Will

Why should I feel confident in any of my beliefs, given that educated people often disagree with respect to major issues? (Daoist perspective)

Recommended Posts

Posted (edited)

It's pretty much impossible to go through life without holding at least some beliefs about topics like politics (or, even more often in my case, legal debates). These are situations where a lot of people disagree, however. And many of the people who disagree are all highly educated and are hard to dismiss as ill-informed or stupid. I'm not talking about random friends here; I'm talking about law professors, political philosophers, newspaper columnists, etc. Professor X might argue that the U.S. Constitution should be interpreted in one manner, while Professor Y might argue that the U.S. Constitution should be interpreted in another manner. Maybe I find X's argument more convincing, but on the other hand Professor Y is clearly very smart... Sometimes I simply escape this dilemma by concluding that Professor Y must not have researched the topic as fully as I have, or something like that. But still, there's doubt in the back of my mind: Do I really believe my own excuses for rejecting Professor Y's view?

 

Make no mistake: I am a very careful person, and I won't take a view on an issue until I've researched it thoroughly. But even then, I inevitably question: How can it be that my view is valid if some very smart people take the contrary position? This line of thinking can quickly lead me towards truth relativism/nihilism and a lack of confidence in my own beliefs or arguments. 

 

Furthermore, even when I agree with certain commentators or philosophers on one matter, I often disagree with them on another -- which again leads me to question why my view differs from theirs. To put the point differently: So far as I know, there is no one -- not one person -- who holds political beliefs that are categorically identical to mine. I take little bits from various sources, but don't mirror any one source completely. That means that my beliefs are unique, which can cause me great stress as I realize my lack of humility in choosing to act on my own individual beliefs. If my view seems correct to me, how can it be that no one has ever come to the exact same conclusions as I am? Surely if I'm actually so clearly correct then lots of people would have held virtually identical belief systems in the past ... but they didn't, at least not entirely. 

 

Does anyone here, drawing on personal experience and most importantly Daoist principles, have any potential insights/ways to think about this dilemma? 

Edited by Will
  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
7 minutes ago, Will said:

But even then, I inevitably question: How can it be that my view is valid if some very smart people take the contrary position? This line of thinking can quickly lead me towards truth relativism/nihilism and a lack of confidence in my own beliefs or arguments. 

 

I can only imagine having this dilemma when your job/career is to argue for a point.  Our world is by nature dualistic, so there will always be the other side to the coin.  Do your job, argue your point ... but in your heart, you may have to acknowledge a higher truth that transcends duality.

 

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If you have thoroughly sought out the truth, and tested it in every way, then you have no reason to doubt your position. There's no such thing as a 100% smart person, so whoever takes the contrary position might be wrong. You could question them to see their reasoning, and maybe learn something you hadn't thought of. Other than that, doubting yourself is a weakness.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

“If you follow the present-day world, you will turn your back on the Way; if you would not turn your back on the Way, do not follow the world.” 


― Takuan Soho, The Unfettered Mind: Writings from a Zen Master to a Master Swordsman.

 

 

 

 

 

-VonKrankenhaus

  • Like 6

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

There is nothing wrong with realising that one cannot be sure about anything. One can just as well find one's way in life without absolute certainty. And this can even be a joyful life, see the Chuang tzu.

 

For more about this see modern philosophical and scholarly interpretations of the Chuang tzu.

 

  • Like 7

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, Will said:

 

Does anyone here, drawing on personal experience and most importantly Daoist principles, have any potential insights/ways to think about this dilemma? 

try to think in full sentences

  • Like 1
  • Haha 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
3 hours ago, Will said:

It's pretty much impossible to go through life without holding at least some beliefs about topics like politics (or, even more often in my case, legal debates). These are situations where a lot of people disagree, however. And many of the people who disagree are all highly educated and are hard to dismiss as ill-informed or stupid. I'm not talking about random friends here; I'm talking about law professors, political philosophers, newspaper columnists, etc. Professor X might argue that the U.S. Constitution should be interpreted in one manner, while Professor Y might argue that the U.S. Constitution should be interpreted in another manner. Maybe I find X's argument more convincing, but on the other hand Professor Y is clearly very smart... Sometimes I simply escape this dilemma by concluding that Professor Y must not have researched the topic as fully as I have, or something like that. But still, there's doubt in the back of my mind: Do I really believe my own excuses for rejecting Professor Y's view?

 

Make no mistake: I am a very careful person, and I won't take a view on an issue until I've researched it thoroughly. But even then, I inevitably question: How can it be that my view is valid if some very smart people take the contrary position? This line of thinking can quickly lead me towards truth relativism/nihilism and a lack of confidence in my own beliefs or arguments. 

 

Furthermore, even when I agree with certain commentators or philosophers on one matter, I often disagree with them on another -- which again leads me to question why my view differs from theirs. To put the point differently: So far as I know, there is no one -- not one person -- who holds political beliefs that are categorically identical to mine. I take little bits from various sources, but don't mirror any one source completely. That means that my beliefs are unique, which can cause me great stress as I realize my lack of humility in choosing to act on my own individual beliefs. If my view seems correct to me, how can it be that no one has ever come to the exact same conclusions as I am? Surely if I'm actually so clearly correct then lots of people would have held virtually identical belief systems in the past ... but they didn't, at least not entirely. 

 

Does anyone here, drawing on personal experience and most importantly Daoist principles, have any potential insights/ways to think about this dilemma? 

you are correct: No ONE is listening. Philosophy is a word attributed to Pythagoras, as the Love of Wisdom. Yet if you study Pythagoreans, the real Orthodox Pythagoreans required FIVE YEARS OF SILENCE in meditation before a student could physically SEE the teacher Pythagoras. And the name "Pythagoras" actually means "snake master" and this "snake" was also called Aion by the ancients - meaning Time as life-force energy or literally time as the spinal marrow from the reproductive energy that feeds the brain. this is the same as Daoist alchemy training.

 

So Legal logic is unfortunately flawed. Obviously you seem to rely on legal logic for your career. So you'll just have to accept that your "career" is not the same as the truth of reality. To realize that No ONE is listening (or rather no one has your individual views) is to realize that what you think are "your" views in fact are also not even your "own" views - and so as the Pythagoreans taught, ONE is NOT a number. This is essentially "logical inference" as Socrates taught but there is a deeper meaning of the One as "not-two" or a "three in one unity" from the Pythagorean Tetraktys (or Tetrad). That is also the same as Daoist alchemy meditation.

 

So unfortunately Western logic can not be "integrated" with Daoist philosophy because there was a foundational "lie" about the One - due to the wrong music theory used to define what Number as the geometric continuum based on irrational magnitude. Math professor Luigi Borzacchini calls this the "deep pre-established disharmony" that is the "guiding evolutive principle" of Western science. So these Western logical paradoxes can not be solved within the context of Western logic - and yet Orthodox Pythagorean philosophy does provide the secret truth to Daoist alchemy. As for how the "lie" at the foundation of Western logic was established? I call this the "Liar of the Lyre." It was from Philolaus flipping his Lyre around and the Plato and Archytas promoting this Liar of the Lyre.

 

Anyway such is the "hoary" origins of Western civilization. You can try reading http://peterkingsley.org for another take on this - he did his Ph.D. on Pythagorean philosophy at the origin of Western civilization (and the lies of Plato and Aristotle).

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Posted (edited)

Everything should be based on your personal experience of life.
Small lessons learnt as a child, using blocks and bricks.
In fact inside every human being are two belief systems.   One is the total bull5shit that people talk about in public discourse which is simply fashionable words ... they are a kind of currency to be accepted by the crowd.   It is part of the "false self" that people imagine themselves to be.
But people do not actually act up that.
What they act upon is a subconscious belief system, that is based for all people on a small series of accident lessons and events they learnt when young.

 

All true spiritual work, whether physical emotional or intellectual, occurs through creating new learning in the real part of yourself.
So, any concept that you might be taught is immediately tested in reality, either in physical reality, either the outer physical reality, the subtle physical reality (qi), or the inner meditative reality of self-recognition.  These are 3 domains we exist in.
Therefore few words are needed, and they are followed with testing and anchoring in reality.
So if somebody teaches that qi flows through the wood element meridiens, this conceptual information should be immediately followed by experiencing it bodily.
If somebody teaches that you are God, then demonstrate whether it is true right there and then, or whether it is not true.
If somebody teaches that you are a field that spreads throughout the universe, okay test it, can you feel the weather on Saturn.
If somebody teaches dharma of Buddha, then go and get the original book of Buddha's sutras and see if they are the same as what is being said.

Pretty soon you will see that there are not many actual spiritual teachers.

 

As for politics ... look for sound and simple principles which are perennial like you don't get something for nothing, or if it's free you are the product being sold.
Follow the money.
Look at the person who is speaking, what is his origin, income stream and agenda.
True wisdom is like bright light piercing the darkness.
Listen to Jesus's answers to his doubters, they are full of a higher insight.
Also Thomas Sowell (youtube) has a fresh clear clean mind, it is blissful.

 

Edited by rideforever
  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
4 hours ago, Will said:

That means that my beliefs are unique, which can cause me great stress as I realize my lack of humility in choosing to act on my own individual beliefs

 

It is not a lack of humility but a lack integrity.   It means that there is a part of you that is grounded in something real, but the rest of you is still swayed by the crowd.   The answer is to continue to deepen your own reality, growing it piece by piece until it overtops the part of you that is in the crowd.

It is very good to make company of people who are likewise Real, aka individualistic.  Pour them into your ears and soon you will know what to do.  Walden ?  Diogenese of Sinope ?   Well there are many even today.   Many blue collar people take the approach that their life is theirs, they work with their arms and spirit for money for themselves.   Who has time for the crowd of noise.

 

Why don't other people have the same beliefs?
Because their ideas are just a means of socialising, and mean nothing.

Leave them, and without judgement.

 

  • Like 2
  • Thanks 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The daoists perspective, is that properties like humility, and smartness, when taken to the extreme, become describable in terms of their own opposite. 

 

Having an over abundance of humility, Susan didn't have confidence in her own powers to judge, from among the experts , who was correct.

So she decided to 'wing it' for herself.

 

Having an over abundance of confidence, Sam thought he had all the answers ,given to him, on a platter by geniuses. 

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

True smart people know that investigation leads to the point where the answers are unknown, as just a plain fact. 

It's because they incorporate data quickly, and get there.

 

Normal people don't get that far, because it takes too long, we leave uncomfortable exploration to somebody else and presume that the answers were written in stone.

😁

  • Like 3
  • Thanks 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Posted (edited)

The humble barnacle, made some evolutionary decisions millions of years ago, and stuck to them, for millions of years.

Sapiens, just cropped up and we may not be 'long for this world' .

It is they , who have the proven track record, and the smart one is humbled. 

Are you getting the idea? ☺️

 

The barnacles don't know, and don't care!

 

So the anthropocentric student asks, Does that make the barnacle ,a humble or arrogant thing? 

And the Daoist master responds, 'Well, it depends on how you look at it , let's just move on".

Edited by Stosh
  • Like 2
  • Thanks 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Everyone has a bias, regardless of how learned they are. We are the sum of our experiences, or rather how we internalized those experiences. Our brains take shortcuts in reasoning based on those internalized thought pathways. It's the only way we can function, our physical minds are limited in this way.

  • Like 3
  • Thanks 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Feeling confident or not is unrelated to wether or not it is justified or rational to feel a certain way or another.

 

If you believe something then you do, this belief might change over time and it will deepen and balance in relation to your world perception, especially if you are a smart person.

 

Allow your beliefs to be tested, question them and explore, find out and develop. Argumentation for or against something is just another way to do that. If someone whom you think is smarter than you and seems more knowledgeable has input you find valuable or horrible on your beliefs you can allow this to become part of your testing and evaluating sure, but there’s no way they’re proving you wrong or dismantling your belief.

 

You could basically ask the exact opposite of your question also and it would still be valid. Argumentational logic, rethoric, pathos and ethos, credibility and so on are strategies and tactics used in interpersonal situations. But they don’t really affect an individual unless that individual allows and even willingly implements it. Subconsciously, consciously or not.

It’s a pretty huge gift to someone to allow them to dictate what happens inside you and how that should be done. Dont give it frivolously.

  • Like 1
  • Thanks 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Synchronicity to find this being discussed here now.  Gratitude for sharing this.

 

Why is it the foolish stride about unfettered and often shout certainties everywhere while the wise go about doubtfilled and clothed in reticence?   It seems to hinge on the notion of what is Truth and how much we assume that the way we interpret reality is how it really is.  When one believes they see the world as it is, they say 'this is true' what doubt can exist? 

 

Regarding 'The Truth', for me there used to be simple, observable Truth all about me.  This is wrong, that is right.  He's an evil shit, while this other one is an honorable master.  This path leads to growth and others are shite.  The list was nigh on endless. 

 

Lately certainty has crumbled, shattered and dissolved down to just one.  Even this one that I am willing to still claim is subject to some doubt but it still seems as I write this, that this one truth remains possible, i am aware.  You are aware.  Awareness is.  All else, all prior claims I used to hold as infallible in my life are subject now to the falibility of my perceptual and interpretive tools.  Perceptual senses which bring in all the information I use to interpret what life is and how I fit within it I now from experience no longer completely trust.  This can be utterly paralyzing in the extreme.  Complete doubt renders all action untenable and all assumptions void.  I've been in the unpleasant ramifications of this for the last eight to ten years, progressively and now understand that which I could not when I first entered this phase of my path, when my teachers warned..."this will not be pleasant.  Waking is not comforting or pleasant.  Awakening is not love bread and warm comfort."  It is the relentless stripping away, dissolving and crumbling of false notions, mental projections and assumptions which melt like mist, leaving one no longer able to cling to any notions as something mentally solid upon which to stand.  It is rather hellish at times.  Though Shunryu Suzuki's words bring some comfort when he shares.  "hell is not punishment, but training, it is revealing."

 

Believing that one sees the world as it is, accurately and perfectly is Naive Realism.  Our senses do not bring in accurate and complete information regarding the universe.  We receive partial information and then interpret this information, often completely unaware that we've even made an interpretation, as the tools for this are imbedded so deep in the process by culture and family before the age of seven, that it is as invisible to us, as water is to a fish who has never been lifted out of it.

 

Naive Realism has been refuted since the time of the Stoics.  A strong example seems to be the notion among Catholics that their perception of the world was absolutely true and accurate which allowed them to burn Bruno at the stake with a clear conscience when he made his claims about the universe being populated by many planets and stars all spinning about each other, feeling not only justified, but obligated to do so. 

 

Looking back we see that this was not the case, Bruno's observations (I suspect from spontaneous out of body experience by his descriptions of it, [though I'm not certain] reflected the reality that we have come to assume as modern truths, even though it runs counter-intuitive to the information brought to us by our perception.  While I understand why the bishops could feel infallible in their judgement of Bruno.  I can't help but think on some level they suspected he may be correct.  Why else were they so challenged by his claims to have to silence him with fire, instead of write him off as a harmless lunatic, no one in their right mind would ever listen to seriously?

 

Even today we are not free of this assumptiveness.  We are still prone to assuming our current tools of perception reveal to us the truth of the universe and yet, these tools are also only partial information and when it arrives, we must still analyze and intepret the data.  How often does science claim 100% that it understands how things operate, only to arrive at new interpretations and have to revise the textbooks.  Shortly before my Father's death, we had a conversation about physics.  He was an inventor and engineer, studied at University in the 1960's.  In his retirement I turned him onto the works of Neil Degrasse Tyson, Michio Kaku, Brian Greene and Nassim Haramein.  He marveled that pretty much all he'd been taught at university had been obliterated in subsequent decades.  I reminded him that at one point, modern medicine was absolutely certain the only way to heal some illnesses was to bleed the patient of bad blood, or drill holes in the cranium to release the demons of disease.  It wasn't shit at the time.  It was merely what was obvious to them.

 

I often have this thought arise unabated and unsought.  "what are my flat earth assumptions?"  They're there.  lurking usually just behind conscious thought as the remaining assumptions I don't even consider... I wonder what they could be?...

 

Insight and realization often arise seemingly spontaneously.  Yet if perception is partial and interpreted small wonder those who have some wisdom and insight and realization often swim the river of doubt. 


This can be further exacerbated because of familiarity with tribe.  Our interpretations often align with our culture and we naturally exhibit similar interpretations due to the influence of culture and of our Tribe.  This familiarity breeds certainty, but only out of routine contact, not from absolute truth.

 

As the nature of our interpretations are formed by social and familial programming, so we often interpret information similarly within our social group as we are taught to, before the age of critical thinking and thus we give rise to the notions of normal and crazy, beautiful and ugly, right and wrong.  These interpretations skew the already innacurate and partial information coming in, blurring it further into a personal tunnel of reality that we often then assume is 'the world as it really is' and that so many others will agree with our blurs, they will continue on, until experience, realization, shatters it.  This most often feels terrible and routinely and understandably most folks retract from it and try and force themselves to ignore new insights, even when they bring the promise of real healing, in favor of the 'comfortableness and familiarity of the old world view'.  I've seen this play out at healing and meditation retreats a number of times. 

 

An example of the ridiculous notion of normal and crazy.

 

In Papua New Guinnea, in the 1970's it was perfectly normal when a man had suffered several unsuccessful hunts, to know that he had been infected by his wife's 'evil moon blood'.  In their culture, during her menses, women could not work in the fields, nor live in the same hut as their husband, so he would not be infected by her bad blood.  Once infected however, in order to purge the evil blood which was undermining hunting skill, the warrior would go out into the woods, collect a barbed reed, give himself and erection, slide the reed into his member and yank it back out barbs first, causing him to emulate his wife's menstrual cycle and thus purging him of bad blood and restoring his hunting prowess.  I was told this story by a professor, whose classes in Anthropology were based on 15 years spent living with a tribe as a fully indoctrinated member.  This was just normal to the Tribe.  Nothing crazy about it... Crazy would be allowing that bad blood to remain in your system where it would eventually kill you.

 

I couldn't help myself and asked him once after class, if he ever had to undertake this purging in his time there... he said... 'nope, I just went fishing instead.' :)   What we call normal and crazy, beautiful and ugly, right and wrong, seem less like absolute truths and more like what is familiar to us, because that is what we experienced up to the age of 8 or so.

 

The real bitch about it is how convincingly whole our experience seems even with only partial information about the universe coming in... When I look around at a forest, I don't perceive big gaps in my vision, yet I don't consciously experience all that there is.  The seemingly unbroken flow of perception is quite convincing that we most often don't even realize we're making an interpretation at all... and thus the foolish, ramshackle their way through life, assuming they 'have it all right' and just need to 'shake others awake to the obvious truth'.  When the obvious truth is that, there is no one way to anything.  Life, like a gem, is multifacted... and yet life is not static like a gem seems to be, life is ever fluid, flowing and shifting.

 

And yet, absolute doubt is paralyzing and of little use, lacking the wisdom to trust in one's faculties, faulty as they may be.  While doubt may be displayed from wisdom in not acting rashly or harshly and with wrecklessness and abandon; extreme doubt undermines actionable pursuits and connectedness in life and reduces one to a reactionary mass, unable to fend for itself.

 

I've been swimming in the paralysis of near absolute doubt in recent years.  It's been unsettling to my marriage, my health and my career.  One process that has allowed me to continue has been one of continual unfolding.  I no longer live in a world of answers... but have come to relish living in open ended questions that require and often in my new estimations, have no firm answers, or have many potential answers. 

 

I have much empathy for your query and the line of perception it stems from...  My only potential sharing point of hope seems to be, allow a space for real silence and quiet in daily life, release assumptions and allow space for all that is to abide as it is, without the need to always assign right and wrong, truth and untruth.

 

in the quiet of your natural state, which is always there underlying all other processes, with heart open and your mind softened by doubt and quiet of incessant wringing of thoughts...  In this place all may be allowed to be as it is... action may arise without attachment.  Non action may abide without incessant drive to reach out and fix and in this... there is a window onto a peace that is slowly growing in my life that heretofor, I didn't know was possible.

 

If you've read this far, I commend you, for it is just my ramblings and attempt to coalesce some notions that usually lie beyond the ken of words to give shape to. 

 

I share none of this from a desire to instruct, or convince anyone of anything. 

 

I am an idiot, blundering about... just ask my wife :P

 

But out of kinship I felt the pull to share.

  • Like 3
  • Thanks 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

How important is it to be right about things anyway?  The older I get the less stock I place in having correct views.  Of course some people have to be right about things because it´s part of their job.  And some people like to think about things because it brings them intellectual pleasure -- like a hobby. This is all well and good.  In general, though, being right is overrated.

 

There´s one area of life where being right -- or thinking you are -- can really mess a person up and that is marriage.  Who wants to be married to someone whose always right?

 

Is it important to be right for spiritual growth?  I don´t think so.  A person could just as profitably chose to develop humility or kindness or simply rest in the awareness of being itself.

 

These are my views and I´m convinced they are true.  If you disagree, I´m happy to argue the point with you all day because I need a distraction from simply feeling my body and my breath, a distraction from going outside and feeling the warmth of sun on my face.  There´s nothing I love more than arguing endlessly with people I don´t really know on the internet.

 

 

  • Like 3
  • Thanks 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

In conversations with workmates and my wife particularly... I have come to realize that being right is often counter productive to being content.

 

besides, what I see isn't what they see, and no amount of my words and the forcefulness of them will alter their perception and interpretation.

 

Insofar as none are doing harm... live and let live.

 

  • Like 5

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Man can be more rationalizing then rational.  Often we use our big brains and intellect to rationalize reasons why our conclusion is right, while conspicuously ignoring or disregarding contrary evidence. 

 

Also 'right' tend to be context bound.  Often people are arguing over things with different contexts in mind.  Neither is wrong so much as principles may not apply equally in all circumstances.  Reality is tricky and absolute statements are always wrong.  

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, thelerner said:

Also 'right' tend to be context bound.  Often people are arguing over things with different contexts in mind.

 

That’s a really good point.

 

It applies particularly to the internal arts.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

We often think of truth as independent and unassailable ... but I'm not so sure.

 

Truth is always relative. People see the world through the lens of their own experience and since experience is varied there are as many lenses as there are people. Even the highly skilled and educated are not immune to this.

 

Another thing is to remember that what we often call truth is conditionrd by the times and conditions. So that what is called for at one point in time or under some circumstances may not be called for when ... not if ... things change.

 

Now if that isn't grist for the Daoist leaning mind, I don't  know what is.

 

 

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

truth used to be an adamantine gem for me... vajra, shining, unbreakable, unchanging

 

interesting to note that a gem has many facets, all part of the whole

is any facet of a gem more real than any other?

 

and as glass is a liquid, not a solid, this gem of truth, that used to seem so solid and rigidly fixed... is now experienced as a fluid, flowing living unfolding.

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I say, Truth is true, and whilst there are many ways to get it wrong...that's not the truths fault, it is adamantine wrapped in enigma. 😁

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I guess one interesting point (bordering on a paradox) is this: Most of the reasons I gave for feeling insecure in whether my beliefs are correct can equally well be applied to conclude that I can't be sure any beliefs are incorrect, either. So it goes both ways. 

  • Thanks 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites