Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Loose Ends

Now is the time on Sprockets in which we attempt to clarify and expand some past statements. Huzzah for quantity over quality!

Here's the last several posts in a nutshell:

As infants, we basically exist as radical empiricists. We know only what is right in front of us and what is inside us - ie, our hunger. A baby is a more consistant and thorough empiricist than David Hume ever was.

As we begin to conceive of the world as a discontinuous place (the mirror stage) and acquire language, our thought necassarily becomes more abstract. More symbolic, more concept based.

With the aid of our primary care givers (and possibly even a physical mirror) we begin to develop an idea of what we are, or what we should be. As the mirror stage metaphor goes, we see ourselves in a mirror, and our mothers say "Yes! That's you! Aren't you just so cute!" We see that image, we take it up, and it becomes our imago. Of course, it isn't us; it's a mirror image and we can't ever actually be that image. Our imago forms the horizon of our personal efforts - and like every other horizon, you can't actually reach it. It just moves further and further away.

Now, we live in a real world and there are facts about this world. Without getting into a discussion about theories of knowledge or tests for truth (they can come later), there is such a thing as a true statement. The thing is, our world contains such a vast number of possible true statements - or at least approximations of true statements - that no one human being can gather them all.

So which (potentially true or false) statements do we show interest in? The ones that serve our pursuit of our imago. I think the imago is basically a psychological concept, and as such I can only skirt around the edges of it. That being said, we find statements that we believe justify and aid the pursuit of our imago.

One can use both false and true statements to pursue their imago. This, I think, is what trips up pure subjectivists. You know, the people who think every truth statement is purely subjective. Statements that are false are almost or just as effective as statements that are true. Anyone who says their highest goal is the pursuit of truth is off the mark; their true highest goal is to believe and act as if their highest goal is the pursuit of truth.

An important point: while the actual truth of a statement is not vitally important, our belief about the truth of that statement is. Doubting a statement reduces its value in justifying and pursuing. And doubts about the justifications of our imago result in doubts about the value of our lives.

The statements that most readily aid and justify become the most important to us. Hence, our hierarchy of value. We also consider these statements to be the most true. It's the stuff we just won't question. This is also the stuff that the martyr and the seppuku-er die for. I like to steal Paul Tillich's term "the personal centre" and use it to describe how our imago and our most important statements interact; it's our personal identity.

The body of statements that aid our pursuit, as well as the (relatively) less interesting body of statements that we give intellectual ascent to but do not really care about, form our body of knowledge.

That's enough for one post. More later.

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