Ignorance & Agnosticism

Sunday, 3 April 2011

There isn’t a lot of difference between the root meanings of ignorant and agnostic; but there is a vast difference in their modern connotations. Ignorance is essentially the result of holding a point of view due to lack of facts or a reasonable thought process. For the most part, it is a passive situation. We are, by nature, ignorant. At some point in our development as people, we reach a place where we have a choice to remain ignorant or to educate ourselves on a given topic. Since education is always a difficult task, it’s often easier to remain ignorant, and mask that ignorance by accepting whatever position appeals most uniquely to ourselves and then sounding authoritative about it.

Agnosticism is a bit of a different beast. I can see two ways of defining agnosticism, but they both have the same result. The first angle is the result of having plenty of facts about a certain topic, but when applying reason to those facts, there is insufficient evidence to meet the standards of reason set by the mind trying to make that judgment call. The result is abstention from making a decision. The second angle is a bit broader in its application and effects. It probably shouldn’t even be called agnosticism, but I can’t think of another word that fits. It is a general principle of which any fact-gathering and subsequent decision is a specific case.

What I’m trying to say is that once someone has chosen to educate themselves, and if they do so agnostically (gathering facts but making no judgment), at some point it is possible to be agnostic about any topic on which you are ignorant. Once you’ve come to the conclusion that you’re agnostic about a few things, you can start to assume agnosticism about any topic instead of ignorance.

Here’s a specific case:

I went to the shooting range with some coworkers today. I hadn’t used a firearm in over 20 years, and throughout my life those closest to me have had ignorant views regarding firearms. Guns are bad, full stop. I could have chosen to accept that for a variety of reasons, but my knowledge didn’t meet the standard for me to make that decision. So, I remained agnostic about guns. I needed more information, so I went to the shooting range with my coworkers and learned more. I’m still agnostic right now, or rather, I still haven’t fully thought through my feelings on the matter.

By recognizing my ignorance, I was able to turn it into agnosticism. I will make no judgment until I feel that I know enough to do so.

Agnosticism is basically the stance of open-mindedness. It is capable of seeing both sides and none, is sympathetic, empathetic and the inherently most respectful position to take on a topic where one is not an expert. It is hard to be an agnostic though; especially in regards to religion. You get caught between the mystics (like myself and other believers) and the skeptics. So it goes for religion, and so it goes for any other topic.

Fidelity to your own standard of truth is hard to hold on to when you’re a big hairless monkey that like to convince and be convinced with all the other hairless monkeys in your world.

Know Nothings

Sunday, 29 June 2003

Bear with me here, please.

After brief conscious mastication, followed by a long boil in the subsconscious, and another bout of conscious banging my head against this thread [and accompanying article], these are what I think about some stuff.

We always know nothing. [Yes, that contradicts itself, as do most of my navel-gazings].

Here we go.

What started me off was this statement by one Ryvar:

It’s important for people to realize that all of the experiential processes you have within the course of a day or year can be explained while accepting that there is no mystical component to consciousness.

Now, I disagree with this quite a lot, but I’ve noticed when disagreements arise it is usually the result of a fallacy in a higher order of thought on the part of all parties, so after I gnawed on this for a bit, decided what was wrong with his argument, I then applied it to my own.

We are both arguing belief systems, he has his determinist approach and I’ve got mine. His is fact based, mine is more of an amalgam of faith and fact. I am not going to explain my belief system, as it would be tangential to what I want to discuss.

Both of us are completely wrong, forever.

What is a fact? Something that can be proven, no? Twice two is four, as the Underground man would say. Humans eat, sleep, and excrete. An acorn grows into an oak tree. Behavior is determined by the stimulus of environment upon molecular systems [If it is cold out, we shiver.]

There is no such thing as fact, with this definition.

Facts are still things that are believed in. I have sort of touched upon this kind of thing here but now it appears to be reaching a type of maturity. A fact is supposedly something that is known to be true, and true faith knows in this way as well. What, ergo, separates the two?

Everything we know we have been taught in one way or another. Yet it seems that we have been taught to believe in knowledge. Belief in Fact is just like Belief in God, we can prove it to ourselves, we can prove it to others, others can prove it to us. Yet, it is still false.

The problem, yes as usual, lies with the old Delphic fiat, Know Thyself, an impossibility. Since no one has attained this goal, any other knowledge they come across, discover, propound, or have propagated upon themselves is flawed. This is because the person who originally thought it up was flawed in themselves, an Original Sin of cogitation, all human efforts become utterly futile. This is sort of how biblical scholars justify various interpretations of the bible, it was handed down from a perfect source, but taken by a flawed being, and is therefore imperfect in its interpretations.

So we cannot ever know anything because everything goes back toward the basic flaw in human understanding. We only believe, have faith, that we know things. Unless we are perfect beings, we have mitigating circumstances to undermine anything we think we believe we know.

I’m sure this is old hat to plenty of philosophers and theologians out there. It seems a bit reminiscent of the whole ‘Do we exist’ argument. We think we exist, we believe it, but we can never quite know it. If we cannot even feel secure about one of the oldest and most basic verbs, the one fundamental for any codified knowledge, we cannot truly know anything.

I think I might eat breakfast now. [At least, that is what I think I believe I know I am doing.]

HUGE CO…rooster

Monday, 22 April 2002

yeah so i cleaned my room and did laundry.

yeah and my mom asked me if i was satanic the other day. she meant it too. i think she just assumes the worst since i don’t live at home under her protective wing. its boring under a protective wing, i’d rather go exploring. i’m not a little chick any more. i am a HUGE CO…rooster. she missed me and loves me, i knowiknow. i take it for granted i am sure. but hell, if i don’t go exploring, i will be even lamer than i am now. plus she is still there when i need her the most. i don’t take that for granted. sometimes when i write this i feel like doogie howser m.d. but i’m not a tool like he was. my laundry needs dryered so i’m out for now.

talked to molly and i (can’t do it) still feel like shit. is it me that needs figuring out or does she need to figure herself out? how do i care for someone that doesn’t care about themself?

i’m obviously wrong about some things and missing others.

Jack Squat

Monday, 8 April 2002

i guess it goes without saying that being involved in a relationship is a very interesting and sometimes frightening experience. but i need to say it. hell, i don’t have much experience along these lines. what y’all know is new to me. i think the two fundamental aspects that should be basic to any relationship (friend, mate, dog, whatever) are honesty and respect. its sometimes tough to be honest and give respect. listen to me offering my wisdom…ha! i know jack squat. perhaps my fundamentals are just theories. they sure sound good to me though