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Re: [ontolog-forum] Self Interest Ontology: Emotions in animals

To: <edbark@xxxxxxxx>, "'[ontolog-forum] '" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>, <doug@xxxxxxxxxx>
From: "Rich Cooper" <rich@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Wed, 4 Jan 2012 11:18:06 -0800
Message-id: <47B21C654178482C8006BB64FC29C9A7@Gateway>

Dear Ed,


Thanks for yet another erudite analysis of history.  After describing the actions and attributing reasonable motives to the two sides and certain individuals, you neatly summed up the analysis in something that might be ontologized.  You wrote:


It is the strategy of the indirect approach. I would argue that such behavior is a particularly human version of the more general behavior of various species in which apparently pointless immediate sacrifices can be made to achieve a perceived long term good.


I could easily see adding more general applicability to a model of self interest by conflating the statement above with the observation that said general behavior of short term sacrifice to achieve longer term goals is indeed an observable fact that perhaps many contributors here could agree with. 


If so, that could lead to progress in constructing a plausible ontology of actions, objects, relationships and interests. 






Rich Cooper


Rich AT EnglishLogicKernel DOT com

9 4 9 \ 5 2 5 - 5 7 1 2

From: ontolog-forum-bounces@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx [mailto:ontolog-forum-bounces@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx] On Behalf Of Ed Barkmeyer
Sent: Wednesday, January 04, 2012 9:54 AM
To: doug@xxxxxxxxxx; [ontolog-forum]
Subject: Re: [ontolog-forum] Self Interest Ontology: Emotions in animals


doug foxvog wrote:

On Wed, January 4, 2012 10:29, John F. Sowa said:
On 1/4/2012 12:40 AM, doug foxvog wrote:
The attackers of Ft. Sumter must have perceived the attack to be
in their short-term self interest.
It most definitely was in their self interest.
I referred to the attack on Ft. Sumter, not to secession.  Secession was
in the self interest of the Southern power brokers, to maintain control
of the institution of slavery (which was not under immediate threat)
and economic benefits therefrom (which were somewhat threatened) -- as
you point out below.
The majority of the Southern states had already seceded before the attack
on Ft. Sumter.  No war had started.  If this situation could be maintained,
it would definitely have been in the interest of the Southern elite.  A
lack of war would have been in the interest of almost everyone in the
The attack on Ft. Sumpter changed the situation between a disagreement
between two governments (a long established one and one that claimed to
have seceded) to a military conflict.  This was definitely NOT in the long
term interest of the side that did not have a large manufacturing base
that could produce weapons of war nor relations with other nations that
could support it.
At the time of the attack, the US had withdrawn some of its forts and
troops from the southern states (including one of the two harbor forts in
Charleston).  The people of Charleston had blocked supplies to Ft. Sumter
by land, hoping that that the troops would also be withdrawn from that
fort.  But the US was sending a ship to reprovision the fort (presumably
including ammunition and possibly additional cannon).
The successful attack on the small fort before it was resupplied
eliminated a local irritant, but set in motion much larger events to
the great detriment of the cause which the attackers supported.

Doug doesn't give Jeff Davis much credit here.  Underlying the attack on Ft. Sumter was a much thornier issue for negotiation between the two governments.  The U.S. claimed sovereignty over Federal properties (military bases and others) in the Confederate states.  The U.S. government would probably have been willing to negotiate those away, in return for who-knows-what concessions from the Confederacy, but it was not simply going to hand them, and their resources, over to a perceptibly hostile neighbor.  The installations that were abandoned were turned over by Southern (-leaning) officers in the US military, immediately prior to relinquishing their U.S. commissions.  In a few cases, indefensible installations were abandoned before they were overrun by mobs. But the U.S. did not voluntarily release military installations to the Confederacy.

(There is more to this:  the former President Buchanan, being a Southern sympathizer, had arranged for the southern military depots to get the lion's share of the military provisions during his presidency.  So, in 1861, the U.S. military bases in the Confederate states were the best outfitted, and in some cases far and away the best.)

Predictably, the Confederate states also asserted sovereignty over those installations, even though they were occupied by (loyal) US regular troops.  In addition to their value as a source of military resources, they were more than local irritants -- they posed an immediate threat in enabling potential military action by a "foreign" power.  Ft. Sumter was thus the representative of a significant contentious issue between the two governments.

To come back to the Ontology topic, the issue at hand was:  How do we put ourselves in the best position to negotiate for our real objectives?  One view is that we leave these things as is, and avoid outright hostilities, and negotiate from weakness.  This will be seen as the "Neville Chamberlain view".  The other is to take advantage of their military vulnerability, seize the properties, hopefully by surrender from an officer unwilling to risk his men for a certain defeat, and then negotiate "compensation" from a position of strength.  The Confederacy chose the latter strategy.  No one expected the commander at Ft. Sumter to be willing to fight a battle he could only lose.  But he had orders from Washington to do just that -- force the Confederate government to precipitate a war if they wanted to avoid negotiating from weakness.  Washington expected to preserve the standoff.

The mistake the Confederacy made was to put the siege in the hands of a hot-headed general from Louisiana -- Pierre Beauregard -- who expected his ultimatum to result in negotiations for surrender and reacted in anger when it was summarily rejected.  He ordered the Confederate batteries to open fire, on the basis of authority from the South Carolina government.  That action ensured that there would be no negotiations.

Bear in mind that Lincoln had made an equally dangerous mistake in calling up Federal troops to keep Kentucky in the union, which precipitated the secession of three other states, who, like Kentucky, were divided.  And he was willing to risk the sacrifice of lives at Ft. Sumter to achieve the political end of retaining the strong position in negotiation, or forcing the Confederacy into a war they could not win.

Both of these were about negotiation strategies -- creating a situation in which we were better able to impose our terms on the other side.  The intended longer term benefit is a negotiation success that achieves our larger goals.  The importance of the immediate decision is its contribution to the negotations -- an indirect approach.  Sometimes value judgements are a lot more subtle than we represent them to be.  Ft. Sumter is an excellent example -- a worthless piece of real estate that has political significance.  In a similar way, his K&K Majestaet in Vienna sent Francis Ferdinand to Sarajevo to precipitate some/any Serbian hostilities, with the objective of having an excuse for further subjugation of the Balkan nations.  It is not about the benefits of the immediate effect; it is about the benefits of the ultimate effect. 

It is the strategy of the indirect approach.  I would argue that such behavior is a particularly human version of the more general behavior of various species in which apparently pointless immediate sacrifices can be made to achieve a perceived long term good. 


In general terms, when there is a strong disagreement between two parties,
they can interact at a number of different levels.  The interaction can
continue at a given level semi-stably for an indefinite period.  But if
one side escalates, the other is liable to escalate as well until some
new balance of interaction is reached.
The resort to local violence in a situation where the attacker has
overwhelming force may seem tempting, as it will almost certainly
result increased local advantage.  But that destabilizes the much
larger situation such that it is not reasonable to assume that the
there will be no wider effect.
There was a similar situation in the early 1990s, in which the three
small Baltic republics seceded from the USSR, although several Soviet
military bases remained in the republics.  Estonia demanded that the
USSR remove its troops & base, but the USSR refused.  Some people in
Estonia were pushing the new government to attack the small bases,
capture the Soviet troops, and send them home.  I saw this as very
similar to the situation at Ft. Sumter -- secession had happened,
there was tension between the parties, and there was local opposition
to the maintenance of a military base of the country from which the
new country had seceded.  I contacted the new governments in each of
the three republics, and compared their situations to that of the CSA
and Ft. Sumter.  I tried to convince them that it would not be in their
self-interest to try to remove the military bases that they considered
foreign by force.  I don't know if my letters had any effect, but the
three countries let the military bases be, there was no war, and the
countries' secession was eventually accepted by the former ruling
The monetary value
of all the slaves in the South was greater than the assets of all
the banks and other financial institutions in the entire nation.
-- doug f
To keep this thread close to ontological issues, I suggest that
we adopt that question as the guiding principle:  Cui bono?
That principle can be used to detect unconscious motives, even
in plants and animals that don't have conscious rationalizations.
I recommend a recent PBS documentary based on the book "Botany
of Desire.  A plants-eye view of the world":
It starts with the old observation that bees and flowers co-evolved
to serve their own self interests over a period of about 160 million
years.  It then goes on to discuss how plants and people have been
manipulating each other to serve their self interests.  It focuses
on four species:  apples, tulips, cannabis, and potatoes.
doug foxvog    doug@xxxxxxxxxx   http://ProgressiveAustin.org
"I speak as an American to the leaders of my own nation. The great
initiative in this war is ours. The initiative to stop it must be ours."
    - Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
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Edward J. Barkmeyer                        Email: edbark@xxxxxxxx
National Institute of Standards & Technology
Manufacturing Systems Integration Division
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