Thursday, January 17, 2008

Rise Above The Dumbosity Of Others

Whenever anyone has offended me, I try to raise my soul so high that the offense cannot reach it.
- Rene Descartes, philosopher and mathematician (1596-1650)

This way of dealing with offences would be very difficult today because so many people act in offensive ways, by intention and by their neglect of commitments they have made.

Developer of the dualistic theory (or philosophy) of mind and matter--everything we know can be designated to one category or the other--Descartes fully believed that more exists than can be attributed to either matter or energy. Science today tries to teach us different from that, claiming that anything beyond matter and energy is pure fantasy or hallucination.

Using this theory of everything that is known, called materialism, science today encourages us to believe that anything that cannot be proven to exist or that at least doesn't have the potential to be proven is nothing more than imagination. That includes the concept of God, which materialists believe is fantasy.

So believers in materialism have created their own god, known to some as manna, to others as money. They believe that any activity that has nothing to do with either the acquisition of money (including investing it) or the spending of money is worthless, time wasted. Money, they claim, has provable value.

One of the key problems of materialists attributing so much to human imagination is that imagination cannot be designated as either energy or matter. Imagination, itself, defies category in materialist terms. So does free will. So do ESP (extra-sensory perception), presentiment, telepathy, premonition, foreboding, precognition, the Evil Eye (some form of which exists in almost every culture on earth) and even the sense of being started at or watched from behind you. An abundance of both carefully conducted scientific experimentation and collected anecdotes exists to prove all of these.

As one Indian materialist scientist told me recently, "I like living in a world where I know that everything can be proven to exist." As I have a great deal of respect for the intellect of this man, I held myself back from telling him that I refused to believe that he exists because he might be nothing more than a fraudulent persona on the Internet.

Sometimes we just have to rise above temptations that will serve no good to engage in. That's the point Descartes was making. Sometimes the issues simply aren't worth the trouble. Often the offender isn't.

To have the ability to detach yourself from the temptation to engage in worthless debate or argument with no possibility of concluding satisfactorily because at least one party persists in intellectual blindness is one clear mark of wisdom.

Refusing to engage in debate or argument where you might lose, but gain knowledge in the process, does not qualify as wisdom. It qualifies as intellectual cowardice.

The world is filled with people who function barely above the level of retardedness. It doesn't need any more people who are reticent about participating in discussion on topics other than work, the weather or sports for fear of being shown up as knowing very little.

It's amazing how much you can learn by losing an argument you thought out well and presented with confidence. Or by listening with a critical ear.

Humankind did not get this far in its evolution by avoiding thinking. Though, to judge by many people we meet each day, you might wonder.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a book about how, when and what to teach children so that they can be lifelong learners who will not step back from fruitful discussion and learning or teaching opportunities.
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