Worldview humility

Kind of related to the Islam thread, but I want to have this on its own. A long time ago, I was listening to a science teacher who taught at a religious school. He said something like; Never teach a kid something as if it is incontrovertibly true when you know they will meet other people later who will strongly believe it’s false.

My guru, Bart Campolo gave a longer version of that earlier this year.

“I really believe the way I see the world is true but I’m smart enough to know that I don’t believe it’s true because it is incontrovertibly true. I was raised and educated in such a way that I’m capable of seeing that it is true and if I was raised and educated somewhere else I would not think it was true, I would think something else is true. Whatever you believe is true, you should have enough humility to say, it may be true but you don’t believe it’s true because it’s true, you believe it’s true because your mother taught it to you, because you went to this school, because of your genetics and your hormones. Don’t kid yourself. You can’t take credit for your way of thinking. So, you shouldn’t blame other people for their way of thinking. Nurture whoever you can nurture.”

He shies away from the controversies though, so I’ll add there is definitely a time to question someone’s version of truth. If it is not supporting health, peace, human flourishing or worse if it’s promoting the opposite. Truth is a tool. And in some cases, it is the wrong tool. Unfortunately, this idea is easily abused.

There’s a “yeah but” to this, that I want to handle in advance. IBL has this, but I don’t see him jumping into other threads often. It’s “yeah but, I feel there is something, something bigger than me, and people have reported these feelings throughout time, and that’s what religion.”

Yep, people have that feeling. If you don’t, you probably don’t feel part of much, might not even have any lasting relationships, so, yes, it’s very important to our survival as a social species to have those feelings. It’s probably something in our evolved chemical makeup that led to us having those feelings.

However, here’s the important thing, this is not a statement of “we are just chemical” or “love is just a survival mechanism”. It’s more than that, and I can’t describe it. What I don’t do is make up something to fill in that inability to describe it. I continue to learn every day, explore, stare at the stars and wonder.

I can’t tell where you want to go with this. I don’t want to go down the rabbit hole of what is truth. I accept that there is one and only one truth and it is what has happened and it is completely independent of anyone’s understanding of it.

Your guru’s statement "Nurture whoever you can nurture.” Is interesting. My immediate response is why? I hardly believe most people will answer “because nurturing someone will do you some good” but isn’t that exactly why we do everything we do?

Or, could it be that the reason we have survived is because we recognize that there really is something bigger? I think the important part is not that there is something bigger, or not if you choose to believe that there isn’t, but rather that each of us recognizes that “I am” and, of course that others are indeed others just like me.

Of course the way we see the world depends on how we have lived our lives. The only songs we know are the ones we’ve heard (or the ones we wrote). If we’re very careful the ones we write will be the most important both for ourselves and for others.

I would never fault anyone for trying to present what he/she believes to be true but I would ask that it be presented in terms of what is believed and not in terms of absolutes. I think that captures what your guru said.

But again, the interesting part is that we seem to have a need to share what we think is important. Can I speculate just a bit and say that perhaps we want to share because we suspect that the non-physical part of us will continue, somehow somewhere, with the non-physical part of others?

I had to stop and read that one a couple times. I might quote you on that.

That’s a big part of what he says.

Yes

I don’t know. I’ll have to think about. I have thought about that at times. I often use the phrase “motivated self-interest”. In philosophy, there is “moral realism”. That’s a pretty good match to my philosophy.

Is it? For me, about the only thing that is bigger and more powerful than I am is the universe and Mother Nature, but I don’t know if the fact it is bigger than I am is needed to survive. I think the fact that the two are more powerful than I am is enough. Size isn’t a factor, despite that it is bigger.

Well, I started with moral realism and wound up at Bayesian probability as making the most sense to me. Way too many big words and foreign concepts to absorb in a short journey, maybe even in a lifetime. It still seems to me as if all the theories accept or rely on some concept of randomness which I think is not there.

It seems to me that the big problem, or maybe I should say the most salient feature, in theories of human action is the notion that we act rationally. I think the observation that our actions do not always appear to be rational may be the best argument for free will.

I accept that all our actions are influenced by conditioning but I doubt that conditioning always rises to the level of determinism. I suppose learning to think critically might be considered conditioning. If so, then I wonder if that could be influencing us to act irrationally.

Interesting way to draw the distinction. We know that we can develop habits. In sports, it’s called “muscle memory”, so when you are in the competition, you don’t need to think about it. But, what is your mind doing then?

In economic theories, and some social, I’ve seen critiques on that very flaw. The critiques have come with new knowledge in neuroscience. I think it’s going to take a few generations before we can start viewing ourselves as beings that react on some low level, I’d call it chemical, then rationalize that reaction. There’s a feedback loop too, so we aren’t completely irrational. Buddhism already has a version of this, but they could also do better at incorporating the new science.

“Mind” is one of the things I have never been able to settle on. In Wiki it is defined: " The mind is the set of faculties responsible for mental phenomena." And later “… it is more common in the contemporary perspective to conceive them as properties or capacities possessed by humans and higher animals.”

To me “mind” is just too broad a concept to be defined as “a” thing. It seems more like a process and if it is then asking what a process is doing is not a question that can be answered other than rather generally as what is observed. Asking what a clock is doing would be a similar question and the answer probably wouldn’t tell us much of anything about the components of the clock or how they work together.

The communication and actions of a remote controlled robot might be thought of as determined by a “mind” composed of hardware, software, an energy source, a person at the controls and maybe some other things. That is an incomplete and unsatisfactory analogy of course, but it does include specific identifiable things, one of which is the “intellect”. My guess is that the intellect making choices at the controls of our “mind” is what we call the spirit.

Without a choice maker we’re back to a deterministic model. I think the big thing is discovering and understanding the physical to non-physical interface. If the non-physical part is real then an interface must be possible. I liken the problem to our treatment of magnetism. We see that magnetism does work and we use it but we really don’t know how it works.

I’m sure you understand by now that I don’t expect that answer to be the correct one. I have a hard time accepting that we only react and don’t act first. I have to think that if we are capable, and do, act first - without a cause - then we are not totally subject to the cause-and-effect restrictions of non-life materials. That means, I think, that we can make non-rational choices.

Maybe this is changing the subject - I’m not sure but I ran across comments on Aristotle’s “On the Soul” as well as Averroes’s theoryof the unity of the intellect. The little I saw makes me think I may like what I find if I dig a bit deeper.

You may like the idea that our discussion has caused me to order two books. My question to you is have you been there, into these two ideas, and, if so, where are you with them?

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So, not sure what two ideas are? I haven’t read those books. I know a little of the Averroes story

What I got from summaries of the books is that Averroes expanded on Aristitle’s idea of the soul and theorized a collective or universal intellect. Saint Thomas beat up Averroes’ theory (of course he had to) and essentially killed it.

I suppose what I’m doing is looking for some relief from inventing my own version of the philosophical wheel. It bothers me that I have read so little compared to what has been established by at least several very smart people over the last 2500 years. My education is lacking and that must impact my world view.

I am coming to a possible recognition that the world views of educated people are not that different. The differences seem to be in extrapolations from basic universally accepted propositions.