glossary, definitions, definition


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Glossary of terms used on this site or otherwise helpful terms. The first definition listed after each word is the meaning I intend unless it is clear from the context that I mean one of the other definitions. I have listed good definitions for each word and, for fun, I have in some cases listed some bad, rhetorical meanings that some people use. Of course, it is sometimes wrong to use rhetorical definitions because they:

·        Create confusion and blur important distinctions.

·        Manipulate an audience into conclusions via definition.

·        Create apathy and cynicism about the uses of language and arguments.


1. wrongfully influence

2. skillfully influence



1. definition

2. purpose

3. worth

4. compelling



The difference between the quality of motives, efforts, results and the quality of things attributable to unchosen gifts


Middle class

1. individuals between the 50th and 99th percentile in economic resources


Minor factor

1. factor that changes the probability of a result but not by important amounts (example: Substance that that makes most plants grow slightly faster)

2. factor that rarely changes the probability of a result

3. factor that changes the probability of a result by important

amounts, but little or nothing of moral or practical value can be done about the factor; remote factor (example: Volcano thousands of years ago that caused your ancestors to meet)



1. someone who borrows bad ideas from a variety of sources

2. half fanatic, half coward

3. a euphemism for slow decay

4. half hedonist, half fanatic

5. too lazy to find out the truth


Monetary policy

governmental bank, interest, money creation and destruction policies


Mono mongering

1. Attaching excessive importance to events (Examples: Kennedy assassination screwed up the country. The Quiz Show scandal equals innocence lost for the nation. The Iran-hostage kidnapping made us what we are.)



1. the best available alternative in an ethical decision

2. associated with morality

3. main theme


Moral cynicism

refusal or disinclination to entertain or accurately weigh well-reasoned moral arguments or actions


Moral estheticism

1. Beliefs or actions or both that suggest esthetic claims generally outweigh moral imperatives.

2. Beliefs or actions or both that suggest esthetic claims are the only claims that matter.


Moral hazard

increase in probability of immoral choices because the costs of those choices are excessively shifted to other individuals (example: subsidized SUVs)


Moral monism

Using only one criterion to make moral judgments


Moral pluralism

Using more than one criterion to make moral judgments



belief that everyone should spend his entire life fulfilling moral duties



the study and living of the best available life and the things that should be done regardless of inclination; ethics


Morally responsible actions

beliefs and actions by beings who are capable of determining the moral worth of their beliefs and actions, regardless whether they actually do so and regardless whether deterministic forces are acting on them



Mental state that alters the probability of or the intensity of an effort or both.


National interest

1. Overall benefit to American citizens

2. What a politician believes is in the best interest of his allies or himself, anti-Americanism masquerading as pro-Americanism.



1. Produced without human influence.

2. Any government policy that benefits rich people far more than others or benefits rich individuals while harming others.


Natural evil

great harms caused by non-moral beings, objects, and energies


Natural law

1. belief in arbitrary rules that powerful individuals pretend came from God(s)

2. belief in arbitrary moral rules that powerful people pretend came from genes, the natural environment or a higher consciousness

3. arbitrary belief that moral rules are self-evident, absolute or the same as physical laws.


Necessary cause

presence is required for outcome, but it alone does not guarantee outcome.



1. necessary for physical survival

2. beneficial

3. increasing the probability of survival

4. desire

5. necessary for a good life


Negative Hawthorne effect

improvement factors sabotaged by lack of enthusiasm, bad beliefs about innovation and similar attitudes


Noncontradiction, Law of

No specific enough claim in a situation is both true and false



1. “testable by others”—Mullen

2. arrived at in a sufficiently unbiased manner

3. factual, well-reasoned

4. true, accurate



1. pre-occupied

2.      unwanted recurring thought

3.      addicted



readily apparent to anyone with adequate knowledge and

willingness to face good evidence



claims that deviate from mass media beliefs



giving weight to the unique characteristics of each moral situation



1. using coercion to treat an individual as if he were less developed than he is or as if he had less potential than he does or both

2. legal coercion violating the rights of an individual when those rights are not outweighed by some other rights or consequences or both

3. condescending attitudes and beliefs

4. having beliefs similar to those of older men in traditional




1. contributions intended to benefit others

2. contributions that actually benefit others

3. public relations tokenism and manipulation

4. oxygen for self-esteem and self-justification

5. giving to feel-good organizations that had nothing to do with the creation of the wealth while abusing those who helped create the wealth


planning fallacy

pre-disposition to make over optimistic assessments of the time required to finish a task (example: underestimating the time required to create a glossary)



1. belief that there are many goods one should pursue for a good life

2. belief that values and actions differ among individuals and one should legally interfere only when major harms result so individuals may pursue experiments in living

3. the mistaken belief that values differ among individuals and that no values are supported by reasoning

4. the mistaken belief that one should never or almost never interfere with others’ actions

5. multiculturalism; the deification of trivial cultural activities or

harmful activities by in-groups or socially admired groups



everything a government does or does not do, except the use of not legally binding language



1. ability to influence

2.      ability to coerce


Power markets

markets that maximize freedoms or benefits for the most wealthy or maximize the gaps between the most powerful and the less powerful; (examples: fixing supply, price fixing, subsidies, cronyism, tax havens, tax shelters, monopolies, bailouts, choosing interest rates so that unemployment is higher than it otherwise would be so wages can be kept low, creating deficits that other people have to pay, creating externalities that other citizens have to pay for, holding no one responsible when a piece of paper called a corporation does something worse than what would get an ordinary citizen thrown in jail or fined, lax securities laws and enforcement, making children, parents and the unborn pay the costs of contracts they never agreed to and so on); sometimes mistakenly referred to as free markets; totalitarian markets



1. process oriented consequentialism that explores or experiments with many alternatives

2. vague, process oriented consequentialism

3. vague, process oriented, feel-good ethics

4. vague, spineless, feel-good anti-consequentialism and




person who believes that “real compassion" and the best way to help individuals requires complex, bureaucratic programs such as job training because working class individuals do not deserve and can not be trusted with wages, vouchers or tax credits.



1. deliberate spreading of evil claims

2. deliberate spreading of fallacious claims



actions with high resolution toward goals


Pyramid power:

Ability of gurus, pundits, scientists, and philosophers to draw boxes, circles, pyramids, diagrams, and flow-charts filled with buzzwords arranged in categories, especially hierarchies. These geometric deformations are presented as self-evident truths and are held together more by geometry than reasoning. (examples: food pyramids, Bloom's taxonomy, Kohlberg's hierarchy, Maslov's pyramid)


Rational choice theory

1. belief that individuals magically choose best available

alternatives, that widespread failures to choose best available alternatives should be ignored because dealing with such matters is hard work and causes anxiety

2. opinion that self-interested choices made by wealthy people are overwhelmingly morally and economically right and should almost never be subject to criticism, incentives, restrictions or other interference. A monetary policy that costs lower income workers jobs or wages, for example, does not violate rational choice theory or “free” markets because it is “right” for government to intervene that way, but “wrong” for government to intervene with childcare vouchers or wage subsidies. See also: power markets.



1. belief that good reasoning is the only road to truth and knowledge

2. mistaken belief that reflection without observation and experience is the source of knowledge

3. mistaken belief that knowledge comes from self-evident expressions



tendency to react with disdain, hostility, or even greater misuse of freedoms to those criticizing our use of freedoms


Regression to the mean

tendency for a more typical performance to follow a surprisingly good or bad performance (Example: A quarterback who completes 14 passes in a row in the first half is more likely to complete eight of 14 in the second half than to complete another 14 in a row.)


Remote factor

1. factor that changes the probability of a result by important amounts, but little or nothing of moral or practical value can be done about the factor (example: a volcano millions of years ago that caused the birth of Hitler)

2. factor with a trivial expected value

3. factor that is farther away in time, geography, closeness of relationship



1. unconsciously trying to get rid of a thought

2. unjust use of force


Respect, minimal

basic regard owed to human beings and other moral beings


Respect, moral

admiration or regard owed in proportion to moral character


Respect, ordinary

admiration or regard for non-moral traits and accomplishments



1. duty

2. blameworthy factor



1. thing received in reciprocation for something else; recompense; desert

2. external, desired thing used to motivate

3. any result used in calculations of utility



1.      best available moral alternative

2.      correct, accurate, true

3.      factual, well-reasoned

4.      a claim that carries some weight in at least one situation that an individual is owed some good or is permitted to act in some manner and that other individuals should provide the good or are not permitted to interfere with the permitted act.

·        Almost all rights conflict with other rights.

·        Some rights in specific situations are inalienable, they can not be given or taken away, though they may be outweighed by other claims.

·        Almost no rights are absolute. Almost all rights can be outweighed by other rights or consequentialist claims or both. I can think of four absolute rights. There are probably more. There are no situations in which they can be outweighed.

·        The right to choose the best alternative

·        The right to prevent the evil with the worst expected value

·        The right to rights

·        The right to not be murdered, defining murder as a killing that can never be justified (Other absolute rights can be created by inventing words such as a word that means a theft that can never be justified and so on.)

·        All rights come with corresponding duties for the individual who holds the right or for other individuals or both.



See definition number four under right



1. explicit or implied prescriptive claim that can be generalized to more than one case

2. a claim that can be generalized to more than one case



Mocking derision or contempt (a little scorn may not make fears and anxieties disappear, but in the right spots it is a hell of a lot of fun)


Selective avoidance

tendency to avoid arguments that oppose current beliefs



belief in one’s ability to accomplish a task



choosing and acting without seeing yourself as solely or primarily a victim of situations



excessive self-interest; greed



glib moral self-satisfaction or self-justification or both through

actions of little or no moral merit, over-esteeming one’s beliefs on trivial issues, comparing oneself to vile characters or believing a worse wrong makes a right; examples: hypocrisy fiends, anecdote mongers, busy-ness obsessed, wallowing in victim hood, picayune injustice experts, infotainment moralizers, wallowing in criticizing the wallowers in victim hood, trivial cultural warfare, I’m-good-because-I’m-not-Charles-Mansonitis, I-broke-his-nose-because-the-government-overtaxes-me



1. an individual who asserts excessive moral self-regard

2. someone who is morally better than we are, and we want to add evidence to it by insulting them


Self-serving bias

believing your good results are overly due to your good character and your bad results are overly due to external factors



Anything more than none



1. deeply felt emotion

2. part of a being or re-creation of a being that survives death



language intended to produce action and is communicated to others



1. zest

2. affective state that stirs us to enthusiasm and major actions

3. a ghost



prescription that specifies adequate performance


Straw person

fallacy of distorting an argument or of ignoring the strongest argument


Strength of will

believing you should do X, then making adequate efforts to do X


Strong willed

habits and states of mind that result from consistent strength of will or other factors, making it more likely that one will act with strength of will in the future.



1. a cognitive state

2. false

3. any event occurring in consciousness

4. arrived at in a biased manner

5.      incapable of being accurate

6.      biased



a dollar spent one place is a dollar not spent somewhere else


Sufficient cause

factor whose presence always or almost always guarantees outcome.



1. consciously trying to rid a thought

2. unwarranted use of force



goal or results oriented or both, affective states during and after completion are considered less important



1. circular claim

2. obvious, worthless, or inane claim that is true (example: the football team with the most points wins)


Tax credit

law that permits one to deduct the dollar amount of the credit from total amount of taxes that would have been paid.


Tax credit, refundable

a tax credit that permits an individual to receive a refund if the tax credit is larger than the taxes that would have been paid, the refund is found by subtracting the credit from the taxes that would have been owed



1. the shift to wasting time and lives on picayune matters

2. reducing cognitive dissonance by believing the issues involved in contradictory beliefs and actions are unimportant.



1. various ideologies that believe in some form of power markets, demonization of non-evil opponents, and promotion of market claims over moral claims (examples: neoconservatism, so-called libertarianism)

2. long, slow hedonism

3. the belief that the primary goal of government should be increasing the incomes of the rich and reducing the incomes of others.

4. the belief that the rights of corporations outweigh the rights of individuals.



Various Marxisms



1. knowledge plus awareness of implications

2. comprehend



acting strong and seeking clarity, no matter the chaos and challenges



applies to all moral beings and potential moral beings in the same or sufficiently similar situations



Giving equal initial consideration to all individuals and attempting to give each individual the moral weight they are owed. Universalism is not to be confused with giving equal weight to all regardless of how bad their beliefs and behavior. Universalism rejects the use of unchosen, irrelevant characteristics such as height or skin color in making moral decisions. The same does not apply to religions. Religions are chosen and are open to the same moral criticism or praise as nonreligious ideologies.



1. unclear meaning

2. too unspecific for the situation

3. too unclear and too unspecific



1. worth

2. moral belief

3. belief

4. standard


Value claim

a claim that a thing “is good, bad, better or worse”—Mullen


Victimhood, cult of

political correctness gone wild, confusing real or imagined slights with major oppression


Victimhood, supercult of

neoconservatives and so-called libertarians who constantly whine about anecdotes of political correctness gone berserk and how these anecdotes horribly victimize them and how these anecdotes are the leading cause of societal ruin, mainly to gain votes, entertain the masses and distract citizens from more important matters and how often conservatives horribly victimize others. (Example: A sweat shop owner who feels oppressed because he can't smoke in a resaurant.)>



1. habit orientated philosophy of ethics

2. goodness

3. character


Weak willed

apathetic habits and states of mind that result from consistent

weakness of will or other factors, making it harder to act with strength of will in the future


Weakness of will

believing you should do X, then not making adequate efforts to do X



Consciously overriding beliefs or behaviors or both with other beliefs or behaviors or both.



determined impulsiveness



sufficient subject knowledge plus creativity in applying it, knowledge of the value of the subject knowledge, knowledge of the its relationship to other areas of knowledge, plus ability to analyze arguments and ability to make well-reasoned choices


Working Class

employed individuals below the 50th percentile in economic resources


Work Ethic

belief that work has value beyond the goods and services produced



1. an alternative other than the best available alternative

2. false, mistaken, erroneous, untrue, inaccurate, hokey smoke

3. evil

J.T. Fournier, last updated March 12, 2009


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