Contents

Rewritten Essay 1

Personal Notes

Notes from Professor with Additional Personal Notes

Essay 1 Draft 2

 

Essay 1, Rewritten (See Interactivity Journal 2)

Response to “the Earth is a Spaceship” by Kenneth E. Boulding

 

Morality in an Interactive, Indeterminate Universe

 

The morality of the determinate paradigm is obsolete. If we accept that we live in an interactive and indeterminate universe, then we must consider what that means for moral judgment.

 

A monotheistic god cannot be the arbitrator of our moral judgment. If the universe began with the “Big Bang” then there are certain things we know have evidence to support. We have an idea of the cause, the temperature, the time, the actions of light and matter and the continuing implications. If any of those things are true, it limits what God could have done to start the universe. If God is limited, he is not omnipotent. If he is not omnipotent, he is not God. If there is no God then he cannot be the basis of our moral judgment.  This is difficult since the majority of western thought, even secular thought, is heavily influenced by Judeo-Christian monotheism. Escaping the confines of monotheistic thinking may be harder than we expect.

 

“Nature” or “Tao” or “Universal Consciousness” is also an ineffective moral guide. This kind of thinking revolves around the idea that we are all part of some kind of universal force. That seems likely to be true. Physics certainly supports the idea. We are made of particles. Particles continuously pass through us. We are perpetually joined to the entirety of the universe. It is a beautiful idea. If we are a part of the natural universe then we are subject to its’ laws. Unfortunately, that means that everything we do within the confines of natural law is moral. That would be a highly impractical version of morality. The theories that govern the behavior of the universe are coldly rational and completely lacking in empathy or compassion.  Perhaps, an ideal world could function within that reality. We could learn rational deconstruction and purging of emotion so that our society operated on pure logic. Then we could all board are starship and warp our way to the Beta Quadrant to explore some strange new worlds. Until that happens, I do not think natural law is going to give us what we need.

 

A unifying theory of morality may exist but if it does, it is far beyond the reaches of even our most brilliant thinkers. We must work to define our morality. The answer may lie in the understanding of interactivity. If we are inherently interactive, then we may consider this an obligation to all that we interact with. For practical reasons, we must create limitations for this statement. If we accept adequate determinism, then we can limit out supposition to all interactions which may have an observable affect. That means that we are obligated to planet earth. Actually, if we did travel to other planets, we would, on contact, become obligated to them as well. From obligation, we must then decide the parameters of our responsibility. Perhaps the best way to consider it is simply, “do no harm to that to which you are obligated.”

 

Worldviews change. The process is often disruptive and destructive. The shift from determinism to indeterminism is traumatic. Many parts of our world are suffering as fundamentalist hold-outs battle to remain relevant. The prospect of living their beliefs behind and floating in an undefined moral ether is anathema. Applying our intellect to the question of moral judgment provides a moral life preserve to the few who are willing to risk a leap.

 

Personal Commentary: After discussion with my dear mother I have discovered some imprecise language use in this essay. I do believe I will rewrite it to consider these issues.

We discussed the comparison of the words conscious and conscience.

 

Essay 1, Notes from Professor Aldrich
Response to “the Earth is a Spaceship” by Kenneth E. Boulding

My Response: If possible, can you attach a text file as well? I can save the PDF to see the formatting and copy and paste from the text file to save myself typing when I am transcribing.

I also need clarification of your expectations. Do you want a short, 500 word essay, or do you want a thorough analysis. I am having a tough time making both happen. I know you said we could go over 500 words but even 1000 words is not all that much detail.

Is there some limiting of topics that I am unaware of? Your question says only, “Write a 500 word response to an aspect of the reading that captured your imagination” Your questions seem to imply that I picked an unacceptable topic. If that is so, please give me a better example of what is acceptable.

Morality in an Interactive, Indeterminate Universe
By Destin Black

The morality of the determinate paradigm is obsolete. If we accept that we live in an interactive and indeterminate universe, then we must consider what that means for moral judgment. Moral judgment governs the way people make decisions about their actions. A global paradigm shift can be disruptive and dangerous if we do not take adequate measures to ease the transition.

A monotheistic god cannot be the arbitrator of our moral judgment. If the universe began with the “Big Bang” then there are certain things we know (now) [typ-o. Sorry] have evidence (?) to support. We have an idea of the cause, the temperature, the time, the actions of light and matter and the continuing implications. If any of those things are true, it limits what God could have done to start the universe. An all-powerful god could certainly chose any temperature they wished to chose to start the universe. If we accept that we know what the temperature is, then anything God did to start the universe must include that temperature. This places a limitation on the power of God.

I do not follow this leap, Destin. You need to precisely and carefully connect these dots for me, the reader/viewer/listener.

If God is limited, he is not omnipotent. If he is not omnipotent, he is not God. If there is no God then he cannot be the basis of our moral judgment.

A whole lot of “if”s. I get the syllogistic logic, but as soon as I disagree with any point, the rationale breaks! And is not the implication not just moral? Why are we focused on this particular subset of implication?

I believe that the purpose of the essay is to explain my thinking. The use of continued “if/then” statements is a way to indicate a closely connected chain of thought. It is a stylistic device that implies a fast-paced and persuasive thought process. I am not sure what you want me to add? I could add a brief definition of “God” as an all-powerful being, but I don’t think that is necessary in an essay this short. The use of a capitalized “G” does a decent job of indicating that I am referencing the traditional view of the Judeo-Christian god. The commonly understood interpretation of that god is of an all-powerful being. I don’t think it needs to be defined.

We are focused on a subset because this is a 500 word essay about morality. The other implications are only peripherally relevant in this context. I tried to clarify the thesis a little more without adding too many words. I found it very challenging to shorten it enough for such a small essay.

This is difficult since the majority of western thought, even secular thought, is heavily influenced by Judeo-Christian monotheism. Escaping the confines of monotheistic thinking may be harder than we expect.

What are the “confines of monotheistic thinking” specifically?

When I rethink this, I am not sure that sentence even needs to be in the essay. That indicates that I am about to go off on a tangent about the specific problems of monotheism. This is not the purpose of the essay as stated in the thesis, and should probably be excluded.

It would make an interesting essay in its’ own right.

“Nature” or “Tao” or “Universal Consciousness” is also an ineffective moral guide.

But no less subject to skeptics, yes?

I don’t know what you mean.

This kind of thinking revolves around the idea that we are all part of some kind of universal force. That seems likely to be true. Physics certainly supports the idea. We are made of particles. Particles continuously pass through us. We are perpetually joined to the entirety of the universe. It is a beautiful idea. If we are a part of the natural universe then we are subject to its’ laws. Unfortunately, that means that everything we do within the confines of natural law is moral.

Again, please walk me through this leap. Perhaps, we at minimum need a definition of “moral(ity)” and why we are focusing there.

I don’t know where to put a definition of morality in the essay. I added a defining phrase into the thesis. It doesn’t seem necessary to me. If I were using a unique interpretation of the word, I would define it. However, I am using the commonly understood definition of morality as the ability to make moral judgments, that is, to determine the difference between right and wrong.

That would be a highly impractical version of morality. The theories that govern the behavior of the universe are coldly rational organizational. and completely lacking in empathy or compassion. They are not influenced by human emotion or sentimentality. Perhaps, an ideal world could function within that reality. We could learn rational deconstruction and purging of emotion so that our society operated on pure logic. Then we could all board are starship and warp our way to the Beta Quadrant to explore some strange new worlds. Until that happens, I do not think natural law is going to give us what we need.

Humm, Do I sense Star Trek pollution? Let’s not mix sci-fi here, what if any interaction is neither “cold” nor “moral” but just an organizing principle, the rest is in you?

You do, and it was purposeful. I am not sure your criticism is warranted. The idea that rationality alone can only work in a theoretical or make believe world is conveyed clearly. The sentences make the point whether the reader understands the allusion or not. It is relevant to my discussion and it adds humor to the topic. It is a strategy used by many writers, even writers you assigned. It does not detract from meaning or negate the tone of the text. I don’t see why it is a problem.

What if the interaction is just an organizing principle? Well, I think that is exactly the point. Perhaps instead of saying “cold,” I should state that: “the principles governing the behavior of the universe are organizational. They are not influenced by human emotion or sentimentality.

A unifying theory of morality may exist but if it does, it is far beyond the reaches of even our most brilliant thinkers.

Not sure you can just declare this and move on, Destin.

Why not? I am simply stating the possibility that it could exist but since we don’t know what it is, we cannot use it. I did not state an absolute. I said “may.” It may exist but if it does we don’t know what it is. I don’t know of any evidence at all to negate what I said. To my knowledge, no one on earth is even close to figuring out what the ultimate moral truth might be.

We must work to define our morality. The answer may lie in the understanding of interactivity. If we are inherently interactive, then we may consider this (what?) [typ-o again, sorry] an obligation to all that we interact with. For practical reasons, we must create limitations for this statement. If we accept adequate determinism, then we can limit out supposition to all interactions which may have an observable affect.

?

I should have clarified this sentence. It is a weak link.

Rewrite: Adequate determinism is based on the idea that when you are dealing with the macro world, extremely small influences do not have enough impact to be measurable. It eliminates the need to cope with impractical details. We can apply this thinking to morality as well. If we are part of an inherently interactive universe then everything we do is impactful even if it is much too small to be observable. This is just too much. We cannot be responsible for that which we cannot even observe. It does not support a usable moral paradigm. We must create limits for the sake of functionality. We can limit our supposition to all interactions which may have an observable affect. We can then become responsible for that which has an observable affect. This creates a much more manageable foundation for a moral system. What we do on Earth has an observable affect. We can be responsible for it. Actually, if we did travel to other planets, we would, on contact, become obligated to them as well since contact would produce observable affects. From responsibility, we must then decide the parameters of our obligation.

Another leap for me, how are the moral implications for interaction as a world view related to space travel and “obligation”?

Perhaps the best way to consider it is simply, “do no harm to that to which you are obligated.”

“Obligation” is poor word choice. I added clarifying sentences before and explanation after.

New Paragraph: We can claim responsibility for our planet, but how do we define our obligation to it? Definitions of “good” and “bad” are subjective. “Negative” and “positive” have acquired almost equally subjective connotation. Growth and destruction are morally neutral. These diametric concepts do not work in an interconnected world. Our world is a web of connected systems that cannot be easily codified into absolute moral law. Perhaps the best we can do is to chose to base our judgment on “the least harm.” Use what you know to do the least damage to the system in which you exist.

Adding examples and additional explanation will go far beyond the assigned context. I think that ending here meets the very simple initial thesis. I have discussed the general way that the idea of an interactive and indeterminate universe affects moral judgments. If I want to do more, I need a more complex thesis. I could spend more time examining different possible moral systems and I could definitely include examples of how things could work. I could also add research. It might make a more interesting paper, but it would end up quite beyond this assignment.

Worldviews change. The process is often disruptive and destructive. The shift from determinism to indeterminism is traumatic. Many parts of our world are suffering as fundamentalist hold-outs battle to remain relevant. The prospect of living their beliefs behind and floating in an undefined moral ether is anathema. That is why it is important that we consider the influence this changing worldview has had. Applying our intellect to the question of moral judgment provides a moral life preserve to the few who are willing to risk a leap.

Destin,

There is a lot here, which I admire. I think your short term goals may be helping us understand the full journey you are taking in your head, your use of language is not a problem, but please make sure to provide a few more stepping stones for us!

I see some of that. Many of your comments helped to refine my thinking.

 

Essay 1, Draft 2

Morality in an Interactive, Indeterminate Universe
By Destin Black

The morality of the determinate paradigm is obsolete. If we accept that we live in an interactive and indeterminate universe, then we must consider what that means for moral judgment. Moral judgment governs the way people make decisions about their actions. A global paradigm shift can be disruptive and dangerous if we do not take adequate measures to ease the transition.

A monotheistic god cannot be the arbitrator of our moral judgment. If the universe began with the “Big Bang” then there are certain things now have evidence to support. We have an idea of the cause, the temperature, the time, the actions of light and matter and the continuing implications. If any of those things are true, it limits what God could have done to start the universe. An all-powerful god could certainly chose any temperature they wished to chose to start the universe. If we accept that we know what the temperature is, then anything God did to start the universe must include that temperature. This places a limitation on the power of God. If God is limited, he is not omnipotent. If he is not omnipotent, he is not God. If there is no God then he cannot be the basis of our moral judgment. his is difficult since the majority of western thought, even secular thought, is heavily influenced by Judeo-Christian monotheism.

“Nature” or “Tao” or “Universal Consciousness” is also an ineffective moral guide. This kind of thinking revolves around the idea that we are all part of some kind of universal force. That seems likely to be true. Physics certainly supports the idea. We are made of particles. Particles continuously pass through us. We are perpetually joined to the entirety of the universe. It is a beautiful idea. If we are a part of the natural universe then we are subject to its’ laws. Unfortunately, that means that everything we do within the confines of natural law is moral. That would be a highly impractical version of morality. The theories that govern the behavior of the universe are organizational. and completely lacking in empathy or compassion. They are not influenced by human emotion or sentimentality. Perhaps, an ideal world could function within that reality. We could learn rational deconstruction and purging of emotion so that our society operated on pure logic. Then we could all board are starship and warp our way to the Beta Quadrant to explore some strange new worlds. Until that happens, I do not think natural law is going to give us what we need.

Adequate determinism is based on the idea that when you are dealing with the macro world, extremely small influences do not have enough impact to be measurable. It eliminates the need to cope with impractical details. We can apply this thinking to morality as well. If we are part of an inherently interactive universe then everything we do is impactful even if it is much too small to be observable. This is just too much. We cannot be responsible for that which we cannot even observe. It does not support a usable moral paradigm. We must create limits for the sake of functionality. We can limit our supposition to all interactions which may have an observable affect. We can then become responsible for that which has an observable affect. This creates a much more manageable foundation for a moral system. What we do on Earth has an observable affect. We can be responsible for it. Actually, if we did travel to other planets, we would, on contact, become obligated to them as well since contact would produce observable affects. From responsibility, we must then decide the parameters of our obligation

We can claim responsibility for our planet, but how do we define our obligation to it? Definitions of “good” and “bad” are subjective. “Negative” and “positive” have acquired almost equally subjective connotation. Growth and destruction are morally neutral. These diametric concepts do not work in an interconnected world. Our world is a web of connected systems that cannot be easily codified into absolute moral law. Perhaps the best we can do is to chose to base our judgment on “the least harm.” Use what you know to do the least damage to the system in which you exist.

Worldviews change. The process is often disruptive and destructive. The shift from determinism to indeterminism is traumatic. Many parts of our world are suffering as fundamentalist hold-outs battle to remain relevant. The prospect of living their beliefs behind and floating in an undefined moral ether is anathema. That is why it is important that we consider the influence this changing worldview has had. Applying our intellect to the question of moral judgment provides a moral life preserve to the few who are willing to risk a leap.