The Mind of the Steward: Inquiry-Based Philosophy for The 21st Century - by Eric Sommer (c) 2000 AD.
PART 3: ARTA: THE LAW OF BEING.
CHAPTER 40. INTRODUCTION TO ARTA
I have now arrived at the point for discussion of `Arta' or the law of being. This law is rooted in the fundamental character of our universe as a network or society of interacting beings. This network or society contains two basic principles.
On the one hand, there is the `principle of individuality'. This is the principle that the universe or `universal network' is made up of individual beings. Each of these individual beings possesses its own particular character made up of its own individual potentialities for experience or being. Each of these individual beings also dwells in its own individual phenomenal world or world of experience.
On the other hand, there is in addition to this `principle of individuality' a `principle of interaction'. This `principle of interaction' states that the beings of the universe can actualize their individual potentialities for experience or being only through the interactions or social relations between them.
Taken together, the principle of individuality and the principle of interaction yield a picture of our universe. It is a picture of a network or society of individual beings actualizing, or failing to actualize, their potentialities through their interactions. It is also a picture of a universe in which beings `choose' states of experience or being for themselves and for one another through their interactions.
Such `choices' are made in every situation, and by every being and set of beings. For in every situation, and for every being and set of beings, there is a range of possible interaction patterns, and a consequent range of possible experiences or states of being.
This range of possibilities may in each case be arrayed hierarchically from the least to most desirable. The least desirable option for a set of beings is the pattern of interactions which will elicit potentialities which least optimally promote the being of the interacting beings. The most desirable option is the pattern of interactions which will elicit the potentialities which most optimally promote the being of the interacting beings.
In between the least and most desirable options is a set of intermediate options or interaction patterns which will elicit potentialities which promote the being of the interacting beings to an intermediate degree.
This entire range of options - from least to most desirable - forms a `composite Arta'. By a `composite Arta', I mean the entire sphere of interactive possibilities for a situation, being, or set of beings.
All things have a composite Arta. There is a composite Arta, a range of higher and lower options for interaction, for every set of beings whether human, natural, or divine.
There is a composite Arta for each grasshopper relating to a clump of grass.
There is a composite Arta, a range of higher and lower possibilities for interaction, for each human conversation, relationship, institution, or community.
And there is a composite Arta, a range of higher and lower possibilities for interaction, for the overall planetary interaction system within which all the human, natural, and divine beings of our world relate to one another.
Finally, there is a grand composite Arta, a range of higher and lower possibilities for interaction, for all the beings of the universe as a whole.
Primary Arta And Secondary Arta
Now I want to introduce a crucial distinction. Every composite Arta may be divided into a `primary Arta' and a `secondary Arta'. By a `primary Arta', I mean the particular pattern of interactions for a situation, being, or set of beings which will optimally expand the being of those beings.
This primary Arta is informally referred to simply as `the Arta' or for a situation, being, or set of beings. There is a primary Arta or optimal Arta for all things. There is an optimal Arta - an optimal pattern of interactions - for every set of beings whether human, natural, or divine.
In the human world, for example, there is an Arta for each human conversation, relationship, institution, or community. If, for example, I say, "I want to find the Arta for this relationship" I mean that I want to find the optimal pattern of interactions which will best promote the being of all those effected by the relationship.
In addition to the primary Arta, however, there is the `secondary Arta'. By a `secondary Arta', I mean all of the `sub-optimal' possibilities which will to a greater or lesser extent fall short of optimal actualization of being.
The Universality of Arta
I want to emphasize the universality of `primary Arta' and `secondary Arta'. For every set of beings whether human, natural, or divine there is a primary Arta and a secondary Arta.
The primary Arta is the interaction pattern which will optimally promote positive being or experience for the interacting beings.
The secondary Arta is a set of secondary options for interaction which will in one way or another fall short of the primary Arta, and whose consequences will be sub-optimal states of experience or being for the beings involved in that situation.
There is, then, a primary Arta and a secondary Arta for all things.
The Wrath of Arta
Now I want to focus briefly on the character of secondary Arta. Secondary Artas are possible interaction patterns which, if realized, will produce sub-optimal states of being or experience. Such secondary Artas evoke, to a greater or lesser extent, the `wrath of Arta'. By the `wrath of Arta', I mean the unnecessary suffering or diminished being which results when some or all of the beings in an interaction achieve less than the optimal pattern of interaction.
Consider the failure of the western European allies to form a united front with the soviet union against Nazi Germany in 1939; the wrath of Arta, the penalty for failing to achieve an optimum pattern, was the world war which began shortly afterwards.
Or consider a couple which does not want another child but engages in sex without contraception. In this case the wrath of Arta may take the form of an unwanted pregnancy and the necessity of choosing between an abortion and an unwanted child.
Or consider a conversation in which a misunderstanding arises and in which the participants fail to take measures which are within their power to dispel the problem. In this case the wrath of Arta may take the form of unnecessary hurt feelings, future distrust between the people involved, or a broken friendship.
We see, then, that primary and secondary Artas exist for all interactions and that `the wrath of Arta' is to a greater or lesser extent elicited whenever a secondary Arta is chosen.
Arta Within Beings
Now I want to clarify an important point. The law of Arta applies not only to the interactions between all beings; it applies also to the interactions within all compound beings.
Consider the case of an individual human being. There are Artas for the interactions which take place within and between his/her body, mind, and `I' or self.
Or consider the case of a tree. There are Artas for the interactions which take place within and between its roots, its leaves, and its trunk.
Or consider the earth seen as `gaia' or one compound being. There are Artas for all the interactions between the human, natural, and divine beings which make it up.
The Particularity of Arta
I have already emphasized the universality of `the law'. It consists in the fact that for every set of beings whether human, natural, or divine there is a primary and secondary Arta.
Now I want to emphasize the `particularity of the law'. It consists in the fact that the Arta for every situation, being, or set of beings is unique to that situation, being, or set of beings. There will of course be similarities between one Arta and another. These similarities are related to the similarities and differences in the nature of the beings involved. However, no situation, no being, and no set of beings can be absolutely identical with any other. There is therefore something of each Arta which is unlike every other.
Why The Arta Principal is Unique
The `universality of the law' and the `particularity of the law' sets Arta apart from other approaches to moral conduct. Its all- pervading universality means that there is one moral law which we may seek to follow in all situations. This law is the search for primary Arta. The particularity of the law means that Arta exists not in a world of abstractions but in the particular character and particular conditions of particular beings involved in particular situations.
Male And Female Reasoning
The `universality of the law' and the `particularity of the law' also bring together two distinct styles of moral reasoning. These styles are ones which have been termed `male' and `female' by some thinkers. Here I want to cite a landmark study by Carol Gilligan of female and male modes of moral reasoning and development.
In studying university students in the U.S. Gilligan found a significant distinction in the ways in which women and men reason, and develop their powers of reasoning, in the moral area.
Men developed by learning to apply abstract principles across various situations, while women developed by learning to immerse themselves imaginatively in the particular points of view within a given situation. The male approach was more `monological', based on a principle which the men brought to the situation. The female principle was more `dialogic', based on consideration of the various perspectives in the situation.
The principle of Arta combines both of these `male' and `female' modes of moral reasoning.
On the one hand, the search for primary Arta - or optimum interaction patterns - is a universal abstract principle. Learning to seek such patterns in all situations typifies the abstract moral reasoning gilligan points to as the male mode.
On the other hand, the primary Arta - or optimum interaction pattern -for a particular situation is always concrete. It is based on the different points of view and different characters of the beings effected by each particular situation. Learning to seek Arta as a concrete particular pattern based on the particular beings in each situation typifies Giligan's `female mode' of moral reasoning.
The search for primary Arta thereby combines the `male' and `female' modes of moral reasoning. It combines, that is, the commitment to a universal principle of optimal interaction for all beings in all situations with commitment to paying full attention to the particular beings and the particular perspectives within each situation.
Finally, I want to emphasize what might be called the `objectivity of Arta'. By `the objectivity of Arta', I mean that Arta exists as a reality, or more properly a set of potential realities, quite apart from our own beliefs or purposes. Our own beliefs or purposes may be more or less aligned with Arta. But Arta is not determined by them. Arta exists as the possibilities for experience or being laid down in the characters of beings.
CHAPTER 41. PRESECRIPTIVE AND DESCRIPTIVE ARTA
I have now placed before you a sketch of Arta, the law of being. This law states that for every interaction or interaction pattern, whether small or great, whether within or between beings, there is a primary and secondary Arta. All interactions represent primary or secondary Artas with corresponding consequences in the actualization or non-actualization of being.
In this chapter I want to advance my discussion of Arta by adding a crucial distinction. This is the distinction between `descriptive Arta' and `prescriptive Arta'. By `descriptive' Arta, I mean the description of a situation in terms of its primary and secondary Artas. In producing a `descriptive Arta' our purpose is to discover, and to rank, the possibilities which a situation holds.
When completed, this `descriptive Arta' provides us with a map of the options within a situation; it also provides us with an indication of which options will optimally promote being and which will not.
Descriptive Arta, then, tells us about the possibilities in a situation. It does not, however, tell us what to do about those possibilities. For that we must turn to `prescriptive Arta'.
By `prescriptive Arta', I mean the decision to seek being by seeking to discover and enact optimal patterns of interaction - patterns which will optimally promote our own being as well as that of the other beings we interact with. In a word, prescriptive Arta means choosing primary Arta.
Prescriptive Arta is a principle of universal responsibility embracing all beings human, natural, and divine. It tells us that there not only are possibilities for greater or lesser expansion of being in our interactions with other beings; it tells us to seek to know those possibilities and to actualize those which will optimally promote being. In a word, prescriptive Arta is the ethical side of the law of being.
Arta, Egotism, And Altruism
To understand prescriptive Arta it may be helpful to contrast it to two other ways of orienting to the world. These other ways are egotism and altruism. The egotist believes that the universe exists solely for the purpose of serving him or her. In any given situation the egotist will seek to discover and act upon his or her own needs or concerns - regardless of the effect on the other beings involved. The altruist, by contrast, believes that he or she exists solely for the purpose of serving the universe. In any given situation the altruist will seek to discover and act upon the needs or concerns of the other beings involved - regardless of the effect upon his or her own needs and concerns.
Prescriptive Arta rejects both the altruist and egotist positions. It advises us to put neither ourselves nor others first. It proposes instead that we put being or Arta first.
What this means is that in each situation I seek to discover and optimally act upon both my own possibilities, needs, and, concerns and the possibilities, needs, and concerns of the other beings I am interacting with. I seek, in other words, to discover and enact in each situation those interaction patterns which will optimally promote my own being as well that of the other beings I am interacting with.
Suppose, to cite a very simple example, that we want to decide what to eat for dinner. If I am an egotist, I will concern myself solely with discovering what I want for dinner and arranging matters so that I get it. If I am an altruist, I will concern myself solely with determining what you want for dinner and arranging matters so that you get it. But if I follow prescriptive Arta, I will concern myself with determining both what I want and what you want for dinner and seeking to arrange matters so that both your desires and mine are taken into account.
Seeking Arta In All Areas
This approach of seeking to discover and enact optimum interaction patterns between beings may be applied in all areas. Our interactions may be with human beings, natural beings, or the divine. But in all cases we may seek to discover and enact patterns which optimally promote the being and experience of interacting beings. There is, as stated earlier, an optimum interaction pattern to be discovered and enacted for each situation, for each being, for each set of beings, for the beings who make up the interaction system of our planet as a whole, and for all the beings who make up the cosmos or universe.
CHAPTER 42: ARTA AND `THE GREATEST SUM OF MUTUALLY RECONCILABLE ACTUALIZATIONS
In this chapter I want to add an important refinement to my discussion of Arta. This refinement is that prescriptive Arta does not mean the greatest actualization possible for each being. Nor does it mean the maintenance or expansion of all beings. It means `the greatest sum of mutually reconcilable actualization's for all the beings effected by an interaction'.
What does this mean?
It means that maintenance or expansion for some beings involved in an interaction may necessitate restriction or elimination for others. Eliminating nazi Germany was an `Artagrade' act from the standpoint of the greater Arta of the planet. The elimination of Aids is an Artagrade act from the standpoint of the greater Arta which takes account not only of the good of bacteria but the good of human beings.
Now I want to elaborate on the principle of `the greatest sum of mutually reconcilable actualization's'.
In seeking prescriptive Arta it is necessary to be concerned with the possibilities, needs, and concerns of the beings effected by our interactions. Such concern is indefensible if we are to find the maximum `mutually reconcilable actualization's' for the beings effected by an interaction. But concern for all beings means that at times the being or experience of some beings, and perhaps one's own being or experience, must be sacrificed to support the being or experience of others.
I might, for example, be happier continuing an unbroken sleep through the night. But if my child is crying in his or her room, I may choose to sacrifice my own being or experience to support theirs. It also remains true that `so that some may eat and live, others must serve as food and die.' and it remains true that `so that some experiences or states of being may be enjoyed, others must be given up.' If I want to take a walk with you through the woods, I cannot be at home playing with my child at the same time.
The `art' of Arta is in finding interaction patterns which combine the least possible sacrifice of life or being with the greatest possible expansion of life or being.
Arta, Pacifism, And The Tender-Minded Approach
The principle of `maximum mutually reconcilable actualization's' sets prescriptive Arta apart from principled pacifism. It also sets it apart from a consistently tender-minded stance to the world.
Prescriptive Arta, pacifism, and the tender-minded approach are all concerned with the protection and nurturing of beings. But pacifism and the tender-minded approach reject violence and harsh measures in principle. Prescriptive Arta does not. It views violence and harsh measures as last resorts which may be legitimately employed for the defense of being in certain cases.
Suppose a friend of mine is victimized by a rape-attempt and adamantly refuses to report it to the police. This circumstance may call for the non-tender-minded statement that "if you don't report this rape-attempt, then I will report it whether you like it or not so that other women will not be victimized."
Or consider the issue of armed force. A pacifist army is by definition out of the question. But an army fighting in the defense of being, or of Arta, is not. The forces which fought and defeated fascism during the second world war fall into this category of an army fighting for being.
CHAPTER 43. ARTA AND ANARTA
My discussion in the previous chapter pointed out that Arta is not, and cannot be, a consistently tender-minded approach which conserves all beings and all positive possibilities. Arta is, rather, the greatest sum of mutually reconcilable actualization's of being. This means that in any moment some possibilities, and in some moments some beings, must be sacrificed for the greater good.
In this very short chapter I want to take this critique of the tender- minded approach a step forward by introducing the concept of `anArta'. By `AnArta', I mean any pattern of interactions which serves as a barrier to Arta or optimum interactions between beings.
Sexism, racism, specism, classism, ageism, exploitation, neurosis, dogmatism, lack of compassion, ignorance of the nature of being, and ignorance of the means of upholding being, are all examples of `anArta'. They are barriers to beings interacting or working together to optimally promote one another's being.
Those who follow the way of being uphold and work for Arta and they oppose and work against AnArta.
CHAPTER 44. ARTA AND THE PRIMACY OF BEING
In this extremelly short chapter I want to discuss a principle which is implicit in all I have written about Arta. This is the principle of `the primacy of being'. By `the primacy of being', I mean the choice to put being first. Those who choose to apply prescriptive Arta are making this choice. This choice means evaluating other values, patterns, or possibilities - whether within us or without us - in terms of how well they serve being. Those who choose to make being primary are choosing to subordinate other purposes to being. They are choosing not to be guided only by existing personal or cultural patterns or traditions but to asses whether these patterns, or alternativly some other arrangement, will more optimally serve being.
Now I invite you to try `the worldview mantram'. This mantram is, I think, best said aloud somewhat slowly and thoughtfully, it should not be recited automaticly or by rote. I would also suggest leaving a brief pause after each sentence to allow its full meaning to `sink-in':
"I am not my worldview: I am not my experiences, beliefs, or purposes. My experiences, beliefs, and purposes are my instruments which I use to interact with other beings to promote their being as well as my own. I therefore make myself free to work to create, preserve, or eliminate experiences, beliefs, and purposes as these support or oppose being.
CHAPTER 45. THE BEING THEORY OF VALUE
In this chapter I want to introduce a corrolary of `the primacy of being' which might be called `the being theory of value'. By `the being theory of value', I mean the principle that the value of any experience, belief, purpose, or activity is the contribution it makes to being. Knowledge of antibiotics, for example, is ordinarily considered to be more valuable than, say, knowledge of what the neighbours eat for dinner yesterday. It is considered more valuable because an anti-biotic might contribute to saving the life of your child whereas knowledge of the neighbours culinary habits ordinarily would not.
Or suppose you have a choice to sit bored in your house or to go out to a park where you can enjoy yourself by rolling down a hill or swinging on the swings. Going out to the park might well be the more being-promoting choice. (This chapter to be continued.)
CHAPTER 46. ARTA AND ETHICS
In this chapter I want to apply the primacy of being, or prescriptive Arta, in the area of ethics. The law of Arta is, at least from my perspective, the real foundation for all valid ethical principles and behaviour. I find that ethics is, or at least ought to be, the search for interaction patterns which optimally promote the being or experience of interacting beings. All more particular ethical princples flow from this one. `Thou shalt not steal', `thou shalt not lie', `thou shalt not murder', and `thou shalt not undermine the ecological integrity of the planet' all derive their validity as moral prinicples from the fact that they generally uphold being. Such behaviors as kindness, charity, and the extension of compassion and love to others whenever possible also derive their ethical validity from the fact that they too uphold being. What makes such principles and behaviors ethical in character is that they represent interaction patterns which tend to optimally promote the being or experience of interacting beings.
Arta Is The Measure of Ethics
Now I want to introduce the idea that the law of Arta is not only the foundation of other valid ethical principles; it is also the means of juding both their validity and applicability. Other more particular ethical principles may be thought of as useful `rules-of- thumb' in the service of Arta or being. By a `rule-of-thumb', I mean a rule which tells us that in a particular kind of situation it is generally best to act in a particular way.
If I am confronted with an opportunity to steal someone else's property, for example, the-rule-of- thumb `thou shalt not steal' tells me that it is generally best not to do it.
What makes an ethical principle valid as a rule-of- thumb is that following it usually leads to interactions which promote being more than not following it would. Unlike absolutes, however, rules-of-thumb are not universally valid. We use ethical rules of thumb because they usually provide correct guidance, and because it would be too difficult, too much work, and we would be too prone to error, if in each case we had to work out basic ground rules for ethical conduct.
Exceptions To Ethical `Rules-of-Thumb"
There are, however, definite exceptions to our ethical-rules-of- thumb. `Thou shalt not kill', for example, is without doubt an essential moral principle of human social life. But suppose you come upon a maniac and take his or her life to prevent the slaughter of a group of other human beings. Most people would say that if there is really no other way it is moral to take the disturbed person's life and immoral or questionable to allow the other people to die as a result of not taking the disturbed person's life. The ultimate basis for this judgement is that following the rule-of-thumb against killing would in this case not promote being but diminish it. Here prescriptive Arta, or the search for interaction patterns which optimally promote the being or experience of interacting beings, is used to over-turn the application of a rule of thumb which would in this case diminish being. Or consider the ethical principle that `thou shalt not steal' . This principle tells me that it is usually better not to steal. But suppose the only way to save a starving child's life is to steal food from a supermarket? Most people would say that if there is really no other way it is moral to steal the food from the supermarket and immoral or questionable to allow the child to die as a result of not stealing the food. The ultimate basis for this judgement is that following the rule-of-thumb against stealing would in this case not promote being but diminish it. Here prescriptive Arta, or the search for interaction patterns which optimally promote the being or experience of interacting beings, is used to over-turn the application of a rule of thumb which would in this case diminish being.
Ethics Draw Their Validity From Conformity to Arta
It is, then, from the law of Arta that other ethcial principles derive their applicability. They are applicable so long as - and only so long as - they serve to promote optimum experience or being for interacting beings. The validity of other ethical principles is also derived from the law of Arta. By `the validity of other ethcial principles', I mean their fittness to serve as ethical principles or rules-of-thumb in the first place. From the perspective of prescriptive Arta, ethical principles or rules-of-thumb ought to be adopted only if they effectivly promote optimum interactions between beings. Consider the custom of burning women thought to be witches during the european middle ages. Or the custom of immolating widows on their husbands funeral pyres in pre-colonial india. Both of these practices were at one time thought by the cultures which practiced them to embody important ethical or moral principles. Rather few would, however, argue today to bring them back. The resistance to re-introducing such practices as `witch-burning' is, at bottom, the sense that ethical principles or rules-of-thumb ought to be adopted only if they represent interaction patterns which contribute to optimum experience or being for beings. In short, people no longer want to burn women because they have become convinced that the suffering and diminution of being which this brings is in no way compensated for by any greater promotion of being through this action.
Finally, I want to conclude this chapter with a brief comment on the ethical implications of the the currently popular school of `deconstructism' propounded by Deruda and others. My comment could be viwed as an attempt to "deconstruct deconstructionism". My view is that by reducing - or attempting to reduce - the world to a series of interpretations, deconstructionism amounts to a sophisticated form of solipcism, which: 1) in effect denies the existance of other beings; and 2) thereby negates any possibility of serious moral engagement or concern for those other beings whether human, natural, or divine which surround us and which actually exist quite independently of us or our interpretations of them.
CHAPTER 47. ARTA AND FREEDOM, JUSTICE, EQUALITY, FORMS OF DECISION-MAKING, AND DEGREES OF CENTRALIZIATION
In the previous chapter I proposed that ethical principles derive their applicability and validity from the contributions which they make to Arta or being. Other ethical principles are not `written in stone' but are `rules-of-thumb' for promoting being. They remain valid and applicable so long as - and only so long as - they effectivly contribute to interaction patterns which optimally promote the being or experience of interacting beings.
This argument applies also, I think, to `political ethics'. It applies, that is, to such principles as freedom, justice, and equality.
The political progress of our world is to be marked in no small measure in the the development of such concepts as freedom, justice, and equality, and in their extension into new areas of social life. These principles have made, and continue to make, an essential contribution to the ability of human beings to work together and co-operate in ways which mutually promote their beings.
But principles such as freedom, justice, and equality are not ends in themselves. They are valid and applicable so long as -and only so long as - they effectivly contribute to interaction patterns which optimally promote the being or experience of interacting beings.
My freedom to swing my fist, for example, ends or ought to end somewhere short of the beginning of your nose. My equality with you may stop somewhere short of my equal right to enter and use your apartment. And my right to justice may stop somewhere short of my right to take every social slight I encounter to court.
Now I want to briefly touch on two other issues in political ethics. These issues are 1) how political decisions should be made and 2) the degree of centralization or decentralization of political and other social institutions which is desirable.
Positions regarding these two issues are generally rigidified.
People commonly argue that there is one form of political decision-making which is universally correct.
They also commonly argue that there is one degree of centralization or decentralization of political and social insitutitons which is universally correct.
Some schools of thought argue that people should always arrive at their political decisions by consensus; some schools of thought argue that people should always arrive at their political decisions by the use of representative decision-making institutions such as parliaments or elected committees; and some schools of thought argue that people should always arrive at their political decisions by some other kind of decision-making system such as committees of experts.
There are also schools of thought which argue that centralization of political and social institutions is always better, just as there are schools of thought which argue that decentralization of political and social institutions is always better.
What I want to suggest here is that political decision-making methods and degrees of centralization or decentralization are not ends in themselves. They are, like other ethical decisions, means to promote being. As such there cannot be any absolute principles regarding them. Rather, we must in each case inquire into what would best serve the being of those beings who will be effected by our decision-making systems and by the degree of centralization or decentralization in our political and social institutions.
Before passing on I want to make one additional comment on the relationship between prescriptive Arta and political ethics.
Enshrined in the laize fair economic doctrines of most modern industrial or post-industrial societies is a central principle. This is the princple that identifies `individuals pursuing their own self- interest' with `the good of all'. In promoting the pursuit of self- interest as the ultimate good such societies in effect promote selfishness.
Prescriptive Arta stands against such market-based morality. It advises us, as previously discussed, to be neither an altruist nor an egotist. It advises instead that we seek to discover and enact interaction patterns which optimally take into account both our own possibilities and concerns and the possibilities and concerns of the other beings we are interacting with.
The choice of egotism, altruism, or primary Arta is always present. It is a more crucial choice in some cases than in others - but it is always present. Our moral, spiritual, and social development as human beings depends upon our increasing awareness of this choice and on how we respond to it.
CHAPTER 48. ARTA AND THE BEING-VALUE OF INFORMATION
In this chapter I want to introduce a key idea. This idea is that the value of any piece of information is its ability to help us to promote being. In a previous chapter I defined information as any direct experience encountered by a being and treated by it as an indicator pointing to other possibilities for experience.
Suppose, for example, I encounter a barking sound. This sound, taken as a bare presentation or experience, is not yet information. But if I treat the barking sound as an `indicator' pointing to the possibility that a dog is nearby, I have converted, as it were, the sound into information.
In this chapter I will be exploring the relationship between prescriptive Arta, or the search for optimal being-promoting patterns of interaction, and information.
My first move in this direction is to suggest that the value of any piece of information is proporionate to its ability to help us to promote being. I want, however, to immediately add the caveate that the being-value of information may not be in the information taken by itself but rather in its ability to be combined with other information in the mind of the recepient or in the minds of other actors. Finally, I want to note that the value of information is relative to the being or set of beings receiving it. The means of cognition and means of connation of those beings determine whether and in what ways it can be used. E=mc2 would, for example, have meant little to most people on the planet at the time Einstein developed the equation.
CHAPTER 49: ARTA AND INFORMATIONAL ETHICS
In simpler social periods `thou shalt not lie' and `thou shalt not bear false wittness' were central ethical principles for human information processing.
Today we still - possibly more than ever - need to build a society in which these basic principles can be actualized in order to build and maintain trust between human beings. At the same time, however, the greater complexity of our world requires a commensuratly greater or more elaborated ethic for human information processing.
In classical greece 2200 years ago the number of different vocations or slots in the division of labour was something like 30. The society - and the people and social and technical processes in it - were relatively transparent to the individual. He or she could discern through direct experience a great deal of what was taking place. By contrast, the U.S. Labour department estimated 20 years ago that there were approximately 20,000 slots in the division of labour.
In addition, ancient people's tended to primarily communicate with people from the same or similar ethnic backgrounds to their own.
Today, however, we live in a far more complex society in which the vast majority of our information is socially acquired from other people, who may be quite different from ourselves in ethnic or sub-cultural background and/or vocation, and from media such as the internet, television, computer data-bases, books, and newspapers.
In such a world the accurate and proper use of language is an ethical responsibility. By `accurate and proper use of language', I do not mean the use of `elegant language', `educated talk', or `grammatical nicities', though these all have their appropriate place in the world. I myself have always been fond of such `non- educated' usages as `you ain't nothin' but a hound dog', as found in the classic rock song of the same name. So my concern here is not primarily with the distinction between proper and improper usage as conceived by English teachers or grammarians but rather with something more basic. It is with language as a fundamental medium through which we may `hear, and see, and know one another, and work together to promote being' that I am concerned.
In `proper speech', as this concept is meant here, we show such qualities as: willingness to be asked for, and to provide, evidence for our assertions; `windows' or `spaces' which allow other people's views and feelings to be expressed; adequate precision and attention to both the accuracy and the recency of our information; willingness to listen to perspectives different than our own; and respect for other people's expression of their life-choices when these are non-harmful; openness to new ideas and new experiences (where these are non-harmful), and willingness to change our minds due to evidence.
Above all, proper speech is concerned to follow the dictum which writer William Covey has described as: "Seek first to understand (the other party) and only then to be understood.'
Covey has also made the profoundly important point that in proper listening - and this might be extended to reading as well - we must get our own biography, our immediate concerns, our own way of relating to things, out of the way, in order to cognize, to see and take in, the total picture of the slice of the other person's life which is being presented.
All of these qualities of good communication, or their absence, show through not only in words but in the tone, the manner, and the gestures which accompany words.
The kind of speech which is being advocated here might be called `intelligent communion' or `commune-ication'. In this `commune- ication' or proper speech we seek to care for, understand, and work with one another to promote one another's being, as well that of the other beings of the world.
CHAPTER 50. TWO LEVELS OF ARTA PRACTICE
In this chapter I want to discuss a subject which is essential to the practical realization of Arta. This subject is what might be called `the two levels of Arta-practice'. The first of these levels is the Arta-practice aimed at interacting or working together in a way which promotes being. Such patterns of interaction, when achieved, produce optimum being-states or experience states for the beings thereby effected. Suppose two people encounter each other for the first time on a bus, enjoy a friendly and mutually informative conversation, and then part company and never see each other again. Such a conversation may well be being- promoting for both people and, if it is so intended by both people, it is also an example of the first kind of Arta-practice. It is an interaction or a `working together' in which we beings are promoting however, the Arta or being-promoting effect of the action in a sense stops with the action. In this first kind of Arta- practice one or more people are seeking to interact or work together to promote being.
Becoming Able to Work Together to Promote Being
The second kind of Arta-practice is that of actions or interactions which aim at creating conditions which allow us to become more able to interact or work together to promote one another's being. In this second kind of Arta-practice we seek to build up the `means, media, tools, conditions, and channels of interaction' which will increase our ability to work together to promote one another's being.
CHAPTER 51: ARTA, HUMANISM, AND UNIVERSAL LAW
I do not have space or time here to explore all the connections between Arta and the other philosophic, religious, and humanistic currents in our world. I will simply note that, from my perspective, Arta, or optimal interactions for all beings, appears as the ultimate principle which underlies all other valid conceptions of `universal law'. Such concepts of universal law are found in both aboriginal and world religions; in the western philosophic tradition including both Platonism and the ancient Stoic concept of natural law; and in humanism.
Arta And World Religions
Consider the relationship between Arta and, for example, the 10 commandments and emphasis on justice in Judaism; between Arta and the principal of Christian love for others in Christianity; between Arta and the great Islamic emphasis on charity; between Arta and the Buddhist emphasis on right doing, non-harming, and non-attachment to particular forms; between Arta and the Hindu emphasis on Karma, social duty, and the vastness of the universe; between Arta and the Confucian ethic of expressing caring and propriety through optimum enactment of your social roles and relationships; between Arta and the Taoist emphasis on nature, on connection with nature and on balance, and finding the `true way' , in all things.
Or consider the relationship between Arta and Marxism, which at least in its theoretical form calls for a classless society, the elimination of economic exploitation of one person by another, and the planning of social production so that each person's needs can be optimally met, and so that each can develop to his or her maxiumum as a human being.
Arta And Humanism
Or consider the connection between Arta and humanism.
By `humanism', I mean those systems of belief and practice which seek to uphold the worth and dignity of humanity as a whole and of all individual human beings. In both its secular and religious forms, humanism has promoted freedom, equality, love, and concern for all human beings. It has also emphasized the use of reason, and in some of its versions science, in the understanding of the world and in its improvement.
Prescriptive Arta seeks to extend this humanist love of human beings to all beings, whether human, natural, or divine. It seeks, that is, to create interaction patterns between beings which promote not only our own being as human beings but that of all other beings as well. Arta is a principle of universal ethical responsibility towards all beings. This aspect of Arta can be expressed in a revised version of the Kantian maxim: "Treat all beings not only as means but as ends in themselves."
Finally, in addition to its other connectsion, Arta is related in various ways to the spirituality of aboriginal or native peoples.
There is, to cite just one example, a mystical vision reported by the american indian seer black elk. Particularly signicant in terms of parrellels to Arta is black elks image of a "shape of all shapes" - i.e., a pattern - whereby all beings must "live together as one being". Black elk's vision is, I think, a fitting way to end this section:
"Then I was standing on the highest mountain of them all, and round about beneath me was the whole hoop of the world. And while I stood here I saw more then I can tell and I understood more then I saw. For I was seeing in a sacred manner the shapes of all things in the spirit, and the shape of all shapes as they must live together like one being. And I saw the sacred hoop of my people was one of many hoops that made one circle, wide as daylight and as starlight, and in the center grew one mighty flowering tree to shelter all the children of one mother and one father. And I saw that it was holy."