Monday, April 15, 2013

Do Ideas Matter?

Scott Bradley

Having just finished a series in which I once again critique (criticize) the ideas of my betters (intellectually, spiritually), I am left with a certain unease. Indeed, that series has yet to be submitted to Trey and is thus still to be reconsidered. Perhaps it will end up in the Satanic Verses file. The unease is twofold; first there is the desire to avoid negativity. Secondly, there is the nagging question as to whether this concern about ideas is not a symptom and expression of the very dependence on ideas and formulae that this entire enterprise is intended to overcome. Do ideas matter?

Like everything else within the human experience, they do and they do not — many times over and in infinite ways.

In terms of the evolution of human society, how we are in the world, world-view is of immense importance. The question is asked, for instance, why China did not produce the empirical sciences despite all her other achievements. The answer is framed in terms of her general world-view. This, of course, can be turned around. Fang Yizhi (1611-1671) wrote: "The Western Learning is skilled in measuring palpable objects, but clumsy in penetrating to the incipient impulses that make things so." (Ziporyn) Clearly, ideas do matter, and their evolution and cross-fertilization is valuable in the context of human well-being.

Similarly, the world views that frame our individual being-in-the-world are partly determinative of how we behave in and relate to the world. Ideas do matter.

Still, the influence of ideas upon us as societies and individuals is obviously only approximate and variable. Buddhists, Jews, Christians, Daoists, Muslims, Hindus, whenever in a position to do so, and despite the religious ideas that would forbid it, all commit occasional mass murder. Ideas clearly have their limitations. Other forces are at work.

Perhaps it is often not so much the content of ideas that matters, but how deeply they are allowed to penetrate our being, which is to say, how much they become more than mere ideas. All the above mentioned religions have ideas capable of leading their practioners to happy and 'spiritual' living — if only they become more than ideas. This is another way of saying that you don’t have to get it right to get it. Does anyone ever get it ‘right’? At best, we can only grow that world-view that is ‘right’ for us, and having grown it, learn to live it.

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

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