The High Virtues, Religions, and Veatch's Razor

The Ugliness of Beauty
On Meaningfulness Itself
21st Century Money and Value
The Logic of Irrational Emotion
Theory of Bliss 1.0
A Theory of Humor

P|E|X ∧ ¬I: Applications Abound

"Virtu": Aristotle's concept of happiness. Recall, he thought you can't tell if a person has had a happy life, until the end. Similarly, virtue itself might keep secrets until the end of this story. But we start at the beginning, by our aim, aiming at a shining light in the sky.

The Guiding Star

My Penn PhD adviser, the great Mark Liberman, once taught me that when in the course of sustained scientific effort one finds a simplification, a set of cases which previously seemed different, but suddenly emerged into the light as instances of the same thing, that that is a great event in science.

I had such a moment when I realized that the high virtues were a natural category, that they were applications of one phenomenon, the non-operation of the inner judge, or of  ¬I(). It was a bit overwhelming, to come up from the treeline to see over mountain ranges. I am glad, I feel lucky that I could share that vision, and perhaps some of its excitement, with you here.

Shared Presuppositions

Humor Theory uses #1, #2, #5 from the Mathematics of Emotion, but not #3 and #4.

#1. Pp => sp p, the person, process, or perceiver, Percieves subjective circumstances s.
#2. Ep(s) => Ap(.)    p Evaluates the situation s and develops an emotional Assessment appropriate to s.
#5. Xp(Ap(p)) p eXecutes the emotional assessment A.

There is really no controversy about steps #1, #2, and #5: of course there is perception of circumstances, of course there is some emotional gleaning from that perception, and of course there is some implementation of that emotional imperative. Not just N+V Humor Theory but any formal, logical model of emotion must somehow include those steps, levels, layers of analysis or description.

(Be careful: They are not necessarily separate in implementation! Cognitivist analysis is valid but a single process may contain multiple layers, as understood from multiple perspectives, and a rich randomly-evolved long-optimized organismal process may incorporate bottom up information-flow feedback channels, also, not just the superficially most obvious feedforward ordering of P->s->E->A->X. None of which denies the utility of the logical separation of layers for analytic purposes -- for understanding! -- since understanding why, why is something useful, why might some feature have evolved to crucially, functionally support a species to survive with a certain form or behavior, how if not logically can we understand why, beyond the randomness, why in our randomness did we actually survive?!)

The innovation here, in Bliss Theory, is in steps #3 and #4: There is an (optional) identification activity (#3) and whether by logic or process, once the circumstances are identified with, then (#4) one is bound to the emotional assessment also, and to carrying out its imperatives.

Now with or without #3 and #4, the consequence for Humor Theory are great, because the above machinery provides an Explanation. Specifically, the process, E(), is a rich, logical, and parallel process capable of multiple views which normally mutually inhibit and compete and finally resolve into one primary assessment which the organism can use to regulate its emotions and behavior.

Humor Perception

Sometimes, this function, E, of the inner judgement system (I'll call it the Inner Judge) makes the judgement that a situation in focus is a Violation, and it also holds a competing view, a judgement that the situation is Not a Violation, by viewing it in a different way, from a different angle or in a different frame, or perhaps with new developments in it. Being as how the two judgements are in mutual contradiction, the Inner Judge finds it has no analysis, cannot come to a conclusion, indeed cannot assert an assessment A and implement it with emotional execution X compatible with that evaluation and assessment, so it can no longer (down)regulate the emotions consistent with the moral it has extracted from the story. The contradiction itself forces the Inner Judge into non-operation. When it stops operating, it stops having an analysis, therefore it stops doing things derived from it having an analysis, it stops constructing memory and the sense of time, it stops downregulating the emotions. Suddenly out comes unregulated emotional flow, the bliss that is underlyingly present already. Bam, mad emotional activation, horselaughter, lunatic mirth, non-downregulated emotion. Comportment may be lost. Bliss. Irrational emotion.

Irrational Emotional Beyond Humor

Beyond humor, we can consider whether this machinery might apply to other aspects of human life. Are there any other parts of human life like this? Are there other things in which something like the non-operation of the inner judge, or the stoppage of the optional work of identification with circumstances, might lead to a non-downregulated emotional flow state, that you might call, for example, bliss (if activated) or serenity (if not activated)?

I would say Yes. Many, indeed. First, though, doesn't it seem that the inner judge is so attached to doing its own self-conceived duty that it will not intentionally stop doing so? Although forced into non-operation by humor perception, it may have a hard time stopping. Sleep disorders, it can't stop running on. Alcoholism, the poor fellow has to anesthetize it to get it to quit telling the negative and painful stories about one's life, or play the self-deceptive and socially-destructive trick of denial, reversing the sense or the roles of each painful thought, so as not to feel that excruciatingly painful responsibility for one's actions and life. And the eating disorders, my Inner Judge judges I'm pathetic and weak when I eat, there you go again, giving in to your hunger, telling this miserable story until 20% of its victims die from it. The inner judge doesn't want to stop doing its duty.

The only way for it to stop doing its duty seems to be to be forced to stop by humor perception, or to somehow otherwise voluntarily give up or surrender doing this duty.

Let's establish a technical term, "inner surrender", to refer to this operation of the inner judge letting go and shutting the **** up. You know it doesn't want to. Most people most of the time won't let it let go. It has to hold on tight, grab on with white knuckles, no matter what, to continually have a story about what's going on, and impose its view of how to feel about it.

But if it can do inner surrender, then it can stop. Yes.

The High Virtues As Applications of Inner Surrender

In what ways might an inner judge carry out the action of inner surrender?

Humility, is there a component of inner surrender in humility? Let it not be about you and your ego and how you want everything to be? Yes.

Trust, is there inner surrender in trust?

Love, doesn't that falling in love moment involve inner surrender?

How about service? You know Consumer Reports reports that volunteers are happier than non-volunteers. Service is surrendering your agenda to that of another.

Forgiveness, is there inner surrender in forgiveness? I thought so. Surrender the activity of telling the story of yourself as victim and someone else as perpetrator, that's called forgiveness.

So here we have the high virtues, and they have a common element of inner surrender in them.

Decomposing the high virtues

Let us summarize:

Other Modes

What about sex? Yes, throughout for the girls, at the end for the boys, would be my guess, does that apply for you?

What about physical exercise? Would you agree with my sister, a lifetime runner, that that is the whole point?

What about trust, touch, oxytocin, the pro-social emotions? Oxytocin, the smooth-muscle regulating hormone, has been shown to be the hormone of trust. As mentioned above, trust is one of the high virtues. Then inner surrender characterizes the specifically oxytocin-connected experiences: mammals touching each other, of childbirth, of eating and eating together.

What about inability to access inner surrender? Alcoholism, addiction, insomnia, anorexia/bulimia all have a pathological degree of lack of inner surrender. These might be considered diseases of the inner judge.


So there seems to be a powerful commonality here about getting free from our downregulating inner judge.

Beyond Non-operation

After the inner judge ceases operation, then what? Is it stillness and inactivity everywhere? Is it the equivalent of death? Generally not, I'd say. The rest of everything in life still continues. Your eyes remain open, senses if anything sharper since not distracted by internal storytelling. Your actions are more fully experienced, for the same reason. The emotional system when non-inhibited is now actually capable of not just flow states but truly reliable and steady internal peace of mind as well as extremes of intensity of love and bliss and laughter, extremes of the sense of meaningfulness. When there are no emotional bounds, the emotional system can operate in an expanded range. It's not ego-death followed by death, but the death of life-contracting self-attribution followed by life-expanding openness and full exercise of one's emotional capacities. Where the bounds of love?! Irrationally dancing and singing are not ruled out. Being present to others for real intimacy is not ruled out. Being present in the present moment is perhaps the only thing ruled in.

Core messages of great religions are equivalent to inner surrender

So, What about religion? I have a story about every religion other than Wicca and Jainism, and that's because I don't know anything about Wicca and Jainism. Islam, for example, is a word which means "submission". Boom, done, need I say more? I didn't think so. I do here, anyhow. But we can run the list.

Veatch's Razor

There exists a clear difference between the bliss-enhancing, serenity-inducing aspects of inner life and of religious doctrine and practice on the one hand versus the bliss-destroying aspects on the other.

Certain mental activities take us straight out of bliss and serenity by regulating our emotion.

The actions are: attributing emotionally significant qualities to oneself, for example by telling a story about what is happening to one, which tells one how to feel about it, by identifying oneself in the situation or story with any limited role or characteristics. Not doing that lets one experience non-downregulated emotion. That's it; pretty simple. Stop the bad stuff, the good stuff is already there.

Judgement of a situation in which you are the good person and someone else is the bad person, that is to say, moral judgement in general, is a clear case of the inner judge in action. Through its operation, immediately, bliss and serenity are removed from your experience. Veatch's Razor says: if you can avoid turning on the inner judge's activity of attributing emotionally significant qualities to yourself, whether statically or through time (in narrative), then you can be blissful and serene. (And if not, then not.) If spirituality and higher joy, considered as states characterizeable in psychological science, are simply this bliss, this serenity, this non-down-regulated state of emotional flow, then they are instantly destroyed by the emotion-controlling, self-attributional activity of the inner judge. Distinguish between on and off states of the inner judge, and you distinguish between bliss, serenity, the high virtues and other modes of perhaps irrational, unregulated emotion, as well as the core messages of every examined religion, taken together on the one hand, versus controlled, downregulated, one might say suffering, emotional states on the other.

If God picks sides, it's the first. Anyway it's worth a try.

The cognitive form and emotional consequences of moral judgement

Judge is J. J asserts a judgement X, that compares a worse condition W with a better condition B, compared as different to a degree D, perhaps with consequences C. X := Value(B) = Value(W) + D AND C() Asserts(J, X) describes the event of a judgement. If J=I, then following Math of Emotions I is bound to the feelings associated with the event Asserts(J,X), namely that:
  J believes him/herself entitled to be a judge;
  J is accepted by others as being a judge;
  J is a judge;
  J recognizes better and worse, good and bad, what to do and what not to do.
  One who knows what to do and what not to do, how best to proceed,
      can be calm and relaxed in carrying out their actions, without worry or doubt,
            without the problems of indecision,
      can be self-soothed, free of decompensating fear to a degree,
            unless their judgement actually turns out to wrong.
            that is, only if bound within the J's (shared) judgment system.
  J is superior to the participants and responsible parties of the worse condition W
    since at least J knows better and hypothetically would do better in their situation.
  The conditionality of one's subjective and group perspective imposes
  the fear of being wrong, counterbalanced by more tightly grasping
  onto the moral system of the reference group.
So the judge is superior, self-satisfied, secretly afraid of personal error, and in fear holds onto the higher power of the group's moral system. When the emotional system identifies with this scenario, asserting I=J, these emotions are inflexibly bound to self. Although receiving a benefit that decompensating panic is kept at bay, no flow is possible; emotional system is bound to self-awareness as superior, shall we say, that small curl of the upper lip in reprehension of W and its responsible parties, the binding to one's conditional temporary culture-bound group is tightened. Yes it's part of the human emotional range, but no it's not what Jesus would do. Nor the others. Emotional presence is shoved far away in the internal experience of making moral judgement and in the hard-to-avoid self-awareness as judge. Spontaneity is made impossible, except superiority-based laughter, which is ugliness itself considered from a higher view. We may respect a judge in court, but unquestionable authenticity and flow happen outside.

Further work

Further work may: Notes from (a forehead) on the ground.

Epilog 1/13/2018

I meditated, slept, woke up.

In my innermost intellect, awakening, mostly unbound by body consciousness, while observing my own arising and subsiding with breathing (I was repeating the mantra, Om namah shivaaya, canonically, with feeling), the twist of ignorance clarified. The twist began straight: This is all mine and feels so nice that way, free, self aware, encompassing, calm, loving, centered. All good things. Straight.

Then, as soon as I identify into an aspect, my emotional bars come down. The identification movement and the emotional bars coming down movement are the same movement.

For example, arising from the ocean of sleep, remembering the duties of my day, and that these are my duties (identifying as the one to whom the duties belong) is the optional step that induces the stress of the performance or non-performance of those duties. It's the same thing at quite a deep level, and there is a twist to it. The twisting into limited identification traps me into the feeling of being that identified one, distracts my self-aware creation/subsidence process via the operation of identifying into some role or attribute and, distracted, my emotions become not my own natural flow but those of my role or attribute as my socialized-child self imagines they must be. Loss of paying attention inwardly loses emotional freedom and the self awareness in everything.

The twist is the turning of attention not just toward that scenario or sequence but with the quality of identification, or of my having that attribute or role, and away from the self-created awareness of an unlimited space of vibration, calm and encompassing. The act of paying attention in one direction is the same as taking attention away from the other direction. This justifies referring to it as ignorance, as in some Eastern systems they do. The ownership of one's own being, the direct seeing that the creative source of all comes from your own center of aligned, surrendered volition, which is the actually true, least-effort vision, is forgotten and ignored as the inner commitment of ego draws attention away from that emotional awareness toward a side, toward being colored by that role or attribute. It's not just that then you become vulnerable to emotional misery or panicked decompensation nor just that you are thereby enslaved by unbreakable chains of ego-bound circumstance, it's that the turning away toward some identified version of what you think is yourself, on the one hand, and the pervasion of the emotional lockdown experience, are a single self-enslaving movement. If it were a screen sliding across the stage gradually uncovering a new scene, both qualities arise with it together, the emotional/cognitive identification commitment, and the emotional effect which is unavoidable given that identification. They arise together, simultaneously and in the same degree. They are two sides of one coin.

Bliss theory generalizing humor theory eradicates cultural misunderstanding, removes the religious justification for religious conflict

In the long march of history, as languages change and institutions are taken over by institution-oriented people, crystallize and decrepify, the inner meaning intended by once-living, wise founders to their audience is narrowed, to a narrower audience, to those within what institution may have survived, within the teachings of that institution that may have been preserved, perhaps to those who speak the founder's language, also to those open to that message, which might be a difficult message to receive, if it were to involve ego death, for example. Perhaps noone can receive the founder's original message any more. What are "dukka", "satori", and "sin", to the modern sensibility? Can anyone be sure? Do we even know the Mayan vocabulary? Even I under the same roof as Muktananda with a live translator at his side, could hardly understand when he talked about oneness or ego. Barriers to communication through ages and across cultures are so great, it is more a miracle that anything comes through, and more a probability that little will come through unscathed.

A path to recovering wise insight that travelsn through humor theory hopefully is and will remain a broad and open highway to all future humans and their descendants, for whoever laughs sincerely, can understand. The inner referent of humor perception is self-evident to all. No translation is required in pointing to what happens in humor, because everyone laughs, everyone knows when they find a thing funny. Also, N+V Theory certainly makes minimal demands on language when it asserts that humor perception equals temporary emotional valence contradiction. Negative versus nonnegative is a concept everyone who counts with integers can apply to emotional evaluation, that is, every modern adult.

We read of a joke from Roman times, we laugh sincerely at what the author laughed at, we are emotionally connected, sincerely and truly, to that ancient person, to their own deep and authentic feelings. The intimacy is amazing, and self-sufficient; it is persuasive the moment we see the humor in it, that we really do share their knowledge, moral universe, assessment, and spontaneous reaction. We are with them across history, no matter the gap in years.

I hope for bliss theory, as it builds on humor theory, that it has the same universal appreciability. That it cannot be lost in translation by historical change in language meaning. A translation that is even a little bit close should be good enough to really send the whole message through in a way that the receiver can receive it fully and make entire use of it in their own social and interior intellectual and emotional life. Because it builds on the deeply penetrating connection and simple universal elements of humor theory, it can hopefully communicate its message universally.

If so we may now have seen the last of internecine warfare, of doctrinal religious conflict and hostility. Now the ground of self-certainty, on which stand the small-minded and morally judgemental, is cut away by Veatch's Razor. Be moralistic if you will, but don't pretend it is a path to the ineffable, the transcendent, the undownregulated emotional flow, the goal taught you by your own spiritual founder. For you are no higher than any other, and your heart is its greatest version of itelf when your judgement faculty is most perfect in humility. And no humble person will judge others the way the Catholics did in burning the Mayan libraries, or the way Islamic suicide bombers do in seeking the death of those who have a different religion, reduced to different moral sensibilities. Religiously based conflict, I hope, will evaporate when the significance of bliss theory is widely appreciated, and Veatch's Razor removes the religious justification of moral judgement per se in the context of the spiritual messages of the wise founders, and after now, of science.

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Copyright © 2012-2020, Thomas C. Veatch. All rights reserved.
Modified: August 8, 13, 23 2013; July 26, 2017; August 3, 2018
Your thoughts?
                                          Feedback is welcome.
Copyright © 2000-2021, Thomas C. Veatch. All rights reserved.
Modified: October 25, 2020; July 22, 2021; October 28,2021.