Searching Without/ Searching Within

The lesson mankind should learn, through the lives of the greatest men who have ever lived on this planet, is that knowledge can only be acquired through the inner spirit of man and not through his body, or through matter, or through motion.

Knowledge comes from within, not from without. 

[...] The great lesson for each man to learn from the lives and works of these immortals is that each man's own immortality can be found only by inner thinking, and deep meditation, and deep, wordless spiritual prayer from the heart, and not from the lips.

[Lao Russell]
God Will Work With You But Not For You, p. 82

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Every day we are faced with political decisions; to give money to a beggar, or to not; to smile at the person passing us by, or to keep ourselves to ourselves; to intervene in the scuffle, or to stay out of it. We cannot know the implications of our decisions without giving thought to these moments; without, in fact, building our own philosophy of life - a world view that encompasses all possible political junctures.

We could spend a lifetime working this out. To make an informed decision on everyday situations like these necessitates a certain amount of sustained thought; it may even require insight that is simply beyond our reach; what, after all, are the political implications of acting one way or another? And the moral implications? And how far back do these decisions reach? What do you know about how society works? And the long-sighted implications of your actions, beyond their affects within your own vicinity?

No wonder we rely so much on guidance, on the opinions of others. No wonder we have to trust those that have devoted their lives to thinking these junctures through. In most things we are ignorant, and in most situations we make do with speculation. We cannot know it all; from this realization onwards we are reliant on others, and the perspective and insight they can offer us.

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After pointing out that we must often act upon probabilities that fall short of certainty, he says that the right use of this consideration 'is mutual charity and forebearance.

Since therefore it is unavoidable to the greatest part of men, if not all, to have several opinions, without certain and indubitable proofs of their truth;

and it carries too great an imputation of ignorance, lightness, or folly, for men to quit and renounce their former tenets presently upon the offer of an argument which they cannot immediately answer and show the insufficiency of;

it would, methinks, become all men to maintain peace and the common offices of humanity and friendship in the diversity of opinions, since we cannot reasonably expect that any one should readily and osequiously quit his own opinion, and embrace ours with a blind resignation to an authority which the understanding of man acknowledges not. For, however it may often mistake, it can own no other guide but reason, nor blindly submit to the will and dictates of another.

If he you would bring over to your sentiments be one that examines before he assents, you must give him leave at his leisure to go over the account again, and, recalling what is out of his mind, examine the particulars, to see on which side the advantage lies;

and if he will not think over arguments of weight enough to engage him anew in so much pains, it is but what we do often ourselves in the like case;

and we should take it amiss if others should prescribe to us what points we should study:

and if he be one who wishes to take his opinions upon trust, how can we imagine that he should renounce those tenets which time and custom have so settled in his mind that he thinks them self-evident, and of an unquestionable certainty;

... How can we expect, I say, that opinions thus settled should be given up to the arguments or authority of a stranger or adversary? especially if there be any suspicion of interest or design, as there never fails to be where men find themselves ill treated.

We should do well to commiserate our mutual ignorance, and endeavour to remove it in all the gentle and fair ways of information, and not instantly treat others as ill as obstinate and perverse because they will not renounce their own and receive our opinions, or at least those we would force upon them, when it is more than probable that we are no less obstinate in not embracing some of theirs.

For where is the man that has uncontestable evidence of the truth of all that he holds, or of the falsehood of all that he condemns; or can say, that he has examined to the bottom all his own or other men's opinions?

The necessity of believing without knowledge, nay often upon very slight grounds, in this fleeting state of action and blindness we are in, should make us more busy and careful to inform ourselves than to restrain others ... There is reason to think, that if men were better instructed themselves, they would be less imposing on others.'

[Bertrand Russell]
with quote from John Locke (Essay Concerning Human Understanding, Book IV, chap, xvi, sec. 4.
Found in Russell's, History of Western Philosophy, p. 554-5

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With most people, the power of judgement is present only nominally.

[...] Ordinary minds show, even in the smallest affairs, a want of confidence in their own judgement, just because they know from experience that it is of no use to them. With them prejudice and following the judgement of others take its place.

In this way they are kept in a permanent state of nonage, from which scarcely one in many hundreds is emancipated. Naturally this is not avowed, for even to themselves they seem to judge; yet all the time they are casting a furtive glance at the opinion of others, which remains their secret point of direction.

While any of them would be ashamed to go about in a borrowed coat, hat, or cloak, none of them has anything but borrowed opinions which they eagerly scrape up wherever they can get possession of them; and then they proudly strut around in them, giving them out as their own. Other in turn borrow these opinions from them, and do just the same thing with them.

This explains the rapid and wide dissemination of errors, as well as the fame of what is bad. For the professional purveyors of opinion, such as journalists and the like, as a rule give out only false goods, just as those who hire out fancy dresses give only false jewellery.

[Arthur Schopenhauer]
The World as Will and Representation, Volume II, p.89-90

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i have used both books and the net but now use nothing. i try not to read to much into anyone else's opinions as i feel this could influence me and subsequently set me back. relax in the fact that when you need to know something it will find you. i know that kinda sounds new age hippy like, but it really does happen to me on more occasions than i care to suggest. it always makes me smile now when it happens. the clue to this is to listen to what anyone tells you because sometimes you will be quite generally surprized at 'who knows what' and sometimes information comes in the most obscure ways.

[...] i supppose i simply realised what common sense means, which in return made everything else make sense if that makes sense.

[...] i stopped researching quite sometime ago when i realised the above [...]

[John Harris]
TPUC forum

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External objects present us only with appearances. Concerning them, therefore, we may be said to possess opinion rather than knowledge.

[Plotinus]


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We are literally programmed to rely on others to provide us with information that we cannot get directly for ourselves. We are, therefore, programmed to be open and vulnerable to the reactions of others so that any new information can quickly be absorbed through the emotional brain.

Necessarily and constantly - and unconsciously as well as consciously - we scan the behavioural patterns of others to see what, if anything, is changing.

[Tony Plummer]
The Law of Vibration, p. 84


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Related posts:-
The Middle Path
Dangers of Dogmatism
Why are you so sure?
The Value of Uncertainty
Don't commit to it
Know It All?
Entertaining Ideas
Positive Space
Closing the Book
Nobody knows, and nobody can ever know

3 comments:

  1. ... Derrida's legacy is a demand for continued reflection - the kind of persistent demand to live that a ghost might make to those who outlive him.

    [Shahidha Kazi Bari]
    Naked Punch magazine

    ReplyDelete
  2. The idea that, continued reflection can in some way be living. That you are consistently directing your life; stopping, adjusting course, starting.

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  3. For Shelley, life triumphs only insofar as it exceeds the understanding of all who seek it; it is unlearnable by those who live it and so always yet to be learnt.

    To live, then, is to continue to learn in a world in which claims to knowledge like political ideals, philosophical concepts, and religious beliefs are never secured, but challenged at every turn by a life yet to be learnt.

    The reflective life is one which is constantly learning to live. In Derrida's terms it is a living on - the survival by which one is constantly seeking and failing to learn to live finally.

    Derrida recognises in Shelley's poem an exhortation to a difficult life, where one must live on without any promise of mastery and every possibility of misapprehension, misjudgement, error, flaw and faltering.

    Shelley's conception of an elusive, compelling and unobtainable life becomes a touchstone for Derrida; and his own subsequent conception of 'living on' functions as a shorthand for the acknowledgement of the complexity of a life that is difficult to grasp.

    Most profoundly, this conception of life issues a challenge to the certainty of our claims to knowledge: it tells us that the philosophical precepts we deduce, the religious beliefs we espouse and the political ideals we cling to must be subject to our continued learning about a life that continues to exceed out ability to understand it.

    If we think hard, if we seek out our foundational principles, then it is only because we know that we must be prepared to cede those foundations, and that our critical engagement must remain seeking, hungry and desirous of a kind of foundationalism that can never secure foundations.

    If I am kept alive by my critical thinking, then thinking itself is living - and I live most properly, when I give that life the contour, depth and colour of my continued critical engagement and reflection. The resultant imperative is that one must continue to think, racing after a life that exceeds our ability to know it.

    [Shahidha Kazi Bari]
    'Living On After Derrida', Naked Punch magazine

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