Tuesday, August 22, 2006

I doubt it

What use is it to doubt? We are adrift at sea and we are lucky if we have a boat. Why would we want to dive in and risk drowning in seas that are over our heads?

I look at Hizbullah's boys with envy. They are stupid but they are not doubtful of the course their lives should take. They are rooted in a place and they are fuelled by hatred of the Other and love of their god.

We imagine they are angry but we are wrong to, I think. They are happy. Happiness is contented striving, I once read. I can go with that. If I had a cause I could sacrifice myself to, I think I would be happy.


In any case, the Cartesian project is based on a lie, that being that it is good to doubt. It has led us all to pretending to doubt the wrong things. In a sense, relativism was a certain outcome of Descartes' sitting in front of his fire, because if you will not allow a thing to be right in and of itself (even though Descartes himself did not go that far; he had to accommodate a faith in God that the likes of me do not), then you allow everything to be right.

But is it a lie? That's my first thought because science has not been built on doubts (don't kid yourself that falsification implies doubt: it has been built on increasing certainty through induction). But so much of what we know points to doubt as central: quantum mechanics is the paradigm of doubting what is going on; no thinking person can either believe or disbelieve in God (by which I mean the concept rather than any particular version of it) without doubt unless they make a fundamental commitment that goes beyond rationality (I was interested to find out -- and a little disappointed -- that Brisbane's secular humanists, who claim to be ultrarationalists, are as dogmatic about the nonexistence of God as some Christians are about his existence, and on as little evidence (although, saying that, I very much enjoyed reading one screaming fundamentalist nutter's philosophical disproof of God, which I only regretted was too incomprehensible for me to analyse here, but centred on a belief that God is excluded by modern physics)); theories that are right today are wrong tomorrow. Sometimes knowledge seems impossible. Yet we know it is not. We know that even if our knowledge is built on shaky foundations, we'll still cleave to it. I do not entirely think this is wrong because swimming around in unknowing can be so painful.

These have become notes, where they were to be a reasoned and interesting piece. I was sidetracked and will have to come back to it. Never mind.


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