Monday 12 July 2021

Trust in "my" thinking - above all

It is a theme running through Rudolf Steiner's philosophical writings that we need to trust in our own thinking; and that if we do not - then we are lost; because we can trust nothing 

When I read this line of reasoning; I experienced an immediate sense of recognition and affirmation: I felt that I knew exactly what he meant, and why it was so important. 

In a positive sense; it recognizes that all logical, evidential and systematic constructs ought to be built on top of (and consistent with) intuition (or direct knowing) - thinking-intuition conscious and explicit, and explicitly recognized as such. 

In a negative sense; it recognizes that someone who has ceased to trust in his own thinking has become a mere puppet, a hollow simulacrum; mentally paralyzed and a conduit for the ideas of others. 

And I also saw that to induce and make habitual a distrust of one's own thinking is a major strategy of modern ideology and propaganda - over several centuries and escalating. 

The aim of much modern culture and lifestyle is to induce doubt about even one's own strongest, deepest and clearest intuitions; to encourage a lack of trust of personal insight; to feel plagued by the uncertainty of every intuition. 

Now, of course, modern habits of mind immediately seize upon doubt and uncertainty about 'how can we know?' whether this intuition is real - it might be wrong. 

We tend feel certain and sure and confident only about the 'fact' that intuitions are often wrong (that old  paradox of relativism!). 

And what about 'other people' who 'claim' to have solid and lucid intuitions - might they be mistaken, lying, crazy, manipulative?... Maybe we ourselves are those things? How can we know

And how can we know for sure that intuition really is the bottom line anyway; how can we be certain that we really ought to trust thinking - what is the proof?

(All of which just goes to show what happens when we do not recognize that we must trust our own best thoughts - and when we do not trust our-selves to know our own best thoughts.) 

What such thinking actually arises from is a mistrust in our motivations; and that may well arise from the evil of our own motivations because we do not know the truth. 

Someone who rejects true knowledge of God the loving creator (and us his children) has refused or violated his own intuitive knowing about that which just-is primary and foundational - and such a one surely cannot trust his thinking on other matters. 

(When we don't get first things right, second things do not follow.) 

Because all unreflective and passive modern Men have accepted false metaphysical assumptions regarding the basic nature of reality by default - and that is where intuition needs to start.

Of course; our ability to know is limited - and may be relatively small; but we (each personally) cannot do any better than what we personally think, and directly-know. 


Jacob Gittes said...

It strikes me as a very important mini essay here.
This could explain why those who reject your and Steiner's metaphysical and epistemological assumptions always seem to be so full of despair. People I Know personally. And when I reject my own inner knowing and thinking, I too become more full of despair.
But I still remember being a child and being mainly infused with my own thoughts and perceptions, and how magical that was.

It's a funny and wholesome thought that the child-like way of being is actually the one most in tune with the truth: there is a God/creator. He does love us. Our lives do have value. We matter. We aren't just an identical functional human unit of a "herd" to be poked and prodded and injected and molded into shape for some utilitarian scheme.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Jake - We need both to recognize that the child's view is superior to mainstream modern Man - but also that we cannot return to it (literally cannot); so we need to go forward to its essence but consciously and by choice. The child just is what is he - unconsciously and passively. We cannot choose that - but we can choose to return to the child's 'in tune' quality - albeit partly and in the realm of thinking. This experience may lead us to choose to make this complete and permanent after death - by following Jesus Christ to resurrected life in Heaven; where all that was best about childhood becomes normal.

Francis Berger said...

I agree, but the real sticking point for many is that they equate what you have described to intellectual arrogance/pride and egotism.

Gnecht said...

I was reminded of G. K. Chesterton's "Orthodoxy," Chapter 2, "The Maniac."

Complete self-confidence is not merely a sin; complete self-confidence is a weakness. Believing utterly in one's self is a hysterical and superstitious belief like believing in Joanna Southcote: ( the man who has it has `Hanwell' written on his face as plain as it is written on that omnibus." And to all this my friend the publisher made this very deep and effective reply, "Well, if a man is not to believe in himself, in what is he to believe?"

Dr. Charlton, do you disagree with Chesterton, or was he was writing about something different?

Bruce Charlton said...

@Frank - The 'many' are people who must be disregarded by anyone who wants to follow Jesus! And ignoring the unconscious, passive, obedient-to-evil majority will - of course - be regarded by them as arrogance and pride.

What then are A & P, and how may they be known? The key is that arrogance and pride are matters of motivation; not emotional or behavioural patterns.

@G - Probably I disagree with both GKC and JS on this matter, but I can't be sure without knowing the context. My priority is nearly-always to seek truth, clarity and understanding for/from my self - rather than to discern precisely what other people think/ thought.

One probable divergence from GKC is that I regard Original Sin as (mostly, as usually understood) a pernicious error (which Jesus did not teach) -

captOBV said...

This is where Calvinists always cite Jeremiah 17:9 "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?" I have always immediately intuited that either (1) Jeremiah is simple wrong, because as an absolute statement this is obviously false, or (2) Jeremiah is speaking only of the wicked, because this certainly does not apply to the righteous.

I never bothered to even look at the context before just now, because it was so obvious. But I looked just now. As it turns out, the second option is in fact rather obvious from the context, i.e verses 7-8 which are the trope of the righteous being like a tree planted by the waters ala Psalm 1, and verse 10 shows that the meaning was not to be understood as "your own heart is so wicked you can't know it" as if you can never know your own motives and so on but rather as verse 10 says "I the Lord search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings" meaning that the inability to know the heart was refering to one man's inability to know a different man's heart, not the inability to know his own. Checkmate Calvinists. So I was right all along. Score one for trusting one's own intuitions.

Serhei said...

I believe a reasonable policy is uncertainty whether what I think right now is right, and certainty that God has given me everything I need to figure it out in due time.

Bruce Charlton said...

@S - But in the meantime...

The difficulty with any attitude that puts-off can be seen in 'spiritual seekers' who become enamored of their own 'open-mindedness' - and prefer the endless exploration and debate to making a commitment.

I have found that only after I have made a commitment can I discover my error.