Re: RELIGION: The meaning of Life

Gregory Houston (
Thu, 13 Feb 1997 23:28:29 -0600

Reilly Jones wrote:

> I simply repeated the sum total context of your post,
> namely, "I have no desire to attain truth." Once you have said this,
> everything else you post must be viewed as untruthful, hence, contextless.

Your argument is that if I deny truth then I am embracing what is false.
This is not the case. This is the same sort of thinking that says if I
deny God, then I embrace satan. Neither are *useful* statements to me.
When I deny one pole of a dichotomy, I do not embrace its opposite. I
deny the dichotomy entirely. I am replacing truth with something that
can serve all it functions while shifting some of the priority from
epistemology to axiology and the emotive. This is a shift from the
true-false continuum to a useful-unuseful or functional-nonfunctional
continuum. It is a shift in priorities.

Then what about honesty you might say? I can be honest without ever
having to refer to the concept of truth, because we have found that
"honesty is the best policy." In the long run, it is not useful for me
to give people unuseful information. This is honesty qua usefulness
rather than honesty qua truth. It still works. Queerly enough, if people
took on this new definition of honesty, we might not be bombarded by so
much trivial and useless information. People might aspire to more useful
dialogue rather than merely truthful dialogue. A person can speak the
truth and still lose control of their emotions thus severly inhibiting
the depth of the discussion. But if the individual was instead concerned
with usefulnes, that individual would not find it useful to lose control
of their emotions. Thus that individual could offer the same information
as the former, while going much further in the argument without losing
emotive control. The person whose focus is on truth cannot be nearly as
honest as the person whose focus is on usefulness. This is because a
focus on truth entails a focus on knowledge and is thus limited to that
which is conscious. But a focus on usefulness entails a focus on the
emotions need and desire [something is only useful if we need or desire
it]. This person is going to want to first find the subconscious sources
of his needs and desires and then attempt to make those forces
conscious. The person with a focus on usefulness is then going to have
fewer unconscious forces determining that person's interaction with
others, while the person with a focus on truth is going to continue to
interact with people dishonestly because that person still has
underlying motivations which that person is unaware of. No one can be
absolutely honest, but by degree, the person focused on usefulness, will
be more honest, more free, more in control of self--emotively and thus
cognitively--than the person focused on truth.

Does usefulness rule out pure or base science? Of course not. We have
found pure and base science to be often useful in enabling future

Just scenario-spinning: hypothetically, what would be the difference
between a person who spent ten years meditating on truth, and another
person who spent ten years meditating on usefulness? Truth certainly
*sounds* much loftier.

Now lets imagine that the first individual spent the next ten years
applying truth to science, and the other individual spent the next ten
years applying usefulness to science.

The following are what I hypothesize would be some of the differences
between these two individuals:
1. Using a greater portion of his/her consciousness, the individual
focused on usefulness would be more effective [useful] as a scientist
than the person focused on truth. This person would, having greater
control over his/her emotions, have a greater ability to rationalize,
pancritically or otherwise.
2. Though the person focused on truth can rationalize violence as
irrational, that person is more likely to be violent and to participate
in the creation of violent technology because that person does not have
the same control over his/her emotions as the person focused on
usefulness. A kleptomaniac might come to the realization that what he is
doing is *wrong* and that he would like to stop, but in that same
instance he steals something because he has not delved into his
subconscious in order to truly take responsibility for his emotive
drives. He may have the cognitive and rational skill to realize his
problem, but not the emotive capacity to truly deal with it. Based on
the same argument, a person who holds truth as a higher priority than
usefulness is more likely to be a Charlaten,
saying/thinking/rationalizaing one thing while feeling and doing yet
another. Severing emotion from cognition severs the individual.

Sidhartha was focused on truth. He came to the realization that "Life is
suffering." What if Sidhartha had been focused on usefulness? Would he
have came to the realization that "Life is unuseful." I cannot say for
sure, but I doubt it. Its easy to associate suffering with a general
concept as life, but it becomes a bit more difficult to associate
something like unuseful to a general concept like life. If life isn't
useful, its our own fault. Its not the fault of life. If I am bored and
useless its my own fault.

> <Science is fundamentally driven by need and desire. We need to be able to
> predict such and such to survive. I desire to predict such and such in
> order to survive forever.>
> There is a rich hoard of historical literature, much of it
> autobiographical, about scientists (and natural philosophers) being
> motivated by the pure search for knowledge itself, completely unconnected
> to any animal desire for survival. Perhaps they all were lying about this.

No, I was using survival as merely an example of a desire. You simply
have offered yet another example. Thank you, there are probably hundreds
of desires which motivate science.

> <Science is a tool of need and desire. It is an emotive tool, yet it denies
> the emotions.>
> This is clearly untrue, scientists undeniably squeal like stuck pigs when
> their government funding is cut. They get quite emotional about it.

Thank you again. One more example of where it might be beneficial
[useful] for scientists to gain greater control over their emotions.
Instead of "squealing" they might speak with emotive passion and
charisma. Instead of waisting hours, perhaps days and weeks, being
pissed off, they might be using that time *usefully* working on an
appeal or seeking funding elsewhere.

> <We cannot even prove that absolute truth exists.>
> Who is this "we"? Perhaps you need to broaden your circle of associates.

Ah, perhaps so. Do you know someone who can prove absolute truth exists?

> <It would not even matter if in some freakish sense that I myself did not
> "truely" exist.>
> This appears to be an agreeable statement.

Was that a momentary lapse of emotive control? It does not appear to be
a useful reply and in terms of truth it is certainly relative to your
own opinion. You have once again taken a statement out of context and
thus shifted its meaning.

> I think you mean that a hundred years ago people said "God is dead." Then
> came the filthy French compost-modernists who pretended that truth died
> with him. Then came the inability for my children to go out in my
> neighborhood without constant adult supervision for fear of the barbaric
> perverts who grew up inculcated with your religious beliefs.

Wow, there is a leap in your argument that I am unable to follow. How
did we get from the French compost-modernists to my religious beliefs
and then to your paranoia of people molesting your children. A little
more elaboration might be appropriate here.

> <How can you be absolutely honest with others when you cannot even by
> honest with yourself. You do not know yourself well enough. You are not
> aware enough of whats going on subconsciously to imagine that you are being
> truthful.>
> Do not make the mistake that because you are confused, that others are
> similarly confused.

This is much less a matter of confusion than a matter of unawareness. I
think your focus on epistemology probably guided you to that conclusion.
Confusion has to do with knowledge, but what I am speaking about in this
example is about subconscious emotions that *we* are unaware of. Did you
deny that you have a subconscious? Are you completely aware of all that
motivates you?

> This is an invalid deduction. Certainly, since you
> have once again repeated that "I have no desire to attain truth," we can
> all see that you have no intention whatsoever of being honest, even if you
> weren't internally confused.

This was sufficiently dealt with at the beginning of this Email. My
priorities do not restrict honesty and clarity of thought. They actaully
enhance them.

> <The concept of "truth" is not even compatible with Pancritical
> Rationalism.>
> This topic came up on the list in March 1994. At that time, I was
> concerned, based on the positions that some individuals were taking on PCR,
> that your statement above was quite probably true. However, this point,
> for me, was cleared up by Max More when he wrote:

I will grant you that and am proved corrected. This does not however
attentuate my argument for a shift in priority.

> Recently, I ran across an analysis of this same point by the philosopher
> Etienne Gilson who concluded (rightly) that: "You must either begin as a
> realist with being, in which case you will have a knowledge of being, or
> begin as a critical idealist with knowledge, in which case you will never
> come in contact with being."
> What Gilson refers to as the "critical idealist" I was referring to as the
> "smug nihilist." Being and truth are, of course, different aspects of the
> same ontological primitive.

If so then is truth as static as being? I'm not interested in platonic
primitives. I'll take becoming and usefulness over the concepts of being
and truth. The latter concepts and the priorities they entail create a
shift from the static to the dynamic, moving and changing, from the
absolute to the relative.

> So really, Max and myself are saying the same
> thing, that unless you begin with a care for truth, you will never have
> knowledge. You cannot begin with knowledge itself and get anywhere at all,
> you must begin with caring for truth.

This argument is difficult for me. You first say that I have to care for
truth to have knowledge, but then you say if I start with knowlegde I
won't get anywhere. How did I get the knowledge in the latter example if
I did not first care for truth? It doesn't really matter ...

Knowledge is limited to things we can think. I am intrested in a MUCH
BROADER spectrum of consciousness which includes emotions. I will call
this broader spectrum "information". I do not feel the term information
limits me to the purely cognitive that epistemology does. When you are
focused on truth and knowledge alone, you deny the greater portion of
your consciousness. Its like looking through a little peep hole on
reality without ever feeling its presence.

Shifts and expansions in priority:

Epistemology --> Axiology and Aesthetics
Truth --> Usefulness/functionality
False --> Unuseful/nonfuntional
Knowlege --> Information (the entire continuum of
consciousness, including the subconscious and the
Honesty --> Honesty (in terms of usefulness rather than truth)
Objectivity --> The objective-subjective continuum
Exogenous reality --> The exogenous-endogenous reality continuum

I particularly appreciate your criticism and our discussion in general
Reilly. It helps me greatly to refine, modify, and more effectively
express my own thoughts on this matter. Thank you. I am finding our
dialogue extremely useful.


Gregory Houston