Friday 15 May 2015

Trust in the ultimate goodness of reality

Either things are basically good - or not.

We (each of us) need to decide which - because the evidence is inconclusive.


What is wanted, and needed, is the kind of confidence in the goodness of ultimate reality as may be found in a loving family or marriage.

Not doubt.

Would we say that doubt in the love or faithfulness of a good mother, father, spouse, child is healthy? No.

Unless there is a reason which can be resolved, then persisting doubt is a sign of psychopathology or error.

There can be not ever in a million years be proof, there is no 100% assurance, of the love or faithfulness of another person.

Doubt feeds on doubt - and indeed (with humans) often leads to its own confirmation.


We must choose - and indeed if we want a good life, it only makes sense to choose that life is good: God is real and good.

Why not?

...Mostly (and bizarrely) because (we are afraid of making fools of ourselves, being 'duped' - being cuckolded by a sniggering 'fake god', taken to the cleaners, gulled, betrayed and laughed-at as childish, idiotic fools.

(God wants us to be humble -  well, there is humility for you! As much as you want.)


But so what? Suppose it happened, supposed we made complete fools of ourselves - ultimately we would lose nothing at all. In a world that really was not good, was meaningless, purposeless... then nothing at all would matter- certainly not being a fool.

If we lived a deluded life of happy hope in vain - so what?

Pascal was right, Puddleglum was right, cynicism is a mug's game.

And cynicism's one and only (brief) consolation is the dog-in-the manger trick of trying to turn everybody else into a cynic - to spread the poison of doubt and despair.

(How absolutely maddening it is for the cynic to observe loving carefree joy. The only answer is to destroy that loving carefree joy - to twist it into shame and despair; but even then the mere memory of loving carefree joy is a nagging torment...)


Invincible hope in the ultimate goodness of reality, and reality of a good and loving God, is as easy as being blissful on a sunny spring morning in a lovely place and some hours of leisure... but consider how often we ruin such times for ourselves by our guilt or angst or grasping?

It is so easy! - so long as you are not worried about appearing a gullible fool (especially not about appearing a gullible fool to yourself!).

When in doubt, give God the benefit of the doubt.



Anonymous said...

For a lot of people it is not so easy. Pray for those for whom it is not.

Bruce Charlton said...

The 'easy' was ironic - it is as 'easy' as being happy on a beautiful day; as 'easy' as not being worried about everyone think you are a fool.

That is to say, *not* easy - but it should be; if only we we not so proud and so self-tormenting, so superstitious and suspicious - but these traits run deep.

Wm Jas Tychonievich said...

"If we lived a deluded life of happy hope in vain - so what?"

Well, it wouldn't be real -- and on a fundamental human level, realness matters. It's no use pretending that being happily deluded is just as good as knowing the truth. It just isn't.

To be honest, it's very hard for me to believe that your "so what?" is sincere. To me, an attitude of "Who cares what's true so long as I'm happy?" is so basic an abdication of human dignity that I doubt if any human being could be truly comfortable in it.

I'm not trying to say that cynicism is better than hope, of course. It is, as you say, good and healthy to trust in the faithfulness your spouse and family members -- but that trust has to be grounded in a sincere and rational belief that they very probably are faithful, not on an attitude of "If my wife is unfaithful and I am blissfully unaware of it, so what?" The latter attitude is a sign of contempt, not love.


There can be not ever in a million years be proof, there is no 100% assurance, of the love or faithfulness of another person.

When believers talk about disbelief, this "100% proof" canard always comes up sooner or later, and I find it quite frustrating. Yes, everyone knows that 100% assurance is impossible, and no one is demanding it. We don't want 100% proof, we just want good reasons to believe -- and I don't mean "good" in a hedonistic sense.


I think your analogy of trusting a spouse or family member is a good one. Such trust is both a rational belief and a free choice, which means it has a lot in common with religious faith. My decision to trust my wife is based on my judgment that the chance that she is actually unfaithful is much lower than the chance that doubt and jealousy on my part would harm our relationship and make us both miserable. Faith in God should be based on an analogous judgment.

Bruce Charlton said...

@WmJas - What I am trying to get across here is that often people are their own worst enemies. They unwittingly set-up a situation where they are deeply, maybe permanently, trapped by their own superficial assumptions.

There are loads of reasons for belief in an ultimately benign reality - indeed apparently that is spontaneous in simple hunter gatherer societies. That we are ever happy, or anything at all is beautiful, or any good luck or synchronicity - even one of these happening once - could be regarded as reason enough given the infinite number of ways of things being bad compared to the difficulty of things being good.

What I find bizarre, as an ex psychiatrist, is the readiness, but inconsistency, with with people attribute happy-delusional status to any positive beliefs. This is a truly toxic line of thought - yet mainstream.

In people with delusional disorder, this situation of being trapped (and having your life ruined) by assumptions seems very obvious

yet the only thing which marks such people as deluded is only that almost everybody else disagrees with them. When high status culture agrees with our self-destructive thought patterns, then we are in trouble.

Realness, positive belief are built into humans - given us. What we have now is a situation after people have rejected the obvious and natural interpretation of life. They are stuck in a nihilism where the nihilism subverts all evidence against itself. The fact that the nihilism is itself unwarranted does not matter, because that is the 'starting place'.

The only way out is to un-ask the questions that led into the nihilism trap.

Anonymous said...

In times when cynicism is fashionable, one may become a pseudo-cynic, in it for the fellowship with the popular cynic, until he begins to think for himself.