Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Some Criticism...

Wikipedia Genesis/Reason entry

In a free society it is good to see debates going on..such as this one. But we should also at the same time try, and develop a far more advanced, and “objective” way of improving our thinking on any issue. Hence, the possible future emergence of the Universal Debating Project. See http://www.p2pfoundation.net/Universal_Debating_Project

 Reply Dave Hansell says: November 21 2015 at 3:44 pm

   Looking through the write up on this link I see two issues which would impact on the efficacy of such a project. The first issue relates to the potential impact or otherwise found in the worthy statement in italics at the end of the introduction which states “It SHOULD become of great practical value for educators, citizens, governments, NGO’s, businesses et al.” As with everything concerning human interaction, no matter how “objective” the presentation of any particular issue the key point is not the “objective” facts (whatever they are) but what they mean to different actors and, more important, different contexts. It does not take much imagination to see that different interests will still interpret anything produced to suit their case. Moreover, the observation attributed to Karl Rove kicks in, in which such a project, grounded in the “reality based community”, ends up merely as a discussion shop reacting to the decisions made by elite power groups who merely ignore it or interpret what it produces according to the dictates of their own interests, at best distorting the projects purpose, at worst making it effectively redundant. Secondly, and more problematically, the methodology is fundamentally flawed. It’s not as if reducing complexities to simplicities has never ever been standard practice in the way human beings think and try to deal with the world. The problem with this simplifying everything with a power point presentation, reducing complex ideas, processes, phenomena etc to a three bullet point package is that it simply results in using brain puns as a substitute for thinking, missing Key features of the world such as context, meaning higher level features etc.

The mathematician Ian Stewart and the reproductive biologist Jack Cohen covered this ground, identifying the limitations of reductionist thinking and methodologies, over twenty years ago in their book “The Collapse of Chaos.” Still relevant agony well worth a gone read, particularly when designing agony worthwhile new initiative.

 Reply DavidB says: November 22 2015 at 3:45 pm

   The UDP has some resemblances with Bernard Lonergan’s notion of a universal viewpoint.


 1. There is a criterion of objectivity. Differences of interpretation can be handled by the universal viewpoint by keeping all such differences of opinion in view.

  2. The process of reducing all arguments to two or three bullet points is like mapping it to human cognitional activity. Since nobody can deny their use of cognitional activity when framing an argument, this is the correct context. Lonergan envisaged such a project in his conception of unified metaphysics, but realised there would be stages in its implementation. The first is implicit, because everyone uses their minds when engaged in debate, or they are not worth engaging with. The second stage is problematic, when we try to reconcile the multitude of departments of knowledge with their corresponding cognitional activity.

The third and final stage is an explicit metaphysics, when our mental processes are known, understood and acknowledged. It is indeed an ambitious project, and may be difficult to persuade people we can move beyond stage 2. - See

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