Saturday, February 21, 2009

Objectivism's Benefit for Me #2

In my last post I indicated that my new world view contained no more unknowables. So, it probably should have occurred to me that since I no longer had to deal with a partially unknowable universe, I no longer needed the mental process of believing things to be true on faith, I could now enjoy the comfort of knowing something to be true or false based on at least some evidence.

But this did not occur to me. As I continued to study Objectivism I learned that I had adopted from the culture around me certain conceptual confusions. Two of these stood as barriers to my clear understanding of this knowable world: the difference between knowing vs believing and faith vs confidence.

For now, I'll just focus on knowing vs believing even though a precise understanding of faith vs confidence is also involved.

To know something to be true in a knowable reality, there must be at least some evidence for it in that reality. For example, I see the table, touch the table, put my glass on the table. The table exists. I don't believe the table exists. I know it does. To know something then requires evidence. Believing on faith does not require evidence.

Yet despite this clear identification, I still hear people using the terms interchangeably as if they meant the same thing. For example, 'I know the planets revolve around the sun', 'I believe the planets revolve around the sun.' But this shouldn't be so. Words have meanings. Objectivism holds that reality is very precise. This means then that our knowledge of reality, to be true, that is, correspond to reality, must therefore also be precise. So if I'm dealing with a precisely knowable reality, it makes no sense to adopt a method of thinking that includes believing on faith. To do so would be to ignore reality. Ignoring reality for any organism is suicidal.

So I have spent the better part of recent years identifying then purging beliefs from my world view. I now try to deal only with knowledge that can be placed in file folders labeled 'possible', 'probable' or 'certain' all of which require evidence.

Objectivism benefit #2 then is a mental process of reason devoted to knowing reality. Let me add that it's been my experience that the more one uses one's mind to understand reality, the better at it one becomes and that provides its own comfort zone known as self confidence. Thoughts on that in the next post.
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