USING HUMANIST ETHICS AND NON-LINEAR DISCUSSIONS IN A LINEAR ENVIRONMENT:
This consideration will begin with relevant definitions of terms. These terms are important because they are central to the CFI system and the doctrines within which it should function as a humanist system. They are also relevant because they are an integral part of the suggested measures for improvement.
Definition #1: Humanism (from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Humanism)
“Humanism is a broad category of ethical philosophies that affirm the dignity and worth of all people, based on the ability to determine right and wrong by appealing to universal human qualities, particularly rationality, without resorting to the supernatural or alleged divine authority from religious texts. It is a component of a variety of more specific philosophical systems. Humanism can be considered as a process by which truth and morality is sought through human investigation and as such views on morals can change when new knowledge and information is discovered. In focusing on the capacity for self-determination, humanism rejects transcendental justifications, such as a dependence on belief without reason, the supernatural, or texts of allegedly divine origin. Humanists endorse universal morality based on the commonality of the human condition, suggesting that solutions to human social and cultural problems cannot be parochial.”
The following terms within the first definition of Humanism are relevant:
Definition #2: Ethical Philosophy (from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethics)
“Ethics is the major branch of philosophy that encompasses proper conduct and good living. It is significantly broader than the common conception of ethics as the analyzing of right and wrong. A central aspect of ethics is “the good life”, the life worth living or that is simply satisfying, which is held by many philosophers to be more important than moral conduct.”
Definition #3: Rationalism (from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rationalism)
“In epistemology and in its modern sense, rationalism is “any view appealing to reason as a source of knowledge or justification” (Lacey 286). In more technical terms it is a method or a theory “in which the criterion of the truth is not sensory but intellectual and deductive” (Bourke 263). Different degrees of emphasis on this method or theory lead to a range of rationalist standpoints, from the moderate position “that reason has precedence over other ways of acquiring knowledge” to the radical position that reason is “the unique path to knowledge” (Audi 771). Given a pre-modern understanding of reason, “rationalism” is identical to philosophy, the Socratic life of inquiry, or the zetetic interpretation of authority (open to the underlying or essential cause of things as they appear to our sense of certainty). In recent decades, Leo Strauss sought to revive Classical Political Rationalism as a discipline that understands the task of reasoning, not as foundational, but as maieutic.”
Definition #4: Maieutics (from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maieutics)
“Maieutics (pronunciation in IPA: [mejutks]), by analogy is Maia, the eldest of the Pleiades, is a complex procedure of research. It is based on the idea that the truth is latent in the mind of every human being due to his innate reason but has to be “given birth” by answering questions (or problems) intelligently proposed. Normally it is thought that maieutics was created by the historical Socrates, because it is placed in the character of Socrates in the Theatetus of Plato.”
Definition #5: Epistemology (from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epistemology)
“Epistemology (from Greek - episteme, “knowledge” + “logos”) or theory of knowledge is the branch of philosophy concerned with the nature and scope (limitations) of knowledge. It addresses the questions:
• What is knowledge?
• How is knowledge acquired?
• What do people know?
• How do we know what we know?
Much of the debate in this field has focused on analyzing the nature of knowledge and how it relates to similar notions such as truth, belief, and justification. It also deals with the means of production of knowledge, as well as skepticism about different knowledge claims.
The term was introduced into English by the Scottish philosopher James Frederick Ferrier (1808–1864).”
There are three items which should be carefully considered to improve the CFI Forums and their associated threads:
1. Information and Intention Provision
2. Planning Procedures
3. Suggested Structures
The CFI forums software is of a limited, largely linear, structure. Therefore, technically it can be of no help in developing branched discussions. The following recommendations are, therefore, limited to possibilities designed and developed by CFI forum members themselves as they use the software.
Currently, it is suggested, the linear nature of the CFI Forums software, the regulatory process - which includes “no discussion” decisions made by moderators and administrators, a list of “regulations” which may not be questioned, and which were (apparently) designed by a single administrator or group of administrators with little or no input from regular members, a continuing control structure, which again must remain unquestioned, and a response system and process which encourages no easy interactive reasoning - is antithetical to Humanist thinking and involvement. In other words, this system itself and the way it is currently maintained is anti-humanistic:
• It discourages the questioning of ethical aspects of in-forum interaction including multiple member participation in decision-making.
• It does not use or encourage rational thinking because of its linear and administrator controlled format.
• It discourages true investigation and methods of information discovery and knowledge creation through open discussion and sharing.
• It ignores the “universality of the human condition” by rejecting the right of all members to participate in decision-making about its regulation, control and structure.
• While it welcomes the process of scientific research, its control structure and software form make it impossible for it to embrace this process itself (if systems can be called hypocritical - the CFI Forums are hypocritical).
• Its form and the Laissez-faire attitude of its current members makes it extremely difficult to develop logical, formal reasoning strategies: induction, deduction and the use of maieutics related to common humanistic epistemology.
This is why the described procedures (as stated) need attention and could be used to improve the CFI Forums:
1. Information and Intention Provision
When new members join this system, there are no instructions which explain what the system can be used for, how it can be used, and why it is different from other systems that offer similar options. There is a list of regulations that is not humanistic but authoritarian, and, it is suggested, this is not acceptable.
The information and intention provision should embrace, absolutely, the humanist cause, value structure, and reasoning principles, which must be stated. Regulations should be flexible and changeable combined with a process (biannually or annually) where regulations can be changed by member recommendation and simple majority vote.
Administrators/Moderators should be a part of a similar process where either they can nominate themselves or be nominated by members (biannually or annually), and where they are elected by members.
The Forums, themselves should be flexible, and open to change and much more careful usage. For example, although this software is linear and inflexible, forums could be created which focus on one limited topic only, and any threads created within such limited forums could process information about its limited application until the function of the forum is exhausted, when it can be deleted or archived.
2. Planning Procedures
Members should understand that this system is linear and that its structure does not easily support a true humanist approach to information development and knowledge creation through scientific research, open, branched discussions, and scientific method.
Here are some suggestions for members:
a. Plan you thread before you start it.
b. Plan a start that explains what you are doing and how you intend to do it.
c. State your intentions in the first statement of your thread including your targeted focus, how you would like the discussion to progress, what kind of statements you would like to see (opinions, quoted backups, references, open arguments etc.)
d. Explain how long (time and length - such as number of responses) you want the thread to be.
e. Explain that you will end by summarizing the thread responses or in whatever way you want to end it.
f. Invite comment, but explain that you will not accept diversions (or hot air) and that if there are irrelevant comments you will intervene and bring the thread back on track.
g. State that the summary at the end of this current thread will lead to a new thread.
h. Name your threads carefully so that the names summarize your focus and do not mislead members.
i. Remind members that this is a humanist forum and that you want responses to embrace humanist method, values and procedures (see the definitions provided).
j. Offer a brief bibliography after the thread has begun so that members can look at some of the literature that might back up (or detract from) your arguments.
k. Reject all personal comments or nasty and argumentative responses.
3. Suggested Structures
a. Linear discussion
b. Linear discussion with forced ending, summary, and branching, associated threads.
c. Several threads running parallel on similar, but slightly different topics and ended with a “summary thread” which takes all of the parallel threads, links them, and provides them with a common final discussion.
d. “Limited use” forums with specified threads (no choice) which force the investigation into specific aspects of one limited subject and end in a thread summary.
e. A Forum in which selected common threads from other forums are posted for further comment, discussion and conclusion.
f. Linked forums created where they are tied directly to CFI’s projects and programs, and even to other programs outside the scope of CFI work and which may be of particular interest to members.
Why is it that we never see the CFI brass and scholars participating on the forums? Are the forums that irrelevant or are they meant to be strictly for the CFI plebeian society so they all have a place to blabber? Just a question!
It is suggested that this report be posted as a forum, discussed as a series of threads, and that summaries, common agreements and where other pieces of member recommendations be posted for debate. If anything comes of this, changes should be made, and the CFI forums should continue as requested by members.