Friday, April 04, 2014

Faithlessness Renders All Things Impossible

No sooner do I suggest that IT'S ALL SOMEHOW TRUE than, through a series of synchronicities, a fellow I'd never heard of with similar gnotions crosses my peripatetic readar. Looks like he calls it the Believing Game.

We all know about the Doubting Game, AKA critical thinking, but this must be supplemented by the Believing Game. Each is "needed in order to examine and accept an idea as true."

I infer from Professor Wiki's brief explanation that Elbow believes that in the West we are disproportionately devoted to the Doubting Game. Like everything else, that's true as far as it goes, but we need to bear in mind how the most critical thinkers are often the most credulous wankers.

For example, it takes an offal lot of rancid meatheadedness to arrive at something as dubious as scientism, or leftism, or catastrophic manmade global warming. Which is just the instantiation of a more general principle, that certain ideas are so foolish that only a person with a great deal of formal education could believe them.

(Look at the heroically tortuous reasoning laid out yesterday in Justice Breyer's dissent. In it he goes to great lengths to reveal everything we detest about lawyerly thinking -- the "lawyer game" -- which abuses reason to arrive at the desired result. There are now four idiots on the Supreme Court who have convinced themselves

"that speech is a sort of public good held in a collective trust, to be limited or banned whenever the majority feels that the speech in question might not be being used in furtherance of the proper ends."

Or in other words, that we have the right to free speech so long as it pleases the state. Bottom lyin': the founders were way ahead of their time, in that they created a totalitarian state before Marx, Hitler, and Stalin were even born.)

Anyway, it looks to me as if Elbow is proposing a kind of methodological orthoparadoxy that will be familiar to Raccoons. "Skeptical doubting" looks for "flaws in thinking that might look good." But "really good thinking also calls on a complementary methodology: conditionally trying to believe all ideas in order to find virtues in thinking that looks wrong."

That's not the clearest of explanations, but it strikes me as similar to what we've discussed before under the rubric of mental metabolism and assimilation. In short, there are catabolic (tearing down) and anabolic (building up) components to productive thinking.

Or, one might consider the Believing Game to be thinking in the mode of faith. The irony is that the excessively critical thinker doesn't even realize he's playing the Believing Game, because he has covertly elevated doubt to the axis of his belief system.

For example, this is precisely what Descartes is driving at in the cogito: not I think, therefore I am, but really, I doubt that I exist, therefore I must exist (as the doubter).

But how could we possibly define ourselves in wholly negative terms? This is the problem with Popper's principle of falsification, which is true as far as it goes. That is, he maintains that a statement can only qualify as scientific if it is falsifiable, i.e., if conditions can be specified in which the statement would not be true.

Again, that's a wholly negative way of defining truth, so it leaves us with no leg to stand on except for our own corrosive doubt. Which then starts eating through the floor.

The problem is, how do we prevent doubt from being omniscient? After all, there is nothing essential to the human condition that we cannot subject to our ruthless doubt, including love, language, God, beauty, natural rights, free will, meaning, and the very possibility of knowing truth.

It's not so much that all things are possible with faith, but that faith makes all things possible. Monomaniacal doubt only renders all things impossible.


julie said...

Again, that's a wholly negative way of defining truth, so it leaves us with no leg to stand on except for our own corrosive doubt. Which then starts eating through the floor.

I wonder, then - is this a danger inherent in apophatic theology, if it isn't tempered by cataphasis?

Gagdad Bob said...

I think apophatic always implies cataphatic. They are an irreducible complementarity, truly one of the ultimates.

mushroom said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
julie said...

On a different note, to continue beating the horse from the other day, I'd like to make that free will cluebat just a little bigger:

Continuing on in Matthew 26, as The Man is being taken into custody by the man, when he tells his friend to put the sword away he states,

"53 Or do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels? 54 How then could the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must happen thus?”

It seems pretty clear to me that what he is saying is that right then, he absolutely could choose a different course of action, if he wanted, but that he is consciously, purposefully acting in accordance with the scriptures. Fulfilling the prophecy is - must be, come to think of it - something He does with pure freedom. The Crucifixion is only meaningful and True because it is freely chosen.

mushroom said...

Reminds me of this Rupert Sheldrake quote in my sidebar:

In practice, the goal of skepticism is not the discovery of truth, but the exposure of other people's errors. It plays a useful role in science, religion, scholarship, and common sense. But we need to remember that it is a weapon serving belief or self-interest; we need to be skeptical of skeptics. The more militant the skeptic, the stronger the belief.

RE Breyer's opinion: Dear Leftists, you are wrong, and it is really very simple. The collective has no rights, never had any rights, can never have any rights, any more than the color blue has rights.

Now take your collective ball and go to your collective home. Feel free to call us collectively when you get there so we won't worry.

mushroom said...

It's been so long since I've looked at a computer screen, my brain is having to readjust to the short side optic inputs. Anyway, that will be my excuse for the next couple of stupid things I say.

Gagdad Bob said...

Looks like Jonah Goldberg is jumping on the It's All True bandwagon too. He suggests that everything is s little like prices, which contain an inconceivable amount of information. From today's G-file:

"Anyway, the point I'm getting at is that there's nothing — nothing — that we say, do, own, make, or believe that isn't brimming with all of the sorts of information that go into a price. The fact that we can't put a price on some of them, doesn't mean that they have less information in them. In fact, it probably means that they have more information in them. And that makes not just prices mysterious, but life itself. And that should fill us with awe and humility."

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Breyer is such a dickhead. Note that he doesn't define what the "proper ends" of speech should be.
Yeah, let's have a mob decide what one can or cannot say.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Now take your collective ball and go to your collective home. Feel free to call us collectively when you get there so we won't worry."

Just as long as they don't call collect. :)

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"Honey, you're bein' monomaniacal."

"Say what?"

"You sure look beautiful this morning."

"What? Oh, thanks but I have bed hair."

"But it looks good on you. Very rad."

I'm still waiting to see if she recalls the monomaniacal quip I made. Stay tuned, folks.

julie said...

lol - I hope your reflexes are good today...

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"So what is a monomaniac?" My wife asked.

Uh oh...

"Um, it's a maniac that ain't in stereo," I replied, tepidly.

"What does that mean? You're calling me a maniac?" She asked, her eyes flashing.

No, just a monomaniac," I replied, planning my escape route.

Should I zig and then zag? I wondered.

"How is that better?" She asked, annoyed.

"Well, it's better than just a plain maniac or a stereomaniac," I replied.


Incoming rubber band.


I got off easy, whew!


Gagdad Bob said...

This book, Narrative and Freedom: The Shadows of Time, is fantastic so far. I'm only up to p. 50 or so, but already stuffed with food for thought. It touches on everything we've been discussing over the past several months about time, freedom, indeterminism, omniscience, etc.

Van Harvey said...

"Or, one might consider the Believing Game to be thinking in the mode of faith. The irony is that the excessively critical thinker doesn't even realize he's playing the Believing Game, because he has covertly elevated doubt to the axis of his belief system."

I think it's less a matter of believing something (which you have no basis for doing) or doubting something (which you have no basis for doing), than honestly considering a matter, questioning, thinking it over, and discovering whether or not it has a basis for being believed or doubted.

Part of the process of scholastic education, particularly as practiced in America prior to 1800, was that students were given propositions to be considered, with one person or team defending it, and the other poking holes in it. Far from feeble doubting, that required actually considering the proposition, thinking about it, questioning it, till you found the roots of what made it true, or false. If you simply started with artificial doubt, your point wasn't one that developed from the nature of the proposition, but a quip upon its surface, and was easily brushed aside.

Van Harvey said...

I'm sooo not a fan of 'the method of doubt', it's artificial and breeds arbitrary attacks and baseless conclusions. True Doubt? That is what arises in you naturally when you hear a statement that just doesn't add up; you have the sense that something's amiss, and you set about questioning the position until you find that contradiction - either in it, or in your assumptions. No problem whatsoever with that. But pretending to feel doubt, faking the 'something's wrong here' sensation, faking a flaw... that is just idiotic.

On the flipside of skepticism, it tends to produce idiotic self assuredness and a self righteous inclination to attack those who doubt your lack of doubt. I recently posted a bit on that end of it in Farewell to a friend - The Doubtful Roots of Progress
"...My point is that there is something vital that is missing from how particular views are held by my friend Dice, and by the Harvard student, and by the Professor of 'philosophy', and what it is that is not there, is what enables them to feel just fine and dandy about cursing a friend out for disagreeing with them, enables them to feel justified in depriving those who don't agree with them of their freedom of speech, and enables them to righteously advocate jailing people for the crime of not agreeing with them, and whatever it is that they lack, is what is enabling them to believe that it is perfectly acceptable, and advisable, and even admirable, for them to be doing so.

Part of what they lack is the habit of questioning what they do and don't know, substituting instead, the easy flattery and convenience of artificial Doubt.


Here's what I mean. Doubt arises naturally when our mind detects a conflict, a contradiction, between what we know, and what we are being presented with as being so, and your immediate reaction is "Oh, I doubt that!", followed soon after with the reasons for your doubt "That doesn't add up with this, this and this, so tell me, how does that make sense?", and you're off to reassessing and perhaps correcting, and so strengthening, your knowledge, and understanding. Such doubts are the result of your knowledge, are healthy and should pretty much always be pursued.

But Artificial Doubt, such as what drives modernity's vaunted 'Critical Thinking', is not something that results from our knowledge, it is prompted by no detection of conflicts or contradictions, but only by your pretending to find something to doubt.

This tendency, which has a hand in what the good Dr. Galeotti calls 'self deception', is the hallmark of Modernity and it began with Descartes' "Method of Doubt",
“I thought it necessary that I reject as absolutely false everything in which I could imagine the least doubt, so as to see whether, after this process, anything in my set of beliefs remains that is absolutely indubitable.”
If the test of truth is whether or not you can imagine the least doubt about that something, and nothing other than your imagining it prompted your doubt in the first place... doesn't that make what you imagine, prefer, wish, determine what you do or don't doubt, and the ultimate test of what you will accept as being true? You do see the problem there, don't you?

Worse, there is nothing positive involved in such artificial doubts. Artificial doubt begins with the end result and pretends to find controversies in it which 'need' to be resolved. You haven't detected a flaw, you only pretend one is there... somewhere... on the shallow surface of the data you have in mind at the moment. ...

Gagdad Bob said...

Won't be no post today. I'm already late.