“A worldview is a symbolic system of representation.” ~ Belgian theoretical physicist Diederick Aerts
Natural philosophy was the study of Nature before being overshadowed by strictly empirical science; an intellectual transition that gathered momentum in 17th-century Europe. The difference between natural philosophy and science is of methodology, primarily restrictions in science on accepting what is sensed. Whereas natural philosophy sought the root of reality by considering all evidence, science ostensibly limits its investigation to what may be repeatedly observed happening to matter.
The 1543 publication of Nicolaus Copernicus’s theory of heliocentrism – that the Earth revolves around the Sun, rather than the Earth being the center of the universe, as presumed before – was a paradigm shift that fostered doubt about the prevailing religious dogma (Catholicism). The Copernican Revolution led to the Scientific Revolution, which culminated with Isaac Newton in 1687 ascribing mathematical laws to Nature, thereby ensconcing classical physics.
Upon the advent of mechanical clocks in the 17th century, scientists increasingly viewed Nature as if it was a byzantine machine – a decidedly reductionist view. That paradigm sold Nature short. The natural world is far beyond our ken, its workings subtler than we can imagine.
The gestation of modern physics began at the end of the 19th century with the discovery of ubiquitous quantization, birthing Einstein’s cosmic relativity theories and quantum field theories in the early 20th century. Though this signified a paradigm shift, there was no new revolution, because physicists rejected the implications of what they had discovered. Having dumped natural philosophy, physics lost its mojo. Science ossified into the classicist religion of matterism: that the experienced actuality of the material world is as deep as reality goes.
Scientists still naively think about Nature mechanically. The mind’s strong inclination is to take what it gathers and pretend that it understands, even when it does not. The mind does this because it wants to feel safe: that it has a handle on things, and might, it fondly hopes, exercise some control if the situation turns chancy. Oddly, the mind buys into many of its lies.
The theory that can absorb the greatest number of facts is the one that must rule all observation. ~ English philosopher and economist Adam Smith
“Everything we know is only some kind of approximation.” ~ American theoretical physicist Richard Feynman
A fact is an experienced event. Like everything else, facts are a process-product: an outcome from the mind’s filters of perception.
This input process of storing facts only becomes useful with recall. A fact’s value is shown by how well it plays with other facts to construct a conceptual system that symbolically explains how something works. A fact that does not fit gets tossed – fact no more. Facts are always a construal.
The thoughts of which you are aware are mere drops in your ocean of mentation. All but a smidgen of your mental activity transpires subconsciously. The mind’s deepest deception is having you believe that you are running your life.
To keep its realm of knowledge uncluttered, and to make the most of the information available to it, the mind revises facts during their recall so that they comfortably fit with the situation to which a memory is being applied. Facts in memory may fundamentally shift in time from various forces, such as suggestion by others, contention with other facts, or simply that a fact is too unsettling. The infidelity of memory to accuracy is well known. Doubtlessly you have experienced it yourself and witnessed it in others.
The mind productively uses memory as a navigation and problem-solving tool. The application of memory to sentiment and other emotions is, by contrast, a tool of the mind to keep you, its subject, in thrall to ignorance: a distraction from discovering the true nature of your mind-body as a decoy.
People commonly think that facts are objective, and naively accept them axiomatically as true. Lawyers and politicians know otherwise. Facts can be twisted and subject to dispute by placing them in artificially defined contexts.
That certain facts are ubiquitously accepted is no metric for their certitude, nor does widespread acceptance create objectivity. Objectivity is a myth. There is only showtivity: the mirage of objectivity via shared subjectivity.
“Belief allows the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.” ~ US President John F. Kennedy
A belief is faith in selective facts: data which the mind has chosen as credible. Beliefs are even shakier than facts because beliefs, as a conglomerated construction, are always a simplification of the facts upon which they are based. The mind likes beliefs because they are relatively easy to use. By contrast, by their sheer numbers, facts represent a mental management problem. The mind deals with largely redundant memories by merging them into a composite representation, forsaking accuracy for usability.
Beliefs are the basis of heuristics: rough mental rules of thumb. The mind extensively employs heuristics in making judgments and decisions, as they are much quicker than having to sift through facts and string them together in a sensible way – the process known as logic.
Every theory is just a belief in waiting: an attempt to rustle enough facts for confirmation, with contradicting outliers treated as mere blemishes on an otherwise flawless fruit. Despite its avowed strict adherence to actuality, science belies the assertion with its groaning bag of theories, many of which are based upon mathematics: the ultimate in symbolism. All the so-called “laws” of Nature are merely mathematical conjectures which serve as heuristics. The rankest ruse of science is its tucking all the complexities away with simple formulas which are adequately predictive, but never encompass Nature.
Simplifying assumptions serve as the mortar of beliefs. There are always facts which contravene the validity of beliefs; whence the hoary Latin aphorism “the exception proves the rule.” As such, beliefs are invariably conceptual houses of cards, built on a wobbly foundation of facts into edifices which can never shelter all the constituents of actuality for which they are constructed.
Beliefs do not exist in isolation. Instead, they are glued together into a system which culminates in a worldview. Belief systems act as the mental filtration network through which new facts must flow to be accepted. Isolated facts which do not coincide with established beliefs are disposed. Only when a belief slams into a wall of indisputable actuality is a conviction shaken.
Whereas people don’t cotton much to facts, they become attached to their beliefs. The mind is proud of the cocoon of false surety which it weaves: resisting belief dissolution with rationalization if fact rejection fails and an assault upon a belief is mounted.
Beliefs are entirely unnecessary. You can witness the world without believing any of it, and function better by skepticism than with the faith and expectations that are beliefs’ traveling companions. Like emotions, your mind promotes beliefs to keep you in ignorance, and so let the mind maintain its control of you.
“The way to truth lies through destruction of the false. To destroy the false, you must question your most inveterate beliefs.” ~ Nisargadatta Maharaj
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There are 3 alternate responses to the mind’s promotions. 1st, generally believe what comes to mind. Many in the Collective do just that, with relatively rare disavowals of the mind’s pandering. They do so from faith in their pignorance, a comfortable obliviousness.
2nd, selectively decide which of the mind’s fabrications to believe. The more discriminating of the Collective attempt this problematic endeavor. Psychologists remind their patients suffering from the tortures of nattermind that “it’s all in your mind,” and suggest for relief more pleasant fictions which the mind may concoct. The skeptic who suffers a delusional indulgence in his cleverness proudly adopts the modus operandi of thinking he is rationally deciding what is worthy of belief, while unquestioningly accepting the bulk of the mind’s presentations hook, line, and sinker. It is ludicrously ironic to have the mind decide which abstractions are to be believed.
3rd, don’t believe anything. Trusting someone who has repeatedly lied to you is foolhardy. The untrustworthy mind is no different. Not believing is the only reasonable course. It is idiotic to argue over whether believing thoughts is reasonable or not when reason is itself a product of the mind.
The utility of certain facts is indisputable. Useful knowledge is the basis for skill in manipulating those aspects of actuality which may be tinkered with to some satisfaction – arranging what furniture in the world you can to suit yourself.
Factual knowledge is not belief. By contrast, ideas divorced from actuality – pure abstractions – form the foundation of belief. The supreme instance of such idealization is faith in God: an idea brought to every believer by someone they trusted. An idea that would be rejected as silly except for a deep insecurity that keeps the faithful in thrall, like a frightened child clinging to its stuffed toy. More mundane examples include tribalism (e.g., nationalism and other social loyalties) and economic materialism: belief in material goods as having intrinsic value, whether the satisfaction is sheer ownership or as a social status symbol.