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Sins of a Skeptic Empire

June 16, 2013

This post. This post. Read Stephen Bond’s Why I am No Longer A Skeptic now.

I don’t even know where to begin. I suspect that even if I were to share this article from the rooftops, on Facebook, on twitter, on Reddit, most people would not get it. They would not get it with a vengeance. They wouldn’t even see — for a moment — Stephen’s point.

I still don’t even know where to begin. I don’t want to just quote various parts, because to do the article justice, I would have to just quote the entire thing. So, instead of quoting this piece, I’ll make tangentially related thoughts that hopefully hit at a similar spirit to what the article describes.

At least in ex- and postmormon forums, there is a lot of criticism of the LDS church because of its marginalizing, socially conservative viewpoints. So, there is much to hear about the poor treatment of gay folks in the church, much to hear about the poor standing of women in the church, and so on. This tends to get lumped together in such ideas as, “The church is a patriarchal organization.” And so, the issue is that institutionally, the church perpetuates heterosexism and sexism and so forth.

OK, OK, so I can see that. I am not immune to the stories I hear about ecclesiastical abuse. The outrage at how the church speaks about modesty. The church’s policies toward gay members — such that whenever some ward in some city does something marginally less bad like allowing an openly gay person to be in a calling as long as they are single instead of excommunicating them as soon as they find out, it’s a huge deal.

…but…the “skeptic” community is not much better. It’s not as if skeptic communities are bastions of feminism — in fact, I’ve been in several discussions on ex-mormon threads where people openly question the existence of male privilege and so forth. Or maybe they’ll accept that male privilege may exist for some, but not for “beta males” like them. (Can I just say that I find that term disturbing when used in a human context? And yet, I see people using it for themselves, so I guess I’ll use their own words) And their beta male status, to the contrary, shows to them the privilege that women have, not men.

I don’t want this conversation to devolve into a discussion on whether privilege exists or not. But I bet that if this article spread far enough, there might be commenters who want to start that fight. I’ll just point out that I totally agree when Bond writes:

Skepticism, of course, is only one of the many online interests which attract barely-closeted sexists. But the particular attraction of skepticism is also its particular problem: it allows the sexist to disguise his prejudice as rationality and “common sense”. You can spot guys like this easily on skeptic forums: the word “feminism” brings them crawling out, like slugs after a downpour. For them, feminism is an unscientific discipline (but how could it be otherwise?), as nonsensical as astrology or Roman Catholicism, and as ripe and essential for debunking. They’re okay with women’s lib, within reason; but now it’s gone too far, and the firm hand of reason must rein it in. Reason, weirdly enough, never seems to disrupt their own grip on power. It’s always on the side of the patriarchy.

I have experienced that. I have seen someone actually compare “privilege” to “the holy ghost”.

This discussion reminds me so much of the circular discussions back when I used to go to church. Except substitute “the holy ghost” for the word “privilege.” Those who believe in the holy ghost are the people we want in positions of trust. Those who don’t acknowledge its presence in their lives are outsiders, sorely mistaken and arrogant, they won’t open their eyes to see.

The thrust of the argument — like the holy ghost, feminist concepts are unscientific. But not only that, these are unscientific ideas that hold people (read: the beleaguered male, especially if “beta male”) back.

I raise examples like these up to point out that even though skeptics tend to think that they see through institutional bullshit…apparently, there can be plenty of bullshit even without an institution.

If this is the case, then the issue is that one can’t just “defeat” religion and then usher in a paradisiacal millennial era of peace and prosperity. No, all the stuff that we call bad but think are enshrined in institutions…came from other places and continue to thrive even without a religious vehicle.

Another section I really appreciated was Bond’s section on the neo-liberal metaphors that are requisite features of the skeptic community. As a snippet here:

It’s impossible to imagine the breakthroughs of Newton or Copernicus or Descartes happening in 14th-century Europe. The medieval mind did not perceive the world in the right way to make them. It was too clouded with metaphors of heaven and hell and angels and divine will and oaths and tithes and loyalty and hierarchy and feudal exchange; metaphors that, in our understanding, obscured its perception of reality. When these metaphors were transformed and replaced, people could see more clearly; but these transformations were not and could not have been wrought by the scientific method alone, even if such a thing existed at the time. Scientific advance was inseparable from political, social, and economic advance. And the same has been true of all scientific advances. It’s just as impossible to imagine Darwin’s breakthrough in Newton’s time, or Heisenberg’s in Darwin’s time.

Skeptics, in insisting on the primacy of scientific knowledge, deny the value of non-scientific metaphors in future scientific advance. As far as they are concerned, western liberal democracies have made all the political, social, cultural and economic advances they need to. Western thought is already so free that anyone who tries can perceive reality direct and unmediated, with no obscuring metaphors in the way. To the trained western eye, the truth simply reveals itself, in as much detail as our scientific understanding allows. It’s difficult to imagine a more absolute statement of confidence in liberal democracy.

Similarly, when skeptics insist that scientific thinking should be spread worldwide, they necessarily mean that liberal democracy should be spread worldwide. Which is to say, they are neoliberals.

I could write several essays from things I’ve thought about with respect to this. Firstly, if you’ve paid much attention to my writing at all, you should know that I’m big on subjectivity. So, of course, I am very interested in the metaphors that define our world.

I am bored with this emphasis on objectivity and empiricism and blah blah blah. I mean, that is not to say I have gone off the deep end and believe in (insert woo concept here), but that’s because subjectively, I don’t feel convinced rather than thinking that objectively, there is no case.

One thing that I haven’t delved into as much (but I should) are the ways that we can radically change the world by radically changing our metaphors. Pure magycks. (in after woo, I guess)

I find it difficult to speak on this subject. I recognize that in many instances, we don’t “choose” our metaphors. Rather, my experience is that we are thrown into and raised into. So, while I can recognize the vastly different worlds produced by vastly different metaphors, there is a sense in which I can’t fully make them “real” because I am stuck in my metaphor. I want to understand why some people believe, but because I don’t, I can’t really make it “real.” (I sometimes wonder if it’s truly impossible to understand something without accepting it — does “understanding” include knowing the subjective experience of being convinced by that understanding?)

I was listening to John Dehlin’s podcast interview with John Hamer on Mormon Stories, and one thing that intrigued me were John H’s comments about the different worldview that people lived in during Joseph Smith’s time. A good post that John H has written that captures the gist of this idea is Hamer’s Living Scripture and a Vision of the Living Restoration at Saints Herald. Relevant sections from that post:

Among the most important ideas [the early adherents of the latter-day Restoration movement] got right was a rejection of the “Golden Age Myth.” Living, as they were, in the wake of the Enlightenment, they and people all around them had begun to read symbolic stories as though they were merely literal history. This change created new and highly distorted readings of sacred, symbolic stories in the Bible. New literalists couldn’t help but notice that in the Bible, animals occasionally talked, prophets turned sticks into snakes and caused the sun to stand still, and God talked to humans like humans talk to each other. They likewise noted (correctly) that such things did not happen in the present day. From this, many believers understandably concluded that the past era was different from the present era. In the past there had (apparently) been a spiritual or heroic age filled with miraculous, enchanted happenings — a Golden Age — while in the present age, the heavens were closed. The spiritual gifts of the past were no more.

The early members of the Restoration disagreed. “The heavens were not closed!” they declared. The same spiritual gifts that were ever available of old continued to be available. Prophets could yet respond to the Divine in the prophetic voice. When the Restoration’s first historian, John Whitmer, began his history of the latter-day movement, he used the same scriptural language — so identified in English because of the then unchallenged popularity of the King James Bible — that Joseph Smith used in composing the Book of Mormon and the revelations that formed the initial sections of the Doctrine and Covenants. For the early members of the Restoration, scripture was not just consigned to a heroic past or Golden Age — scripture could still be lived today.

This was partially because early members remained in a liminal period — they had one foot in a world of unexplained enchantment and one foot in a more fully understood and explained world. Standing on the threshold, they were not always to discern between the symbolic and the literal. For example, the witnesses who viewed the plates understood that their visions were visionary,† but many who read the testimonies the witnesses signed did not.  The members who saw angels in Kirtland temple understood the difference between the eye of the spirit and the physical eye. But early members who took up arms at the Battle of Crooked River did not understand that the Biblical account of Gideon’s defeat of Midianites (Judges 6-8) was a myth. In imagining God would similarly deliver their enemies, early members of the Restoration came close to precipitating their own actual extermination in the 1838 Missouri War.

As people in the 21st century, we have largely crossed the threshold into a post-enchanted world. And ironically, that means for the bulk of Restoration believers today, the heavens are again closed — there is no new scripture; there are no new revelations.  The early Restoration now represents a Second Golden Age whose sacred stories (in many cases) are once again misunderstood to have been literal…

Since I have heard many people say similar things on this subject, in a sense I can conceptualize that people back in earlier days lived in a more magical world…and it was more magical precisely because of the metaphors they employed. And, to an extent, I can get instances where we still have “magic” embedded even in our modern, neo-liberal skeptical mindset.

…but…it doesn’t feel real at the deepest level. When John H says that in the past, animals and their actions and traits were viewed symbolically, I can’t really “feel” what that would be like…what it would be like to live in a world where that’s credible to you.

As John H writes, I — as a 21st century guy — am living in a post-enchanted world. In some ways, this is what led me “out” of the church…but in other ways, it’s what keeps me from re-conceptualizing the scriptures as metaphorical. At some level, I think, if this isn’t literally true, then what’s the big deal, even though in general, I value the subjective. (Basically, my subjective experiences are mediated by cultural scripts that value literality and objectivity.)

I wonder what it would be like to step out of the 21st century mindset of the sterile, post-enchanted world. I know plenty of folks online or offline who have done it, but their stories seem so strange to me. I just don’t grok it.

Still, I feel that the mundane, non-magickal world isn’t necessarily better, more enlightened, or more advanced than the enchanted worlds of yesteryear. Rather, the same sorts of marginalizations happen — the same inequity of power structures exist — but this time, things are just so much more boring about it.

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11 Comments
  1. Stephen, I like your writing very much, except I have to work very hard to wrap my smaller brain around some of your sentences. I get it, but I’m not used to thinking this deep.
    Re: ‘we don’t choose our metaphors’, I always told my kids that life is a manuscript. “What I gave you is the first rough draft. It’s up to you to do the final edit.” Hopefully, we do choose our metaphors and not just keep what we inherited.
    And what about those of us who were raised in traditional Christianity and converted to Mormonism. Didn’t we chose to give up “Adam and Eve and the Garden of Eden’ for ‘Hanging around a spirit world waiting for a body and a move to earth to begin our journey of eternal progression? Did we not chose to change metaphors?
    Re: following the bible literally, I thought that started at the time of the printing press, not Joseph’s era. It sounds like a good argument,(Hamer’s not yours) but it is flawed.
    When you “see ‘magic’ embedded even in our modern, neo-liberal skeptical mindset”, consider that every person with a Narcissist Personality Disorder (a mental illness that actually shows up on a CT scan) has a ‘magic world’. We will have as many ‘magic’ worlds today as mankind has had from the beginning. The NPD needs their magic world for the safety of ‘self’ (It’s a pseudo-self)
    Side note: “subjective experiences are mediated by cultural scripts that value literality and objectivity” This sentence is pure brain exercise.
    Enjoyed your article. Now back to 1857 and the building of the Kingdom of God.

  2. Judy,

    Thanks for the comment. I can’t take any credit for Stephen’s post, unfortunately, but I’ll respond to the parts of your comment that relate to my words. You’ve definitely done pretty well, but I’ll try to simplify things in the future.

    Re: ‘we don’t choose our metaphors’, I always told my kids that life is a manuscript. “What I gave you is the first rough draft. It’s up to you to do the final edit.” Hopefully, we do choose our metaphors and not just keep what we inherited.

    At least how I understand it (and my experience is limited, for sure), if I think about a final edit to a paper, then it’s based on the rough draft. If I’m writing a sci fi novel, I might do extensive edits, but chances are, at the end of the day, the novel will be relatively similar or recognizable to the original draft — I’ll have a novel that’s still a sci fi novel. The novel won’t transform from sci fi to historical fiction.

    And what about those of us who were raised in traditional Christianity and converted to Mormonism. Didn’t we chose to give up “Adam and Eve and the Garden of Eden’ for ‘Hanging around a spirit world waiting for a body and a move to earth to begin our journey of eternal progression? Did we not chose to change metaphors?

    The conversion experience is definition an area where my experience is limited, since I can’t say I’ve believed in one religion, much less two.

    …but it seems to me that even if our metaphors can change, that’s not the same as choosing. At least as I perceive it, people don’t choose to be persuaded by a religion. They may become so over time, but it’s not a conscious choice.

    Re: following the bible literally, I thought that started at the time of the printing press, not Joseph’s era. It sounds like a good argument,(Hamer’s not yours) but it is flawed.

    Yeah, I think that the historical timeline can spread further than just the 1800s or so. But, I would say that even if it didn’t start in Joseph’s era, it seems plausible that the 1800s worldview was different than the prevailing 2013 worldview.

    When you “see ‘magic’ embedded even in our modern, neo-liberal skeptical mindset”, consider that every person with a Narcissist Personality Disorder (a mental illness that actually shows up on a CT scan) has a ‘magic world’. We will have as many ‘magic’ worlds today as mankind has had from the beginning. The NPD needs their magic world for the safety of ‘self’ (It’s a pseudo-self)

    I feel that this is something Stephen Bond addressed in his article. Today, we call it “Narcissist Personality Disorder.” We value that metaphor above other metaphors because we are socialized to value objective evidence, and as you say, there are symptoms that correlate to stuff that “actually shows up on a CT scan,” so isn’t that pretty objective. And because we can measure the CT scan and relate them to symptoms, and we don’t like those symptoms, we call it “mental illness.”

    But the science behind psychology and psychiatry is deeply affected by our political and social metaphors. What’s the difference between homosexuality as a disorder vs homosexuality as not a disorder? It’s nothing about data — it’s a different way of looking at, processing, and understanding the same data.

    Side note: “subjective experiences are mediated by cultural scripts that value literality and objectivity” This sentence is pure brain exercise.

    Sorry. That’s definitely a good critique.

    Hope you enjoy going back to 1857

  3. I got a lot out of this. I did as you suggested and read the article, twice, and then all the comments. The article itself was relatively straightforward, and while I haven’t had the experiences of hanging out on those sites a lot, I was on the debate team in high school, and those arguments were present when I was debating. They still show up in the debate rounds I get roped in to judging occasionally, 20 years later. Straw men are almost a requirement in high school debate, but which straw men people choose is often the most telling. When I was in high school, feminist basics were generally taken for granted. Over the last 5 years, the “beta male” argument has become almost as accepted as the idea that male privilege existed, when I debated.

    When Bond talks about neoliberalism being a given, I think that for all the discussions about feminism, reverse discrimination, spreading logic, all of it presupposes neoliberalism as a given. I had the aha moment, realizing that part of why there ends up being such *passion* regarding *reason* as a worldview, between members and exmos, is that both are trying to use the framework of “reason,” in a place where it isn’t reason that conflicts, the the meta stories that are accepted or rejected. On both sides, it is emotions that are truly the force behind trying to reason with those who do not agree with the choices someone has chosen, through great emotional struggle and turmoil, and (in my opinion ) are looking for validation of their choice, from others that they feel the need to have approval from.

    We recently ran into this with someone who joined the Finding Heavenly Mother Project Facebook group. It is in theory non-denominational, although it was started by me, and Edward who were both raised LDS, and who are currently active in the LDS church. Both of us have shared significant parts of our stories on blogs that are open to the public, and referenced in several places in the group. Edward is gay, and spent significant amounts of time not active and not living the basic standards of the church. I have been active for more of my life, but was excommunicated at one point. It was my choice to allow the excommunication proceedings to happen, and to be rebaptized a year later. Neither of us has done anything to try to hide our past and current circumstances, knowing that many TBM members of the church may be uncomfortable joining a group founded by an incest, rape and ecclesiastical abuse survivor, and a gay man who is in recovery and prays openly to Heavenly Mother, and has shared that in a talk in sacrament meeting.

    We now have over 20 members, about 10-15% of who are members of religions other than LDS, 15%ish members who are Exmos, 15%ish who would fall in a TBM category, and the rest are made up of LDS members who retain affiliation of some sort, or who are investigating the LDS church. The mix has been pretty constant, as more people have joined, with the exception that the fastest growing group is members of a church other than the LDS church, who are interested in Heavenly Mother, and who bring non-LDS views about HM to the discussion. (That was a lot of a set up to get to an incident that I want to talk about, but knowing the group dynamics are important for why to bring it up in the context of Bond’s article.)

    We had a new member, who had left the LDS church about 10 years ago, join the group, and jump into most of the currently active discussions. He talked about having a deep relationship with the Feminine Divine, and that it had changed his life and how he thought about the world. In many of the threads, he immediately started challenging people who also described having close relationships with female diety or HM. He made repeated comments essentially saying that any members of the LDS church would probably be excommunicated for talking openly about Heavenly Mother. He was reminded a number of times that since the September 6, there has not been many, (if any) members excommunicated for talking about a relationship with Heavenly Mother. A number of members and exmos jumped into the fray, defending those who were members, non-members and former members of the church being able to have discussions about Heavenly Mother. In the background, a number of the Exmos in the group approached him individually, trying to tell him that his behavior was hurting the group, and hurting his chances of anyone listening to him. It went on for about a week, resolving in him being banned from the group for 4 weeks, with an invitation to come back, if he feels ready to stop threatening people.

    In talking to a number of members of the group, after he was banned, it was the Exmos who were most clear that he didn’t belong. One specific conversation, with a feminist Exmo, who often is passionate in why others should also leave the church, in a variety of forums, was enlightening for me. She said that she “enters the fray,” when there are rational arguments against something being taught that she feels is harmful. When there is a way to logically deconstruct something, showing the reasons behind something that is harmful, then she is perfectly okay with using logic to destroy someone’s faith in something that is harming them. In the absence of harm that she can prove, which can logically be explained. She thinks that people do have experiences that don’t fit into a rational/critical model, and that trying to use the tools of a critic aren’t appropriate. She doesn’t consider threatening people to be useful as a tool for critics, and actually reveals them as someone not able to apply critical thinking, and instead has simply moved from one all encompassing belief about what is good (all things LDS) to a null position, that all thing not LDS are good, and all things LDS are bad.

    I know this has wandered, but like you, I found many experiences, (this was one of the more straightforward ones) that came to me as I read and reread the article. I have it bookmarked to come back to, with a reminder in my electronic calendar to read it once a month.

  4. Astounding comment, Julia. If I could convince anyone of one thing, this would probably be it:

    On both sides, it is emotions that are truly the force behind trying to reason with those who do not agree with the choices someone has chosen, through great emotional struggle and turmoil, and (in my opinion ) are looking for validation of their choice, from others that they feel the need to have approval from.

    Like, maybe people wouldn’t get it.Maybe people would become defensive at the suggestion…but…I feel like recognizing that one is emotionally seeking validation for one’s choices can be the first step to learning to become independent — no longer needing or perceiving a need for validation. And I mean, I can’t say I’m fully there yet, but I’ve come a long way.

    Your experiences with your FB group mimic mine with the Mormon Hub, although with a few more people ;).

  5. When John H says that in the past, animals and their actions and traits were viewed symbolically, I can’t really “feel” what that would be like…what it would be like to live in a world where that’s credible to you.

    As John H writes, I — as a 21st century guy — am living in a post-enchanted world. In some ways, this is what led me “out” of the church…but in other ways, it’s what keeps me from re-conceptualizing the scriptures as metaphorical. At some level, I think, if this isn’t literally true, then what’s the big deal, even though in general, I value the subjective. (Basically, my subjective experiences are mediated by cultural scripts that value literality and objectivity.)

    I wonder what it would be like to step out of the 21st century mindset of the sterile, post-enchanted world. I know plenty of folks online or offline who have done it, but their stories seem so strange to me. I just don’t grok it.

    Well this might simply be due to your neural wiring, for one. But if not…

    I would say that as long as you conceive the “enchanted” as a sort of subjective mist that only happens in material brains, or is just a lens for human animals to look at the world with, then you will probably never be able to do that, given your personality. It’s not a mode that one “gets” into, because in your mind, there is an objective, material world, and humans interact with it metaphorically/subjectively/enchanted-ly.

    But what if the world is fundamentally metaphorical? Well, I don’t like the word metaphorical. I’ll say, to be 100% precise, what if the world is fundamentally built on immaterial structures, or with immaterial structural components, or is fundamentally mind-like and not matterlike? (You can pick idealism, hylemorphism, substance dualism, panpsychism, Platonism, whatever, since they all work for the discussion at hand.)

    I think this is probably an insurmountable gap between someone who is just atheistic/naturalistic, personality-wise, and someone who is not. The former might try to empathize with the latter by trying to see the world through “enchanted glasses,” or viewing such-and-such Bible story as allegorical and not literal, or trying to equivocate seasons with spirits, etc. But an “enchanted believer” isn’t seeing the world through “enchanted glasses,” the believer thinks the world is fundamentally enchanted. And the believer doesn’t see a difference between allegorical and literal things, because to them an “allegory” is how the objective world points to actual, objective mind-like structures that undergird everything.

    Now believe it or not my personality is quite a bit like yours, I just happened to have been persuaded by the metaphysical arguments of the Scholastic philosophers who thought themselves to death back in those “dark days” Bond alluded to before Descartes and Newton (and as such, I always roll my eyes at suggestions that pre-Enlightened Europe was just stupid people rolling around stupidly in mud until they got plague and died). But I digress, since this wasn’t the point of your post to begin with.

  6. Syphax,

    Well this might simply be due to your neural wiring, for one. But if not…

    on at least some level, I think it could be plausible that it’s my neural wiring, but at the same time, i don’t necessarily buy this. Suppose that I (and by “I”, I mean everything about me physically…body, neurology, etc.,) had been born 300 or 400 years ago, then (assuming I even lived long enough to think about these issues), it seems reasonable to me that I would think and feel differently. I mean, maybe I can’t tell in what ways I would think and feel differently (blasted nature/nurture), but I mean, I also can’t say for certain that I would have all the same religious povs I have now.

    I would say that as long as you conceive the “enchanted” as a sort of subjective mist that only happens in material brains, or is just a lens for human animals to look at the world with, then you will probably never be able to do that, given your personality.

    while I buy that, what I’m asking is more fundamental — why is my personality that which conceives of the enchanted as a sort of subjective mist that only happens in material brains?

    in other words, my argument is that because my personality, the conception of the enchanted as a sort of subjective mist makes the most sense to me. But under what conditions would that have been different? It seems reasonable to me that socialization has something to do with it (hence my suspicion above that if I had lived in another era, my beliefs would be quite different.)

    In other words, let’s take that this basic difference is the difference that matters. So, the question I ask is: why is it that some people see an objective, material world, and other people see a fundamentally enchanted world. (or as you say, a world built on or with immaterial structural components)?

    as you yourself point out, people can be persuaded otherwise, but I mean, scholasticism isn’t necessarily going to do it for everyone. (I mean, even back then…with Renaissance humanism coming along).

  7. First let me say that I generally operate on the idea that classical theism is true, so I don’t have to qualify everything I say with “from my theistic point of view,” etc.

    When I say “neural wiring,” I don’t necessarily mean something that was hard-wired at birth, since neuroplasticity shows that wiring can change. But rather, I mean that your brain might be structured in a certain way that you don’t perceive teleology where others do – whether this was nature or nurture, it doesn’t really matter to my point. I can’t tell the difference between Pepsi and Coke because of my wiring, but I bet if you hooked me up to a battery and shocked me when I guessed wrong, eventually I’d be able to tell the difference.

    Point 2 is that you grew up in a time where God and the Divine are conceived of in warm, fuzzy, familial, social, personal terms – and not just in Mormonism (though it is hyper-amplified in Mormonism). The whole Protestant world is pervaded by a sort of “therapeutic” theistic personalism. My hunch is that those people who aren’t really affected by that sort of view never tap into the Divine these days, while those who really describe themselves as “spiritual” are really hyper-social warm fuzzy types. The Scholastics operated during a time when God was not seen as a person, and only a “father” in an analogical sense – rather he was the “ground of all being” and “purus actus.” This was a time when borderline Asperger’s types like Scotus and Aquinas really thrived with theism.

    Now I don’t really know your personality type, so this is just a guess, but you do seem rather the more thoughtful, analytic type to me. But maybe you’re just a fuzzy teddy bear outside an Internet context as far as I know. Just venturing a guess.

    Oh and PS, as far as Scholasticism goes, the beauty of it is, it’s true/false regardless of whether or not it “does anything for you,” whether you are convinced by the arguments, or whether it improves your life. The Scholastics were right if their arguments were right. One time my brother asked me about Thomistic philosophy, and so I went over some basics, and at the end he just said, “Man, that is just completely unfulfilling to me.” And I was like, facepalm, “Aquinas really, really, really didn’t care if the Truth releases dopamine in your brain – he only cared about being right.” Haha, most of the time these days when people ask about a philosophy they really just want some bumper sticker quote that makes them feel good.

  8. Now I don’t really know your personality type, so this is just a guess, but you do seem rather the more thoughtful, analytic type to me. But maybe you’re just a fuzzy teddy bear outside an Internet context as far as I know. Just venturing a guess.

    Ultimately, after too many discussions/debates where I am the sole person arguing for subjectivity/phenomenology in a crowd of people who (in my opinion) fetishize objectivity, rationality, and so on, I don’t know where to place myself. For example, with your final paragraph:

    One time my brother asked me about Thomistic philosophy, and so I went over some basics, and at the end he just said, “Man, that is just completely unfulfilling to me.” And I was like, facepalm, “Aquinas really, really, really didn’t care if the Truth releases dopamine in your brain – he only cared about being right.” Haha, most of the time these days when people ask about a philosophy they really just want some bumper sticker quote that makes them feel good.

    I think I take an approach closer to your brother’s. At the end of the day, I would like to hope that the things that resonate with me/are fulfilling to me/etc., are truthful…but 1) I recognize that that is not always the case, and 2) I’m going to prioritize resonance over all.

    I mean, I guess I wouldn’t personally put it in terms of what makes me feel good. But I mean, when you say something like, “The Scholastics were right if their arguments were right,” I see “rightness” as a function of being convinced by arguments. If you aren’t convinced by something, then whether it is right is meaningless because you won’t personally see it.

  9. I like the article and the post. Intellectual hubris often masquerades as skepticism. As an identity, it can become deeply negative toward life and other people. I think it breeds a certain hypocrisy similar how religion can.

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