I guess the reason why I enjoy philosophy so much is that at its core, it has a deep concern for truth and knowledge. This discipline is focused on uncovering the way things actually are, the way the world is.
Philosophy makes the assumption that truth exists and it is accessible to our minds. It makes the assumption that truth is objective and universal to humans. And, since truth and reality exist-- by necessary extension-- there is such a thing as fiction, untruth, fallacy. Not everything can be true or real.
If we live our lives according to what is real and true--what is reality--we can make better predictions about our own lives and about society at large. Our perceptions of events and how to respond to them will likely be more accurate.
Why would we not want the most accurate vision? Is it because we do not think it is accessible or because we think truth and reality are tainted by the limitations and discrepancies of our human mind? Or, are we afraid of the truth? Are we afraid that it could demolish some of our preferred fantasies...ideologies?
Science has a system in place... a methodology for finding truth about the world. No other system either in the past or the present has such remarkable reliability, consistency and predictive powers as the discipline of science.
Let's say you post an ad on your Craigslist Community section for a "Bible Study for people who believe in the God of the Bible". Since you're likely to be living in a diversely religious community, you may have a Catholic, Protestant, Jehovah's Witness and a Mormon attend. If you ask each of them "How to have eternal life in heaven" you will likely get several different (and contradictory) responses. Even major themes they derive from the Bible will get a different response from each of these members. You may all agree in the general idea that "God" and "Jesus" exist and that " He wants a relationship with you". However, once you decide to probe into more specific details about various texts and also about which texts should be emphasized more (or less) it becomes a crap shoot.
This is why you can't base a system of truth off of a--book/religious idea or theory where there is little consensus among the participants and even among the so-called experts. You know that the text is probably not the most reliable text at getting its message across if everyone is giving a slightly (or majorly) different account and emphasizing different verses.
Any text/idea/theory is useless if it cannot clearly communicate its message to a wide range of participants (and experts) within its field. After all, communicating the message is the basic goal here.
Unlike religious texts, Scientists have come to some fairly startlingly strong agreements about various phenomena in nature. Even experts from other fields will readily agree with discoveries from other fields and will find ways to integrate this knowledge into their own field. That's because the thing discovered was universally true. A truth discovered in science has an impact outside its domain.
Science, of course, is comprised of groups of humans, both individually and collectively, who tune their minds to the acquisition of knowledge. They may decide one or two specific areas to research and add to the body of current knowledge that already exists. First though, these scientists are committed to an unbiased/impartial account of what they discover and should be open to being proven wrong.
We keep hearing that "Capitalism is imperfect--and can result in some major social inequities--but it's still the best economic system that we have, at least compared to the others." I tend to agree with this.
In the same way, the system of science is still imperfect but it is the best we have for learning about our world and making predictions about things. Contrast this with ancient religious texts, revelation, personal accounts, hearing voices while praying, psychics, tarot cards and fortune cookies. These all have something to forecast--but how truthful are they? Do they say anything very specific so that we can test the predictive power they seem to claim? Or, do they default to rough, blurry generalizations with vague projections so that we are merely tricked into thinking that they are true?
Thankfully, in any marketplace there is a process of scrutiny and competition and analysis by competitors. In the marketplace of ideas there is also a process of scrutiny, analysis and competition by other scientists who are motivated to prove the other scientists wrong (or incomplete) or to snatch the discovery before the other scientist reaches it first.
Science has an inherent system of checks and balances precisely because science functions so very differently from religious ideology. This system of checks and balances is one of constant questioning, doubting and scrutiny that is undertaken in this process.
Anyone who has a high regard for truth will first and foremost have an accurate definition of the word truth. All communication between humans begins with language and having a shared understanding of the meanings of words. Words are specific sounds that represent things--both concrete, tangible things and abstract ideas.
Caring about truth starts out by caring about what is tangible and real, what is material and present. This is where science comes in, because it says things about the material, physical world. Caring about truth means that you take what is discovered about the natural world seriously. It also means that you will consider and study those topics which the human senses may not be privy to. You realize that there are instruments created by humans--by science--and you can trust that those instruments will give you accurate results about the physical world. Those instruments may be things like microscopes, telescopes, ultrasound... to name a few.
Anyone who cares about the acquisition of Truth recognizes, humbly, that there is still so much that they do not know. And, if such a person cannot claim with certainty that something exists--say, angels dancing on the head of a pin or whether or not the Greek God Zeus causes thunder and lightning, they will promptly say, "I don't know".
When you say, "I don't know" this means that you do not have knowledge of something or some incident. Saying "I don't know" means that you are not privy to said things existence or being. Such thing (or incidence) could exist, perhaps outside your threshold of perception, but since you cannot perceive it either with your perception or with the aid of an instrument, you are most candid when you say "I don't know."
To me, a steadfast decision to be a truth seeker is the best way I can comport my being in this life--because truth is the best guide. It is true that life is short, and truth is not always fun, nor does it always align with my ego or my aspirations as a human being. But...it is the thing, above anything else, that must be taken into account because it will have the most impact on my life and on my own welfare.
Agreed. It's probably self serving, evolutionarily advantageous and simply pragmatic that I seek truth. Thankfully, since this truth is universal and will affect everyone; my alliance to the truth will also be a benefit to others, since we are all enmeshed and affected by it in similar ways. In other words, the truth will impact me to a similar extent that it will impact others. My "self-serving concern for the truth", is an indirect form of caring for others.
One of the reasons I found myself coming towards philosophy and falling away from religion and religious views of "truth" was religion's appeal to emotion and its use of fear (again, an emotion). Religion instills a sense of fear for questioning, for doubting, for contemplation, for continual inquiry of new or different ideas.
Worse than its hellfire threats, religion imprisons your own mind from thinking---from hearing different voices, different perspectives. It is the embodiment of speech censorship.
Religion is like the angry mob of students trying to shut down a speaker--those who chant loudly so that others cannot hear the WORDS, the SPEECH, the IDEAS put forth by others because said speech is considered to be heretical.
Religion shuts down other viewpoints because it "already has the right answer"--it has the final say--and other, competing ideas are simply "heresy".
Science knows quite a bit more than religion. It rarely boasts yet it has dramatically increased the human lifespan in recent centuries. Science is still humble enough to say, "This is what we know so far", let's hear your perspective too--and if you want to test out your ideas in this marketplace, feel free. There's no censorship to ideas of the mind here--you can think freely and speak freely here.
Sure science works. The proof is in it's products, the technologies it creates that we ALL can use. But also, science--this scientific community that we discuss--knows that what it has discovered is tentative and subject to adaptation, improvement and even (potentially) being overturned.
That is the difference between science and dogma. Sure, both enterprises are made of fallible, limited humans--but at least with science, we know that it knows its own fallibility.
Conversely, there is no way to "overturn" what is considered divinely inspired. It is just assumed to be true and that's it. The "sin" comes in the form of questioning this--by considering other explanations for why things are the way they are.
If you have derived your views on what your parents or what your grandparents think, then it's likely that you have exhibited little curiosity, little doubt, and little reflection upon these views.
Instead, you have probably generated an emotional commitment to these views. That is, you find yourself aligning with the views of your parents and your ancestors because they make you feel comfortable - they are what you have always known. You just assume them to be true.
Perhaps you feel that having deeper curiosity for such views could stir up doubt and might have some sort of negative consequence--so you remain motivated by fear and intimidation and threats. So you stay within the lines, the rigid demarcations of what you have always known and believed.
If you do not have a clearly objective perspective of your views, how can you ever say that you've derived them rationally? And why should anyone else be expected to take on your views either?