Morality is About Relationships


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Morality is About Relationships

I suspect that most of us are willing to agree that, broadly speaking, we have ‘fact knowledge’ and ‘relationship knowledge’. I would like to take this a step further by saying that I wish to claim that fact knowledge is mono-logical and relationship knowledge is multi-logical.

Mono-logical matters have one set of principles guiding their solution. Often these mono-logical matters have a paradigm. The natural sciences—normal sciences—as Thomas Kuhn labels it in “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions” move forward in a “successive transition from one paradigm to another”. A paradigm defines the theory, rules and standards of practice. “In the absence of a paradigm or some candidate for paradigm, all of the facts that could possible pertain to the development of a given science are likely to seem equally relevant.”

Multi-logical problems are different in kind from mono-logical matters.

Socratic dialogue is one technique for attempting to grapple with multi-logical problems; problems that are either not pattern like or that the pattern is too complex to ascertain. Most problems that we face in our daily life are such multi-logical in nature. Simple problems that occur daily in family life are examples. Each member of the family has a different point of view with differing needs and desires. Most of the problems we constantly face are not readily solved by mathematics because they are not pattern specific and are multi-logical.

Dialogue is a technique for mutual consideration of such problems wherein solutions grow in a dialectical manner. Through dialogue each individual brings his/her point of view to the fore by proposing solutions constructed around their specific view. All participants in the dialogue come at the solution from the logic of their views. The solution builds dialectically i.e. a thesis is developed and from this thesis and a contrasting antithesis is constructed a synthesis that takes into consideration both proposals. From this a new synthesis a new thesis is developed.

When we are dealing with mono-logical problems well circumscribed by algorithms the personal biases of the subject are of small concern. In multi-logical problems, without the advantage of paradigms and algorithms, the biases of the problem solvers become a serious source of error. One important task of dialogue is to illuminate these prejudices which may be quite subtle and often out of consciousness of the participant holding them.

Our society is very good while dealing with mono-logical problems. Our society is terrible while dealing with multi-logical problems.

Do you not think that we desperately need to understand CT, which attempts to help us understand how to think about multi-logical problems? Do you not think that it is worth while for every adult to get up off their ‘intellectual couch’ and teach themselves CT?
CT is an acronym for Critical Thinking. Everybody considers themselves to be a critical thinker. That is why we need to differentiate among different levels of critical thinking.

Most people fall in the category that I call Reagan thinkers—trust but verify. Then there are those who have taken the basic college course taught by the philosophy dept that I call Logic 101. This is a credit course that teaches the basic principles of reasoning. Of course, a person need not take the college course and can learn the matter on their own effort, but I suspect few do that.

The third level I call CT (Critical Thinking). CT includes the knowledge of Logic 101 and also the knowledge that focuses upon the intellectual character and attitude of critical thinking. It includes knowledge regarding the ego and social centric forces that impede rational thinking.

Most decisions we have to make are judgment calls. A judgment call is made when we must make a decision when there is no “true” or “false” answers. When we make a judgment call our decision is bad, good, or better.

Many factors are involved: there are the available facts, assumptions, skills, knowledge, and especially personal experience and attitude. I think that the two most important elements in the mix are personal experience and attitude.

When we study math we learn how to use various algorithms to facilitate our skill in dealing with quantities. If we never studied math we could deal with quantity on a primary level but our quantifying ability would be minimal. Likewise with making judgments; if we study the art and science of good judgment we can make better decisions and if we never study the art and science of judgment our decision ability will remain minimal.

I am convinced that a fundamental problem we have in this country (USA) is that our citizens have never learned the art and science of good judgment. Before the recent introduction of CT into our schools and colleges our young people have been taught primarily what to think and not how to think. All of us graduated with insufficient comprehension of the knowledge, skills, and attitude necessary for the formulation of good judgment. The result of this inability to make good judgment is evident and is dangerous.

I am primarily interested in the judgment that adults exercise in regard to public issues. Of course, any improvement in judgment generally will affect both personal and community matters.

To put the matter into a nut shell:
  • Normal men and women can significantly improve their ability to make judgments.
  • CT is the domain of knowledge that delineates the knowledge, skills, and intellectual character demanded for good judgment.
  • CT has been introduced into our schools and colleges slowly in the last two or three decades.
  • Few of today’s adults were ever taught CT.
  • I suspect that at least another two generations will pass before our society reaps significant rewards resulting from teaching CT to our children.
  • Can our democracy survive that long?
  • I think that every effort must be made to convince today’s adults that they need to study and learn CT on their own. I am not suggesting that adults find a teacher but I am suggesting that adults become self-actualizing learners.
  • I am convinced that learning the art and science of Critical Thinking is an important step toward becoming a better citizen in today’s democratic society.

Perhaps you are not familiar with CT. I first encountered the concept about five years ago. The following are a few Internet sites that will familiarize you with the matter.