[extropy-chat] protecting progress

Jef Allbright jef at jefallbright.net
Sun Feb 18 04:40:36 UTC 2007

Thomas, during our few email exchanges, I have repeatedly felt a strange disconnect.  Each time it seemed that you tried to fit me into the role of "The Man", the abusive authority figure, or maybe just some cold rationalist who dangerously doesn't get it.

I sensed the tension, figured it probably had something to do with your background, and then I made an error in judgment: I decided to take the emotion out of the discussion by putting on my rationalist hat.  Since this is the extropy list, and that is my most comfortable hat, I naively proceeded to respond to your words, while neglecting your message, and what I should have recognized as your own communication style different from my own.

I'd like to try to start over.

>From our discussions I see that you're an artist at heart, that you're passionate about creating a more just world for everyone in it, and you're not just talking about some abstract concepts--you've experienced and personally felt some of the unnecessary pain that exists in this world.

Thomas wrote:

>>> I get pleasure from our conceptual commerce and
>>> tolerate a fairly high gradient of cognitive
>>> dissonance. 

Thanks, I too enjoy the sharing of new ideas and testing of some long-held views in this online venue. I guess we all have to deal with our daily share of "cognitive dissonance" in today's world, full of competing interests and pretty much lacking in harmony.

> Context matters.  I don't appreciated fanatical
> suicidal violence against progress and I don't
> think myself a moral coward to avoid violent
> confrontation.  That I tolerate verbal friction
> (here with you) demonstrates at least a mild
> appreciation of the merits of constructive conflict.  

As for the friction, I really do hope we're generating more light than heat. ;-)

As for fanatical suicidal violence, I'm afraid it's a phase in the development of humanity, which, if we survive it, we can hope to come out the other side a little bit wiser than before.  In the meantime, many suffer for this short-sightedness.

> 1. I appreciate the conflict.  

I value conflict *only* in defense of principles leading to greater growth in the direction of our shared values that work.  (A mouthful, I know.)

> 2. Is this coming to you as plain text now?  I'm
> sorry.  I don't see the nonstandard quoting style.
> I'd be happy accomodate if I could see what you see. 

You seem to be using Mozilla-based email on a Macintosh.  The problem is that you're still sending in HTML.  There must be settings for plain text, your desired number of characters per line, desired quoting character (">") and so on.

>> My point to you today, and last time we touched on
>> this, is that the difference between persuasion,
>> coercion, and force is little more than context.
>>  Can you show me a clear dividing line?  Likewise
>> for conflict and competition. It might help to keep
>> in mind that no such categories actually exist in
>> "reality"; they are only artifacts of our attempts
>> to make sense of our shared observations.

> Jef, I grant you all the above except two 
> words: "little more."  Speaking in a discreet context
> (volitional human commerce) those terms differ
> significantly. 

Yes of course these terms differ significantly, but (maybe I just don't understand your point) it seems to me that even within the arena of "volitional human commerce" distinctions between persuasion, coercion and force can be blurred and distorted across that entire range.

>> Morality in its extensible sense hinges on an effective
>> understanding of context. Violence in one context can
>> be seen as irredeemably destructive and thus immoral.
>> The same violent actions for a "right" cause can be seen
>> as morally good.  But it's important that you don't
>> confuse this "morality within context" with ungrounded
>> "moral relativity."

> "Good" violence relies on prior "bad" violence and it
> really doesn't make it "right," does it?

I can't imagine myself ever arguing for "good" violence, but at times I will argue that violence may be the best choise for a good cause.  I can't be sure whether you're trying to taunt me here or whether you sincerely believe that I would hold such a view.

>  What makes revenge such a sacred idea?

Well, there's plenty of justification in the Bible. but I don't hold that view either.

> It certainly won't get us off this planet.  We can
> understand it per EP, but for the sake of progress,
> we'd better stop sanctioning it and turn to prevention
> and healing.  

Well, I agree with this, Mr. Prosecutor, but it sounds a lot like the infamous "When did you stop beating your wife?"

> Calibrating question:  Would you choose to use deadly
> force to protect your family if you could see no
> practical alternative?

> Why would someone who espouses increased awareness
> hand me a context of awareness of horror only, who
> champions expanded future interests limit me to no
> alternative, who seeks effective principles of
> interaction offer me the principle of deadly force
> and ask me to calibrate my morality to such a
> context?  Jef, lets not discuss morality outside
> the context of choice.

I think I lost your cooperation before we got to this point.  The question certainly does involve a choice, and my reason for asking it was to try to better understand where you're coming from.  I keep getting the impression that you believe that such hard choices are never really necessary, and that you think I'm somewhere between dangerously misguided and just plain evil for arguing that sometimes they are both necessary and moral.

<snipped several lines where it seemed that the discussion had fallen strongly off track.

> Free happy people don't become suicidal fanatics.

I would never imply otherwise.  I'm sorry that you were left with that impression.

- Jef


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