Argument, meaning, and Rational Action
To argue is to
ANIL MITRA © MARCH 2016—April 2017
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To argue, in the sense used here, is to establish truth. Some terms related to argument are reason, rationality, rational action, logic, inference, argument, decision making, rational choice and action, and includes fact verification, deductive and inductive inference, propositional and predicate logic, scientific method, multi-factor analysis, and factor identification.
This essay summarizes some developments and thoughts on argument—especially as a method in knowledge and action.
Metaphysics (knowledge) and method are inseparable—for method generates knowledge which exemplifies method; and in principle because method is part of knowledge.
The essay outlines the universal metaphysics, ‘the metaphysics’, of The Way because (i) it informs and illustrates method, (ii) it makes the account more useful and (ii) it reveals limits to common paradigms of knowledge, criticism, and action. The metaphysics meshes with ordinary, limited knowledge and action in a way that enhances the esoteric and the exoteric. While we are so familiar with the idea of limits of human knowledge and achievement, the universal metaphysics shows realms the mesh of the limitless and the finite; and their individual and joint aspects of the limited and the perfect.
Perhaps the most general human question is What shall we do and think—and how?
Essentially, for example, it subsumes Immanuel Kant’s famous three questions: What can I know? What should I do? What may I hope?
Knowing and acting have no final separation. But (i) partial separation is very possible and (ii) we can represent the knowledge-action mesh (and loops) in knowledge.
This is a source of the idea of rationality or rational action.
Criticisms of the idea are (i) the incompleteness of the separation and representation (addressed later), (ii) rationality is incomplete because there is no unique action and because it must often appeal not just to CRITICAL COGNITION but also to IMAGINATION, EMOTION, VALUE (ETHICS), and INTUITION.
The response to item ii is, that we do not merely appeal to emotion etc. but they are part of rationality; and that where there is essential choice we are free to choose.
Here, therefore, since there is no adequate term for a join of criticism and imagination, cognition, feeling, value, intuition, imagination, and criticism, use MIND in a general sense to refer to all of these in their interaction.
Argument establishes truth.
Argument is significant in reliability of claims of knowledge, in extending knowledge, and in rational action.
The simple explanation below is elaborated later
Some truths are established directly as the result of observation.
Further truths are inferred from patterns.
Sources of patterns as truths are considered later.
Argument is the joint process of establishing and inferring truth.
How to develop the methods or ways of argument. This involves understanding argument.
But to do this, and the next point is to apply argument to itself. It is an example of reflex in argument. Is this possible? This question and the topic of reflexivity are addressed later.
To be transparent—as far as possible to eliminate the a priori in argument.
As far as reasonable for the ways to be complete; and as far as possible for them to be reliable.
The general use is of course establishment of truth.
In The Way of Being and the universal metaphysics.
As part of or independently from The Way—To describe the modern world; and to assessing, delineate and develop approaches or solutions to its significant issues.
Other topics in the parts on reason
Preliminary sets up some essentials (meaning) and context—metaphysics.
Argument develops formal argument as such
Reason provides a foundation for argument and how to use it
Applied reason considers kinds of contexts, especially open contexts in which formal argument requires supplement
Applications takes up applications to metaphysics, human knowledge and realization, and some issues of our world
The importance of a full notion of meaning is clarity and possibility of meaning; it is foundation for argument, knowledge, and realization. Where inherited meaning is vague it introduces precision—by clarification and excision; it aids resolution of paradox by uncovering hidden assumptions; it uncovers implicit knowledge and enhances progress of knowledge by showing how to admit more meaning. Where a meaning, e.g. of substance or cause is adequate perhaps only roughly to a limited context, analysis may show a meaning adequate perfectly to a large context—e.g. Being rather than substance, Necessity rather than mechanism as cause.
A concept is any mental content.
A pure or bare sign is a mark devoid of significance.
A symbol is a concept or a symbol associated with a concept (which, so far as signs are contents, is also a concept). Symbols are simple or compound, e.g. sentences. The sign makes the symbol a concept that is efficient for representation and communication.
Meaning is a symbol (concept or sign-concept) associated with an object.
Without a concept no object or fact or state of affairs can be located; therefore the pure sign is inadequate. The symbol or concept is essential to meaning.
The object is frequently called the ‘meaning of’ the symbol.
The purposes to this section for argument are:
However, the overriding aim is the metaphysics itself. In that development, while we like some separation of method (argument) and content (metaphysics), the goal is the mesh of argument and metaphysics in Metaphysics.
The term ‘metaphysics’ has many meanings in philosophy and other uses.
Its meaning here begins a particular naïve sense of ‘knowledge of things as they are”.
It is naïve because “things as they are” is a questionable notion, especially if we are interested in precise truth; and knowledge of things as they are is especially questionable as even knowledge is questionable.
As noted, an ultimate framework of knowledge of the universe has been developed.
It is ultimate in being perfectly precise and in showing the universe as ultimate—as the realization of all logical possibility.
This framework is consistent with and meshes with what is valid in culture, including science, and experience—which will here be called TRADITION. The mesh is seamless; the framework shows the ultimate that being necessarily realizes; tradition is pragmatic, but more is impossible but undesirable, and so it is the essential instrument of realization and perfect as such; and the framework-tradition mesh is dually perfect (and while a given tradition has limits, being moves from one cosmos and one tradition to another in a process of realization).
Since mind is in the world, argument is a part of metaphysics—as content and as process. The metaphysics shows content and method, not just as one, but as meshed.
Since the metaphysics is ultimate it shows some ultimates regarding argument; and in turn, argument reveals the metaphysics and its ultimate character.
That is, argument and its metaphysical object are inseparable.
Each is diminished by imagining ultimate separability and in making the approximate separation (and in thinking the parts complete or complete-able in isolation).
That is, while some separation (knowledge –action-knowledge process) is possible and efficient, the join is essential.
Intuition of the action-knowledge loop questions—and the metaphysics confirms that there is no absolute a priori.
Note that science and classical metaphysical systems lie within the range of what the present conception of metaphysics.
Of such systems, Whitehead’s is both rational and critically speculative.
Note that Wittgenstein’s logical atomism though precise and suggestive falls short of a full universal metaphysics—its atomism is suspect and is conflated with logic and science so far; and while the conflation with the may be corrigible, the conflation with the sciences is absurdly premature; what is more on account of the unjustified atomism (shown impossible by the universal metaphysics below), valid humanistic and extra-cosmological knowledge are ignored and this is and cannot be justified. Though not a positivist, Wittgenstein wears the blinders and blindness characteristic of his time and the attitude of the culture of science to see present knowledge as definitive of all being.
We would keep such systems in mind under tradition but they are not needed here for the essential purpose.
Repeating what was observed earlier
Method and content; metaphysics-cosmology-epistemology… are one.
The metaphysics of ‘The Way’, the ‘universal metaphysics’ is comprised of the following parts:
A truth is a symbol that correctly and adequately specifies an object or state of affairs (so meaning is essential to truth).
Simple, compound, and complex facts are examples.
On an atomic theory of meaning, there are only simple and compound facts.
Complex facts of roughly distinct but not completely separable facts (thus facts are interpreted on large schemes, sometimes an ultimate metaphysics). They include processes and relations; and visual and described patterns—the description may be in detail or summary, e.g. a formula, law, or theory.
The following may be about what is common in local or individual culture but may also go beyond culture and, as seen, may extend to the universe-as-all-that-there-is-over-all-sameness-and-difference.
Notice that the following are beyond question: EXPERIENCE (even illusion is experience), sameness, and difference; and from these, without reference to any substantial nature, the universe, beings, Being, possibility, and—if existence is established—the void. The question of substance is a different issue whose outcome may be indifferent of monist (if we are to have a substance ontology it must be monist in essence even if dual in tentative understanding). The truth of these is established by naming a given whose necessity is obvious, e.g. by abstraction and or analysis of meaning (e.g. Descartes’ naming of experience in the cogito argument).
Examples given above include the universal which shows there can be no absolute proscription against perfect knowledge the universe (any such proscription would be against some claims).
Examples: his eyes are green, the building is 100 meters tall.
These can be made perfectly true by specifying precision (but interval arithmetic and analysis are difficult). These are established by observation and measurement, and corroboration—by further argument including observation, and inference. Clarity and analysis of meaning are important as well.
Notice that the perfect case is included in the pragmatic but the reverse is true only in some contexts according to some pragmatic criteria.
Included for completeness, scientific measurements provide stimuli for new theories or corroboration (non negation) of hypotheses and existing theories.
Repetition and independent confirmation are important.
The theory is extensive—see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Measurement and https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/measurement-science/.
Inference is ‘reasoning’ from a data or premise set to a domain or conclusion set such that the validity of the conclusion to some degree of certainty is plain and obvious (in the following premise and conclusion sets will be, simply, premise and conclusion and so it will not be necessary to use the plurals ‘premises’ or ‘conclusions’). The data set need not be only of simple facts but may include established compounds and complexes.
Inference from a premise to a conclusion at least implicitly is contained in the premise (if the conclusion is not even obliquely contained in the premise, inference cannot be necessary). Inference under logic, in an axiomatic system—e.g. a mathematics or scientific theory—are of this kind. Inference of probabilities (contrasted to probability of inference) may be necessary inference. The containment is necessary for necessary inference but we may forego it, for example when physicists sacrifice mathematical rigor to get results.
Necessary inference is discovery of truths already at least implicitly known.
This is also uncovering meaning.
Hypothetical or projective inference from a premise to a seemingly related conclusion set (e.g. more comprehensive, overlapping, similar) of facts. Hypothesis can only be eliminated if observation on the domain is complete.
In a temporal world projection to the future is hypothetical. Experience suggests that the near future has continuities with history but reflection suggests caution with respect to the distant future. The sun will almost certainly rise tomorrow but almost certainly not in 20 billion years.
In a world whose size is beyond our power to measure, projection is always hypothetical.
Projection from data to an independent fact is always completely hypothetical.
However, we often have ‘good’ reasons to regard the projection as reliable.
Hypothetical inference is discovery of truths by projection (of course we are careful by various ways to see that the projection is reasonable—e.g., by continuity, analogy, similarity, and continued at least occasional contact with observation).
This is also synthesis of meaning.
These are suggestive, e.g., of: finding the explicit in the implicit; generalization for hypothesis; and directions of action.
As noted above, some kinds are logical, mathematics under an axiomatic system, using science under a scientific theory expressed axiomatically, probabilistic analysis where the relations among probabilities are determinate.
Deduction is almost always step by step such that each step is obviously certain.
††In fact the way necessary inference was described above requires this. As a very trivial example A & B implies A which step is trivial in the logic of propositions from the definition of “&”. The difference to other derivations is similar except that the chain of inference may be long.
It is instructive to develop the logical calculi along such lines.
In inductive inference, the premises are seen as providing strong or probable evidence for the conclusion.
If the truth of the premise supports the probability of the conclusion it is strong. Otherwise it is weak.
Conduction begins as is a naïve form in which ‘reasons’ are listed as they occur; the terminus is arbitrary; and the means of summation not determined but perhaps intuitive.
It is placed before other aspects of inductive or reasonable but not necessary argument because it can be refined to include those.
A more complete treatment is in conductive argument, below.
Scientific method and induction
As science encompasses new domains, it is kept realistic by updating theories (hypothetical systems) to incorporate new data. The close contact with the world and use and repeated success gives us confidence until violations are found.
This is close to the notion of inductive reasoning in which the truth of the conclusion is in some sense probable given the necessary or probable truth of the premise.
In a partially experienced (observed) universe, projection beyond the empirical region is always tentative, hypothetical. However, there may be power and risk in accepting projection (but the greater the distance from the observed realm the greater the likelihood of error and risk).
But projection and hypothesis may be rendered fact by abstraction (see earlier discussion) or limiting the domain of the conclusion.
Abductive inference is reasoning that goes from premises to a theory or explanation that account for the theory that is in some sense the best—e.g., most likely, or simplest, or, if the universe of data is observable, then even necessary.
To abduction, science adds ongoing contact with observation.
Philosophic generalization is similar to the scientific method. Here is a quote from AN Whitehead’s Process and Reality: An Essay in Cosmology, Corrected Edition, 1978:
“ ‘Philosophic generalization’ has meant “the utilization of specific notions, applying to a restricted group of facts, for the divination of generic notions applying to all facts.”
And Speculative Philosophy and its method written briefly is
“Speculative philosophy is the endeavor to frame a coherent, logical, necessary system of general ideas in terms of which every element of our experience can be interpreted. By this notion of ‘interpretation’ I mean that everything of which we are conscious, as enjoyed, perceived, willed, or thought, shall have the character of a particular instance of the general scheme. Thus the philosophical scheme should be coherent, logical, and, in respect to its interpretation, applicable and adequate. Here ‘applicable’ means that some items of experience are thus interpretable, and ‘adequate’ means that no items are incapable of such interpretation.”
In terms of the universal metaphysics of The Way of Being, its framework emphasizes, roughly, the fundamental concepts of the metaphysics. This frames what is valid in our knowledge (including what is valid in tradition) of a limited reality and the two are shown to have perfection as a scaffolding toward ultimate realization.
As we have seen an argument establishes truth—it argues the truth of a conclusion.
It does so by establishing premise and inferring conclusion.
Special cases are (a) the conclusion is the premise and (b) there is only inference from necessary or probable truth.
If the conclusion is a necessary inference from the premise, the argument is deductive or necessary.
If the premise implies the conclusion, the argument is called valid. If, in addition, the premise is true then the conclusion is true and the argument is called sound.
Necessary argument is discovery of what is already definitely known or knowable.
An argument may be called inductive if the premise and inference jointly support the conclusion but not its necessity.
If the truth of the premise supports the probability of the conclusion, it will be called good in this essay (some references use the term strong). Otherwise it will here be called poor.
If the premises are true or likely true, the argument is called cogent. Otherwise it is uncogent.
The ideal for an inductive argument is to be cogent and good; in that case, here it will be called strong; otherwise it will be called weak.
Kinds of induction
Particular cases can be made of conduction, scientific method, abduction, and philosophic generalization.
Hypothetical argument is argument for purposes of establishing a necessary or discovery of what is roughly or projectively known or knowable.
While there is a boundary, in practice it is not clearly sharp.
What argument is and how it is possible are established. Let us enquire further. The following are the concerns of REASON as understood here.
Given an argument, to follow it yields understanding. But how do we develop an argument? And there are prior questions. Precisely, what is argument (establishing fact, inference); how are these possible; how are they developed into systems and methods; and is an a priori necessary?
We began to see foundation. But what is its basis?
GROUND is any ultimate foundation.
We began to see ground in observation and inference. Can that be perfect and complete? The metaphysics says no—and that it is not desirable—but that it is precise in some directions. And in general we want it to be as complete as we can get it so that we can get on with realization and spend little time at ground except of course to enjoy it.
We saw ground in “necessary argument”.
We saw that this is not universal; that in some matters necessity is beyond reach.
But we also saw that this is of the essence and that the mesh of the necessary and the pragmatic are perfect for some ultimate purposes.
How may we develop arguments and confidence in them? This is discussed in ‘reflexivity’ below.
An open context is usual—we do not know the real problem or all the factors. The open context is about practical situations—personal, technology, design, economics and politics at all levels (even where science seems closed it is only by limiting the context).
This has affinity to critical thinking—but that term is not emphasized here.
Some foci are conductive argument and its improvements and good enough vs. optimal analysis.
Of course in any particular situation we already have broadening and selective attitudes but—
Reflexivity begins as a leveling idea on the way to realization—“all considerations potentially matter and may be useful”—that way (method) and content are all knowledge; that all knowledge is to be admitted in interaction; and in interaction with action—
But while we seek all ways and contents, the process itself, and reflection on it, leads selectively to continual grounding, improvement, and honing.
Our process may begin with imagination or criticism;
In the next stage it reacts to the excesses of the initial approach; it reflects on itself; it becomes critically surgical while remaining open to input; and then the different modes of accumulation and critical elimination continue in interaction at various general levels and particular local interests.
At any beginning, we already know something; we start where we are as immediate and immediate and move outward; and aim deeper and higher
As seen above, the cogito argument etc—we always know something essential and can build up from there (e.g. the ‘emergent’ metaphysical concepts above).
Though we seek ground and sky, you can only start where you are—and in the present.
That is, in one sense you are always at the beginning; in another in the middle—the immediate is a mesh of some ground and some sky—but neither final ground nor final ultimate.
Aiming deeper and higher—with ground always in the immediate, we aim to see the esoteric as exoteric and the exoteric as esoteric.
We are moving outward toward ground and sky, to subsuming them in the immediate.
Knowledge is never entirely grounded; but final ground is neither possible nor desirable.
Knowledge or knowing is completed in action or acting.
There is no acting without knowing.
Our cognitions suggest but do not especially move toward positive nor retard against negative action; when we think they do, it is the subtle pressure of feeling and intuition.
COGNITION invariably occurs together with FEELING (EMOTION) and INTUITION which may provide subtle or strong correctives. Which we can then analyze and so on and which occasions ETHICS which is and ‘should’ be based not just on feeling but also on cognition.
But feeling, intuition, and value do not merely inform cognition in rationality; they are equal and necessary partners in rational process.
They are originally one diversity; in practice they become diverse interactives; but do not become isolated except in slanted idealizations.
All elements of mind are essential in interaction even though we may analyze them somewhat separately for convenience as well as efficiency.
For example, feeling is essential in binding to the world—without it we become unmoored in place and direction; but cognition can understand this and add and improve. On the other hand cognition is open in ‘seeing’ and freeing in conceptualization—but feeling as connection to world and other is corrective against merely being different; but feeling also revels in freeing and adds to its direction.
This is the place of the concept of heart-mind for which I sometimes borrow the term CITTA from Hindu-Buddhist understanding of psyche (where the actual use of “Citta” is more specific).
We saw above where certainty is possible and where bold hypothesis and experiment are effective.
In understanding the world (metaphysics) patience and
boldness are virtues that have their interactive place.
It is sometimes asked whether metaphysics or epistemology should take priority?
If there were a question of priority, the answer would depend on the objective—e.g. caution vs. boldness,
But the point is made moot because as we see here, epistemology is part of metaphysics and while in a limited view it empowers metaphysics, in a broader view good metaphysics is essential to good epistemology.
We might say—epistemology is the process of metaphysics; but epistemology is part of the content of metaphysics. This obscures the point that the disciplines are really one.
Can we build up a whole picture from elements?
We have seen that we can and that, in the present case, it required (a) abstraction and an abstract part in interaction (b) with a concrete and pragmatic part.
This is sufficient for realization (details in The Way of Being).
However, the framework allows for finer levels from tradition, experience, and argument.
This could be part of reflexivity since it is essentially argument about argument-content.
§ The principle of the best
§ The predicate is part of the concept or subject or object—“in every true affirmative proposition, whether necessary or contingent, universal or particular, the notion of the predicate is in some way included in that of the subject”. Thus in “He is running”, “is running” is already part of “he”
§ Principle of Contradiction—also called the principle of non-contradiction: a proposition cannot be true and false at the same time (except, as noted by others, in the case of a null object or empty universe). This is one of the classical “laws of thought”—(1) The Principle of Identity that each thing is identical to itself, (2) The Principle of (non) Contradiction as above, and (3) The Principle of the Excluded Middle that “everything must either be or not be” or, for every proposition A, either A or not A; i.e. all propositions are either true or false (and of course there are well known exceptions of propositions that do not have a truth value because they have no object—either because of the formulation or because they refer to an empty universe).
§ Principle of Sufficient Reason—nothing is without a reason or there is no effect without a cause (which we know to be untrue from the universal metaphysics except on interpretation of ‘cause’ so broad that ‘no cause’ can be a cause; but even in the case of the metaphysics, where there is no classical cause, the search for a cause leads to the conclusion which may be seen as a reinterpretation of ‘cause’). A value of the principle is that it encourages us to continue to look for a cause even when we don’t find one; and that we can very often use the principle to infer a cause—heuristically or, along with other information, deductively.
§ The Principle of Identity of Indiscernibles—that if two objects have all properties in common, they are identical. Now, Leibniz excludes extrinsic properties, e.g. location in space and time. What Leibniz is saying, here, is that, if two objects are at different space-time locations there must be some intrinsic difference. That is, my apparently identical double but for the fact of being ten feet away from me is not me. However, according to the principle, my intrinsically identical double cannot have extrinsically different properties—cannot be ten feet away from me—and is me. However, the law that my identical double and I cannot occupy the same space and time is a physical and not a logical ‘law’. These considerations do not exhaust the analysis and consequences of the principle.
§ The Principle of Continuity—Nothing takes place suddenly
§ General observations—the power of these principles arises conjointly. However, I do not believe any one of them except the principle of identity is without exception. Non-contradiction, for example, may be shown from the principle of identity in a non empty universe.
‘Applied reason’ is reason in any actual context, from local and specific to universal and general. The emphasis is ‘real world’ contexts rather than reason as a discipline but the latter should not be excluded.
Open or incompletely defined contexts are emphasized—in actual situations all the inputs are often incompletely known.
Specific applications are in the next division—Applications.
Academic disciplines have context dependent ways of reason. Critical thinking, perhaps due to John Dewey, was intended to be a context independent approach that would be independent of discipline but capable of applicable to all disciplines. This would not eliminate special ways but it would improve quality and efficiency.
Here we use the term “applied reason” and in the present context it is not just a skill set. There is no ultimate distinction between the pure and the applied so reasoning about reasoning is implicit but the focus is on application.
The applied aim is Thinking carefully, effectively, critically, imaginatively, intuitively, holistically, emotively, and constructively about the range of issues that we face in our individual, professional, communal, national, international, and universal contexts.
Thinking ‘emotively’ is intended for in forming judgments feeling is crucial.
Decision making—career and life choices, getting the groceries, economic policy, international policy, allocation of resources, political choice, choosing a candidate or a partner
Truth always seems incomplete and truth counter-intuitive; but dialog among action, perception, thought—critical and imaginative, perception, intuition, feeling, value, ethics… is always there
… see argument
We want all the relevant facts and information
Naïve ‘conductive logic’ often stops at the first wild obvious fact or goes from fact to fact perhaps vacillating at each stage; or, better, has a review at the end
What is necessary is (a) all the relevant facts and (b) analysis that takes simultaneous account of the relevant facts.
But typically, and usually in the beginning, we don’t know what the relevant domains of fact or the facts are.
This is really a process of reason: situation ® problem and definition ® probable facts ® inference (theory, logic) ® prediction ® experiment and or action ® comparison ® revaluation of relevance, fact, and theory …
Conduction begins as is a naïve form in which ‘reasons’ are listed as they occur; the terminus is arbitrary; and the means of summation not determined but perhaps intuitive.
It is placed before other aspects of inductive or reasonable but not necessary argument because it can be refined to include those.
It is how preliminary and naïve arguments go; it mirrors everyday argument or dialog among persons.
Listed for completeness, conductive reasoning is typically a linear listing of pros and cons which help clarify but do not establish. Establishment would then be aided by attempt to complete the facts and factors; value clarification and consideration of alternative scenarios; attempt to realize as a closed context; and optimal analysis.
A discussion back and forth in a discussion or debate can be conductive. It’s significance is that it is used so frequently that it is worth clarifying.
It has refinements—some procedural; it may incorporate the other forms; it includes design…
Keep? How / what?
When done, redo .Journey in Being-detail.html.
This is a beginning; principles need to be revised according to principle and the “list” organized and shortened; and responses outlined.
In the ultimate the transient and the universal merge.
So being-in-the-world and the ultimate are to be in interactive balance.
We do not reject either the immediate-pragmatic or the meta-narrative.
To reject either is to diminish both.
To live well is simple—except when one does not have well-being.
Issue 1—global climate change—climate scientists claim significant warming with likely disastrous consequences and that this is 90 – 95% certainly the result of human activity. Should we act on this?
Principle 1—action should not be deferred till a problem is certain.
Issue 2—but there are many competing problems.
Principle 2—we need rational allocation of choice.
Issue 3—but perfect rationality is not possible.
Principle 3—we need good enough rationality (‘perfection’ does not have definite meaning).
Issue 4—we have differing views and politics.
Principle 4—we need realism, holism, experiment, learning, and dialog.
Issue 5—w e do not know the range of challenges, opportunities, problems, and ways to address these.
Principle 5—We must work toward enumerating, evaluating, and synthesizing them—and toward action. Synthesis includes seeing the interactions among issues and seeking optimum or good enough allocation of resources among problems and opportunities
There are various lists. Following combines and modifies the most recent 2004 UN High Level Threat Panel’s and Richard Smalley’s around 2005 ‘Top Ten Problems of Humanity for the Next 50 years’. I have made some additions—enfranchisement (Smalley listed democracy and education separately), environment and resources (were listed separately), culture (emphases opportunities, includes knowledge of the world, an appreciation for what is of worth, and the understanding of conservation and planning—which makes the list reflexively complete), and geopolitics. The list below begins with ‘problems’ but beginning with the environment and resources the items present problem and opportunity.
War, terrorism, and transnational organized crime.
Proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (nuclear, chemical, and biological).
Genocide, sex trade, body part kidnapping, and other atrocities.
Environment—climate, land, air, and water.
Resources—water, food, energy, land, plant, animal, and materials.
Approaches—science and technology; see culture, population, and geopolitics below.
Democracy, education, quality of life.
Women, men, children.
Knowledge—systematic and general, secularism-religion and (versus) realism (see the document ‘system of human knowledge’ in which the main divisions are universe, artifact, and symbol).
Morals and trust.
Art and human expression.
Population is a root issue. Intervention is possible. Moral concerns make moral action difficult to conceive and there is a tendency to therefore neglect the issue. This should not prevent reflection and search for solutions. Better education, improved economic status, and perhaps political enfranchisement result in lower birth rate (as low as 1.4 children per couple in some places). Education and opportunity for women and minorities is recognized important. I think, however, it is important to not exclude any segment of populations with the thought that they are the power or wealthy class. Men are as critical as women. It is critical to reach across borders. Exclusion reinforces negative practices. Inclusion is at least an invitation to the positive.
The future of nations and national boundaries.
Modern community—‘developing’ and ‘developed’.
Root issues. Political and economic principles of transformation and action. Regarding these issues this includes their ongoing enumeration and evaluation of the individual and system of issues for allocation of resources; particular attention should be given to root issues, material and other, that spawn many others and for which intervention is possible and moral.
Problem of action. When, an individual, look at our world I may become frustrated. Why? It is in part that there is so much opportunity yet so much waste. However, I know of no law of the universe that says that this is avoidable. This does not remove my dissatisfaction with waste but it does suggest what I might do about it. In a material sense all I can do is begin with myself here and now in the present. But I can do more. I can reflect I can communicate and I can act. The point then is the spirit of action. I can act but not control. Therefore the spiritual advice to not be attached to the fruits of action is not only spiritually empowering but practical as well—in (a) that I avoid useless frustration and (b) in empowering my action.
Imagining scenarios—problems, challenges, opportunities—can be useful in anticipation and in setting up policies and institutions.
This list is a beginning.
The universal metaphysics implies that science, politics, economics of the future should be more than ‘republican’ i.e. entrusted to designated (elected and other) persons but one of participation and immersion.
To think critically about the political economy is not only to make choices from known options but to also construct new ones.
It’s a tall order and one might want to begin small but this is not a text book. The subject and its facets are a main reason to consider the political economy.
Politics is important to economics as the arena of decisions. But it is important for other reasons as well—social, international, military and more.
Forms of government with a view to human ideals, cultural, economic, technological, and military power.
Nations and trade blocks
Influence of politics
The present scene: America
Redistribution of wealth (competition for resources)
Global competition for resources
Pockets of stagnation and poverty
Theory: macroeconomics and money
GDP, PPP, and national debt
Ideology: liberal, conservative; neoliberal and neoconservative
Finance and banking
Commerce and industry
Education, creativity, and entrepreneurship
Government: World through local
Consumer: markets and individuals
Politics: America and the world
E.g., the religious right
Post 2016 election America and World
Reasons for reform rather than elimination