Honesty, Reasonableness & Kindness — The Three Core Values of Natural Inclusionality

In this short essay, I want to show how THREE CORE HUMAN VALUES all arise from a central principle of Nature, which I call ‘natural inclusion’(see www.spanglefish.com/exploringnaturalinclusion/). These values are known by a wide variety of names, but for now I will call them Honesty, Reasonableness and Kindness.

Held together, these values enable us to lead a sustainable, creative and loving way of life. When, however, we disregard or isolate any one of them from the others we damage ourselves, our neighbours and our natural surroundings, causing needless suffering. Sadly, such disregard and isolation is commonplace — built into culturally entrenched attitudes of mind that are based, most fundamentally on false representations of reality that serve the interests of hierarchical power at the expense of the common good. There is therefore a great need for us to recognise not only why these values are so vital, but also how they arise from the very depth of our being yet, nonetheless, can come to be set aside or corrupted.

Let’s reflect first on the vitality of HONESTY. Honesty simply means being TRUTHFUL, or, in other words, communicating and acting in good FAITH. With it, we can both TRUST and BE TRUSTED BY others. We can learn from and live and work with one another in a SUSTAINABLE way as coherent societies and communities. This FEELS GOOD for us in Body, Spirit and Soul: many of us know the feelings of joy, comfort and deep sense of belonging and contribution to the welfare of more than our individual selves that comes from such companionship. Without trust, any social coherence either quickly breaks down, obliging us to be self-sufficient as individuals, or can only be maintained collectively by governmental force, which may or may not be benevolent and understanding.

There are, however, two basic ways in which seeking to be honest and trustworthy can cause us difficulties. The first arises in cultures where dishonesty either brings desirable gains or prevents undesirable losses by way of power, money, material goods, popularity, suffering and death. Such cultures are themselves founded on corrupt principles, which makes it hard even for those individuals who value honesty to abide by it, and much easier to follow ‘the way of the many’ rather than be prepared to stand up and be counted as one or a few. In this way, dishonesty becomes culturally entrenched and may also be perpetuated by powerful authorities who impose their own rules and regulations upon their subjects. Both ancient and recent history records many examples of such deliberate dishonesty employed in the pursuit of hegemonic power and personal wealth.

The second difficulty is more subtle, and can arise even in ostensibly noble cultures such as academic and religious communities that are supposedly dedicated to truth. And, in a way — because it is so insidious — it can be just as damaging to human understanding, if not more so, than deliberate untruthfulness. We usually know when we or others are being deliberately untruthful, because it ‘pricks our conscience’ and requires an effort of will that can effect us viscerally in ways that can be recognised by onlookers from our ‘body language’ or facial expression, or even by lie-detecting equipment. But we can also honestly believe, or be led to believe something is true that in reality isn’t. Both Pride in our own righteousness and Prejudice due to partial (i.e. non-comprehensive) perception can sustain such false belief for years, even millennia, especially if it is espoused by high status figures prepared to use unreasonable argument and cruelty to enforce their authority. For example it took great emotional courage as well as sound reasoning, to break the Ptolemaic belief in the centrality of the Earth within the solar system and admit the Copernican reality that our planet circulates both around the sun and its own axis to create the periodicity of years, days and nights that we measure out into discrete lengths of ‘time’ with clocks and calendars.

The need to be able to recognise such ‘honest untruthfulness’ for what it is, alerts us to the vitality of those two further values, REASONABLENESS and KINDNESS. Together, these help us to perceive and relate to the reality of ourselves, the world and cosmos as we and they naturally are, not as we might wish to pretend or believe. They provide a source of HOPE for human understanding and creative flourishing founded on natural truth and freed from the iniquities of falsehood.

By REASONABLENESS, I simply mean being REALISTIC about what is or isn’t POSSIBLE in past, present and future circumstances. It depends both on being able mentally to IMAGINE POSSIBILITIES and to assess their consequences and likelihood of coming to pass. It hence involves THINKING based on a TRUE PREMISE. Unhappily, for reasons already given, a great deal of human thinking has been and continues to be based on a FALSE PREMISE, either due to deliberate dishonesty or unintentional untruthfulness.

How, then, can reasonableness and kindness help us to detect, understand and avoid reasoning from a false premise? The answers are actually quite straightforward.

We can detect false premises by asking ourselves whether or not what we presume or conclude to be true is actually consistent with our sensory experience (i.e. ‘evidence’) and makes consistent sense (i.e. is not self-contradictory/paradoxical). If it is and does, then we have reasonable grounds for accepting it, at least provisionally, as true. If it is not, then we have reasonable grounds for regarding it, at least partially, as false. If we cannot answer these questions with certainty, then we accept that we cannot reasonably be sure, and need to retain an open mind.

The questioning process I have just described has some affinities with what has been called ‘the scientific method’. The latter involves making observations, proposing a provisional theory or ‘hypothesis’ to account for those observations, then testing this hypothesis by making further observations and experiments to see whether or not it continues to hold true. Note that this process can never absolutely prove the hypothesis to be true, it can only put it beyond reasonable doubt. At any stage the hypothesis can be ‘falsified’ by an observation that doesn’t comply with it.

So far, so good, you might think, but there are two problems that are rarely admitted. These have to do with the way the hypothesis is generally thought up and framed in terms of definitive, ‘either true or false’ logic, with no allowance made for an intermediary or ‘both/and’ possibility. For example, we might hypothesize from a restricted set of observations that ‘all swans are white’. We might even use this to define categorically what a swan is. This would be confounded by a visit to Australia, where black swans occur, or even by an observation of grey juvenile swans.

Firstly, the process of inquiry is potentially biased because the only possibility it considers is whether or not the chosen hypothesis is true or false, not how realistic the hypothesis is in the first place or whether more realistic possibilities could exist. There is therefore a danger of ‘favouritism’ and ‘self-fulfilling prophecy’ — deciding in advance what to consider, and only testing that possibility, potentially with a vested interest in proving it (and oneself) right. We need therefore to consider what philosophical and psychological influences may prejudice the choice of hypothesis to test. And this is where the second problem arises.

Secondly, and crucially, there is a profoundly questionable assumption at the root of definitive logic itself, which goes back to ancient Greek philosophy — the assumption that reality can be defined in objective, either/or terms. Nature is thought of as if it is a completely definable ‘object’ or ‘set of objects’ that the observer exists independently from. Such an assumption is, in effect, an untested hypothesis, based on a restricted view of reality that focuses solely on material form while discounting or excluding the natural immaterial presence of space as ‘nothing’. How could this be falsified by additional observations or experiment, if these are all based on the same restrictive view?

Perhaps surprisingly, in view of how deeply it has become entrenched in our thinking, this underlying assumption can itself readily be falsified by reasoning from our everyday human experience! How come? Because if it was true, our material bodies — along with all other material bodies — would need to exist independently from one another’s gravitational and energetic influence. Not only that but they would also need to exist independently from the space in which we are all immersed, and the light energy radiating through this space from sun, stars and other bodies.

Such independence of matter from space and energy can’t be true because a material body devoid of space would have no volume, and space without material bodies would be formless. Instead, our own embodied experience as living, feeding, mobile inhabitants of this sunshine-irradiated, gravity-pulled natural world and cosmos tells us unambiguously that material bodies both include and are included in space as a friction-free presence that exists eternally and everywhere without limit. Moreover, just a little imaginative reasoning is needed for us to be able to infer that this inclusion of space and matter within each other’s presence is only possible if matter is formed dynamically, through energetic circulation around local centres of space. This inference is fully consistent with the observations (if not the interpretations) of modern atomic physics and quantum mechanics. When it is accepted, a huge variety of supposedly true scientific and mathematical concepts based on the assumed independence (or co-extensiveness) of matter and space are shown to be false.

So, simply by reasoning from direct experience (i.e. ‘phenomenologically’), it’s possible to identify the false premise upon which the whole of objective scientific methodology and theory is based. This doesn’t mean that the actual observations and predictions of objective science are false or grossly inaccurate, but it does mean that the conceptual explanations offered for these findings are flawed and potentially very misleading.

The problem becomes especially significant when we realise that objective science and philosophy has led to the dismissal of personal human awareness and emotion as ‘subjective’ and ‘irrational’ — a distraction from sound reasoning, not a contributor to it. As Charles Darwin put it:-

“A scientific man ought to have no wishes, no affections, — a mere heart of stone.”

Such dismissal can now be seen as the product of bias, a very partial view of reality. It has resulted in the treatment of people and indeed all living creatures as if they are genetic machines in competition with one another to survive, a notion epitomised in Darwin’s view of ‘natural selection’ as ‘the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life’. This, in its turn gave rise to the Eugenics movement of the twentieth century, aimed at improving the quality of the human race by selective breeding and removal of ‘defects’. Such ruthless and falsely premised thinking has no place for the third and arguably most profound of human values, KINDNESS. Kindness, however, when combined with honesty and reasonableness not only has the capacity to understand and forgive such misconceptions, but to show how they can be transformed into a more truthful, truly impartial comprehension of Nature and human nature.

Kindness arises from a compassionate awareness of the vulnerability and needs of all living organisms as manifestations of natural energy flow in and around space. Through truthful perception and reasoning, we can recognise the life needs of ourselves in others and empathise with their situation in a way that brings open-hearted understanding, not a cold heart of stone. We feel induced to care for one another in the context of our mutual neighbourhood. This is the basis of the ‘Golden Rule’ to love others as we love ourselves: an ethic that is readily flouted when we cut ourselves adrift as detached onlookers.

At the beginning of this essay I mentioned my wish to show how these three core values of honesty, reasonableness and kindness all arise — whether we realize it or not — from the central principle of ‘natural inclusion’. Natural inclusion is simply the mutually inclusive coming together of space and energy in all material form. It is from this coming together that we are born, and from which the three core values of natural inclusional philosophy (‘natural incluisionality’) arise.

I also mentioned that these values are referred to by other names, amongst which are the well-known ‘Faith, Hope and Charity/Love’. Here, I wanted to avoid using that language directly, in order to show how they are founded not only upon heartfelt ‘subjective emotion’, but also upon careful intellectual reasoning and intuitive ‘gut-feeling’. In other words, they originate in the first, third and second person awareness of our living bodies, minds and hearts. None of them alone suffices to make sense of our lives and loves within the natural world and cosmos as we really are.

Alan Rayner is an evolutionary ecologist, writer and artist, who is pioneering the philosophy of natural inclusion

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