There is truth, and then there opinions, and more often than not there is a significant gap between them. Only in hindsight have I come to realize that the central quest of my life has been seeking then testing what is true: who are we really as human beings, what power or entity truly runs this world, how then shall we live in order to make our world a better place for future generations and our fellow creatures? How do we distinguish between searching for truth and searching for certainty? Once we believe that a particular philosophy or theology is true, how do we remain open to testing it and possibly incorporating practices that are not incompatible with yet not explicitly enumerated in our true philosophy/theology?
The search for truth IS NOT a search for certainty. Our senses and our intelligence are wholly inadequate for fully understanding the world; at best we can apprehend a tiny fraction of what is true. The better we can handle ambiguity, the closer we can come to knowing what is true. If you were to know everything that the most intelligent person knew about life, there would still be a vastly greater territory called “what you don’t know that you don’t know.” The following principles will pretty much guarantee that you won’t find truth but will end up in the funhouse hall of mirrors of your opinions.
1. Search out knowledge for the wrong reasons, such as intimidating or impressing others with your knowledge.
2. Search for certainty so you can feel secure in believing you don’t need to ask further questions. Enjoy futility!
3. Believe only the sources that reinforce your own opinions and denigrate anyone who disagrees, rather than trying to understand the other viewpoints and test them.
4. Shout down, ridicule or suppress the expression of opinions contrary to your own. Invent “blankophobias” you can accuse your opponents of. Instead of debating the merits of your opinions with others, engage in name-calling and ad hominem attacks. Be smug and superior. Insist that those who disagree with you are ignorant, stupid, hateful, and absolutely wrong.
5. Don’t examine your own motives, don’t question yourself.
6. Get stuck on particulars and anecdotes, and ignore principles. This bears more explanation. Anecdotes are meant to appeal to emotions, mostly of the sympathetic variety, and particulars select a limited number of examples to try to create a general rule, whereas principles are what really matters. My favorite example is the U.S. code of Federal crimes. When our nation was founded there were 3 Federal crimes: treason, piracy and counterfeiting, because the operant principles of governance criminalized, at the Federal level, only activities which truly undermined principles which the U.S. (and most state) constitutions held to be vital: the integrity of private property, safety of the citizenry, and integrity of our currency. That was governance by principle.
Today there are as many as 300,000 Federal crimes, so many that every citizen is guilty of breaking a law unknowingly. Most of the crimes are regulatory–running afoul of regulations put in place to deal with particular situations or emotional issues, and meant to placate a particular constituency. That is what happens when principles are subordinated to particulars and anecdotes that rouse emotions. WE ARE ALL CRIMINALS.
7. Under the label of compassion, treat the downtrodden (in the U.S.) as victims of a system, rather than agents of change in their own lives who can be helped by uplifting their own attitudes and skills (the attitudes come first). Possible exceptions: persecuted people living under vicious, repressive regimes–ex. N. Korea, Venezuela; Christians and other religions in majority Islamic countries.
It takes mental discipline and discernment, developed through much practice, to be able to comprehend the principles behind the opinions and arguments. In a mentally lazy society that exalts emotions over mental discipline, most people will continue to be ruled by their opinions. Take a few moments to read this blog regie hamm and tell me you don’t have a tear or two for what we have lost. If you don’t, more’s the pity for you. Go wallow in your own opinions.