Phillip Beaver

Citizen, Humankind


This conversation is closed.

Each person is better served by self-reliance within the community of humankind than by subservience to ideologies.

The human path is not easy: Infants are uniformed, illiterate, inarticulate, sexually diffuse, self-centered, and dependent on conflicted societies (Overstreet). Each infant has duty to self to achieve psychological maturity. Societies encourage people to become compliant--to a god or a philosophy and a family and a country and a career. There’s almost no time to “know thy self.”

Each person’s path toward self-discovery is unique within a concurrent 80 years of humankind’s millions of years’ progress (involving perhaps 100 billion people). Thus, "I am" is not alone. The adolescent’s path lags humankind’s maturity, but the adult has the potential to lead.

Justice is necessary for liberty. But is unity beyond I am desirable? I’d like TEDsters’ thoughts.

Perhaps people who acquire hope, humility, and uncertainty develop the necessary, evolving skills for leadership. It is difficult to think of an example for all cultures, but Abraham Lincoln, whose time was cut short, comes to mind. Perhaps TEDsters can suggest people who led/lead humankind’s progress toward psychological maturity.

In addition to H. A. Overstreet's book, The Mature Mind, at least two TEDsters helped inspire this presentation.

1. Matthieu Mossec’s conversation, “Morality is better informed by science than it is by religion.”

2. Leslie Saunders’ phrase “independence within interdependence,” in the conversation, “It seems the conversationalists herein have relegated the golden rule to the world’s list of bad ideas.”

(General revision: 11/20/11, to "subservience to ideologies 11/22, added 2 related talks on 11/29-30, 1 on 12/6/11)

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    Dec 11 2011: Phillip, I noted that Matt dismissed self-reliance as "poverty" in this Talk. I think if we distinguish between self-reliance and self-sufficiency then perhaps the later might truly be linked to poverty because it implies an isolation from society. But self-reliance does not imply isolation, but rather strength and community. Today, a self-reliant individual or community is in the best position to enjoy sustainable prosperity. Matt asserts that "prosperity is the saving of time and providing for needs", which is accomplished through trade, and that the benefits multiply exponentiay with intercommunity commerce. I would suggest that the difference between sustainable prosperity and momentary affluence, and thus the freedom to guide ones own destiny comes down to this distinction.
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      Dec 11 2011: Kevin, what an informative connection! I listened again and read parts of Ridley’s talk.

      It seems you are referring to Ridley’s statement: “Go back to this image of the axe and the mouse, and ask yourself: ‘Who made them and for who?’ The stone axe was made by someone for himself. It was self-sufficiency. “
      He goes on to explain that the axe was unchanged for perhaps millennia because of isolation, but the computer mouse was made quickly by many disassociated industries and people.

      I appreciate the insight you have brought to this question.

      Let me leap from the focus on economic well being to psychological well being; the case against isolationism. Reared in a Protestant home and community, I feared my friendship with an East Tennessee, Catholic classmate: my faith might be weakened. By age 25, I was so self-indoctrinated it took me 25 years marriage to the Louisiana French-Catholic woman I fell in love with to realize I desperately do not want to change her faith, which I yet do not share. I don’t know the truth but am convinced she and I must be true to our selves. I feel so fortunate to have been relieved of my indoctrination: through her I discovered myself.

      My concern at this point on my path is that perhaps faith in reality is in itself an ideology, so I do not want anyone to adopt my way. Let them practice “self-reliance within the community of humankind” (quoting the title of this talk).

      Returning to your focus on economics, SunMoney seems like a good concept. My idea is that before the Big Bang, when mass first appeared in our universe at least, there existed potential energy, which is being depleted through inefficiencies. A system of reward for conservation of material and energy seems more promising than gold or US dollars or other artificial standard. On Youtube, I hoped to find the Pabal, India pilot, but did find a related example, . I plan to review how I can participate.

      Thanks again
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    Dec 3 2011: What God(s) are/is, is critical, as it is a part of our histories, cultures, civilizations and overall our humanities.

    Even without the word "God" men would find reasons to execute "evil" actions in ignorance.
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      Dec 3 2011: Nicholas, it seems to we are sympathetic in our objectives: we encourage good behavior.

      I quote Ralph Waldo Emerson's "Divinity School Address": "A more secret, sweet, and overpowering beauty appears to man when his heart and mind open to the sentiment of virtue. Then instantly he is instructed in what is above him. He learns that his being is without bound; that, to the good, to the perfect, he is born, low as he now lies in evil and weakness."

      This phenomenon is fictionalized in William Faulkner's "Barn Burning."

      When I was a child, my parents and community taught me "God is love." How I wish they had taught me empathy for all people.

      Ruin coming through God is asserted by Abraham Lincoln in his 1864 letter to Albert Hodges: "Now, at the end of three years struggle the nation's condition is not what either party, or any man devised, or expected. God alone can claim it."

      In the evolution of humankind as an empathetic, perfect species, God is a deterrent.

      I hope humankind will stop debating God and start debating virtue and promoting psychological maturity or a more favorable, generally understood goal beyond chronological maturity.

      Thank you for more dialouge,
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    Nov 28 2011: "Perhaps TEDsters can suggest people who led/lead humankind’s progress toward psychological maturity." - That's what all sorts of people are engaged in, especially now we have the Internet. I find people I meet randomly in my travels around cyberspace say things that are as profound and inspiring as any philosophical work from a university professor.

    Two categories come to mind: ideas that help us towards maturity as part of the tapestry of all human thought, and formulations recommending psychological maturity itself. So in the first category I could hardly fail to put the great scientists, with Galileo, Newton, Darwin and Einstein as some of the most important. And while it's important to recognise their genius, it's a pity if it blinds us to the process of human enlightenment that would have almost certainly happened without them. Almost all major discoveries bubble up from the scientific community, often with a race to publish first the same or very similar ideas. Often, by the time the discovery is expressed in language accessible to the lay person, the reader's reaction is "that's what I've been thinking for ages", although it might be very much refined beyond their own abilities.

    I'm ashamed to say I can't think of names of those who have inspired people to think for themselves by teaching that message directly, except the Buddha, who is reported as having said ”Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found in your religious books. Do not believe anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders…but, after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conductive to the good and benefit of one and all, accept it and then live up to it.”

    Which wasn't bad for 2500 years ago. He spawned numerous religious sects, each of which protects its irrational dogma and argues with the others, but you can't blame the man for trying.
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      Nov 28 2011: John, you are so right. TEDsters are amazing (boasting that my awareness is sufficient to form an opinion).

      For about 15 years, I have wanted to write a book, perhaps on how to recognize if you are indoctrinated into a religion/ideology, but have never felt I knew enough. TEDsters in a very short time have shown my reluctance is justified, yet I feel encouraged.

      I think my list of related talks gives a starting list of TED help but am certain there are other existing talks. Krisztian Pinter suggested Matt Ridley’s talk. Perhaps interested TEDsters know of others.

      To your fine list of exemplary thinkers I would add Plato, Machiavelli, Thomas Paine, James Madison, Ralph Waldo Emerson (RWE), Abraham Lincoln, and Robert Ingersoll. For direct self-reliance and psychological-maturity teachers, I mentioned Overstreet, JQ Wilson, and RWE, but TEDster psychologists and political scientists must know more and perhaps better advocates.

      I appreciate your view of the Buddha’s contribution. If it is representative, it establishes a major point I would argue. His catalogue of subjects about which he advises, “Do not believe,” establishes an importance of believing something. I disagree.

      My policy is to not believe. Beyond me, I aver that each human should have a policy against belief; when they have, with unerring integrity, done the noble work to understand and have concluded, “I do not know,” they should hold, waiting for new information or new viewpoint that would increase understanding--always approaching the truth, but never retreating to a belief.

      John, the most important point you made is that wisdom comes from the people who think. Just a week ago, I saw my friend Cleve Wright, who after 3 years separation asked my latest thinking about God. I responded, “I don’t know but think not.”
      Cleve responded, “That’s a change: What justifies the “But think not?”

      I said, “Thanks for pointing out my contradiction; 'I don’t know' is all there is.”
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        Nov 29 2011: Blimey, the wisdom of all those thinkers (you're better read than I am, but that's not hard) and still you don't know! ;)

        I think that's an important understanding to come to. I find it more useful not to keep retreating from the "but I think not" or "but I think so" of my opinions. Isn't it a little affected, after you've already admitted that you don't think there is a god, to strike it from your statement? Would "I'm not sure" be an adequate balance between having formed a tentative leaning in one direction and being committed to it?

        It is a tricky problem, though. It comes up all the time for me, and I'm sure for many others. I say I'm atheist, and I may or may not expand on what that means, the lack of certainty, depending on circumstances. There are certain groups I expect to understand the scientific probabilism of "facts" I discuss, and others where i have to be more careful.

        Words words words..."believe" - you seem to shun it from that same sense that it pins your colours to the mast, fixes something, sounds like it's done and dusted, but it doesn't have to mean that. "I don't know if there's a god or not, but I believe not", expresses a cautious opinion. If someone raises their hands to the sky and cries "I believe...!", I get the sense it's not that equivocal.

        I don't know much, formally, about the "process for understanding". I could only give a rough indication of the scientific process, and I'm sure it would lack some important stuff. But I feel I'm a natural philosopher, and I've spent my life thinking about how we form our opinions. I haven't availed myself of enough knowledge others came to, perhaps, although maybe there's something gained by working things out myself. I had a dualist, idealist stumbling block for decades, from the new-age/yoga stuff I read.

        There's something about your idea of another step, forming beliefs, (doctrine) that I'm trying to work out. Would you describe the whole process a bit more for me please?
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          Nov 29 2011: Humanity has developed a continuing and seemingly infinite process for understanding. It involves successive steps. For example, perceiving there is a phenomenon or principle; proposing explanations for the perception; trying to develop a theory that includes each explanation; assuming the most likely explanation; designing tests of that explanation; conducting the tests; gathering, analyzing, and evaluating the data; identifying evidences within the data; drawing conclusions; and perhaps making recommendations. Humans and perhaps other social beings use this process routinely.
          Conclusions vary. Sometimes there was no phenomenon—only perception. For example, a static universe was only a perception. Sometimes an explanation is disproven but evidence/discovery helps guide further work. Sometimes an explanation seems correct, and thus understanding seems to have advanced. Often, seemingly correct explanations require revision when new viewpoints or new ways of measuring are applied. For example, Einstein’s theory of relativity shows incompleteness in Newton’s law of gravity. Thus, the process continually improves understanding yet often seems to merely approach the truth.
          The process works in all fields of knowledge—even the hypothetical. For example, consider the tradition discussed earlier: human sacrifice. Ancient people perceived natural phenomena were actions of gods. The sun was a god which often took people. Some tribes assumed both that the sun wanted people and by sacrificing people the tribe could favorably influence the sun. However, the sun never seems to respond to human sacrifice. Therefore, there is no evidence that human sacrifice is beneficial. Eventually, humanity discovered that the sun is a natural, nuclear reactor.
          Believing in assumptions, such as human sacrifice, is not good. Any belief is not good. Love conquers all but religion. When you do not know, believing can only distract you from opportunities to learn.
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          Nov 29 2011: John, I also wanted to address your interesting post yesterday.

          I have read so little and tend to re-read important literature, like Plato’s Allegory of the Cave. See text at . I’ve never learned of anyone with my interpretation of it. Also, no human can correct my interpretations of the Bible.

          One step in the process for understanding is to propose assumptions with potential to explain the apparent phenomenon. Next, you spend enough work (money) to prioritize the assumptions by feasibility, not only likelihood but candidacy for research. Now you have a research plan that begins with the most favored assumption. If you disprove or exhaustively research that assumption, you reexamine the remaining assumptions, and go to the next favored assumption. At the end of this iterative process, if you have not found evidence for the apparent phenomenon, you retain any assumptions that have not been disproven, and conclude: We do not know.

          We know that things and life exist and seemingly advance by evolution. However, we do not know the origins. Randomness or chaos does not seem dominant, because evolution seems to follow laws. The laws could have been created by a superior being or they could be as simple as accommodating conservation of energy. But how did the superior being and/or energy originate? I discount neither possibility nor reality, whatever it is.

          My caution about believing has more to do with keeping an open mind. For example, once you conclude there is no god, it tends to close your mind to the limitations of human perception--the possibility that you simply cannot perceive reality. It seems prudent to not close your mind to reality. Thus, it would be difficult for me to choose atheism of that kind.

          Now, concluding there is no God, with a capital G, is easier. There is not one God that is not used by clergymen to oppress fellow humans. I do not call myself an atheist but do claim I am a non-theist.

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    Nov 22 2011: The most of the people are uniformed and aren't matur from a psycological perspective .............but before that : what is that mean to be matur psychologically?
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      Nov 22 2011: Thank you.

      Most adults are uniformed because society does not put a premium on psychological maturity. For example, society re-elects officials who behave like adolescents--selfish, unfaithful, lieing.

      Overstreet's book was reprinted 17 times, perhaps until a competitor converted the quest to "adult education."

      Paraphrasing and quoting Overstreet:

      The critical focus of our time is the human psychology. It’s time could not have come before now, because other understandings had to develop.
      Man understands psychology as a matter of physiology--“of brain tissue, of nerves, of glands, of organs of touch, smell, and sight. But before physiology, man needed to understand biology; and before biology, chemistry; and before chemistry, physics; and before physics, mathematics. So the long preparation goes back into the centuries.”
      Reality is in control, and understanding advances as time passes. One understanding “in particular is of such commanding import that it may be said to be the master concept. This is the concept of psychological maturity.
      We have known in a way about psychological maturity—but vaguely and intermittently. Its full meaning now begins to dawn upon us. As it begins to dawn, we realize that [psychological maturity] is central to our whole enterprise of living. This is what our past wisdoms have been leading up to. This, it would seem, is what we must now accept if we are to move forward out of the confusions and despairs of our day.”
      “Both in our private lives and in the social life of our times, we can begin to do a new thing: we can put a premium upon psychological maturity.”

      I'd like expert assesment of Overstreet's book and related ideas. I think James Q. Wilson's The Moral Sense (1993, rev 1997) is in the same spirit and perhaps better documented. Wilson quotes Prof. Orlando Patterson: psychologically the ultimate human condition is to be liberated from all internal and external constraints in one's desire to realize one's self."
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        Nov 24 2011: ''For example , society re-elects officials who behave ....'' or ''I think James Q Wilson's The Moral sense in in the same spirit...''
        Let me understand corect : do you mean that to be psychologically mature means to have a moral sense?
        If yes (it seems so ) how is that ? I mean I'm sure you know very well that there are many adoelscents who have a very acute moral sense and they are far from being mature psychologically for example , or there are many evil people who are mature (that's why their evil actions have effect).And I don't see how an advanced understanding is of a such capital importance for haveing a moral sense . But what do you mean by moral sense ? By it I understand: knowing to do the right thing (maybe that is our problem) .
        What I understand by psychological maturity is a special kind of awerness of the reality .

        (soryy for 'matur' instead of 'mature' ).
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          Nov 24 2011: I invoked Wilson not to bring morality into the discussion, but to point to a modern scholar who seems to support Overstreet’s view of psychological maturity.

          However, you appropriately extend to ideas the authors offer. The two books seem to agree: the infant, uninformed and dependent as he is, has moral sense. An immature society tends to ruin it. But the self-reliant person may undo the ruin and return to innate morality; few do. Both authors write to encourage moral excellence—a return to virtue.

          I think I experienced a “rebirth.”
          Reared in the Bible belt, my indoctrination into Christianity was heartfelt and strong enough to hold for 5 decades.
          But, as an adolescent, I read the threats in Revelation 22:18-21 and thought, “The God is not weak enough to threaten people.”
          Challenged to mid-40s Sunday school conformity—to recite why Jesus died—I responded, “Pilot, the Rabbis, and the people crucified him for their reasons. But, God would have approved their decisions to spare him.”
          Finally, when my sect, in Sunday school, condemned my Christian wife of another sect, I dropped out of Christianity, not realizing I was dropping out of religion.

          I share my experience not to discredit Christians or Christianity (including my wife’s) or point to hypocrisy by some people, but to illustrate my change from subservience to self-reliance: errant as I may be, I no longer contradict my mind and heart.

          Fulfilling precious doubt acquired as an adolescent plus vows to my better half (I mean better), I changed from Christian to human being and member of the community of living species. Of course they are on the spot when I ask, but my family says we are better off after my “rebirth,” from believing to admitting to myself I do not know what I do not know.

          I just interviewed my wife and my older daughter and they said the family is better off. (Thanks Eduard for prompting that review on this day. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.)

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          Nov 25 2011: Eduard, I came back to my notes on Wilson's book and think I should share more.

          When I read a book, I copy sentences I find important by page number and vertical location on the page: a, b, c, d, e. Here's a critical section from my notes:

          • xii c “People necessarily make moral judgments [that are] not arbitrary or unique to some time, place, or culture[;] we will get a lot further in understanding how we live as a species if we recognize that we are bound together both by mutual interdependence and a common moral sense. By a moral sense I mean an intuitive or directly felt belief about how one ought to act when one is free to act voluntarily. By ‘ought’ I mean an obligation binding on all people similarly situated.”
          • 2c “The argument of this book is that people have a natural moral sense, a sense that is formed out of the interaction of their innate dispositions with their earliest familial experiences.”
          • 6b “Culture will make some difference some of the time in the lives of most of us and a large difference much of the time in the lives of a few of us.”
          • 12c “To say that people have a moral sense is not the same thing a saying that they are innately good [but] are potentially good.”
          • 12d “Ordinary people . . . are dismayed both by the claim that somebody is in possession of the absolute truth about all moral issues and by the thought that somebody thinks that there is no truth at all about them.”

          Thus, in Wilson's informed view, an infant has moral sense but not moral excellence (virtue) yet has the natural potential to aquire virtue.

          Ralph Wald Emerson wrote about the delight of virtue in "Divinity School Address", 1837--forbidden reading, or notes from the American underground. :-)

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        Nov 25 2011: Thank you too.

        It's true that the psychological maturity depends on the potential of the people and also that it depends on the natural moral sense and it's evolution , but that's only one side of the real psychological maturity I think , I think it is more : it is a kind of awareness , and it has to do with the entire psychological structure of the people . I can't explain to well what I think but intuitively ....... .

        I really believe you are better off .

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          Nov 25 2011: Would you say that the will to be just is innate and experiencing justice may inspire moral excellence?

          I think that is the point of William Faulkner’s “Barn Burning,” about a 15-30 minute read: . However, I would not have written my question to you before this dialogue.

          Thanks for the good wishes, and the best to you as well.
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        Nov 25 2011: To all your comments Phillip I would say: the heart knows everything.
        If you can listen then if anything feels good it is good and when not then it isn't.

        As a child I was told that to do communion in church made Christ reside in my heart and would protect me from all evil. The story is true as always but to focus and trust you don't need their Christ but the all knowing force that connects us all; and you even don't need their communion but the communion with any fellow men you come across with loving understanding . Any man and woman is an unique expression of that one universal man that was given many names in history.

        Church is selling people what people natural do possess and claim it their grace, so anyone is at their mercy. If someone buys it and follow their lead it can work and tune that person to their heart but if someone starts to question the matter it appears to be fraud.

        Jesus would say: “Father forgive them for they don’t know what they do.”
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          Nov 25 2011: Frans, thank you for the encouragement for both me and my Catholic wife. Although I cannot speak for her, it is clear she looks past the Church to follow her heart and mind. She would rather cut flowers and maintain her personal faith than continuosuly study, as I do. She wisely states that I know no more than she does. She is not alone in that regard, and that is why I appreciate avowed Christians, even though I am no longer one.
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      Nov 22 2011: We appreciate your comments.

      You awoke me to vagueness in my statement, which ended with "by compliance," and I revised to: “Each person is better served by self-reliance within the community of humankind than by subservience to ideologies.”

      Thus, an individual “has obligation to [humankind], meaning a duty to participate, contribute, and to the degree necessary, to comply with [humankind’s] expectations.” It seems humankind would allow members to live in peace according to personal preferences: one likes white chocolate another dark; one works for his afterlife the other works for life; one struggles to overcome poverty while another strives to colonize space; and so on.

      Legislation that societies impose is excessive and expanding, because politicians compete to either accommodate all ideologies or favor one. The result is contradiction.

      For example, the USA, bemused by “freedom of religion,” strives to impose, “in God we trust,” to replace “E Pluribus Unum.” This is not a new contradiction; it has gone on since the religious majority in America used the deistic Declaration of Independence to trump the secular Preamble to the United States Constitution—some 222 years. In effect, instead of a republic (rule of law), as specified, the USA is a democracy (rule of the majority regardless of the law) yet rewarded by a judiciary that discounts the irresponsible "We the People." Irresponsible because they don't even know the Preamble let alone strive to fulfill it.

      By looking beyond ideological borders, an individual can help advance humankind, even though the society he/she was born into does not.

      One other point of gratitude to you: TED Admin saw the vagueness of my statement but brooked it until you took the time to respond.

      Edited to record the change Paul Lillebo refers to, below. Phil
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        Nov 22 2011: Phillip,
        I think you're right to clarify the question. But since I responded to a different issue than what now appears, I will delete my comment shortly, after just letting you know why. I think my comment as it stands would confuse later commenters who didn't see the original wording. I may get back to this later. Good luck and thanks for the input.
        Paul L.
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          Nov 22 2011: Paul,
          Of course I have to respect your wishes. However, I think the record of your precise correction of an omission I had struggled with for more than a month is worthwhile--not just as a credit to you, but as a triumph of the success of cooperative thinking that occurs among TEDsters.
          I beg you to preserve your fine contribution.
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    Nov 21 2011: Yes, basically this is what I am trying to say. As products of nature, up to some point we are absolutely similar to any other of its living things, even though each species have their own, different "agenda". We get to be born, develop into adult beings to then disappear. Up to here, where is the finality of life, and why are we here? Maybe, to come up with solutions to calculate and predict or control the future, but, in this case, we need to be something more than our predecessors on the evolutionary scale, conscious enough to control and dominate our self-destructive nature. Until here, religion and society played this role, and that is why people needed to be conditioned and submissive. But at some point in our individual development - and next, by cumulation of individuals, to be achieved at the whole scale of society - we need to take responsible control over our own will and destinies, so self-reliance is one step to take us there. I believe that up to some point the process is subconscious, and that there are at play unconscious evolutionary programs, which, similar to the DNA's role in the biological development, act as triggers to make us take the Big Dive into self-discovery. It usually starts with the big questions of life, as of who we are and why are we here. The process in itself is painful, and has been defined by the antics as a "symbolic death", where the old personality needs to die off to make place to the new, higher one. Jung describes it as the process of "individuation", where the old, ego-centered personality makes place to the new, centered around the soul. The resulting individual is "psychologically mature" and does not need neither society's whip (any form of coercion or correction), nor society's crutches (status, power, riches, and so on) to be well in his own skin. At this point, hubris gets to be replaced by humility, competition by cooperation - all for a higher good.
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      Nov 22 2011: Ms Jaber, it has taken me some time to try to digest all you have written, but here’s my best. I write to learn your reactions:

      Like other animals, humans are born, become adults, then disappear. The domestic cat species has repeated this cycle for 6-7 million years without societal change; pets can survive if banished to the wild. Like some animals, humans tend to form tribes. But humans divide themselves by doctrine more than natural benefits. Therefore, the tribes stagnated.

      Yet humankind progresses, because a few people break the “need for being subservient . . . and . . . give free expression to the more humane trait of self-reliance.” They “control and dominate [their] self-destructive” influences from “religion and society.” The will to become self-reliant is in our subconscious, and a growing portion of humankind is discovering psychological maturity comes not through coercion or crutches. Humility, cooperation, and preservation are fulfilling.

      Maturity does not come easily, because it requires “overpowering [subservience to our] emotions.” This does not imply denying joy and awe of reality, but rather that we appreciate shared nature rather than personal impulses. We have employed technology to “condition and manipulate tastes and opinions,” and must reform to “awareness to contain ourselves.”

      Omissions: First, I did not address “soul” and “deadly sins.” A couple years ago, I studied the idea of “soul” and found that Plato and Aristotle are credited with Western thought. However, it seems they were merely commenting on ideas originated by others. Unable to read the earlier thoughts, I concluded that ancient as the ideas may be, they are no more valuable than the thoughts in “Star Wars.” Like “Star Wars,” ideas, souls are mere intellectual constructs. (I do not know this but since having the thought cannot consider souls more than art.) Second, TEDsters apparent sins seem so far above Christianity’s seven deadly ones: the seven seem obsolete.
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      Nov 15 2011: Krisztian, I think Ridley's talk is related, especially regarding interdependency.

      Also, his is one of the most positive views of our future I have heard.

      Thank you,

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    Dec 11 2011: Phillip, thank you for your personal story. Matt also refers to self-reliance as poverty. In a great talk such as his it's difficult to justify splitting hairs, but I'm glad you also see the distinction from self-sufficiency is important. With the SunMoney strategy we focus also on Information Technology to bring the wealth of global knowledge to the communities we serve, and of course SunMoney is used alongside national money, so that they can enjoy the prosperity of self-reliance that is possible for small communities today.

    I've shared the vid you linked with our main collaborators, including the operations manager for World Bicycle Relief. If you visit my personal website you'll find three 3-minute vids I made in Pune, the nearest city to Pabal, illustrating the economic issues our model addresses.

    Thanks again, and I think it would be great if you are able to join us.
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    Dec 7 2011: Kathryn Schultz teaches my mantra: I don't know. I added her talk as "related."
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    Dec 2 2011: "I do not agree I admitted contradicting myself during our dialogue." - OK Phil. This and the following sentences were what gave me that impression: "John, recovering from self-contradiction is my hope." If you said that I'm lazy and I say I hope to recover from laziness, that looks like admittance.

    "As soon as it became clear to me that you were asserting I am a product of my experience, I agreed. If agreement upon clarification equates as contradiction to you, it's OK." - I didn't assert that, so I don't know what you thought you were agreeing with.

    "The idea reality is a dream is not interesting to me: when I am hungry I must eat--thirsty must drink. It’s OK for us to disagree sometimes, and it seems we are productive." - I put quite a bit of effort into discussing the possibility. You appeared to dispute or misunderstand it, so I explained it again. I asked you twice a very direct question in order to help you recognise the truth of my proposition or clearly show me why it was wrong. Suddenly it's "not interesting" to you? You won't answer it to tidy up a loose end or humour me, but just brush it aside? Come on, Phil, humour me. What's your opinion? Is it possible there is just the content of your experience, "dreaming" everything you take as real....or not. If not, why not?

    Your reason for finding it uninteresting insults the whole of philosophy from Socrates onwards (the unexamined life is not worth living). You eat when you're hungry? Philosophy for dogs.

    Yes, it's OK if we don't agree. Well it would be if you had an opinion with which to disagree.

    "it seems we are productive"! ... Er...not at this rate.

    I found a quote of Harry Overstreet's: "Better a dish of illusion and a hearty appetite for life, than a feast of reality and indigestion therewith." Is that like "ignorance is bliss"?
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      Dec 2 2011: John, I appreciate your effort to communicate.

      Note that to "John, recovering from self-contradiction is my hope." You added the hypothetical “I’m lazy . . .” My sentence does not admit, but asserts that I am in no position to judge—neither that I have recovered from Christianity nor that I am self-contradictory now.

      I'm on my way to a Christmas celebration with my wife's family and will review our dialogue when I return. I want to give my best effort to understand your point.

      However, taking risk to respond to another point you perhaps did not make :-) , if you are saying that I live in an illusion that is a product of my vision and hope, I could not agree more.

      Continually, things happen that bring my world crashing down around my ears. I won't go into social details, but they could seem pretty devastating. However, with each incident I think, often speak, "It's OK. It just presents us the opportunity to solve or face this in the best way."

      The latest physical devastation is that after building it 26 years ago, last month we realized our house--built on a slab designed to create a sort of boat, that could move in mass with moving ground--is falling apart; cracks everywhere. We think it is due to the draught. Beginning December 12, a company will install 18 piers around 70% of the house and jack the slab back to level or close.

      Do I get your point, perhaps including the social devastations I won’t describe?

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        Dec 2 2011: Thanks for your reply, Phil. It sounds like you're in the midst of some serious practical difficulties. I''m sorry if my challenges were either baseless or intrusive or both. What you make of them is your business. My part in the conversation appears futile to me. I wish you all the very best in whatever you do.
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          Dec 2 2011: John, I thought my message was quite positive. Life is full of surprises. The bad surprises give you opportunity to solve them.

          Did not mean to cut you off.

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          Dec 3 2011: John, this morning, I found the ideology: radical skepticism.

          I assert that, not knowing of this ideology, through my psychological maturity I withstood its challenges.

          Bertrand Russell wrote “Skepticism, while logically impeccable, is psychologically impossible, and there is an element of frivolous insincerity in any philosophy which pretends to accept it.”

          Have you ever encountered radical skepticism?
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    Dec 2 2011: Nicholas, thank you for making me aware of another viewpoint.

    I found the igonsticism article on Wikipedia and will study it on Saturday.

    On first reading, it does not appeal to me, because it focuses on God, one way or another, and I prefer other interests. I think the world is bemused by God, and that keeps individuals and much of humankind from taking responsibility and accountability for their behaviors.

    By all means I like "live and let live" and prefer "adjust to understanding."

    For now, I prefer Overstreet's "psychological maturity," recognizing goals that attract me--for example, humility, empathy, open mindedness, integrity, understanding, and embracing uncertainty--should be expanded. That could be a new conversation--listing the aspects of individual, psychological maturing--and I would include thoughts you would want included.

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    Dec 1 2011: Phillip,

    I feel creating a cultural anticipation towards our anthropocentric nature is a must for what you are considering... In nature, to survive, we needed to trick ourselves "we are the best" to make it through difficult adaptions. Today those same adaptions for survival are non-physiological concerns but psychological fixations. We should meditate on the fact, we are just the result of nature and that working with nature in our nurtures we will have a high level of "enlightenment-capacity."

    You are proposing that we need to self-enlighten [multiply self-actualization processes] before we are able to respond to, recognize and/or dissect communities (of any sort) openly, carefully, respectfully and broadly, no?

    I agree with the overall theme (of finding meaning in self and others), I find my process of doing so/such, coming back to two major labels "naturalism" and "ignosticism."

    Be careful with the phrase "psychological maturity" some can take offense to the phrasing. Personally, I think you should not use that phrase because we have no other species of humanoids to compare our level of consciousness with/to for the proper judgment of "psychological liminality."
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      Dec 1 2011: Nicholas, I appreciate your interest.

      I want to understand your message. By “anthropocentric nature” do you mean “thinking humanity is the most significant entity” or “regarding the world in terms of human values and experiences?” I think liminality has to do with natural limits, for example, we don’t really know history, because even immediate records are biased. Since I am trying to influence moderns and would even encourage them to mimic the best of cat intelligence, I want to consider alternatives to “psychological maturity,” Overstreet’s phrase (and others, e.g. referenced by J. Q. Wilson).

      I don’t think I am speaking of self-enlightenment as much as self-trust. If we consider each person’s perhaps 80 year opportunity, there may be stages, such as 1) infantile ignorance, 2) learning enough physical and intellectual ability to perhaps survive independently, 3) learning enough to enter adulthood, 4) exercising and establishing confidence in judgment, 5) understanding whatever reality draws your focus, and 6) embracing reality. Few people reach Stage 6.

      What I am asserting is that each person has the duty to self to progress as far as possible in this or a better life sequence. To fulfill the duty, the sooner each person learns to trust his own judgment, the better for him and for all living species. (Our cat Spunkie is better off because I am more mature than I was when Buckwheat came.) Each person who is indoctrinated in an ideology has no chance to experience self-reliance.

      In my case, my parents and community of birth indoctrinated me in Christianity. As an adult, I self-indoctrinated instead of responding to precious, adolescent doubt. Until early 50s I tried to persuade myself to attest to what I did not think. CONTINUED
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        Dec 7 2011: Phil,

        Ignosticism is the "religious anticipation" that all religions have common grounds based on; 1. we are all humans practicing religions, 2. Religions tend to follow a formula (or practice the rejection of formulas), and 3. We just may never know for sure, but let's not close any doors.

        Similar to agnosticism in the sense of 3. but not in 1. and 2. necessarily.

        Ignosticism claims to know we do not know, but if you have a good argument for it, let's have at it.

        God being some guy in the sky making judgments = human redaction.

        God being a force that drives me away from ignorance (as many others) = rationalizing goals and self actualization in response to others

        Irreligion dictates a rejection of religions, and I do for those religions whom do not practice openness in beliefs and faiths. I take the best of all. Thus I'm without a religion.
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          Dec 7 2011: Nicholas, please note the beginning and ending of your post:
          "1. we are all humans practicing religions" and "I'm without a religion."
          These statements seem in conflict or contradictory.

          I am not certain all humans practice religions.

          I think most humans seek understanding, which starts with making assumptions but ends with a theory based on evidence and/or discovery. Religion interferes with understanding, because an assumption is adopted without theory, evidence. or discovery and is used to build doctrine or ideology.

          What is your definition of religion?
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      Dec 1 2011: Continuation
      A major event changed me: people in my Christian sect asserted that my better half, my wife, was doomed to Hell, because of her differing Christian doctrine. I felt I was in a fork in my path and took the one away from religion altogether. I doubt I will ever assess that event with less than gratitude.

      I do not feel like assessing communities within humankind. I do not know enough. However, I would like to influence the world to practice, promote, and celebrate psychological maturity or the alternative term you might recommend. I would like to influence people to accept each other where they are, as they are on their respective paths toward psychological maturity.
      With such appreciation for each person, anyone who encounters someone engaged in indoctrination, for example, in suicide bombing school, might possess the empathy and means to encourage life instead of martyrdom. Any sacrifice of life could be discouraged.

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        Dec 1 2011: *By “anthropocentric nature” do you mean “thinking humanity is the most significant entity” or “regarding the world in terms of human values and experiences?”*

        It's not just thinking.. it's an unconscious anticipation (mechanism) that we are the most significant species, it is how we survived evolution and did not go extinct. So yes, we think we are the most significant but that is because any animal competes at surviving life.

        "Live and let live"

        Setting up an "elite" system of psychological "liminatities" is something that Buddhism does/did and I find their/that process similar to what you have stated is Wilson's ideals.

        I suggest Phillip looking for the other alternative (already existing) philosophies of "live and let live" as well as "all is change."

        Ignosticism towards religion, and information in general.
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          Dec 5 2011: Nicholas, I studied ignosticism and find it for me much to do about nothing, but do not object to other people's regard for it; it would be like objecting to someone's interest in Monet paintings or Faulkner stories or other art.

          God is interesting to me only to appreciate a fellow human or their art. Therefore, his/her defintion of God is what I accept for him/her. I prefer not to question the definition. I may have preferences regarding the intellectual constructs that result, if they have any impact on my life. For example, I regret the perception that love can conquer everything but religion.

          For me, there seems no need for God. My faith is in reality and I know I do not know what I do not know. If in reality there is God, my time to know that may come.

          Thank you for the opportunity to form an opinion about ignosticism, and I welcome further dialogue about it.

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        Dec 8 2011: : We practice creating personal belief systems, and if these systems are reflected on, anticipated for and lived by - that sounds very religious to me - rituals, community, positive stimulants, self-awareness... all not just qualities of religion but of what it takes to be euphoric with self.

        My entire point is that religion is not set in stone. Westerns practice Abrahamic religions far more then Easterns. Buddhism by no means is on the same par of religion as Christianity. To dictate "religion" needs to be fixed is a foul. Buddhism philosophies have proven to be near accurate to how our body actually works - thousands of years before brain scans.

        The meta-physical desire to seek answers to abstract questions is the result of us being able to not worry about survival for food day to day. But to worry about survival of the positive mental stimuli - those processes that result such end up being passed down as "knowledge" as we all would like to believe is accurate and justifiable.

        What if the religion taught people how to remain open, true, wise and humane.... I find that those religions already exist. They are just covered up by fundamentalist whom are allowed a bigger say, due to numbers - not by reason.

        Jesus - The Kingdom of Heaven - 1. A level of consciousness and/or 2. An existence created on Earth.

        Kabbalah - the mind and God - The mind holds the deity, but the deity is separated from the mind. Historically talking about unconscious nature and consious reality.

        It's a bit more probmatic than just the religions (even the fundamental ones). It's the systems, cultures and societies that harbor them. Creating differences based on superfictial fundamentals and not core fundamentals. At the core, all religions prove humanism due to the fact they require communities in order to BE a recognized religion.

        Other than that, we all create personal belief systems then creates patterns to form personal religions. "God and religion" should hold no empricism.
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          Dec 8 2011: Nicholas, I appreciate your response and way of living. I am glad we both take the time to consider these issues.

          Somehow, I think we have similar paths, yet I do not understand. Right or wrong, I prefer kindness and humility to religion.

          Perhaps there's clarity in the answer to this question: Which would you prefer to live by--ethics or religion?

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        Dec 8 2011: Phil,

        I been enjoying our back and forths, but...

        I do not see the exclusive nature of either ethics or religion.

        Ethics implies a system of moral considerations prior to performance,

        Religion could be the step up and make the consenual morality decision making into a tradtional practice into culture and community.

        I pick both because they do not clash with one another. Although it may seem that with neo-atheism and fundamental-Abrahamic practictioneers - battling it out on the philosophical spectrum.

        I find the entire debate of science vs religion - stupid.

        --- kindness and humility would be apart of your practices derived from belief systems - whether they are atheistic, humanistic, naturalistic etc - these are qualities of beliefs disciplined from the overall systems you accept and reflect on.

        Your personal religion would be similiar to many, if I may assume - naturalistic-existentialism.
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          Dec 8 2011: Nicholas, I'm glad you categoriezed this exchange: back and forths.


          There is no one similar to me. I am unique.

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        Dec 8 2011: I wish one could be entirely unique, just impossible too many individuals existing.
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        Dec 9 2011: Green is relative
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          Dec 9 2011: I agree: green is relative.

          2 apples plus 2 oranges is 4 fruit.
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          Dec 11 2011: Nicholas, you may have lost interest in our “back and forths,” and I have no objections to that.

          However, I want to emphasize my verb choices. First, I wrote, “green seems green.” When I asked my wife to consider, “green is green,” she responded, “chartreuse is green.” I asked her because I fear “is” and try to find all my “is” statements and consider substituting “seems.”

          Second, I hoped to debate “2 apples plus 2 oranges is 4 fruit,” which I have contemplated since reading Dostoyevsky’s Notes from the Underground, some twelve years ago; I would not use “seems,” yet doubt I understand Dostoyevsky.

          A thinker comes along who imagines that when he eats an apple and an orange, his body benefits as though he has also eaten a banana. He decides to study the question and devises a test. He eats an apple, an orange, and a banana every day for a year and feels good. Then for a year he leaves out the banana and feels as good. He concludes that an apple and an orange effectively add a banana.

          Enthusiastic about his “revelation,” he shares with someone who accepts the idea and stops eating bananas. This second party shares his choice with other people and some also stop eating bananas. They share their groups’ insight with the proud statement: 2+2=6 to attract other people to the “revelation.” The community of people who stop eating bananas constitutes a religion, especially if it survives the next generation and more.

          To me, this illustration of the difference between discernible reality and intellectual construct (4 fruit versus 6 fruit) is no more preposterous than the ancient idea that the Earth’s sun is God yet the persistence that God exists. We suffer having gone to war on a President’s word of God!

          Thank you again for your contributions to this conversation.
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    Nov 30 2011: Phil, you seem to keep contradicting yourself. Psychological maturity, to my mind, is increased over time by forming a personal philosophy that has a minimum of self-contradiction.

    Some confusion may have arisen. Of course, on one level, I can say I know that grass is green. But if we are to have a clear, full philosophy, we should examine everything, including the basis of all our other knowledge. I put it to you again to consider as honestly as you can: the content of your experience *might be* the only thing happening, and there is nothing you can do to prove otherwise. If you can prove otherwise, tell me how.

    Of course, pragmatically, I don't operate from that viewpoint. It is LIKELY that other people exist and most of the stuff we share about wavelengths of light, my name being John and the non-existence of unicorns is relatively reliable. I bet *some* philosophers of science would agree.

    Without this understanding it is easier to fall into the trap of thinking things you know are obvious and clearly different from things you don't know. You say you resist belief and urge me to do the same, then you tell me all these things that you consider true.

    "When the earth’s axial rotation discloses the sun tomorrow morning, try telling yourself it could be a unicorn. :-) See if you take it seriously." You have just demonstrated the problem. People appealed to Galileo to contemplate a still day and see if he could take it seriously that the Earth was spinning on its axis and hurtling through the universe orbiting the Sun.

    You consider a lot of things to be true, yet claim to resist beliefs as they tend to close the mind. You say you would not change anything about me, yet encourage me to reconsider. You resist calling yourself an atheist, preferring "non-theist". You equate a scientific fundamental law with "supreme being", "sin" (obsession with which you consider "deadly") with "error". So many contradictions and conflation of terms. Very confusing.
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      Nov 30 2011: John, recovering from self-contradiction is my hope. De-indoctrination in Christianity took at least my sixth decade. (My misfortune: friends like Ty Keller have, since childhood, avoided ideas they had to persuade themselves to believe.) It would not surprise me if I need another de-indoctrination, so, let me review your premise and see if there’s light.

      Brielfy, I don't believe intellectual constructs.

      I do the noble work to understand (not "learn the truth") and either accept understanding, make a choice, or form an opinion. For example, I understand the sight of my hand, prefer dark chocolate, and think Star Wars--the theism--is fiction. I agree that’s my experience. It’s much like “I think: therefore I am.”

      Regarding grass looking green, I depend on impartial evidence. There are other people’s observations, records on cameras of various designs, automatic spectrometers, etc. Experience? Yes. Mine alone? No.

      Understanding the literal falsity of “the sun also rises,” is critical. Regarding such minutiae, it takes not honesty, but integrity to do the work to understand. These are not matters of belief: they are evidence based observations/discoveries.

      My commitment not to believe does not address evidence and discovery, wherein belief is futile: it addresses intellectual construct. For example, a Yogi tells me that after 30 years practice, he achieved the ability to converse with his former reincarnations. He is talking about a phantasm and an intellectual construct. I have no further interest in his presentation.

      I ask you to reconsider (“elaborate” was a better word) as a means of communicating. On Gell-Mann’s talk, I am not equivocating, but rather noting other views about evolution following laws and random events. Gell-Mann also does not know.

      I appreciate your ideas (some remind me of Alan Watts’, The Book) and hope there is some light on why I accept atheists and theists but prefer for me the label “non-theist.” :-)

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        Dec 1 2011: I'm pleased you recognise that you may have been self-contradictory in some of your statements. I don't mean to offend or bully, just share my honest experience of you, but I think you understand that. And it was partly because of your express goal of integrity of philosophy that I challenged you. You're aware of it, and are courageous in facing it. I - of course - am fallible too, and it is your judgement that matters.

        At the same time, your wishes for integrity - as you put it, "the human goal is perfection, meaning no self-contradiction" - struck me as a tall order for anyone. I'm struck by how serious you are, how epic this search for understanding seems, "the noble work". It was for me for a long time. It was all-consuming. I've accepted that I will probably never know the meaning of existence.

        Challenging you and reading your response, I feel part of the issues are my misunderstanding. It's not clear what I'm learning, but it's like I'm tuning in to meanings I didn't think of before. For instance, "Brielfy, I don't believe intellectual constructs." I wonder if this is an expression of exactly something I agree with myself, but you have a different way of putting things. You might mean that there are happenings going on that defy accurate description - you believe in those, but not the descriptions. You see, in another sense, there's nothing else for a philosopher but intellectual constructs. "I do not believe in intellectual constructs" is an intellectual construct. "Grass is green" is. The actual grass molecules...maybe are actual.

        Here's what your reply boils down to on the solipsism possibility (the proposition that you might be imagining everything): "Experience? Yes. Mine alone? No." Isn't that begging the question of whether other people are real? Can you prove you're not dreaming them?

        Maybe I'm confusing you. Tell me to stop if you've had enough of my nonsense!

        I've not read The Book, but The Wisdom of Insecurity is good.

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          Dec 1 2011: John, it’s alright that you think it, but I do not agree I admitted contradicting myself during our dialogue. I admitted being on the constant hunt for it, because I experience how difficult it is to climb out of indoctrination, as in Christianity.

          As soon as it became clear to me that you were asserting I am a product of my experience, I agreed. If agreement upon clarification equates as contradiction to you, it's OK.

          BTW. If there is any message from experience I would like to convey it is this: Greater love has no person than this: to give up his self-indoctrination because it damns other people. My Protestant Sunday school class for married couples painlessly spoke of my Catholic wife going to Hell because of Catholic doctrine. My reaction to that situation is rare and worth sharing: I dropped out of religion to become a human and member of the community of living species.

          I wrote about “evidence and discovery, wherein belief is futile.” Perhaps my statement was too mild. “Stupid” might be better than “futile.” My standard example is Albert Einstein creating his “cosmological factor” to force his mathematics to support belief in a static universe. Proven wrong (by Edwin Hubble), he called it a “blunder,” I suppose not thinking of “stupid.” Einstein tried to force an intellectual construct onto reality.

          I am glad you mentioned The Wisdom of Insecurity. Amazon has the first pages online; in the second paragraph Watts writes, “This book is an exploration of the law [“whosoever would save his soul shall lose it.”] in relation to man’s quest for psychological security, and to his efforts to find spiritual and intellectual certainty in religion and philosophy.” My guess is that the rest of the book would convince that in psychological maturity one embraces insecurity. I agree.

          The idea reality is a dream is not interesting to me: when I am hungry I must eat--thirsty must drink. It’s OK for us to disagree sometimes, and it seems we are productive.

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      Dec 1 2011: John, I listened to a marvelous talk this afternoon, and there are notes from a telephone interview with the presenter, Lesley Hazleton. Here's the first Q&A:

      You describe yourself in your TEDx talk as an agnostic. Some people see agnosticism as wishy-washy indecision. What does it mean to you?

      Ah, but that wishy-washy hang-dog I-don’t-know-ness is not agnosticism at all. That’s just evasiveness. Real agnosticism is a solid intellectual position. It’s a recognition of human limitation. A position of great integrity (okay, you can accuse me of hubris right here!) And a fine safeguard against the inhumanity of certainty. Unless you are under the illusion that the bearded old man up on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel is anything other than a visual metaphor, no matter how divine his musculature, you really have no idea exactly what God might be. When the issue is God, or the Divine, or whatever term you want to use, we’re talking about something that is by definition beyond human comprehension. It is the ultimate unknowable, and that’s its grandeur. That’s the whole point! [laughs] So to argue about the existence or the nonexistence of God is absurd — very humanly absurd, but absurd all the same — since it can be neither proved nor disproved. There are times, I think, when most of us get what I call a glimmer, maybe an intimation of something larger. But to go from intimation to certainty — that’s really presumptuous. As an agnostic, I acknowledge the limitations of my knowledge. I’m not saying “I don’t know” so much as “that is unknowable,” at least by me. It’s a position of inquiry rather than belief.

      Hazleton spells out why I am not an agnostic: I do not know that the fact about God's existence is unknowable. Suppose humankind perfects itself? In perfection, hamankind might know either God or the fundamental law.

      I am so glad our discussion inspired me to search TED talks using the word "integrity." Hits before Hazleton were not really helpful.

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        Dec 1 2011: Yes, that's a good example of someone choosing a word that represents a section of the continuum I talked about - of confidence. If the reality of the situation is that we have confidence in any proposition from 0 to 100% (absolute certainty it is false to absolute certainty it is true), it is inconvenient to keep using those numbers for things. The Pope, for all we know, could be 98.5% theist, meaning that his doubts about God are at about 1.5%. Richard Dawkins might have the odd I-wonder-if-I've-got-this-right moment and could, if we could measure it, be 99.9% atheist.

        So, according to Hazelton's reasoning, the Pope and Dawkins should both call themselves agnostic, as should everyone in between. That, in some rarified philosophical air, makes perfect sense. It also fits perfectly with the view I've been talking about, that I might be/have the only consciousness anywhere, and so should be "agnostic"/not-knowing on every issue - green grass included.

        Unfortunately, this problem of the pragmatic function of language immediately shows up in the above: "Ah, but that wishy-washy hang-dog I-don’t-know-ness is not agnosticism at all. That’s just evasiveness. Real agnosticism is a solid intellectual position." Oh yeah? This says nothing except "certain other people who call themselves agnostic are evasive and wishy-washy, whereas my use of the word means I'm clear in my acknowledgement that I can't know". The I-dont-know-ness is the same.

        The logic above also means that the devout worshippers in the church must call themselves agnostic as well because they recognise they have fallibility (maybe we'll forget the Pope for now) and Dawkins and the other horsemen of the apocalypse must, if they accept they don't have access to absolute truth (I'm not sure about Dawkins yet!).

        We can observe that red blends seamlessly into blue without having to call everything purple, and people have different views about where the dividing lines are.
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          Dec 1 2011: John, I really like this essay and hope Hazleton reads it. I think she would appreciate it as much as I do.
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    Nov 29 2011: Phil, thanks for that longer description of the process for understanding, which I think I understand. :) The whole thing is a philosophical puzzle, however. Every time I think it through there is nowhere on which it all rests. The materialist viewpoint does seem, at least by default, to provide a fundament of sorts, albeit full of chaos, indeterminacy and other questions at the smallest and largest dimensions.

    What I mean is this: any process for understanding involves inherent assumptions. We can make it sound neat, and present assumptions as stages of developing knowledge (hypotheses, etc.) to be refined or corrected later, but the methods by which they are formed also depend on other hypotheses, making the whole thing recursive. To illustrate: what we think we know could be true, a shared delusion or the projection of my single mind.

    Now, on the one hand, this very strongly supports your view that belief gets in the way of further perception and should be avoided. On the other hand, that itself is a belief, and we can not avoid beliefs. When you talk about phenomena or perception or theory or testing, they are all complex ideas riddled with belief.

    The above has led me to two positions:
    1) Belief, view, position, theory, idea, etc., are all fundamentally the same thing, models of reality, to which we can ascribe degrees of confidence on a continuum. This is in contrast to saying "conjecture good, belief bad", or "conjecture unproven, fact true", etc.. Science depends on prediction of observations from the model and testing reality (whatever that is) to see if they show up. Only bad scientists think that's proof.

    2) Politically, what people believe is much less important than what they do (notwithstanding that beliefs influence behaviour). This fits with the E pluribus unum principle, of which I'm a big fan, although I prefer "Unity in Diversity" to transcend the USA historical connection and because Latin is dead and English very much alive.
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      Nov 29 2011: John, it seems to me the objections you state, “chaos, indeterminacy and other questions at the smallest and largest dimensions,” are products of humankind’s impatience with discovery. Your arguments, for me, affirm the value of admitting to self, “I do not know,” when you do not know.

      Discovery rises above belief. For example, discovery of a dinosaur bone is not affected by belief. However, observations are affected by blief.
      Consider for example, the earth is like a globe. Some ancient men who fished the oceans perceived the earth was a globe, yet did not have the language to think so. By the time the language developed, some mean perceived the earth was flat. But they could not impress the ocean people; they certainly could not impress moderns.
      Again, most species of grass is green when growing. It reflects light in a wavelength that has been given the name, “green.” There’s no perception involved, unless the beholder thinks so.

      But many modern men cannot conceive of multiple universes. I have not met anyone who would say, “I believe there are multiple universes”: everyone is satisfied with “I don’t know.” It is such a remote, impersonal question, no one really cares. So why isn’t the question of a supreme being similar? Why isn’t “I don’t know,” universally attractive?
      Isn’t an element of self-reliance the ability to admit to self, “I don’t know,” when you don’t know?
      Regarding politics, I am not a fan of diversity and unity, unless the inclusion is total. When someone asks me, “What are you?” in the context of religious association, I respond: “I am a human and member of the community of living species. Also, I am a US citizen. I do not plan to further reduce my association within my lifetime.”

      I have put a lot of energy into the Preamble to the US Constitution and think it is a good starting point for ascertaining how to accommodate all living things. America has sorely neglected it.
      Your ideas are very thought provoking. :-)
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        Nov 29 2011: "Discovery rises above belief. For example, discovery of a dinosaur bone is not affected by belief." - I don't understand how you can say this, unless you mean that a person can pull up a dinosaur bone, not knowing what it is. But why would you call it the "discovery", rather than just the lifting of an unknown object. It also would not qualify as "discovery rising above belief", but just lacking understanding. No-one can say they have discovered a dinosaur bone unless they have formed opinions about what bones are, what dinosaurs are and what discovery is. Those opinions are beliefs.

        You appear to keep stating that I should say "I do not know" when I do not know, but we do not know anything at all. We have particular degrees of confidence in our opinions, that's all. We do not know that grass reflects green light, or that light exists, or that evolution happens, not a single idea in the history of ideas can we say we are certain of, only that we are confident of some and less confident of others. So what am I to do, repeat that I don't know anything for the rest of time? I don't know if gravity is true, but I would rather leave the house by the door than the window. The whole of human endeavour depends on suspension of disbelief, at least for anyone who has reached this philosophical position - ordinary folks mostly don't ever question what they know, and think they know everything they know because it's obvious.

        I was watching a documentary just the other day in which a cosmologist (I forget who) said that the infinite universes model of reality is probably much more likely than we think, and the best theory we have at present, so he wasn't satisfied with "I don't know" in relation to that remote impersonal question.

        "We know that things and life exist" - no, we don't. There could just be your mind dreaming the whole thing. You could be disembodied pink unicorn having a hallucination. So that's something else you don't know.
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          Nov 30 2011: John, I appreciate your viewpoints and energy to share them and would not change anything about you. I respond to what you have written, not with the intent of convincing you to follow my path, but hoping to understand what I think I read about your path.

          Yet, I would encourage you to reconsider whether we know anything or not. The color of typical, growing grass is green. We know grass reflects light, because it is not green in pitch black and a different shade of green in moonlight, on a cloudy day, etc. We can use a spectroscope to measure the wavelengths of light reflected from the grass under differing climatic conditions. And the names of the wavelengths are factual, because researchers named them. Your name is John and who could argue that?

          When the earth’s axial rotation discloses the sun tomorrow morning, try telling yourself it could be a unicorn. :-) See if you take it seriously. Yet you may smile that the sun is not rising. :-)

          By all means, accept that I am sharing and learning, not teaching. However, your message inspired me to read your profile again, and I wonder if you have studied the philosophy of science (my text was Cecil J. Schneer, early 1960s). Just one book on that subject would give you confidence about things we know. But, we have people in outer space as we converse! How did they get there and stay there if we don’t understand gravity?

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          Nov 30 2011: John, just now I listened to a great TED talk for this part of our dialogue:
          This brilliant man makes the case, for emergence, there is no need for the supernatural. I doubt that implies that there is nothing that controls what is, which I have been refering to as "supreme being." He talks about a "fundamental law" that all laws follow.
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    Nov 27 2011: Hello Phillip, this discussion is strangely fascinating to me. Your posts here and elsewhere are strangely fascinating to me. There are things I support and that even connect us in our life experience, making me feel a fellow-feeling towards you, and then there are things that are so alien to my way of thinking that I am tempted to argue, or rather, offer an alternative view.

    Briefly, as it's late here and I should go to bed, one thing that is similar is our response to Buddhist gurus and their affirmations (I was trying to be Buddhist for much of my adult life). In a curious way, however, you and I did "kill the guru" - that is a way of saying that we became self-reliant, rather than following the guru's instruction any further. On the other hand, the divergence from Buddhism isn't what their metaphor expects of us! I like to joke that I was searching for Enlightenment, and in rejecting Buddhist teachings I found Enlightenment (the period of modern history: what I came to value instead of spritual Enlightenement was empiricism, reason and the scientific method).

    For now the one question I have is why perfection? Your thinking seems very serious and you seem to express a personal goal of psychological perfection, as well as a wish to help it flourish worldwide, if I've understood you. Also, why "sin" (or perfect lack of it)? You seem to reject Christianity, in that you reject the soul, yet you say "It’s only when a sin controls life that it becomes deadly". In my view, there is no such thing as sin in the sense of a psychological attribute that can be abstracted from events. Simply, events can be useful or damaging of particular objects or persons. Why reject "soul" and still torment yourself with "sin" and "perfection"? Isn't good enough good enough?
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      Nov 27 2011: John, your ideas rescue me.

      I equivocated: "sin" with "error." To me, "sin" is a clerical (ministerial) term that I do not condone. I prefer "error."

      It seems to me, we are in similar situations.

      But I try to avoid the word "science." It invites thoughtless opposition/pride from believers.

      In some of my posts I speak of the “process for understanding.” Its elements are very similar to the “scientific process.” The difference: in the step after listing assumptions that might explain a perceived phenomenon, there’s an option to adopt one of the assumptions and develop doctrine on it. The doctrine is religion. Thus, by focusing on “understanding,” I am able to show that assumption is part of the process, but adoption of an assumption may be erroneous and the consequential intellectual construct undoubtedly develops error and contradiction. For example a jealous God is loving.

      Yet, since reality is not known, the singular assumption may be valid: There is a God. Thus, my understanding about the existence of God is this: I do not know. However, a person who claims they know may have made the correct assumption. Since I do not know, I cannot object to their claim. Yet, it's good not to follow the doctrine they develop.

      Now, to consider your one question for this evening: Why perfection?

      In my limited awareness of human kind’s quest, perfect awareness or knowledge seems to be the universal goal. For example, you can get kicked out of Eden if you demand knowledge.

      One way to address that challenge is to understand all you can about reality and at boundaries admit to yourself, “I do not know.” Within the limits of an 80 year lifespan, doing the work to know what can be known about the parts of knowledge you can address and to recognize what you do not know may be perfection. Along your path, relish good behavior to maintain perfection.

      I appreciate your help and also need to retire. Let's keep a dialogue.

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        Nov 27 2011: Phil, thanks, good answers. I'd be pleased to keep a dialogue going. The help is mutual. Hi to mirella, too: your posts have been interesting. The character limit is a little irritating.

        On the use of terms, "error", "science", etc., I think I understand your position. My preference is to conform to the usual names for things and leave anyone's reactions as their business. On the other hand, if the consequences of using a word are particularly unhelpful for your purposes, using another seems good. I imagine you may have to contend with more defensive/proud listeners than I do, or you care more what they think. I live with a Christian partner too, BTW. It is in conversation with her that I am most aware of choosing my words carefully. We each respect the other's right to their views, but I think we would also like to change the other's to ours!

        I agree with the main proposition, "each person is better served by self-reliance within the community of humankind than by subservience to ideologies," with the qualification that those are not opposite conditions, nor are they the only options. The way I think you mean "self-reliance", it is very important as we mature; in another sense, it is impossible: humanity involves interdependence.

        I like your description of your "process for understanding", including admitting "I do not know" at the boundaries. I guess I've come to think of everything I know as falling somewhere on a probability scale, but always short of 100%. In that sense, it's all boundary to me.

        "In my limited awareness of human kind’s quest, perfect awareness or knowledge seems to be the universal goal" - I'm not sure if you mean you *consider* it the best goal, or just that everyone else seems to be seeking it. The latter wouldn't express much self-reliance. It's a fine goal, I just felt that you might be placing rather high demands on yourself.

        I don't understand what you mean by "you can get kicked out of Eden if you demand knowledge".
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          Nov 28 2011: John, what a delightful message, especially your appreciation for mirella’s posts. They are marvelous and will remain whether TED survives or not.

          About my focus on terminology, it’s not a preference for alternate terms, it is an effort to penetrate the communications blocks accepted terms create. For example, to a religious fundamentalist, “science” is like a red flag to a bull. Red makes the bull want to smell the blood of the flag bearer. Another: “faith” blinds an atheist: “Oh, no. I’m not a man of faith. I’m a man of reason.” In my writing, I deny “science” by using “understanding” or “technology” or “research” in the appropriate forms, respectively. I leave it to the listener/reader to struggle with the absence of “science.” Actually, no “science” does not create a problem, as far as I can tell.

          Everyone understands “understanding,” and in fact, it is a better vehicle than “truth” or “the truth.” However, few are informed of my friend Hugh Finklea’s observation: the process for understanding (verb) leads to understanding (noun).

          I agree; there are few evidentiary facts. I like to write the earth is like a globe, averring it is not a sphere.

          I am not obsessed with perfecting myself, but it seems more attainable now that I am not a Christian. My last post to you expressed my view of it better than I would have expected, and I am delighted you challenged me so. I will say this: It is my commitment to never say a cross word to my wife and daughters and I think that is an achievable goal for the remainder of my life. Achievements beyond that are unlimited.

          Adam and Eve lost residence in the Garden of Eden because they wanted to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. :-)

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          Nov 28 2011: I neglected to mention that my wife might say, "Your "I don't know" seems about on par with my appreciation of the mysteries." She seems to understand my way without compromising hers. Yeah for us!
        • Nov 28 2011: phillip i agree with your frustration with people who focus on specific words so much that they fail to find the point of what has been said.

          regarding anger i too used to feel exactly the same way about my students. long story short (it's come up more than once on ted!) the first time i got angry at my students i felt absolutely terrible for a whole week, then discovered the positive effect it had had on them. i don't mean to say that people should get angry, but that anger, like praise, has its place in aiding the education and development of young people.
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        Nov 28 2011: Whoops, I just saw you already changed the statement to include "self-reliance within human interdependency".

        Certainly, I believe it's good for people to work out for themselves what they believe rather than choose other people's doctrine without thinking about it, or suffer deliberate indoctrination.

        I wonder if Dan Dennett's idea is relevant. He says that every child should be educated in the beliefs of different religions, not in the sense of indoctrinating them, but as anthropological facts. I guess the idea is that exposing them to some of the vast array of different systems enables them to see religion as relative, and probably also see its function as a cultural phenomenon as they learn scientific understandings of human culture. I think he mentions it in

        I forget how lucky I am to live in such an enlightened country, where kids can talk freely in the classroom and playground and go online and discuss all this stuff with their mates and we don't have to worry too much about reason rising to the top of their minds. I guess the USA also allows some of that, but there's a lot of hard-core religious indoctrination within the family and in schools that the adolescent and adult mind can struggle to overcome, or just never dares question. My granddaughters get taken to church and told about god, and I tell them I don't believe a word of it! The funny thing is that I wouldn't dream of telling them the truth about Father Christmas.
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          Nov 28 2011: Many parents who introduce their children to Santa face the challenge, "My classmates teased me and said that Santa is not real. Were they correct?" Only one of 3 children asked, and I answered, "The person is not real, but the idea is." I wanted to protect her from further concern and assure family integrity. Fortunately, I protected myself for the follow-up questions. My response, complete with errors, follows:

          “Santa is a personification - a fictitious person created by people to represent an idea: goodwill toward all people.
          Most people naturally would practice goodwill always but sometimes err. Most cultures have a traditional event to recall the practice of good will. In the Christian community, that event is Christmastime, during which they celebrate the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. The wise men carried gifts to the baby Jesus.
          Giving gifts to children is a feature of many traditions, including the Christian tradition. In Christian ancient history the patron saint of children was St. Nicholas. Some Christians, to make gift giving anonymous, named St. Nicholas the surrogate gift giver. Santa is a synonym for St. Nicholas, and we need not go into why a second name was necessary.
          Santa is a personification that is accepted beyond the Christian community, especially by the business world. However, the role of Santa is to remind ourselves to exercise good will toward people - people of all communities and traditions, including ourselves, year round.
          My 8 year old daughter responded, "So the gifts marked 'from Santa' are really from you and Mom, like my classmates said?"
          I answered, "Yes."
          "Mom put cookies out and you ate them?"
          She softly said, "Thank you, Dad," and went to thank her mom.

          There was no "humbug."

          Gifts from our daughter have always been thoughtful and novel. Nearly 30 years have passed and at some point during Christmas-eve dinner she shouts with glee, "Let's hurry! I want to see what Santa brought!
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    Nov 26 2011: Mr Philip: In answer to your talking of TEDsters, that they are above temptations: "TEDsters apparent sins seem so far above Christianity’s seven deadly ones: the seven seem obsolete", I have to acknowledge that I, personally am not yet above them: I still have a large share of those biblic sins. It's been a while that I have been trying to post back an answer to your last one, but, because of the posting restrictions to only 2000 characters, my numerous attempts have failed (even cut/paste). At the same time, I cannot drive myself to reduce the volume of my answer (1450 words). One can easily read here gluttony (I cannot have enough of a thing, here, words), greed (something as before), sloth (I wouldn't get myself to right a shorter answer), anger (why on earth do not they allow us 1400 words), envy (you have posted more than the allotted 2000 characters) and pride (I am proud of having things worthy of sharing). In the hope that I can some day amend to those traits of mine, yours faithfully, Mirella Jaber :)
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      Nov 26 2011: Dear Mirella Jaber, the human goal is perfection, meaning no self-contradiction.

      TEDsters (you are one) are above the Seven Sins, not because you never err, but because practicing those sins is not your focus. It’s only when a sin controls life that it becomes deadly. (When my pre-teen children were freely viewing a sex flick they bought at a garage sale, I told them that nursing carnal appetites would ruin their lives.) Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote in “Divinity School Address,” that Jesus’ message is that each human being is destined for perfection, morally low as he/she may be, yet that destiny may be ruined by doctrine. I like RWE’s Jesus better than Christianity’s Jesus.

      As to frustration with TED limitations, here’s my practice. I write in Microsoft word. When I am trying to respond to someone as kind and sharing as you, I copy their post onto my Word-file to address it. I try to write concisely to address everything.
      When I think I am finished, I copy my response to the clip board and paste it in the TED response block. If I have exceeded 2000 characters, I go back to Word and edit, then back to TED, repeating until accepted. When I hit Submit, I quickly review and if necessary, hit Edit. I go back to Word to edit, and then recycle to the TED response block. When I am pleased with the submitted post, I delete the Word-file.

      If you can spend no more time on this conversation, you have been a wonderful teacher and I will look for your posts on other subjects. If you respond more, I will be glad.

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    Nov 26 2011: It basically says that when we come into this life we are a complex of physical and subtle, non-physical aspects. In as much as we can affirm that we can know and delimitate the body, it is then possible for us to know our physical dimension (a very relative assertion), but as long as we are still bounded to this physical perception we cannot access more subtle aspects of ourselves – briefly, the soul and the Spirit. In it might enter our mental activities, our intellect discrimination – power of decision, or will-power – and the impersonal spiritual happiness, translated in what we know as our being connected to the universal Spirit.
    Their mutual interaction can be explained by the example of the computer – based on a modern interpretation of the ancient knowledge (Bhagavad gita 13.3) as follows:
    our gross physical body can be compared to hardware; the next one in terms of subtlety is the subtle/astral body - the software, then our ego (our self-identification, ahankara) to the interface, the prana to electricity, and the soul (jiva, or atma) to the user; above all supervises Paramatma, a “system operator” that controls a network of many computers which may be the human society as a whole (and not only that)- in our concept, God, or whatever name we can give it.
    And, of course, the functionality of this system in continuous interaction with the material world strictly depends on the condition of our bodies, like degree of maintenance, age, health, abilities and so on. What’s more, and our western religions do not agree with, is that when one gross body is completely out of use, the functionality is not there anymore, and, therefore the reason for this body – then jiva (the soul) has to leave it through the process we know as death, and for the next stage, in accordance with the system’s laws (Paramatma, the super-soul, or Spirit, or God, or Universe), a new destination (body) is being assigned, process known as reincarnation. “For indeed our consciousness doe
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      Nov 26 2011: Eastern culture seems built on intellectual constructs about the soul. The constructs convince people who merely want to live in peace that they should have a guru to teach them about their soul. Many become voluntary slaves to gurus.

      For these reasons, I would not give a moment's thought to ideas or claims such as those of Tibetan Yogis, for example: see .

      As a member of the LSU Collegium for Science and Religion, I helped host a Saturday seminar on Zen Buddhism. A speaker advocated dedicating yourself to a guru until you become so informed that in order to advance you must "Kill the guru," meaning, become self-reliant. I asked the speaker, "Why not 'Kill Zen Buddhism?'" He did not respond. But none can dissuade me from self-reliance.

      There is insufficient time in my lifetime for me to follow a guru. I must focus on my own psychological maturity. I want your seven virtues to be obvious in my behavior.

      I forego interest in spiritualism for inspiration and motivation, which I find everywhere in the real world and therefore have no interest in other worlds.

      Yet, I could be wrong. Therefore, I do not wish anyone to follow me. Let them focus on life or soul, or life and soul, depending upon their own minds and hearts. Let them be self-reliant.

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    Nov 26 2011: It seems that, going back in time to study human society it becomes easier to understand the need for rules and regulations, as maybe back then populations were less conscious than populations are today. By reducing human errors to the basic seven sins, the Church only made a synthesis of what was available back then in terms of ethics – woe to those who, with time, finished by getting overly zealous and fought human weakness with scourges (Inquisition, mercenarism, bigotry, etc) worse that the evil itself.
    In fact, I wanted to say that, with good will and awareness, we can turn gluttony, greed, sloth, anger, envy and pride into moderation, chastity, charity, diligence, patience, kindness and humility (if only there was enough motivation).
    Next, I did allow myself to use the argument of the soul because I strongly believe (better: I know) that our weaknesses are being fed by our egos (very useful for a “local”, limited stage in human society’s progress), and that, as our passage to the next stage we can only perfect ourselves (progress) by letting go of the ego and replacing it with a more universal, “whole” personality centered not around the ego, but around the soul; as a concept, it comes under many different names, but I just want to delimitate it to that aspect of us which is not the body.
    Actually there is this ancient, very rigorous and structured ancient knowledge from the Vedas that seems to me quite explicative and pertinent, in my opinion.
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      Nov 26 2011: Your list of opposites to the seven deadly sins is quotable. Let me call them seven virtues that typify someone who has achieved psychological maturity.

      Soul might be the best vehicle, but it seems to me a distraction from a moral noble cause: achieving psychological maturity within your lifetime.

      It seems to me the better perspective about "soul," is this: I don't know whether soul reflects reality or not, but in my short life, I have not a moment to spare for speculation about it. What other people have to say about soul is of no relevance to the use of my lifetime: I’m focused on behavior grounded in psychological excellence. I am self-reliant in this.

      The idea that errors of the fathers are passed on from generation to generation begins with the emphasis on soul, which one way or another keeps peoples distracted from psychological maturity.

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    Nov 26 2011: Mr Philip,
    I acknowledge that I am myself dismayed at the amount of comments that I have posted in response to your question – I must have let myself going, animated by a subject that touches me at a very personal level.
    For the greatest part your account of my response is accurate, with a few exceptions - I can only regret that I hadn’t made myself clearer.
    The real sense of my words is not that “Maturity does not come easily, because it requires “overpowering [subservience to our] emotions.”, but what I really wanted to say was that maturity does not come easily because it requires emancipation from under the “overpowering [subservience to our] emotions”, among many other things.
    Next, I reminded the sins in the Bible only as a quick and widely known reference, not wanting to send you over to previous codes of ethics that date as back as the codes of law in Babylon, Sumer, India, Egypt, etc. In the Dharmasuttras subjects are tackled on various aspects of social life:

    “intense disputes and divergent views on such subjects as the education of the young, rites of passage, marriage and marital rights, the proper interaction between different social groups, sins and their expiations, institutions for the pursuit of holiness, crimes and punishments, death and ancestral rites. In short, these unique documents give us a glimpse of how people, especially Brahmin males, were ideally expected to live their lives within an ordered and hierarchically arranged society” (from: Dharmasutras: The Law Codes of Ancient India - Oxford World's Classics)
    (I can recommend also: h ttp://
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      Nov 26 2011: "I am myself dismayed."

      I hope I have not burdened you and in fact you are gratified for the opportunity to share with a serious adult student. Your qualifications and dedication to the issue is obvious. Therefore, I don't want to miss one point you raise.

      Other of my obsessions include "education of the young," and use of religion to oppress women and children. Thus, your references are dear to me. In fact, I have my own fiction regarding Abraham's abuse of Sarah in not revealing his plan to murder his son, and of the son's termination of the act when he cries out, "Dad this is not going to be your sacrifice! It's going to by your murder of me!"

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      Nov 24 2011: I appreciate your compliment and the opportunity to share ideas.

      I learned long ago that fidelity’s reward is ever increasing joy that some people terminate by choice.

      I hope someone will experience lasting joy with you and have the same wish for my adult daughters.

      I hope many young men read my statement: fidelity brings rewards variety cannot touch. Of course, I do not know but do not want to risk our joy.
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    Nov 21 2011: What is being intended by "psychologic maturity" is achieving a level of personality where we should be free from the entrapment of any conditioning, be it of our biological drives or from the overpowering rule of emotions. This is not supposed to mean that we need to transcend to the "level of the spirit", it only means that our physical processes ensuring our existence should take place consciously and not compulsively. Instincts are nature's programs to help us cope with survival challenges and fulfill our duties towards our species in terms of survival and perpetuation - so far, nothing different from the rest of the species with which we coexist. Only, with an increase in our mastery over the resources on this planet our drives and ambitions have come to interfere and conflict others, both other humans and other living beings. We came to believe lately that we can get along enjoying life without putting any restriction to our hedonistic drives, although ethics and religion have been warning us all along against them (without being quite a religious adept,I invoke here the seven capital sins of the Bible). Today we are a global society whose impulsive nature is powerful enough to endanger life on earth if our consumerism and global economic - political ambitions go unrestrained. Basically, our advanced knowledge - however academic - and our technologies did not free us from under the overpowering drive of our emotions or impulses. So far we have only been using them to condition and manipulate tastes and opinions, to create more, unsustainable "well being". Yes, we might very well put it as having been acting "unconsciously", in as much as unconscious "id" (immediate satisfaction) and the unconscious part of our ego (self-centeredness) have been in the drive seat lately. And yes, I can increasingly see a pattern of awakening to our true nature, that of Conscious Creators, with the necessary awareness to contain ourselves before we rule the universe.
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    Nov 20 2011: What I mean, in all simplicity, we are still beings animated by instincts, on our way to fulfilling our best potential of "humane beings", ruled by the divine power of will and reason.
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      Nov 20 2011: Using Merriam-Webster online, I think you have said we are animated by the subconscious and follow the ultimated goodness of personal preference and reason.

      (Not to object to your words, but to try to understand what you wrote.)

      Did I understand?
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    Nov 20 2011: Phillip, I believe that our current society is still tarred by the long history of evolution in which the biological dictate: "be subservient to the Alpha members of your group, or else...", was all there was (and still is) to keep one alive and going. Just look around, wherever you are on this planet: if you want to succeed - and by that, I mean have a face and a voice - you need a few things: to belong to the right group (family, tribe, clan), right political party, right religion. In short, if you are "one of us", or, better said, "one of them" it is way easier to make it. Consequently, subservience is automatically instilled with all means, beginning with the family (that would want their offspring to succeed in a hopeful atonement for all their failures and frustrations) and the school, to the religious, political and social institutions. Unlike any other species, where only the best specimens of the group get to be selected, we have created a false law of selection that, potentially, may get us to our undoing. Just look around, and see that our "Alpha males and females" are not the best exponents of those human traits that we would like our species to perpetrate in the best interest of our species and that we call "humane". We are the result of eons of programmed subservience that we need now to de-program, and this is hard. Unfortunately, or, maybe, fortunately, with un-precedented incidence we see these days examples of defeat and reckoning that are acting as de-validating factors to such formulas of "success"; individuals and groups with overly selfish and greedy agendas get to be held accountable for their deeds. This increasingly puts out there the message that the "id" and the "ego" eras are revolute, and that the dawning of an era of more balanced personalities, with open ears to the voice of the super-ego is already on. The need for being subservient is no more, and one can afford to give free expression to the more humane trait of self-reliance.
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      Nov 20 2011: I think you said that after millions of years in subservience, humankind is at the cusp of maturing.

      Did I understand?
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    Nov 20 2011: Revision before 11/18/2011:
    Each person is better served by self-reliance within the community of humankind than by quest to fulfill subservience.The human path is not easy: New infants are uniformed, illiterate, inarticulate, sexually diffuse, self-centered, and dependent on a conflicted society (Overstreet). Societies encourage people to become subservient to a god or a philosophy and a family and a country and a career. There’s almost no time to “know thy self.”

    Each person’s window for self-discovery is a singular path embedded in the concurrent 80 years of humankind’s 6 million years’ progress (involving perhaps 100 trillion people). The adolescent’s path lags humankind’s maturity, but the adult may surpass humankind; Bill Gates seems to be a leader.

    Through understanding, motivation, and self-reliance each human has the potential to lead. Perhaps people who accept hope, humility, and uncertainty develop the necessary skills.

    In addition to H. A. Overstreet's book, The Mature Mind, two TEDsters helped inspire this presentation.

    1. Matthieu Mossec’s conversation, “Morality is better informed by science than it is by religion.”

    2. Leslie Saunders’ phrase “independence within interdependence,” in the conversation, “It seems the conversationalists herein have relegated the golden rule to the world’s list of bad ideas.”
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    Nov 16 2011: The original statement, revised 11/16/11:

    Human governance is better served by self-reliance within human interdependency than by quest for subservience.

    The human condition is fraught with uncertainty.
    New infants seem ignorant, illiterate, inarticulate, sexually diffuse, self-centered, and dependent on a conflicted society. (See H. A. Overstreet, The Mature Mind, 1949.) Will a newborn achieve psychological maturity? Does humankind promote psychological maturity?
    Humankind, apparently the most sentient species, employs understanding; motivation and inspiration; and coercion or force to manage society. Each human has the potential to become independent—self reliant—unyielding yet contributing. Each may imagine without trying to force reality to conform. Regardless, reality marches on.
    Each infant’s path to its maturity is concurrent with the latest 80 years of humankind’s 6 million years’ progress. The individual’s early path, lags humankind’s maturity, yet the adult may surpass humankind. People so mature lead humankind, and, for example, Steve Jobs seems to have been a leader.
    In the past, humankind has interpreted unknowns as evidence of higher power, but understanding slowly eliminates some evidences.
    Humans seem to be more aware than any other species, and partially in charge of the other species. Many humans perceive a higher power is likewise in charge of humankind. In response, they submit their destinies to a higher power of their choice—live in quest of subservience.
    Is the society of humankind better served by quest for subservience or by self reliance within human interdependency?