There is one thing that is common among every argument or disagreement between cultures and religious groups. This commonality is a lack of genuine critical thought employed by either side of the argument or disagreement. As Fourth Century B.C. philosopher Chuang Tzu mentioned,
…everything has its ‘that’…its ‘this’…from the point of view of ‘that’ you cannot see it, but through understanding you can know it. So, I say ‘that’ comes out of ‘this’ and ‘this’ depends on ‘that’…the sage…recognizes…’that’…and ‘this’…[both have]a right and a wrong in [them].
Chuang Tzu’s metaphor for what genuine critical thought is presupposes a metaphysical framework that is simplistic and is briefly parsed out in what follows.. The world is. I am. The world is the ultimate setting for all experiences. It is an abstract representation for what is…and it is one, and many things (stuff) inhabit it. The I is the you that uncovers and unfolds experiences in the world. It is an abstract representation of what you are. It is one of many things that inhabit the world.
We undergo experiences of things in the world and the world. We, through a process of thought, attach meaning and provide significations to these experiences, which in turn lead to our beliefs. Beliefs are those interpretations, conclusions, and predictions of said experiences and thoughts we accept as true. Our perceptions and conceptions are constituted from these experiences, thoughts, and beliefs. This diaphanous manner in which we interact with the world, the things in the world, and ourselves resembles the infinity symbol or the yin/yang symbol. The to and fro represented in the symbol aptly presents the picture of how, through these processes, we institute our worldview, i.e., a background or perspective in which we view the world and the stuff of the world. Our worldview is our ‘that’ or ‘this.’
One process that distinguishes humans from other animals is critical or reflective thought. Our ability to think about our thinking while we are thinking simply defines reflective thought, i.e., the ability/capacity to question and evaluate the meaning and significations we provide for our experiences. This entails challenging our beliefs about the world and our beliefs about the things in the world. In other words, we challenge and justify our processes in which we institute our worldview. It is a solitary and never ending endeavor. So, the next disagreement or argument we encounter, consider practicing genuine critical thought as expressed by Twentieth Century philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty in his definition of a philosopher; “The philosopher is marked by the distinguishing trait that he possesses inseparably the taste for evidence and the feeling for ambiguity.” Through a vigilant acceptance and dedication to our freedom and our ability/capacity to develop genuine critical thinking skills, our ‘taste for evidence’ uncovers the simplicity of ‘that’ and ‘this’ being both true and false. The acceptance of the ‘feeling of ambiguity’ produces a more naïve and pure way to unfold differing perspectives, and truths and principles about what is. In turn, genuine critical thought produces a more genuine manner in which to understand cultural and religious diversity.
This is the first installment of a series that will unfold the consequences of how this genuine critical thought can begin to understand the ambiguities of our existence and the implications to many intractable dilemmas and philosophical problems, in which most arguments and disagreements are grounded.