The mind is its own place, and it itself Can make a heaven of hell, and a hell of heaven.

Milton (1608-1674)

Chapter Four: Rational Skill

Rational Style, as discussed in Chapter Three, is communal and cultural. In contrast, rational skill is always personal.

Only individuals think. Only individuals engage in discourse. It thus follows that to cultivate high quality negotiation in a group, improvement must occur in real people.

People upgrade reasoning skills by promoting their own ability to reason well. All normal, mature rational people have a fair share of commonsense and can use their own commonsense as a basis for improvement.

The situation is hopeful. In our modern world, most educated people already have good problem solving techniques. Still, in most places, there is not yet enough commitment to sound rational thinking to insure safety and equity. We need more high quality rational skill in the world, not less. Since in numerous areas we only need a little more rational skill, some improvement in the right places could make a vast difference in our quality of life at home and abroad.

There are many approaches to problem solving. Most methods have more good advice than bad. Well expressed theories of problem solving support each other and show us many ways to improve our problem solving skills. The foremost trouble with many books on the subject is that they don’t get enough use.

This study makes no attempt to compete with good books on problem solving and negotiation. This study examines problems underneath more existential matters. It is a study of the roots>/i> of sound rational thinking.

Even though the problems underneath problems are intricate and mixed, people can make progress in improving their personal rational skill by adequately fixing some of the worst epistemological, logical and other elemental mistakes. The conundrums created by root errors are complex, but not hopeless. Logical intuition, commonsense, and our urge to honesty work to our benefit. Much has already been done. We need not start from scratch and we need not be perfect in order to be good enough.

We can improve problem solving skill by promoting elements of sound rational thinking, establishing priorities, and keeping basic values in balance. Because the vast majority already have a repertoire of well-developed commonsense, the most dramatic way to make rational improvements is by improving our ability to avoid fallacies and other root errors.

As we investigate affirmative aspects of elemental thinking, we see more clearly the depth of the problems we create for ourselves when we incorporate root errors into our systems of thought. This chapter defines important terms and discusses some issues involved in learning how to critically promote the basic requirements of sound rational thinking.

Several definitions are stipulated in this chapter. These definitions are by no means perfect but they will do for now. They are designed to be fitting and warranted.

Balanced Realism Defined

Balanced Realism is a theory of thinking that expounds a well-formed distinction between physiological and intellectual thinking from an affirmative rational point of view. Balanced Realism (1) recognizes both physiological and intellectual thinking as real, (2) regards both as naturally good, and (3) maintains that both operate simultaneously, often as complements but sometimes in opposition.

Balanced Realism differs in important ways from unbalanced dualism, such as Descartes’ dualism, where he draws the lines between physiological and intellectual at the wrong place. Balanced Realism rejects extreme dualism, such as Manichaeism, where physiological thinking is assumed to be evil and only intellectual thinking is esteemed as good. Balanced Realism also rejects totalitarian monism, such as radical behavioralism, where physiological thinking is deemed to be good and intellectual thinking is dismissed as an illusion.

In this study, we capitalize the term Balanced Realism to indicate that it is the name of an articulated, well-formed theory.

Thinking, Thought, and Mind Defined

The words thinking and thought, in standard English, cover a wide field of mental activity. Plusroot Theory follows these broad convention and defines the terms thinking and thought as processes that happen, activities we do, and products we produce in our mind. Thinking is mental exercise (passive and active) and thought is mental product. Our mind is the arena where we do our thinking.

With these broad definitions as a starter, there are many ways to intellectually divide "thinking" so we can examine it in sections. To avoid logical and other elemental entanglements it helps to start with the relation of physical to intellectual mental activity. The theory of Balanced Realism addresses this problem.

Physiological Thinking

The term physiological thinking, as herein defined, refers to physically detectable operations of our brain and supportive connecting systems. This includes sensations, perceptions, instincts, conditioned reflexes, images, symbols, physical memory, emotions, neurological circuits, impressions, some suggestions and other physically measurable mental activities. Animal thinking is primarily, perhaps entirely, physiological. Computer logic is physical and similar in some ways to physiological processes in brain function.

We can cure physiological difficulties with physical means such as physical therapy, improved nutrition, medicine, surgery, DNA operations, reprogramming therapy, etc. The science of cybernetics is useful in studying neurological circuits in brain activity.

Physiological thinking is a marvel deserving our respect and awe. We should love, revere and give thanks for our physiological mental gifts.

Intellectual Thinking

Physiological thinking does not cover all types of thinking we humans do. We have intellectual gifts over and above physically depicted effects. To keep distinctions straight, Balanced Realism speaks of intellectual mental gifts as intellectual talents.

Intellectual talents, as herein defined, are the capacities and skills we use in abstracting concepts, developing understanding, making judgments, affirming or denying propositions, reasoning and deducing conclusions, sharpening analytical skills, setting priorities, verifying deductions and acquiring knowledge. Using intellectual talents, we, symbolize ideas, formulate propositions, figure reasons, deduce conclusions, design priorities, set goals, make predictions and test assumptions. Our predictions don't always pan out, but that doesn't stop us from trying.

Intellectual gifts make it possible for us to use our reason and to think rationally.

On most occasions, the terms ‘intellectual’ and ‘rational’ and ‘problem solving’ are interchangeable. However, in more exacting situations, the theory of Balanced Realism makes a distinction. As defined, the term 'intellectual' is more generic than the term 'rational' and rational is more generic than 'problem solving'. ‘Intellectual’ is an umbrella term that covers all abstract thinking including rational thinking and problem solving. Rational is more specific and refers to the aspect of intellectual thinking that in some manner involves 'reasons'. Problem solving is even more specific and refers to reasoning used in solving problems. Not all intellectual thinking involves reasons, and not all reasoning is directed toward solving problems.

Following the above differentiations, not all intellectual activity is rational (that is, uses reasons). In more advanced epistemological, logical, and semantic theories, it is worth the trouble to adhere to precise distinctions, but for our present purposes it strains the issue to be picky.

The same is so for the difference between rational and problem solving. Not all reasoning is problem solving. The difference needs to be mentioned because there are times when these distinctions are crucial. At the beginning, where we are now, usually the terms intellectual, rational, and problem solving can be interchanged without causing difficulties.

Intellectual talents include our abilities to abstract concepts, to comprehend the difference between true and false, to distinguish valid from invalid reasoning, to deliberately choose priorities, and to intentionally apply decisions to the activity of the moment. The application of our intellectual talents to matters at hand always involves "reasons" and is, therefore, "rational". Plusroot Theory restricts the term rational to thinking and thought that in some manner employs reasons. As will be explained, 'reasons' are middle terms of syllogisms. Wherever we find a reason, we can always construct a syllogism. It may not be valid, but it will be revealing.

Whereas we can cure physiological difficulties with physiological remedies, in intellectual areas, we can cure rational difficulties with intellectual means such as refining definitions, double checking facts, avoiding over-generalizations, testing the validity of our deductions, expanding knowledge, designing experiments, learning to avoid logical fallacies, and so on. Intellectual gifts are real and not mere illusions.

In thinking, we humans operate our physiological and intellectual thinking simultaneously and synergistically. That is, we use them together in a manner similar to an airplane and a pilot. We cannot think intellectually without using physiological mechanisms any more than a pilot can fly through the sky without his airplane. When a person's brain becomes seriously damaged, that persons intellectual thinking is grounded just as a pilot is grounded when his plane needs repair. Plato had a similar analogy with the chariot and the charioteer.

It is in the realm of the rational that we solve intellectual problems and make improvements in our rational skill. It is through rational improvements that we increase our abilities to progress in peace. Root errors are intellectual mistakes and barriers that block rational improvement.

Many philosophers defend well formed versions of balanced dualism. Plutarch, for example, says,

“…the Greeks very properly call manners xxxx (custom); for they are nothing else, in short, but certain qualities of the irrational and brutal part of the mind, and hence by them are so named, in that this brutal and irrational part of the mind being formed and molded by right reason, by long custom and use (which they call xxxx), has these qualities or differences stamped upon it. Not that reason so much as attempts to eradicate our passions and affections, which is neither possible nor expedient, but only to keep them within due bounds, reduce them into good order, and so direct them to a good end; and thus to generate moral virtue, consisting not in a kind of insensibility, or total freedom from passions, but in the well-ordering our passions and keeping them within measure, which she effects by wisdom and prudence, bringing the faculties of that part of the soul where our affections and appetite are seated to a good habit.”



Many modifications and changes that occur in nature through physiological and cybernetic adjustment are evolutionary. As Richard Dawkins said in Scientific America,

The cheetahs leg muscles enable it to chase gazelles; gazelles are well equipped to outrun cheetahs. … DNA neither cares nor knows. DNA just is. And we dance to its music. [Nov 1995; TF/Mind]

Richard Dawkins

As defined in Plusroot Theory, the term evolution refers to measurable, tangible feedback processes that are fully determined in physical nature. Evolution goes where it goes. It is what it is. It is neither good nor bad. It is neither right nor wrong.

Human Rational Development

When we humans come into the picture with our intellectual and volitional talents, we have a small degree of choice as to how things are going to turn out. In the processes of change that involve human rational choices, it is more accurate to say rational development occurs rather than simple physiological evolution.

Throughout Plusroot Theory the terms rational development and physiological evolution follow the stipulated distinction as here presented. The distinction between physiological evolution and rational development as above defined is important in understanding the role we humans play in our own history.

In human rational development an element of choice enters the picture and a moral component comes into play. While physiological evolution is what it is, human development can be progressive or regressive. Progressive and regressive are value terms. Just because we instigate changes using some degree of rational choice does not mean that we necessarily make improvements. Improvement is also a value term. We humans can make things worse for ourselves as well as better. In truth, we often do make things worse with our meddling.

A basic tenet of Plusroot Theory holds that: human progress toward the golden age is not an inevitable evolutionary happening. How things turn out is to some extent up to us. A corollary is that: wars are not an inexorable phase of human history. Wars are human calamities created by humans and can be avoided by humans if we instigate the correct procedures. We can avoid these man-made catastrophes if enough of us do the work required to make the necessary improvements.

Throughout this book, good and bad are used in discussing development of the rational skill we need to advance our abilities to progress in peace. Since this book is for people already committed to peaceful progress, we begin by sharing these values. Plusroot Theory maintains that: advancing our abilities to progress in peace is good.

Another affirmative tenet highlighted in Plusroot Theory is that: humans are more than passive pawns in an evolutionary determined process. The real choices we make as individuals add together and do make a difference in human history.

At the same time, Plusroot Theory strongly supports affirmative studies of biological evolution and degrees of influence of evolution on human development. Building on the principles of Balanced Realism, we can see that: human history does not proceed with the same inexorable outcome that holds in biological evolution involving non-rational species.

In Plusroot Theory, biology is addressed with deep respect. The evolutionary aspect of the physical world has a profound influence on our being that we ignore to our peril. Our intellectual talents add a humanizing factor that grants us some freedom. For example, we can choose whether we shall study physiological evolution or ignore it. The choice is up to us. This choice will affect our problem solving skills. We have some freedom of choice in the matter, but our freedom is not absolute.

In more advanced studies, Plusroot Theory addresses the back and forth relationship between physiological evolution and human rational development. Before tackling this problem we will make better progress if we develop a shared foundation in understanding the requirements of sound rational thinking.

The price we pay for rational freedom is responsibility. The rock that breaks loose and rolls down a cliff and hits a car is not responsible. If a man uses a lever and starts the rock rolling, the man is responsible for damage. If he planned to cause an accident and harm the passengers in the car, his responsibility increases. Nobody will take the rock to court, but the man is a different matter.

Rational Skill Defined

Rational skill, as herein defined, is intellectual thinking in which individuals employ reasons one way or another. We humans use reasons as we develop our understanding and our knowledge. Reasoning is a basic human intellectual skill. Our human ability to use reasons is important. Reasoning, as defined, refers to mental activity that in some manner uses reasons. Plusroot Theory maintains that: we should make a concerted effort to understand human reasoning processes.

As will be shown in Part III of this study, reasons are the middle terms of syllogisms. Aristotle is the first philosopher, so far as I know, to connect reasoning with syllogizing.

… it is equally possible to opine the fact and the reason for it; i.e., the middle term.

Aristotle (384-322BC)

In talking about rational skills, Plusroot Theory encourages people to use the word 'rational' with deliberate care. Rational refers to the operation of our reasoning talents. However, an important qualification must be made. Just because we use a reason does not mean that, therefore, the reason is a good reason. Consequently, just because thinking is rational, it does not follow that it is, therefore, sound. This is a crucial philosophical point. A philosopher who misses this distinction will make mistake after mistake.

Sound and Unsound Rational Thinking

Reasoning can be unsound as well as sound. This point is a basic theorem of Plusroot Theory. It is an axiom that should be put in flashing lights to emphasize its importance in developing the science of epistemology, logic and other elemental subjects.

Unsound reasoning uses reasons that are undistributed. Conclusions reached this way are unjustified and tend to be totalitarian. The undistributed middle term works as an excuse. It is reasoning, but it is not valid reasoning. Totalitarian dialecticians move and justify their being on undistributed middle terms. Ayn Rand, for example, makes numerous blunders when she fails to distribute her middle terms. Her totalitarian conclusions stem from her unsound rational thinking. Of course not all of her reasoning is unsound and not all of her conclusions are totalitarian.

To build worthwhile philosophy, we need to know how to distinguish unsound reasoning from sound reasoning. If we cannot tell the difference, we will not be able to give an honest analysis of arguments. This is true to some extent of all philosophers. Ayn Rand is several degrees more blatant in her fallacies than many other philosophers because she brags about how rational she is. That is true to some extent. She is rational because she does give reasons. Unfortunately several of her pivotal reasons are not good reasons. A good reason is well distributed.

Sound rational thinking, as defined, is intellectual activity in which we adequately use reasons to solve problems in a unprejudiced manner. To critically develop sound rational thinking requires effort and humility. We are not absolute beings. As we work to develop our comprehension of logic, we increase understanding of our limitations. The more we learn to appreciate the requirements of sound rational thinking, the less totalitarian we will be. As Lionel Ruby said in The Art of Making Sense,

Few persons are so vividly aware as the logical person is of the difficulties in demonstrating that "any" assertion is true. The logical person never forgets that perhaps he is wrong and the other fellow right.

Lionel Ruby

As we reason, we use our reason to test our own reasoning. We do it in a flash – without self conscious reflection – unless we choose to reflect upon the process. When we learn to recognize what we do, the rest is easy. It is a layered procedure. We use sound reasoning as logical criteria to procure sound reasoning in practical matters. We all do it. If you had a good logic teacher, he or she taught you to monitor your own reasoning.

To qualify as sound, rational thinking does not have to be absolutely perfect. However, it must be good enough to meet the needs of the occasion. To qualify as sound it is not necessary that we employ sound requirements with critical self conscious awareness. We often do it subconsciously and in liminal thinking. As long as we follow the requirements of sound rational thinking, our reasoning will be sound whether we are consciously aware of the process or not.

Unsound rational thinking is misdirected intellectual thinking that is epistemologically and logically inadequate to meet the need. Rationalization, prejudice, and superstition are types of unsound rational thinking. Unsound rational thinking can be unintentional (fraught with illusion), deliberate (purposefully deceptive), and many shades in between. Unsound rational thinking can be accidental or substantial.

High quality problem solving skill, as the term is used throughout this book, refers to the use of sound rational thinking in solving problems. Low quality problem solving skill limps along hindered by serious root errors.

Although plus root theory stresses the importance of sound rational thinking, it also emphasizes the complexities involved. One complexity to accentuate at this point is that: conclusions can be true even if the reasoning given is unsound. The conclusion is true for different reasons. False reasoning does not make a conclusion false. We know this intuitively but sometimes fail to carry through.

Rational and Irrational

After assimilating the distinction between sound and unsound in regard to rational thinking, the carelessness of many writers in their use of the terms rational and irrational becomes glaringly obvious. Writers, popular and academic, sometimes use rationality to mean (1) the ability to reason correctly and sometimes to mean (2) general capacity to reason, including incorrect as well as correct. Since they are unclear, readers are at a loss to know what they mean.

On other occasions, influential writers use rationality to mean a physiologically conditioned response in which programmed habit replaces intellectual thinking. Sometimes rational is used to mean methodical and is applied in a derogative sense to petty, counter productive regulations. Sometimes rational means nefarious cunning. In the same vein, irrationality can refer to incorrect use of rational talents so that rationality and irrationality mean essentially the same thing. Sometimes the term irrational refers to behavior that would more appropriately be called instinctual or emotional or a conditioned response.

Rational is sometimes used to refer to theories that posit innate ideas as the substance of reason. Rational is sometimes used to refer to Hegel's ideology which is strange since Hegel inverts normal standards of sound rational thinking. Mathematicians distinguish rational from irrational numbers. This list could continue to great length.

A long collection of inappropriate definitions for a fundamental word such as rational is a major elemental problem. From a plus point of view, this trend squanders a valuable word. Wasting a word as valuable as rational is a serious root error. [See Chapter 25, Word Squandering]

When we equivocate in regard to some-thing as important as our rationality, we loose our ability to speak intelligently about our own intelligence. When we fail to distinguish sound from unsound rational thinking, other errors follow with amazing rapidity. Being sloppy and careless about theory concerning rational thinking creates confusion with dangerous long term effects. Bewilderment of this magnitude damages the rational competence we need to negotiate progressive peace.

Examples of befuddlement in the use of the term 'rational' are abundant. William Barrett in Irrational Man [B78/1958] illustrates the mistake. Throughout his book he targets rationality as the source of modern problems and concludes that the solution to the evils of society is to subordinate logic to the existential feel of existence. With this stroke, he effectively grants philosophers a dispensation from the basic requirements of sound rational thinking. If one follows his line of ethics, philosophers are somehow above the distinctions between sound and unsound reasoning. He achieves his intrigue by subtle switching of the meanings of basic terms, especially the word, rational. I'm sure he didn't realize what he did. He grew to maturity immersed in an ideological atmosphere where terminological double takes in academic discourse were considered a virtue.

We will return to this example later after establishing more foundation for sound rational discussion. At this point, however, we have enough to see that if Barrett had been familiar with the very real distinction between sound and unsound rational thinking and if he had been more clear about what he meant by logic, he could have used his vast knowledge, talent, and influence to encourage his readers to respect coherent unbiased logic rather than doing the opposite. Instead he has been part of the movement that has removed pro coherent unbiased logic from our educational agenda and left many brilliant young people adrift with poor rational skills and unable to talk constructively with each other about matters that really count.

But we are getting ahead of where we should be.

Scope and Limits of Rational Skill

As mentioned, the distinction between sound and unsound rational thinking is only one of many important distinctions to consider when talking about individual rational skill. It is vital to acknowledge both the scope and the limits of our mental abilities.

Concerning the scope of our rational talent, we can, as we move our concentration from thought to thought, put our mind on a vast variety of subjects and we can intellectually divide our own thought processes in numerous ways that help us understand our own thinking. For example, we can learn how chemical changes affect the brain. We can look at synapses under high power magnification. We can study the consequences of frontal lobotomies. We can examine the influences of conditioned reflexes on behavior. We can concentrate on grammar, semantics, and rhetoric. We can study the history of language, trying to determine which languages developed from what sources. We can compare linguistic habits of different cultures for syntax, vocabulary, and emotional effect. We can examine images in our imagination and compare them to concepts in our intellect. We can study the process of decision making. We can compare heredity with environment. We can examine mathematics and investigate how math relates to symbolic logic and how symbolic logic relates to cybernetics and how cybernetics relates to brain waves and how brain waves relate to behavior. We can study memory and holograms and see if there is some relationship between the two. These are some of the ways we have in the past thought about our thinking processes. What will happen in the future is anyone's guess. In all likelihood, what is now known will, in a century or two, pale in significance compared to what will then be discovered.

One thing we will not be able to do, however, is to talk about everything at the same time. In the future, as now, people will think and talk in bits and pieces. It is part of the limits of our human condition that we cannot say every thought we think in one short blurb. Instead, we say one thing, then another, and then another. We write books one word at a time, one sentence at a time, one paragraph at a time, one chapter at a time. We learn discretely, we communicate discretely, and we remember discretely. Even Marshal McCluhan used complete sentences most of the time.

However, to be in tune with an influential aspect of the rational style of our day, many modern writers in critical philosophy pretend this is not so. Those who confess the inevitable propositional aspect of human knowledge receive disapproving glances as if they were somehow beneath the sweeping grandeur of those who say their thinking is whole, of a single piece. This trend, although not new, was given fresh impetus in the early nineteenth century, when a powerful group of philosophers began a renewed onslaught against plain honest commonsense and against discursive analysis. Philosophers of this ilk wrote in mystifying, transcendental language, that hid meaning from everybody, including themselves.

Of course truth, considered abstractly in its totality, is, we must agree, whole, unified, and complete. It is human knowledge and human understanding that are limited. Only God can possibly comprehend Truth in its totality. Knowing about God does not mean a person is God. Knowing about the wholeness and totality of truth, does not mean that one’s personal knowledge is whole and complete and absolute.

Human comprehension, although bursting with possibility, is not equivalent to the absolute, complete fullness of impartial truth. We can know much, but we cannot know everything. Also, what we know comes in bits and sections and our understanding comes in degrees. Furthermore, to our chagrin, we can easily be wrong. It is possible and common for humans to be correct in one judgment and incorrect in another, sometimes side-by-side. It is even possible for us to hold a correct judgment as true in one area of our mind and believe its incorrect opposite as true in another set of thoughts at the same time. When this happens we create double standards in our expectations. We can only recognize these deep mental contradictions insofar as we appreciate the discrete aspect of human knowledge and the varying degrees of human understanding.

We develop understanding by learning truths proposition by proposition. This limitation applies to our own studies of our own mental systems. As a result, in the process of developing knowledge about knowledge, we can legitimately view human thinking in multitudinous ways. It is possible and permissible and desirable to examine our thought processes from different points of view at different times and then work at integrating what we learn. Looking at something from one angle in one study, should not be used as an argument that we therefore oppose studies from other vantage points in another context. People with educated commonsense know this.

Normally, it should not be necessary to say what is so obvious. However, philosophers, who mock the values of discrete consideration, might argue, for example, that because affirmative rational theory supports the basic values of sound rational thinking, it implies that those who support affirmative reasoning are unaware of and/or opposed to experiments demonstrating different functions of the right and left side of the brain. That's ridiculous. Instead, the affirmative approach holds that researchers who study the left and right side of the brain should aspire to use sound rational thinking in testing and promoting their theories. This means that: they should make a serious effort to be accurate and honest in presenting their facts; they should avoid propagating falsehoods; they should aim for valid deduction rather than jumping to extravagant and unconnected conclusions. Studies of the requirements of sound rational thinking and studies of the physiological function of human brains should complement each other, not be presented as if they stand in antagonistic opposition.

There are many reasons why human knowledge is limited. Plusroot Theory explores many of these reasons in various chapters and essays. See especially Chapter 22 on Certainty. However, inherent limitations in our human rational faculties does not mean that rationality is useless or evil. Limitation means that we can and do make rational mistakes and that we cannot reach a state of total knowledge. We can, however, learn a lot that is delightful and of great value to ourselves and to society. We make mistakes but we have the where with all to correct them. Our knowledge can continually grow and improve as we more and more embrace truth where we can find it.

Because our human knowledge is inherently limited does not mean that Truth itself is limited. Truth is what it is independent of our knowledge of it. To emphasize this expansive view of Truth, Plusroot Theory often refers to Truth in its fullness as ‘Impartial Truth’. Impartial Truth is reliable, universal and the same for all.

Levels Of Awareness

With this in mind, we're in a good position to make distinctions in levels of awareness. We already know, through personal experience, that the depth and degree of our concentration varies. Sometimes we pay more attention to what we are doing than other times. Without embroidering fine points, we need adequately clear distinctions so we can talk intelligibly about "sound" versus "unsound" rational thinking at different levels of awareness.

To reduce complications, Plusroot Theory mentally divides awareness into four general levels; (1) the subliminal, (2) the liminal, (3) the critical and (4) others. In actual practice, we commonly operate our thinking in all levels concurrently and sometimes simultaneously, blending one into another, while switching our concentration. Sometimes we switch concentration and attention so readily we fail to notice what we do. Although in practice we integrate levels of consciousness, in theory we can study different levels of awareness separately. This is a useful technique because, in searching for elemental mistakes, errors sometimes reside in subconscious assumptions, sometimes settle in everyday lore, sometimes promenade in critical beliefs of published philosophy.

Because we, in our thinking, employ vast numbers of discrete propositions, we can easily adopt a root error in one area of awareness and reject it at another. When we do this, we create double standards in our systems of thought. Sometimes we accept a proposition as true in liminal consciousness and reject the same proposition in critical philosophy. Conflicting beliefs in varying levels of awareness constitute one of the complications we must address if we want to learn how to spot and fix elemental difficulties that block our bids for peace. We humans easily make elemental mistakes. If we plan to ferret out root errors, we need to know where to look.

In addition to levels of awareness, there are varying depths of discussion, intensity of comprehension, and states of consciousness that are important in developing knowledge about epistemology, logic and psychology. Knowledge in all these fields easily becomes distorted if compromised by too many root errors.


This chapter has introduced several definitions and theories that go into explaining tenets of Plusroot Theory. Each thought is simple but elaborating on it can become complex. To review:

First of all, only individuals think. In our modern times, vast numbers of humans already have polished problem solving skills. In making improvements we do not have to start from scratch. Our future expectations are hopeful, because a little improvement in problem solving could make a vast difference in our peace potential.

In the stipulated plus definition set, we define thinking and mind in broad terms but become more specific in distinguishing physiological and intellectual thinking, which are both considered to be good. This theory is named Balanced Realism. Balanced Realism is presupposed in affirmative rational thinking but is not usually articulated. It is just assumed. It is not necessary to use the term Balanced Realism. Plusroot Theory introduces the term for the sake of clarity. It’s the ideas that matter.

Balanced Realism operates under the supposition that: physiological talents do not account for all human thinking. In addition to physiological (biological) talents we humans have real intellectual talents. Using our intellectual talents we can abstract concepts, comprehend meaning, form judgments, reason to conclusions, and make predictions.

Our intellectual capacities are limited. Our ideas are often ambiguous. We cannot comprehend everything. Our judgments are not always correct. We do not reason perfectly. We cannot make predictions with infallible certainty. We often make intellectual mistakes. It is because of the possibility of intellectual mistakes that we have intellectual problems. If it were impossible for us to make intellectual mistakes, we would never have genuine intellectual problems.

Plus root theory, employing plus definitions, makes a clear distinction between evolution and development. When human intellectual talents become a factor in a changing situation those employing plus terminology use the term development rather than evolution.

It is important to keep in mind the difference between sound and unsound rational thinking. Sound rational thinking is an intellectual activity in which we adequately use reasons to solve problems in a unprejudiced manner. Unsound rational thinking is misdirected intellectual thinking that is epistemologically and logically inadequate to meet the need.

To improve problem solving skills we need to promote sound rational thinking and avoid unsound rational thinking when and where we can. Just because we make a judgment does not mean the judgment is therefore true. If we define a term, we cannot, ipso facto, conclude that the definition fits the case. If we give a reason, it does not follow that the reason is necessarily a good reason. If we set priorities, it does not automatically make our choices wise.

Plusroot Theory also emphasizes the scope and limits of rational thinking. It's as great a mistake to expect too little as it is to expect too much. We humans are not perfect and need to keep our limitations in mind. At the same time, our human capacity to understand is a wonderful gift and a talent to develop.