Conceptual Battle

The main philosophical struggle of our times is between two philosophical systems.

One of them is based on the idea that there is an objective reality that exists outside of us. For the religious, it’s God’s law. For the secular, it’s the natural order. Within this conceptual system, human beings must understand this objective reality to the best of their ability and engage with it optimally on the basis of that knowledge. Humans have free will but it’s limited by objective circumstances outside of our control.

The second philosophical system is based on the idea that there is no objective reality outside of human perception. Perception is reality. Everybody has their own truth. Every individual is a law onto himself. “First there was the Word, and the Word was from God, and that God is every human being” is the summary of this system of thought.

We are caught between these battling philosophies of existence. They are completely incompatible because in one of them the source of truth and creation lies outside of our minds and in the other it lies within.


13 thoughts on “Conceptual Battle

  1. “Perception is reality”

    I think that that is about as far from my world view as it’s possible to get…. (I think there is an objective reality that humans can’t perceive completely or reliably all the time…. but we can perceive most of it well enough for almost all practical purposes).

    “Perception is reality” seems like a definition of mental illness to me (unable to distinguish one’s own perceptions from reality or unable to realize there could be a distinction….).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Does seem a bit like treating schizophrenics by telling them that the voices in their heads are not only real, but they’re the most real thing around, and they’d better fall in line with that.


      1. …or telling depressed people that they’re absolutely right, it’ll never get any better and they should just off themselves now and save everybody years of suffering.


    2. When I was teaching my Cervantes class, I ran into the unexpected difficulty of students being unable to let go of the “perception is reality” idea.

      We’d have weird conversations along the lines of:

      “What day is it today?”
      “What if I say it’s Saturday? Does it mean it’s Saturday?”
      “If you really believe it, then it is. For you.”
      “What if I say I’m the President of the US?”
      Giggle giggle.


  2. Just wanted to share that this evening Israel celebrates its 75th Independence Day!

    And my city celebrates this year 140 years from its foundation!

    AND, if the following wasn’t enough, this year my entire family – aunt with her husband and 2 sons + wife of the oldest son + his 5 year old daughter — they came to Israel from Russia, aunt and her spouse came just a few weeks ago. So, not all draft evaders are the same and/or pro-Putin.

    Since I have no kids yet, my mother received at last the possibility to gather a child from a kindergarten and buy her a new princess-like pink dress for the 1st time in her life (happened today).

    In Israel, a day starts in the evening, so now at 19:00 Memorial Day is still going on, but around 20:00 the celebrations will begin!


  3. Those two views are both natural and native to humans. In a healthy culture that second orientation belongs only to small children, and the whole process of growing up is moving from an I am the center of the universe and arbiter of all truth and THAT’S NOT FAIR because it doesn’t look fair TO ME RIGHT NOW that every four-year-old lives and breathes, to a view where I am a small part of a nested collection of larger units: a family, a church, a neighborhood, a city, a civilization, and I have certain responsibilities to all those units to help maintain them for the good of myself and others. I accept limits on myself, for the good of others, and because reality imposes limits, and fighting them is counterproductive. Everything’s a trade-off, and we do a lot of thinking about risk vs. benefit, and opportunity cost.

    As a parent, every day is a struggle to get my kids from view 2 to view 1. No, it’s not OK to only pick up the toys I played with. Why? Because we’re a family, a household, and it doesn’t work in an every-man-for-himself way. That’s dysfunctional in a family. Do I wash only my own laundry, or do I wash yours too? Do I sweep up only the dust particles I tracked in, or do I sweep yours too? Does each person cook his or her own dinner every day? Wash only his own plate? No. Would you want to live in a family where that’s how it worked?

    They get it. In theory. But the IT’S NOT FAIR instinct is strong, and we constantly revisit the problem.

    The libertarian anarcho-capitalist scene is, I think, populated almost entirely with men who never properly learned this at home, and are struggling through a radically overextended childhood. I shouldn’t have to be responsible for any messes I didn’t make. It’s not fair. This is the negative (as in, withdrawing from responsibility) side of failure to integrate an external objective moral reality. “I am not my brother’s keeper”.

    The woke scene is the positive (as in, shoving it onto someone else) side of the same basic failure to grow up and take one’s place in objective reality. “He has more than me. It’s not fair. YOU have to fix it.” These are the kids whose parents had to cut the birthday cake with a ruler to make sure nobody got a bigger piece than their kid. Their moms spent 18+ years picking up after them, and they probably never learned to do laundry. No siblings.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Yep. Even in middle age it’s reflexive. It’s the thing that makes me think of all the reasons I shouldn’t have been ticketed for the traffic violation I definitely committed. Eventually, I work my way around to “I screwed up, and it’s my fault”. But it’s never replaced the original instinct. It’s work to get there. Necessary work.


  4. Clarissa, where does the concepts of “rights” fit in? Other writing on your blog seems to indicate that you are in favor of the concept of rights. But where do these rights come from (and how do you convince someone who isn’t religious)? Or are rights made up, but we support them because we decide that they are good?


  5. I have found that people who insist on their own truth and go on and on about it don’t care at all about the feelings of others.


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