Shayne Wissler
Imagine a world where we figured out the right direction to push, and then we pushed in that right direction…

Rules of Reasoning

February 18 2023

“It is error only, and not truth, that shrinks from inquiry.”

— Thomas Paine

“The price good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men.”

— Plato
  1. Reason is universal. Reason is the human means of knowing truth. It functions by the means of logic and evidence.

    There is no difference between individuals in what “reason” is or should mean, nor in the proper rules of reason. There may be differences in how these rules are expressed, but reason is universal to the healthy and normal members of the human species. Even those who deny this still possess the capacity to choose to follow reason.

  2. Logic. The existence of contradiction in a given body of propositions is proof of error that should be resolved. Willful acceptance of contradiction or refusal to resolve it is the hallmark of insincerity. Formal fallacies characterize various forms of contradiction. The strict use of logic, as opposed to blithely embracing contradiction, differentiates civilized forms of engagement from barbarism.
  3. Valid propositions. Valid propositions are one of: (1) identifies valid axioms; (2) logical deductions from prior propositions; (3) propositions directly or indirectly inferred from experience or evidence.

    Personal experience that cannot be generally confirmed should never be used as a basis for science nor general propositions (laws) that will be universally applied by force, but can only be used to judge specific cases, if such witness is credible.

  4. Meaning. A human being has the sole prerogative to choose what he means by a given term or proposition. Whether he should mean this or that is rationally debatable as a distinct and separate topic, but it is irrational to impute a meaning that he does not accept, and so thereby intentionally or negligently misinterpret him. If a person cannot competently distinguish between his own meaning of terms, and the meaning another defines for himself, then he is not fit for debate.
  5. Induction. Newton’s Rules of Reasoning identifies proper rules of inductive thought, not just for physics but in general. Such rules are a particular expression of intellectual integrity, encouraging the individual to seek knowledge from the universe of real experience and evidence, rather than fabricating false explanation that appeals to the personal ego or to existing authorities. Informal fallacies characterize various errors of induction.

    The basic purpose of each of Newton’s rules:

    1. Prohibits arbitrary explanation; otherwise known of as Ockham’s Razor.
    2. Demands that the pertinent explanation actually be applied to all relevant instances.
    3. Prohibits the arbitrary refusal to generalize.
    4. Prohibits false evidence (whether fabricated or imagined) to be used as a basis for thwarting valid generalization.
  6. Reason is self-correcting. Through its proper use, reason eventually uncovers its own errors. Such feature depends only on a genuine openness to being proved wrong in any matter whatsoever, and an adherence to the foregoing rules of reasoning. This even includes openness in principle that the rules of reasoning are themselves wrong; however, the attempt to prove such can be expected to result in self-contradiction, i.e. the collapse of meaning (however, the formulation of rules can always be improved).

    At an institutional scale, this means that all critics whatsoever must in principle be addressed. In practice, time constraints means that such addressing is prioritized; however, to the degree that an institution is mature and has significant resources, it should have an archive of responses to all formal criticisms whatsoever. No excuses, such as that the critic “lacks credentials,” is a “misinformation spreader,” or is “sanctioning evil,” or is a “malcontent,” or a “gadfly,” or a “troll,” or is “corrupting the youth,” or is engaging in “impiety,” and so on, constitutes a reasonable excuse for ignoring a criticism. On the contrary, the less sincere the critic, the more easily an actually rational institution can answer, for a large deviation from the rules of reasoning is easy to identify.

    In order that an institution actually be open to criticism (accountability), it must be fully transparent. Whatever forms of secrecy it has, such as for the protection of individual privacy or for legitimate operational reasons, must be governed by strictly and carefully defined limits in both time and scope. Such limits must not themselves be secret, and any evidence that members of a government institution has flouted them must be thoroughly reviewed and the individuals who flouted them prosecuted.

  7. Ethical symmetry of individuals and government institutions. Forming governments does not thereby grant them super-powers that overcome the ethical boundaries that govern individuals nor that legitimately shields government agents from taking responsibility for their own actions. Government agents are individual human beings first, even when ostensibly functioning as government agents. In other words, “I was just following orders” was no defense for the Nazis and it shouldn’t be a defense for the agents of any other government either.

  8. Persuasion vs. Force. At every scale, rational persuasion is the only proper way for humans to elicit a desired behavior from other humans; force, or in other words the violation of individual consent, should only be used against those who have flouted this principle and only then to the degree in which it is necessary to rectify whatever injustice they have inflicted.

    Concerning the use of force to allegedly rectify injustice, the burden of proof lies on the party that prima facie is employing force. Simply increasing the scale of the party, as when the party is a mob, or a government, does not overcome the requirement that the force-wielding party has the burden of proof.

    Such burden of proof has no arbitrary limitation or bounds. In particular, the law itself is in principle on trial in every trial. If the law is itself is found to be unjust in a particular case, then that (1) undoes the charges of injustice by government agents, and (2) indicates that the government agents involved in creating the unjust law and in implementing the unjust use of force may be the guilty party, and would therefore owe the victim of their use of force a remedy.

  9. Good Governance. Good governance is only possible when good and rational people rally around the truth. When good people are unable to find and express meaningful consensus, then they are ruled by evil men who eagerly rush in to fill that void.

    The more adept good people are at finding rational agreement, then through the power of their example, the more influence they will have on the culture, and the sooner humanity can eradicate gross injustices and move on to more productive and life-affirming pursuits.