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The beginning of wisdom?
(And the futility of trying to reason with faith.)
Philosophy starts (or at least should start) with self-knowledge. We see the world through the lens of our preconceptions and past experiences, many of which are subconscious. If we don’t know the color of that lens, and how it distorts our view of the world, then we cannot come to the truth of anything. It’s like trying to count the number of sheep in a field while someone is shining a blinding light into your eyes. This is why one of the most important principles in philosophy is “Know thyself”. Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living” because you are not, on a fundamental level, living your own life. When the vast majority of your beliefs and decisions are made on a subconscious level, while your frontal Neocortex works at rationalizing snap-decisions to give you the illusion of consciousness, you are not living through life as a thinking human being. You have foregone the single most important distinguishing characteristic of human beings. You are no longer operating with free will. You’re not really making decisions yourself, but rather acting on unthought-out impulses. It’s like letting someone else set the bearing for where your ship is sailing. Remember that “Fundamentally, you cannot be someone else. You can only be less of who you are.” At this point, you are like a blindfolded man in a room, hitting your knees on furniture and tripping up over stuff, and wondering why? I say: take off the blindfold.
The futility of trying to reason with faith
Too many of us. Almost all of us in fact, are traumatized in childhood with a never-ending stream of lies and anti-rationality. How many kids in Catholic families (to take just one example) are presented with a comprehensive and unbiased view of world religions, as well as atheism, and are then convinced, using reason and evidence, of the validity and truth of the Catholic faith? None. It’s impossible, because the catholic faith has no validity or truth to it. Instead, children are metaphorically (and sometimes physically) beaten over the head with the bible, forced to attend churches, and are assaulted with a never-ending stream of falsehoods. Eventually, most children will give up their rationality altogether. Some will still retain some semblance of rationality when it comes to other aspects of their lives, but when the topic of religion or politics is broached, their visceral brain will flood their Neocortex with electrical impulses and shut down their critical thinking skills. They will essentially have a sort of black hole of anti-rationality when it comes to some topics – the evidence of scar tissue on their brain. A few, a very few, will escape their mental abusers with most of their reasoning intact, and will spend the rest of their lives unlearning the bullshit they were subjected to. As Hypatia of Alexandria said, “Fables should be taught as fables, myths as myths, and miracles as poetic fantasies. To teach superstitions as truths is a most terrible thing. The child mind accepts and believes them, and only through great pain and perhaps tragedy can he be in after years relieved of them.” If you try and use reason and evidence with a person who’s mind has been traumatized in childhood, you are misunderstanding the nature of the problem, which is that “You can’t reason someone out of a belief they weren’t reasoned into.”