Australian General Semantics Society Inc.




Seminar Summary - 26th April 2014


" Value, Meaning, Fact and Logic"
Professor Gabriel Donleavy explained why most philosophers
say that it is illogical to argue from any description to any prescription or vice versa.
Puttnam and others have alleged this is false.
We looked at the arguments through a GS lens.
Presented by Prof. Gabriel Donleavy

Gabriel introduced the 18 terminal values and the 18 instrumental values used in the Rokeach value Survey to reveal to subjects what their values actually are.

These were refined by discussing little cases from Forge and Khurry’s “Bioethicals” which enable people to distinguish between things they would only do for a high price and things they would never do at all.

Hume’s law later renamed the Natutralistic Fallacy by G E Moore holds that no description can logically found any prescription, or vice versa. Sam Harris in The Moral Landscape, however, argues the law is wrong and that values are themselves facts therefore have a valid object and descriptive level existence sourced in event level brain firings rapidly being illumined by neuroscience. Even if that had not occurred,

Harris argues that truth is itself a value and that good and evil are capable of sufficient general agreement on their content as to constitute a valid, even scientific, scale of measurement. Just as health is a multiordinal term that is the object of medicine and health science, so Harris posits wellbeing as the object of moral science. Such a science has to be judged on consequences so is a kind of utilitarianism, rule rather than act however.

Culpability would still be a matter of evil and malicious intention by a person of otherwise sane attributes, so it would not mean that all evil was euphemised as mental illness. However the window of culpability is quite narrow as the time during which intentions come to consciousness is quite short and many thoughts are unpredictable and the result of random neuron firings, the intention to act is a more considered act of the full personality.

Max Tegmark writhing in the New Scientist on April 12 coins the term perceptronium to mean a state of matter which possesses consciousness and has as its pre-requisite a complex array of connections between its parts that make for a coherent whole. Harris says consciousness is a prerequisite of any morality and moral science is accordingly very concerned with the nature of consciousness.

And, for comparison, see a non-rigorous survey of some happiness preferences,
at "AGS National Conference 2010 Happiness Poll"

Next Meeting:

Sunday 25 May 2014
General Semantics: An Approach to Effective Language Behaviour"
A report by Robert James of his experience of the course, presented
by Mary Lahman, Greg Thompson and Steve Stockdale
as a MOOC (Massive Open On-line Course) in January-February this year.

WritingThis is a "living document", subject to ongoing evolution as recollections re-emerge from our memories of the event, and are re-evaluated in light of ongoing experience and reflection.  It will never be "the full truth and nothing but the truth", or "a map that expresses everyone's notion of the territory"!


Disclaimer: This "summary" is a collection of notes derived from our discussion by a number of means.  It is by no means a scholarly dissertation on the subject as presented.  It does not purport to be the "policy of AGS".  Comment and criticism (constructive or otherwise) is welcome.  If anyone has been misquoted, copyrights infringed or confidences betrayed, please Contact us.


(Updated by RJ 28/04/2014)

For details of our discussion meetings and seminars, locations and membership, Contact AGS
Web site by RLJamez