"Relativistic Considerations" copyright 2002 by David G. McDivitt, all rights reserved
I admit I am still affected adversely by religion. Upon hearing it, I still have occasional thoughts of reverence which I must turn off. Does not take me long! When I hear or think of it sometimes a part of me still assumes the posture, and I see myself doing that. I am not critical of myself. I do not hate it. I just think it's strange.
For a long time I did not like to hear or read crude representations of religion. A part of me must still have been sensitive to god. Now I don't care. It seems the different memories must come out and be challenged individually. Upon becoming an atheist, one would think the entire set of religious experiences could be discounted at once, but it doesn't work that way.
Some people don't care one way or the other about religion. They may or may not accept the idea god exists but attach no great significance to it. They don't know why a big deal is made about beliefs. It would seem a person once religious, whether or not still religious, is permanently scarred. It is the way one learns to participate in the intellectual sphere; naming things, objectifying things, identifying things. Identification is important because authority works through the process of identification, and subsequent assignment of blame or consequence. It is a learned fascination and romance with authority.
One day I realized everything I saw in the room was the definition of something, and without knowledge and experience of definitions nothing in the room would have meaning to me. Instead of physical items what I saw was an intellectual panorama. The temporal nature of life, knowledge, and even myself became so apparent. I wondered if this view was too radical. Was I becoming too detached? But in examining history I saw all knowledge to be based solely on arbitrary decisions, opinions, and values, and each won approval for whatever reason. So yes, I had a radical view, but it was not one I could rationalize away. It took me three or four days getting used to my new perspective, seeing everything as an intellectualization.
For instance one might see a car crash. But where does the crash occur? It occurs in the mind! It is in the mind that pieces are put together so it can be labeled a car crash. There are car crashes all over the world. Why do we not pay attention to them? We see an event to which we arbitrarily attribute the distinction of being violent, painful, and destructive. The distinction may be justified, but we still make that distinction. It is a part of the culture we live in. I am not saying we can or should fully remove ourselves from culture, or cease participating in intellectually determined events, but knowing the extent to which life as we know it is an intellectual experience, has great worth in my opinion. I give this example in advance of someone chiding me to walk in front of a car which I say only represents intellectualism.
I was set on this course some time ago when debating an ontologist. He said he believed in god, but also said that belief had no bearing on his metaphysical views. He said his views were based on science. He often made statements about existence, the supposed set of things which already exist, and the process of discovery of those things. The more he talked the more ridiculous he sounded. How could so many a priori assumptions be made and still be called logic? Despite his authoritative and educated speech, I decided I would prove him wrong. Yes, I did prove him wrong. We are not out "discovering" an inventory of however many physical objects. We are manufacturing knowledge and making up definitions as we go along. Whatever knowledge is functional and survivable we continue to use
Little did I know my challenge to ontology would lead me down a path of radical relativism and epistemology. I challenge those arguing against relativism to see their debate as one over values, only, and not relativism. They see some values as important and wish not to cede away those values. To them, accepting truth as arbitrary or evolved means they must concede values are arbitrary or evolved as well. So, let's go ahead and have some values! Have I ever said people cannot or should not have values? The reason we have any knowledge at all is because we value it, and do we not value individual premises as we come up with them? I'm sorry. Just because the creation of knowledge becomes accelerated at times, being very difficult to keep up with, does not mean a person can arbitrarily slow things down by posturing realism or ontology. Read faster. Read more. Admit you do not and cannot know everything. Admit the universe is not necessarily under the control of anyone or anything, namely god.
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