Entry 1521 — Morality Thoughts No. 4

July 28th, 2014

It may be that all ethiplexes are located in the anthro-evaluceptual association area.  That is to say, morality is purely people-centered (“anthrocentric” is my preferred term for this).  I must confess that I at sea about them.  I know they must exist but an unsure which ones do.  So I have been noting every one I think possible, however slightly, and will continue do so now.

First let me explain how I will evaluate my suggested ethiplexes, which is the way I try to evluate everything in my theory of psychology.  I ask the following questions about it:

1. Does it make intuitive sense to me?  If not, it means it doesn’t fit in with my general experience of the world–in this case, the world’s people.  Or that there’s something else wrong with it that I can’t put my finger on.  If the latter, I’ll put it aside and ask my other questions about it.  One of them should apprise me of its defect.  If none do, I’ll keep it under consideration. If the former, I’ll junk it–with the assumption that I’m wrong about it, something will make me remember it and analyze it again.

2. Is it consistent with the bulk of my knowlecular psychology?  My knowlecular psychology may be wrong, but if so, my acceptance of something also wrong won’t matter.  I also feel that the more elements of my theory that fit well with one another, the greater the likelihood that they’re valid.

3. Is it consistent with what I know about validated neurophysiology.  I don’t know much about that, but (a) there so far isn’t enough of importance to know and (2) I know enough of it to know when I’m definitely wrong.

4. Does the existence of a given ethiplex make evolutionary sense?  This means I must try to show how it could have been biologically selected.

I don’t require a 100% yes to each of these, just a reasonably strong one.

Now to my ethiplexes.  The first I’m going to try to make sense of is the anti-violence instinct.  I believe we are wired from birth to be morally opposed to violent acts against the property of others.  That we nevertheless often steal, vandalize, or destroy others’ acquired property and damage or render others’ . . . “natural property?” (I mean the physical property a person comes with–everything inside his skin; can’t think of the right term) inoperative does not mean we don’t have it.  It only means that our ethiplexes must compete with each other–in an “ethization,” or organization of ethiplexes.

One reason I began my discussion of ethiplexes with the anti-violence ethiplex is that it most clearly (and un-anti-violently) demonstrates the complexity of moral behavior due to the number of moral choices which are determined by which of two or more ethiplexes in conflict with one another wins.  A simple example: a lunatic charges a man’s wife holding an ax over his head; the man can shoot him.  Should he?

To put it simply, his defense-of-the-weak ethiplex should be stronger in this instance than his anti-violence ethiplex, so the answer is yes.  It may not be simple, though.  What if the wife has just made a derogatory comment about the ax-man’s race?

I’m stopping here because I went on to become very incorrect politically and am too cowardly to reveal the magnitude of my wickedness.  Indeed, I may already have gone too far.



Scientific American Blog Relocated

July 27th, 2014

My Scientific American Blog is now here–with a complete table of contents.

AHOY!  I finally got Entry 18 done.  It is now here.    Comments Welcome! Please let me know of any typos or gross factual errors. Warning: it’s me at my abstrusest worst–for over 8,000 words.

Later note: From time to time, I will be revising Entry 18.  I hope eventually to correct all the many mistakes in the version first posted.

Entry 1520 — Morality Thoughts No. 3

July 27th, 2014

When I went to my workshop to continue my notes on morality, I found this:

It is important to consider the empathy instinct, too–the instinct for making others happy, or less unhappy–by giving a present to a friend in order  vicariously to enjoy his enjoyment of it, for instance, or to experience the bliss imagining the relief of his loved one due to what he was going to do for her that Sidney Carton felt.

Related to that is the innate need to gain the approbation of society most of us have, I’m certain. Sidney Carton, I’m sure, had more of his share of that, too.  But people vary considerably in the strength of both their empathy instinct and social approbation need.  The strength of a person’s competing drives varies greatly to, and has a good deal of say in what will, in his opinion, result in the highest lifetime pleasure-to-pain ratio.

It is these two drives together that I believe responsible for all our moral acts.  Needless to say, they won’t do much if not for the upbringing that helps us discover how best to use them, and they are probably weaker in children, especially boys, than they are in adults.  This makes sense since a person needs to learn how best to take care of himself before learning how best to interact, as an adult, with others.  And during his time of self-centeredness, he will have adults looking out for him, particularly a mother with maximum inter-personal morality.

Ah, you ask, what do you mean by “inter-personal morality?”  Isn’t all morality inter-personal?  No.  Some human being will be involved in every moral event, of course, but while most such events will be about human interactions, and all of them will finally be about what’s best for some group of people, or nation, or all of humanity, some will involve either intra-personal or impersonal behavior.

Intra-personal morality consists of one’s moral behavior concerning oneself only.  For instance: should I keep plugging away at this question although I’m pretty fuzzy about it, or should I stop writing for the day and go back to the thriller I’m reading?

Impersonal behavior, if there is such a thing, might involve making a choice between have a copse cleared in a park one is designing so mothers won’t fear perverts will hide in them waiting for a child to wander near without no adult companion or leave it because a park needs at least little wilderness as relief from the stress of civilization.  People are part of the moral choice but it centers on what parks and trees are.

I feel pretty much out of ideas about my subject now–the ones I had didn’t last very long.

I remember writing it but not when.  It repeats some previous material.  Probably when I cut & pasted for one of my entries, I missed it. Anyway, I can use it to take care of this entry.   More (sorry) tomorrow.


Entry 1519 — Thoughts on Morality, Continued

July 26th, 2014

When writing about morality yesterday, I puttered on after finishing the part I post in yesterday’s blog entry.  That resulted in this:

When I first had my little cluster of ideas, I thought I could describe how what I consider the central innate human drive, the pleasure-to-pain ratio maximization (P2P) drive, leads to a person’s internalized morality (also innate).  Further reflection on this was what put me in my null zone.  What follows are fragments from the system I thought I could come up with.

To begin with, the P2P drive, as its name, indicates, compels a person to try to maximize his pleasure (or minimize his pain). The “try” is important for he won’t necessarily know what will lead to a maximum pleasure and/or minimum pain.  Hence, his attempt may result in the opposite of what he wants.

By maximum pleasure, by the way, I mean anything that causes happiness or diminishes pain, not just wine, women and song, or the like.  It is most important to note, too, that I am speaking of a person’s lifetime of pleasure.  Hence, heavy, unpleasant physical exercising, or piano-practice, or studying–because of the pleasure the person believes his sacrifices will lead to.  The same reasoning holds for minimum pain.

I feel pretty much out of ideas about my subject now–the ones I had didn’t last very long.  But I going to try now to add a few thoughts about the innate mechanisms I think most of us have that influence our moral behavior.  “Ethiplexes,” I think I’ll call them for now.

Two are the empathy instinct and need for social approbation drive that I’ve already mentioned.  It occurred to me that a sub-instinct of the empathy instinct might be the maternal drive, narrowly defined here as a human need to nurture and protect children, infants in particular, and much more developed in most women than in men.  But it is definitely present in most men–which is why there is so much more grief when a homicidal lunatic’s victims are children rather than adults.  I think it may well be the basis of the nanny-state western nations have turned into.  It has something to do with the perception of losers as infants by those with strong maternal drives.

I’m not sure how to discuss this without mortally offending just about everybody.  I’ll just add that evidence in support of my contention is the way exploration of space halted once we got to the moon, with almost no complaints.  Which reminds me of another drive that is too morally influential in my opinion: the species-preservation drive.  It seems like the more people we have in the world, the more horrifying events like the Challenger disaster seem.  I suppose the media is part of that.

The social approbation drive is also a conformity drive; an offshoot may be the drive to make others conform, the totalitarian drive.  “Do what you’re told” is a leading moral tenet.  Because utter conformity wouldn’t work for a species, I believe a few of us have an anti-authoritarian drive.  Perhaps most boys (and many fewer girls) have one that weakens as they age.

Yes, I’m really dragging today.  Not thinking clearly or deeply.  I was hoping I’d get going but it doesn’t look like I will today.  Maybe tomorrow.



Entry 1518 — Scramblog No. 1

July 25th, 2014

A lot of things I wanna write about today.  One is that I know I’m not unusual in being self-analytical.  Most neurotics are, and most people with IQs above 114 are neurotics, or more out of it, as I must be.  Of course, I contend that I am also not at all neurotic–’cause I’m in charge of my neurosis.  What I mostly wanna say on this topic right now is that most self-analytical peoples iz not quite a self-analytical as I.

For instance, and from now on I’ll try to stifle my cuteness of style, which is mainly, I think, a defense against pretentiousness.  For instance, I seem to need to search for a Proper Reason for so much that I do.  Certainly for what I write.  I hardly ever just sit down to my keyboard and begin typing.  If I do, I almost always pause to wonder just what it is that I’m doing and why I’m doing it.  I’m not a Dull Boy, though, for I’m quite capable of concluding I’m just having irrlevant fun, and continue.

But under that is my long-held view that recreational activities of no value in themselves are a sine qua non for a productive life.  A productive life. I continue to hold as inalienably true that I was born with an over-sized need to have a productive life.  Not that most people don’t have a similar need, but . . . I guess their definition of a productive life is less megalomaniacal than mine.

Anyway, today my main goal is to fill a few pages with notes for a definitive study of human morality.  (It was hard to keep from saying that uncutely, I must tell you.)  I thought the ideas I had two days ago, thinking in bed about the topic would automatically yield such an essay, and woke up yesterday morning still sure it would, but after leaving the house for tennis, my confidence evaporated.

Because I was no longer endocrinologically capable of confidence?  The was part of it, no doubt, but I believe the loss of confidence was rational, too: my ideas were not well-organized, and didn’t cover my entire topic.  Ergo, I went into what I call my null zone.  I could not write a definitive essay on human morality, there was therefore no way I could write anything on the topic that would contribute to a productive life (culturally productive, I am reminded to say–note: I am going to post what I say here without revision–except for fixing the typos I notice, for the sake of posterity, which will certainly be grateful for all my first drafts, following the thinking of Grumman being for them approximately what following the thinking–make that Thinking–of the Almighty was for medieval Western philosophers).

This morning, though, I snapped out of the null zone with the realization that simply jotting down my recent thoughts about morality would be worth doing on the grounds that they might be an effective first step toward a definitive study of morality–someone else’s if not mine.  Wahgoo, said I aloud to myself, I will compile mine notes–nay, I will write a Magnificent Familiar Essay around those notes.  And, behold, that is what I have begun.

I began thinking about morality shortly after beginning an excellent article in Free Inquiry (August/September 2014, Volume 33, Number 5) called “How Morality Has the Objectivity that Matters–Without God,” by Ronald A. Lindsay.  I thought I’d be saying much different things than he had, but when I returned to his article the day after beginning it, I found that I had very few disagreements with what he said.  In fact, that may have been part of the reason I toppled into my null zone.  But I now feel I have enough to add to what he said for a worthwhile essay.

I will be using a term he used (and may have invented): “intersubjective validation.”  It means about what I’ve meant when I’ve used “wide consensus of opinion in support,” or the like, in my philosophizing (or whatever it is I do) as a requirement for “maxobjective truths” or in my literary criticism as a requirement of an interpretation of a poem or other artwork.  I think I would elitistly prefer the term, “interalphasubjective validation,” though, meaning the validation of an idea’s validity not by a broad range of people in support of it but by a sizable majority of people who have shown they have sufficient intelligence and experience with what they are validating for them to most likely be doing the right thing.  Of course, that they do have the right qualifications is a matter of opinion.  That, I would leave up to simple intersubjective validation.

Interesting: I seem to have forgotten all the different, unconnected topics I was going to babble about here.  I’ve tunneled my way to a one-topic focus.  Now all I need is an organizing priciple.  But I can’t think about that–I gotta begin my thought-scatter.

Perhaps my most central thought concerns the final subjectivity of every moral belief.  I have an example which should make that clear: my own dogged belief in the sanctity of freedom of speech, meaning the right to say or write whatever, not what all the world’s governments mean by it.  So fanatically in favor of it am I that I am on record (if only in my private diary until now) of stating that the main reason Hitler should have been executed for crimes against humanity was his abrogation of the relative freedom of speech his citizens had, not his genocide. Nonetheless, I understand that my belief in the sanctity of freedom of speech is, at bottom, subjective.

Why?  Because I recognize that it can be harmful to some people.  I would argue that the benefits of freedom of speech far outweigh their evils because truth, for instance, is more important than hurt feelings–and because (as I always say) it is tyrannical to outlaw something simple because a miniscule minority will misuse it.  As what I call a “constitutional anarchist” (i.e., a Jeffersonian, not a Thoreauvian), I could make this essay book-length or longer going on to defend what I ultimately consider mankind’s chief right: the right to own private property (i.e., one’s material possession, including one’s body, and one’s thoughts)  and do with it as one sees fit so long as what you do with it significantly harms some other innocent person without his permission without interference by any government.  Here, though, my concern is merely to describe what to me is the inevitable final relativity of any moral belief.

Lindsay recognizes the same limitation and, it seems to me, deals with it about the way I do: by ruling that intersubjective validation (or interalphasubjective validation, which I will drop from now on as unnecessarily complicating) is sufficient for an effective morality–genuine full objectivity is not.  I use the term “maxobjective” to indicate a view sufficiently valid objectively for any sane person to accept, and about as close to full objectivity, which is impossible, as we can get.

So, a morally refined person should be willing to concede that no moral belief he holds is absolutely valid.  When it is opposed, this recourse is thus to provide rational, maxobjective reasons that it will do what a moral should do better than its opposite would.  I go along with Lindsay’s definition of morality as that code of human behavior the function of which is “to serve these related purposes: it creates stability, provides security, ameliorates harmful conditions, fosters trust, and facilitates cooperation in achieving shared and complementary goals.”  Or: it promotes social cohesion for the greater good.

My partial solution to the free speech problem would be to allow a person to ban or allow any kind of speech he wants to on his own property, and allow him to form groups with meeting halls they own in which they decide what can be said and not said.  I would prefer a nation whose government owns practically no land, but–being realistic–would want the government to set aside free-speech areas and nice-speech areas.  I would even allow a government to make all electronic speech nice–BUT give computer, radio and television manufacturers the right to make computers that could receive and transmit anything whatever.  Hence, offendables would be protected from political incorrectnesses and the like for free while people like me would have to pay some (small, I hope) fee to have access to any idea or image anyone feels like making public, and make our own ideas or images available.




Entry 1517 — Interruptions

July 24th, 2014

I’m interrupting my reading of an essay by Jan Baetens about minimalist poetry to say that it just made me see that there are two kinds of minimalist poetry: poetry whose form is minimal in size, and poetry whose content is minimal in size.  The letter “a” repeated 1776 times in a font a foot high would be an example of the latter, the kind of poems I’ve always thought of as the only kind of minimalist poem–”lighght,” for instance–are the other kind.  Then there are poems like “tundra,” which takes up a whole page (and at its best should probably take up a page ten feet wide), so is larger than many conventional poems, but whose content is not minimal in size, or John M. Bennett’s “The Shirt, The Sheet.” which is a sound poem consisting of those four words repeated indefinitely, so with an unminimal form but with variations that make its content nowhere near minimal in content.

Conclusion: I must define a minimalist poem as one whose content approaches zero and/or whose form does.

Meanwhile, I suddenly want to write an essay on the innate morality I believe we all have.  I hope to have it here tomorrow.  Then, maybe, I will return to what I may be calling “The Poetry Enterprise in America.”



Entry 1516 — The State of American Poetry, 2

July 23rd, 2014

Having no idea of a plan of attack on my essay on the state of American poetry yet, I’m going to scatter thoughts I may include here.

1. A very standard thought of mine (although it may not have been when I first put it in print years ago, although I doubt I was the first to have it, is that serious poetry’s audience is relatively small for the same reason serious music’s is, and the research and development department of poetry is virtually ignored by the media and academia for the same reason music’s research and development department is.

2. Another standard thought of mine is that poetry has always been very popular and still is.  Who, for instance, can’t quote with enjoyment at least one portion of some poem that serves as a popular song’s lyrics?  Limericks, nursery rhymes and folk doggerel are continuingly popular (and doggerel may be a crude kind of poetry but it’s still poetry, at least for sensible people who prefer an objective to a subjective definition of the art).  People noting the limited interest of the masses in “poetry,” mistake serious poetry for poetry as a whole.

3. Very few people have the abilities required to work in poetry’s research and development department.  Most of them have no idea what they’re doing.  Academics need reports on it they can understand before they can bring it to the public’s attention, and to be an academic requires more love of received knowledge of a field than will leave room for much of an exploratory drive, particularly a strong enough one to nudge the academic into an interest in the field’s r&d operations.

4. Academics generally have an innate need to protect the received knowledge of their field from any significant enlargement that will complicate it beyond their meagre ability to understand it.  Ergo, academia is the enemy of R&D.

5. Academics will deny they hate R&D, and support their support of it in poetry by alluding to their interest in poets writing about subjects or points of views never getting into poems before, or inventing new metrical schemes for poems or the like, but by R&D, I mean significant R&D, which means entirely new kinds of poetry, not variations of old kinds of poetry.

6. Academics will deny the existence of R&D, too, claiming the people involved in it are not doing anything more than those making up new rhyme schemes.  They’ll find poets making visual poems hundreds of years ago trying to prove visual poetry is old hat, for instance, instead of poetry’s second great R&D discovery in modern times, the first being free verse.  Visual poetry has by now become too standard although still a minority kind of poetry to be considered at the R&D stage, but there much more chance that continued R&D work on it will yield tools for the poet of importance than R&D work on the poetry of Wilshberia will.

7. Genuine language poetry is the third great achievement of modern poetry R&D, and is continuing without being much noticed because ersatz language poetry is now acadominant, ersatz language poetry being jump-cut poetry like Ashbery’s going back to The Waste Land,” and most of Ron Silliman’s (much of which is admirable but not what I’d call “language-centered”–”language-centered” to a greater degree than all the poetry of the past was, I need add for the literal-minded).

8. The main poetries still almost entirely the concern of R&D departments are various kinds of computer-related poetry, my own cryptographic and mathematical poetry, sundry conceptual poetries and non-non-poeties miscalled poetry but nevertheless under fruitful development in the wrong R&D department.  So far as I know.



Entry 1515 — Sonnet Revision

July 22nd, 2014

My adventures trying to get the following sonnet the way I wanted it was a major strand of my first full-length book, Of Manywhere-at-Once, 23 years ago:

Sonnet from my Forties 

Much have I ranged the major-skyed suave art 
The Stevens shimmered through his inquiries 
Into the clash and blend of seem and are 
And volumes filled in vain attempts to reach 

The heights that he did. Often, too, I've been 
To where the small dirt's awkward first grey steps 
Toward high-hued sensibility begin 
In Roethke's verse, or measured the extent 

Of hammered gold and wing-swirled mythic light 
That Yeats achieved, or marveled down the worlds 
That Pound re-morninged windily to life, 
And struggled futilely to match their works. 

Yet still, nine-tenths insane though it now seems, 
I seek those ends, I hold to my huge dreams.

The last chapter alone has five versions of it.  I reworked it at least ten times in the next four or five years.  Since then, I fiddled with at every few years and, for some unknown reason, took a stab at it again a few nights ago, ending yesterday with the version above.  Who knows whether it will be my final version.  Right now I dislike it slightly less than I dislike the other versions.   I consider it a fascinating failure.  If I ever finally finish the second volume of Of Manywhere-at-Once that I planned to have published a year after the first edition of volume one, I’ll explain in detail why I rate it as I do.  (I also consider it brilliant, by the way.)

* * *

Here are two more entries to the list I posted yesterday:

No poetry written after the year X is any good.

No poetry written before the year X is any good.

A thought of my own: the popularity of serious poetry depends much more on what the people in it are doing than, say, what the language in it is.  I elitistly believe that the more unanthrocentric (people-centered)  a poem is, the better is it–and the less it will appeal to philistines. Sometimes.



Entry 1514 — Another State-of-Poetry Article

July 21st, 2014

There’s another one of those what’s-wrong-with-poetry essays here.

It and the really stoopit comments about it have me thinking of writing a more intelligent on the subject. I think it might be accepted by a mainstream magazine like The Atlantic, not yet cured of such thoughts in spite of never getting any response from mainstream publications I’ve submitted work to that was not a form rejection.

In any case, I thought I’d warm up for the task of writing my essay with a list of standard comments on the poetry of our time that I may want to address. The first four are from comments to the article the link above is to, followed by my own observation:

1. Free verse killed poetry.
2. Obscurity is killing poetry.
3. Poets’ focusing on their own concerns rather than on the concerns of readers is killing poetry.
4. The value of poetry, like any endeavor, lies in the effort it takes to produce it.
5. Almost no one discussing the state of contemporary poetry seems to realize that Wilshberia is not the only site of poetry-construction.

There should be more items on this list but for some reason I can’t think of any just now. Time for a nap. More tomorrow.


Entry 1513 — Orange, Green and Blue

July 20th, 2014

I call this “The Quantity Composition in Orange, Green and Blue to the Power of X”:

OGBtotheXI threw it together the other day when I was having trouble uploading graphics to see if I could upload it.  I was unable to.  It’s here mainly because I want to get this entry out of the way quickly and get working on something Very Important–as yet unidentified.  But I also find it intriguing.  It makes me wonder what the image on the left would equal if raised to the power of x + 1, for instance.  Or to i/x.  I think if I were teaching a class in visimagery to college math students, I might make one of their assignments solving for the composition in orange, green and blue raised to the power of x = 1, and another assignment changing the exponent involved to something else of their choice and solving the resulting equation.

Note: I consider this technically a visiomathematical poem, but a very poor one because just dahdahed-together.  I feel I could make a thousand similar poems in a single day, and there’d be no sane way to idenify the best of them.  But it’d be fun!

To make it effective, I believe one would have to find some way of making the equation metaphorically plausible.