Thursday, July 7, 2011

Hoisted Placeholder: Taking Issue WithPhilosophy and Theology

Hoisting my comment from over at Russ's place:

"But if we could overcome our childishness, profligacy, idiotic dogmas, petty and self-hobbling resentments, if we could assume adult responsibilities and become more rational and scientific (but also recognize the limits of reason and science), we’d transcend ourselves. If we, passionate beings, could live a fuller life of passion controlled and mediated by reason, passion sublimated as spirit and creativity, we’d transcend ourselves. This fuller, richer, more intelligent, more creative human being would be an “Overman” compared to the flawed, childish, dogmatic person of today, vacillating between hating his passions and being their slave; between the nihilistic worship of science and reason and the nihilistic rejection of them."

My fundamental (and growing) problem with Western philosophy generally is its insistence on describing how things are, which, once it is accepted as correct, becomes the description of how things ought to be. Because of the way the human brain works, merely substituting one description of how the world is with another will not, cannot, achieve the transcendence you seek. This is because the world is not a static thing. It is dynamic, never stuck in any one state.

The only way to break free of false dichotomies that our brains spawn whenever they accept an orthodoxy (i.e., anything that is not orthodox fails to meet expectations and, as a result, gives rise to a negative emotion that compels us to attack and change what disappointed us) is to stop trying to describe how things are and focus on describing how things work. We need to accept that human beings are NOT rational in the manner described (falsely) by Western philosophy, that human beings merely compare what they experience to what they expect and act emotionally on the basis of that comparison. Most philosophy/theology seeks to control human action by defining how the world is and, therefore, setting and controlling expectations of how the world ought to be.

The one exception I've found is the Tao Te Ching (I purposefully am not saying Taoism because I think the religion that has spun up around the Tao Te Ching is contrary to the Tao, which describes how the world works, not how it is or ought to be). I actually view the Tao Te Ching as just an ancient recognition of what I've discovered recently on my own.

The way for humanity to transcend itself is to embrace its humanity, and what defines humanity is the process of how we make decisions. We need to be realistic in what it means to be rational. We also need to be rational in what it means to be realistic. When we strike the proper balance between realism and rationalism, we will find a third way that transcends both.