Monday 1 August 2022

When you find yourself saying absurd things that you don't believe

There is a philosophical argument called the reductio ad absurdum - which is has it that when premises are rigorously pursued but lead to absurd consequences; then we should infer that the premises are faulty. 

In broad terms I have found this to be a good learning tool in my life. Sometimes, I have ignored the absurdity of the assumptions - for example when I was an atheist, and found that it destroyed the possibility of morality, art and science. 

I found myself stating deep and foundational convictions (for which I was prepared to make big sacrifices - such as truthfulness in science) yet unable coherently to defend them. And, at the opposite end, my basic assumptions about reality led me to start thinking, saying and believing things that shocked me with their repellant immorality.

Another time, I realized that the denial of the reality of 'free will' led to absurd consequences, and therefore must be rejected; such that free will must be a reality. Yet, for many years I could not understand how free will was possible; because FW seemed to be excluded as a possibility by other assumptions that I still held-to. 

It took a while before I realized that these 'other assumptions' that excluded free will should also be rejected, and that I therefore needed to seek assumptions that explained the existence of free will.

Anyway, to my mind this post-millennial era is the era of the reductio ad absurdum - in more, and yet-more, domains of our lives, and in the world at large. 

Absurd consequences and implications are the defining characteristic of mainstream public life; and the absurdity of official/ mandatory facts and theories become ever starker with each passing year. 

But instead of learning from this that the premises must be faulty - either the absurdity is denied (and to notice or comment on it forbidden) or else the inferential process linking consequences with premises is denied, ignored or dishonestly corrupted. 

Public discourse is now merely a tissue of absurd assertions, sheer insanities presented as obvious sense, and dishonest-denials. 

Yet in private/ personal life it seems increasingly characteristic of this era that the process of generating absurdity has worked down to deeper and more precise levels of inference; and the confrontations become less and less avoidable. 

For Christians, the ideas that have worked for people for years, and have worked for churches/ denominations for generations (or even many centuries), are leading to more and more obvious absurdities. 

In order to defend their assumptions; Christians are compelled to deny, accept or even celebrate and support the absurdities which these assumptions imply. 

This creates all kinds of spiritual, and psychological, problems - from the cognitive dissonances between incompatible beliefs, assertions and practices. 

The question is whether people recognize and learn-from these reductio situations - whether each Christian takes personal responsibility for his faith; or whether instead he doubles-down on the assumptions and denies the absurdities they generate. But the conflict of assumptions and outcomes, premises and consequences, is unavoidable - and the crisis is inescapable. 

1 comment:

The Anti-Gnostic said...

Sunk costs fallacy. People are going to hang on to the idealized institution for as long as they can.

My parents took us, in turn, to the Episcopal Church, Baptist Church, Presbyterian Church, and charismatic non-affiliated church. As an adult, it was agnostic phase in college, then Episcopalian, then Antiochian Orthodox. My parents and some other family members, meanwhile, settled into Messianic Judaism (you can look it up). This was my spiritual life for 50+ years, during which I've tithed, volunteered, and tried my pathetic best to follow Christian praxis.

Now, I finally see my lifelong error and am being chrismated in the Ethiopian Tewahedo Orthodox Church.

Just kidding, they wouldn't even let me in the door, but you get the idea. The Church has been sectarian and/or ethno-nationalist for a very long time.

I'm still reviewing your thesis on consciousness-evolution. Agreed, we are not the same humans we were in 300 AD. For that matter, the human Christians in 300 AD were not the same human Christians in the Apostolic era. The latter just used the Septuagint when they needed to and, so far as I know, didn't make writing a New Testament much of a priority.

As I've said before the idea of indoctrination in a minute, exhaustive catechism as part of the process of salvation is overrated and counter-productive.