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The Meaning Of Ignorance

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Posted by Harvey on April 30, 2002 12:23:42 UTC

Hi Yasir,

***All I meant when I said that I liked 'ignorance' was that we find people in the world living in an influence of an astonishing variety of philosophies and thinking themselves to be doing the absolutely correct things. They die doing that and they never know.***

In my view, there's different kinds of ignorance. You have an ignorance that is attributed to mere lack of knowing (e.g., I am ignorant on submarine navigation). You also have an ignorance that comes about even after someone has been shown to be in error (and, of course, there are other types of ignorances). Some types of ignorance are acceptable (e.g., lacking knowledge on how to navigate a sub), and other types are unacceptable (e.g., many instances where some are obtuse).

***Say, for example, my father who is a staunch Muslim. He has lead his whole serving the causes of a religion which he never questioned. He just never thaught that why he always knew so surely that 'Islam' provided the finest path to live and why he always knew that he had a purpose.***

Your father is (was?) a wise man. By living a meaningful and passionate existence with a belief in something Greater than yourself, you are able to find a great deal of meaning in life. Meaning is something that humans need. Without meaning our lives become pointless and depressing. The onset of depression is often caused by a lack of meaning in one's life. Many people will even suffer from boredom, and this too is often a lack of meaning in a particular situation. The whole thrust of competitive sports (e.g., playoffs) is often to obtain this ethereal meaning in one's life.

Unfortunately the pursuit of meaning can come at too high a price. War is often a result of our human need for meaning. Human pursuit for meaning is just as much influenced in a positive manner as a negative manner. This is why, I suspect, that 'ignorance' can have the obtuse characteristics that often spills over into hideous actions. What we hold as meaningful can overlook or ignore educational efforts, thus leading to persistent problems.

In the case of theism, a great deal of meaning is found. One's whole life can be filled with so much meaning (e.g., God is all around us) that it is unquestionably one of the more metaphysical beliefs for most people. It would probably be completely universal if it didn't have an apparent confliction with other meaningful belief systems (e.g., science). Without an apparent resolution to this conflict, humans become confused and feel that they must make a choice between God and science. Agnosticism and atheism are often the result.

***On the other hand, we know that there is no meaningful purpose to our existence (or atleast I think that way).***

Be careful of using the word 'know' when referencing metaphysical concepts. I think what you mean to say is that you cannot reconcile the meaning found in God with the meaning you find in science, therefore you elect to reject the 'meaningful life' sponsored by most religions. The question is why? To reject meaning of one's life in the manner that theism provides, would require a great deal of conviction on certain matters. I say that because theistic meaning is quite intense given the nearly universal belief in a Deity witnessed around the world. Given the society in which you live Yasir, the conviction on your part to reject that meaning must even be more so. You live in a society and family history that fosters a great deal of love for the theistic ideals, whereas in Russia where Alexander had lived, they did not. You can understand an individual like Alex whose society was constructed around the elimination of meaning found in religion and replacing it with meaning found in a communist society.

At basis, there must be some 'facts' that you consider as sufficient to counteract all of these other pressures for you to believe in theistic meaning. I would like to know what you think those are. I wonder if you have really considered the reasons to reject the interpretation that you've elected.

***But, if my father thinks the way he does, his approach doesn't make him an evil man as we must remember that there are no absolutes.***

I think this is a dangerous belief (held by countless number of humanists). First off, it already turns the tide against those who hold to 'absolutes' while using absolutist language (i.e., relativism is absolute). Secondly, it fails to consider that there are universal beliefs held by all human societies that are needed in order for society to function. For example, you can't have a society that allows shoplifting. If we had such tolerances, then it would be impossible for shops to function, and hence economic prosperity would be undermined. Using these basic requirements to society, we can already see an absolute-oriented morality emerge from a purely pragmatic perspective. Although there are wide differences in the world, the world is not as different as would be the case if there were no pragmatic absolutes.

These pragmatic absolutes are the core of our society. They also are the building blocks to a future society which can eliminate war and conflict. By developing common economic, political, religious, and social systems, humans will eventually (if we don't destroy ourselves first) develop a society where there is no war, and there is only further expansion into space.

Part of that future requires that humanity build upon a common religious view of the world. That doesn't mean that the world religions will disappear, it only means that the structure of each religion incorporates very similar shared ideologies. One vital element to that share vision is theistic meaning. Humans have traditionally not responded well to secular conceptions of meaning. A secular society can stimulate meaning (e.g., what Russia tried in its educational system) but it doesn't work. To provide the kind of meaning needed for society, a secular society should provide some intense purpose that drives society. However, this is mixing Church and State, and history has shown that this doesn't work. Secular society could revise the current 'Church' system with a new secular vision, but atheists don't go to church. So I don't see any hope for a secular society that doesn't provide meaning to its citizens.

***So, that implies that 'ignorance' (defined earlier) is no 'evil' in the traditional sense.***

Anything that doesn't move society forward to a point that aids in human survival must be seen as ignorance. If this implies that a secular perspective is ultimately ignorant, then it must be avoided at all costs.

Warm regards, Harv

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