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Can Two Seemingly Opposing Views Be True?


JosephM
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A friend once wrote me...

 

"If two men have different moral standards directly contradicting the other (One says this is the one way, while the other says ;no this is the way), they may both be wrong, one or the other may be right, but both could not be right. Don't be fooled otherwise. All religions conflict. Which do you choose?"

 

He was a professed Christian who felt that Christianity is the only religion with true answers to the questions of life. He followed up that statement and his assumption that as men/humans we can know and find an absolute and objective God in this universe and know what is true and what is false with our mind because there are absolutes and " IF A=True then non A cannot be true "

 

It seems to me when dealing with absolutes and non-subjective standards this statement can be used as logic as long as we are dealing with Newtonian principles and non-A as in direct opposition. However in this world that is filled with relativity's, subjective experiences, and changing linguistics and culture over long periods of time, it is perhaps fruitless to assume we can apply this to the subjective experiences of man and his understanding of God using his thinking mind.

 

Why? Because no such absolute standard seems to exist in linguistics or perception. Perhaps the subjectivity of the mind must be transcended to know Truth and then no absolute explanation is possible because one must use the limitations of mind and language to explain that which is beyond it.

 

 

As far as relativity and subjectivity go....Consider such simplistic examples such as:

A says it is cold, B says it is not cold.

A who is 5 Foot tall says 6 feet is tall, B says it is not tall, 7 feet is tall.

A and B work at the same place and live next door to each other and A says the drive is long, B says it is short.

A says his wife is beautiful, B says she is not beautiful.

 

Its easy to get the picture. We live in a relative and highly subjective world. Sure society can set highly defined standards to alleviate such different interpretations but are those standards "true" or merely arbitrary and subject to change with the changing whims of society and their subjective conditioning?

 

Some may assume observation of Newtonian principles will somehow define God for us but that is merely an assumption and is still observed using conditioned senses which makes all experiences subjective in nature. Are we to think one can find an objective God in a subjective world by " IF A=True then non A cannot be true " ? Will logical and so called rational reasoning alone find God? It seems to me that it may be a necessary step to get beyond blind acceptance and myth but eventually, it is my view, that even logic and reason has to be left behind to go beyond in such matters. To me, we live in a subjective world. And even if an objective world did exist, it seems to me it could only be experienced subjectively.

 

Just some thoughts triggered by a note from a friend,

Joseph

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Joseph,

 

One trivial point. If A is true that logically says nothing about B. It is true that I am an American citizen, but it doesn't logically follow that you are not. However, if one said, 'A and only A is true, then B would not logically be true.

 

The issue of 'true' religion is, of course, subjective and if one claims their religion is the only true religion, the next question is a what level of detail is the truth? Are only the specific beliefs of the speaker in all of their detail true? Or, can some details vary like method of baptism, order of worship, ordination of leaders, etc.? Then, if one agrees that 'true' religion can vary in some detail, the next question is where should the line of acceptable variation be drawn. Are the core beliefs the level of 'truth.' If so, what are these core beliefs? Then one could ask on what empirical or logical basis can these core beliefs be validated, if they and only they are universally true.

 

BTW, this is not a hypothetical issue. It has arisen recently in public discourse about Mormonism. Some fundamentalists Christians are calling it a "cult." But, I understand that Mormons very much consider themselves Christians.

 

George

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Philosophical claims can tend to originate in very different contexts with different defining presuppositions. This makes a simple 'right' or 'wrong' between one position and the other very difficult to establish. Differences may be incommensurate; they may be complementary. I was reading an essay that investigated this incommensurability in the various notions of 'self' we have. Am "I" constituted by 'myself', or by my society, or by natural processes? Systematic thinking would like to reduce these 3 to 1 only, but such attempts at fitting life into such a narrow definition doesn't seem to work. Whereas various attempts to do so abound, the issues perpetuate nonetheless. Which one is right, which one is wrong? They seem to all be right at their own spheres of description.

 

"Foundationalism" seeks to lay down a core basis for knowledge on which to build. But various religions and philosophies have different foundations, and there seems to be no foundation for the foundation. To me life is too organic for such an expectation to hold up.

 

David Hart defined postmodernism as an “incredulity to metanarratives”, that is, people can’t take so seriously the claim that this or that story is the ultimately true one. This is because logic has been impotent to furnish true universals.

 

To me the world is made of meaning; it is constructed of subjectivity, there is no ‘objective background’ against which things exist. Such a background seems not only metaphysically superfluous but impossible.

 

Peace,

Mike

Edited by Mike
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Can two opposing views be correct? Absolutely yes, because each 'view' is dependent upon just where the viewer is standing relative to what is being viewed. In your examples, there is confusion between 'view', 'viewer', 'viewed'. If 4 of us are standing each at the 4 compass points around a mountain, we are going to each have different 'view' of that mountain, but that doesn't negate anything of the reality of that mountain as it is.

 

In your example of A and B, neighbors, and the equal length of their drive to work, seeing the commute and short or long, the reality is that the distance is X miles, period, no matter which one of them is driving it. If A has recently moved there after having lived for many years where his commute was half that distance, A views it as long, the reverse may be true for B, who recntly moved from a location from which his drive was twice as long. A may view the drive too long because his working hours put him having to make his commute during rush hour traffic, while B works hours that let him breeze the route with little traffic. A may be driving a gas guzzler, in which case his commute seems that much too longer everytime the price of gas goes up, while B drives a fuel-miserly vehicle to work and thereby less affected.

 

As for moral views, again the view should not be confused with what is being viewed. We can avoid the pitfalls of both moral relativity and moral absolutism if we focus on what is being viewed instead of from which position we are viewing it. This is the principle of situational ethics.

 

When we try to inscribe conformance to a moral value into a law, a rule, we fall under the error of the Letter of the Law at the expense of the Spirit of the Law. Any law or rule dictating what is comformance to a moral value has list sight of the value, and attempted to set in its place a view. That what may be a right action (morally) in one context may be wrong in another isn't neccesarily moral relativism. It can be situational ethics.

 

Action is a response to a stimulus. The appropriate action in response to different stimuli can be as different as the stimulus in each instance.

 

Moral relativism confuses consensus opinion with what is actual, view with what is viewed. An example commonly used to discredit this error of relativism is that the popular consensus view of the Earth in some societies was of the Earth as flat. Were those few that opposed the popular consensus view wrong?

 

But another commonly used example of the failure of moral relativism isn't quite to clear-cut as it is often presented. That is the example of infanticide being generally accepted as a moral act in some societies, but immoral in others. So is infanticide neither morally right or morally wrong, but merely relative to popular concensus opinion within any society? When you bring the principles of situational ethics into the consideration, it may be found that infanticide under certain circumstances of a society living in a particular environment may actually be a response to a critical survival stimulus. the has been most classically studied and demonstrated among some cultures in Arctic and Polar environments.

 

If we move from 'view' and perception/opinion of the 'viewer', to what is being 'viewed', we come much closer to what is a moral value to begin with. If rooted in love as a moral value, and what actions that most align with what is best for the well-being of all concerned as the expression of that value, each situation presents its own set of ethical considerations.

 

Jenell

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David Hart, while pointing out the weaknesses of the metanarrative, nonetheless affirms the possibility of the “comprehensive narrative.” This is a narrative that weaves all the various strands of actuality. Never completed in a logical sense, it is always transcending itself and suggestive of what lies beyond (and deeper) -- the pre-articulate plenitude of existence. It is not just that we don’t have a large enough quantity of facts, but rather that this plenitude qualitatively transcends such methodological pretenses.

 

The ‘failure of relativism,’ I think, is one that does not see the inextricable coherence of relativity itself. We can have a “comprehensive ethics” without supposing that moral universals exist outside of their concrete expressions. There is more to life than what we can say, and yet life belongs just to what we say (for neither life nor language have a separate self-existence).

 

Alan Watts suggested that we can be rescued from this logical and linguistic limitation by gaining the “clear sensation” that what we are talking about is our very selves as part of a sensuous cosmos. It is because life is organic and interconnected that moral systems -- and ultimately, people -- cannot remain isolated and are therefore not free to just “make up” any moral truth. They cannot make it up because there are other minds, other subjectivities, to be taken into account. Each person must be accepting of the reality that there are others. A person may see something as right or wrong, but it cannot remain valid beyond that person unless it takes others into account and that meaning is able to reverberate with other subjects who are carriers of meaning. And morality, like language in general, is always looking to more, always transcending itself. Transcendence is a mark of the real, and if our concept of 'self and other' is too boxed up, the realities behind our moral ideas have no breathing room.

 

If reality is composed of subjectivity, that is, if reality is inter-subjective, it is only natural that something corresponding to the idea of “objectivity” should emerge. An infinitude of interconnected perceptions coagulate into a world system in which there are certain invariants. For instance, the world really is flat from a certain perception, but that percept does not remain valid as “more” of reality bears on the matter. That is to say, at a certain threshold the perception no longer speaks to the situation. This is because there is more than one point of view, or point of being, to be considered when creating an account of the geometry of the Earth. But I don’t think of the “geometry of the Earth” (or the Earth itself) as an independently existing thing which stands over-against the matrix of subjectivity that gives rise to its shape. All ‘objects’ as such are conceptual designations; 'objectivity' is not a property of thing as such. Therefore, it is not that any single perception is wrong; rather, that there is more than one percept to take into account.

 

I really do see the world as constructed of mind and meaning; there doesn’t seem to be any need to suppose something else beside (like an independently existing ‘objective background’ against which beings, events, or minds exist). Under this view, meaning is certainly something we need to keep at the forefront of our ethics. Is it not, after all, the very definition of an immoral act to be de-meaning? Obviously I do not then see meaning as merely arbitrary, but as creative discovery, a romp through the shifting sands of actuality and its inexhaustible implications, to paraphrase Kuang-Ming Wu in ‘Butterfly as Companion’.

 

Anyway, that's my metaphysics, for whatever it's worth.

 

Peace,

Mike

Edited by Mike
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My thoughts are slightly foggier than any else's on this :o

 

First of all, I agree that there is a great deal of subjectivity. How can anyone, and I mean ANYONE say with utter certainty anything about God? On the other hand, we can be "utterly certain" about religion because, let's face it, I can make up my own set of doctrines, rituals, and creeds and be utterly certain that my religion is the right one; and the same is true for every religion. Therefore, yes, A and B can both be true - you're certain, I'm certain. My problem comes in with the absolute OR. This OR that. Why must humans be so dualistic? Is it in our nature? A or B, true or false, creation or evolution, the God of the bible or no God...seems to me to be a pretty one-dimenional way to live..

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(snip) Why must humans be so dualistic? Is it in our nature? A or B, true or false, creation or evolution, the God of the bible or no God...seems to me to be a pretty one-dimenional way to live..

 

Thinking seems to be inherently dualistic in the nature of the thinking mind. The mind sees itself in language as the thinker of the great thoughts, the doer of deeds. me and them, here and there, together and separate, etc. The structure of Language itself is dualistic in its nature. There is a subject and an object and verb. With language comes the creation of opposites which are seen as mostly arbitrary points of opposing view rather than points on a continuum. With language also comes labels with limited and subjective definitions that change over time and with societies, customs and groups like the words old people, liberals, rational thoughts, logical assumptions, extremists, republicans, democrats, christian, etc. that two people rarely see exactly the same when they hear the same words. With language come names like trees, horses, dogs etc. which are limited in their description and by which we think we know 'exactly' what is being described but do not. To help we add adjectives like tall, short, small, beautiful, good, bad, etc. which are also highly subjective and arbitrary in the eye of the beholder that may do well for simple communications but to me it is a wonder that we seem to be able to communicate as well as we do. :blink: Its just the way things are, at least in my subjective opinion. :lol:

 

When we start to see and understand these things (our limitations of the thinking mind and language), it seems to me, we can then start to progress beyond them. Perhaps then, we will not be so one-dimensional.

 

Just having a little fun,

Joseph

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When we start to see and understand these things (our limitations of the thinking mind and language), it seems to me, we can then start to progress beyond them. Perhaps then, we will not be so one-dimensional.

 

Just having a little fun,

Joseph

 

Guess I'm a rebel. :D

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Thinking seems to be inherently dualistic in the nature of the thinking mind.

Joseph,

 

I have wondered if our minds are structured to function in a dualistic manner. As an example, formal syntactic theory involves sentence structures with a series of binary nodes. As you noted, sentences are minimally comprised of two components (noun phrase, verb phrase). Even scalar adjectives (like cold-cool-warm-hot) with a continuum of midpoints have binary bases. Often, things are described as +/- some feature.

 

Maybe we start with two opposing points and develop scales and nuances from there. I wonder if anyone has explored the question of basic dualistic thought structure.

 

George

Edited by GeorgeW
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