Monday, June 05, 2006

No Objective View: 5th Installment

If I’m acting on the assumption that there is no God’s-eye-view of things, no Objective perspective which we can touch or be influenced by then I am left with my view and you with yours. I don’t have to claim that the no-Objective-View belief is the absolute truth, I can just ask those who contend otherwise – that there is an Objectively correct view - why they believe it and examine it. So assuming no way in which things are which acts as the final arbiter for whose right, we are left with the best understanding that we make, alone and together. And when we find there are conflicts in our views we can agree to disagree, compromise, discuss it, or fight.

So why do I like the no-Objective-View view? Because I wanted to use reason rigorously and find the right view, but found that the arguments against that being possible were powerful. Rorty, Derrida, Wittgenstein, Buddhism and others all agreed that that kind of certainty couldn’t be found using reason. Yet my psyche still contained the desire to find it: the great quest for Truth. I could continue the quest, perhaps trying to find some experiential certainty through spiritual practices or try to alter the desire and treat it as misguided. But what are the psychological reasons for adopting this relativistic view. I said earlier that people choose their beliefs for psychological reasons, yet here I explain why I chose an important belief by saying that reason led me to it. To be consistent I should explain why that no-Objective-View view is attractive to me. A psychological account of why I attach to this view is needed to be consistent with my argument that we fundamentally believe for personal psychological reasons

15 comments:

Bordy said...
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Bordy said...
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Bordy said...

humm, hi Jeff, where can we go from here? How can I write or how could i act to merit your response? Do you have some recommendations? Shall I be less wordy? Perhaps I have the wrong idea of what a blog is. What would be appropriate? I thought I had some direct questions concerning your posts. Was I out of line? I don't really want to promt, but how about a clarification of your pschological reasons for why you believe what you believe? I mean, come on, who is reading other than me? Life is short. Words please. How much more simple can I be? Come on, you have a lot to say. Let's get on with it. You haven't posted for a while. Don't make me speak in German. Aber komm' bitte. Sprechen wir ein bisschen. (but come on ((but come)), let's talk a little. Ja, das Leben ist kurz aber wir können trotzdem über was immer oder irgendetwas reden. (Yes, life is short, but we can still talk about it.) Come on Jeff, I know you are busy with wife and family and work, but please take time to induldge me, I want to know what some of the psychological reasons are. Hey, I sound crazy and arrogant (that's nmostly what I inherited from my father, it's my compensation and genre, don't struggle over it, i'm not the asshole that i come across as being (that would be more difficult to say in German, but I can do it if you want me to...and I always have my wife standing by to translate if i need it.)
all the best,
bordy
ps actually, forget my wife, she is beautiful and pure (really, she is amazing, if you met her you would die an instant death, not because she is so la di da with words but becasue she is so real...okay, and beautiful), but come on, man, talk about it.

Jeff Meyerhoff said...

You seem more focused and sincere here. Yes, be less wordy. Don't ramble tangentially. Try interacting instead of (monologic) acting.

I give a short account of the origin of some of my beliefs in my article entitled "Arguments Beyond Reason". You can google it.

Sorry to be such a rigid prig, but I don't like to deal with people narcissistically depositing their logorhea on me unless I'm getting paid to listen or if I have to be polite in a social situation.

My prediction is that any response I give will trigger a rambling monologue. Please disappoint me.

Bordy said...

Hey Jeff~

Read your paper, and in a broad or general sense I agree with it. There are a couple of things that I wonder about. If you will allow me a brief excursion into my own personal experience of being aware of what drives my own beliefs and actions I will get back to my questions.

For the individual, for me, I call this “naked in the white room with God.” You don’t have to believe in God per se, you just have to believe that there is an ideal that has complete access to why you believe what you believe and why you do things you do and this ideal is not making judgments on you, it just wants to see how aware you actually are of yourself and how honest you can be about it all, naked in the white room. In other words, you can’t lie, you can’t bullshit God. Not because he is waiting to punish you, but rather because it doen’t make sense, it doesn’t mean anything, it’s just recognized as a lie and “He” can feel what you feel when you try to support a lie. This ideal knows all of your thoughts, all of your intentions, all of your hopes and fears and desires and so on, from day one. If you attempt to bullshit this ideal about yourself, it will simply laugh and say, “we both know that’s a lie, come on, that’s a no brainer, just tell the truth, here between you and me.” The only time He, this ideal, won’t call you on a ‘lie’ is when you are actually unaware of it yourself to the deepest of your understanding.

But why go naked in the white room with God? What does it matter? It matters only because there is usually a great difference between the way one (I, you) interacts in the world and the roles I (you, one) play and the lies you (I, one) tell in oder to “deal with” or navigate or negotiate our way through “plural” situations. I say all of this to support your idea about how our logic or reasoning is supported by “irrational” kindling and fire that in our purposeful and daily lives we employ in a myriad of ways and for a myriad of “reasons.” You can take the white room with you, and be aware of the striking difference between it and different levels that you act out of, but it is very difficult for even two people to get in the room together because the only purpose it serves is awareness of all these things, it doesn’t necessarily get you what you “want” and now I will get back to the things that I wondered about in your paper.

You stated, “when two or more people debate, the goal is to gain agreement.” I don’t think this is true, and I don’t think that this is why people debate, argue, dialogue etc.

If you and I come together to have a “philosophical” (theoretical and abstract, metaphysical not ethics) discussion, we might more readily be able to agree and disagree, exchange ideas, enjoy differences and similarities and even talk about the psychological underpinnings of our beliefs. Gaining agreement is fine, but it also doesn’t matter, what we disagree about we might also find equally as interesting. But there is no threat, it ultimately doesn’t matter, and even if we get excited and passionate about it, the implications and ‘results’ of the outcome are benign. We might walk away from each other and say, “hey great, let’s do it again sometime.” Any agendas we might have had are realatively easy to let go of (though to the nth degree even this is very difficult. This whole idea of “agenda” is very powerful in us). There are no real consquences (other than perhaps some inspiration and motivation gained that then fuels the fire to develop or further an agenda!) and we might each feel a sense of greater understanding over having come together.

In the big bad world out there, I think that saying that debate, discussion and dialogue is to gain agreement is even more false (if that’s not an oxymoron). It’s about asserting agendas (is this a form of power?) and making things happen for “good” and “bad”, the results of which usually have “real” consequences that might be mutally beneficial, but more often than not one side prevails (at least in the short term). And by prevail it could mean that we will drink tea instead of coffee in the morning, or that a new law or policy will be enacted in a school or business, or we will wage a costly and deadly war. The deep reasons in all their magnificent glory are always obscured. And I’m not only talking about the pschological reasons for holding beliefs but about all the internal stoking of the fire (the real reasons of why one wants certain ACTIONS to be taken that get certain results). The reasons for the actions and the ostensible results are both obscured. The dance is always around and above and below, captivating and practical, and it focuses on the reasons and means of achieving a certain result or results. Even if the parties involved are capable of “coming clean” (they have awareness of what the ‘true’ reasons are, intentions, motivations, justifications and so on), this is not the name of the game, because to come clean (at least in the eyes of those promoting their agendas) would mean an instant loss of power and the foundation upon which their promotion is so glimmeringly and staunchly rooted would crumble. And if we want to engage it or be a part of it, what we seem to do is close our eyes part way and get on board with it because it serves some need or hope or desire in us--whether it's to be a part of a community and "grow spiritually" or to kill other people because we are so certain they need to be killed and doing so will serve a higher purpose--or so we allow ourselves to be convinced, qua terroism and "by the law" waging of war. In the world at large it seems that in order to interact (on whatever level) there seems to be concurrent levels of suspension of disbelief in order for the 'magic' of conscensus to work its magic--to let the power grow. To maintain the foundation, by a high level of agreement, corroboration and support and therefor reject (to greater or lesser degree) anything that threatens it.

I assert that most of us do this in almost anything we do. The value judgments seem to be by degrees as to where we draw the line of what is acceptable or not. If I say, “oh Mary, what nice shoes, are they new? They look great on you.” I want Mary to feel good, I want Mary to like me. Or I feel anxious and self-conscious and I do what my father did (even though) I am aware of it, I make an exaggerated glowing compliment. In fact I think the shoes are ugly. Naked in the white room, it’s an obvious lie and also why I say it (intentions and motivations) is transparent. By degree it seems benign enough and I can live with it and accept it. If pressed I could even admit it, because the consequences of unvailing the greater truth are not so bad. And I don’t really lose some advantage that I hold as being important enough to keep lying about. Imagine something like US foreign policy makers doing a 2 hour TV special naked in the white room. “Folks, we just wanted to give you the real inside track about why we are doing what we are doing. It doesn’t mean we’ll change it, but we thought we owed it to your sense of greater understanding of how things actually work on the inside.”

Anyway, I like your ideas, especially philosophically. But I don’t know if the practical world can operate in any other way. And IF this is in fact the case, what kind of picture can we paint of how and why we do this dance and how we can't avoid it? To me it becomes another paradox of life. Truth by definition can be talked about, but not lived, because life is life and speaks for itself with both truth and lies, though we have glimmers that on some deep biological or spiritual level something resembling the authentic truth expresses itself silently onward.

I know this has been too long and I state the obvious. I also know that you are busy and don’t have time to respond to all of this. I’m not making some heavy critique of you. And I know that you’ve probably thought about all this stuff in an even more full context (I am not a scholar).

So...

All the best~

bordy

Jeff Meyerhoff said...

In debate, the question of who's right, when two disagree, matters to me, and it is a guiding interest of most intellectual debate.

It can be thought important in two ways: discerning the truth - if we assume there is one truth, and if we are to carry out a project and have to decide how to proceed.

Certainly people debate for other reasons, but I'm not focusing on those debates.

I think I mention in the piece that I'm not referring to all the debates in which people are using the debate for other motives: gain power, etc.

But you're right what I'm writing about isn't practical.

Jeff

John said...

My own (mystical) experience indicates that there is an Objective Reality. My common experience indicates that there are no objective descriptions for it. The Absolute can be fully experienced but not fully articulated. Words tend to delude to the same extent that the illuminate. As any yogi will tell you, verbal thinking and its concomitant rationalism are barriers to the View. The word is the original artifice and the first layer of mental abstraction separating us from our feelings and our environment. The Logos is the primary veil. Abandon it and the objective God's eye view will emerge.
Jesus said that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom. I would say that the rational man is even worse off because he cannot even see it.

John said...

My own (mystical) experience indicates that there is an Objective Reality. My common experience indicates that there are no objective descriptions for it. The Absolute can be fully experienced but not fully articulated. Words tend to delude to the same extent that the illuminate. As any yogi will tell you, verbal thinking and its concomitant rationalism are barriers to the View. The word is the original artifice and the first layer of mental abstraction separating us from our feelings and our environment. The Logos is the primary veil. Abandon it and the objective God's eye view will emerge.
Jesus said that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom. I would say that the rational man is even worse off because he cannot even see it.

Jeff Meyerhoff said...

Yes, that Reality or the Absolute is ineffable is a common view.

Another view is that language allows us humans to have a meaningful, humanly conscious world, that other animals appear to lack. That language can be seen, not as an obstacle to viewing, but as what allows any, distinctively human, viewing at all.

Can you describe your experience of the Absolute. (I know that's contradictory - describing the ineffable - but maybe the circumstances. People do use words for It, like Oneness, bliss, all is love, no me anymore, etc.)

John said...

I can describe the feeling afterwards:

I felt like I had been tricked, that it was all very simple but I had been led to believe that there was some great esoteric secret that I now realized was obvious: everyone is connected at the deepest level. I had the feeling that I had experienced many lifetimes with the same people that I was interacting with now, but that we had different relationships in our other lives. A tremendous relief came over me because I felt that I had solved the confusing problem of birth and death. The soul is washed clean of experience (life flashes by) at death and emerges anew at birth but it's still the same "person." Later I came to what I call a cosmic understanding of the golden rule: Treat others the way you want to be treated because "they" are really (part of) you. Viewed this way the rule is almost more selfish than selfless because there are no "others." It's all one thing.

Jeff Meyerhoff said...

That's quite an experience. Did it permanently alter your way of experiencing everyday life?

It's very Eastern in the experience of past and future lives.

Regarding all of us being connected at the deepest level, do you connect that to the origin of everything in the big bang at all. I guess we were all physically connected at that time.

John said...

I take life less seriously now. I've been trying to integrate the experience into my daily walk. This has led me to some Jungian style work that will hopefully expose some of my unconscious aspects. Have you ever had a similar near death experience?

Jeff Meyerhoff said...

Oh, I didn't know you'd refer to it as a "near death experience", I thought it was a spiritual experience (not involving any nearness to death). No, I've never had one. I have had profound spiritual experiences on long meditation retreats, but nothing that qualifies as some touching of the Ultimate.

The Jungian stuff is good. There's a lot to discover using the idea of the shadow.

John said...

I equivocate near death and mystical experiences. The way I see it, once a person gets in touch with the non-human part of themselves, they have then penetrated the threshold of death.

"A 'core' near-death experience reflects — as intensity increases according to the Rasch scale — peace, joy and harmony, followed by insight and mystical or religious experiences." ~wikipedia article on NDEs

Zetetic_chick said...

As far I know, NDEs' aren't mystical experiences, but they can trigger a new spirituality. Some hard-nosed atheists hostile to religion and spirituality have been converted to religion (or some type of belief in God) after a personal NDE:

http://www.near-death.com/storm.html

Carl Jung had a NDE too:

http://www.near-death.com/jung.html

Other atheists haven't change their view about God after a NDE, but most of them have been more prone to spiritual knowledge.

I don't discard that NDE be a special type of spiritual experience, only a more extreme one.