and consider him to be the father of modern psychology. Except…well…it was Aristotle who first elaborated on those very same observations, though he named them differently. We could say with some confidence that Aristotle is the patron saint of the intellectual academic tradition itself. Aristotle has been so influential, in fact, that some less scrupulous authors have used his name to bolster their own positions. One of the more notable figures who did this was Ayn Rand, who very clearly misunderstood Aristotle on a fundamental level, but nevertheless claimed to derive many of her ideas from his writing.

So a modern citizen of the West can effectively thank Aristotle for living in democracies with institutions of higher learning, technologies and medicine that resulted from empirical science, a strong cultural tradition of analytical analysis and problem-solving, a much greater awareness of the human condition and the workings of the psyche, and the lingering (albeit waning and/or commodified) legacy of neoplatonic mysticism. What we can’t thank Aristotle for is capitalism, which we know from his writings he would have found repulsive, unethical and debasing.

Lastly, we should also not forget that Aristotle was also revered in Eastern cultures that came in contact with his teachings.

My 2 cents.

From Quora post: https://www.quora.com/How-did-Aristotle-influence-the-development-of-the-West/answer/T-Collins-Logan

What are the main flaws in Objectivism?

There are many, and many that have been widely discussed here on Quora. Please see:

T Collins Logan's answer to Why is Ayn Rand not received well in Academia?

T Collins Logan's answer to What was Ayn Rand wrong about?

Following up on these, the main problems are that a) humans aren’t primarily motivated by self-interest as Rand defines it, but by prosocial impulses, b) effective human reason and rationality are not confined to logic as Rand defines it (for example, human emotions - and empathy in particular - are key cofactors in human decision-making capacity and efficacy), c) human perception is highly variable and unreliable, in contradiction to Rand’s assertions, d) there is evidence that a priori knowledge is accessible and available to people who cultivate specific skills of insight, also in contradiction to Rand, e) her definition and consideration of free will are woefully incomplete. There is more, but these are some core issues that have been contradicted by a growing body of research since Rand’s initial proposals.

Hope that helps.

From Quora post: https://www.quora.com/What-are-the-main-flaws-in-Objectivism/answer/T-Collins-Logan

Is calculated neglect the most powerful, most destructive weapon that no one sees, talks about, hears about or recognizes?

Thanks for the A2A Carl. Oh yes, absolutely I think you are correct. Calculated neglect (twin sibling to deceptive manipulation) is the Pit yawning behind the spectacle - the Abyss of Despair just beneath the superficial surface of panem et circenses. In terms of identification and disclosure, I think these are known threats to human well-being - and indeed human existence. But they are artfully concealed and (routinely) rhetorically dismissed. I find religious language from the Judeo-Christian tradition quite useful here. The references to the tactics and evidences of the Beast in Revelations, for example, align with surprisingly accuracy to globalized capitalism. And of course the warnings about evildoers in Proverbs are really…well…they are also spot on. In other words, whether one is religious or not, there is clear evidence that this kind of “evil” has been clearly identified - described in careful detail - for millennia. It’s just that we’ve gotten out of practice at recognizing it. We have, culturally and individually, lost our capacity for discernment.

My 2 cents.

From Quora post: https://www.quora.com/Is-calculated-neglect-the-most-powerful-most-destructive-weapon-that-no-one-sees-talks-about-hears-about-or-recognizes/answer/T-Collins-Logan

In layman's terms, what is philosopher Gianni Vattimo's idea of "weak thought"?

LOL. Reducing complex philosophical concepts to “layman’s terms” is perhaps itself a byproduct of weak thought - as we can only frame such discourse in the concepts we have learned via the culture through which we swim. Be that as it may….

My understanding is that Vattimo is passionately invested in the idea that nothing a priori - and most certainly not our “being/essence/ousia” - is self-evident, extant, or a reliable basis for philosophical disclosure. Thus to engage in a priori speculation is to demonstrate “weak thought.” We can only know (in the sense of strong thought, i.e. a posteriori “deductive cogency”) from our experience and, more reliably, what Vattimo calls “scientific calculation and technological organization.” Thus “Being” per se is fluid - it has no definite or stable structure. From Vattimo’s Weak Thought (2012): “One has access to Being not through presence but only through recollection, for Being cannot be defined as that which is but only that which is passed on [si tramanda].”

First I would say that this idea isn’t particular new - Proust makes clear reference to the same observations about transience and recollection in his writing. Of course I wouldn’t dream of implying that Vattimo is reappropriating here. I’m just saying it’s not particularly original.

Secondly I would say that Vattimo’s argument narrowly holds true for a very thin slice of concrete sequential reasoning, and not for the many other cognitive input streams humans have available to us (see Sector Theory 1.0 – Todd's Take on Epistemology). This is what I would call classic exclusionary bias. When Vattimo asserts that “we do not have pre-categorical or trans-categorical access to Being,” he is simply mistaken.

Lastly, where Vattimo seems to claim that the metaphysical tradition has no ”coherent unity,” IMHO he is evidencing his own incomplete understanding of that tradition - and his oversimplifying (or reducing) of its nuances - rather than any demonstrated continuity in his own logic.

My 2 cents.

From Quora post: https://www.quora.com/In-laymans-terms-what-is-philosopher-Gianni-Vattimos-idea-of-weak-thought/answer/T-Collins-Logan

Post-Postmodernity's Problem with Knowledge

Sell Sell Sell

This may actually be a pretty straightforward problem, with a challenging but nevertheless obvious solution. Here's my take....

I would propose there are nine primary forces at work in present-day knowledge generation, dissemination, evaluation and integration, which I would sketch out as the following inverted values hierarchy:

A. Titillation to entertain or make money.
B. Arrogant ideological agendas.
C. Tribalism and groupthink.
D. Extreme, self-protective specialization of informational domains and language.
E. Democratization and diffusion of knowledge.
F. Appreciation of an ever-increasing complexity and interdependence of all human understanding.
G. An understandable fluidity of exact knowledge.
H. Critical self-awareness.
I. The humbly inquisitive ongoing search for truth.

What seems immediately evident when looking these over is that personal and collective values have tremendous influence on the efficacy of a given approach to knowledge - and, perhaps most importantly, this influence can and does defy any institutions created to sustain a more diverse or fruitful values system. For example:

1. If the profit motive reigns supreme, then titillation to entertain or make money will trump all other variables. This has clearly had a role in news media, where entertainment and sensationalism have far outpaced accuracy or depth. More subtly, this has also had an impact on scientific research, where competition for grant money has distorted methodology and data in order to attract sufficient funding.

2. If a particular belief system is venerated above everything else, then arrogant ideological agendas destroy truth in favor of persuasive propaganda - especially when combined with tribalism and groupthink. We see this with religious indoctrination and exclusionary bias (i.e. denial of empirical evidence), with conservative news media that promote neoliberal political and economic agendas, and with the refusal of institutions of higher learning to allow truly diverse or controversial perspectives among their events and curricula.

3. When democratization and diffusion of knowledge is prioritized above every other value, then we end up with the armchair Dunning-Kruger effect, where folks believe they have mastered a complex discipline after reading a few Internet articles, and are then able to confidently refute (in their own estimation) the assessments of more educated and experienced practitioners in that field. Social media seems to provide considerable reinforcement of such knowledge-distorting self-importance - as do participatory systems and institutional dialogues that refuse to qualify or evaluate sources of information or their veracity, and give all input equal weight.

4. With extreme self-protective specialization, we end up with isolated islands of understanding that do not fully comprehend or appreciate each other - and in fact often can't function harmoniously together in society. One consequence of this are graduates of universities who are preoccupied with scholastic performance at the expense of actual learning, or who cannot understand their field in a way that actually adds value to its execution in the real world. In other words, an education system that rewards one narrow flavor of performance, while devaluing creative productivity in order to generate compliant specialists.

There are also some nasty values combinations in the post-postmodern era that seem increasingly pernicious in the destruction of knowledge, mainly because they deliberately exclude F, G, H & I - that is, the humbly inquisitive ongoing search for truth, fluidity of exact knowledge, critical self-awareness, and appreciation of ever-increasing complexity and interdependence. Really, whenever these four characteristics are deprioritized or absent, insight and understanding tends to be thoroughly crippled. But let's briefly take a closer look at each of these fundamentals....

What is "critical self-awareness?" I think it could be summarized many ways, such as taking one's own opinion with a grain of salt, or having a healthy sense of humor about one's own understanding, or being able to effectively argue against one's own position and appreciate its flaws - i.e. some of the central themes of postmodern thought. The "humbly inquisitive ongoing search" is certainly a kindred spirit here, but also implies that our journey towards the truth is never-ending; it's not just humility about conclusions, but about the process of seeking itself. Appreciating the "fluidity of exact knowledge" is an additional variable to balance out other, less rigorous impulses. It means there will be few black-and-white conclusions that are accurate; that ambiguity and imprecision are inevitable; that assertions should be tested in small arenas for limited periods, rather than as sweeping revisions; and so on. This fluidity does not, however, insist on a nihilistic or dismissive orientation to qualitative truth; on the contrary, it can recognize and integrate absolutes while remaining keenly aware of context. And, finally, "complexity and interdependence" means that we will of necessity be synthesizing a collective understanding together - there isn't much opportunity for elitist leadership or vanguardism, except perhaps in a few highly abstracted or technical areas. In other words, functional truth is perpetually intersubjective. At the same time - again as a balancing factor to the diffusion and democratization of knowledge - we will also need to appropriately weight the insights of experiential "experts" to help us navigate complexity.

These four characteristics can be viewed as attitudes, character traits, virtues, priorities, beliefs, operating assumptions, etc. The point is that if we prioritize these four above all considerations - subordinating our other beliefs, reflexes and desires to them - we can begin to formulate a healthy, fruitful relationship with knowledge, both culturally and interpersonally. If we don't prioritize these characteristics...well, then I suspect we'll keep making the same kinds of errors that have led us into our current state of apoplectic befuddledom. We simply can't afford to constrain the four essential qualities of truth-navigation in a straight jacket of what really should be extraneous and subordinated values and habits. And thus we arrive at a proposed values hierarchy that maximizes the utility of any approach to true and useful knowledge:

A. The humbly inquisitive ongoing search for truth.
B. Critical self-awareness.
C. An understandable fluidity of exact knowledge.
D. Appreciation of an ever-increasing complexity and interdependence of all human understanding.

E. Democratization and diffusion of knowledge.
F. Extreme, self-protective specialization of informational domains and language.
G. Tribalism and groupthink.
H. Arrogant ideological agendas.
I. Titillation to entertain or make money.

As you can see, this is simply an inverted version of the current status quo. Okay...if we can entertain this thesis, how do we get from here to there? Well I think education about this issue will help, but really we need to evaluate what is generating the memetic force of competing values hierarchies, and disable or de-energize that force wherever possible. How is it that titillation to entertain or make money has gained such prominence? Or that arrogant ideological agendas or tribalism and groupthink have usurped both the scientific method and common sense? Why has extreme, self-protective specialization so often shattered collaborative, interdisciplinary exchanges and synthesis? And how has the democratization and diffusion of knowledge rallied itself into such a farcical exaggeration...? Is there a common denominator for all of these trends...?

Well I think the answer is pretty straightforward, and I along with many others have been writing about it for a long time - it was Aristotle, I believe, who most clearly identified the same core issues we face today. The central problem is our highly corrosive form of capitalism. But perhaps I should forsake my own confidence for a moment and - applying the very virtues I've exalted here - humbly offer that a culture of acquisitiveness, infantilizing consumerism, competitive egotism and blindly irrational faith will likely not facilitate the four essential qualities humanity requires for thriving and productive knowledge. And I do believe this is a cultural decision - one in which we have all become complicit, and have all reinforced through tacit acceptance of the status quo. To break free of our shackles, we will need to let go of some of the habits and appetites we most covet and adore. But I could be wrong. Perhaps we can achieve equilibrium through our continued bluff and bluster, through ever-greater fabrications, self-deceptions and carelessly conspicuous consumption. That seems a risky bet to me...but again, I might be mistaken.

Can anybody simplify Hegel's theory of alienation?

This is a tough one but I’ll give it a shot….

My understanding of Hegel here is that, in order for consciousness to understand itself, it enters into an ongoing synthesis of self-discovery. This self-discovery occurs through first observing an object “outside” itself, then realizing that the object is really a subjective conception of that object, and then realizing that, via experience, a sort of confirmation of the subjective conception can then be verified or negated. Once experience moderates the subjective conception of an object, an objective understanding of that object becomes a bit more real…a bit more objectively concrete. This dialectical synthesis of subject-object relations is thus the process whereby consciousness can ultimately recognize its own functions…and by implication can recognize itself as an object as well. So, through experience, consciousness advances closer and closer to an “absolute” understanding of the subject-object relationship, inclusive of its own subject-object existence.

What is alienation, then? Alienation would be not understanding the process as just described - whereby consciousness is alienated from both a more accurate understanding of its own function, a more accurate understanding of the world in which it exists, and a more accurate understanding of the dynamic relationship between the two. In this way spirit is also alienated from material existence. Can consciousness ever completely overcome this hurdle? Hegel indicates several milestones in its progress, but I seem to recall he also indicates the process is ongoing. It also appears evident that consciousness isn’t always aware of its various levels of alienation…and that becoming aware is not only a healthy part of our growth, but that deliberately invoking alienation (as when consciousness objectifies itself) is a means of achieving greater understanding. The key, it would seem, is for us to remember our previous errors in understanding (i.e. our misunderstanding of the stimulative subject-object interaction), and continually moving to the next horizon of dialectical awareness. And of course all of this is cradled within a unitive spirit, which continually supports and integrates the interplay of subject and object.

Now this dialectic can also be applied to cultural development and our context of “self” within society, so that culture itself evolves to support more and more complete self-realization with a more unitive aspect (with the self becoming less differentiated from others), thereby (ideally) alleviating alienation in both individual consciousness and society. This is what Marx then took and ran with in advancing his own variations on history and human value.

So…I don’t think that was terribly simple, but perhaps it will help. Please let me know if it does.

From Quora post: https://www.quora.com/Can-anybody-simplify-Hegels-theory-of-alienation/answer/T-Collins-Logan

Some people say that people should be able to be slaves if they consent to it. Why is this morally wrong?

Here are some different takes on why voluntary enslavement is morally wrong, assuming that the “slavery” involved is for a prolonged period of time and for purposes that primarily benefit the slaveowner (i.e. not just an afternoon of bondage fun and games):

1. Such an agreement is immoral because extinguishing one’s own agency - even voluntarily - and participating in the extinguishment of another person’s agency are both heinous interferences with a person’s individual sovereignty and liberty. They are, effectively, akin to suicide and murder.

2. Such an agreement is immoral because the volunteer abdicates personal and social responsibility regarding how they live their life - that is, they are shirking their sociopolitical obligations and their individual quest for meaning and purpose.

3. Such an agreement is morally wrong because it violates the spiritual principle of reciprocation: that because the Universe has conspired in favor of our consciousness, we should conspire in favor of the Universe.

4. In an Aristotelian sense (somewhat ironically, as the case may be), such an agreement is morally wrong because it a) demonstrates a lack of courage, b) abdicates temperance to another’s will, c) disables the capacity to be just or good (i.e. to effect justice against wrongs in society).

5. Such an agreement is morally wrong because it artificially imposes a power dynamic that inevitably (historically and as shown by psychological experiments) leads to exploitation, degradation and generational disadvantage.

My 2 cents.

From Quora post: https://www.quora.com/Some-people-say-that-people-should-be-able-to-be-slaves-if-they-consent-to-it-Why-is-this-morally-wrong/answer/T-Collins-Logan

What is the difference between liberty and autonomy?

Autonomy is the ability to act on your own, from your own initiative, according to your own values, in order of your own priorities, and without reliance on someone or something else to actualize a given objective. In this sense autonomy is individualistic in its orientation, and is concerned most with an individual’s self-directed thought and action.

Liberty is a much broader and deeper semantic container, with many other components and considerations. In an individual context, having autonomy is just one facet of liberty. Additional facets include lack of substantive interference with autonomous thought and action, and productive conditions that facilitate individual ability to self-actualize, and even enhance opportunities and capacities to do so. In a more collective context, liberty is a consensus expectation of mutual (passive) permission and (active) support for maximized autonomy. This is where “enhanced opportunities and capacities” become a collective, mutually beneficial consideration.

However, in a collective context there is the added layer of an agreed-upon values framework. In other words, a framework within which some actions are permitted, but others are not. This is where the intersect of collective standards of liberty and individual aspirations of autonomy can potentially interfere with each other, and it has frequently been the aim of civil society at various points in history to reconcile the two.

My 2 cents.

From Quora: https://www.quora.com/What-is-the-difference-between-liberty-and-autonomy/answer/T-Collins-Logan

I can't get over the meaninglessness of life. Everything we do is an invented meaning, is there any universal meaning in life?

If I told you what the meaning of life was, it wouldn’t be particularly meaningful to you. Because you need to experience the answer for yourself. So I can encourage you to look within, to open yourself up to a deeper experience of life, to nourish all of your dimensions of being, to flourish in heart, mind, spirit, body and soul. I might also offer a few tools - meditation, time in Nature, time alone, deeper friendships, encountering excellence, breaking out of your routine, letting go of pain and grief, and so on - but again, you would need to take responsibility yourself for employing them. But really, the primary means of overcoming that existential, often overwhelming sense that life is meaningless…is to just accept it. That is a beginning. After that, if you nurture every aspect of your being (see Integral Lifework Home), you might find a spark or two of meaning will ignite within your heart and mind.

My 2 cents.

From Quora post: https://www.quora.com/I-cant-get-over-the-meaninglessness-of-life-Everything-we-do-is-an-invented-meaning-is-there-any-universal-meaning-in-life/answer/T-Collins-Logan

Todd's Take on Epistemology: Sector Theory 1.0

Pieces of this particular puzzle have been knocking around in my head for some time. In particular, those already familiar with my essay on Constructive Integralism will encounter a familiar feel...but now it's in a simple infographic! Actually the graphic is not-so-simple, and requires some further (and likely ongoing) clarification. However, most of the pieces are there, and perhaps the underlying concepts will gel more quickly for some folks in this format.

A couple of introductory notes:

1) The "realm of exclusionary bias or conditions" includes descriptions of widely researched conditions and characteristics - some clinical, some subclinical or forme fruste - that have a known impact on neuroplasticity, perceptive ability and general flexibility of thought. This is a deliberate effort to group similar cognitive tendencies into affinitive buckets for a given sector. However, they aren't intended to ascribe causality.

2) Please assume that all of the lines that divide the circle (and create the sectors) have arrows indicating the relationship between the "exclusionary barrier" and the realm of exclusionary bias - those go hand-in-hand.

3) Abbreviations are as follows: GOB = ground of being; PPD = Paranoid Personality Disorder; ICD = Impulse Control Disorder; NPD - Narcissistic Personality Disorder; OCPD = Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder (not to be confused with OCD!)

4) Although I discuss it within the FAQ, a more extensive elaboration of the Omega Point at the center of the circle will be a project for a later time - though I suspect some folks may already intuit the direction I am going. The processes represented by the Sector model are akin to those discussed at length in the Constructive Integralism paper, but with ontological as well as epistemological implications.

5) My usage of specific terms is discussed in detail among my other works - primary drives, for example, as well as ground of being, codependence, agape, hyperrational (also see Constructive Integralism essay), rigidified associations (or rigid "chained associations"), memory field, and so on. Please forgive my lack of detailed definitions here; instead, I have linked them to the source material in this paragraph - so you can simply follow the link and perform a search within that document on the linked term. Please note that, since the source material is in different formats, the search facility available to each also operates differently. For example, for the Publitas books, you will need to "open" the book and select the magnifying glass icon on the left, then enter the search term in the text window above it. For PDF files, you can open them in your browser viewer and use the browser search facility (command + F), or download them and use the search facility within Adobe Acrobat or other PDF viewer.

6) Implicit to Sector Theory is that all sectors must be included in the final integration to approach a virtual approximation of what knowledge is true, reliable and cohesive. To exclude any sector completely is to initiate an unacceptable bias, and either muddy the truth or miss it altogether. It is of course understood that "truths" operating within a given sector do not necessarily require involvement from other sectors. But there's the rub, because over-reliance on any one sector inevitably results in Cartesian, reductionist distortions that exclude completeness and complexity, even for what is perceived as basic, rudimentary information. This has been an understandable consequence of the specialization and separation of disciplines in the modern age, but it seems long overdue that we move beyond it to a more inclusive, integralizing understanding. In many ways this framework echoes Integral Lifework itself, where all dimensions of being require attention and compassion in order for the whole to thrive.

7) I plan to add additional FAQs to the section after the graphic in the coming weeks...stay tuned....

Lastly, a special thanks to Ray Harris for challenging me to clarify my epistemological positions.

Okay...so here it is...enjoy.


Why Sectors in a Circle?

There are a number of aspects to this representation. One is the obvious allusion to Aristotle and the Tao. Another is a differentiation of the unique perception-cognition available to us in each sector - that is, multiple ways of knowing. Another is the principle I've promoted in much of my writing that we tend towards two orientations with respect to knowing, identity, morality, wisdom and so forth: one is to look within, concentrating and distilling our attention and perception, listening attentively and letting go of preconceptions, and then relying on that process to both inform and measure our progress; the other is to become dependent on resources and authorities outside of ourselves or our own judgment, to externalize and diffuse our points of reference as they become ordered and organized by someone or something else, and to avoid internal inquiry. The wedge shape of a circle's sector is an elegant representation of these two directions, with the wider end projecting into an homogenizing externalization of our consciousness (i.e. the "realm of exclusionary bias and conditions"), and the narrowing end refining, concentrating and distilling our consciousness into an eventual "single-pointedness" of clarity. You will also notice left-right distinctions that roughly mirror some neurological brain structures - though this is more to illustrate contrasts and dialectical tensions inherent to our cognitive input streams. Although each sector represents a unique perception-cognition processing space, their boundaries (both functional and structural) tend to be soft, flexible, permeable and interpenetrating rather than impermeable and fixed. All of this becomes important in appreciating balance between contrasting sectors and groups of sectors, and encouraging synthesis rather than excluding inputs - because all sectors have something to contribute. There is also the issue of temporal speed and orientation, which tends to be different within each sector, and which I cover in the "What is the Integral-Contextual Crucible?" FAQ answer below. Lastly, the size of any given sector will vary from one person to the next, based on native tendencies, learned habits and nurtured facilities. Their representation here is ad hoc.

What is the Exclusionary Barrier?

Now the "either exclusionary barrier or integrative faculties" ring within the circle is really a kind of semi-permeable cell wall around our innermost processing centers. It represents the ideas illustrated by the following belief/learning flow diagrams:

The first diagram illustrates how we can easily ignore, resist or exclude new information that does not conform to our current understanding; the second diagram illustrates how we can more thoughtfully evaluate and integrate such new information. Rigid exclusion or more fluid integration - sometimes these become a reflex, sometimes a choice...but always, eventually, they become part of our cultivated habits. It is simple to observe how confirmation bias, logical fallacies, cognitive dissonance and other impedances to learning and growth can be represented by these diagrams. It is also easy to observe how different sectors can have different permeability and flow for each of us.

How Does Sector Theory Compare With - Or Add To - Traditional Proposals?

This is an extensive topic that will need to be elaborated upon with additional detail, but the basic ideas are as follows....

Traditional Western epistemology would define "knowledge" as a) a sincere belief that is b) factually true and is c) justifiable, as applied primarily to a priori and a posteriori propositional knowledge. Although there is broad agreement regarding the first two components, over time there has been significant variability and discussion around approaches to the justification question, and Sector Theory tends to focus on this area along with some other unsettled challenges. For example, Sector Theory seeks to:

1) More comprehensively account for justification, inclusive of diverse perception-cognition processes (including those that are nonrational, non-discursive, preconceptual, etc.), different forms of evidence, moral (deontological) components and the impact of moral development, internalistic vs externalistic qualities, and testing for reliability and operational efficacy in the real world.

2)(a) Differentiate modes of introduction for all knowledge that account for interior and exterior emphases. For example, formal inculcation will usually arrive via exterior introduction, whereas deductive reasoning will arrive via interior introduction.

2)(b) In a similar way - though as a subtly different phenomenon - describe how the justification orientations of each sector will be either externalistic or internalistic. For example, the discursive sector will tend towards internalistic justifications, while the empirical observation sector will tend towards externalistic justifications.

3) Elevate the issue of exclusionary bias, and how that bias (as an over-reliance on one sector or another) can color the same evidence, perception, logic, justification, etc. - even for two different people confronted with precisely the same information (and even via the same modes of introduction) - which consequently leads them to different but equally justifiable conclusions.

4) Speak to the Gettier problem by providing additional avenues of exposing false beliefs and accounting for defeating propositions.

5) Include additional areas of knowledge in the mix, such as procedural knowledge, relational knowledge (i.e. knowledge by acquaintance), other forms of non-propositional knowledge...and indeed wisdom.

6) Address the issue of time, along with some intimately related phenomenological and ontological implications.

Why is any of this important? Because traditional Western models tend to reinforce and enable an atomistic, materialistic, mechanistic, Cartesian, reductionist intellectualism...to the point of disconnection with operational reality. This is not a new criticism of epistemology. In this sense, Sector Theory aims to introduce a dynamic, multipersepectival pragmatism that expands traditional proposals without obliterating them. Those proposals are, after all, limited only because they represent the perception-cognition processes of certain sectors, while inadvertently excluding others.

What Is The Role Of Language In Sector Theory?

Appreciating the role of language is a profound piece of this knowledge puzzle, because each sector relies on and effectively amplifies its own unique vocabulary, grammar, information organization style, communication style and even cultural-linguistic milieux - an often self-contained form of language that best facilitates that sector's inputs and perception-cognition. We can observe evidence of this fairly easily by examining the literature of specialized fields of study: Buddhist sutras that explore the gnosis sector are grounded in language that is fairly inaccessible to many other sectors - just as mathematical proofs that inhabit the systematizing sector are most appreciated in that sector, or poetry that navigates the somatic-aesthetic sector has greatest utility there, or the tacit and unconscious understanding that inhabits the social sector is most useful for social interactions, or the dense and interrelated data of the empirical observation sector has greatest relevance to scientific study. In fact we can quickly recognize just how robust our own utilization of any sector is when we encounter new language that resonates with a flavor of perception-cognition that we routinely inhabit and integrate, or when we take stock of the vocabulary of our own experiences, perceptions and sensitivity in a given sector (for example, our emotional vocabulary). By the same token, when we feel alienated by new language - or it seems strange or unfamiliar - this can indicate that the sectors such language is describing are inaccessible, challenging or uncomfortable for us.

What is also quite fascinating is how some language is able to unify several sectors into a symphonic expression - here I'm thinking mainly of dance, instrumental music, graphic art, sculpture, poetry, song and other art forms; but indeed among humanity's greatest scientists we also find poetic, deeply felt sentiments in response to observations of the elegant order of Nature and the Universe. In other words, there is linguistic evidence of unitive movement across multiple sectors. In all of these instances, I think there is also a strong correlation between our language facility - even if that "language" is more of a felt sense or ineffable intuition - within and across multiple sectors, and our ability to utilize, integrate, and harmonize their input streams.

How Does "Faith" Play Into Any Of This?

Faith becomes part of the discussion for me because the variations of faith relevant to knowledge seem to be widely misunderstood. My approach to the question of faith is discussed in detail in this previous blog post: "Faith" as an Intentionally Cultivated Quality of Character. In that essay I assert that associating "belief" with "faith" is an incorrect approach to spiritually authentic faith, which is much more an expression of trust and hope, and one that is grounded in devotion, trustworthiness, and stick-to-itiveness inspired by love. Spiritually authentic faith is not dependent on a particular belief or dogma, but is a way of being and doing that honors relationship; that is, it is a carefully cultivated prosocial character trait. In Sector Theory I would tentatively observe that spiritually authentic faith is a product of experiences, insights and knowledge that arises primarily from an intersection and synthesis of right-hemisphere sectors as they are currently defined - though the left-hemisphere sectors can be involved as well. So this is one way to approach spiritually authentic faith, and one we might say is not only independent of religious beliefs, but frequently contradicts them.

There is another kind of "faith," however, which is much more common in our daily vernacular, and that is the casual equating of faith and belief. This kind of faith has a spectrum of quality and depth, from irrational whimsy...to reflexive assumption...to carefully rationalized conviction...to assertion justified by unreliable evidence...to conclusion grounded in evidence that is continually revisited and tested, and remains persuasive. Eric Fromm would likely describe one end of this spectrum as "irrational faith," and other end of this spectrum as "rational faith." What I would assert in Sector Theory is that this spectrum of faith exists within all sectors. In fact, the spectrum predictably traverses the axis in each sector between the realm of truth and the realm of exclusionary bias. When discussing faith in the more casual or conversational sense - the sense that equates it with belief - I think each sector evoking its own spectrum of faith has profound consequences. Why? Because it effectively means that we can drift into both rational and irrational faith, or belief that is justifiable and belief that is unjustifiable, regardless of the basis of our knowledge and the individual sectors involved. This should be substantial wake-up call for any of us who believe we are safe and secure in our knowledge and beliefs, simply because the sectors we prefer are reinforced by our chosen tribe, culturally favored, historically ascendent, or intellectually in vogue.

I would then take this one step further in saying that, unless as many sectors as possible harmonize around a given belief - unless the elements of a particular flavor of faith honor a healthy majority of sectors - then the resulting dissonance will tend to push a particular faith towards the unjustifiable end of the spectrum. That is, the end of the spectrum that revels in exclusionary bias. So this is yet one more reason why respectful and compassionate integration of all sectors is the aim of Sector Theory...to avoid the calamities of irrational faith.

What is the Integral-Contextual Crucible?

Explaining this concept is challenging. The essay Managing Complexity with Constructive Integralism begins to wrangle together many of the ideas I've introduced in writing over the years that speak to the essence of this concept. But, frankly, even that essay and all of the other writing it references are still not the full picture. My goal here will be to distill and refine the main idea just a little bit more...and to do so as briefly and concisely as possible. I suspect this will still be just one more step in an ongoing process.

I've called this a crucible because it can perform several unique functions. For example, it can separate out desirable elements from less desirable ones, or extract a rare essence from an obscuring muddle of factors. It can also combine seemingly mundane ingredients (experiences, insights, sensations, perceptions, observations) in ways that create new substances and structures that have unusual properties. A crucible performs these functions under specific conditions as well; for example, with the application of extremely high energies, with just the right combination and proportions of ingredients, with just the right container materials, and so on. As a metaphor, the crucible is very useful.

The term "integral-contextual" has a specific meaning here as well: to integrate and harmonize within a broadening comprehension of context, inclusive of all apparent paradoxes. Now because every sector has its own inherent contexts, and because the relationships between sectors often introduce additional contexts, we are already brushing up against orders of magnitude in contextual complexity. For example, the mimetic-semantic sector alone has cascading memeplexes of context, some of which seem to operate entirely independently of each other. When these intersect in any way with, say, contexts that evolve in the social sector, the result is a snowballing tug-of-war over which contexts have primacy in which environments and situations, over which evidence is reliable or applicable in each context, how all contexts integrate with or revise an existing values hierarchy...the snowball can quickly can get out of hand. On top of this, we could throw in the tensions between interior and exterior justifications - that is, between the realm of truth that inhabits our interiority, and the external authorities and influences that pull us toward the realm of exclusionary bias. And the incredible human being - with all its intrinsic intelligences and vast capacity for perception, experience, learning and memory - somehow navigates all of this while performing countless other tasks and maintaining myriad relationships. Even as the contextual storm approaches an infinite number of often competing combinations, we somehow manage to manage it - and often in a fairly unconscious way. It is an awe-inspiring feat.

But the main point here is that the integral-contextual process is occurring whether we intend it to or not. And so the question becomes one of conscious, active engagement: how can we participate in our own integral-contextual journey in the most fruitful and skillful way?

First let's touch upon the concept of a neutral holding field. In order to navigate complexity - and indeed fully integrate all the sectors in this model - we need to cultivate some safe interior spaciousness. The neutral holding field is just that: a place where all contradictory and competing concepts, information, experience, insights, observations, etc. can peacefully coexist...without favoritism or exclusion. In the chart, that is effectively the space between the inner ring and the outer ring around all sectors. We can think of it as the workbench where we have set all of our ingredients in preparation for adding them to the crucible; they are all on the same plane of consideration.

Remembering that we will require high levels of energy to "heat up" our crucible, where will that energy come from? Thankfully, we have a number of sources to choose from - human beings are superb at generating immense interior and exterior energies from next to nothing. But which ones will work best for us here...? Will power, because it is most concerned with immediate action, reification and operationalization, tends to magnetize anything floating around in a neutral holding field, causing them to crash into each other or quickly clump into amorphous blobs. So we need to relax our will a bit, and allow that to be at rest. And this means that the many of the more petulant offspring of our will also need to take a nap: anger, egoic cravings, acquisitiveness, jealousy...these sorts of critters. And how can we accomplish this? Most often this will be a consequence of the mental, emotional and physical self-discipline that emerge from consistent meditation practices. There are other roads to a neutral holding field, but meditation has proven to be quite reliable when it is engaged with the right intention. I discuss this "letting go" in more detail in other writings (such as Essential Mysticism), but the basic idea is that a neutral holding field is a cultivated condition.

Which leads us back to the question of which energy will work to energize the crucible. In short, the ideal energy source also happens to tie neatly into the ideal intentionality behind meditation practice: a compassionate affection that aims for the good of All. This is the primary unitive engine for our crucible, and a critical filtering mechanism as well (in terms of discernment and skillfulness). And although we sometimes think of compassion, love or agape as quiet, soft, caring, quiet, generous gentleness, the reality is that these have high-octane, explosive, exponentially amplifying characteristics as well. In fact, I would say that the only energy equal to the task of integrating infinite complexity is infinite love-consciousness. It can integrate, harmonize and unify just about anything. But where does that unitive energy come from? Ah...well that is a topic I'd like to explore in another section of this FAQ, but suffice it to say, for now, that it can be unleashed through the same process that creates the stillness of a neutral holding field: meditation.

There is also another kindred energy in play, and although I believe it issues from a similar Source, its characteristics are quite different. It is the energy of a tidal zone, or of changing seasons, or the tension between dialectic components, or of a musical progression that yearns for resolution, or indeed of emergent complexity itself. It is the energy of evolution, synergy and synthesis. As such, this energy is not really a conscious choice. We can encourage circumstances (in our environment, in our relationships, in our minds) to allow this energy to emerge and play itself out in a co-creative fashion...but we have no real control or influence over it. It was before us, and remains beyond us. And although we might also associate this continually emerging force with agape, it is not really the same vocabulary of experience as our embracing charitable love-consciousness. It is, perhaps, a different order of the same energy, but again it is outside our realm of choice, intention and volition. Nevertheless, this force plays a critical role in generating interior and exterior momentum and growth - and in supercharging the integral-contextual crucible.

[As a side note: Those familiar with Ken Wilber's work will recognize echoes of his definitions of "eros" and "agape" amid my descriptions of these multiple facets of agape. However, I don't divide the "transcending to unify" from the "reaching down to include" forms of love in the same way; in fact I think it is an error to make that division or use these descriptions. Instead, I tend to refer to the difference as an intrinsically emergent (an immanence, if you will) vs. a conscious response or choice of love-consciousness (as a component of growth and moral development). This latter formulation is as much a cooperative mechanism for transcendence as it is a recognition of what is already here, now.]

The terms a friend recently used in exploring this territory are emission and attraction, and I think those are excellent descriptors. The convergence and integralization of all sectors (and all the seemingly disparate material and energy produced within those sectors) that occurs within the crucible is a product of attraction, of unitive power. At the same time, emission is also simultaneously occurring - from within the crucible into all other sectors. Truth is radiating outward and modifying all information it encounters. And yet...when those emissions "forget" where they came from - when they disconnect from the integral realm of truth entirely - they can revert back to a state of incompleteness, of partial truths, in which they appear to operate within each sector. And so the process begins again...as a byproduct of the tidal currents of existence. In this sense questions about absolute truths vs. relative ones, or interior vs. exterior justifications, or qualities of logic and evidence, or transcending and including each realm of conception...all of these distinctions begin to dissolve. There is an ebb-and-flow, a relinquishment and recapitulation, a cycle of apprehension and actualization that is in constant flux. We might call it the pneuma of wisdom; the breath of truth.

As a final note, there is also the issue of time - both processing rates and time orientation or context - that extends from each sector into the crucible. Each of the sectors represented tends to operate at a unique processing rate, and with a unique orientation to past, present and future. Some can process very quickly...seemingly instantaneously...and may be primarily future-oriented. Others are very slow...glacial even...and preoccupied with the past. Some hum along at a more conversational processing rate, and are quite comfortable in the present. And in some of them time does not seem to exist at all, or seem to operate with past, present and future as concurrent contexts. Previously (in the book True Love) I had organized these processing speeds into just five spacetime designations: mental, emotional, somatic, spiritual and soul. But as the Sector Theory chart illustrates, there are at least twice that number of sectors...and possibly more that I have failed to include. And all of them can operate at their own unique processing speed. Why is this important? Because, just as we can become biased about the sector within which we prefer to operate, excluding one or more of the others, we can also become biased about the processing speed we prefer. And this is a fairly counterproductive tendency when it comes to the many nuances, insights, connections and conclusions among different kinds of knowledge. So, both within the neutral holding field that surrounds the crucible, and within the crucible itself, our expectations and operations regarding time will also require suspension.

To summarize, then: the formula - if we can call it that - for activating the crucible is mainly a product of interior discipline. And, like various forms of meditation, this interior discipline is not simply a metacognitive process, or felt experience, or intellectual intuition, or anything that could be confined to one sector. It is, instead, an opening up of a particular quality of interior space and time that welcomes the input streams of all sectors into convergence. The specifics of the practice are not the focus of this FAQ, but they are amply covered in the writings referenced throughout my elaborations here. Now...how did I arrive at any of these conclusions? Well I bet you can probably guess by now: via meditation and mystical practice; in other words, through a slow and difficult opening to sectors that have often been neglected in the scientific era (gnosis, somatic-aesthetic, intuitive-empathic), a gradual application of that understanding and awareness in the integration of multiple sectors, which in turn stimulated a modicum of discernment, and eventually a clearer appreciation for my own responsibility to actively introduce and refine that synthesis. This is what led me to the conclusion that consciously engaging the integral-contextual crucible was necessary. I hope I have conveyed some spark of illumination as to why.

What Importance Do Ethics and Moral Development Hold in This Model?

Here we can again find a parallel between Integral Lifework's nourishment dimensions and sectors of knowledge. Our moral maturity will act as a clarifying and focusing lens for all sectors, changing how we view and weigh the information in each sector prior to integration, the quality and sophistication of integrative capacity we bring to bear on that information over time, and how we apply our most distilled and integral understandings in real world environments, relationships and situations as we mature. One of the more pronounced aspects of this moral development is the importance and role of morality itself - that is, its involvement in various ethical systems and our willingness to consistently apply those ethics. Moral sensitivity and ethical frameworks will also have a strong influence on how we view various sectors outside of our habitual comfort zone: Can we tolerate them? Can we accept them? Can we value and trust them? Can we actively expand them? Can we appreciate them as equal contributors? Can we openly and eagerly integrate their information? In this sense the habits of externalizing, exclusionary bias are either a consequence of moral immaturity, or can become a substantive barrier to moral growth. The more calcified and reflexive our rejection of any sector becomes, and the more deeply ingrained our habit of over-reliance on preferred input streams, the more suppressed our interior evolution and moral sensitivities will be. In contrast, if we cultivate multiple sectors and consciously reinforce their unitive synthesis in the realm of truth, a natural byproduct of this effort is an encouragement of moral development and operationalization.

For an overview of the phases of moral orientation that I believe roughly track a progressing maturity, check out my Integral Lifework Developmental Correlations chart.

What Is The Realm of Truth?

In an Hegelian sense this would be where Absolute Knowledge comes to fruition - where subjective and objective conceptions are reconciled; where the external object and internal subject become more intimate. But, across all sectors, this process of de-alienation is occurring iteratively - in higher and higher orders of resolution throughout a gradual embrace by the integral-contextual crucible. Are there subordinate, "less complete" truths? Of course, that would be the isolated, still differentiated knowledge within each sector and time-space - where subject-object relations remain less intimate and more alienated.

Another way of describing the realm of truth is as the outer courtyards of the residence of suchness, where the phenomenological foundations of perception-cognition begin to intersect with the ontological foundations of existence. Here words and concepts begin to fall away from integrated material, hinting at their unitive essences. Differentiation and non-differentiation comfortably coexist in this space, as do structure and structurelessness, content and contentlessness, infinite time and its collapsed finitudes, and the spontaneous arising of inter-paradigmatic and rhizomatic interactions with new information.

What is the Omega Point?

As I began to summarize my thoughts about this, I realized a full elucidation of the Omega Point will be a much larger undertaking; so I will be writing another blog post or essay and linking to it here. In brief, however, I have come to accept the proposal that the Source of all sectors of knowledge and all modes of experience is the same as the Source of all strata of existence and being, which in turn has been mirrored and amplified in the perceptions, structures and processes of consciousness itself (at a quantum level). Consciousness, then, in conjunction with spirit, helps synergize a reflective, participatory interplay between the unmanifest and manifest, so that the Universe may become aware, the Source be able to understand itself more fully, this teleios can express itself with spontaneously creative freedom, and the Perfect, Absolute Unity return to itself as a single point in spacetime. These are all facets of the Omega Point. Much of this isn't new - as those who have studied mysticism, the history of philosophy, and the physical nature of our Universe will recognize - but my aim has been to cobble together some clearer phenomenological, developmental and metaphysical models to encompass the whole.

Understandably, there are a lot of different components to this proposal that will be covered in more detail later on, but only a few central conclusions that impact the sector model, so I'll touch on those here. The first is that love-consciousness is the carrier frequency throughout every phase of origination, differentiation, integration and unity; it is a fundamental constant and cofactor, energizing and shaping every process - both observable and unobservable. The second is that our primary drives (to exist, explore, affect and adapt) both manifest and construct an evolutionary impulse across all dimensions of existence; they are our persisting co-creative instruments, and thus deserve special attention as they generate enduring artifacts of will. And lastly, the reason there is such beautiful symmetry between origination and unification is that the manifest has never been orphaned from the unmanifest - the Omega Point is the beginning, the end, and everything in-between. It is merely our finite understanding - our small part in the forgetting, reflecting and remembering - that fractures that continuity in being and time.

However - and this is a departure from variations of the anthropic principle - I believe there is an important caveat to keep in mind: we cannot assume humanity is a particularly accurate, artful or necessary representation of any of this. Making such a characterization leads us into an anthropocentric trap, where humanity retains an inflated significance that may in fact need to be earned...if it is valid at all. Copernicus revisited. Instead, I would say homo sapiens is much more likely to be one of many expressions of evolutionary energy across many variations of spacetime - and perhaps we are even particularly limited, flawed or ultimately vestigial with respect to an emergent self-awareness of the Source. The humans of this Universe may not even be the best representations of ourselves. And, surely, consciousness and complexity have found additional vessels, and likely ones more suited to the journey than we are. So the outcome of the Universe may be a given, but humanity's role and destiny are not. Which implies, I think, the necessity of conscious and continuous engagement. As I have written before regarding what I feel is an imperative reciprocation: "Because the Universe has conspired in favor of my consciousness, my consciousness conspires in favor of the Universe."

Ouroboros - The Eternal Return

More FAQs to come....

What arguments are there for or against the existence of free will?

In my musings on this topic I’ve taken an approach that creates some metrics for evaluating whether free will is actually in play, and whether its qualities are adequately sustained in a “Goldilocks Zone” of operational efficacy. My conclusion is that free will is essentially emergent and fluid. In other words, the absolutes of a free will/no free will debate are a bit nonsensical, because we cannot step outside of our Universe to observe the infinite interdependencies of its beginning, middle and end. But we can assess the relative free will of our individual and collective existence, if we develop a careful enough way of describing it. We can understand it qualitatively. And because free will, liberty, freedom, individual sovereignty and autonomy all interrelate, I believe they should be incorporated into one semantic container in the course of that description.

So to explore these ideas in more detail, in The Goldilocks Zone of Integral Liberty: A Proposed Method of Differentiating Verifiable Free Will from Countervailing Illusions of Freedom, I go describe the generative components of free will this way:

Free will is a synthesis of the subjective felt experience of free will, the intersubjective social agreements that ensure it, the interobjective systems and conditions that facilitate self-determinant choices and activities, participatory mechanisms that support and moderate these factors in the most diffused and egalitarian ways, and objective metrics for all of these factors that continually assess their efficacy and contribute to an ongoing synthesis.

To better define the key factors of a synthesis of integral liberty:

1. Subjective felt experience of free will as individual sovereignty over choices from moment-to-moment, as well as regarding future plans, as observed in the energization and active expression of four primary drives (to** exist,** to **express**, to **affect**, and to **adapt**).

2. Ongoing, constantly renewed and reinforced intersubjective social agreement that individual sovereignty should be collectively supported and maximized, acknowledging that without such agreement and intent, individual sovereignty will inevitably be either compromised, interfered with, or entirely inaccessible. Further, there should be ongoing communal engagement and dialectic around this agreement and its characteristics; this is a dynamic rather than static process, and would need to be customized to unique variables at cultural and community levels.

3. Interobjective systems, conditions and artifacts that foster the felt experience of individual sovereignty and ongoing intersubjective social agreement. Although still malleable and customizable, there would likely be little debate about these universal processes, and they would have cross-cultural value and representation as relatively static features and functions of society. Thus these become social objects, systems, artifacts and conditions that relate to each other and society in fixed ways, rather than via dialogical dynamics between individuals and groups.

4. Participatory mechanisms with built-in accountability for supporting, enriching, moderating and promoting all other factors in the most egalitarian, diffused and distributed fashion. These could include distributed, daily direct democracy; Open Source initiatives and petitions; regular community meetings and online forums; participatory economics; worker- owned cooperatives; community management of banks and land; as well as civic lotteries for citizen commissions and all levels of polycentric governance networks.

5. Objective metrics employed at frequent and regular intervals for all of these factors to assess their ongoing efficacy in generating the greatest authentic liberty, for the greatest number, for the greatest duration.”

Once we have defined free will according to these perspectives, we can begin to assess where we operate in the spectrum of freedom. Again - whether there is or is not free will in some absolute sense isn’t really a practical consideration, but whether we are or are not operating in a manner consistent with a felt reality of free will and its ongoing mental causation is, I think, quite useful.

My 2 cents.

From Quora post: https://www.quora.com/What-arguments-are-there-for-or-against-the-existence-of-free-will/answer/T-Collins-Logan

What do you consider to be the limits of your responsibilities both personal and social?

Personally I don’t believe there are any limits to my responsibilities other than pragmatically; that is, what I can realistically accomplish. Fundamentally, I owe everything I have, am and will ever be to my society, and likewise am deeply indebted to every personal relationship in my life for nourishing and nurturing me and inspiring me to grow. What mitigates my responsibilities - that is, the quality and extent of my “response” to these incredible gifts - is my time, energy, accessible resources, life-balance, integrity in adhering to my own values hierarchy, and the priorities, agreements and contracts I have already committed to. In other words: where one area of indebtedness competes with another area of indebtedness, I am forced to prioritize and of necessity exclude some actions. There is only so much time in a day. However, if I had unlimited time, unlimited resources, and unlimited personal energy, then my responses from a place of affectionate compassion (on a good day) or dutiful obligation (on a baseline day) would be equally limitless.

My 2 cents.

From Quora post: https://www.quora.com/What-do-you-consider-to-be-the-limits-of-your-responsibilities-both-personal-and-social/answer/T-Collins-Logan

What do you consider to be the limits of your responsibilities both personal and social?

Personally I don’t believe there are any limits to my responsibilities other than pragmatically; that is, what I can realistically accomplish. Fundamentally, I owe everything I have, am and will ever be to my society, and likewise am deeply indebted to every personal relationship in my life for nourishing and nurturing me and inspiring me to grow. What mitigates my responsibilities - that is, the quality and extent of my “response” to these incredible gifts - is my time, energy, accessible resources, life-balance, integrity in adhering to my own values hierarchy, and the priorities, agreements and contracts I have already committed to. In other words: where one area of indebtedness competes with another area of indebtedness, I am forced to prioritize and of necessity exclude some actions. There is only so much time in a day. However, if I had unlimited time, unlimited resources, and unlimited personal energy, then my responses from a place of affectionate compassion (on a good day) or dutiful obligation (on a baseline day) would be equally limitless.

My 2 cents.

From Quora: https://www.quora.com/What-do-you-consider-to-be-the-limits-of-your-responsibilities-both-personal-and-social/answer/T-Collins-Logan

What was the most profound insight you had from the study of philosophy?

This is of course a totally unfair question for a fan of philosophy. On the one hand, I am reminded of something Rousseau wrote in Emile:

“When I was told to believe everything, I could believe nothing, and I knew not where to stop. I consulted the philosophers, I searched their books and examined their various theories; I found them all alike proud, assertive, dogmatic, professing - even in their so-called skepticism - to know everything, proving nothing, scoffing at each other. This last trait, which was common to all of them, struck me as the only point in which they were right….”

A postmodern perspective so permeated my thinking for many years, I forgot why I loved philosophy. Then, after years of reading post-enlightenment thinkers, I returned to Aristotle. That’s when I realized - with more conviction than I had previously - that the questions Aristotle asked are the basis for many volumes of exposition that came later, and many of his answers were among the best ever written down.

This frames a “dialectic pair” of insight that I might consider profound regarding philosophy: a lot has been written, but not a lot has been said.

Along similar lines, I still consider virtue ethics the most attractive option for moral philosophy, and one which has only been amplified or expanded by later efforts.

Interestingly, after years of also studying spiritual traditions, it was difficult to escape a growing conclusion that similar intuitions seemed to have played themselves out across many cultures, and over vast expanses of time and place. This further reinforced the realization that a lot has been written, but not a lot has been said. On this note I would offer this quote:

“Of all the words yet spoken,

none comes quite as far as wisdom,

which is the action of the mind

beyond all things that may be said.”


But to drill down one more layer, I suppose it was dialectic tension-and-resolution itself that captured my attention early on and has stuck with me over the years, permeating all of my thinking across several disciplines, as influenced by the many different philosophers who incorporated it into their thinking.

My 2 cents.

From Quora post: https://www.quora.com/What-was-the-most-profound-insight-you-had-from-the-study-of-philosophy

What are the most important ideas you'd like to share with others?

That would probably be what I’ve written about in my books and essays - and what I still plan to write about. Those topics include:

- That it is imperative to replace capitalism and consumerism with a more egalitarian and compassion-centric political economy…soon!

- Encouraging multidimensional self-care that encourages moral development, healing and self-actualization.

- Ways to actively re-contextualize memories in order to heal past trauma and reconfigure self-concept.

- The underlying unity of all spiritual traditions and experiences, and the importance of practicing techniques that engage the spiritual dimension of being.

- That the most important thing in life is to learn how to love effectively.

My 2 cents.

From Quora question: https://www.quora.com/What-are-the-most-important-ideas-youd-like-to-share-with-others/answer/T-Collins-Logan

What are the most important ideas you'd like to share with others?

That would probably be what I’ve written about in my books and essays - and what I still plan to write about. Those topics include:

- That it is imperative to replace capitalism and consumerism with a more egalitarian and compassion-centric political economy…soon!

- Encouraging multidimensional self-care that encourages moral development, healing and self-actualization.

- Ways to actively re-contextualize memories in order to heal past trauma and reconfigure self-concept.

- The underlying unity of all spiritual traditions and experiences, and the importance of practicing techniques that engage the spiritual dimension of being.

- That the most important thing in life is to learn how to love effectively.

My 2 cents.

From Quora: https://www.quora.com/What-are-the-most-important-ideas-youd-like-to-share-with-others/answer/T-Collins-Logan

What is wisdom?

What is wisdom? I think wisdom is appreciating what actions, aspirations, intentions and consequences are the most holistically beneficial, for the greatest number and the greatest duration, as well as confidently intuiting why they are beneficial. This then leads to a practiced ability to generate circumstances over time - or make choices in a given instant - that support and enlarge such an understanding even as it is reified. In other words, wisdom will beget its own embodiment in being. I also believe when authentic wisdom is in play, there is a kind of effortlessness to its efficacy and amplitude, even as it propagates itself. Wisdom does not try to love someone or strive to “do the right thing,” it is instead on fire with a compassionate affection that knows just how to be, and inspires that same energy as a gift in others. What often prevents wisdom from either blossoming within us or bearing fruit in our lives is our impulse to lock it down in rational terms, or explain it in a language that can be universally understood. But because it is experiential in nature, such attempts will always fall short.

My 2 cents.

From Quora: https://www.quora.com/What-is-wisdom/answer/T-Collins-Logan

Is any theodicy reasonable?

Which do we trust - our hearts or our minds? Where do Reason and Passion intersect?

I think the details of this question are the answer to the question. Where reason and passion intersect is what is important. Continually navigating the relationship and synergy of felt experience and rational consideration is what is important. Developing a sense of discernment that proves itself reliable in predicting the rightness or efficacy of a given choice in terms of outcomes…this is what is important. Learning how to most skillfully express compassion for another human being and for oneself…this is what is important. Cultivating wisdom about how best to stimulate love-consciousness in others, and help them make wise, discerning and effective choices for themselves…this is what is important. Learning how to consult the spirit within, and adding this to the mix of inputs to synthesize final insight and judgment…this is what is important.

The goodness of God, in these contexts, is basically irrelevant. If you have a friend that you love, and who loves you, and your experience over a lifetime of friendship with them has been positive, supportive, edifying, empowering and encouraging to your maturity and wisdom…well, would it matter if someone could “prove” to you in some logical way that your friend was more bad than good? Or that they seemed hypocritical or insincere according to that outsider’s perspective? If your experience of that friendship - and your observations of your friend - contradicted these criticisms in fundamental ways, you would know how to answer that person, wouldn’t you, from your own experience? Your convictions about your friend would likely override abstract suppositions…because you know and love your friend.

I think it is such experience of relationship within which passion and reason intersect, and instructs us on how best to trust all of our being rather than just one part - our hearts and minds…and our spiritual insights, our somatic intuitions, our social intelligence, our learned life lessons and so on. Over time, experience instructs us how to integrate all such input streams into a sense of discernment and wisdom. It is from this perspective that a person can say to me: “So all of these internal contradictions I’m observing about the Divine make me just want to run away and deny the Divine exists at all!” To which my response would be: “That’s interesting. My experience of those same contradictions has deepened my wisdom and encouraged me to look deeper within myself for answers. In fact, I would say that my ‘disagreements’ with the Divine have been some of my most instructive experiences.”

From Quora question: https://www.quora.com/Is-any-theodicy-reasonable/answer/T-Collins-Logan

How do you look into the aspects of reality and know it's not an illusion?

We don’t know it’s not an illusion. About the best we can do is participate in consensus and keeping checking it against our experience. What you are touching upon is epistemology: how do we know what we know, and how can we know that we actually know it for certain? Personally I answer this question with the following approaches:

- Is there a measurable, empirical basis for my assumption, and am I comfortable relying on the metrics involved?

- Is there a consistent, subjective felt experience that corresponds with my assumption?

- Do the results of choices and actions predicated on my assumption produce fairly predictable results?

- Have I been able to gain any insight into the veracity or efficacy of my assumption through reflection and meditation?

- Do others share a consensus about these correlations?

- Is there new evidence, experience or consensus that would lead me to consider revising my assumption?

My 2 cents.

From Quora: https://www.quora.com/How-do-you-look-into-the-aspects-of-reality-and-know-its-not-an-illusion/answer/T-Collins-Logan

Is it true that it is possible to cook up a lot of logical arguments on any given topic?

Speaking to what I think is the heart of your question, let me relate a story from my early twenties….

I was trying to do research on something and sought resources at a university library. This was back in the 1980s when most periodicals, research journals and abstracts were put on microfiche for longterm storage. When I asked about available research, I was led down to a very large basement room full of filing cabinets, with a narrow isle down the middle of the room. I explained to my guide (a graduate student working at the library) what I was looking for: some data on the environmental impacts of various common chemicals on wildlife, ecosystems, habitats and so forth. He then asked, without any hint of sarcasm, “What kind of data are you looking for?” I was confused. I said I was trying to understand what the actual impacts were over time. He shrugged and pointed first to one side of the room, then to the other, saying, “On that side of the room you will find all of the government-funded academic research, and on this side of the room you will find all of the privately-funded research.” He began to walk away, and being young and naive, I still didn’t understand what was going on. I laughed nervously and asked, “Why is it set up this way, instead of just by research topic?” The grad student paused on the way back up the steps and said, “If you want research to support one side of the argument, stick to the stacks on one side of the room. Each side will provide different conclusions that…basically contradict each other.” And with that he was off.

In this case, it wasn’t just logical arguments, it was decades of “scientific research” that supported opposing conclusions. How was this possible?

I think that may be what your psychologist was getting at. Once we begin to frame a given topic a certain way, it is very easy to cherry-pick new information to conform with our frame. This is sometimes called post-rationalization or confirmation bias, but it’s really just “wanting to see what we want to see.” And humans are very good at this. So what for one person is a “logical” justification for their beliefs simply doesn’t hold the same sway for someone else; the logic isn’t persuasive. Nevertheless, it is quite easy - and common - for people to accumulate gobs of “logical” arguments to support whatever position they have decided to take, and then resist any “logic” that opposes their position. A close friend to this pattern of self-justification is cognitive dissonance - for which we humans also can have a very high tolerance.

I think this is one reason why the concept of “discernment” was developed over time - to counter what may seem logical at first, but really doesn’t make any sense. Discernment…and ultimately wisdom…combines different modes of perception, intelligence and assessment to reach a tentative conclusion about something that logic alone may not be able to reach. It is a skill that takes time to develop, and is supported by certain innate abilities like empathy, emotional intelligence, self-awareness, somatic intuition, social intelligence, general intelligence, and analytical skills.

My 2 cents.

From Quora: https://www.quora.com/Is-it-true-that-it-is-possible-to-cook-up-a-lot-of-logical-arguments-on-any-given-topic/answer/T-Collins-Logan
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How conscience and freedom related to knowledge of self?

I think that if we have the freedom to act on the inward-focused impulses of our conscience - that is, our curiosity and trust in a felt reality within ourselves - then we can eventually arrive at genuine self-knowledge. Such freedom is often deprived by tribalism, the emotional manipulations of family, ideological groupthink, and various forms of poverty we allow to be imposed upon us (poverty of spirit, ideas, curiosity…material poverty that perpetuates a crisis mentality, etc.). So conditions that encourage freedom are essential. But so is nurturing that inward-focus, which some people are innately afraid to do. And if we don’t listen to the promptings of our conscience to examine that inward world - promptings that I think are inevitable for all human beings at some point in their life - then we will miss out on opportunities for genuine freedom as well.

My 2 cents.

What specific beliefs in a religion would tend to indicate that its other beliefs are misguided?

Interestingly, individual beliefs really aren’t that indicative of anything but the viability of the individual belief itself. Believing that a purple rhinoceros mated with the moon to produce the Earth’s sky doesn’t mean that some other belief is, purely by association, misguided or faulty. That is a bit of a classic “composition fallacy,” and can quickly lead to converse errors. Of more import, IMO, are the values, virtues and resulting ethos that a coherent and cohesive body of beliefs consistently support and inspire. That is, for me it is more about the aims of a hierarchy of beliefs - and whether that hierarchy constructively reinforces and enables those aims.

But first, why are coherence and cohesion important? Only in that, over time, if the belief and values hierarchies are rife with contradictions, inaccuracies, fallacies, etc. we can observe this will likely encourage an authoritative, dogmatic orthodoxy - one that seeks to remedy an otherwise ever-enlarging cognitive dissonance, and often becomes institutionalized. In other words, in response to an inherent instability in those hierarchies, its proponents can become more and more rigid, legalistic and controlling of each other, and in increasingly harmful ways. It is an understandable human reflex - though not a particularly attractive one - to avoid questioning if those questions can quickly undress core beliefs or undermine the structure and interdependence of a given set of values - especially if this then destabilizes social cohesion or personal status.

Also, the issue of emphasis is important. I’ve used the term hierarchy to specifically call this out. There are core values and core beliefs that are often intimately related, and tend to be grounded in human relationships and interdependence. For example, if I love my father and observe that - in our family at least - his role is to protect my family and materially provide for them, then it is much easier to cultivate a core belief that he is somehow deserving of that role, and that a “father” is in fact defined by these responsibilities. In this way values and virtues like loyalty, respect, obedience, self-sacrifice and so forth can quickly fall into place as consequences of those core assumptions and experiences. Once this is then observed and agreed upon within a community, supportive beliefs and values - and their cohesive and coherent hierarchy - can become generalized and self-perpetuating.

But what if, at some point, I ask my father where the sky came from, and he tells me about the purple rhino? If I accept the story, it is incorporated into my belief hierarchy…but far down the chain. It’s veracity is dependent on a very large tree of branching beliefs that are rooted in my love for my father and acceptance of his role in my life. Believing in the purple rhino - misguided as it may be - in no way dilutes the importance and operational basis of all the beliefs that came before it. It would only become problematic if I then inverted the belief and values hierarchy, and placed ritual and dogma regarding the purple rhino (or some other core belief or value not grounded in relationship) above my love for my father. This inversion is warned against in most religions. For example, that is the essence of the teaching in 1 John 4 “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.” And of course warnings against dogmatic inversions is a central theme of the New Testament narrative as a whole. More importantly, if a given belief or value isn’t facilitative of a given core set, it’s going to become vestigial or be entirely discarded…eventually. We might call this “pruning the belief tree.”

Circling back to the central question, then, I would recast it in the terms I’ve just described. Are the hierarchies consistent and coherent? Do they align with subjective and observed experiences? Do they facilitate core beliefs and values that have arisen from - and are intrinsic to - human relationship? Viewed as a whole, does a given belief and values system actualize and sustain itself, synthesizing outcomes that reinforce and amplify core beliefs and core values in its final ethos? If not, then there will be “misguided” consequences.

My 2 cents.

From Quora: https://www.quora.com/What-specific-beliefs-in-a-religion-would-tend-to-indicate-that-its-other-beliefs-are-misguided/answer/T-Collins-Logan

In what sense the acts of conscience related to intersubjectivity?

Thanks for the A2A. I think this is an interesting question. Intersubjectivity means different things in different contexts, but here are some possible correlations within various domains:

- If you subscribe to the multilevel selection theory of evolutionary biology, the prosocial genetic programming that enables our ability to experience a personal “conscience” may itself have been a consequence of group selection. The implication here is that development and fitness are facilitated by socially productive relationships, which, in turn, are facilitated and reinforced by that conscience. Here we see active adaptation at work over time, though not with same personal, conscious engagement identified in other domains.

- What is considered appropriate and efficacious as an “act of conscience” is learned via interpersonal relationships, family-of-origin modeling, and cultural conditioning. Our personal felt experience of “conscience” may still be a consequence of the prosocial genetic programming just described, but our actualization of conscientiousness in the day-to-day is almost certainly guided by our emotional, social and psychological interdependencies, which define the milieux and desired outcomes of how our conscience operates in the world. In a psychosocial sense, then, application of conscience undergoes intersubjectivity through our interaction with others and with our environment. And in this case it might be viewed as an active adaptation or conscious learning curve.

- In a philosophical or theory-of-mind sense, intersubjectivity is also key to developing and exercising conscience. In this instance, however, the very substance of what constitutes both “a conscience” and “an act of conscience” would be created through our particular thought community. That is, as a more passively received inculcation, memetic propagation or manifestation of reflexive groupthink - rather than an active adaptation or consequence of social navigation. This could be viewed as a substantially unconscious process.

- In a spiritual context, intersubjectivity is one way of elaborating the interplay between ground of being, spiritual awareness and knowledge, a felt intuition of what is right or good, and the mental processes that integrate these input streams into discernment. “Conscience” in this domain becomes more active and reflective, leading through its application-in-action to skillfulness and wisdom, so that “acts of conscience” may embody agape.

In this way we can see intersubjectivity playing out across four distinct domains: consciously active adaptation; unconscious, multi-generational genetic adaptation; unconscious group acceptance as reflexive conformance; or the active interplay between being, spirit, intuition and mind.

My 2 cents.

From Quora: https://www.quora.com/In-what-sense-the-acts-of-conscience-related-to-intersubjectivity/answer/T-Collins-Logan

Can you demonstrate that gratitude is a basic, universal moral obligation?

I would tease this question out into four separate parts:

1. Is the response of gratitude a collectively useful, prosocial trait or cultivated habit? Absolutely. I think the more grateful people can be for all aspects of their existence (indeed, even suffering if it is instructive), the more happiness they are likely to experience consistently, and the more harmonious and cooperative civil society will be.

2. Does a gratitude response automatically invoke direct reciprocity? This is a bit of a stumbling block for me. Some people will be inspired to reciprocate, but it seems burdensome to make this an automatic “rule.” Reciprocity may be expected as a more generalized social guideline (for example, “do unto others as you would have done unto you), but immediate payback seems both awkward and forced; it seems more legalistic than constructively relational. Also, the desire to reciprocate may be expressed towards others (i.e. “give it forward”), towards that person’s conception of their group (their family, community, culture, nation, etc.), or towards that person’s conception of the Divine. So I think the answer here is a qualified “no.”

3. Is direct reciprocity a reasonable moral expectation? Indirect reciprocity, as a more generalized societal expectation of normalized behavior, sure. Direct reciprocity, as an interpersonal rule, again no.

4. Where should either gratitude or reciprocity originate? For me this is the crux of the matter. If my gratitude - and any attempts at reciprocity - aren’t an authentic expression of who I am and how I genuinely feel, then I am thinking, feeling and acting artificially. At the same time, I also believe that gratitude and a desire to reciprocate should be prominent aspects of my character; they should be virtues that I cultivate.

In practice, then, my primary obligation will be to have integrity with my own character and the virtues I esteem. And complying with that obligation is its own primary reward. Concurrently, because I am a social creature and dependent on my community and relationships for every aspect of my existence (including the inculcation of the very virtues that I value), I will actively aim to engage all of society - inclusive of strangers, enemies, friends and family - with an equivalent quality of gratitude and reciprocation. As an operational ideal, I would not want to reprioritize how my own character was expressed according to who saved my life, or how much money I owe someone, or how attractive I find someone, or how long they’ve been my friend, or what bad things they’ve done to me in the past. Why? Because that would mean I am adapting who and how I fundamentally am to every situation in a chameleon-like way…and that smacks of insincerity and, frankly, duplicity. Either I am living according to my values, or I’m not. In day-to-day decisions, of course, I will most likely shift the intensity and duration of this self-expression, connection and relating according to the type of relationship and level of intimacy I have with a given person. But, specifically in terms of lending money, I would still be guided more by the level of need, the immediacy of crisis, the efficacy of what I am being asked to give vs. other ways I could help, etc. than by some previous event that implies indebtedness.

My 2 cents.

From Quora question: https://www.quora.com/Can-you-demonstrate-that-gratitude-is-a-basic-universal-moral-obligation/answer/T-Collins-Logan

December 3, 2016 Thought-of-the-Day

"The global complexity and interdependence of our current era has vastly exceeded the average ape's grokking capacity. This is one reason why the Right has so easily hoodwinked its rank-and-file, and the Left finds it so challenging to convey the criticality of its agenda. In everything from quantitative easing to carbon cycle feedbacks to perverse incentives in for-profit healthcare, ignorance and complexity create a fertile space for rampant propaganda. Add to this a consumer mindset that externalizes all authority and problem-solving, and a media environment that perpetuates gnat-like attention spans, and consumption of that propaganda quickly attains religious intensity. The resulting ideological lockstep on the Right, and the muddled insecurity on the Left, are not the natural state of human beings, but ones that have been carefully engineered and marketed to mimic tribal conformance at one extreme, and untrustworthy outsider status at the other. The irony, of course, is that the "untrustworthy outsiders" have an intuitive grasp of the truth, and are actually in the majority. They are just demoralized because they can't explain their position in pedantic sound bytes."

-T.Collins Logan

Is mankind's overall failure to know God actually a failure of imagination?

I think the failure of imagination occurs after ineffable encounters with the Divine, when we try to shoehorn that experience into existing language and concepts, subjugating it to our own ego and intellect. If instead we accept the tenuousness of an initial knowing (in the sense of gnosis), and let go of our compulsion to process, contextualize or communicate the experience definitively, then we can rest lightly in nondiscursive awareness…and in fact deepen it over time. We could say that imagination is involved here, as close kin to the willing suspension of conclusiveness; to be curious and open regarding spiritual perception-cognition demands a frame of mind not unlike imagination. What is possible? What is not possible? The creative mind can tolerate ambiguity, possibility and uncertainty here, whereas the mechanistic mind cannot. However, the term “imagination” hints at perceptions and constructions well beyond the intuitive - even into the realm of apophenia and self-delusion - so I would shy away from using that word. Instead, I might say such failure is one of genuine openness, willingness and humility when exploring nondiscursive, contentless or contextless states.

(From Quora question: https://www.quora.com/Is-mankinds-overall-failure-to-know-God-actually-a-failure-of-imagination)

Why is Ayn Rand not received well in Academia?

The U.S. has somehow created an amazing space for populists, hucksters, fake gurus, TV evangelists, carpet baggers and narcissistic blowhards to not only generate broad and sustained appeal, but garner actual followers who support them and happily propagate their views. Ever read L.Ron Hubbard’s Dianetics? It’s half-baked pop-psychology mixed with pseudoscience, but Hubbard’s influence somehow still endures in the form of Scientology. In the same vein, Ayn Rand just offers an amateur pseudophilosophy of atomistic materialist individualism, packaged in a fictional narrative that attracts undiscerning adolescents. But pseudoscience is not science, and pseudophilosophy is not philosophy - the basic standards just aren’t being met. Yet manipulating fictional, populist narratives to serve personal or ideological agendas is how these kinds of movements begin in the U.S.

Consider how Milton Friedman (and later the Koch brothers) influenced the “populist libertarian” narrative, shaping a vehicle for spreading neoliberal propaganda and actualizing a crony capitalist agenda; there is very little “libertarian” in what became of the Tea Party movement, but its eager adherents don’t seem to realize that. Also consider how Donal Trump used right-wing conspiracy rhetoric to wrap half the U.S. around his little pinky - again appealing to populist sentiment and playing loose-and-fast with facts. And because the U.S. seems to have a cultural predisposition for elevating these bizarre narratives to celebrity status, they often come to be viewed by a poorly educated mainstream consumer with spotty critical thinking skills as either part of some provable knowledge base - a scientifically validated truth - or part of academia’s intellectual lineage. I suspect this cultural quirk exists at least in part due to a hyper-commercialization of the American psyche, conditioning it to addictions and external dependencies for the sake of profit. But these phenomena are just part of a haphazard spectacle - an illusion that keeps Americans distracted, entertained, and eagerly promoting plutocratic priorities while voting and spending against their self-expressed values and interests.

Now there are folks who are outsiders to academia who have offered some original and in-depth thought in various disciplines - Ken Wilber and Colin Wilson come to mind - who have gradually gained a grudging acceptance in academic discourse. But these rare exceptions have occurred not because of the popular appeal of these thinkers, but because the quality of their thought. And alas, L.Ron Hubbard and Ayn Rand simply do not rise to that level.

My 2 cents.

Comment from Jack Fogg:

"I would agree that there is very little libertarianism in the Tea Party movement. There is also nothing libertarian about Donald Trump. Ayn Rand opposed libertarianism as well.

Two questions:

1) What is the difference between pseudophilosophy and philosophy? All philosophy is one’s opinion, by definition.

2) Can you name a single argument of Milton Friedman’s supporting crony capitalism?"

Excellent questions, Jack. A competent description of the many ways Friedman enabled and propagated crony capitalism can be found in Naomi Klein’s book The Shock Doctrine. I don’t always agree with how Klein presents her case…but she offers a lot of persuasive and verifiable evidence in her book. That said, you asked for a quote…however, I would steer you instead toward what Friedman actually did in his involvement with different governments over the years. Friedman’s rhetoric was artful…but his actions belied his true intentions. Everything Friedman accomplished (even while he was vociferously speaking out against crony capitalism) enabled corporations to take control of entire countries through their cosy relationship with government - and, in particular, encouraging government repression of opposing voices, ideologies and competing enterprises (i.e. the result of Friedman’s influence first in Latin America, and then via IMF and World Bank “structural adjustment” policies). And how did he accomplish this? Through himself engineering deliberate government actions and policies of course…not through his vaunted free market at all. The hypocrisy of the Chicago School in this regard is truly astounding. Here in the U.S., just look at Friedman’s most enduring legacy among economists and policy makers: monetarism! In other words, government intervention in free markets! But Friedman was a true artist when it came to rhetoric that distracted people away from what he was really engineering…which was an amplification of crony capitalism at almost every turn.

Regarding philosophy: there is a long tradition of critical inquiry into ontology, epistemology and the nature of mind. While each philosopher did indeed contribute their “opinion” (as you point out), they did so within a specific framework of language, established concepts, and an internal and dialogical consistency of thought. To appreciate the continuity of this tradition over time, I would encourage you to research the concept of dialectics. Ayn Rand, on the other hand, simply inserted her opinion into the cultural thought-stream of her time, without really understanding or honoring the tradition behind many of the concepts she was using. For example, she completely misunderstands Aristotle - not just in some nuanced or subtle opinion-aspects, but in a blatant-face-plant that reveals a fairly pronounced ignorance of the Philosopher. She essentially abuses a few quotes from Aristotle to support her positions, positions which completely contradict his broader themes. It’s embarrassing, really. It would be like me saying “quantum physics proves that cigarettes are a Promethean muse,” or “what Jesus said about the poor proves that corporations should rule the world.” It’s just idiotic.

I hope this was helpful info.

Comment from Anton Fahlgren:

"Very interesting. I think many people feel that what you’re saying about american culture being good for tricksters is right, is there more evidence for this than the examples you mentioned? If it is true, is it because the population is more gullible and/or because the culture breeds these over-the-top persuaders?

Donald Trump, a great example of what you speak of, got over 40% of votes, albeit in a two-party system. His rhetorical counterpart in Sweden where I live has around 15–20% of the vote."

I think the reasons are likely many, and could include:

1) The conditioning from corporate commercialism to externalize all solutions, authority and choices

2) The “newness” of the culture itself (in terms of national identity and traditions) and the consequent willingness to explore uncharted or experimental ideas

3) Very poor diets, which impacts both cognitive development and real-time critical thinking skills

4) A multi-generational experience that extraordinary risk-taking (in methods, systems, ideas, objectives, etc.) can in fact lead to amazing leaps forward in innovation and accomplishment

5) A high tolerance for cognitive dissonance among certain segments of the population (mainly conservatives who rely on fear-based reasoning)

6) A pervasive delight in spectacle, and eager willingness to “see what happens next”

7) The “spoiled child” entitlement syndrome: all strata of society believing they deserve to have whatever they want, mainly as a result of that expectation getting positively reinforced over time (i.e. national independence, ample natural resources, hard-working immigrant populations, victories in two World Wars, business accomplishments, technology accomplishments, etc.) without a clear understanding or appreciation of WHY these things happened

There are probably many other contributing factors, but these come to mind as the primary ingredients for what we are witnessing.

What kinds of limits did Adam Smith think free market capitalism needed?

Smith believed that a diffusion of wealth and the relative independence of labor were a natural byproduct of commerce. What he saw occurring across Europe was a gradual liberation from feudal forms of economic and class structure where both concentrations of wealth and servile relationships had been fixed. Manufacturing and commerce seemed to have eroded those traditions and established more liberty and economic security for everyone. This resulted in what Smith called “good government,” where there was no longer anyone with sufficient means or positional influence to manipulate circumstances exclusively to their own ends (as had been the case in prior centuries), and sufficient authority to adjudicate the disposition of property and any disputes of custom. And Smith is clear about what he believes always occurs when such “good government” is absent, when disproportionate concentrations of wealth and power emerge: “All for ourselves and nothing for other people, seems, in every age of the world, to have been the vile maxim of the masters of mankind.” Clearly, from his historical perspective, Smith could never have anticipated the rise of megalithic corporations whose wealth and influence far exceeded anything that has ever existed, and whose owner-shareholders have consequently pursued the “vile maxim” to an extraordinary degree on vast scales — restoring both the servile relationship of worker-consumers through wage and debt slavery, and the weakening and perversion of governmental authority to suit their own ends.

Smith did, however, recognize the problem of monopolies, and warned against them this way:

“Merchants and master manufacturers are, in this order, the two classes of people who commonly employ the largest capitals, and who by their wealth draw to themselves the greatest share of the public consideration. As during their whole lives they are engaged in plans and projects, they have frequently more acuteness of understanding than the greater part of country gentlemen. As their thoughts, however, are commonly exercised rather about the interest of their own particular branch of business, than about that of the society, their judgment, even when given with the greatest candour (which it has not been upon every occasion) is much more to be depended upon with regard to the former of those two objects than with regard to the latter. Their superiority over the country gentleman is not so much in their knowledge of the public interest, as in their having a better knowledge of their own interest than he has of his. It is by this superior knowledge of their own interest that they have frequently imposed upon his generosity, and persuaded him to give up both his own interest and that of the public, from a very simple but honest conviction that their interest, and not his, was the interest of the public. The interest of the dealers, however, in any particular branch of trade or manufactures, is always in some respects different from, and even opposite to, that of the public. To widen the market and to narrow the competition, is always the interest of the dealers. To widen the market may frequently be agreeable enough to the interest of the public; but to narrow the competition must always be against it, and can serve only to enable the dealers, by raising their profits above what they naturally would be, to levy, for their own benefit, an absurd tax upon the rest of their fellow-citizens. The proposal of any new law or regulation of commerce which comes from this order ought always to be listened to with great precaution, and ought never to be adopted till after having been long and carefully examined, not only with the most scrupulous, but with the most suspicious attention. It comes from an order of men whose interest is never exactly the same with that of the public, who have generally an interest to deceive and even to oppress the public, and who accordingly have, upon many occasions, both deceived and oppressed it.”

And of course we have long since arrived at the very place Smith warned about; we have been subject to the “absurd tax” for many generations now. What is Smith’s solution? I think his sentiments about what constitutes “good government” elaborate on that: a government with enough authority and independence to restrict monopoly, encourage competition, and ensure the liberty and security of its citizens without interference from business owners.

What is at stake in the Theist vs. Atheist debate?

A2A. I’ll take a crack at the current question, which is “What is at stake in the Theist vs. Atheist debate?” Here is what I think is at stake:

If proponents of various ideologies focused more on the most effective ways to accomplish healing, thriving and happiness together, and less on the preferred framing of their particular beliefs that push them apart, our species might actually have a chance of succeeding over the long run. The in-group/out-group tug-of-war that such debates represent does absolutely nothing to better the human condition. It seems an excessive amount of time and energy are devoted to “proving” abstract positions, when tremendous good could be accomplished if the focus for these energies shifted to practical solutions benefitting everyone; for example, improving access to quality healthcare, or developing sustainable food production, or ending reckless exploitation of the environment, or creating more egalitarian political economies, or ending all forms of oppression and exploitation. These are objectives that Christians, Jews, Secular Humanists, Pagans, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and many other belief systems around the globe could agree upon without battling over the abstract rationale behind joint action. Pick any common objective, relax the tribalistic rhetoric, and work towards that goal together….and the potential for achieving miraculous results is, I think, truly astounding. Each group of believers might well come away from such an effort convinced that the results affirm their own beliefs (and not any other group’s)…but so what? At least the power of cooperation will have won out over pointless squabbling.

My 2 cents.

Does the human psyche actually contain self-destructive impulses and even a death wish?

Hinrich I think this is a very interesting question, and one that has come up for many thinkers over the years. Freud called it Thanatos. Jung attributed self-destructive impulses to things we don’t bring into the light of consciousness - the shadow aspect of ourselves. Modern theory frames self-destructive acts (including deliberate self-harm and suicide) as expressions of psychological and emotional pain which, for the person who is suffering, may seem otherwise inescapable or inexpressible to them; this pain may be the result of psychological illness, an emotional consequence of childhood trauma, a genetic susceptibility to depression or heightened experience of pain - or some other unmitigated clinical condition. From an evolutionary perspective, extreme antisocial behavior is not conducive to group survival, and it would not be inconceivable that a person who recognizes themselves to be an antisocial outlier might become self-destructive or suicidal because all these traits naturally coincide as a result of millennia of group selection; in other words, there may be a fitness advantage for the species when an antisocial phenotype voluntarily removes itself from the group (I haven’t seen any research on this, but it’s an interesting hypothesis!). Lastly, I would not discount a spiritual dimension to these dynamics: if deprivation of sunlight can lead to life-crushing depression, whose to say that deprivation of spiritual connection (be it to ones innermost Self or Soul, to Nature, to the Divine, to the Ground of Being, to the Absolute, to the Tao, etc….) cannot lead to a longing for nonexistence?

My 2 cents.

(From Quora https://www.quora.com/Does-the-human-psyche-actually-contain-self-destructive-impulses-and-even-a-death-wish)

What do you think is the utilitarian viewpoint on free will vs determination?

Thanks for the A2A Robert.

Well I was going to write one answer to this question, based only on the question itself as I initially read it, and then I read your answer Robert, and completely changed my mind about how to respond.

That is an illustration of free will. Why? Because nothing influenced me to look at your answer…it was a somewhat arbitrary, self-willed impulse to scan across the other posts before I wrote my own. Even then, if I had not seen your name - also a relatively arbitrary event that also relied on my (arbitrarily) retaining who A2A’d me - I would not have changed my answer, but this bit was more chance than self-will. Now a determinist of some stripe might argue that a) my innate biology or psychology shaped the impulses and capacities that changed my decision; b) I was moved by some spiritual agent to change my decision; c) I would have answered the same way regardless. Well it is sometimes difficult to prove a negative, but I think these are pretty irrational assertions for one simple reason: consciousness. I’ll elaborate on that in a moment.

But first my reaction to your answer. I want to preface my own response with these assumptions, which directly contradict some of what you have stated:

1. “Free will” is not an invention of religion. In fact I would say most religions have historically tended toward fatalistic determinism, and have downplayed or discouraged individual free will. There are exceptions to this, but those are relatively recent. Aristotle was probably the first (known) philosopher to articulate self-will as distinct from either determinism or chance. I would describe free will as “an intermittent feature of consciousness” that is subject to conditioning, chance and choice.

2. Humans do not follow the “path of least resistance” unless they have (passively or actively) habituated themselves to that method of navigation. Such habituation is another feature of consciousness, and is therefore also subject to conditioning, chance and choice.

3. Utilitarians do not, in terms of the generalization you have made, dismiss all conditions that contribute to a decision. In fact they spend a lot of time talking about them, which is why you have act-utilitarians vs. rule-utilitarians, hedonist-utilitarians vs. pluralist-utilitarians, partialist-utilitarians vs. collectivist-utilitarians, etc.

4. Utilitarianism also does not, as you assert, automatically attach moral consequences to individual action. In fact this consideration is at the center of utilitarian debates around actual consequences vs. intended consequences.
Okay, so with those thoughts out of the way, here is my answer….

Utilitarian views of free will vs. determinism are pretty varied and cannot really be generalized IMO. In fact when we try to delve into utilitarian causality we encounter a lot of contradictions. Mills is a good example. He seems to subscribe to compatibilism, an elaborate rationalization that attempts (unsuccessfully, IMO) to reconcile free will with a “necessary” chain of causality. But why even try to do this? Again returning to Aristotle, if we recognize that there are necessitative causal chains, chance, and the independent agency of human consciousness - all of which can operate without a fixed dependency on the others - then the whole consideration becomes mutlidialectical in nature. There are multiple co-existing paths for everything - from quantum events to human volition - that recombine in every instant. In such a context the debate over determinism is either moot or pragmatically inaccessible; any convictions become either tentative and hypothetical, or articles of faith. Yet another choice for us to make.

Now down to the nitty gritty: consciousness is itself not a granted condition, it is also a choice. Human beings can habituate themselves to function according to their animalistic drives, cultural programming, magical thinking, tribal conformance, irrational groupthink, bizarre ideologies….or any combination of the above. Alternatively, they can develop what I call Functional Intelligence, which engages both our interiority and the world around us in a more conscious and deliberate way. And although this process may itself also initially be conscious or unconscious (again influenced by causal chains, chance and choice), eventually it will arrive at an awakening. It will, in effect, begin to incorporate a metacognition that first distances, then evaluates, then integrates or harmonizes all contributive factors to navigate the clarity and efficacy of any choice. I begin to define this process more fully in the essay Managing Complexity with Constructive Integralism.

You might also be interested in this essay: The Goldilocks Zone of Integral Liberty: A Proposed Method of Differentiating Verifiable Free Will from Countervailing Illusions of Freedom

***For all of the above links, you can read the document online without subscribing to academia.edu…just scroll down the page. Alternatively, you can also download them as PDFs here without a fuss: Essays (http://tcollinslogan.com/code-3/index.html).***
Lastly, for the record, I personally lean more toward a variation of virtue ethics (cultivating sophia and phronesis) than utilitarianism, but I find many of the concepts in utilitarianism do have…constructive utility.

My 2 cents.

Comment from Robert Stork: Thanks for your answer. I suppose the only thing I can say is that all those things you say contribute to free will are in fact causal factors that are a more intricate demonstration of determinism.

Maybe…or maybe not. I think any deterministic conclusions may be oversimplifications, no matter how intricate we can get in our descriptors or calculus. Why? Because the number of variables contributing to each moment is incomprehensibly huge - and those variables are different not only for each successive moment, but for each locus of that moment throughout all of known space. Thus volition layers conscious intentions onto a soup of both arbitrary and causally related phenomena, projecting itself cross those variables. In that instant a deterministic warp-and-weave is introduced, I would agree. But even if there were only one consciousness, this quasi-deterministic manifestation of will would only occur within the moment of conception and projection, as confined to the locus of spacetime involved, with only residual propagations after that (waves of causality, if you will). And here’s the rub: there are multitudes of interdependent consciousness all acting within the confines of their own perception-cognition…sometimes in harmony, sometimes not. Which means that, in all intellectual honesty, “determinism” can only be a retroactive veneer placed over the consequent unfolding of these phenomena. It is a construction of hindsight with a predisposed bias, quickly unraveled by infinite complexity, infinite regress, randomness, and other indeterminate energies.

(From Quora question https://www.quora.com/What-do-you-think-is-the-utilitarian-viewpoint-on-free-will-vs-determination)

What is the origin of New Age beliefs?

Thanks for the A2A Pete.

Here is my somewhat formulaic take on this phenomenon…not scholarly, just subjective….

1. Take a fairly well-educated white person from a middle class background who is dissatisfied with just about every aspect of the status quo - politics, religion, medicine, cultural institutions, industrialization, technology, etc. - and who furthermore either lacks any strong sense of cultural identity and tradition, or who fundamentally questions the identity and traditions within which they were raised. Let’s call this person “the maleable rebel.”

2. Now introduce a populist-energized movement of social unrest, revolutionary spirit, counterculture and “anti-establishmentarianism” that seeks not only to reject the status quo, but replace its social mores, institutions, traditions and values with radically revised, socially liberal, egalitarian and much more “personally liberated” ones. This movement appeals directly to “the maleable rebel” and provides a unifying - albeit temporary - sense of purpose and shared community within an essentially individualistic frame. The movement has reactive cohesion - enough for artistic expression, political rallies, a shared narrative, etc. - but lacks a unified vision to manifest as sustained outcomes.

3. Then, as an outgrowth of conditions 1 and 2, offer “the maleable rebel” a spiritual-philosophical-transformational basis for a more enduring post-revolutionary vision. Begin with a foundation of anti-traditionalism, add some superficial elements of Eastern mysticism and a pinch of Western esotericism, sprinkle in alternative medicine and some psychoactive plants, add some spiritualism, then mix these with a liberal handful of Earth-friendly habits…and you’ve got most of the essential ingredients. However - and this is what leaves a bitter taste in the minds of Neopagans, Traditionalists or Perrenialists observing the New Age movement - retain as the final ingredient a large portion of the very same individualistic materialism against which “the maleable rebel” initially revolted (in its classist forms).

4. Now begin to systematize this new vision by establishing authorities, celebrities, orthodox practices, value hierarchies, communities, literature, geographic locations, language, semantics, lifestyles and so on that create both a map of what the New Age community is supposed to look like, and a recipe book for adherence and identity.

In this way the New Age helped well-educated, middle-class white folks in the U.S. and U.K. reform their identity, spiritual practices and sense of purpose. It reframed what it meant to be “enlightened,” with an emphasis on personal freedom, growth and potential. And, in truth, many of the practices and ideals that grew out of the New Age movement do have value IMHO. The challenge, as with so many “institutionalized” belief systems that came before it, is that the New Age firmly held on to the very destructive cultural meme that inspired its birth: individualistic materialism. Although quite often drawing upon an authentic spirit, the New Age all too soon became a commercialized imitation of itself, an elaborate and jingoistic “demand and supply” distortion of its original intent. Such is the corrosive power of capitalist culture that it subsumes all nuance and truth in a frenzy of consumerism, oversimplifying anything subtle or complex into a sales-pitch commodity.

My 2 cents.

After further discussion on Facebook, here are some additional resources on the details of how the New Age movement migrated from Germany, as perhaps inspired by a much older movement:





(Thanks Eric Pierce, Mark Niblack & Jennifer Grove!)

What will come after the modern era? (Assuming modern includes modernism and postmodernism) And what will define it?

Thanks for the A2A Jeff. To my mind there are three options, all of which are all probable to varying degrees at this point:

Catastrophic failure of capitalism. Mass disruption of human civilization as a result of expanding disease vectors (climate change), environmental destruction, social unrest, degradation and homogenization of food supply, toxic pollution, human health decline (poor diet, stress, toxins, disease), exponential extinction of species, genetic manipulation, etc. All precipitated by industrialization, income inequality, exploitation of resources and labor, bleeding edge research, overpopulation, and homogenization of both culture and biodiversity - all of which would be consequences of elevating the profit motive above all other concerns. The result will be chaos - an apocalypse of our own making. It is possible that we could resurrect ourselves hundreds of years afterwards, but not likely in a form of civilization we would recognize.

Enslavement to ASI. Capitulation of management of all complex systems to self-replicating Artificial Superintelligence that postpones the catastrophic failure of capitalism at the expense of human freedoms, managing the problems created by previous eras of resource exploitation, industrialization and profit motivation in a top-down fashion, with ASI at the top of the hierarchy, and humanity at the bottom. At first this will seem to be a “necessary sacrifice” because humans could not manage the problems they created; eventually, however, it will become evident that the sacrifice was too great.

Rejection of capitalism and blossoming of diffused, rhizomatic political economies. Several populist movement have hinted at this grass roots revolution/evolution, but have all fallen short in the face of almost universal de facto dependence on status quo power relationships and commercialistic programming. In other words, the masses return to a medicated state and the plutocrats remain in control simply because most folks are afraid to break free of their commercialistic dependence. However, it is possible that disruptive events short of a complete, catastrophic failure could trigger a resurgence of these populist sentiments, which - if they coincide with cogent and fluidly transmittable alternative memes - could generate the necessary focus and change agency for moving beyond the status quo and dismantling monopolies of power, production, administration and wealth.

Inherent to all of these options is a new relationship with complexity: either complexity will be exploded back into simpler relationships; complexity will be managed by superintelligent agents; or we will begin managing complexity in a more distributed, interdependent fashion. In addition, the defining characteristics of “the next era” will also include a new moral orientation: either regression to primitive tribalism; hyperindividualism and dependence to an extreme of debilitating infantilization; or a more unitive, compassion-centric view of human relations that engages civil society with conscience and conviction.

My 2 cents.

Comment from Brian Johnson: "And I take it these are all possibilities and not probabilities like you suggest? They are just maybe’s and speculation."

Nope. They are all probable - just to varying degrees. A “possibility” would be that we will send a manned mission to Alpha Centauri and start a settlement there. That is “possible” but far less “probable.” In contrast, the collapse of capitalism is impending, not just possible, unless something like ASI intervenes (ASI is also an impending technology, not just a possible one). Alternatively, we could sidestep the collapse with a new form of political economy…now THIS is more of a possibility than a probability, but my own optimism regarding the resilience and creativity of the human species prompts me to place it in the “probable” column.

(From Quora question: https://www.quora.com/What-will-come-after-the-modern-era-Assuming-modern-includes-modernism-and-postmodernism-And-what-will-define-it)

Is Yanis Varoufakis right that we must rescue democracy by a mix of libertarianism, Marxism, and Keynesian economics?

See TED talk video

First off, capitalism has already eaten democracy in many places around the globe – that’s a current reality, not a future possibility.

Second, Yanis experienced first-hand the oppressive, authoritarian oligarchy of the Eurogroup/IMF/World Bank triumvirate and its complete and utterly condescending dismissal of all democratic will in Greece.

Thirdly, his elaborations on the deliberate historical separation of the economic sphere from the political sphere a la capitalism are absolutely correct – the evidence is undeniable as cronyism, clientism and regulatory capture have become runaway trains, utterly disruptive to democratic institutions. From the farce of “corporate personhood,” to legislators being spoon-fed legislation by groups like ALEC, to the revolving door of corporate lobbying, to overwhelming pressure on elected officials to reward their wealthiest campaign contributors…democracy in the U.S. has been mercilessly crushed into corporate compliance. And of course this pervasive corporatocracy has been replicated all around the globe.

Fourthly, Yanis’ proposal to reunite the political and economic spheres via a democratic political economy is an obvious solution. As he alludes to, it’s really what the Athenians (and Aristotle’s proposals in particular, if anyone wants to read up on the details) were aiming to accomplish. And to whatever degree the interests of the populace have really been represented by democratic government throughout history, this has resulted in limiting the oppressive tyranny of wealth concentrations.

Fifthly, some of the components that Yanis gleans from each proposed system referenced have already been proven in the real world – and on large scales. To wit: various forms of worker or member ownership (Mondragon Corp, credit unions, etc.); as a global monetary system, Bretton Woods worked fairly well during its implementation and achieved what it set out to do, though of course it overly favored the U.S. at the onset and overly burdened the U.S. after the Vietnam war; and a libertarian view of individual sovereignty informs most civil rights in the U.S.A. and IMO is really the basis of any functional democracy (one that truly includes the demos). Yes he gives credit to the architects of some of these ideas (Marx, Keynes) but that’s just to help folks grasp the obviousness of the propositions.

Sixthly, twenty-minute TED talks are a silly standard for comprehensive proposals or conclusive discussion of complexity.

So really all Yanis is doing is pointing to a rather obvious path out of our current corporatocracy. Sure, the details need to be worked out, but the thoughtful and informed already know what works to restore power to the people…which is precisely why such efforts are being disrupted by an aggressive neoliberal agenda that aims to maintain the plutocratic status quo.

My 2 cents.

Of Pot, Guns & Trump: The Origins of Irrational, Destructively Conformist Groupthink

Obviously this short post won’t persuade anyone currently in the thrall of active lemming events, as these collective memes are highly resistant to contrary evidence. In fact we could say that one of the chief characteristics of such movements is their promotion of habitual confirmation bias and an extremely high tolerance for cognitive dissonance. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Probably the easiest way to appreciate parallels between the way pot fanatics, gun fanatics and Trump supporters think is to chart out some of their more exaggerated claims. And by “exaggerated” I simply mean without sufficient basis in fact to be embraced as accurate; that have too little supportive evidence to reveal any causal relationships; and that are essentially non-rational ideas living mainly in the imagination of their proponents. Some examples:

I could of course spend a few hundred pages documenting why the beliefs of each group are “inaccurate,” and perhaps I will expand this into an essay at a later time to do just that. However, there is a much easier approach, which is to challenge proponents of pot, guns and Trump to produce supportive evidence for their claims. I have done this on countless occasions, with invariably reliable results: they can’t. Instead, I will hear statements like these in response – often using exactly the same wording – from each group:

“Well the government suppresses all the good data about this. They don’t want anyone to know the truth.”

“I know there’s really good research that proves what I’m saying – I just can’t remember what it is right now.”

“I don’t trust those kinds of academic studies. They get proven wrong all the time.”

“If you’d seen what I have seen, you’d know what I’m saying is true.”

“You don’t understand what’s at stake here. This is much bigger than facts.”

“The proof is all over the Internet. You just have to look.”

“Everybody knows this is true. I’m surprised that you don’t.”

And so on. And even when a seemingly reasonable piece of favorable research surfaces (such as John Lott’s work on crime stats and gun ownership), it quickly turns out that the research methodology is flawed, and that countless other studies have come to different conclusions using the same data.

So what is happening here? From the perspective of Integral Lifework, explanations are fairly easy to hypothesize. Human beings want to have more personal agency; long for acceptance and community; are understandably overwhelmed by modern complexity and seemingly contradictory information all around them; are angered at being used and manipulated by forces beyond their control; feel out-of-sync with the rapid pace of change around them; and often make impulsive emotional decisions in reaction to all of these antagonistic variables. It’s perfectly understandable. In response to the many demands, pressures, stresses and inequities of the modern world, well-meaning folks will rely on purely emotional reasoning to react or choose a course, then seek solace and support in like-minded communities. And, thanks to mass media, the Internet, and a proliferation of propaganda fueled by both self-serving enterprises (gun manufacturers, pot growers or Trump himself) and fanatic adherents, it has become relatively easy to energize and maintain blindly conformist mass-movements…as long as you keep things emotionally charged and the facts a bit fuzzy.

I should interject here that it isn’t entirely fair to label this kind of reflexive-groupthink-adherence as “idiotic” or “ignorant.” This observation is an understandable one – and one I myself have sometimes slipped into out of exasperation - but it’s a bit unfair. Why? Because it is much more likely that the aversion to critical thinking among these groups issues from genuine insecurity, anxiety and ongoing suffering. As human beings, we need community, we need a purpose, we need to feel useful and connected and important. In fact, these are essential dimensions of nourishment in the Integral Lifework model. And when we suddenly find ourselves part of a movement that energizes our being in these dimensions (and perhaps for the first time), it is very difficult to step back, take a breath, and critically assess the validity of our trajectory. And this is especially true when our fundamental needs have not been met for years or decades – when we have been deprived, distracted and anesthetized away from taking good care of ourselves by a mainly consumerist, externalizing and infantilizing model of well-being.

What is the solution? Alas, in the short term, we’ll probably just have to ride each of these populist waves to their unpleasant conclusion. History seems to indicate that only when folks are allowed to obtain what they think they want, then realize it isn’t providing the expected result, will they become open to alternative approaches. And even then, we humans have a tendency to commit ourselves to one ill-considered path after another until we eventually find our way. Personally I believe we will have to move away from capitalist orientations entirely, with the consumerist model fully exhausted, before civil society can grapple with constructive alternatives to enduring human problems.

In the long term, I still believe there is hope…if we can survive into an era when reflexive groupthink fueled by fear and insecurity infects smaller and smaller numbers of people, until it passes away entirely. In the meantime, we can promote more nuanced and multidimensional avenues of healing for personal confusion, anxiety and suffering. In fact, as humans are meaning-making, self-justifying organisms that relish imitating each other and joining in communal activities, alternatives to more caustic memes must be perpetually generated. Something is required to fill the void. That’s what Integral Lifework practice tries to advocate, albeit one person at a time. But as long as capitalism prevails, lowest-common-denominator mass marketing will continue to promote self-serving, ultimately destructive habits of consumption, where large numbers of people will keep lavishing their personal power, money and passion on ineffective or counterproductive attempts to lessen their fear and pain – options like pot, guns and Trump.

My 2 cents.

What is the effect of fully commodifying labor?

Answering the question: "What is the effect of fully commodifying labor?"

Question details: Yanis Varoufakis said in his article “How I became an erratic Marxist"

"If workers and employers ever succeed in commodifying labour fully, capitalism will perish."

What does he mean by that?

Thanks for the A2A. First off, that’s a great article that I hope more people will read. Second, I think Justin Schwartz hit on some key considerations. Third, I’ll offer some additional thoughts….

We might assume that Varoufakis is referring to the vast historical arc of Marx’s historical materialism, as outlined in Das Kapital, that ultimately results in the collapse of capitalism. But there are some specific themes in Marx’s thought that Varoufakis touches upon, and which in and of themselves might account for Varoufakis’s statement.

For example, one theme Marx offers is that capitalism tends to convert all that is, in reality, about human relationships and interactions into some sort of monetary exchange value, and that this is an inherently bad thing, especially when it ignores (or devalues) the inherent, qualitative importance of those relationships and interactions in more human terms. If I say “I love you” to my wife, and in her mind that equates an expectation of material demonstration in the form of payment, goods, services, etc., then such expectation tends to undermine the intrinsic value of love and its importance in our non-material bond. In the same way, a trusting friendship can be replaced with money, in that I will only have expectations of you if I pay you, and you will only feel obligations to me if your are paid. So these are examples of commodification that are inherently destructive to human social relations (a conclusion which is obvious to anyone with emotional intelligence, but less so to someone who lacks it).

So what Varoufakis may be alluding to is that one of the most important “non-material” contributions of labor is what we might call creativity: the ability to add value (be it aesthetically or in terms of utility) to some raw material, which is a pretty amazing quality of human behavior. And in the same sense that we can’t quantify or commodify love or trust, we really can’t quantify or commodify that natural, unpredictable, inspirational creativity either. This isn’t entirely ignored in capitalism, where someone might pay millions for a Vermeer; there is an element of what Marx called “fetishism” involved here, to be sure, but there is also a very reasonable awe invoked by Vermeer’s profound and rare talent, and a consequent attempt to quantify what simply cannot be captured. Thus there is really no upper limit to such capture efforts, which is why such creations are effectively “priceless.” Sometimes this valuation is tied mainly to scarcity…but that’s simply not the whole picture (or painting in this case).

So if all labor (that is, all potential qualitative contributions that labor enables) were completely commodified by employers and employees in the sense described, then the very qualities that add value to goods and services will be completely excised. Take love out of a marriage, and what do you have? Take trust out of a friendship, and what do you have? Take creativity out of the means of production, and what do you have? This could be what Varoufakis means when he says “capitalism will perish.” That special human ingredient that fuels the capitalist enterprise and generates value (and ultimately profit) will be extinguished through the commoditization of all labor…so how could capitalism continue?

But this is just one take. Varoufakis could also just be alluding to the complete alienation of labor through its treatment as mechanized, tedious, robotically monotonous production by capitalists…another important theme in Marx. Or he could be referring to Marx’s predictions about the consequences of monopolies and an increasingly centralized means of production (and concentration of capital), which in turn prod the steadily impoverished masses into open revolt. Or he could be referring to all of these things….

My 2 cents.

What is post-postmodernism?

Answering the question "What is post-postmodernism?"

Thanks for the A2A Jeff. I’ve only brushed up against this topic, but here are my impressions:

- Enough relaxation of postmodern skepticism (or perhaps an application of postmodern skepticism to postmodernism itself) to allow for optimism.

- A tentative reintegration of the ideals, expressions and attitudes that postmodernism rejected, while retaining self-awareness about this process (for example: conscious naiveté).

- A form of syncretic integralism.

- A natural cultural maturation process beyond rebellious black-and-white formulations of adolescence into the nuanced gray areas of adulthood.

In my own work, I view the post-postmodern or metamodern stance as applying conceptions of multidialectical synthesis to the cultural-artistic sphere.

My 2 cents.

What leads to bad decisions?

From What leads to bad decisions? Quora A2A

Thanks for the A2A. Here are some possible contributing factors to “bad decisions:”

- Stupidity.

- Arrogance or overconfidence.

- Willful ignorance (resistance to information, approaches, practices or knowledge that would improve decisions).

- Poor impulse control (lack of self-discipline).

- Mental illness.

- Reflexive conformance (groupthink, tribalism, submission to peer pressure, blind faith, etc.).

- Reflexive nonconformance (teenage rebellion, passive-aggressive habits, criminal inclinations, disregard for social norms, general disaffection, etc.)

- Lack of critical thinking skills.

- Apathy or laziness (lack of motivation to make more skillful decisions).

- Stubbornness or inflexibility.

- Lack of situational awareness.

- Egotism or self-centeredness.

- Substance abuse or careless self-medication.

- High tolerance for cognitive dissonance.

- Being governed by any strong, unmanaged, overwhelming emotion (fear, anxiety, lust, excitement, grief, loss, shame, etc.).

- Codependent relationships and reflexes (for example, always trying to be nice or compliant when someone else is being unreasonably demanding).

- Poor self-care habits (not getting adequate sleep, exercise, nutrition, mental stimulation, etc.)

- Extreme hormone cycles, excesses or deficiencies.

- Lack of experience in a given situation combined with a lack of caution or willingness to seek guidance from someone more experienced.

- Addiction to risky or impulsive behaviors.

- Clinical depression.

- Consumerist external dependency and insecurity (i.e. never looking inward for answers, but always looking to others for a commoditized version of the solution).

- Low self-esteem or negative self-talk.

- Unresolved issues from childhood that require therapeutic intervention.

- Lack of self-awareness or self-knowledge.

- Being deliberately misinformed or manipulated, and not realizing this until it’s too late (for example, what has happened to tobacco users and Nestle baby formula users in the past, and what is happening to Tea Party members and Teflon users in the present).

- Youth (i.e. prefrontal cortex development, general myelination, synaptic pruning, etc.).

- Stress (physical, emotional, relational, etc.)

- Being surrounded (and/or in close relationships with) folks who suffer from a preponderance of any of the above-mentioned factors.

- Becoming socially isolated for long periods of time.

My 2 cents.

Which of society's rules are most important to follow and when are most Americans afforded the freedom to break them?

From Which of society's rules are most important to follow and when are most Americans afforded the freedom to break them? Quora A2A

Thanks for the A2A and clarification [that this is for your 7th grade class] Dean.

For that age group I would probably structure the most important societal rules and expectations this way, in the format of MostImportant/WhenBreakable:

1. Be Honest /except when it puts self or other in disproportionate danger or creates excessive harm.

2. Have Integrity (aligning actions with expressed intentions and exercising discipline to follow through)/except when the probable outcome clearly contradicts your desired outcome.

3. Be Kind & Do No Harm (in intentions, words and actions)/except when it is necessary to defend your liberty and personal sovereignty - or someone else’s .

4. Practice Generosity & Charity /except when objects of your compassionate effort become exploitative or abusive.

5. Take Responsibility (for own well-being, consequences of own choices, harm perpetrated, lies told, own failures of integrity, etc.)/except when the situation is truly out of your control.

6. Engage in Civic Participation (voting, self-educating about issues, attending community mtgs, signing petitions, lobbying for causes, community organizing, various forms of activism, speaking truth to power, civil disobedience, etc.)/except when it substantially interferes with items 1–5.

7. Obey The Rule of Law /except when it actively contradicts or excessively compromises items 1–6.

My 2 cents.

Philosophy: Have you ever struggled with the "problem of other minds"?

From Philosophy: Have you ever struggled with the "problem of other minds"? Quora A2A

Thanks for the A2A James.

For me exploring this question has involved an evolution of sorts. Let me propose three orientations to the problem of other minds:

Group A. At one end of the spectrum are folks we might describe as obsessively codependent, always hypersensitive to the emotional states and perceived intentions of everyone around them, who try feverishly to anticipate changes in mood or develop causal inferences about the thoughts and behaviors of others. For these folks, there is a sort of opposing problem that the operations of "other minds" take precedence over their own thoughts, and consequently they suffer a perpetual internal narrative that, often with the help of magical thinking, is actively creating and navigating what they sense, suppose or intuit to be interior lives of those around them.

Group B. At the other end of the spectrum are folks with limited emotional intelligence and low levels of empathy, who view social interactions as exceedingly mysterious and who find it extremely difficult to interpret or anticipate the seemingly arbitrary emotions of others. For these folks, the problem of other minds is quite pronounced, as they are quite confused about human behavior and its irrational or nonsensical causation, and may have the impression that the interior lives of others are either quite foreign or *fundamentally suspect*. Various attempts to calculate or systematize the emotions and behavior of others have limited success, but tend to lack nuance, complexity or richness.

Group C. In the middle of this spectrum are people of average emotional intelligence and social skills, with let's say a more "average" measure of empathy and sensitivity, who somewhat automatically navigate the perceived emotional expressions of others according to their own experience, and who can anticipate reactions and behaviors of those they know well without much difficulty and with fairly high reliability. For these folks, there is neither an interior narrative enslaved to the moods and behaviors of those around them (codependence, PTSD, social anxiety disorder, schizotypal disorder, etc.), nor a bewilderment or confusion regarding moods, behaviors and their causal inference (sociopathic personality disorders, Autism Spectrum Disorder, etc.).
If you can entertain this hypothesis, then we might further hypothesize that throughout most of human history Group C was the plump bump of the statistical bell curve - especially since its "healthy prosociality" would have helped lubricate social interactions, maintain cohesion and cooperation, and resolve conflict within a given culture, and harmonize relations between cultures over time.

However, even if this proposal is sound, what I believe has been happening since the industrial revolution is an ever-increasing flattening of that bell curve, so that the proportions of Groups A and B have increased as the proportion of Group C has decreased relative to them. The result is that, with each successive generation, a growing number of people either found themselves struggles with "the problem of other minds" or with its codependent inverse.

Personally, I have found myself in all of these Groups at various times of my life. Up to age seven, I was probably confined to Group A. By age eight I began to shift into Group B, with some lingering reflexes from Group A. Now, at age fifty-one, I've learned how to operate more reliably in Group C, with occasional reversions to Group B or A when I'm tired, frustrated or feeling poorly.

I hope this was helpful.

Should truth matter? Why?

From "Should truth matter? Why?" Quora A2A

Thanks for the A2A Steve McKerracher.

Let's take a look at some of the statements used in this question:

"The value of an honest search for truth."

"The acceptance of a comfortable delusion."

"Looking for sound arguments."

"Is ignorance bliss?"

What strikes me in these statements is the implication of specific values, and the importance of a clear values hierarchy in navigating a "sound" resolution to this question. For example:

Is tolerance and acceptance more important that proving a truth?

Is being kind and compassionate more important that being right?

Are honesty and integrity more important that tact, nuance or political efficacy?

Is a desire to know something - and relieve one's own ignorance - more important than personal relationships?

Is prioritizing the precise and accurate more important that conveying "the general idea" in our communication?

Perhaps you see where I am going with this....but to clarify: Suppose I have an aging relative with dementia who keeps insisting that her friend, who died some years ago, is alive and well, and in fact called her earlier that very day. No matter how gently I try to correct her misconceptions, she will likely become extremely despondent if I contradict what she believes to be true, and in all likelihood my correcting her will not change her perceptions or her recollection. Which means that, in this instance, "the truth" is incredible unproductive and pointless, even to the point of doing harm.

And of course there are times when an honest search for truth has value, and should be a priority - that seems clear from centuries of human beings operating with that assumption, and thereby producing some pretty amazing gifts to society: wonderful music and writing, scientific discoveries, profound ahas of insight, great feats of engineering...all as a result of one path or another toward some personally pursued truth. But there are also times when the search for truth has resulted in real horrors of experimentation, bizarre and destructive behaviors, the mass murder of other human beings, alienation and isolation of individuals and groups, a horrible callousness of heart and so on. And what is the real difference between these two kinds of consequences, both resulting from "an honest search for truth" in the eyes of the seeker? I think the qualitative difference lies in the values hierarchy that is being operationalized.

For me, love - as expressed in compassion, kindness, understanding, patience, generosity, empathy, etc. - is the driving force behind *all forms of truth that matter to me*. If something is true, but does not in some way facilitate my compassionate relationship with others, then it may be interesting, and even exciting, but it isn't vitally important. There are many intellectual, physical and spiritual pursuits that are quite stimulating in how they help us encounter truth, but when I begin to become immersed in them, I will ask myself: how does this improve the quality of my relationships? How could it improve the quality of human existence? Will it heal or enhance the quality of the natural harmonies of Earth's ecosystems...or any of the many other things that I care deeply about?

In the same way, integrity and followthrough, emotional openness, critical thinking, self-doubt, humility, and a whole host of other qualities and actions are tied into truth because truth resides fairly high up in my values hierarchy. But love - agape - is at the very top. Do I occasionally flounder a bit and invert my priorities? Sure, and I feel contrite when that happens. But those priorities must remain my compass in the both the calm and storms of life. They have to be, or I would lose my way entirely, becoming disconnected from the fundamental reasons why truth - and an honest search for truth - are important.
So for me, the honest search for truth begins with love, and love is intrinsic to all meaningful truth. They are cofactors in the journey of growth and discovery. And because ignorance can result in a lack of skillfulness in how I exercise compassion towards others, ignorance becomes the enemy of love, and truth its closest friend.

My 2 cents.

Is there a correlation between utilitarianism and totalitarianism?

From "Is there a correlation between utilitarianism and totalitarianism?" Quora A2A.

I'm sorry but this question does not make sense to me. Utilitarian ethics are based on consequences: what makes everyone equally happy. If happiness in a given society is contingent on individual and collective freedoms, then that society can't be governed in a totalitarian fashion. I suppose you could revert to the "benevolent dictator" argument, but that's not a natural consequence of utilitarian ethics, it's a consequence of emerging socioeconomic and educational development; i.e. immature civic institutions, poor education and little experience with democracy. So utilitarian approaches that judge the efficacy of any form of governance based on outcomes (including maximized liberty) would understandably moderate any attempt to inhibit liberty - which is of course the central controlling feature of totalitarianism. In other words, the desired consequence of liberty moderates the means of governing. It's sort of like asking "If you take ice cream away from people, will they eat less ice cream?" Unless people hate ice cream (i.e. liberty) and it makes them miserable, there would be no reason for ice cream to be taken away using any method of utilitarian governance.

My 2 cents.

Comment from Eybi Sulam: "Thing is, "what makes everyone equally happy" doesn't exist. A policy might make some happy while others very frustrated. If the "utilitarian" government is convinced that it is "good", it will press to implement in regardless of the public opinion and this might go to the extreme: totalitarianism if the government believes it knows the best."

I'm sorry but I still think you are missing the point. What is liberty? That is what you need to define. If liberty means democratic consensus, then everyone will agree on "what makes everyone equally happy" and using utilitarian ethics in this case sustains maximum liberty for all. If it only means a democratic plurality, then just over half the people will be "equally happy." If liberty means that a few powerful corporations decide what makes people happy, then that is a plutocracy. If it means whatever makes a dictatorial elite happy, then it is totalitarianism. You keep talking about "a policy" or "government" without defining how polices and governance are derived in your assertion. That is where you need to begin. Otherwise you are just making "government" the bogeyman in the closet - an irrational, inchoate fear. This makes your leap from utilitarian ethics to totalitarianism via deprivation of liberty is a straw man's argument; you are conflating things that don't logically correspond - at least not until you define the method by which "policies" and "government" are derived and function.

I hope this was helpful.

How can you be existential and religious and in the same time, what does it mean to be existential?

In answer to Quora question "How can you be existential and religious and in the same time, what does it mean to be existential?"

Thanks for the A2A Alba.

This question can be answered many different ways, so I'll offer a few thoughts for you to chew over:

1. If a felt experience of existential angst persuades me that existence has no inherent meaning, I might reflexively cling to a shallow religious conviction that injects meaning into that apprehension of meaninglessness as a way to comfort myself. If I recognize what I am doing, I may still be existential in my orientation towards existence, but still cling to shallow religiosity as a coping mechanism.

2. I could also have a mystical experience in which I sense a unitive ground of being that connects all life - indeed all of existence. From this I glean a sense of spiritual unity within myself and inclusive of my surroundings, which seems to align with certain mystical branches of religious experience among various traditions (indeed nearly all traditions have such a branch). However, I may also at the same time feel separated or alienated from any traditional concepts of God or human society, so that much of mainstream "religiosity" really doesn't conform to my experiences or worldview. I may also feel that this unitive mystical state - and the entire interdependence of existence I am witnessing - has intrinsic meaning that is ineffable; in other words, it has no intellectually framable value, and cannot be communicated in words at all. As a consequence, the meaning that I sense or intuit is so inchoate that I can't rely on it to justify my existence to anyone else - or really even to myself without a fair amount of self-questioning doubt. In this sense, I may be both spiritual (or religious in a mystical sense) and existential at the same time.

3. Another variation is that I might discover that the material world really is mostly a pointless, futile creation, inherently prone to perpetual suffering, and that its only meaningful qualities arise from a profound felt experience of compassionate affection that I must consciously choose to pursue. In other words, I might recognize that all of life and existence are indeed utterly futile without the presence of love, and so I commit myself to cultivating and generating that love to imbue my own existence with purpose (and indeed to justify all existence) and to help alleviate the suffering around me. And, since this same perspective can be found among many different religious traditions, I am willing to adopt one of those traditions to help actualize this love-in-action. As I practice this faith, however, I never lose sight of the felt reality that all of this existence is a meaningless farce, illusion or dream.

4. Yet another variation of being both religious and existentialist is to progress through all of the phases of St John of the Cross' Dark Night of the Soul. I do not mean the watered-down pop-psyche version of this experience, I mean the real deal...all the way to the end. Anyone who has committed themselves to this path understands what it means to be both religious and existentialist at the same time.

5. And actually, I would say that someone who really commits to delve deeply into almost any spiritual tradition, moving beyond dogma and conformance to the most authentic praxis of faith, will begin to sense the intersection of existential perceptions and religious convictions. A profound commitment to spiritual discipline will, IMO, lead almost everyone to a very similar experience of this intersect. I think this is likely why, for example, Thomas Merton, a Trappist Catholic, felt such a strong affinity with Zen Buddhist monks.

Apart from these examples, there are still others that illustrate how existentialism and religion or spirituality coexist, most notably Kierkegaard's elucidation of the (necessary) absurdity of faith when confronting the "infinite qualitative disjunction" of the Divine. In another vein, there is the choice of nihilism, but here also we can find spiritual traditions where being both religious and nihilistic is an acceptable stage of development.

My 2 cents.