Wednesday 14 December 2016

We make mistakes, and should be prepared to acknowledge the fact

This post on Vox Day's blog hit the mark for me

(Vox gets a lot of flak for his hard-line attitudes; but unlike many other verbal tough-nuts he has the basic humility to acknowledge errors and to emphasise that he can't do more than tell it as he sees it from what he currently knows. Nietzsche was of the same type; pulling no punches, but ready to sacrifice self-consistency to fresh insight - until cerebral syphylis briefly made him a genuine megalomaniac in Ecce Homo - en route to silencing him altogether.) 

My life has been mostly a matter of grabbing onto and then letting go of wrong ideas. I cannot claim to have been 'always right' about much - but I do claim to have been willing to acknowledge my errors when I later recognise them, and doing my best to leave them behind.

This is really a matter of honesty - and perhaps it is therefore the most crucial aspect of being a scientist; and I feel I was well educated in this matter, at a formative age, by reading Jacob Bronowski with his wonderful phrase 'The habit of truth'. We constantly make honest mistakes, and honesty compels us to repent them.

The longer I am a Christian, the more I believe that repentance - rather than 'being good' - is the primary duty of a Christian life; because all repentant sinners are saved; but the best man in the world is self-damned if he (dishonestly) does not perceive the need to repent.

Among the worst people I have encountered are the Right Men (as Colin Wilson terms them) - who are often women. I mean those people who believe they are always, basically, right about everything - and always have been. The type is common among psychopaths up to the highest level of social power in most types of institution.

Nearly all atheist 20th century dictators were of this sort (Lenin, Hitler, Stalin...); but not so many monarchs - for instance Henry the Eighth was a Right Man, but Henry the Second was not; Queen Mary was; her half-sister Elizabeth was not. But the type abounds in modern life - to get promoted it seems one must either be a psychopathic Right Man/ Woman - or a docile, drudging middle manager.

Of course, goodness is a middle course - and cringing self-doubt is also a sin; not least because it is an excuse for immoral obedience: to have courage we must not abandon our convictions without genuine cause. Cowardly virtue is not virtue at all...

On the other hand, a man of courageous principle may be brave (and thus far virtuous) in defence of falsehood; indeed it is common among martyrs. Although we are sons and daughters of God (and therefore embyronically divine) we are also weak, limited, and easily confused or fooled.

Which is precisely why we absolutely must be ready and willing to acknowledge and repent what we sincerely regard as our mistakes, deliberate wickedness, wrong ideas, bad ideas - and errors may include mistakenly acknowledging a mistake; as when later consideration convinces us that our previously repudiated 'bad idea' was not, after all, bad! - And then having (embarrassingly) to take it up yet again!

This is just Mortal Life - a zig-zag course with loops; and mostly about experience, rather than progress - or rather, experience only becomes progress when it is all over, beyond the grave...