Monday, April 7, 2008

The Most Unchristian Thought

What is the most unchristian thought that I can come up with? I was minorly obsessed witht his question for a little while. Then I came up with an answer.

"Error is the royal road to knowledge." Or, as I used to taunt realist acquaintances: "Get rid of truth to make room for knowledge."

What do these paradoxical formulations mean? One thing they mean among many others: once faith is lost in the duality of reality and appearance, or deception and truth. Alternatively the unreflected metaphor that all of reality can be divided into two parts: gold and dross, comes to be reflected upon, no matter how hesitantly at first.

The negative aspect, as it were, the nihilistic question leading to these apparent conundrums? The discovery that Truth and truth make a career without exception in the world of human beings. Human beings find themselves invested in formulas and formulations of "unchanging" realities. Just like financial investments, when emotional and spiritual investments come into danger, strong measures are taken to defend those investments. The neurotic poses of believers lead easily enough to speculation that the fervor of their defense is less indicative of the rightness and correctness of beliefs than as a defense against fear, doubt, and uncertainty.

These doubts of the health and value of faith are not addressed but only exacerbated by appeals to sincerity or to the sanctity of obedient surrender.

Christianity, for example, presumes that the world and the people in it are not as they should be. The world and history took a wrong turn somewhere. In these matters, Christians speak of a fall from grace, and a consequent need for redemption. BUT in order for there to be redemption of this fallen world in which we live, there has to be another alternative, "better" world that exists in the mind of God, if nowhere else. Anything that would impede and obscure this "Truth" of the world must be evil, sinful, etc. etc.

Once the naive moralizing faith that the world should be different is given up? What then? What of hope? What of a better tomorrow? What of the despair of the present? And I can only respond with, "what of courage?"

Once truth and its implied duality of reality/not-reality is given up, questions about the uses of truth are no longer moot.Once the admission of the usefulness of Truth is made, the suspicion arises as to whether it matters at all whether there is any content to any supposed Great Truths? or whether the real issue is and always has been who gets to use Truth to exclude, silence, and subdue whom. Unexamined faith in the importance of Truth even if its specific content is open to perennial dispute.

What is the only reasonable conclusion to draw from the fact of the perennial dispute at the core of the belief in Truth? Strife is intrinsic to the whole enterprise. And not that one party or another party to the strife is "right."

Knowledge becomes possible once the naivety of ever knowing the content of "Truth" is given up. Knowledge becomes description of the parties to the strife at the heart of Truth's career in the world. Knowedge is made up of perspectives that are intrinsically limited and partial, arbitrary even. It always needs others who see things differently.

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A necessary corollary to the above reflections: mere possession of "Truth" conveys no benefits in this world or in any other. Truth or truths do not set us free. Truth and truths are indifferent to the humanity. That believing otherwise should have narcotic-like symptoms hardly proves surprising.

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