Friday 31 May 2013

Which infinities are easiest to believe?


If you push any belief system - any set of metaphysical assumptions or any theology or philosophy - back to its logical roots, then you will find some kind of 'infinity' which is hard to defend, hard to believe, absurd in a sense.

Something of the sort is unavoidable, so far as I can tell.

However, some of these infinities seem easier to believe than others.


My understanding of hunter gatherer metaphysics (reinforced by the world-view of early childhood) is that they believe that the essence of life is something like energy in a fixed quantity which permanently circulates while transforming into different forms (different people and some animals, maybe some other beings); and this has 'always' been the situation.

So, there does not seem to be a problem in believing:

1. An infinite regress of ancestors - or else, if pushed... termination of that regress in a primordial ancestor (or several ancestors) who was 'always' there.

2. An acceptance of what is (tradition) as best, and always and everywhere valid

3. A world - matter, stuff, energies - which was 'always' there; albeit in a state of cyclical transformation.

4. A personified world, a world of intelligence, awareness, relationships.


What does not seem natural or spontaneous to humans are ideas such as:

1. Eternal stasis, purposelessness

2. Eternal progress, purpose, an end-point to things

3. Creation from nothing

4. Domination by impersonal entities such as forces, rules, laws


These (or something similar) built-in dispositions to believe some things, and fail to understand other things underpin all belief systems - and create unresolvable tensions in all religious systems at a deep level - these tensions being experienced as phenomena such as alienation, despair, solipsism, anger - and disbelief; where disbelief = the inability live-by an idea.


1 comment:

Jasper said...

This set of assumptions is consistent with Conservation Laws. As you point out, the fuzziness of the how things change form and cycle is inconsistent with seeing the world as governed by Laws. The scientific method is initially consistent with this set of assumptions -- but eventually leads to Physical Laws, the Reynolds Transport Theorem, and engineering, which are a very different way of looking at the world.