This I Believe

Charlie - Northampton, Massachusetts
Entered on June 26, 2007
Age Group: 50 - 65
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This I Believe

In his new book Christopher Hitchens reviews the ways that religious belief can lead to inquisitions and wars. He could just as well include hyper-nationalism and other versions of ideological inflexibility. Hitchens argues that many of us have got it wrong – we do not have the correct beliefs. But – somewhat optimistically – Hitchens then suggests that mankind might someday evolve beyond the need for such divisive beliefs. How might that happen? [assuming that Hitchens’ arguments are not sufficient to do the trick]

Beliefs individuate. That is, we take ourselves to be individuated by our beliefs. We identify with them. Could that possibly be the problem?

If so it is certainly a well-entrenched problem.

Look at our culture, our economy , our politics, and how we evaluate the worth of our lives.

All of these are an expression of our obsession with individuation.

Here is a thought: What if that obsession turns out [in the very long run] to be just a stage in the overall evolution of humanity– like a two-year old child’s tantrums?

Let’s concede that it seems to be natural to form this center of experience as a young child.

However, it does not follow that it is inevitable that we spend the rest of our lives concerned with the extension of this center – constructing all future projects, interpreting all past experiences, always in the light of this center.

Indeed some traditions argue that it is better to transcend rather than to ossify this thrust toward distinctiveness.

Of course, it is usually only reclusive monks who get really serious about this.

But that does not diminish the point that if some people are able to manage to get beyond the individuation then it is a possibility for humankind.

How in the world might humanity transcend this thrust towards distinctiveness?

Well, don’t expect philosophy to come to the rescue.

Thoughts – such as these – certainly won’t do the trick. After all, they are simply thoughts that I entertain and – if I am to be honest with you – beliefs with which I identify.