Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Ears That Hear

One of the more interesting philosophical questions—for me, at any rate—is how people get their fundamental stance. By fundament stance I mean their structure of beliefs. Here, of course, I’m principally interested in a subset of the population that engages in the subject rather than merely adopting a position more or less by passive acculturation. This distinction may not be important, however: virtually everyone makes choices and feels leanings.

On the one side we have people—on offer over against them are structures of belief. To keep it simple the big ones are Monism and Dualism. Monistic structures may be materialist or idealist. I would class Pantheism as a monism. The dualistic systems are all, almost by definition, transcendentalist. By that I mean that a dualist believes in two radically different realities, usually labeled matter and spirit; the dualist holds both to be genuine, real, and coexisting in the human form.

I myself strongly lean to the belief that innate sensitivities and intellectual powers, acting in combination, determine a person’s “fundamental stance.” I know, I know. This position, unpacked a little, sounds rather Calvinistic. A Hindu-style karmic belief is also compatible with my hunch. Applying that logic, we might say that a person’s karmic burden may make that person more open or opaque. To give yet another possibility, a “developmental” model of soul formation would be compatible with this notion of innate endowment—provided that we see souls cycling through this lower dimension gradually acquiring the powers to transcend it. In any case, ordinary observation seems strongly to support my view. Some people just don’t get it, as it were—but all other things are equal. Some who “get it” act wretchedly anyway—and many who don’t are exemplars of morality. This is an observation about talents, not about morality.

To emphasize the last point, it would seem that all people are going in the same direction (upward, in the dualist view) but the felt conscious awareness of this process is rather vague, dull, or muted in some—sharp, painful, and clear in others. Whether the individual actually makes progress along the vector is not determined by the innate feeling but by something else. Thus absolute determinism is actually foiled—but a process strongly influenced by elements of chance (such as body-type, genetics, circumstances) is allowed.

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