virus: Virus & the fallibilist metacontext

Tracy Harms (
Thu, 26 Oct 95 10:22:55 MDT

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, representations,
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 from
the other spiritual traditions. But I hold that it really is very different.