Friday 12 October 2018

Why is consciousness the key?

Consciousness is indeed the key - and the problem can be approached from several directions to yield this same answer: that (here and now, in our current situation) we must become aware of that which we used to take for granted, unconsciously - and must actively and knowingly embrace what we used passively to obey.

All this need to take place in a Christian frame - because consciousness without Christianity is a curse; and will be fled from into instinct, intoxication or passive obedience (as we see). And because without God (a personal God, the creator, who loves us each personally), there can be no knowledge.

The problem is seldom presented; but when acknowledged it is usually in terms of whom we should obey... The mainstream materialist media?  A particular church? Our own pleasure seeking/ suffering avoiding instincts?

None of these will suffice, none of them are acceptable or effective. Unacceptable to our deepest, intuitive selves; ineffective in terms of this modern world.

We need each to 'dig' down to expose our fundamentasl assumptions to consciousness, so that we know what we have believed; then we should either consciously endorse these assumptions as solidities upon which we can build; or reject them - replace them.

But this is not a safe path - and it is worrying how many assumptions melt-away under the spotlight of consciousness and the tireless gaze of intuition. It is likely that we will be left with fewer assumptions; at any rate that is my experience. It is almost certain that we will be in a minority of one...

But those assumptions which remain after such a process are solid; we know them, and can defend and retain them against external attack because we do not regard external attackers as valid.

We can defend them in thought - I mean. Indeed, better than that - much better - they no longer need defending... They have become ultimately unassailable.

Of course; external power can influence, perhaps control, our mortal bodies; can terrorise us, perhaps, into doing or saying this or that; but once an assumption has been exposed and made conscious and intuitively endorsed... well, then we have it forever, we can't ever again be rid of it even if we want to - because then we will know that we are only kidding ourselves, and would not be rid of it.

We can nowadays, in The West, survive and thrive only on known certainties (both known, and certain) - and this process seems to be the only way to get them.


Chiu ChunLing said...

I wonder if we can be terrorized into contradicting what we really believe. I simply lack the neurological mechanism to experience this in the first place, so I hesitate to assert that a sufficiently sincere conscious belief is a defense against being swayed by fear. In my own case, I do not experience fear of how people might react to my words, I can only feel the physiological emotion with respect to things that are not amenable to manipulation through language. So while I am not under any particular necessity of being honest about what I believe, I cannot process the idea of being afraid of saying the wrong thing, as it is fundamentally contradictory in the first place. I can be (and have been) tortured into the incapacity to express myself, but lack the capacity to fear saying one thing rather than another, regardless of which concept I believe.

Still, if we really believe a proposition, such that we are genuinely conscious that no evidence to the contrary would be valid in principle, shouldn't that belief itself eliminate fear of anything that demanded we contradict our belief? I lack the capacity to fear being caught in a lie just as much as the fear of telling the truth, so I have no personal experience with the difference that sincerely believing what I say should make. But logically, it should be theoretically possible to fear a being that would punish us for what we really know to be lies while being secure in our categorical superiority of ultimate destiny to one that would attack us for saying what is true.

Or rather, what do we mean by saying that we really believe something to be "true" other than that our eventual vindication is assured?

Bruce Charlton said...

@CCL - What I was getting at is that we can of course subsequently doubt or deny something we have solidly reached by conscious intuition - and we may act on the basis of that denial.

But we will not be able to convince ourselves that our denial is honest. We will know that our dishonest denial of a known truth is a lie; in the same way we know that a false affirmation is a lie.

There is a tendency to regard these matter as about public discourse, debate, persuasion etc - but certainly is not about other people, but about our real (divine aspect) selves

Chiu ChunLing said...

In that case the question is whether remaining willing to entertain doubts is beneficial or even necessary to sincere belief.

Many people rest their thinking on assumptions that are "unassailable" simply because those holding them never allow any challenge to that assumption, rather than because defending them with sound logic is reasonably straightforward. We filter down our assumptions by examining them, but after we have filtered an assumption, do we return to the naive use of it as a basis for categorically rejecting any line of argument that depends on contradicting it or ought we continue to examine it compared to the raised alternatives?

In the latter case, shouldn't the process of entertaining the relative merit of the alternative leave us unable to believe it? It is normal to feel fear of things that you believe to exist, i.e. spiders in your hair. But suppose you have a logical proof that there cannot be spiders in your hair (such as because you are wearing a spacesuit). Then a sensory input that suggested that you had spiders in your hair would have to be considered against the evidence that this was a logical impossibility.

Of course, wearing a spacesuit doesn't make it inherently illogical that you could have spiders in your hair, merely difficult for it to occur. This is an example of a strong but not absolute belief. But let us say that you are wearing a spacesuit because you are in space, performing an EVA. Now the proposition that you have somehow got spiders in your hair despite wearing a spacesuit has to contend with the proposition that you must not remove your helmet to check if you want to go on breathing.

In this case, should we simply reject out of hand the possibility that there could be spiders in our hair, or should we simply rationally weigh it against the fact that we cannot remove our helmet without dying? Which option is preferable in terms of psychological health and ability to continue functioning well enough to focus on doing what must be done?

I can't answer easily because I'm simply not afraid of spiders. I do dislike being bitten by spiders, and thus take reasonable precautions against having them in my hair (honestly this may be more motivated by my dislike of killing spiders than being bitten by them). But I don't experience any fear of having them in my hair, it is merely a thing to avoid, but if it has happened then it is not a cause for panic. So in the above scenario I have no motive to deny rather than consider the possibility that I might have spiders in my hair.

Bruce Charlton said...

@CCL - the distinction is mostly public versus private. Most people assume that the question is whether people publicly are allowed or encouraged to admit to doubts in the realm of public discourse - these doubts being discussed, debated, settled in the public realm of communications.

In sum - the standard leftist social media world...

That is Not what I am talking about - I am talking about what goes on in a person's thinking, subjectively; and at the point when they get down to the real-self thinking, that cannot be ignored or surpressed.

My understanding of these times is that we are being forced to choose between passive compliance with an insane and evil public discourse and behaviour; and the subjective reality of our divine selves thinking.

In this private realm we learn from our doubts, and our doubts lead us to solid ground. In public discourse - the opposite.

Chiu ChunLing said...

I've always struggled with that distinction. As a reader, I like engaging a thoughtful meditation at length, but length becomes interminable if it does not address multiple sides of a subject even if consistently judging the merits of one view above the others.

But I've come to understand that most people are not readers, nor particularly apt to ever become such. That "public" needs simple, punchy slogans and mottoes which they can keep in mind and go to the necessary work of providing for the basic necessities of life relatively undistracted by thoughts irrelevant to the present task.

But I still have no clear idea how best to deal with them. My own experience of doing prosaic labor as a fit young man was that it left the mind quite free to serious contemplation. But the essential quality of contemplation seems to be different.