Monday 15 August 2016

At root, everything depends on individual human discernment... Then what?

The modern condition derives from the realisation (whether explicit or covert) that at root everything, all possible knowledge, depends on human individual discernment: that is personal judgement.

No other source of knowledge (neither church not state) will suffice - since the authority of any and every possible source itself depends on discernment.

No external authority or consensus can replace discernment, because there must first be a judgement as to whether that authority or consensus is valid. Therefore individual responsibility is ultimate; and no Man can plead that he was merely following orders by deferring to another - because he at least chose whose orders to follow.

(In the past, it was possible to avoid the recognition that all depended on discernment, because most people were immersed-in and inculcated-with a single specific external perspective from birth; and no alternative was available. But once the non-conscious cycle of monolithic indoctrination is broken, once consciousness has been activited and the individual regards his-self as distinguishable from the group-mind- then that innocent state becomes impossible.)

No Man can now escape responsibility by pointing at an institution, person, book, law or process (like 'science', or democracy or any other kind of voting); because the authority of that book or law and its interpretation was itself likewise a product of judgement - and he knows it.

The reaction to this slowly dawning recognition of dependence on discernment has been extremely varied - from religion based upon exactly this discernment, to a nihilism which denies that validity of of all purpose, meaning and reality itself; and in the middle numerous incoherent pseudo doctrines reasserting the primary of external authority in ways that (fairly obviously) do not convince even those who argue for them.

My own view is that everything really is dependent on individual discernment, and this insight or reality should be embraced and carried-through to a stable and solid basis for life. The problem is that people have the initial insight - then stop thinking.

Most people when the insight dawns (during adolescence) that everything depends on discernment - metaphorically throw up their hands; and either lapse into a nihilism which implicitly regards discernment as a contingent and arbitrary process and denies any validity to discernment; or else they react-against the insight by subordinating themselves to some external authority while denying that they have used discernment in making this decision. (They consciously make an act of discernment to recognise primary authority; then try to forget and deny that primary act of discernment.)

The correct answer and a coherent attitude comes from accepting the reality and fundamental nature of discernment - and exploring its nature and implications; not ceasing exploration until the answer we have - in broad brush if not in every last detail - has itself been validated by discernment.

At that point we have escaped paradox, nihilism and the arbitrary; and found a secure basis for our own Life.

But each Man must do this for himself - and if reaching a stable basis takes a lifetime, then a lifetime is what must be allocated to the quest; because nothing is more important.

This just is an inescapable consequence of the primacy of discernment (or rather, the consequence can be escaped only negatively - i.e. by not thinking, by forgetting or distraction.

1 comment:

Simon said...

I have just become aware that this idea is central Kierkegaard's thought. You may find it worthwhile to re-visit him.