reply to Adam Curtis on the fall of Soviet Union

Dear Mr. Curtis,
I am a free-lance geo-political theorist and philosopher from Melbourne, Australia, currently doing research into the psycho-social implications of the major ideologico-political crises of the modern era.

Is Moral Reasoning Innate or Learned?

Like many debates concerning the relationship between "nature" and "nurture," there is a tendency for people to either adopt a partisan position on extremes or a muddled and vague position somewhere in the middle. This presentation will begin with an overview of the modern development of nature versus nurture debate, before moving on to the evidence of moral innateness and the comparison with the morality as a learned skill, before coming to hopefully useful conclusions on the matter.

The initial problem often comes from philosophers, because of course philosophers do tend to develop hypotheses first before they're actually tested, and people are attracted to the logical coherence and brilliantly pithy statements, rather than the subsequent evidence that is slowly developed over many years of stuffy journal articles that are boring but important. John Locke, for example, could exclaim in "An Essay Concerning Human Understanding" in 1689:

"Let us suppose the mind to be, as we say, a tabula rasa, void of all characters, without any ideas. How comes it to be furnished? Whence comes it by that vast store, which the busy and boundless fancy of man has painted on it, with an almost endless variety? When has it all the materials of reason and knowledge? To this I answer, in one word, from experience."

We Are We Do: Emotions, Trauma, and Happiness

Our story begins with two elderly gentlemen sitting on a hillside overlooking their village by the seaside. We'll call them Peter and Simon, (good Biblical names, with a little pun included), but any names will do. They've had long and successful lives and they're enjoying their retirement and they're reminiscing. It's a beautiful day, the sounds of seagulls is in the air, the sky is blue with just the hint of white clouds, the sun shines and bounces off the calm sea, and a gentle breeze cools our friends.

But Simon is particularly rueful. He shakes his head and frowns. "Looks at those beautiful fishing boats going out to sea, Peter," he says, giving a disdainful wave. For decades I was the best builder of boats in the village. But do they call me Simon the Boat Builder in the village? No!" Peter nods slowly and silence passes.

Simon is not to be stopped. "After being a boat builder, I became a house painter. Looks at those beautiful houses, with their fresh whiteness, unsullied by the elements. But do they call me Simon The Painter in the village? No! And then, for my third career, I became the town planner. See those new streets and buildings, which I designed to fit the geography. I even went to university to learn this! But do they call me Simon the Town Planner in the village? No!"

"But just one goat!"

From Stoicism and Naturalistic Pantheism to Effective Altruism

In some regards, this presentation will be operating on a high introductory level to some concepts that I have already discussed in the past at the variety of philosophically-minded public groups that can be found in Melbourne. For example, once can found related previous presentations with titles like presented to SoFiA, Melbourne, in July 2021, "The Continuum of 'Needs' and 'Wants'" to the Melbourne Agnostics in November 2020, and "Is Pantheism an Atheism?", to the Melbourne Atheist Society in August 2016. I will begin with a discussion of the philosophical tradition of Stoicism and its relevance to contemporary times, and especially its important role in both positive and clinical psychology. From this, the presentation can move to an elaboration of the Stoic views of physics, and in particular their contribution to pantheism in general and natural pantheism in particular. This is also an opportunity to dig into that much-vexed question of free will versus determinism. Finally, and as a way of conclusion an application of Stoicism and natural pantheism to effective altruism.

Initial Hypotheses On Emotions, Trauma, and Happiness

1. We do not have executive control of what emotions are generated by the brain, and all emotions are valid.

2. Pharmaceutical approaches to mental health are necessary for acute treatment, but have reduced effectiveness for chronic treatment.

Thoughts on Open Relationships

Serial monogamy is not for everyone at all times in their life. Despite our cultural celebration of the norm, it often does not seem very successful. It used to be the case that over 50% of marriages would end in divorce; that number has declined significantly, but partially driven by the fact that more people aren't getting married at all, or are getting married later. Rates of infidelity, obviously more prone to sampling error, range from 25% to 40%.

For some, some sort of open relationship is an alternative. Again, not for all people at all times of their lives. This said, for the latter, there need to be boundaries in place so that all participants can feel comfortable with the situation.

The following are a few ideas, from a somewhat inexperienced position, with additional commentary inserted from those who are somewhat better versed. It serves only as an initial contribution to the subject.

Consciousness Is All There Is

As Mark Twain once said, “It’s not what you don’t know that gets you in trouble, it’s what you know for sure but which just isn’t true.”

Humanity is now in trouble because its fundamental assumption about the nature of the universe just isn’t true.

The materialist worldview that has dominated science and philosophy for the past 200 years has crumbled. Discoveries in quantum physics have disproven it, but no consensus has been able to take its place. Materialists and idealists have been arguing back and forth for decades.

Promising, Forgiveness, and Redemption

I am going to assume that all of us here have made and received promises. We may have even had promises made to us broken, and we may have have even broken some ourselves! We probably have forgiven some of these transgressions against us, and may have had our own forgiven. Promising and forgiveness are universal to all people, all cultures, and all times. Indeed, there is perhaps no other moral principle or ethical understanding so widely shared than the recognition promises ought to be kept. Exploring why promises have such a special position in social relations is something that we all feel very deeply, but it is curiously not something that is often explored. Thus, for a good third of this address, an attempt is made to describe some of the key features that make promises special. Following this, and with equivalent attention, an exploration of the notion of forgiveness. Finally, there is a exploration of the conception of redemption, which whilst having well-known theological overtones, incorporates the idea of "redeeming" or a returning to a prior state. In presenting this discussion there is an emphasis on interpersonal relations, that is, actions between natural persons. However, there are also interesting parallels in the activities with the contractual obligations between organisations as legal persons.

Altruism and Egoism

In a world where it is proclaimed that “might is right’, “the end justifies the means”, “all is fair in love and war” or
“survival at all costs’; it seems important to understand that alternative coherent ethical-foundations exist, so that we don’t
blindly seek refuge from our ethical quandary, in a received wisdom usually dictating altruism !
Disclaimers:
-As at least an aspiring practitioner of ‘ Non-contingent egoism’, the following can not purport to be a disinterested

Pantheism: Beyond Atheism and Theism

There are really only three broad topics that are addressed here. Firstly, a definition of pantheism, especially in respect to theism and atheism. Secondly, an elaboration on what is meant by the word 'beyond', as there are multiple meanings being used, and thirdly, why pantheism can be expressed as being 'beyond' atheism and theism. For the first part, a significant portion is drawn from a presentation I gave to the Melbourne Atheist Society on August 9, 2016 entitled "Is Pantheism an Atheism?", which left the answer to subjective experientiality. For the second part, the elaboration especially draws upon the definition of "meta-" in Ancient Greek, and the German concept of Aufhebung and its role in dialectical reasoning. Hopefully, with these two parts in firm foundation, the concluding remarks of the presentation, which really encapsulate the title, will have equivalent confidence. But, with a warning in advance, there is an interesting concluding twist which can be a matter for a lot of further debate.

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