Ignorance & Agnosticism

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

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

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

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