Sunday, August 19, 2012

Facts

Scott Bradley


Facts are something we seemingly cannot do without. And why would we ever wish to do so? Everything we know is a fact. And that's a fact.

It is by virtue of knowing facts that we ostensibly make decisions. "Don't confuse me with the facts," is something we facetiously say to point out both the importance of having them and of our understanding that there are other forces at work in our opinion making which have precedence over them. However, even were we able to accept with equanimity all the facts available to us, if we looked at them closely enough we would likely discover that many of our 'facts' are, in fact, not determined by facts, but by the predispositions we use to form and embrace them. In the end, most facts are simply opinions.

This is especially true in interpersonal relationships. The 'facts' that we know about ourselves and others are almost entirely subjective and have their roots, not in fact, but in a more fundamental predispositional attitude toward their object. If we think someone inconsiderate, then we judge each new behavior with that bias. A new fact emerges; a new demonstration of inconsideration is added to the list, which gives further substance to our bias.

Facts, then, are often not really facts at all.

But this is really of little consequence when we understand that facts, true or false, are of only secondary importance if our focus is on our own heart and not that of others. We are offended by another. Here are the facts, the reasons, which justify our sense of being offended. We review them and by them embrace our sense of offense. If, however, our focus is not on the external reasons we are offended, but on the internal reasons, then the facts of the case are immaterial. It does not matter what the facts are, or whether they are true or false, because our focus is on what it is in us that can be offended in the first place.

Can a 'sage' be offended? If not, why not?

Zhuangzi and other proto-Daoists make frequent reference to the quality in a sage which disallows that 'facts' should disturb her inner peace. She may recognize facts, but she does not attach attitudes and values to them, and thereby allow them to enter her "Numinous Reservoir". The inner pool remains calm and undisturbed, and like a mirror, simply reflects the world without being affecting by it.

This is to be truly unconfused by the facts. Confusion arises when we think facts matter and that our inner life should be determined by them.

You can check out Scott's other miscellaneous writings here.

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