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Calvin Chatlos’ Human Faith model, with my expansions
Posted: 25 January 2008 01:48 PM   [ Ignore ]
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What the hell, let’s try this.

With the ongoing discussion regarding “moral facts” and the foundations of ethics, maybe I can make a go of discussing the model I’ve lived with for more than eleven years now. I learned it from Calvin Chatlos, who has quite a few Humanist credentials and is also a practicing psychiatrist by trade - specializing in treatment of addictions as I understand it. His model is by far the best thing I’ve seen of this kind, and is in fact that only system I’ve seen that I can honestly call firmly grounded and systematic. So I’m inviting discussion of it. I propose to take it step by step. I won’t differentiate between his original model and my expansions on it, so in effect you’ll be getting my expanded version. You can read his article at http://www.humanismtoday.org/vol13/chatlos.html.

The model is based on distinctions. The first set of distinctions defines what a human being is, in ontological terms that we can work with. I hope that statement won’t prompt endless arguments over other questions regarding the nature of being human. This is intended as a functional model.

The first set of distinctions are what Calvin calls the domains of being: thought, emotion and action. (We could also include sensation, but that doesn’t get us very far with ethics, and it isn’t necessary to the purposes of the model. I have included sensation in my expansion on the model, but sparingly.) These domains correspond very roughly to areas of the brain: the brainstem and cerebellum (action), the midbrain, limbic system and hypothalamus (emotion) and the cerebral cortex (thought).

In one of our first sessions, Calvin asked each of us to express what we were thinking, feeling and doing at the moment. Try it yourself. I suggest that at every waking moment of our conscious lives, each of these domains is functioning; in other words, we are constantly thinking, feeling (emotionally) and doing something, however minimal we may think the activity in any domain is. At moments when we make ethical choices, the activity in each of these domains may be more obvious to it.

In eleven years I haven’t been able to think of any other domains. So I throw that invitation out as well. Can anyone think of another one, or more?

Let’s start with that.

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Posted: 25 January 2008 02:31 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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PLaClair - 25 January 2008 01:48 PM

I suggest that at every waking moment of our conscious lives, each of these domains is functioning; in other words, we are constantly thinking, feeling (emotionally) and doing something, however minimal we may think the activity in any domain is.

What about when you’re engaged in some kind of crazy sisyphusian task? I recall once I was gluing some pictures onto wooden cubes for my son’s birthday party for about million kids until four o’clock in the morning, and I remember that at one point I realized that I wasn’t thinking or feeling anything at all.

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Posted: 25 January 2008 02:35 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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George - 25 January 2008 02:31 PM
PLaClair - 25 January 2008 01:48 PM

I suggest that at every waking moment of our conscious lives, each of these domains is functioning; in other words, we are constantly thinking, feeling (emotionally) and doing something, however minimal we may think the activity in any domain is.

What about when you’re engaged in some kind of crazy sisyphusian task? I recall once I was gluing some pictures onto wooden cubes for my son’s birthday party for about million kids until four o’clock in the morning, and I remember that at one point I realized that I wasn’t thinking or feeling anything at all.

If you weren’t thinking or feeling anything, how do you know?

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Posted: 25 January 2008 02:44 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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I realized at a certain moment that I had not been thinking or feeling anything at all for some time. Obviously, I was thinking at the moment when I was thinking about not thinking. grin

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Posted: 25 January 2008 03:00 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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George - 25 January 2008 02:44 PM

I realized at a certain moment that I had not been thinking or feeling anything at all for some time. Obviously, I was thinking at the moment when I was thinking about not thinking. grin

Yup. And you were aware that you felt as though you weren’t feeling anything. It’s an easy mistake to make. I was delighted to see how you “got it.”

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Posted: 25 January 2008 07:45 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Interesting, but I’m waiting to see how this determines one’s ethics or one’s behavior.

Occam

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Posted: 25 January 2008 09:28 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Occam - 25 January 2008 07:45 PM

Interesting, but I’m waiting to see how this determines one’s ethics or one’s behavior.

Occam

Why would you assume that it determines anything?

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Posted: 26 January 2008 12:43 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Well, I hate to raise the BUddhism thing again, but meditation is largely the practice of not thinking and feeling and doing but only sensing. I’m not master at it, so I can’t say much about how it extends outside the particular and artificial circumstance of the practice itself, but I have had moments where I was, I believe, only sensing and not thinking (in an internal narrative, stgream of consciousness way, anyway) or feeling, and as for doing nothing other than breathing and maintaining posture, which we can’t really call volitional. Others claim that they can extend this stilling of the mind into more ordinary circumstances.

Anyway, I’m not sure where these categories lead in terms of a system of ethics, and I don’t want to bog the discussion down at the outset, so we don’t necessarily need to debate the categories themselves. I’m willing to concede them for purposes of seeing where you’re headed. I just wanted to put the caveat in place at the beginning that the foundation of the system seems to be a notion of human existence that isn’t necessarily universally agreed upon and that may be a bit culturally influenced.

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Posted: 26 January 2008 05:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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mckenzievmd - 26 January 2008 12:43 AM

Well, I hate to raise the BUddhism thing again, but meditation is largely the practice of not thinking and feeling and doing but only sensing. I’m not master at it, so I can’t say much about how it extends outside the particular and artificial circumstance of the practice itself, but I have had moments where I was, I believe, only sensing and not thinking (in an internal narrative, stgream of consciousness way, anyway) or feeling, and as for doing nothing other than breathing and maintaining posture, which we can’t really call volitional. Others claim that they can extend this stilling of the mind into more ordinary circumstances.

Anyway, I’m not sure where these categories lead in terms of a system of ethics, and I don’t want to bog the discussion down at the outset, so we don’t necessarily need to debate the categories themselves. I’m willing to concede them for purposes of seeing where you’re headed. I just wanted to put the caveat in place at the beginning that the foundation of the system seems to be a notion of human existence that isn’t necessarily universally agreed upon and that may be a bit culturally influenced.

That expresses one of the model’s most advanced distinctions. I’m referring to Brennen’s participation in this despite his reservations. I hate to sound like my third-grade teacher, but “can anyone identify what distinction that expresses?”

For my part, I’m willing to assume that Brennen’s exception may be true. Knowing where this model goes, it wouldn’t be fatal to the model’s function. (What I just did is also an important distinction in the model. What just happened in this interaction?)

If I’m going to do this, I need feedback every step of the way. In Calvin’s “projects,” participants met and interacted as a group. At best, we’re missing the in-person contact, so feedback is all the more important. We’ll see as we go along how many participants we get. We have a little leeway for people to join in progress, but I wouldn’t want anyone trying to catch up when we’re well into it, because that will take us back as a group (assuming we get a group). If you post here, I’ll take that as your being on board as a participant unless you specifically say otherwise. I do ask that if you post, you commit to participate. Doesn’t have to be every step of the way, but the more we interact, the better this will be. Anyone is free to drop out, but I do ask that you let me know if you do.

I thought about posting another step each day, but that’s too often. Instead, I’ll try posting something new three days a week, say Sunday, Tuesday/Wednesday and Thursday/Friday, depending on the subject matter. I’ll head every new distinction with a one-to-a-few word description of the subject matter.

So I’d like to give the rest of today for additional comments on the scaffolding of the model: thought, emotion and action, with a recognition that physical sensation could be seen another “domain,” which we would use less than the other three. (Think of it as Dennis Kucinich to Obama, Clinton and Edwards—- and please, let’s not get bogged down over supremacy among the “big three.”) I’ll also invite people to check in to participate today and for the next few days. The more, the merrier.

Then tomorrow I’ll post the next step. I’d like to get at least a dozen participants to make this really rock, but we’ll see where it goes, and whether we can see it through to completion. That’s my commitment.

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Posted: 27 January 2008 06:45 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Well, that floated like a lead balloon. I’ll try one more post. If there isn’t more interest, I’ll call it quits.

Participants brought a central commitment to the worth and dignity of every person with them into the Human Faith project. As I’ve noted in another topic, nothing can force someone to accept this idea of a universal ethics. The Faith project in an invitation. I’m inviting a brief discussion of what the idea of human worth and dignity means. If this project gets off the ground, we will spend most of the rest of the project fleshing it out.

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Posted: 27 January 2008 07:19 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Paul,

Sorry, but I can’t say that I found what I read of the material you link to inspiring at all. I am interested in what you’ve written on the forum about bringing the benefits of spirtual experience to the secular community, and about creating a confident and solid ethics without god, but I find the “flavor” of this program or method or whatever it is unpalatable. Some of it is my distrust of the attempt to reclaim the concept of faith, which seems very hard to do without giving up the advantages of the preference for reason and skepticism that secularists and naturalists tend to start with. Some of it is the mystical/cult-like feeling of the project, which seems to focus on breaking down and eliminating attitudes that are inconsistent with the “dogma” of the project by labelling them as obstacles or “blocks” and then destroying them through community effort and emotional experiences. It just sounds, again, like keeping too much holy bathwater with the baby.

I guess I don’t know the best way to maintain a sense of connection to humanity as a whole and to the universe and a sense of optimism about human potential and a strong sense of values, all of which Isupport, without taking on board some of the practices of groupthink and suppression of doubt or dissent that religion traditional involves. Maybe it’s just personality and taste, but the web site just set my teeth on edge. I’m still hoping others will jump in here, because I’d be interested in how such a set of “guided” discussions played out. But I tend to be one of the more “touchy-feely” folks around here, and least religiophobic, so if the material makes me uneasy I wouldn’t expect it to go over too well with the community at large.

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Posted: 28 January 2008 05:43 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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mckenzievmd - 27 January 2008 07:19 PM

Paul,

Sorry, but I can’t say that I found what I read of the material you link to inspiring at all. I am interested in what you’ve written on the forum about bringing the benefits of spirtual experience to the secular community, and about creating a confident and solid ethics without god, but I find the “flavor” of this program or method or whatever it is unpalatable. Some of it is my distrust of the attempt to reclaim the concept of faith, which seems very hard to do without giving up the advantages of the preference for reason and skepticism that secularists and naturalists tend to start with. Some of it is the mystical/cult-like feeling of the project, which seems to focus on breaking down and eliminating attitudes that are inconsistent with the “dogma” of the project by labelling them as obstacles or “blocks” and then destroying them through community effort and emotional experiences. It just sounds, again, like keeping too much holy bathwater with the baby.

I guess I don’t know the best way to maintain a sense of connection to humanity as a whole and to the universe and a sense of optimism about human potential and a strong sense of values, all of which Isupport, without taking on board some of the practices of groupthink and suppression of doubt or dissent that religion traditional involves. Maybe it’s just personality and taste, but the web site just set my teeth on edge. I’m still hoping others will jump in here, because I’d be interested in how such a set of “guided” discussions played out. But I tend to be one of the more “touchy-feely” folks around here, and least religiophobic, so if the material makes me uneasy I wouldn’t expect it to go over too well with the community at large.

I wholeheartedly agree with everything you say here Brennan.

Paul

Now what do you mean by “think”? Words, images, hunches (including all sensory modalities)? Why divide these into these three - this sounds like CBT and no issues with that - it is potentially useful self-skeptical model but nothing specifically to do with ethics. What do you mean by emotion - feelings , reactions, moods, intuition? Are intuitions = huncehs have I got these terms in the oppsite classes to where they belong?  Are there any thoughts without feelings are they simply seperable? (Damasio would say not).  Are there any feelings wihtout thoughts? If thought is in the cortex and not actions -  what about the sensory-motor cortex? And this is all just for starters.

This all seems hopelessly vague as, sorry to say, per usual Paul :-(

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Posted: 28 January 2008 09:20 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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PLaClair - 25 January 2008 01:48 PM

The first set of distinctions are what Calvin calls the domains of being: thought, emotion and action. (We could also include sensation, but that doesn’t get us very far with ethics, and it isn’t necessary to the purposes of the model. I have included sensation in my expansion on the model, but sparingly.) These domains correspond very roughly to areas of the brain: the brainstem and cerebellum (action), the midbrain, limbic system and hypothalamus (emotion) and the cerebral cortex (thought).

I am interested in making distinctions between actions, emotions & thoughts.  I think that these distinctions can play a key role in many discourses.  I am intrigued by the psychological and neurological implications of your experiment despite the similarities to dogma and brainwashing.  I will participate with an open mind, although a cautious and skeptical open mind.  I hope this skepticism doesn’t interfere with the implementation of faith that this project is pushing.

PLaClair - 25 January 2008 01:48 PM

In one of our first sessions, Calvin asked each of us to express what we were thinking, feeling and doing at the moment. Try it yourself.

Thinking – Lots of things, basically my first response above and technically anything else I type.
Action  – Making efforts to inquire about concepts I have not been exposed to, by reading typing and thinking.
Emotion  – I don’t understand emotions except in the contexts of thinking, so I am looking forward to hearing more about this.  Thinking about emotions I find them well grounded in evolution and often mixed with sensations.  The important thing about emotions is that we have arbitrarily managed to communicate with others that we can share similar emotions.  When I say happy or sad in conversation those words have internalized meanings for others.

Did I participate properly? I am interested less in a drawn out process and more about the implications for ethics and decision making.

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Posted: 28 January 2008 11:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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Retrospy, that’s terrific. You gave honest feedback. That’s what I need.

Thank you for being interested in this, and for putting that interest into a response. I was fully prepared to give it up. Let’s see where it goes.

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Posted: 29 January 2008 01:02 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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PlaClair,

I very much like Chatlos’ spirit of encouragement about empathy and social cooperation, as demonstrated in the article that you referenced.  Quite inspiring.  To be honest, though, I can’t accept his idea of human faith.

[quote author=“Chatlos”]HUMAN FAITH (consensus definition)—unquestioning belief with complete trust, confidence, loyalty, and reliance on human beings.

I don’t have an unquestioning belief, trust or confidence in, or loyalty toward all human beings.  For example, toward Charles Manson or Jeffrey Dahmer.  I have no trust in any sort of clerical or spiritual leadership.  And these days, I feel very little belief, trust or confidence in our national or global political leadership.

My lifestyle and happiness does most certainly depend on others, and I do care immeasurably about both my immediate loved ones and humanity at large.  I do not have faith of any sort.  I do have hope.

For the sake of discussion, I accept your distinction between thinking, emotion and action.  Where are you going with it?

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Posted: 29 January 2008 01:23 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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erasmus, I don’t think anyone in the project accepted the definition literally and absolutely. I know I didn’t. Could you accept it as an ideal?

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