Re: virus: Re: Seven III

David McFadzean (
Wed, 15 May 1996 16:26:20 -0600

At 01:08 AM 15/05/96 -0400, wrote:

> I don't think it's irrelevant at all -- it points out that both
>scientific method and religious dogma are allowable (and equally valid) from
>a "critical rationalism" standpoint. As Max More pointed out in his paper,
>"Pancritical Rationalism: An Extropic Metacontext for Memetic Progress,"

I highly recommend all Virions check out Max's online edition of this essay
at . Seeing him present it at Extro 1
(just over 2 years ago) and subsequently reading Barley's _The Retreat to
Committment_ have been very influential to Virus doctrine.

> Since, as pancritical rationalists, everything is open to criticism, we
>must acknowledge that either the rationalist, irrationalist, or even a
>combination of both may be correct. The latter two may not be likely, but we
>must concede the chance.


> This means that John Doe's conduct in Seven is quite possibly ethical;
>in fact, it may be just as ethical as conduct based on observational /
>inductive standards -- such as those of the Church of Virus.
> Comments?

Again, true. But that doesn't change the fact that John Doe's behavior
is highly unethical by today's standards which is all we have. Knowledge
that our standards may change in the future doesn't obviate current laws.

> Pancritical rationalism, like any other type of rationality, seems to be
>an ultimate standard. Science may eventually undermine it, just as it may
>(and already has, in principle) undermine science. I wonder if the Virian
>religion is more scientific or pancritical rationalist.

My understanding of PCR is that it's whole thesis is to dispense with ultimate
standards. (Of course not all standards, just ones of the "ultimate" variety.)
Adopting this stance has the interesting effect of making all of our knowledge
an unsupported web of belief, unsupported because it rests on no foundation.
It also apparently leaves all of our arguments vulnerable to attack based on
"begging the question" or "circular argument" fallacies. I think these
can be avoided by bringing in a complexity factor, if each proposition is
by enough other ones, then a stable structure evolves. I'm looking at it from a
connectionist perspective (due to my background in artificial life) but someone
on this list recently mentioned a epistemological approach based on
sets which I think may be equivalent at some level to what I'm trying to
A quick search of the archives ( shows
that both John Aten and C. David Noziglia have mentioned autocatalytic sets
in this
context. New thread?

Tracy Harms posted an excellent message relating PCR to Virus in October last
year which I will repost for the benefit of everyone who has subscribed since
then (the vast majority of you):

At 10:22 AM 10/26/95 MDT, Tracy Harms wrote:
>Tyson Vaughan wrote
>>You make an excellent point that the "prime directive" of Virus is
>>radically different from traditional European doctrines. It's interesting
>>to note that much of Extropianism is entirely inline with traditional
>>European cultural ideals. (Expansion, technological progress, understanding
>>the universe through science, humanism, etc.) Yet there seems to be, for
>>example, a certain ecological awareness to Extropianism which is more
>>Eastern in its roots.
>Yes indeed. My comments were heavily inspired by Appendix 1 of the revised
>edition (1984) of W. W. Bartley's masterwork, _The Retreat to Committment_ .
>This essay is entitled "A Metacontext for Rationality" and it would be my major
>nomination as required reading for all who find CoVirus appealing. In it
>Bartley starts by distinguishing between (begin quote)
>(a) *positions* -- these include (1) a variety of descriptions,
>or portrayals of the environment; and (2) a variety of recommended ways of
>behaving within the environment so represented;
>(b) a variety of *contexts* for these positions;
>(c) *criticisms* of and objections to various positions and contexts -- these
>criticisms may themselves be positional or contextual;
>(b) various *contexts of contexts* or *metacontexts*.
>. . .
>People have, throughout history, differed fundamentally about how and why to
>hold contexts and positions; these differences, as we shall see, have a
>religious dimension. Yet what I call metacontext has hardly been noticed
and is
>rarely discussed -- although without such a discussion one cannot characterize
>the nature of the most fundamental differences among men: *one cannot
define the
>way in which they differ about the ways in which they differ.*
>. . .
>Thus far, only three metacontexts have been developed. They are:
>(1) The metacontext of true belief -- or justification philosophy. This
>metacontext, in the Pythagorean tradition, aims to justify or defend positions
>and contexts: in Jacob Bronowski's words, "to honor and promote those who are
>(2) The oriental metacontext of nonattachment. This aims to detach from
>positions and contexts.
>(3) The metacontext of fallibilism, or of pancritical rationalism. This
aims to
>create and to improve positions and contexts.
>(end quote)
>Bartley goes on to explore this at some length, including discussing how
>fallibilist attitudes are in some ways like those of justificationism, yet in
>others much more like those of nonattachment. Yet it stands as something truly
>distinct from either, and it is very new. The Church of Virus is the only
>religious organization I have yet discovered which operates in this alternative
>way of thinking.
>Since most every ideology we have learned about so far is NOT of this type, it
>is understandable if we often confuse aspects of Virus with familiar things
>the other spiritual traditions. But I hold that it really is very different.