Philosophy - Part 22 - Orthodoxy and Heresy


Philosophy - Part 22 - Orthodoxy and Heresy - by P.K.Odendaal - September 2012 

This piece is also known as the forces of man, in contrast to my previous article on the forces of God - see part 8. The forces of man are orthodoxy, heresy, rationalism, empiricism, induction, determinism and materialism.
I will try to define them as well I can.
Rationalism - the explanation of things in terms of our reason or our worldview.
Empiricism - the explanation of things in terms of our experimentation results, without an accepted theory. It is the notion that similar experiments will yield similar results, even if we do not know what the reason for that is.
Induction - the explanation of things in terms of their outcome in previous similar circumstances and conditions and extrapolating them into unknown areas. If we say one plus one is two, then we can safely assume that two plus two is four.

Determinism - the explanation of things in terms of widely held axioms. If we travel twice the speed it will only take half the time. Every similar cause has a similar effect, and every cause has an effect. Everything which happens, has a reason for happening due to some previous cause. Nothing 'just' happens.
Materialism  - no, it's not the love of money, it is the notion that only concrete or material things exist in reality, and that consciousness, thought and spiritual manifestations do not exist.
Orthodoxy - it is the notion that conventional wisdom is right.
Heresy - it is the opposite of orthodoxy. 

These seven forces drive our daily lives, our thoughts, our attitudes, our discussions, our conflicts, our notions, our strategies, our plans and our aspirations. They are not really forces, but then ... what is a force in any case? A force is just as haphazardly and subjectively defined as I have defined the individual items above. There is no one agreed definition of any of them - and that makes them so interesting. Just the fact that they are not properly defined made them the subject of philosophy for over two centuries. Once anyone of these forces became more clearly defined, the philosophy about its existence suddenly disappeared - and that is why something like existentialism is not talked about anymore - we found out what it was and that it was unattainable and fatalistic.
Just to write about these seven forces will take some people seven books, so how will I ever succeed in giving them their rightful place in this articles? I will try to crystallise the main aspects, have new insights and expose new truths - which is called heresy. Even then it will only be a typical philosophical article - saying a lot and meaning little - and more importantly, missing the point - which is called orthodoxy.
For rationalism, we may hypothesize a rational man making rational decisions. Decisions we all would make in similar circumstances, if we only consult our brains or our friends, or apply our minds. We all know what this is, or ought to be, and we also know it is a pipe dream - there is no rational man, as people take decisions based on their irrational emotions. But, still there is such a process of rational thought. People, like myself, who have been trained in Mathematics and Science solve problems by proceeding along a path of rational thought, using axioms or proven theories, to arrive at solutions. So in this respect there is a model of rational thought processes, and many of these are used in other disciplines quite successfully.
However, the field of rational thought processes are very limited, due to our limited knowledge of the fundamentals, derivatives and abstractions of these. If only rational thought is used to solve problems or explain our lives, we find that they are limited. In the field of social interaction it is even more useless. There are people who are ruled by the minds, and others by their hearts, and no one of these groups are quite sure how and why they are ruled.
That is the dilemma of rationalism. We know and understand too little to apply it as a life philosophy. As soon as we delve deeper into it, it disappoints us and leaves us in the cold, having transformed itself, unbeknownst to us, into another philosophy like materialism, empiricism or induction.
Materialism (and its sleeping partners, Determinism) is the notion that all things are material, that nothing can exist which is not material, and that things that are not material are all figments of the mind. That all things are subject to the law of cause and effect and free will plays no part in this. Material is known to disappear as such at the speed of light. So there cannot be any talk of a meta physical world, consciousness, the soul, spirituality, telepathy, the afterlife or emotion. This is in fact a closed and bounded loop, no matter what its size, as it excludes from our world the major part. It prevents us from investigating anything further, because experiments and phenomena in the meta-physical world are presently not repeatable, as conditions in that world cannot be rigorously repeated.
It is much like some scientists operate. They are prepared to know anything about  a very small field, but ignores the mysteries and challenges out there where they cannot speak with authority or measure with accuracy - like a man in his own house, ignoring the world outside. He knows exactly what is in his house and how it works, but who cares?
The example I wish to use, is the one used by G.K.Chesterton in his book 'Orthodoxy', written about one hundred years ago and still as valid as it was when it was written - I cannot say it better :
It is amusing to notice that many of the moderns, whether sceptics or mystics, have taken as their sign a certain eastern symbol, which is the very symbol of the ultimate nullity. When they wish to represent eternity, they represent it by a serpent with his tail in his mouth (∞). There is a startling sarcasm in the image of that very unsatisfactory meal. The eternity of the material fatalists, the eastern pessimists, the supercilious theosophists and higher scientists of today is, indeed, very well presented by a serpent eating his tail, a degraded animal who destroys even himself.
Spiritual doctrines do not actually limit the mind as do materialistic denials. Even if I believe in immortality I need not think about it. But if I disbelieve in immortality I must not think about it. For instance, when materialism leads men to complete fatalism (as it generally does), it is quite idle to pretend that it is in any sense a liberating force. It is absurd to say that you are especially advancing freedom when you only use free thought to destroy free will. The determinists come to bind, not to loosen. They may well call their law the 'chain' of causation. It is the worst chain that ever fettered a human being. You may use the language of liberty, if you like, about materialistic teaching, but it is obvious that this is just as inapplicable to it as a whole, as the same language when applied to a man locked up in a madhouse. You may say, if you like, that the man is free to think  himself a poached egg. But it is surely a much more massive and important fact that if he is a poached egg, he is not free to eat, sleep drink, walk or smoke a cigarette. Similarly you may say, if you like, that the bold determinist speculator is free to disbelieve in the reality of the will. But it is a much more massive and important fact that he is not free to raise, to curse, to thank, to justify, to urge, to punish, to resist temptation, to incite mobs, to make New year resolutions, to pardon sinners, to rebuke tyrants, or even to say 'thank you' for the mustard.
As we have taken the circle as a symbol of reason and madness, we may very well take the cross as the symbol at once of mystery, and of health. Buddhism is centripetal, but Christianity is centrifugal: it breaks out. For the circle is perfect and infinite in its nature, but it is fixed for ever in its size; it can never be larger or smaller. But the cross, though it has at its heart a collision and a contradiction, can extend its four arms for ever without altering its shape. Because it has a paradox in its centre, it can grow without changing. The circle returns upon itself and is bound. The cross opens its arms to the four winds; it is a signpost for free travellers.
I have written a whole article on Induction and will not repeat it here. You can read it here :

Empiricism is a theory of knowledge that asserts that knowledge comes only or primarily from sensory experience. One of several views of epistemology, the study of human knowledge, along with rationalism, idealism, and historicism, empiricism emphasizes the role of experience and evidence, especially sensory perception, in the formation of ideas, over the notion of innate ideas or traditions; empiricists may argue however that traditions (or customs) arise due to relations of previous sense experiences.
Empiricism in the philosophy of science emphasizes evidence, especially as discovered in experiments. It is a fundamental part of the scientific method that all hypotheses and theories must be tested against observations of the natural world rather than resting solely on a priori reasoning, intuition, or revelation. 

In which of these do I believe? In none of them of course. We cannot live a life of fulfillment, happiness, meaning, expectation, excitement, confusion, doubt and fantasy, if we do not believe in all the above forces and balance them in our lives.

 

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