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Tuesday, December 05, 2023


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As both belief and doubt are open to excesses, it is perhaps best to hold them in abeyance as much as possible, (especially belief), and instead endeavor to see things directly. That is what I try to do, in my 74th year, and for many decades previously. In the material world, this approach equates pretty much to the scientific technique; In the realm of the spirit, it means quietly listening. I think this is the safest approach, both personally, to maintain sanity, and socially, to avoid societal collapse.

I do have some core beliefs, the goodness of God and His creation being a fundamental one. I try to see that as much as possible, though, and to live it as well.

One of your better comments, Joe.

Simone Weil is good on listening, and William James on overbelief.

Thank you Brother Bill. Of William James, I have only read "The Varieties of Religious Experience;" and of Simone Weil, I have read not at all; If you could recommend some further reading for an architect who does not primarily think in words, I would appreciate it. Thanks!

Bro "Catacomb" Joe

Thanks for digging this up, Bill.

We are now eight years on from the exchange posted above, and things do, indeed, seem to have deteriorated rather badly.

At the time I wrote that post I was mostly concerned with the demolition of axioms by the wrecking-ball of unchecked skepticism. I worried that in our science-minded era, any principles or postulates that couldn't easily defend themselves as provably true would be consigned to the flames -- no matter how incapable we might be, when hauling them into the dock, of really understanding their role as structural supports for a viable civilization. (Perhaps the best example of this, before our own sorry era, was the wholesale chucking-out-of-everything in the aftermath of the French Revolution.)

At the time, you rightly pointed out that the same spirit of dogged inquiry had its upside as well; that it had in many ways greatly improved the quality of our lives. I agreed.

You wrote:

Doubt is good insofar as it is in the service of cognition. How do we keep it in the service of cognition, and prevent it from becoming an all-corrosive end in itself and to that extent a disease of cognition and an underminer of all 'axioms,' especially those on which our civilization rests?

I don't know.

Well, I didn't either, and I still don't. Even some of our latest technological advances, such as social media and AI, are starting to strike me as having a great deal more downside than upside, and it often seems to me that as things accelerate we are falling farther and farther behind in our attempts to foresee the consequences of what we are creating, even as we step harder and harder on the gas.

But whereas in 2015 I was mostly concerned with the methodical demolition of familiar and traditional axioms, what has become clearer to me in 2023 is that is that, like physical nature, human nature also abhors a vacuum. Try as we might, we simply cannot do without some collection of fundamental beliefs, and so now, having thrown out all the old ones, we're just making up new ones from scratch.

Science, having finished its job in demolishing the transcendent pillars of our civilization, now turns its attention to mere technology. Meanwhile, in Western culture it is suddenly axiomatic that men can become women; that all the variation in life-outcomes among human groups is due to the luminiferous aether of Racism; that "Diversity is our strength"; that "Our Democracy" is more important than being governed well; that who does a job matters more than how well it's done; that masculinity is toxic; and so on -- and as always, heresy is policed with piety and vigor.

To quote Chesterton:

When men choose not to believe in God, they do not thereafter believe in nothing; they then become capable of believing in anything.

In re Pollack, Dec 06, 2023 - Right on!

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