Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Decisions and Power: the Intellectual and the Intuitive

I believe what I do about life because I feel that it is true.

Automatically, in the culture I live in, this statement is regarded with suspicion at best. Most people I've talked to are looking for proof, whether it be through sacred texts, historical context, the sciences, or philosophical argumentation. It is important to note, however, that with proof comes a natural imperative on the part of whoever something is proven to.

That is, if I prove to you that my beliefs are true, you have an imperative to agree with me or live in willful ignorance. I say that gravity is true, I drop a box, and use that as evidence that it is true. For you to say it is not true is regarded as stupid. This analogy, however, is interesting for two reasons.

Firstly, when I give evidence of gravity, I am showing you its' effects. Gravity itself is a theory, an explanation for a consistent pull of objects toward the center of our planet. For me to say "no, gravity isn't something I believe in" would not make me fly off into space, because reality is consistent despite our beliefs.

Secondly, to enter into discourse is much more intelligent than to agree or disagree. Perhaps you have a different explanation for why a box falls when it is dropped, or perhaps you wish for the terms to be redefined or you think that on some level, the standard understanding of gravity is flawed.

So either way, when making assertions about reality, you are in a position of power, and if people have other inclinations, then they enter into a power struggle with you. Ideally, if your allegiance is to the truth as opposed to being correct all the time, you are willing to back off if proof is offered otherwise.

The problem, however, is that proof only goes as far as our senses and our knowledge go. This is why our understand of reality continues to evolve as we as a species evolve. Yet still, we cannot explain things like consciousness and miraculous occurrences and a lot about our universe. These things have implications for how we understand all of life.

As incomplete beings, humans fill in the blanks where proof is lacking with their own experiences and personality. This is natural, and can lead to beneficial and detrimental consequences. One's culture, experiences, emotions, flaws and places they excel are all a part of this, as is one's biology and family.

In a way, philosophy is just as much about one's intellect as it is about one's experience and feeling. If a person doesn't understand themselves or the source of their feelings, then their philosophy may be filled with all sorts of unwarranted cynicism, reductionism, or it might be full of empty ideals.

In the same way, if people understand very little, then their philosophy will be full of inaccuracy and assumption. Ego makes this worse.

So you end up with people making absurd factual declarations or becoming anti-intellectual, and people choosing to ignore any aspect of life that isn't analytical. The problem is, since every person is human, they are a fusion, on some level, of these aspects of life.

Whether intuition and feelings are products of brain chemistry and instinct or an indication of higher reality (or both), they exist and have to be dealt with. Whether the universe is a naturally occurring phenomenon or a created existence, it exists and has to be dealt with. On a practical level, this means that we feel and we think. To ignore one is to ignore part of what it means to be human.

I find Christianity to align with something I feel to be true about reality. That is, that the best way is one of reconciliation, respect, love, and value of everything around me. Obviously, I have to sort through a hell of a lot of baggage to even make that statement in the first place, because Christianity means so many things that its' definition has begun to break down. I also believe that part of being a Christian is listening to the beliefs of everyone around you with respect, and allowing for the possibility of being wrong. If someone says my religion is a moral failure or some tenants of it (such as the existence of God) are wrong, I need to take that seriously and look at those things. I believe I do this well.

However, I must also always look at the evidence around me as well. This is why, once I began to really question things, I realized that a lot of the talk about scientific theories like evolution and abiogenesis at my religious schools was not founded in reality. One must always pay attention when reality interrupts your religious thoughts, and one must always investigate deeply before throwing out something you feel is true.

Sometimes a feeling is a product of a simple emotion and can be valued as such without needing to blindly believe religious tenants. Sometimes a fact is a product of simple observation and can be valued as such without needing to blindly accept it without a full explanation.

Both of these things have been and will be used to hold power over others. I encourage you, never settle for this. Investigate for yourself, think and feel for yourself, listen to others and really consider what they say, and make your own decisions.

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