This is a response to another discussion I’m in, so it’s going to be me regurgitating many thoughts and ideas I’ve already laid down here, but in another way.
A couple things first:
- It’s always been my aim to expose the dogmatic nature of reason to show that the same level of faith people have towards religious language, people likewise have regarding reason.
The following statement was made to me regarding the above point, as if it's what I'm trying to suggest: (Which of course I’m not):
“In other words, the fact that you're writing about something means you've presupposed the validity of the definitions of the words you're using. And this is just as dogmatic as religious beliefs are.”
‘Of course, it's complete twaddle. Belief in the validity of the words in a dictionary presupposes only that empirical definitions are required in order to communicate. It certainly doesn't require faith in the unseen...”
The first task is; what is Dogma? Or in the very least, what do I mean by it?
Let me first quote two Buddhist sayings, as this will help set the stage:
- “You can use your finger to point at the moon, but don’t mistake the finger for the moon.”
- "The fish trap exists because of the fish; once you've gotten the fish you can forget the trap. The rabbit snare exists because of the rabbit; once you've gotten the rabbit you can forget the snare. Words exist because of meaning; once you have the meaning you can forget the words. Where can I find a man who has forgotten words so I can have a few words with him?"
What is Dogma:
Let me address directly the comment which was made above (in GREEN) by saying the following: There is no presupposing of the validity of definitions, but a presupposing that those definitions mirror a given phenomenon to an extent that they are somehow intertwined and/or inseparable from it; this is often looked at in an atemporal way, and as such becomes dogmatic…..
Dogma arises (I’ll argue) due to an ontological divide which exists between language and it’s referent, but where one refuses to recognize this divide; in other words, one mistakes the finger for the moon. I constantly use the example of gravity and ask the question, “Did gravity exist prior to Newton?” My answer is always a strict no; however the rational atheist always responds, “Of course it did.” This stance is an obvious dogmatic one, and arises because one is reluctant to separate the word gravity, and its underlying principles, from the phenomenon we attribute to it.
It must be seen that prior to Newton, the word gravity and it’s underlying principles did not exist, they were not in anybodies mind because there was no such thing yet; there simply wasn’t such a language. The rational atheist takes me as saying that apples didn’t fall from trees, which is hardly the case. What I’m suggesting is; no doubt apples did fall from trees, but it wasn’t because of gravity. Taking the dogmatic stance that it was, is not seeing the ontological gap between the word and the referent, it’s looking at the two as if they were somehow inseparable. Surely hundreds of years from now new science will evolve that not only makes Newtonian physics completely obsolete, but also makes it look quite silly at the same time – in much the same way we see the ancients description of the universe as silly. So what does that mean? Does it mean we were wrong? Of course it doesn’t, a pragmatic stance would see that gravity and its’ underlying principles were merely a mode of communicating about a particular phenomenon such that we could not only communicate about and understand the world, but more importantly understand ourselves. If we look at the past 2000 years of humanity we can see that (relative to what science says) the universe hasn’t changed all that much, however the way we talk about it has changed drastically and we’re constantly updating old forms of thought with new ones. So what’s happening here? Is the universe changing? Or is it simply that we’re talking about it in different ways?
Gravity, again, along with the underlying mathematics is nothing more then language, it is not a mirror to nature; the disembodied words of Newton were not just floating around in empty space since the beginning of time. As well, we cannot make the claim that it’s consistent with the way the universe operates in and of itself, because we can never know this; at best we can say that it’s consistent with a mode of thinking that we call rational. It’s consistent with an underlying mathematic, and we attribute that language of mathematic to a given referent and call it gravity, BUT THEY ARE NOT ONE IN THE SAME.
So, the bottom line:
One must learn to separate what he says from what it refers to. One must understand (refer to the second Buddhist quote above) that the words themselves are not the phenomenon itself, but a description of our experience which adds a certain meaning to it; once we have this, Newton can be discarded.
The next question that will be asked of me is, “So what, that doesn’t mean that God exists!” and I’ll respond with, “Well, not any more then gravity.” Then someone will further say that they can prove gravity by taking me to a bridge and dropping a rock and proclaim, “Look, gravity!” As if what I’m witness to at that moment is Newtonian physics, what could be more self evident? (I’m witness to words, hooray!) I don’t deny the validity of physics in talking about fallings rocks, but I also don’t deny the validity of religion in talking about the human spirit. Religion, whether Christianity or Buddhism, is a language and one should not mistake it for talking about stone or flash or old men in white robes; to understand it, one must not look to differentiate its words from an underlying reality, to connect it somehow by means of making it specific. One must dissolve the dogma into an experience of life that is not hindered by definitions. When one learns to separate words from referents, I truly believe (almost dogmatically so ; ) ) that a real experience of the divine is possible.