It has been said that we live in a post-truth era. The underlying nature of this problem has been with us for a very long time; however, it appears there is a heightened reality to this claim. Perhaps this has been exacerbated by greater channels of disinformation, or due to some other quality of our modern world. But nonetheless, it is a very dangerous problem. It is not limited to the political arena, but rather extends into society’s general inability to discern fact from opinion, its tendency to attribute false equivalency, and worse yet, to invert opinion and fact.
Of course, there is a philosophical and pragmatic problem of “what is a fact” and whether we can really speak of a fact. Strictly speaking, this may be so, but science and empiricism have been able to progress despite this challenge. I do not doubt the human mind can as well.
A Path Forward
“This is not a rabbit – This is O.K. – Are you O.K.?”
I believe it is essential to maintain a general faith in Actuality; that behind our notions, claims, systems, descriptions, opinions and isms is something real and true, something Actual. Not only is Actuality behind, but it is beyond all thought constructs. This faith is necessary even if perception-conception, which are limited, do not have perfect access and immediacy to it.
In many ways, the concept of Actuality was thrown out in the 20th century along with claims of Truth. Discarding the latter has great value, discarding the former is a great danger to reason and society. We could go much farther in our rejection of claims of Truth.
Limits of Knowledge
It is vital to understand the limits and dangers of knowledge, perception-conception, and belief. There must be humility to our knowledge, this is crucial, but there must also be a deeper understanding of how it is limited and in what ways it can be, and is, corrupt. The pretense “I know” is a very precarious and perilous one. As Dunning and Kruger showed, those who know less about a topic over estimate their expertise and experts tend to underestimate theirs. Ignorance is generally the most vocal and viral, unfortunately.
Knowledge is always incomplete. Knowledge–systems and statements–can at best be approximately accurate within defined bounds and context. This is not to say that knowledge does not have value, that would be ridiculous, rather it is a warning to proceed with caution. It certainly is not a case for moving toward relativism (normative).
One must also recognize that belief is within the category of knowledge and possesses even greater limits and problems since it is generally decoupled from Actuality. Belief is not required to correspond with observation, reason or facts. Beliefs and values makeup an organizational scheme in which we construct the world through perception and conception. Belief is particularly subject to the critical error of claiming Truth and completeness, rendering it invulnerable to inspection and introspection. We have not yet fully realized how destructive this is to reason and the continuity of civilization.
Love of Truth
We must cultivate and embody a spirit of wanting to find out what is true, as an intention and responsibility. This means we must penetrate through layers upon layers of our and other’s opinions and judgments, which obscure what is Actual. We may feel that our ideas and positions are uniquely formed by ourselves, even our sense of individualism, but they are almost entirely inherited and acquired from society.
We love and attach to our beliefs, ideas, identifications and our hurt instead of loving Actuality. We should direct our intention and attention toward that. Being in touch with nature and our senses connects us with an order that is not mind-made, human-made. We have endless mythologies that we draw meaning from, but these pale in comparison, at best shadows of reflections, to the immensity, beauty, creativity, order and significance of Actuality itself.
There is movement, there is order. The Cosmos is movement; movement of galaxies, planets, species and you.
The general order of knowledge is fixed, limited, mechanical, repetitive and bound; tied to the past. This is contrary to the natural order–which is not some fantastical metaphysical thing. It is what is observable. One must remain in a movement of discovery, curiosity, creativity, humility, learning and objectivity.
The personalized, biased mind is the main impediment to observation, reason and action. Identification and attachment, which are rooted in hurt and the search for security, are the most basic obstacles.
Knowledge holds and communicates hurt. Hurt is carried forwards and it is passed from person to person and generation to generation, it has momentum and acts. Must it continue?
Identification forms the primary basis for division and conflict. What is identified with, is limited and generally inaccurate. We identify with our religions, countries, races, genders, political parties and we believe this gives us security and makes us feel larger and more eternal than we are. In actuality, we have only identified with something limited, something conceptual, that is inevitably set apart from something else; some other group or set of ideas. This activity is the most significant threat to our continuity–this cannot be overstated. All reasoned and cordial discussion is compromised, or all out obliterated, by this framework. We are more tied to these identifications than we are to what is true and good. Identification makes us second rate, irrational and under certain conditions, the most inhumane creature on this planet. We can do the most heinous acts because we have defined and reduced “the other.”
A movement that is seeking personal or collective security, or a ground through knowledge, is already corrupt. One can have faith in knowledge, but must be open to new information and viewpoints and willing to let go. Trying to give oneself value, expansion and continuity through identification with a group, idea, belief or system is destructive.
In extension, being attached to, or identified with, the “thinker”, “doer”, or “observer” is of equal folly. Which is to say, if the supposed thinker of the thought is threatened, it is defended voraciously. The thinker is ultimately just a bundle of thought and memory, so in fact, it is the same as defending knowledge, it is just attributed to a supposed source. Thought is making the attribution. In actuality, there is just the movement of thought, which generally has the order and conditioning of identification, which shapes how it moves and acts.
Thought builds up the self image, which is entirely constructed and fundamentally insecure as a result. It’s ground is in thought, not Actuality. This insecurity leads to hurt and further solidification through identification. As a result of hurt, and in order to secure and protect itself, distortions, dissonance, incongruence and cognitive biases are formed. Perception and conceptions is skewed and narrowed.
Observation and Intelligence
One must be able to suspend “the known” in order to observe and learn. Thought does not need to operate when one is observing. This does not render the mind ignorant, on the contrary, the intelligence of the brain can act…TBC
Our situation is not an abstract academic problem, but one that literally determines public health, environmental sustainability, personal and global relationship and conflict, and our inability to address any real problem. This is not hyperbole; this is an observable fact.
We are all faced with the same challenge. We must collect, sort and interpret information. It sounds academic, but this is process has been with us from the beginning of survival. It became infinitely, more challenging upon the emergence of symbolic thought, as self-reference, meaning and complexity exploded. The mind can loop back on itself in endless way.
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