Definition of 'Affirmative'
Affirmative rationality =+df adequate commitment to the basic requirements of sound rational thinking. Adequate means good enough for the occasion. The affirmative view of sound rational thinking does not profess absolute certainty for human judgment but does recognize and appreciate the value and possibilities of human knowledge. That is to say, human intelligence is often good enough to handle the situation at hand even though it is not perfect. Good enough is a distinguishing characteristic of "affirmative" rationality as defined herein. This point of view is common to mankind and is not new.
Good enough is not an excuse to be careless because good enough demands high quality. This is particularly true in our modern technical world.
The affirmative rational point of view implies several important root premises. For starters, affirmative reason assumes the unshakable reliability of independent, impartial truth while, at the same time, recognizing the limits of human knowledge. Also, the affirmative point of view assumes that sound rational thinking is to be pursued and unsound rational thinking avoided. See below for more basic requirements.
Root Theory: Throughout the plusroot study, the word ‘root’ is used to refer to values that subsist beneath first intensional opinion and knowledge. The term 'root theory' is a short cut that includes epistemology, logic, grammar, rhetoric, semantics, linguistics, some math and other subjects that deal with rational rules and form. Root is a metaphor suggesting elemental.
Two Distinct Root Theories
In studying logic and rational philosophy, I distinguish two distinct rational theories operating in society, each with different agendas. The first is 'affirmative rationality', as defined above, which, from an affirmative point of view, is commitment to the basic requirements of sound rational thinking that is good enough to suit the occasion. The second is any affective, effective negation of affirmative requirements. These 'negative' views of reason thwart, even reverse, affirmative rational procedures. From an affirmative point of view, they are not good enough to suit the occasion.
There are many ways of being 'negative' and many terms to express rationally negative tenets, themes, theories, traits and tactics. See Negative Essay.
Before we can discuss that which is rationally negative, we first need to be clear about what is rationally affirmative. That is to say, we should articulate affirmative rational requirements before engaging in a critical discussion of negative assumptions and methods.
The term negative as used in this study refers to that which in some manner negates the affrimative. Because the plusroot web page and the book, "The Roots of Sound Rational Thinking", the term 'negative' refers to those theories and processes that oppose 'affirmative' rationality as presented herein. See Negative Essay.
Throughout this study, I write from an affirmative rational point of view. 'Negative' or other counter affirmative terms refer to that which significantly inverts affirmative rational requirements as articulated herein. This is confusing to explain but easy to do.
Importance of the Term 'Affirmative'
Simple and Profound: The affirmative rational point of view as defined above is both simple and profound. It is simple because it is based on assumptions so normal that we usually accept them without question. This is often what we mean when we say "commonsense". On the other hand, the affirmative point of view is profound, because, when we do start questioning root assumptions, we find that they often go very deep.
Affirmative: As defined, affirmative root theory refers to an adequate commitment to the basic requirements of sound rational thinking. Negative is that which is not adequate from an affirmative rational point of view.
Single Root Problems: Single Root Problems occur when we make an elemental mistake or root error in regard to a single, specific rational requirement. See Root Error Essay.
Double Root Problems: When we set definitions in this manner, subtle double root problems penetrate every word we say. These are double root problems because the affirmative point of view assumes the affirmative point of view.
Triple Root Problems: The double root problems become a triple root problem when we factor in the possibility of making elemental mistakes (root errors) in our root assumptions. This not only can happen but it often does happen. My essay "The Ultra Root Problem" is an introductory attempt to address these complex issues.
Before we can successfully address ultra root problems of philosophy, we need a well-formed understanding of the affirmative rational approach. Trying to correct errors of negative ideology requires adequate understanding of affirmative ideology.
Commonsense: It is my personal opinion that we can adequately handle basic root problems, single, double and triple, because we humans are well endowed with normal, natural logical insight that we often call 'commonsense'. We use our commonsense to sort root problems in our mind and develop a personal method of dealing with basic rational assumptions so that we can go on with the business of living. We use our personal commonsense to help develop our knowledge and to cultivate our commonsense so that, as we mature, our knowledge becomes wisdom. This gives a special value to the knowledge of every person. In my 'Commonsense Essay' I expand on this idea.
Because we all have a share of commonsense, we have a starting method for discussing complex root problems and we have a way to stay on track. We use our commonsense to discuss the roots of our commonsense.
Not Magic: But commonsense is not magic. Granted, we all have a good measure of commonsense. But to cope with the modern world of science and technology, we need more rational skill than was necessary in times of yore. We can measure the quality of our rational skill by the success of our discourse in resolving modern problems. How well do we handle problems of war, terrorism, cruelty, corruption, poverty, disease, and other tragedies? Are we doing our best?
Most of us are affirmative thinkers most of the time. The word 'affirmative' is used here to give a name to a common type or reasoning that is common, especially when people are in a friendly frame of mind.
Requirements of Affirmative Root Thinking
The basic requirements of affirmative root thinking can be examined in several levels. Many affirmative rational suppositions border on self evident. Most people adopt numersous affirmative rational assumptions of sound rational thinking without critical evaluation.
Because they are profoundly simple, we normally do not notice basic require ments of sound rational thinking. We often rely on them without being self consciously aware of what we do.
When basic requirements of affirmative root thinking are accepted into the rational style of a society, there is no urgent need to study and defend them. What matters is that they are used.
Unfortunately, we live in an age when many basic requirements of sound rational thinking are at risk.
First Broad Generalized Requirement
Provision Two: Truth and Knowledge
Affirmative thinkers assume there is a distinction between human knowledge and truth in its full extension. That is to say, affirmative thinkers hold that: we humans discover truth, we do not create it.
Truth is what it is whether we know it or not.
Although our human knowledge is limited, it is replete with possibility. As a human race, collectively speaking, we already know much but there is still a great deal to learn. As Augustine said, we are like a child on the beach trying to put the ocean in our little bucket.
Now after 1500 years of discovery we have a slightly larger bucket.
For the development of this idea read part two of the Roots of Sound Rational Thinking.
Affirmative thinking implies provision two.
Provision Three: Sound Rational Thinking
In addition to provision one and two, affirmative thinking presuppose a distinction between sound and unsound rational thinking. Sound rational thinking gives adequate reasons for the occasion. Contrariwise, unsound reason offers weak excuses and lame rationalizations.
Discovering ways to distinguish between sound and unsound reason is the business of logic.
The requirements of sound rational thinking in the past were often called The Rules of Right Reason. The violation of the rules of right reason were called fallacies.
Plus root theory holds that we humans intuit the rules of right reason in subliminal thinking. Our ability to use these rules in workaday thinking is called commonsense. [See Liminal]
Plus root theory defines rational as an ability to use reasons. Humans posses this gift, at least potentially. It goes with our nature.
A reason is the middle term of a syllogism. Our ability to reason is our ability to understand and use syllogisms. Part C of The Roots of Sound Rational Thinking goes into this aspect of rational thinking in detail.
We do not need to know consciously about about syllogisms in order to use them anymore than we need to understand the oxygen molecule in order to breath.
The ideas in provision three are so ordinary that normal people accept them as obvious conditions of sanity. We rarely discuss the issues involved because we have already accepted them and they go without saying.
Affirmative philosophy proceeds under the assumption that a real distinction exists between sound and unsound rational thinking.
Provision Four: Fair Play
If there is a distinction between sound and unsound rational thinking then we as humans have a moral obligation to promote sound rational thinking and discourage unsound rational thinking. Aristotle (as commonly translated) called this fair play. Foul fighting, he said, was the misuse of the rules of right reason.
If there are rules of right reason and if we can adequately discover what they are, then we have a moral obligation to actually apply them.
Affirmative philosophers make it their business to uncover the rules of reason and to legitimately employ them in their discourse and to promulgate them. Affirmative rhetoric is the art of doing this in a persuasive and attractive manner.
There is a distinction between learning the rules of right reason and actually using them.
Fair play implies we give one another the benefit of the doubt. It is the leeway affirmative philosophers grant others in the development of ideas because we can't communicate productively with each other if we put each other in straight jackets of exactness. Benefit of the doubt recognizes that we humans are not perfect. Granting benefit of the doubt, while holding high rational standards, has been one of the delightful developments of western civilization. The plus system holds that this is a treasure to keep, a value to expand.
We humans are limited beings with foibles and faults. Benefit of the Doubt rests on the assumption that people are doing the best they can with what they got.
Affirmative thinkers grant benefit of the doubt to one another. We make an extended effort to discover what others are trying to say. We continually attempt to discover what others really mean. We ask ourselves: Do we truly understand what the other person is saying? Does the other person understand us? What can we do to clear up misunderstandings? At all times we foster a deep respect for the inherent intelligence of other persons and their right to their own opinions.
Affirmative commitment does not deny the danger of negative ideas but rather sets the stage to address negative misdirection in a constructive manner that will correct the problem, not make it worse. Affirmative thinking assumes we should prefer sound over unsound rational thinking.
The affirmative thinker studies fallacies in order to avoid them.
Provision Five: Free Will
Free will is the supposition that we humans have a degree of choice in what we do. With this choice goes freedom and responsibility.
Our freedom is limited by our limited knowledge and by physical necessity. We are not free to change the laws of physics. However, we are free to learn the laws of physics and use them for our own purposes. If we misapply the laws of physics, we are not free of the consequences.
Human freedom is very limited.
Because human freedom is limited it follows that the small amount of freedom which does exist is extraordinarily precious and should be used with utmost care.
Freedom is strongest in choices society makes in forming the habits of young people. We have a higher degree of freedom in how we educate youth than in most areas of our life. What habits do we encourage? What tastes do we develop? This is a choice of the elder people in society. The young do not have much choice in this matter. It is the elder people who are in charge of education.
Affirmative thinking assumes that humans possess some degree of free will.
See Chapter Four, Rational Skill, for elaboration. Part E in this series develops the idea of free will more fully
Provision Six: Civil Discourse
Affirmative thinkers make a genuine effort to use the requirements of sound rational thinking in discourse with others.
Affirmative thinkers seek to create an atmosphere where all people are encouraged to speak civilly to each other. Affirmative thinkers respect the opinions of others. Affirmative thinkers have high regard for good manners and avoid insulting other people.
The more we can promote and improve civil discourse, the more we can advance our abilities to progress in peace.
Affirmative philosophy assumes that civil discourse is a better way to resolve conflict than totalitarian dictation and despotic force.
Provision Seven: Priorities (Philosophy and Religion)
Affirmative thinkers promote affirmative philosophy and high quality religion.
Insofar as we commit to applying the requirements of sound rational thinking, we are in a position to discuss differences of opinion concerning religion and philosophy in a civil manner.
Affirmative thinkers discourage superstition, magic and cults.
Affirmative thinking assumes the importance of setting wise priorities and choosing equitable goals.
[See part F for the development of this idea]
The above seven provisions correspond with the the seven divisions of the study The Roots of Sound Rational Thinking. (See Thesis Essay)
All of the above provisions presuppose and imply other assumptions. These postulations go into the requirements of sound rational thinking.
The requirements of sound rational thinking quickly become complex. We benefit if we appreciate the work that has already been done. Modern affirmative logic is the product of much devotion and hard work from affirmative oriented thinkers over the ages and around the world. It belongs to humanity, not any one culture.
Because much has already been done, promoting the requirements of sound rational thinking in our day and time is feasible. We can use that which is already at our finger tips.
Problems develop when divergent ideologies come on the scene that ignore, repudiate and even despise affirmative requirements of sound rational thinking. These ideologies are negative in varying degrees.
Each of the seven provisions mentioned above is, in subtle ways, repudiated in new style criticism. We find contempt for the provisions of affirmative thinking in literary criticism, political criticism, psychological criticism, social criticism and even scientific criticism.
Most critics who suppress the provisions of affirmative thinking do not realized the implications of what they do.
A handful of radical revolutionaries do realize what they do. This small group truly believes that repudiating 'affirmative' ways is necessary to save society. They become powerful through their deliberate employment of the themes of antithetical finesse.
There is no way of knowing who uses negative antithetical tactics deliberately and who does it accidentally. Machiavelli advocated doing it on purpose. Marx, Engles, Lenin, Stalin and Sorel all advocated and used deliberate antithetical tactics. As Alan Bullock pointed out in his 1991 book, Hitler and Stalin, Parallel,
What distinguished Stalin from other Bolshevik leaders, and constantly took them by surprise, was how far he was prepared to go. ... The same can be said of Hitler.
Alan Bullock
Plus root theory aims to establish a method to successfully address problems created by negative ideologies and totalitarian dialectics. However, the first step is to explain the requirements of sound rational thinking that are basic to affirmative sorting mentality. Plus root theory is the version of affirmative values articulated herein.
In order to keep issues in perspective, negative ideology is also discussed in the Roots of Sound Rational Thinking. However, a thorough study of negative ideology can only proceed after a basic understanding of affirmative rational philosophy has been established.
Plus root theory says, ‘This is my idea. What is your idea?’
Web pages are excellent vehicles for dialogue. Plus root theory is a bid for comments. We invite you to offer your opinion. Please feel free to leave comments.