This page is an archive from the previous version of The Row Boat, which is why it doesn't look and work the same as the current version. However, these archives are fully functional and integrated with the new system.
Why does this site permit advertising?
Powered by Little Logger
The Row Boat
"Had we but world enough, and time..." *
I Am Wrong and Contingent10/26/2007 14:48:52
Teaching students about religions these days, I keep resorting to explaining events by contexts. Why did Joseph Smith's claims to have found and translated miraculous golden plated from the ground take root among people around him in upstate New York during the Second Great Awakening? Because magical practices and revivalist preachers were swirling around in that time and place. In every case, context excuses people then from things now I wouldn't be caught dead doing.
History, and especially the history of religions, suggests that people are very likely to believe in the real truth of the things they believe. Even more revealingly, the real truth of what the other people around them believe. Those truths once believed self-evident so often down the line seem only contingent on circumstances that have passed.
Biologically: remember, remember Daniel Dennett's (1991) point that consciousness and all that it claims for itself does not exist for the purpose of its own self-comprehension or for perfect comprehension of other things. Rather, the mind exists by evolution to solve certain adaptive problems, such as they are. Costly signaling theory suggests, furthermore, that being convinced that our perceptions and those of the people that surround us are true is part of the biological goal of group formation and cohesion.
So observing, I feel obliged to say to myself, from time to time: I am wrong and contingent. Beliefs that feel so utterly true and unassailable in my world are just the opposite in other times and places. My own experiences with religious conversion, too, confirm for me the bizarre power of the mind to be so persuaded of something that might later seem far less persuasive.
So now I've said my periodic declaration - what now to do? Nothing. The human right, finally, is wrongness. Rightness in wrongness. Goodness in nothingness. There is an ethics of self-distrust that must occur, but one only matched by the distrust of others. So the result? Nothing. No change. The world goes on as it did, only a little bit unsure-er, a little bit funnier.
re: I Am Wrong and Contingent - 11/02/2007 12:46:58
re: I Am Wrong and Contingent - 11/02/2007 22:21:10