2014 Jun 03, Tues: To anyone reading this, I am working on redoing the Introduction and Chapter One of the Book, The Roots of Sound Rational Thinking. Today Mallory Colby helped me reorganize the website. Hopefully we can make improvements as time goes by.   

2014 July 26: This is still in the Repair Shop,

Answers to the big puzzle, as presented in the following pages, are both similar to and different from standard solutions. They are similar because they support basic requirements of sound rational thinking, such as: promote clear ideas, expand knowledge, respect truth and use valid deduction. They are different because this study spotlights elemental principles, often unspoken, that underlying standard solutions. Questions about elemental issues are root problems because they are like the roots of a tree. They grow underground and are unseen. Answers are root solutions or, more simply, root verities.The Big Puzzle: The Big Puzzle: Why can’t people achieve a few major goals that virtually everybody wants—goals such as avoiding war, famine, slavery, prejudice and other forms of grave injustice? How come we don’t live together with more understanding when that is what most of us desire? From a broader view, why do we allow challenges to grow larger and la03rger until shattering tragedies occur? It is a world class mystery. I call it the big puzzle.

Many helpful solutions to root problems have put forth off and on for centuries. They are requirements of sound rationality that have been encouraged by lovers of wisdom over the ages. In this way, numerous sound rational fundamentals have become incorporated into the cognitive style of our society. For the most part, we learn these basics as we learn our language and converse with one another. In common parlance they are accepted as a given and used without examination. in practice, they are the roots of successful problem solving, the fundamental guides of civil discourse and the elemental principles we must share to justly resolve precarious conflicts.

This view of rationality is referred to herein as affirmative rational philosophy. Affirmative rational philosophy is the point of view that adequately promotes, respects and uses basic requirements of sound rational thinking. In work-a-day thinking, this position is often called commonsense.

Major aspects of affirmative rational philosophy have been supported over time by thinkers from all areas of the world. Mistakes [root errors] hold us back but they are not fatal if we are willing to hunt them down and correct them. By giving a more appreciative look at enduring values that underlie sound rationality, we can easily find and repair rational errors we would not notice otherwise or even know how to fix. A surprising number of hidden, logical fallacies are easy to correct and, when mended, result in significant improvement. The more we improve our skills in recognizing and using the rules of right reason, the more we can advance our abilities to find the answers we need to safely resolve the big puzzles that afflict society.

In promoting basic requirements of sound rational thinking, we do not have to start from scratch. It is not necessary to convert the world because the vast majority of people already use many elemental values of sound rational thinking. We do not have to try to change human nature because it is natural for humans to want to reason well. Numerous problems can be alleviated by upgrading abilities already at our fingertips. We should at least try.

Please join us in this stimulating and important adventure.

Plusroot Web Site and Plusroot Theory

The plusroot web site presents a study of roots of right reason from an affirmative rational point of view. An affirmative rational point of view is a mentality that adequately uses the basic requirements of sound rational thinking.

Basic requirements of sound rational thinking are guidelines that operate underneath first intensional thinking. They are basic assumptions that give affirmative rationality its special character. Because they are underneath problem solving and discourse they are like roots and, as already mentioned, are appropriately called root verities. Root verities nourish philosophy as roots nourish plants, (metaphorically speaking of course). The term 'roots' throughout this study refers to second intensional issues that are assumed in first intensional thinking and discourse.

This site is built around a book titled, “The Roots of Sound Rational Thinking”. For short I refer to it as the R-Book. In the same manner I refer to the Glossary as R-Gloss. The first two volumes (24 Chapters) are on line. The rest will be publish when time permits. See Thesis Essay for an outline of the whole book.

In addition to the book, this web site includes essays and definitions that expand on ideas mentioned in the book. Eventually I hope to add biographies, book reviews, time lines, more chapters and more essays.

As a personal note, my degrees are in chemistry and biology but the focus of my studies since graduation has been on logic and the development of rational thinking. These studies led me to an admiration of the rational style of the Founders of the United States. A companion web site, tracesofhistory.com, has some research on the logical education of the Founders of the United States and the influence of their youthful understanding of reason on their later ideas.

The two web sites, plusroot.com and tracesofhistory.com, compliment each other. I add new material as it is ready. I am responsible for the writing but I have good help in editing and maintaining the web site. I go by my pen name, Virginia Vallee.

Plusroot theory expresses my own opinions and convictions. Plusroot theory is my interpretation of affirmative rational philosophy. I consciously write from a speculative, propositional point of view as do all philosophers who base their ideas on basic common logic. My convictions are firm, but not set in cement. As soon as I see an error, I fix it as best I can. I welcome help in making corrections.

In nomenclature, I use stipulated definitions and add new definitions to the attached glossary as time permits. [See Definition Essay for the definition policy I follow.]

Plusroot theory is based on many years of research but does not claim to be finished or final.


The thesis of plusroot theory is that: 1. the most feasible way to address the big puzzles that afflict society is to promote the elemental requirements of sound rational thinking; 2. the most feasible way to promote the elemental requirements of sound rational thinking is to sufficiently support root verities and adequately correct root errors. (See Thesis Essay)

Plusroot theory is divided into eight parts that reflect eight important fundamentals of sound rational thinking.

A: Clear Understanding: The first part introduces the importance of meaning, coming to terms, negotiation, rational style, rational skill, levels of awareness and other ideas that help promote clear understanding.

B: Impartial Truth: The second part emphasizes the gap between limited, developing human knowledge and reliable, universal impartial Truth. It explores good judgment, true and false propositions, varying degrees of certainty and much more.

C. Right Reason: The third part examines the rules of right reason as rules, shows the connection between ‘reason’ and the middle term of a syllogism, explains the difference between fact and principle, theory and practice and other basics of right reason.

D: Fair Play: The forth part is based on the idea that: “If there are rules of right reason that we can adequately know, then we should use them.” This important section shows where ‘is’ leaves off and ‘ought’ begins. We have no choice about following the laws of physics, but we can choose whether or not to use the rules of right reason.

E: Free Will and Human Nature: We humans, because we are human, possess both physiological and intellectual talents. Denying either one distorts reality. Good humor and good manners also fit in this section. Reasoning and free go together.

F: Civil Discourse: this section explores dialogue, dialectic, and the importance of using the rules of right reason to guide decent discourse so we can resolve problems in a manner beneficial to all involved. It is possible. We should do it.

G: Set Wise Priorities: This section explores the business of philosophers, the role of reason in relation to religion, and the importance of respecting freedom of opinion in a society. When people adequately appreciate the rules of right reason, then they can reason together.

H: Legitimate Verification: Previous sections talk about the importance of sound principles. This section show how principles, using syllogistic thinking, apply to practice and emphasizes ways of testing which principles are sound and which are unsound. It ties together what has gone before. One way to verify the affirmative view of sound rational thinking is to examine what actually works in advancing our abilities to progress in peace.

Personal Note: most of the above is written but, due to the constraints of time, only the first two Sections are on line.

Affirmative Rationality

As already said, affirmative rationality is a mentality that adequately affirms the basic requirements of sound rational thinking. There are many ways of expressing affirmative rational commitments. But, under all affirmative rational thinking are common assumptions that give affirmative rationality its special character. Exploring, discussing and working to articulate these common assumptions is the business of plusroot theory. Because so much is involved, there is much to say.

It follows that the term affirmative rationality is a core concept in plusroot theory. It refers to conditions that adequately support basic requirements of sound rational thinking or at least offer noteworthy improvement.

There are many philosophers who are or who have been dominantly affirmative in their rational approach. They are not perfect but they handle the situation in a manner that brings improvement to the rational style in which they live. They are good enough.

Good enough demands high quality, particularly in our modern technical world.

Affirmative rational thinking is the middle way above the deficiencies of subjective absolutism and/or absolute subjectivism. [See Chapters 12 and 13].

Affirmative rationality is firm but not dogmatic. It is flexible but not heedless. (See Affirmative Essay )


Philosophy means the love of wisdom. Over time it has also become an academic subject that comprises a broad spectrum of study which includes a wide collection of people designated as philosophers—some who show little evidence of loving wisdom. To accommodate these developments, the plusroot glossary defines philosophy as: a thoughtful examination of reality, with particular attention to problems involving ideals, discourse, and duty, accompanied by an attempt to put first things first and expose illusion.

Philosophy, as plus defined, also includes religion insofar as religion is (1) reflective, (2) realistic, (3) promotes the requirements of sound rational thinking, (4) aims to put first things first, (5) advocates concern for the business of mankind, (5) and tries to avoid illusion. (See Theory Essay)

Three Divisions of Philosophy

To simplify discourse, plusroot theory divides philosophy into three broad categories; intuitive, common and critical. These three levels of consciousness blend one onto the other with no distinct line of separation. In practice we check one against another as we develop our knowledge.

Intuitive Philosophy: Intuition, as defined herein, means subliminal intellectual thinking and thought. Intuition is not instinct, conditioned reflex, or any other physiological activity. Intuition is a name for intellectual thinking that is real but not liminally or critically conscious. Intuitive philosophy is love of wisdom that fits naturally with our yearn for knowledge and our urge to honesty. See Chapters Five and Eight for more.

Common Philosophy: Common philosophy is workaday evaluation of reality and priorities that all persons mull over in their mind to some extent as they mature. Common philosophy is common but not necessarily shallow. Common philosophers can be uncommonly brilliant. We acknowledge the value of common philosophy when we praise commonsense. [See Philosophy Essay]

Critical PhilosophyWhen people begin to self-consciously reflect on what they are thinking, deliberately examine the issues involved, articulate their ideas and discuss them with others, philosophy enters the critical realm. In critical philosophy, we intentionally search for explanations and guiding principles and make an effort to apply our principles to what we do. When we deliberately relate what we do to a goal, we reason critically. When we wonder, speculate, study, examine, experiment, ask pointed questions, seek answers, defend a position, and/or find fault, we reason critically. (See Chapter Seven: Critical Thinking)

Two Orders of Philosophy: First Order and Second Order. Also called First Intensional and Second Intensional

Elemental rational philosophy is a catch all phrase to include grammar, epistemology, logic, rhetoric, some math, ideology, linguistics, semantics, dialectics and related subjects insofar as these subjects underlie first intensional and first impositional thinking. Root is a metaphor for elemental rationality.

When we begin to focus and ponder on sub structures that sustain and guide our thinking, then we enter the elemental (or root) realm of rational philosophy. Elemental rational examinations can be either common or critical.

Elemental rational philosophy (root theory) investigates the elements that underlie rational thinking. In elemental rational philosophy we study our own thoughts, think about our self, concentrate on our own reasoning, and check around for elemental rational mistakes (root errors). People in the elemental realm of introspection become interested in thinking about thinking.

Throughout this study, the terms 'elemental rationality' and 'root thinking' refer to conscious, reflectivity wherein we seek to know more about our intellect and our thinking processes. (See Elemental Essay)

Affirmative Elemental Philosophy

Putting the above together, affirmative elemental philosophy refers to studies and teachings that sufficiently support the basic requirements of sound rational thinking in a manner adequate for the occasion. Affirmative elemental philosophy is affirmative root theory.

Affirmative elemental philosophy covers a wide field of research and stretches back in time. It includes any aspect of learning insofar as it supports impartial truth and right reason. The emphasis here is on affirmative. Affirmative elemental philosophy is theory that adequately promotes the basic criteria of sound rational thinking.

Plusroot theory is a specific version of affirmative elemental philosophy that is introduced in the book The Roots of Sound Rational Thinking. For the most part, plusroot theory reasserts what has already been said by others. However, in modern times affirmative ideas need reiterating so fundamental requirements of right reason do not become trampled under hoofs of the negative herd. The most feasible way to advance our abilities to progress in peace is to keep affirmative elemental philosophy alive and well.

Root of the Matter

Boned down, plusroot theory aims to promote affirmative thinking by re-articulating and defending the most crucial roots of sound rational thinking. If we are serious about peaceful progress we need to find ways to improve rational skill in society so we can upgrade our ability to resolve conflicts in a mutually beneficial manner.

In the plusroot system, minus root tenets (root errors) refer to propositions and theories that run counter to affirmative root tenets (root verities). Minus root tenets are negative insofar as they negate affirmative root tenets. There are many ways of being root negative.


But why make many distinctions and write long explanations? Why not simply list basic requirements of right reason and be done with it?

The plusroot website does offer a list. See the 'List Essay' for a list of some basic requirements of sound rational thinking from an affirmative rational point of view.

In one way, the list is helpful because it shows important requirements in a short space. In another way, the list confuses matters because it raises more questions than it answers.

A list cannot address the deepest challenge facing academic theory today which is controversy over the existence of the rules of reason rather than disputes over how to best articulate the rules. A list cannot explain itself or apply itself.

If people are serious about promoting the requirements of sound rational thinking The List needs to be explained and, because many questions are involved, the explanation must be long. To promote the requirements of sound rational thinking, we have to apply the rules, which is another process that requires rational examination. Knowing how to validly apply rules to individual situations is as important as being able to articulate the rules. Say so is not enough.

Although the requirements of sound rational thinking can be expressed in discrete propositions, as in The List, if we desire more adequate knowledge and if we wish to successfully use the theory, sound propositions must fit together in an integrated system where they operate as a unit. There is no short way to do this.

Throughout the explanations in the following pages, the affirmative rational approach continually emphasizes that sound rational thinking is relatively simple. We call it commonsense. On the other hand, an articulated defense of the requirements of sound rational thinking is complex, interconnected and long. No matter how much one says, there is more that yet needs to be said. [See Articulation Essay]


One reason that lists are unsatisfactory is because ambiguous terms need explanations. To critically address problems of ambiguity in a sound rational manner requires an appreciation of the difference between "ambiguity" and "equivocation". Traditional logic courses in times past usually clarified this issue. Sometimes this basic instruction is missing in modern schools. Failure to promulgate an understanding of these simple distinctions severely hinders civil discourse in present day politics.

When equivocation is severe, as often happens in rational matters, good explanations require work and are time consuming.

Promoting well-formed definitions does not impede freedom of thought. To the contrary, being able to know what others mean helps to foster both mutual understanding and independent thinking. Those who assert that definitions interfere with freedom of thought have it exactly wrong.

A definition of a term is not a principle and is not a theory. Learning to appreciate the distinctions between and among "definitions", "facts", "principles", "theories", and "applications" is important in understanding how affirmative logic applies to matters at hand. Affirmative root theory uses stipulated definitions in formulating and articulating affirmative root tenets. (SeeDefinition Essay)[Also See "Introduction to Definitions".]


Root questions pose problems that lie beneath our regular, first intensional thinking. Root values are below more visible problems we face in normal discourse. We have no choice about this.

We do have choice about whether we work to build good affirmative rational habits or whether we allow unsound rational suppositions to compromise our honesty and to weaken our problem solving skills. If some of our deep elemental beliefs are unsound, we can use our own commonsense to help us ferret out and correct them. Each person makes their own choice in the matter.

Adequate and Inadequate

Each root problem is a question or can be turned into a question. A problem, as defined herein, is a pertinent question or group of questions in which some difficulty obstructs discovery of correct or good enough answers. Consequently, each elemental rational belief we entertain can be viewed as an answer to a question. Answers to root questions are either adequate or inadequate. Adequate answers are acceptably authentic for the occasion. They are affirmative. They are root verities. Inadequate answers are not acceptably authentic for the occasion. They are spurious or invert or negative. They are root errors. Great consequences can result from the difference. (See Problem Essay)

Root Verities and Affirmative Root Themes

Adequate answers to root questions provide reliable guidelines for sound rational thinking. They are root verities.

Root verities constitute the roots of sound rational thinking. They establish a foundation for ethics, help build trust, promote science, encourage equitable democratic republics and advance our abilities to progress in peace. People who function well in a free society incorporate numerous root verities in to their systems of thought. To conduct honest business, play games, or plan ahead with hope of success we need sound root assumptions underlying rational presentation.

Root verities do not cause problems; they are solutions to problems.

When root verities are repeated over and over, they are 'affirmative root themes'. Affirmative root themes express basic requirements of sound rational thinking. The more accurately we understand the basic requirements of sound rational thinking, the more we can upgrade our personal rational skills.

Root Errors and Negative Root Themes

Not all answers to root questions are adequate. Too often root suppositions are unsound. Unsound root suppositions accepted as if they were true are root errors.

Root errors are mistakes we graft on to the roots of our thinking. They are not basic and are not intuitional. Nonetheless, root errors often fuse with our instincts and we become emotionally attached to them. One reason that we latch on to specific root errors is because we can easily use them in our rationalizations. Instincts, which are all or none, bond well with root errors, which, in many cases, are also all or none. (See Chapter 5, Intuition)

Root errors are assumptions and/or articulated statements concerning elemental thinking that are insufficient, misleading, or outright false. They are inadequate answers to questions about thinking. A root error is an unsound elemental thought accepted as if it were true. It is an element of error. It is a counter affirmative supposition. In ideology it becomes a spurious or negative root theme. In practice, it’s a divisive tactic. It easily become a totalitarian ploy.

Root errors are misleading assumptions and/or statements that concern the fundamentals of sound rational thinking. They appear in lectures, in the media, in classrooms, in conversation, and in written material. In examining root errors, plusroot analysis concentrates on written material because written thoughts are easily isolated and can be studied individually. [See Context Essay]

Root errors damage negotiation quality because they hinder the cultivation of affirmative logic and commonsense reason. (See Chapter Two Negotiation Quality)

When root errors are repeated over and over they become negative root themes. There are many ways of being negative.

Elemental Silence

We humans do the greater part of our elemental reasoning in unspoken levels of thinking. We internally use our private, rational insight and logical acumen to mull over root thoughts in our mind, but we rarely talk about them. We tend to keep these thoughts to ourselves. It’s as if we humans are united in an unspoken project to keep elemental knowledge a secret.

Elemental silence is an intriguing aspect of human behavior. The most important thinking projects we humans undertake are squirreled away in pockets in our mind that are confidential. Although we moderns engage in scientific research of almost every other aspect of our behavior, when it comes to root thinking, which is intellectual, there is not much serious current research. Today’s scientists engage in vast amounts of behavioral research, but that is a different field of study.

When we break elemental silence, it is often an added phrase in a long sentence within a paragraph dealing with another subject. Both root verities and root errors are commonly promulgated by asides. This 'attachment technique' is particularly insidious in the case of crucial root errors. In this manner very dangerous elemental mistakes are smuggled into the rational style of a group with almost no critical evaluation. Our habitual silence in this area makes the smuggling of root errors into rational theory very easy to do and difficult to detect and hard correct. (See Chapter Three, Rational Style)


Articulation, here defined, is an expression of ideas with at least some understanding and some intention of communicating meaning. This definition of ‘articulation’ includes both speaking and writing. Articulated root verities and root errors are propositions concerning root theory stated by individual thinkers at specific times.

It is safe to say that the bulk of root thinking we humans do is non verbal. We use non verbal root assumptions in solving problems and in talking to others.

When we read, write, or discuss an elemental (root) proposition, it is no longer non-verbal. It is articulated.

Early philosophy began with spoken discourse rather than written. The ancient Greeks, for example, relied on dialogue and memory. People still use spoken analysis but its usefulness is limited to such a small group that we can pass over this method for the most part. In modern philosophy, well-formed analysis of root ideas requires propositions in writing so we can critically evaluate them at our leisure and double check them. A written proposition is obviously more explicit than an intuition we entertain in subliminal thinking.

The advantage of singling out specific root propositions for analysis is that we can be more accurate and precise than if we speak of vague drifts or meandering generalities. This is not to say that vague drifts are unimportant, but, it is impossible to discuss ‘vague drifts’ with precision. On the other hand, we can be relatively accurate about individual propositions:

The elements of root theory are propositions; The elements of propositions are terms. Plusroot theory aims to set up conditions where we can profitably analyze pertinent root propositions and correct serious root errors. The hope is that the affirmative view of rational theory can help, step by step, to improve the rational style of our society. A project of this nature depends primarily on written expression. [See Articulation Essay]


Often there is a gap between what we speak or write and what we really mean. Sometimes we have an idea we would like to express but, when we write it and reread it later, we realize it does not say exactly what we had in mind. What is more, another person can read our statement and pick up an entirely different idea. It takes skill for a writer to communicate what he or she wants to say.

The gap between what we say and what we mean becomes more and more significant the deeper we go into root theory. The more profound the thought, the more difficulty we encounter in developing precise expressions.

When we speak or write, we usually are trying to articulate what we mean. Sometimes people deliberately say or write contrary to their real meaning. When this happens the gap between opinion and expression is on purpose. Deliberate deceptions is different from illusion. (Chapters eight & ten)

In developing human knowledge there are many kinds of gaps between what we know and impartial truth as it exists independent of our knowledge of it. Some gaps occur because we have not fine-tuned our expressions enough to communicate what we have in mind. We can minimize these gaps through philosophical refinement.

Some gaps are inherent in our knowledge acquiring apparatus. Inherent gaps can never be eliminated because they are innate in our nature. We need to appreciate the difference between accidental and innate gaps.

Because we are limited beings, we cannot be absolutely certain that the tenet, as we express it, is perfectly, unequivocally correct. Plusroot theory emphasizes the existence of this intrinsic gap between an articulated root tenet and the elemental truth it aims to express.

In numerous cases gaps are minute and we can safely ignore them. However, in plusroot theory, we continuously hold in mind the hiatus between intellectual reality and our human ability to express reality in sentences. This honest recognition of our limits helps keep us from slipping into the conceits of absolutism and/or subjectivism. (See Chapter 21, Q-Gap)

Plusroot Tenets

Root verities are requirements of sound rational thinking. When we articulate that which we believe to be a root verity and state it in a well-formed proposition, we create a root tenet. Root tenets can be either affirmative or negative.

Affirmative root tenets are those articulated root propositions that adequately express a root verity. The articulated root tenets in this study that claim to be affirmative are called plusroot tenets, or sometimes simply plus tenets.

If the articulated root proposition is inadequate for the occasion, it is a negative root proposition. It is a root error. There are many ways of being negative.

Articulating root values raises a troublesome double problem. In the first place, we can be wrong. What we think is an accurate root tenet might be a root error. In the second place, even if we are adequately correct, there is still a gap between what we say and the intrinsic root verity we aim to express.

We humans are blessed with the ability to comprehend, express, and use a vast amount of knowledge. Even so, there are inherent limitations in our knowledge acquiring apparatus. We can know much but we can’t know everything. When we discuss truth, we should be modest.

Keeping clear the distinction between truth and knowledge is a defining factor in affirmative thinking. The importance of this distinction will become more obvious in later chapters. (See especially Chapter 22, Certainty)

Propositions and Definitions

Please notice that plusroot tenets and plus definitions are not the same. A plusroot tenet is a proposition. Propositions are different from definitions.

A definition clarifies and establishes the meaning of the terms used in expressing a proposition. A definition is a statement but it is not a proposition. Definitions strictly speaking are not true or false. Instead definitions are appropriate or inappropriate. In this study, the terms proposition and definition are used as defined in the plusroot definition system. These plus definitions agree with the better part of general usage. (See Definition Theory)

A proposition is an expressed judgment that states a principle or a fact in such a way that it can be used as a true or false premise in reasoning. Although we are justified in judging that definitions are appropriate or inappropriate, at their origin definitions are neither true nor false. On the other hand, a proposition is a well formulated statement that is either true or false, sound or unsound.

A root tenet aims to express a sound elemental principle about reasoning that we use in reasoning.

If we choose, we can turn a definition into a proposition. This is acceptable if we take proper accounting for the alteration. Usually we do this mentally because it is a bother to spell it out. Many philosophical conundrums result from failure to give due notice that a definition is being switched into a proposition or vise versa. It is harder to explain than it is to do. If you had a good logic course in school, you learned this distinction and understand the difference between definition and proposition. If you didn’t have a good logic course, you missed out. Even so, it is not hard to figure it for yourself.

In plusroot theory, plus definitions are used in expressing plusroot tenets. The definition is stipulated and then the term is used in a proposition according to the defined meaning. This method is not the least bit new. It’s what normal philosophers usually do. It’s one of those things that goes without saying. [See Redundancy Essay] [See Redundancy Essay]


To complicate matters, root errors are numerous. In truth, so many elemental rational mistakes abound in literature and other media that we cannot possibly correct them all. Fortunately, we don’t have to. We don’t have to absolutely fix even one. We can make significant improvement by adequately correcting some of the worst and by strengthening root verities.

Worth It

Is it worth all the trouble it takes to adequately correct serious root errors? To answer this question, we need to see the havoc root errors create in human affairs.

Crucial root errors damage rational skills people must share to live together in credible safety. These root errors are dangerous because they put our abilities to progress in peace at risk. For example, a deep misunderstanding of the role of reason in our pursuit of knowledge is a crucial root error. A serious misunderstanding of 'reason' can interfere with our abilities to reason together.

Another Example is human nature. If we make mistakes in understanding 'reason', these mistakes will carry over into the way 'reason' relates to 'human nature'. An eschewed definition of human nature leads to distorted remedies for human ills. This is a major problem, not a small problem.

Root errors, rather than solving problems, make problems worse. A false root proposition accepted as if it were true entrenches mistakes in our thought systems and does damage difficult to see. If we have a wrong answer, but think it is true, we stop looking, and, if we work from false premises we often undo our own objectives. A root error can carry over from one subject to another. It is worth all the effort it takes to adequately correct crucial root errors.


Root errors vary in degrees of effect. Some are so insignificant they can be safely overlooked. Others are so serious, it’s worth all the effort it takes to fix them. What are minor mistakes in one situation can be crucial in another.

While it is sometimes safe to allow minor mistakes to slide by, serious mistakes are a different matter. It is worth the work it takes to adequately fix serious root errors.

Plusroot tenets are articulated solutions to root problems as interpreted in the plusroot system.

The tricky part is to actually fix mistakes that need fixing rather than making them worse. Sometimes philosophers do an excellent job in identifying problems but then, instead of improving the situation, they regress by taking a lesser error and replacing it with much more serious mistake. It is better to leave things alone than to make matters worse.

To make improvements, we should replace the error under scrutiny with a better situation. Because it is easy to make mistakes, we need to continuously double check our development to see if what we think is reform actually is reform.

To promote fundamentals of dialectical success and advance our abilities to progress in peace, we need adequate rational theory in the right places. The purpose of correcting root errors is to bring into play root values so we can increase our ability to use sound rational thinking as we address vital concerns. Evidence abounds to prove that the solutions featured in this study can genuinely improve our abilities to engage in civil discourse and to advance our abilities to progress in peace.(See Examples Essay)

Root errors do not fall out of the sky. We, in our human frailty, create them by our own ineptitude. We speak, write, and promulgate them in an unwitting manner. In almost every case, root errors happen carelessly. I cannot think of a single instance where it looks as if the person who made a root mistake did it on purpose. John Dewey, we can safely assume, genuinely believed what he wrote about logic.

Even though inadvertent, root errors definitely exist. From minor to crucial, they are repeated over and over in philosophical discourse. They work their undoing much as drops of water erode the stone. They eat at foundations of society like termites in wood. They bring sickness to thought systems as pathogenic microorganisms bring disease to bodies.

From a peace-seeking point of view, the worst root errors are those that interfere most with our ability to progress in peace. As already indicated, mistakes of this magnitude are serious. Serious root errors corrode efforts to control violence because they fuel divisive tactics and damage the shared rational competence that unifies the body politic. Serious root errors frustrate the development of problem solving skills necessary to negotiate fair solutions to serious disagreement. They are crucial mistakes.

Getting Ready

Plusroot theory as presented in the Roots of Sound Rational Thinking is introductory. It is a "getting ready" project. Before we can delve into profound hidden root errors and undertake psychological studies of the root theory of specific people we need a shared terminology and method that fits the case. This requires an affirmative logic we hold in common and a means of testing the accuracy of the premises we use.

If the plusroot approach can help clarify the basic necessities of constructive elemental research, then we are in a better position to request entry into the hidden root thinking of individuals.


This chapter began with questions called the big puzzle: What can we humans do to achieve a few major goals that virtually everybody desires? What can we do to avoid war, slavery, famine, prejudice and other forms of rank injustice. Reduced to a few words, the question reads: What can we do to advance our abilities to progress in peace?

Here is the answer: If we adequately avoid root errors and sufficiently promote root values, we can upgrade rational competence to the degree that we can resolve serious conflict within the realm of civil discourse and, in so doing, reach a more peaceful and just society. This is the plusroot approach.

Plusroot theory does not claim to eliminate all elemental problems. Still, it does show how to reduce many serious blunders to a manageable level. Present difficulties can become overwhelming if we allow serious root errors to work their way into philosophy and misdirect the course we must take to achieve the society that we, the middle majority, desire. If enough people would make the effort to adequately correct enough serious root errors, we could improve enough in problem-solving skills to dramatically advance our abilities to make significant improvements.

The problems involved are complex but the situation is not hopeless. It is not necessary to be perfect. We only have to make improvements. We already possess our logical intuitions, our native commonsense and our innate urge to honesty. With the destructive capability of modern weapons dispersed around the globe, it’s worth the trouble. We can do it. We should do it.

Root errors are the problem. Root verities are the solution.