Re-reading Viktor Frankl's Man’s Search For Meaning: Writing In Spite of My Schooling
Starting with Viktor Frankl's quote about attitude learn how the stories we are told, and tell ourselves, create who we are.
28 June 2007
Re-reading Viktor Frankl's Man’s Search For Meaning: Writing In Spite of My Schooling
27 June 2007
It turned out to be the single most popular activity of all! With the enthusiasm of the kids generating three separate trips to accommodate the demand (and
Dennett does a fantastic job of laying a solid groundwork for treating religion as a valid topic for scientific inquiry. His exploration of and critical insights into the strengths and weaknesses of relevant scientific studies is very valuable. What is even more valuable for the over-all enterprise he is proposing is how he has posed key questions that need to be answered in order for real progress to be achieved. My critical remarks stem from differences in my way of understanding how the different concepts of God relate to each other and what constitutes religion (obviously influenced by my Unitarian-Universalist faith). Thus, my remarks are directed more to the premises that he built his arguments upon, rather than the arguments themselves. Although I don’t think my shift in premises alters his arguments or conclusions very much, I believe if my points are true then the results will provide a much stronger foundation for broader understanding.
First of all, I understand all ideas of God as human ways of comprehending and dealing with the unknown and the unknowable. Since there are always forces and effects in the world that we suspect but cannot verify, cannot directly experience or in some cases can not experience at all, then we have a problem. The problem is that these are categories that we have concepts about but cannot deal with in any concrete literal sense. I am drawing on my understading of
I am sure Dennett is not entirely averse to what I have suggested so far based on this quote:
In religion … the experts are not exaggerating for effect when they say they don’t understand what they are talking about. The fundamental incomprehensibility of God is insisted upon as a central tenet of faith, and the propositions in question are themselves declared to be systematically elusive to everybody. Although we can go along with the experts when they advise us which sentences to say we believe, they also insist that they themselves cannot use their expertise to prove—even to one another—that they know what they are talking about. These matters are mysterious to everybody, experts and laypeople alike.
[p. 220, italics in original]
On the other hand, critics of religion, such as Dennett, are right to criticize those who abuse the roles of social authority that have developed to help people to deal with the unknown-and-unknowable. This puts religion in a distinctly different category of endeavor than science. Religion will always be the appropriate institution to deal with the inevitability of mortality, what is the ultimate cause of all that is, and all the other true Mysteries of existence. Science deals with what we can know and is the best method for discerning what is verifiably true in human experience.
Given this view of the categorical distinction between science and religion then they should work hand in hand to provide people with appropriate information and experiences to assist in the process of living and dying gracefully. Religion is the keeper of the Mysteries; responsible for taking best advantage of the human proclivities revealed by science in order to keep the Mysteries in moral perspective for living according to the dictates of Goodness, Truth, Beauty, Joy and Unity. Religion is the proper place to deal with ineffable experiences that cannot be truly shared. Science is the keeper of knowledge and investigator of mysteries; responsible for informing Religion of the most effective methods of doing their job and helping to assess how successfully we facilitate the well-being of individuals, groups, societies and ecologies.
It is important to distinguish the concepts of God that are used in everyday thinking and reasoning about the unknown-and-unknowable from the social concepts and institutions that we use to mutually support our moral choices of action.
The concepts we use to think and reason individually on an everyday basis about the unknown-and-unknowable naturally fall into a simple matrix of 4 distinct conceptual modes. As we think and reason we have to remember or assign qualities to anything that we wish to consider. If we are considering a child’s building block, a literal physical object, we simply recall our perceptions of it’s hardness, color, texture, and other qualities and then based on our understanding of those experiences we think accordingly. If we are attempting to deal with the unknown-and-unknowable then we obviously have to assign qualities and then reason using the qualities assigned in the hopes that we have assigned particular qualities that are sufficiently accurate that the actions we choose then result in the achievement of our goals.
In regards to the unknown-and-unknowable there are two key assumptions that lead to distinct and useful categories:
- Does it have qualities that are human-like, or not; is God personal or impersonal?
- Is it a force in the world or beyond the world; is God immanent or transcendent?
Based on assigning these qualities we can easily and usefully classify a number of theological concepts. When the unknown-and-unknowable is assumed to have human qualities and is a force in the world then the resulting concepts are Theistic. When you assume that the unknown-and-unknowable is impersonal and beyond the world then your concept is Humanistic. The combination of human qualities that are beyond this world gives us Naturalism and the opposite gives us Mysticism. (This framework is based on
Dennett is a Humanist attacking Theists for immoral activities that they justify based on their theology rather than actual concrete benefits to the well-being of society. Dennett mostly skirts around the Mystics and the Naturalists though his ideas of folk religion and spirituality may be close.
I believe Dennett’s exploration would benefit from taking on this framework as a premise because it is immanently testable and would provide him with a useful continuum for putting his own views in perspective with the other views that he may not agree with, but concedes are likely to be benign if not beneficial.
The challenge that he ultimately poses, which is at the heart of all human activities not just religious ones, is the morality of the actions we choose. He proposes that everyone of a particular religious faith should take responsibility for the actions of those who profess that faith. Thus, he believes that all Christians are effectively responsible for the actions of the radical elements of Christianity that bomb abortion clinics and that all Muslims are effectively responsible for the radical elements of Islam that encourage suicide bombers. This is problematic because of these faiths are not singular monolithic organizations that can be controlled or held accountable, they are a vast pluralism of different organizations.
Morality is fundamentally about creating and maintaining well-being for us. The variations in moral values are based on having different ideas of who is “us” and how we should go about achieving well-being for our group. There is no question that everyone is trying to behave morally, but there is wide divergence about what constitutes the proper moral assessment of the success of our various actions, especially in the actions we take as a group via agents who are supposed to act on our behalf.
So the question is, How do we make a proper assessment of our own and others actions with regard to well-being? There are two primary approaches that I am familiar with, literal application of explicit rules and the imaginative application of principles. The literal application of explicit rules has been generally assumed to be correct. The Ten Commandments, as a iconic example, are most often taken to be literal rules for living. However, as anyone who puts more than a passing effort into moral philosophy finds out, there is an immense amount of difficulty that quickly arises.
More recently in the cognitive sciences, according to Lakoff and Johnson in Philosophy in the Flesh, they have found that human brains are simply not wired to make effective use of the literal application of explicit rules. The way we are wired to think is more consistent with the imaginative application of broad principles. This is known as virtues ethics and we can take the same set of Commandments and treat them as principles to be applied according to our good judgment of the details of each situation. (See Mark Johnson’s Moral Imagination, The University of Chicago Press, 1993) Beyond the moral deliberation of individuals in their own minds the key to morality in society is participating in moral discussions to discern how principles are best applied under changing circumstances.
Here’s what Dennett has to say about participating in the moral discussion (although he was talking more specifically about the immorality of unquestioning acceptance of the proscriptions of religious leaders):
… adopt[ing] the moral teachings of one’s own religion without question, because—to put it simply—it is the word of God (as interpreted, always, by the specialists to whom one has delegated authority) … should be seen to be making it impossible for the rest of us to take their views seriously, excusing them from the moral conversation, inadvertently acknowledging that their own views are not conscientiously maintained and deserve no further consideration.
[p. 295-6 italics in original]
Dennett has drawn a clear moral distinction between those who are willing to engage in the moral discussion and those who are not. He is clear that our moral views must be “conscientiously maintained” not just settled once and for all. Regardless of the morality of the resulting action, if you are not willing to enter into the moral discussion then you have abdicated your moral responsibility. He continues:
The argument for this is straightforward. Suppose I have a friend,
Notice that this stand involves no disrespect and no prejudging of the possibility that God has told you. If God has told you, then part of your problem is convincing others, to whom God has not (yet) spoken, that this is what we ought to believe. If you refuse or are unable to attempt this, you are actually letting your God down, in the guise of demonstrating your helpless love. You can withdraw from the discussion if you must—that is your right—but then don’t expect us to give your view any particular weight that we cannot discover by other means—and don’t blame us if we don’t “get it.”
[p. 296-7 italics in original]
This brings me to a key question that I have been asking lately, how do we assist people to understand that participation is the key to moral behavior? Where do they get to practice the process of moral discussion?
What I find in the UU faith is a place to participate in moral discussions. The Uncommon Denomination, as we are becoming known as, is the place where we are pioneering the participatory methods of democratic religion. Ours is a participatory religion that facilitates the discussion in which we all have the opportunity to participate rather than writing a script to be performed on command. We do not have a common creed, we have common principles and a multitude of sources that we draw upon to make our decisions to act in the world. What I found at the General Assembly of the Unitarian-Universalist Association was a forum for moral discussions in which we are holding ourselves accountable for not just inviting all people to participate, but trying to discover how to make participation welcoming and enjoyable as well. We are taking the lead on creating a world that works for all beings, not just some. We identify ourselves with all of creation, not just the parts we like.
By coincidence I found
25 June 2007
The strength of the scientific community is the ability to progressively transform not only the answers they give to questions but to also progressively transform the questions that are asked. In the example of evolution the naïve question is, “How can individual organisms of one type beget organisms of a different type some generations later?” The question itself is pointing us in the direction of looking for clues to the mystery of species diversity in an individual or in the type of individual that we have chosen to put under consideration.
The conceptual mapping of the question itself has implied the scope and nature of the answers that would be relevant, but the genius of more current evolutionary theories is framing the question in terms of the populations, not individuals and dispensing with the notion of types by acknowledging that all “types” are arbitrary constructs within our minds not in the world. This is a completely underwhelming observation to those of us who are naïve about populations and the problems of types because we will automatically conceive of the population as a meta-individual with the same kinds of properties and qualities that we expect of a single individual and types as natural qualities of the world. The problem is the difficulty of breaking the habit of conceiving of something in our usual default way. Even if you understood what I just said, there is no reason to believe that you can actually change how you think from only one isolated explanation, therefore your naïve concepts will continue to mislead you. Thus we arrive at the central problem of being an expert versus being naïve.
The evolutionary idea may be conceptually great for biology, but it is next to useless for those who do not have the ability to shift their conceptual tools for understanding at will. In fact, I have fallen into a naïve trap in the last sentence by referring to an singular “evolutionary idea” when the reality is that what I am considering as “an idea” is the complex emergent result of a cacophony of contributions by a diverse population rather than a singular monolithic item. While I will continue to refer to it in the singular for convenience, I also know that in reality there is no such thing. The same is true of referring to a generic idea of “creationism,” there is no singular idea, only a dynamic plurality of ideas that are complex and difficult to comprehend entirely.
An expert perceives accurately, thinks clearly and makes appropriate decisions based on their chosen purpose, meaning that they are consistently good decision makers. The naïve person tends to fail at one or more of these tasks. I say “tends to” because of what most people refer to as beginner’s luck. Sometimes, despite their own limitations, a novice will turn in a performance that seems utterly brilliant. The difference is in their consistency, the expert is consistently able to make good decisions, whereas the beginner is just lucky.
For example, if you want to understand biology you have to be able to see the difference between the naïve view of a divine creation metaphor and the more expert view of an evolutionary metaphor for explaining biological phenomena. It is not necessary for me to posit the truth of either of these views because that is irrelevant here. They are both metaphoric conceptual structures that have varying degrees of useful application within the phenomenal world of biology. Creationism does not contribute to biological understanding or meaningful predictions of biological phenomena plus it is a view that children easily comprehend, therefore it is naïve. The evolutionary view is in the expert category because this view has made the most substantial contribution to the ability of biologists to make meaningful predictions and continue to conduct substantial inquiries that contribute to the improvement of our understanding of the phenomena of life and the reality of how living things exist.
Creationism and evolution are both true to some degree, but the question is whether each is useful under a particular set of circumstances. For parents explaining the forms of plants and animals to young children it is perfectly true to say, “God made them that way.” For a biologist to say that to her colleagues is absurd but is still perfectly useful even to the biologist who is also a parent. Of course, the biologist parent should also share some appropriate level enthusiasm for the scientific style of inquiry that helps to discern how God continues to achieve such magnificent artistry.
Which brings us to the question of expertise and naïveté in education: I believe that defining education as the delivery of knowledge, skills, and information is naïve. The biologist parent would be wasting time if she simply delivered accepted biological dogma to her child. The creationist parent is equally wasting time if they simply deliver the accepted creationist dogma. Both parents would be negligent of they did not also delve into the reasons why their particular view helps them to be a better person, either a better biologist or a better follower of the creationist religion. The delivery of the information will be useless data until there is some context of meaningful relationships into which the data can be inserted in order to become useful.
I propose cognitive cartography as a more useful metaphor for developing expert understanding of education. The biologist parent has highly developed methods of relating to the world through the field of biology. The field provides a way of relating to certain kinds of experiences in order to make predictions and extend the stories of explanation about the phenomena that the field takes into consideration. In each person who has some expertise in biology is a conceptual structure in their mind that helps them to navigate both the phenomenal world of living things and the field of biological inquiry itself. What makes biology both useful and intellectually satisfying are the rich relationships that it helps to develop. The data of biological studies are merely the most obvious manifestations of those complex relationships and it is relationships that are useful and provide satisfaction, not the data alone. What would be educational for the biologist’s child is experiencing the passionate relationship the parent has to the biological stories that make sense of the wondrous phenomena that the child experiences. It is only within a rich set of physical, emotional and spiritual experiences that the mental data from biology can become useful. It is how the field enriches the life of the whole person that is important to convey to the child, not just the obvious data that it generates.
The same educational point is true for a creationist parent. It is not the data contained in religious texts and ideas that make it a useful pursuit. It is how the religious community enriches the whole person that makes it useful and highly valued. (It is just a crying shame that the religious community and the field of biology are so misguided about how they each interpret data differently to believe that there is a conflict between them. They are simply expressing different and inconsistent values about how to relate to apparently similar data.)
Both cognitive cartography and the delivery of knowledge, skills and information are metaphoric conceptions, but I believe the former has much richer possibilities for developing meaningful predictions and conducting more substantial inquiries into appropriate educational practice.
19 June 2007
As a song says, “There are images around us in everything we see, some are real and some are fantasy.” What are students mapping if they are mapping reality? (refering to Practical Philosophy)
I have concluded there are three kinds of reality; subjective reality, objective reality and embedded reality. The first, subjective reality is the default perspective that we, as humans, are wired for but is generally agreed to be somewhat misleading. Subjective reality takes the obvious fact of our conscious awareness as the central aspect of reality and looks at the world as being entirely manifested by that consciousness.
The second is one that has emerged as a very powerfully effective tool for apprehending subtle phenomena as attested by the extraordinary success of scientific technologies. Objective reality takes the subtle fact that we can arrive at certain shared understandings of what is real to be more real than any individual understanding. That is to say objective reality relies on the development of widely accepted social proof of what is real rather than any individual decision or opinion about reality.
The objective perspective has recently revealed itself, through the disciplines of cognitive sciences, to be an illusion, as well. The illusory nature of objective reality was revealed by the fact that, contrary to traditional assumptions, we do not perceive reality directly. Rather, what we come to understand as reality is entirely mediated by a complex system of neural filters between the actual “objective” event in the world and our ability to have any meaningful kind of awareness of it.
The third perspective is an emerging one that is not even in general awareness but it is a view that takes our biological embodiment to be a fundamental aspect of our reality and looks at the world from the perspective that we are embedded in a continuum of levels of reality corresponding to different levels of objectively accepted phenomena. That is to say that what is real is made up of (at least) atoms, molecules, cells, individual organisms, communities, societies, ecologies and a planet. In order to describe reality you have to be able to account for how any given phenomenon affects the different levels of reality, how that phenomenon is structured at any given moment, how it’s existence is patterned through time and how it participates in the variety of processes of change from one moment to the next at the different level’s of existence. This perspective is a synthesis of the objective and subjective perspectives because it acknowledges that there is an irreducible complexity in reality and the best we can hope for is arriving at understandings that serve to enhance our well-being rather than cause our ultimate demise.
Even this new perspective is known to be an illusion, but that is not a bad thing. It is an illusion that is a better for understanding the world than either a purely subjective naivete or a purely objective expert perspective. Better in the sense that it is more useful for ensuring our well-being.
So, how do we know what’s real? The short answer is that we don’t. We are simply unable to ever totally and finally determine a distinct boundary between what is real and what is not. Fortunately, we do have a pretty good idea of how to tell what’s real for most practical purposes. The advantage of the embedded perspective is that it can ideally incorporate both the subjective and objective perspectives as useful tools for discerning how to proceed.
So to answer the original question, what students are mapping in my philosophy of education is their own experiences and how they understand them matched against how other people understand their experiences. Teachers are charged with the task of developing a sufficiently trusting and intimate relationship with their students to encourage broad comparisons and mutually assist in refining their processes of making, using, and maintaining their internal maps for effectively navigating in life. Schools are meant to be institutional support mechanisms for the development of this kind of relationship rather than either a way to simply ensure subjective experiences of happiness or meet arbitrary “objective” standards.
The focus of the relationship that develops between the teacher and student is not meant to be focused on the personal interactions between those two people, but on the relationship between the student and the reality in which s/he is embedded. The teacher is presumed to be more skilled at organizing their own mind using the three different perspectives at appropriate times to ensure that they are perceiving accurately, thinking clearly, setting appropriate goals, and taking effective action. The teacher and student work together to observe the expectations that the rest of the world has for them including any objective standards that need to be met, they will record the patterns of subjective experience that help or hinder meeting those expectations and then work to align the different levels of reality to best facilitate meeting the standards in ways that are consistent with the goals and aspirations of the student.
13 June 2007
What’s the deal on capitalism? I have recently been thinking on this idea because I read an Orion article that does the usual capitalism bashing while advocating for the deeply spiritual value of work that is not tainted by the nastiness of mega-corporate soul-sucking greed. I posted three contributions to the discussion, then when it was getting interesting and I tried to post a fourth reply I was delivered an error message that said I was “not authorized to perform that action.” Since I want to consolidate my thoughts and have no patience for a stupid web site malfunction I shall vent my brain vapors here. [FYI- I succeeded in posting my thoughts of Jun 13th on Jun 28th and noted the cross posting.]
In my way of understanding what makes up a human society there are three basic components: consciousness, how we think about ourselves, others, the world and the relations between all of them; power, how we govern our own and other people’s behaviors for the common good; and economics, how we exchange goods with other people to get what we need.
In the article White refered to ‘capitalism’ but I can’t figure out what he really meant by the term except as a generic reference to all the bad things in the world today. We can’t stop exchanging with others to get what we need but he explicitly suggested that ‘capitalism’ is an all pervasive idea that must be eliminated without offering an alternative.
As best I can tell in the absence of a more concrete definition of what he meant by capitalism, it sounds like he was saying that “the humans among us” [a reference to what I take to be some elite group of people who are too enlightened to be either corporate slaves or masters] are the only ones who are really going to accomplish anything, and not by boycotting corporations or by being concerned scientists, but by living in some mysterious way that does not involve any of the bad things that capitalism does.
I wholeheartedly agree with most of his judgments about the bad things in the world today, but I believe the moral obligation of social criticism is to offer people more than a very long litany of complaints about the state of the world and just a scant few suggestions.
I appreciated his thoughtful reflections on how we play out the organizing principles of our society in modern work, but I want to discern the specifically ‘capitalist’ forms of exchange from other forms.
(end of first post)
(Since my thoughts continued to develop I took a stab at answering my own question about a week later.)
Capitalism, at face value as I understand it, is simply a system of allowing individuals to solicit the capital they need to start a business from anyone they choose with a minimum of interference by the government. Global corporate interests love to abuse the term “capitalism” as a catch all phrase for everything good about how they got to be rich and powerful. It appears to me that this abuse of the term gets inadvertently perpetuated by the opposition when they are duped into taking that bait and opposing the demon ‘capitalism’ instead of the immoral behaviors of the corporate interests. For those who abhor the behavior of global corporate interests to demonize “capitalism” as a description of those behaviors is to fail to recognize what is really going on and give global corporate interests the advantage in talking about the issue.
I am curious about the definition of capitalism because I suspect that the term is pretty useless if it is merely a code-word for all the bad things done by the companies that make up just less than half of our economic system.
“Fully 99 percent of all independent enterprises in the country employ fewer than 500 people. These small enterprises account for 52 percent of all
workers, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). Some 19.6 million Americans work for companies employing fewer than 20 workers, 18.4 million work for firms employing between 20 and 99 workers, and 14.6 million work for firms with 100 to 499 workers. By contrast, 47.7 million Americans work for firms with 500 or more employees. U.S.
“Small businesses are a continuing source of dynamism for the American economy. They produced three-fourths of the economy's new jobs between 1990 and 1995, an even larger contribution to employment growth than they made in the 1980s. They also represent an entry point into the economy for new groups. Women, for instance, participate heavily in small businesses. The number of female-owned businesses climbed by 89 percent, to an estimated 8.1 million, between 1987 and 1997, and women-owned sole proprietorships were expected to reach 35 percent of all such ventures by the year 2000. Small firms also tend to hire a greater number of older workers and people who prefer to work part-time.”
Are anti-capitalists opposed to the following benefits of our current system?
“In terms of social cohesion:
- small businesses serve as an entry point into the economy for new or previously slighted workers: women-owned small businesses, for instance, generate nearly a trillion dollars in revenues annually and employ more than 7 million workers;
- small businesses increasingly generate entrepreneurial opportunities for minorities, which census data show as owning 4.1 million firms that generate $695 billion annually and employ 4.8 million workers;
- small businesses bring economic activity to distressed areas: about 800,000 companies (90 percent of them microenterprises) are located in the poorest areas of the 100 largest
- small businesses offer job satisfaction and autonomy: studies show that most businesses are started to improve one's condition, rather than for lack of an alternative, with some half a million new businesses started each month.”
I would be surprised if most avowed anti-capitalists are opposed to these kinds of opportunities for people. It seems to me the real question is not what to call the system of economics that we live with, it is figuring out if it really expresses our values.
I value respect, responsibility, and resourcefulness. Therefore, I want every one to have ample opportunity to put a company together because they have the gumption and enterprise to provide goods and services to others. In a system of free enterprise, where this is true because the barriers to entering into business are very low, anyone can start a company by appealing to their friends, neighbors, and their entire social network for the support they need, financial and otherwise. When the system respects the initiative of individuals, the individuals are supported with a clear set of legal requirements for being responsible about doing their business, and the individuals can be creative and resourceful about how they accomplish their business objectives, then I support that system no matter what you call it (I thought it was capitalism, but perhaps I am mistaken.)
On the other hand my values are not expressed by a system that supports the cheap labor trap of slave wages that disrespects workers. My values are not expressed when multinational interests act irresponsibly by devastating ecologies and cultures. My values are not expressed by a system that uses violence and threats of violence to secure the interests of the global rich and powerful over the interests of the local and sustainable.
White’s article seems to me an exploration of a certain set of values. I found that his emphasis on “capitalism” exemplified by Weyerhauser, Monsanto, and “corporate evildoers” did not expose any useful guidance for expressing the set of values he was exploring. I get that he values work that does no harm, deepens the worker, encourages creativity, takes the collective risk for success as life, and makes good & beautiful things, but how do we recognize the forms of organization or a set of regulations on organizations that help or hinder those values?
(end of second post)
(The third post is a response to the following posted by jon b. on Jun 10, 2007 #65:)
“I wouldn’t say leaving capitalism behind is the goal, but rather to change it, morph it, improve it into something else.
I’ve felt for awhile that capitalism and democracy are almost oppositional. …”
As I understand capitalism, as distinguished from global corporatism, it is the structuring of the economy to allow anyone to acquire capital resources from anyone else within the limitations set by the SEC. This is an economic idea that is distinguished from the systems of other places where there are many more numerous restrictions on who can acquire access to capital resource and from whom.
Global corporatism, on the other hand is the pernicious spread of unaccountable corporate power over the earth. Global corporatism is a governance problem, not an economic one.
Thus I am under the impression that capitalism is a more democratic form of economic organization, but it has been severely corrupted and distorted by the rise of unaccountable private corporate entities that have transcended traditional accountable forms of governance.
I suspect that what
Based on my understanding I believe capitalism is a good thing but global corporations frequently misuse capitalism to abuse and degrade people and our earthly home.
If you disgree with my understanding and insist on demonizing capitalism, would you please define what, specifically, you are against?
of today favors the rich and statistically has been enriching that small portion of the population like never before. A democratic economic system would give everyone an equal chance as a democratic political system gives everyone one vote. Capitalism can’t do that, the objective is to beat everyone else and not care about the beaten. America
Capitalism COULD get better. There are plenty of ideas and laws and regulations and ways to nudge it into a more equal system. At different times in our nations history capitalism has been better. I’d start with a new court challenge to the concept that a corporation deserves the standing of personhood. I’d also make anti-trust more strict, for instance a company couldn’t have more than 20% of any industry and that may be high.”
(The following is the one that I was not “authorized” to post, but finally succeeded in posting on June 28th.)
I don’t know where an economic system leaves off and a political system starts, it seems to me they are so intimately intertwined that it is not a practical distinction most of the time. I still can’t tell what most people mean by the term “capitalism” except as a generic term for either good things or bad things depending on their political affiliations.
But, let’s see if I understand your broader points correctly: You believe that a more democratic economic system that allows everyone an equal chance at participation in economic activities is a good thing. But, if the economic system is regulated as a purely competitive set of relations that actively excludes cooperative or altruistic behavior then it is bad. Perhaps you even believe that the well-being of real people (and the eco-systems they depend upon?) is of paramount concern therefore organizations should not be given equal status as persons because that status allows them to exert unfair influence over individuals and disadvantaged groups. If that is the case then we agree on the important stuff.
I believe that every real person who has the guts to start a business should be able to do so with a minimum of interference from the government. Our current system of state registration of businesses is, I believe, a highly effective system for facilitating that process with a minimum of hassle and expense. There are several options of organizational forms with different levels of reporting requirements which provides flexibility to meet different kinds of needs. The system also takes a largely hands-off role in overseeing the raising of capital for businesses, since complaints have to be filed before capital raising activities will be scrutinized. At small scales of business the current system is excellent as demonstrated by the facts about small business that I quoted before.
On the other hand I believe that the government has a responsibility to ensure that the conduct of business, especially by large corporations (regardless of whether they are held publicly or privately), is done in ways that preserve the purity, strength, and resilience of our earthly life support systems. The current situation of global corporate powers that act without any meaningful input from the people whose fates they are determining is wrong. It does not matter whether those decisions are made by an “economic” organization, a “political” organization, or any other kind of organization, the people who have a stake in the outcome of the decision have a right to participate in the decision making process. Until all organizations actually take their stakeholders rights to self-determination seriously, then we will continue to have injustice and corporate abuses of economic and political power in the world.
So, if we actually agree on the most important points about how the system is supposed to work, then the question is whether we can make a meaningful distinction between the generally good participation that occurs at small scales in business and the abusive participation that happens at large scales in business. The problem is shifting the behavior of organizations that are so large in terms of the extensive financial and informational resources that they wield them without any reasonable checks and balances against abuses against people, less powerful groups, and the environment.
P.S. If you would like to support entrepreneurs in the third world to participate economically I recommend Kiva.org where you can loan $25 or more to individual business owners. I loaned money to a 19-year old in Azerbajian who is a refugee but has been in business for 2 years and is now expanding his business for the second time. Wouldn’t you like to be your own World Bank and set international aid policy independent of the government?
My passion is to create a practical philosophy of education.
Of course, the phrase “practical philosophy” is usually considered a contradiction, but that is like saying that the phrase "house design" is a contradiction because a house is a real object but a design is merely an idea.
The connection between a design idea for a house and a real house is the blueprints that were used to guide the work of construction.
A blueprint is just a map of what will be instead of what is, kind of a map to a desired future.
Most people think about education as if it's just the delivery of knowledge, skills and information without any thought to how all that data relates to anything else.
That’s like thinking of a house as a pile of boards, nails and other building materials.
Education is really a process of cognitive cartography, a process of developing internal maps of all the knowledge, skills and information that we acquire as we live.
The problem in education is the fact that we have a huge on-going building project without an effective blueprint to help us put it all together the way we really want it to be.
My philosophy of education helps students learn to create maps of reality and then join in the project of building a world that works for all.
11 June 2007
06 June 2007
Breaking The Classroom Habit
The classroom is an educational habit and it's a habit that is sometimes bad for children. Here's the story of how I broke my classroom habit.