Making Sense of Anything

 

Babies aren’t stupid. They look stupid, but they aren’t. They can start manipulating people around them when only a few days old. The problem babies have is that the world simply produces far too much data, and it takes a person years to figure out how to filter out enough stimulus to be able to accurately use our senses.

As we grow, we keep advancing this skillset. Most highly-productive adults manage precisely because we have trained their minds to ignore or otherwise block out the vast majority of data that our bodies is capable of receiving. Otherwise, we would be as paralyzed as a newborn.

So how do we make sense of it all? Not, as we might like to think, by using cold reason. “Correlation is not causality” is certainly a well-known logical fallacy, but correlation is causality for the vast majority of life experiences, especially for human thoughts, words and emotions that have little or no physical reality. In other words: we adopt or make up stories to make sense of the world.

There is, in human experience, no other way. These stories are not necessarily fairy tales or biblical; stories exist within the Scientific Method and all manners of technical fields as well. Every scientific or engineering model is a story. We need stories to find a way to make sense of all the noise, to separate the important things from the tangential or irrelevant.

Stories, are of course, not true, at least not in any absolute sense. As George Box put it, “All models are wrong but some are useful.” Any story includes or omits some data, at least on the fringes. The prism of our experience, our senses and instruments, as well as our language and culture further narrows down any experience we might have.

The vast majority of people are not remotely self-aware of any of this: data comes in, is filtered more-or-less automatically, and a response is generated. In cultures and societies where original thought is discouraged, it is even less likely that someone will see something differently. People see what they expect to see. And the old adage about hammers and nails continues to be true: if you are holding a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.

This is not necessarily a criticism, of course. To do something very well, we need to be well adapted for a given task. A soccer player or a soldier needs to act quickly and decisively – under stress – in order to be successful. It takes years of training for such an expert to learn not to second-guess themselves.

Those few people who are able to consciously force themselves to mentally take a step back, and examine their assumptions often have to pay a price for this insight: they are invariably not as good at the core skillset, if for no other reason that they lack focus. Innovators are usually not, absent the innovation itself, effective competitors against the status quo. (This is one reason why disruptors are often dismissed out of hand by those who are optimized for the tried-and-true.)

Our stories matter. And, true or not, they are the reality for whomever believes them. There is no way anyone can convince a superstitious person to ignore their superstitions. Religion and science are at least as impervious to logic, and why not? I wrote some years ago on describing a glass that is half full of water:

This is not dissimilar to the question about whether a glass is half full or half empty. Both are objectively true statements, but they may lead to radically different decisions. Someone who chooses to see nature, for example, as beautiful and majestic, is much more likely to go on holiday in the Alps than someone who sees nature as a powerful yet impersonal force, cruelly indifferent to whether someone lives or dies. Both sets of observations are true, but they lead to very different choices.

Indeed, our beliefs allow us to discern patterns, picking them out from an ocean of vast data. Though it may be true that a table is actually almost entirely empty space, only loosely knitted together by atoms that are themselves bonded with spinning and tunneling electrons, nevertheless, for our mundane purposes, the table is a solid and stable surface which we can use. Our beliefs help us make sense of all the data, and to extract what we think we need to know in order to make decisions. We start with our senses, but it is our thoughts, words, and deeds that form the world in which we live.

A glass which is half full may be described as half empty. Or, if one is angry, that same glass might be described as a likely projectile. It could be a useful way to demonstrate refraction or light, or it might be considered as a crude (and perhaps short-lived) hammer. There are, indeed, infinite ways one might tell a story about a glass that is half full of water, and each of these can be true. But none of them can be complete. There is no way, if there are infinite descriptions available, that one could ever encapsulate all of them to give us “true” knowledge of the glass.

With this understanding, it is possible – and certainly highly desirable – for us to tolerate our differences. We don’t have to celebrate them, of course: I am sure that I am right, just as others who disagree with me have no doubt of their own correctness. The key thing is to appreciate that other people can indeed disagree with us without either party being necessarily wrong.

Let me put it another way: there is the old adage of a bunch of blind men surrounding an elephant. They each describe what they are feeling – one a wall, one a column, one a hose, etc. Not one of those blind men is wrong: they are simply connecting with different parts of the same elephant. Different conclusions are not necessarily in conflict with one another.

This is why conservatives and religionists and just about everyone else is making a big mistake when they take refuge in “the facts.” Ronald Reagan once famously said, “You are entitled to your own opinions, but you are not entitled to your own facts.” Ronald Reagan was wrong.

Take a set of data – any data whatsoever. Perhaps, to keep things “objective,” we can use an actual set of numbers: say, for the sake of argument, a chart of the temperature in Boston during the month of August. I hardly need to write anything further to make my case, do I? After all, climate change adherents have already made it for me: mankind cannot even agree on whether or not weather is normal. Statistics do not lie – they tell a story. There is no “objective” way to present data – there are just different ways to make different points.

With the set of temperature data from Boston in August, we could show that temperatures are above, below, or precisely “normal.” By showing extremes rather than averages, we can make one case – and by smoothing the data we can make an opposite case. And that is just with so-called-“objective” numbers!

I have the same problem with any descriptor. What I call “plant food” (CO2) is, in the eyes of climate change adherents, a pollutant. We are both right – CO2 is a necessary and useful feed for plants, but if you think that what mankind does is bad for nature, then CO2 is also a pollutant.

We cannot win when we insist on “the facts.” Facts, like politics, religious beliefs, and schools of scientific thought, are too deeply connected to all the things that we have learned, over the course of a lifetime, to include in our understanding, or filter out as irrelevant to the story we wish to tell.

This is not a flaw in humanity unless we insist on making it one. I think it is actually an endearing feature, and one that anyone who wants to improve the world would do well to understand. Marketing is important because marketing helps change how people think. Assuming that what we are marketing is good – is marketing not a valuable thing to do?

A person’s reality is real for them. My religious belief is as real for me as is the belief of a Muslim or an atheist or a cargo-culter. I cannot deny that a Muslim believes in Allah, with all that comes with that belief, just as I cannot deny the beliefs of a Climate Change-adhering, Gaia-worshipping pagan. It is real for them.

But here is the catch: I do not believe that just because reality is subjective, that what is good or holy is similarly subjective. And what is “good” or “holy” is not measured by defining an underlying reality. To borrow from Matthew 7:16 – they are defined by their fruits – by what they produce.

The beliefs we have should not be measured by their underlying truth (which I believe is unprovable in any case), but by their result. We are very unlikely to change minds based on the assumptions and presuppositions of the people with whom we disagree. People find it extremely difficult to try to erase a lifetime of making the data fit in the stories they use to make sense of the world. Where we can change minds is by comparing the outcomes of the beliefs that people hold. Because while we might not agree on the nature or the name of the Creator of the world, most people can agree that certain outcomes are better than others.

Because I believe that mankind is supposed to improve the world, I am shameless in pointing out that lifespan and wealth and well-being excel in the places where mankind is most encouraged and free to be creative. Liberty should sell because it works, not necessarily because freedom is necessarily “true.”

Which brings me to the question: what promotes liberty? And the answer is as self-serving as they come: American ideals, backed by traditional Judeo-Christian values of hard work and responsibility, and respect for the individual whom we believe is made in the image of G-d. Each man’s life, liberty, and property are necessary (if not sufficient) ingredients for maximizing human creative potential.

For me, both from a historical and a practical perspective, the Torah is the common bedrock for the foundation of liberty. It took thousands of years to mature, but every faith built on different beliefs (and especially the non-faiths that inevitably decay in one form or another of the Law of the Jungle) has fallen fall short of Judaism and Christianity.

Which leads to my specific worldview: I am a libertarian Torah Jew. (It helps that I do not see the Torah as being in conflict with any of the above: the text itself, instead of arguing for some Greek concept of absolute truth, instead shows (and emphasizes) different perspectives on the same events.) For me, freedom and liberty are the keys to the future. But without the underlying text, we lose contact with what is holy and good.

In conclusion: while insisting that we are right and others are wrong is often very satisfying, it is rarely persuasive. (I remember reading once that Muslims in history have only rarely even been the majority population even in their own countries – when “marketing” comes down to “My Deity Says So”, it has already lost most of its audience.)

Instead, we need to help people value what we believe is good and holy: life, creativity, respect, freedom. And we can do that by emphasizing the things that decent people should be able to agree are good: long lifespans, good health, a sense of purpose and fulfillment in each person’s life. We need to tell the stories, celebrating human advancement and goodness. We need to help everyone dream of what they can do. Such a goal helps all of mankind direct our lives toward the holy and the good.

This post was promoted to the Main Feed by a Ricochet Editor at the recommendation of Ricochet members. Like this post? Want to comment? Join Ricochet’s growing community of conservatives and be part of the conversation. Get your first month free.

There are 63 comments.

  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. 3
  1. Member

    I think we may have a fight on our hands.

    Or perhaps the twain shall not meet.

    • #1
    • November 12, 2018, at 7:04 PM PDT
    • Like
  2. Member

    There’s definitely something to all this.

    It’s true that I want to legalize health insurance by repealing Obamacare. it’s also true that I want health insurance companies to be free to deny coverage to people with preexisting conditions.

    But the only reason those two things can both be true is that the truth is that they mean the same thing.

    • #2
    • November 12, 2018, at 7:06 PM PDT
    • Like
  3. Member

    iWe:

    But here is the catch: I do not believe that just because reality is subjective, that what is good or holy is similarly subjective. And what is “good” or “holy” is not measured by defining an underlying reality. To borrow from Matthew 7:16 – they are defined by their fruits – by what they produce.

    The beliefs we have should not be measured by their underlying truth (which I believe is unprovable in any case), but by their result. . . . most people can agree that certain outcomes are better than others.

    “Better” means more good.

    So you think goodness is defined by results, and results are defined by goodness?

    • #3
    • November 12, 2018, at 7:08 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  4. Member

    iWe:

    Let me put it another way: there is the old adage of a bunch of blind men surrounding an elephant. They each describe what they are feeling – one a wall, one a column, one a hose, etc. Not one of those blind men is wrong: they are simply connecting with different parts of the same elephant. Different conclusions are not necessarily in conflict with one another.

    They necessarily are when the conclusion includes a claim of completeness. When one man says the elephant simply is the wall, and another says it is simply a hose, their conclusions contradict.

    • #4
    • November 12, 2018, at 7:10 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  5. Inactive

    Thanks, as ever, @iwe! Believe it or not, I don’t give the Greeks as much credit as you might think. Their tripartite formulation of Good, True, and Beautiful is only so as it relates to G-d, not in and/or of itself. I’m finding that the older I get, the less I know, but what I do know, I’m grateful for: the creating and sustaining Love that is the Ineffable, into which I am encouraged to enter every day, with which I’m required to participate, by virtue of being created in and bearing His image and likeness – in my unique and personal way – sustained by His word (and His Eucharistic Presence, in my faith community) is enough for me. 

    The fatalistic sense of oneself as an object in the hand of G-d (pace al-Ghazali) that stymied science in Islam saddens and angers me, because it leaves people stuck in the past and without hope, in many ways…Anyway, there you have it. :-)

    • #5
    • November 12, 2018, at 7:10 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  6. Member

    iWe:

    A person’s reality is real for them. My religious belief is as real for me as is the belief of a muslim or an atheist or a cargo-culter. I cannot deny that a muslim believes in Allah, with all that comes with that belief, just as I cannot deny the beliefs of a Climate Change-adhering, Gaia-worshipping pagan. It is real for them.

    Bizarre, as usual: No one expects you to deny that people believe what they believe. But people often believe in a reality that exists independently of their belief.

    If you are denying that, then you are denying their beliefs–which of course has nothing at all to do with denying that they believe them.

    Are you denying such a reality? I can’t tell from your writing, but this at least suggests that you do think there is a reality underlying our beliefs, such that some of our beliefs must actually be wrong, although you doubt we can know which ones:

    The beliefs we have should not be measured by their underlying truth (which I believe is unprovable in any case), but by their result.

    If all you’re saying is that our beliefs are their own little realities or that they create their own little realities, I actually tend to agree!

    • #6
    • November 12, 2018, at 7:12 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  7. Thatcher
    She

    iWe: [And, in conclusion] “we need to help people value what we believe is good and holy: life, creativity, respect, freedom. And we can do that by emphasizing the things that decent people should be able to agree are good: long lifespans, good health, a sense of purpose and fulfillment in each person’s life. We need to tell the stories, celebrating human advancement and goodness. We need to help everyone dream of what they can do. Such a goal helps all of mankind direct our lives toward the holy and the good.”

    I don’t agree with every single thing in your post. But I do agree that its outcome, presented as the conclusion, is a desirable result. Which may have been your point. Great post.

    • #7
    • November 12, 2018, at 8:31 PM PDT
    • 7 likes
  8. Member

    She (View Comment):

    iWe: [And, in conclusion] “we need to help people value what we believe is good and holy: life, creativity, respect, freedom. And we can do that by emphasizing the things that decent people should be able to agree are good: long lifespans, good health, a sense of purpose and fulfillment in each person’s life. We need to tell the stories, celebrating human advancement and goodness. We need to help everyone dream of what they can do. Such a goal helps all of mankind direct our lives toward the holy and the good.”

    I don’t agree with every single thing in your post. But I do agree that its outcome, presented as the conclusion, is a desirable result.

    Yes!

    • #8
    • November 12, 2018, at 8:47 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  9. Member

    iWe: Instead, we need to help people value what we believe is good and holy: life, creativity, respect, freedom. And we can do that by emphasizing the things that decent people should be able to agree are good: long lifespans, good health, a sense of purpose and fulfillment in each person’s life. We need to tell the stories, celebrating human advancement and goodness. We need to help everyone dream of what they can do. Such a goal helps all of mankind direct our lives toward the holy and the good.

    I love this.

    • #9
    • November 12, 2018, at 9:37 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  10. Reagan
    iWe Post author

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):
    So you think goodness is defined by results, and results are defined by goodness?

    No.

    But I think that in order to change other people’s minds, appealing to results (like Venezuela) is more likely to succeed than appealing to what we think is an underlying fact (capitalism is more respectful and loving than socialism).

    • #10
    • November 13, 2018, at 2:55 AM PDT
    • 6 likes
  11. Reagan
    iWe Post author

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    iWe:

    Let me put it another way: there is the old adage of a bunch of blind men surrounding an elephant. They each describe what they are feeling – one a wall, one a column, one a hose, etc. Not one of those blind men is wrong: they are simply connecting with different parts of the same elephant. Different conclusions are not necessarily in conflict with one another.

    They necessarily are when the conclusion includes a claim of completeness. When one man says the elephant simply is the wall, and another says it is simply a hose, their conclusions contradict.

    Right you are. Which is why the religious tolerance of the United States is so exceptional, amazing, and precious.

    We all think we have a pretty complete grasp, and that others who disagree are completely wrong. Of course we do. My point is that it is both good helpful and desirable to allow for the possibility that we are each right about what we believe, and still not in conflict with those who believe differently. That is only possible when people are not insecure about their own beliefs.

    • #11
    • November 13, 2018, at 2:58 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  12. Reagan
    iWe Post author

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):
    If all you’re saying is that our beliefs are their own little realities or that they create their own little realities, I actually tend to agree!

    Excellent!

    • #12
    • November 13, 2018, at 2:59 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  13. Reagan
    iWe Post author

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    No one expects you to deny that people believe what they believe. But people often believe in a reality that exists independently of their belief.

    That they do. I view the belief in an underlying objective reality to be a religion in itself, being no more provable or disprovable than any other faith.

    If you are denying that, then you are denying their beliefs–which of course has nothing at all to do with denying that they believe them.

    I am quite comfortable, as my post suggests, with recognizing that other people have their own realities, without accepting that their realities are somehow more correct than mine.

    you do think there is a reality underlying our beliefs, such that some of our beliefs must actually be wrong, although you doubt we can know which ones:

    I don’t doubt that we can sort out beliefs as being more correct or less correct. But my faith relies on the Torah as its touchstone. YMMV. And it is right that it should. If your belief system relies on different authorities than mine, then you should have different conclusions.

     

    • #13
    • November 13, 2018, at 3:04 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  14. Member

    iWe (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    No one expects you to deny that people believe what they believe. But people often believe in a reality that exists independently of their belief.

    That they do. I view the belief in an underlying objective reality to be a religion in itself, being no more provable or disprovable than any other faith.

    If you are denying that, then you are denying their beliefs–which of course has nothing at all to do with denying that they believe them.

    I am quite comfortable, as my post suggests, with recognizing that other people have their own realities, without accepting that their realities are somehow more correct than mine.

    Still unclear. You talking about the little realities made by their beliefs or the reality they believe in? And are you denying that one?

    But my faith relies on the Torah as its touchstone. YMMV. And it is right that it should. If your belief system relies on different authorities than mine, then you should have different conclusions.

    Do I need to tell you again that I am a Christian and that Christian theology recognizes the Torah as the very Word of G-d? Mileage doesn’t vary on that except for Karl Barth, his small band of followers, and outright heretics.

    If you mean that I–recognizing the Writings, Prophets, and New Testament as authorities,–have some extra conclusions, then of course you are correct.

    • #14
    • November 13, 2018, at 3:33 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  15. Member

    iWe (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    iWe:

    Let me put it another way: there is the old adage of a bunch of blind men surrounding an elephant. They each describe what they are feeling – one a wall, one a column, one a hose, etc. Not one of those blind men is wrong: they are simply connecting with different parts of the same elephant. Different conclusions are not necessarily in conflict with one another.

    They necessarily are when the conclusion includes a claim of completeness. When one man says the elephant simply is the wall, and another says it is simply a hose, their conclusions contradict.

    Right you are. Which is why the religious tolerance of the United States is so exceptional, amazing, and precious.

    We all think we have a pretty complete grasp, and that others who disagree are completely wrong. Of course we do. My point is that it is both good helpful and desirable to allow for the possibility that we are each right about what we believe, and still not in conflict with those who believe differently. That is only possible when people are not insecure about their own beliefs.

    Still unclear.

    Not in physical conflict? Then right you are!

    Not in logical conflict? Then you are in logical conflict with me, with many others, and indeed with own remarks in this very comment.

    • #15
    • November 13, 2018, at 3:35 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  16. Member

    iWe (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):
    So you think goodness is defined by results, and results are defined by goodness?

    No.

    But I think that in order to change other people’s minds, appealing to results (like Venezuela) is more likely to succeed that appealing to what we think is true (capitalism is more respectful and loving than socialism).

    Well, that’s good.

    But you plainly said in the OP that goodness is defined by results, and then you said that we evaluate results by their degree of goodness.

    • #16
    • November 13, 2018, at 3:35 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  17. Member

    Good discussion. Within this complexity there is such a thing as truth and it is crucial to insist on it. Moderns assert that there is no truth only perspective and it is easy to take your discussion of our limited understanding and our need for stories and narratives to make sense of life’s complexities in a nihilist direction. Modern nihilists choose to replace complexity, emergent understanding, and the human search for meaning with dominant narratives which serve immediate ends of those who wield them and which are at best tiny pieces of emergent understanding. This is why literature, history, the history of thought broadly understood and widely read, and our Torah’s and Bibles are so essential to make sense of the world and cannot be replaced with scientism, nor sweeping modern social sciences, or any single one dimensional narrative whether purportedly based on reason or broad intellectual consensus. 

    • #17
    • November 13, 2018, at 4:25 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  18. Reagan
    iWe Post author

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):
    But you plainly said in the OP that goodness is defined by results,

    Not exactly. I do not believe that things are inherently good or bad – things are good or bad based on what we choose to do.

    and then you said that we evaluate results by their degree of goodness.

    We are in a marketing campaign for the minds of the world. Even though my truth is different than yours, if we can agree to market a more-or-less-shared vision of what is good or holy, then we stand a better chance of winning.

     

    • #18
    • November 13, 2018, at 4:52 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  19. Reagan
    iWe Post author

    I Walton (View Comment):
    Within this complexity there is such a thing as truth and it is crucial to insist on it

    I do not think that there is such a thing as an objective physical reality. And even within the physical realm, the things that actually matter – words, ideas, thoughts, concepts of holiness or goodness, etc. have little or no tangible existence at all. So maybe you are speaking of “Truth” as a corpus of ideas?

    “Truth” in the Torah is used to mean something like “good faith.” It does not speak to underlying immutable Truth as per the Greek definition.

    How would you define Truth?

    • #19
    • November 13, 2018, at 4:56 AM PDT
    • Like
  20. Member

    iWe (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):
    But you plainly said in the OP that goodness is defined by results,

    Not exactly. I do not believe that things are inherently good or bad – things are good or bad based on what we choose to do.

    So you renounce your remark in the OP? What am I to make of this?

    Even though my truth is different than yours, if we can agree to market a more-or-less-shared vision of what is good or holy, then we stand a better chance of winning.

    I’ll take the second clause! But talk of my truth and your truth is nonsense unless we’re both talking about those little realities and only those.

    • #20
    • November 13, 2018, at 5:29 AM PDT
    • Like
  21. Member

    iWe (View Comment):
    I do not think that there is such a thing as an objective physical reality.

    Your results based arguments would fail to persuade new comers in a non-objective world. Consequentialist arguments by definition rely upon shared, an objective, value of what is a good or bad result. So your very synthesis here on this post is contradictory. If people can live in their own realities with nothing objective then there should be no means by which to convince them that some phenomena is better than another because none of them should have the same criteria. If you want your consequentialism you are gonna need that big bad Greek conception of truth.

    • #21
    • November 13, 2018, at 5:32 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  22. Member

    iWe (View Comment):
    “Truth” in the Torah is used to mean something like “good faith.” It does not speak to underlying immutable Truth as per the Greek definition.

    Then, plainly, it denotes a property of persons, much like our English phrase “faithful and true.”

    I Walton seems to have been talking of truth as a property of beliefs or statements. To answer with some observation on a word used of persons is to commit the logical fallacy of equivocation–or at least to miss the point.

    • #22
    • November 13, 2018, at 5:38 AM PDT
    • Like
  23. Member

    Could Be Anyone (View Comment):

    iWe (View Comment):
    I do not think that there is such a thing as an objective physical reality.

    Your results based arguments would fail to persuade new comers in a non-objective world. Consequentialist arguments by definition rely upon shared, an objective, value of what is a good or bad result. So your very synthesis here on this post is contradictory. If people can live in their own realities with nothing objective then there should be no means by which to convince them that some phenomena is better than another because none of them should have the same criteria. If you want your consequentialism you are gonna need that big bad Greek conception of truth.

    An objective conception, at least. Whether it would have to be immutable and whether it is properly called Greek are, it seems to me, beside the point.

    • #23
    • November 13, 2018, at 5:40 AM PDT
    • Like
  24. Member

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    An objective conception, at least. Whether it would have to be immutable and whether it is properly called Greek are, it seems to me, beside the point.

    It would need to be universal among humans at the least. I just mentioned Greek because iWe was criticizing objectivity as a “Greek” concept in the OP.

    • #24
    • November 13, 2018, at 5:59 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  25. Reagan
    iWe Post author

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):
    Saint Augustine  

    iWe (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):
    But you plainly said in the OP that goodness is defined by results,

    Not exactly. I do not believe that things are inherently good or bad – things are good or bad based on what we choose to do.

    So you renounce your remark in the OP? What am I to make of this?

    Make it easier for me. Quote what I actually said?

    • #25
    • November 13, 2018, at 6:30 AM PDT
    • Like
  26. Reagan
    iWe Post author

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):
    But talk of my truth and your truth is nonsense unless we’re both talking about those little realities and only those.

    Not to me.

    I don’t consider a person’s reality “little”. Each person is their own world.

    • #26
    • November 13, 2018, at 6:31 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  27. Reagan
    iWe Post author

    Could Be Anyone (View Comment):
    Consequentialist arguments by definition rely upon shared, an objective, value of what is a good or bad result. So your very synthesis here on this post is contradictory.

    I chose my words carefully. Specifically:

    Because while we might not agree on the nature or the name of the Creator of the world, most people can agree that certain outcomes are better than others.

    No contradiction. You may be a Christian. I may be a Jew. But we can both agree that a civilization that respects individual liberty and has doctors and schools is better than a population lacking these things.

    • #27
    • November 13, 2018, at 6:33 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  28. Reagan
    iWe Post author

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):
    Saint Augustine  

    iWe (View Comment):
    “Truth” in the Torah is used to mean something like “good faith.” It does not speak to underlying immutable Truth as per the Greek definition.

    Then, plainly, it denotes a property of persons, much like our English phrase “faithful and true.”

    No. At its heart, “truth” is a verb speaking to good faith, not a noun speaking to underlying reality.

    • #28
    • November 13, 2018, at 6:35 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  29. Reagan
    iWe Post author

    Could Be Anyone (View Comment):
    If people can live in their own realities with nothing objective then there should be no means by which to convince them that some phenomena is better than another because none of them should have the same criteria.

    We may not share precisely the same specific criteria, but we certainly can share general trends.

    We have different conceptions of G-d, just as we have different marriages. But we can both value love and acts of kindness.

    • #29
    • November 13, 2018, at 6:39 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  30. Member

    iWe (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):
    Saint Augustine

    iWe (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):
    But you plainly said in the OP that goodness is defined by results,

    Not exactly. I do not believe that things are inherently good or bad – things are good or bad based on what we choose to do.

    So you renounce your remark in the OP? What am I to make of this?

    Make it easier for me. Quote what I actually said?

    did. I was talking about what you said, and I quoted it. You should have noticed.

    In any case, here is the quote again:

     

    iWe:

    And what is “good” or “holy” is not measured by defining an underlying reality. To borrow from Matthew 7:16 – they are defined by their fruits – by what they produce.

    • #30
    • November 13, 2018, at 7:09 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. 3