This post is an elaboration of #4 from a list of things I’ve learned late in life.
When I was young, I believed to a great degree that truth would feel “truthful”. The underlying assumption I failed to recognize is the assumption that my mind was well-equipped without training to intuit truth accurately. I was certain god existed, because the concept was constantly being confirmed by this illegitimate intuition I had that god must exist, and the subsequent emotion of confidence in the mechanism of that intuition. Why would the concept of a personal god come to my mind if it were not real, and why would it feel so correct? I completely neglected to assess the reliability of my mind to assess claims. I simply assumed it was, by default, calibrated to process claims as they arrived.
Due to this erroneous assumption, I placed a high degree of confidence in the more subjective and emotional validations of what was true. If I felt it must be true, it was true, and I did not bother to introspectively analyze any hidden vested interests or emotional dispositions that may have compelled me to adopt falsehoods.
The result of years of this way of thinking is that I could take my illegitimately held beliefs, evoke a sufficient amount of validating emotions to insulate my beliefs from doubt, then loudly affirm my beliefs without a shred of evidence for them other than my own certainty and the certainty of the like-minded around me. Even logical incoherencies within my belief system I could dismiss as ultimately insignificant since my own salient emotional “knowledge” of the truth was the final arbitrator and unassailable.
It was only the simple notion that truth will be evidenced by what works that finally lead me away from a mind that was so self-confident. Many of my beliefs should have produced results greater than chance, but, under scrutiny, did not. I had placed full confidence in the Bible, for example, but every promise that Christians cite as evidence of Jehovah’s power, upon honest examination, failed to be “fulfilled” in any measure above the probabilistic expectations of materialism. I began to first suspect, then admit, that I was largely deluding myself when I validated my beliefs with affirmations of faith and the accompanying warm emotional rushes of confidence.
I gradually began to place less confidence on my “heart” and Jesus’ notion that more belief upon less evidence is “blessed”, and began to explore more objective means of assessing truth. Not only did these objective heuristic of inquiry work, but the far out-performed the beliefs that were a product of my heart-generated beliefs. I began to realize that truths are not necessarily correlated with emotions. What does not feel good, may actually be true, and what does feels good may actually be leading me into falsehood. I decided to acquire more of the basic tools of scientific thinking that I had hitherto neglected such as logic, the default of skepticism, probabilities and statistics, and standards of evidence. I applied these tools to every aspect of life from psychology to economics, from health to politics, from philosophy to the very religion that had wrongly taught me that I could intuit truth.
The more I learned and applied these tools, the more the world around me fell neatly into a mesh of coherent explanation. This explanatory power enabled me to change my personality, behavior and life course into much productive directions than I ever experienced under a more subjective processing of truth. The objective truths I was now able to extract from my experience did not have the warmth of the former subjective pseudo-truths, but I realized that these objective truths were forming a much more stable substrate of beliefs upon which I could now build a subjective existence, and enjoy my emotions, not as a method of arriving at truth, but rather as a result of being grounded on truths substantiated by scientific methodology. I could now clearly see my emotions as the illusory games they actually were, fully embrace these games without fear, and play these games that constitute subjective experience with a passion unavailable to those who grant emotions more ontological weight.
Now my life is full in two complimentary areas. When I wish to explore the objective truths in life, I employ the gray objectivity of the scientific method. Whatever works to yield predictive power, this I tuck into my epistemological toolkit. Whatever objective truths I uncover, I confidently place into a very coherent web of material causation. When it’s time to engage the world above its objective substrate, I dance uninhibited among all the illusory yet human experiences emotionally derived. There is no longer any contradiction. I am subjective being who has acquired the skills to correctly assess the objective world beneath my subjective dancing feet.