concede that people of intelligence
are more capable of questioning
personal or systemic systems of belief, but I think that the intelligent
are just about as likely to accept something on what I'll call, for lack
of a better term, "faith" as someone of average intelligence
Which does one choose? I would have said, at one point, that faith
is the easy way out, but from personal experience, I know this is not the
case. It takes effort to believe in something; to justify that
belief. Theologians of incredible brilliance have devoted their lives to
the task of reconciling religious faith with classical, and later,
contemporary philosophy and science. Whether such efforts were sucessful
or not is beside the point: not all people cling to belief because it's
easier than questioning.
Many people seem to have a psychological need for certainty, even
if it has to come in a package that isn't entirely pleasant. The amount of
self-consistency and apparent "truth" in a belief system does, of course,
differ among the many different belief systems. Some would sacrifice
certainty that theirs is the "right one" for comfort or ease. I can
appreciate the need for certainty, but I can't identify with people who
display such a level of intellectual laziness.
My own need for certainty and intellectual honesty has caused me
to reject every supposedly self-consistent and all-encompassing system of
belief that I have studied. I cannot accept a system that isn't what it
claims to be, and as has been proven by Kurt Godel, there cannot be a
system that is complete unto itself. Mathematical logic- reason, as its
application to philosophy is termed, however, comes closest to a faultless
tool with which I can understand and evaluate things on an both an
individual and a general level.
Even when one has chosen individualist reason as a path to truth,
however, there are lines to be drawn and choices to be made. Do you
believe in objective, absolute truth; subjective, interperative
reality; or somewhere in between?
I am, by nature, a skeptic. I've been so since as early as I can
remember. Believing anything is absolutely true is very difficult. On the
other hand, constant questioning of your presumptions and beliefs is not
only tiring, it's unproductive and quite simply, confusing.
The idea that there are multiple truths, that everyone's reality
is subjective, is a seductive one. It tends to offer a easy fix to
problems of conflict, of who is right and who is wrong. Pop philosophy is
particularly fond of this approach. The other side of the coin is that
truth does not, in fact, exist.
From The Big Lebowski:
"In a heightened state of awareness, this can start the path to
enlightment, by showing that everything is just, like, your
opinion, man. It's very subtle--your opinion could coincide
with mine, but my opinion, no matter how firmly held, no matter
how well reasoned, can't have any effect upon you at all.
Unless you let it."
The problem with this is that everything is not just opinion. To quote one
of my favorite authors, Philip K. Dick, "Reality is that which, when you
stop believing in it, does not go away."
In essence, reality is the brick wall that you can't walk through
by believing that it does not exist. The rest is opinion. My goal is to
question opinion and learn reality. Of course, this is done through a
series of "approximate truths", of hypotheses and theories. I treat
whatever my current belief set is as a temporary fix- if it works, if it's
self-consistent, that's great, but I don't presume that it's Truth with a capital T. In a certain sense, though, the process of gaining knowledge is
what it's really all about. We'll never reach the ultimate Truth, we'll
never know the sum of knowledge, but perhaps the journey really IS the