Conversations For Transformation: Essays Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

Conversations For Transformation

Essays By Laurence Platt

Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

And More


A Purely Positive Proposition

American Canyon, California, USA

March 23, 2014



"A person or human entity is in integrity when he, she or it honors their word. Whether you like  integrity or not as we have defined it, is a normative  value judgment on your part. However, the effect  of integrity (or the lack of it) on value, productivity, quality of life etc, is a purely positive proposition."
 ... 
This essay, A Purely Positive Proposition, is the eighth in a group of sixteen on Integrity:

Listening Werner distinguishing integrity and in particular listening him distinguishing the effect  of integrity as (quote unquote) "a purely positive proposition" as he does in the above source quote opening this essay, is quite marvelous.

Firstly, "a purely positive proposition" is an unusual turn of phrase inasmuch as it's seldom heard in water cooler  chit chat or in locker room banter or at cocktail parties. So to encounter it like this in straight talk is certainly unusual, and it's also unfamiliar in this context. What exactly is "a purely positive proposition"? What does it imply? In particular, what exactly does it imply with regard to integrity?

Secondly, our already always listening  for integrity and the effect of integrity especially when qualified by the word "positive" (as in "... integrity ... is a purely positive  proposition") highlights our natural tendency to hear it as if being out  of integrity is wrong / bad  ie negative, and being in  integrity is right / good  ie positive - like "... you're out  of integrity? baaad  dog! ... you're in  integrity? good  dog! ...", yes?

Well that's not it. The wonderful phrase "a purely positive proposition" is neither a statement of morality  (wrong / right) and nor is it a statement of evaluation (bad / good) or of preference  (don't like / like) or of opinion (disagree / agree). There's no polling booth set up here. We're not voting  con integrity or pro integrity for it to not exist or exist. Even though Werner calls integrity a purely positive  proposition, that's got nothing to do  with the "negative / positive" dichotomy. Rather, in distinguishing integrity as a purely positive proposition, Werner is proposing  integrity is a phenomenon which exists and stands alone independently by itself, requiring neither voting, evaluation, preference, opinion in favor of, or being on the winning side of a morality argument, for it to be. Integrity exists simply because it exists. So we say it's purely positive. And there's an empirical effect of being out of integrity just as there's an empirical effect of being in integrity.

<aside>

Notice Werner is proposing  integrity is a phenomenon which exists and stands alone independently by itself, requiring neither voting, evaluation, preference, opinion in favor of, or being on the winning side of a morality argument, for it to be. He's not saying it like it's "the truth"  (and indeed it might be). His is a proposition, a proposal. It's an invitation to look at it this way  and see if there's value looking at it this way.

If there's one surefire way of effectively killing off any last shred of possibility for integrity, it's being righteous about it, it's debating it as if it's "the truth", it's asserting it like it's a fact. Instead, his is a proposition, it's a proposal, it's an invitation, it's an inquiry. Don't make the classic mistake you already know not to make - the truth believed is a lie.

<un-aside>

As a further illustration, consider gravity  as another such purely positive proposition, which implies gravity is another such phenomenon which also exists and stands alone independently by itself, requiring neither voting, evaluation, preference, opinion in favor of, or being on the winning side of a morality argument, for it to be. Gravity exists simply because it exists. So we say it's purely positive. And (if you will) there's an empirical effect of being out  of gravity just as there's an empirical effect of being in  gravity.

This, I assert, is the sense in which Werner distinguishes integrity and its effect, as a purely positive proposition. In any conversation about integrity, it's incredibly useful  to distinguish integrity this way. Here's what's useful about it: once we've established integrity as a purely positive proposition, then and only then do we have access to its true nature, then and only then can we really inquire into it, then and only then can we have a conversation about it.

Holding integrity in the realm of morality, evaluation, preference, and opinion, is to misconstrue the independently existing phenomenon ie the purely positive proposition integrity really is. Actually it's more than that. It's much  more. It's holding integrity in the realm of morality, evaluation, preference, and opinion, is to cheapen, corrupt, debase, and defile it completely.



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