CURIOSITY: The desire to enlarge oneself is the desire to embrace
VANITY AND JUDGMENT
Joseph, a retired judge: Deciding what is true and what isn't now seems to me ... a lack of modesty.
Joseph: Yes, vanity!
— Krzysztof Kieslowski's Red
Judgment comes so fast we miss it; but even a gut-level, split-second response to the obvious requires some form of judgment. Judgment is hard to detect when it becomes automatic. Automatic judgment does our thinking for us. It's the rare judge who, like Joseph Kern in Kieslowski's Red, reflects on the judging process itself and retires.
If belief came from facts, truths or historical events the variety of belief would be small indeed, not as is currently the case where we have all manner of wildly differing and conflicting beliefs held absolutely by billions of believers.
We need look no further than the daily newspaper to see that belief and truth have no need for each other, but one would have to get outside his personality and culture to see exactly why.
Its possible to transcend culture, but how does one transcend his own personality when character is the very tool with which he grasps the world and makes sense of life? You can't see further by pulling out your eyes and holding them over your head, and you can't step out of your personality for an objective look at the world.
Even the rigors of science and logic reflect human perception, cognition and need. Read the philosophy of science and you will learn that the scientific method does not give truth but only powerful theories that are practically useful but never final or complete. Like belief, scientific theories work for now but always require revisitation and revision.
You'd have to be god to transcend time, place and personal history for an undistorted assessment of truth and belief. I think Valentine was right: Certainty is a byproduct of disguised vanity. And I think Joseph was right: Certainty occurs only when someone fancies himself a judge.
As Milan Kundera wrote: Man desires a world where good and evil can be clearly distinguished, for he has an innate and irrepressible desire to judge before he understands. Religions and ideologies are founded on this desire.
It's important in many cases to strive for objectivity, but reaching it is of course impossible. Stop for a moment and think about all the obviously personal agendas that march forward under the banner of objectivity and critical thinking.
Truth is the favorite word of vile, agenda-mongering totalitarians. We know them well. They are the people who say with total conviction, I'm right. You're wrong. Case closed, as if they were the chief justice of the Supreme Court.
On the grand scale, self-importance and personal empowerment come more from judgment-created certainty than from truth. This is the last thing we want to admit; it makes us feel weak and confused; it sends us back to the spiritual and psychological drawing board; it thrusts on us a maturity we value in others but avoid ourselves. Good.
ALL THE DIFFERENCE
The problem for true believers is that it's quite different to say that belief is based on objectivity and truth as religion and ideologies would have it than to say it is based on subjective, human judgment.
It makes all the difference in the world.
ON BEING GODLIKE
You may think valid information and spiritual experience guarantee your truth, but guess what: Ideas and experiences no matter how powerful always require and receive our evaluation, especially the assumptions we make about the validity of holy scripture. So we're back to judgment yet again.
Of course, we can never stop making judgments or having beliefs, for that comes with being human. But a personal view even deeply held is quite different from an official pronouncement.
Just ask a retired judge.
UNCERTAINTY: Living with no supernatural justifications,