The savage, like ourselves, feels the oppression of his impotence before the powers of Nature; but having in himself nothing that he respects more than Power, he is willing to prostrate himself before his gods, without inquiring whether they are worthy of his worship. Pathetic and very terrible is the long history of cruelty and torture, of degradation and human sacrifice, endured in the hope of placating the jealous gods. - Bertrand Russell, A Free Man's Worship (1903)

Intellectual Responsibility
Updated: 08/07/2019

It is easy enough to see that much truth is objective; it lies outside of ourselves. Yet, what is subjective and HAS to be subjective is our PERSPECTIVE on the truth. What is really helpful in assessing any territory and can give us a more complete picture is having many different perspectives, seeing things from different angles; but we can trust those sources of perspective ONLY IF they are reliable! Would we trust a source if that person is intellectually irresponsible? Unreliable? I wouldn't, and I don't.

What is at the core of ANY serious disagreement over the truth? What is the foundational cornerstone of ALL belief and ALL knowledge? Clue: It isn't God, the universe, or external reality. What is it for the United States Declaration of Independence? Clue: It isn't truth and freedom, because those are the objectives. What is the foundational point of the Parable of the Sower? Clue: It isn't belief in God, growth or increase, because those are the desired results. What is it that some of the wisest men advise us to know? Clue: It isn't theology, philosophy or psychology. What is the one thing that is usually the most difficult for us to look at and see clearly, warts and all?

A healthy self-esteem is the sine qua non of a
robust and free life. Reason November 1994,
"A Call to Consciousness" - James Sniechowski

Self as starting point

The USA Declaration of Independence doesn't start off with "We hold these truths because they are traditional" nor "We hold these truths because they are in our favored set of sacred writings" nor "We hold these truths because we all had a visit from God proclaiming them". No! "We hold these truths to be SELF EVIDENT!

If you first don't have faith or believe in yourself, how can you then have any faith in what you think you know otherwise or what you believe? In the parable, the good soil is equated with the man that is ROOTED IN SELF.

It is not that you understand what is right and true starting off but that you CAN understand what is right, that you CAN understand the truth. You must first have faith in or believe in YOURSELF before you have any grounds for believing in ANY external agency. It is this sovereign "self" that is sacred, that is worth protecting and even dying for if necessary.

Self value

Religions and various systems of thinking sometimes give the message that the self should be suppressed as if it were a liability or killed as if it were a mortal enemy, or more commonly that self be sacrificed for something of more value. IS there anything of more value? And if you even ponder the issue, who should make that moral judgment? It is legitimate and necessary to have a self and value it at the highest level. Once you actually do this, you can drop the agenda of self-aggrandizement. It is legitimate to have intrinsic needs and desires, and to value your self as equal to any other person or being!

Therefore, one's self IS the only legitimate starting or foundational reference point. Without this PRIMARY cornerstone of self validation, self realization or belief in self already firmly in place, the following 12 facets of intellectual responsibility are largely meaningless, yet this is seldom if ever dealt with clearly in a classroom, lecture or sermon.

The 12 Facets of Intellectual Responsibility

The theologian Bernard Lonergan has discerned what he has termed "the four transcendental precepts": "Be attentive, be intelligent, be reasonable, be responsible “ Bernard Lonergan, Method in Theology (Darton, Longman & Todd, 1972), pp. 17-18.

A defensible and needed expansion of Lonergan's "four transcendental precepts" would be that Intellectual Responsibility can be defined/described as 1) having a yearning for knowledge and truth, and being 2) honest, 3) attentive, 4) rational, 5) logical, 6) reasonable, with 7) humility in our thinking and belief, and a 8) demand for integrating everything into an understandable and meaningful world view. It must be added that the crucial aspect of reason perforce includes but is not limited to 9) incorporating a healthy skepticism that is willing and able to challenge any and every concept or idea to which it is exposed, whether it be from the self or external sources, and 10) faithfully to engage in correction of those from the self.

Has anyone else discovered how troublesome it is to try to correct all the falsities coming at us from the outside?

Another aspect is to 11) come out of denial. Although the human condition should never be fully embraced, it should be acknowledged, faced and braced as not being ideal, and ultimately as not totally defensible or acceptable.

Given that our world view, our belief system, our philosophy, our thinking, and our ethics affect everything that we do, the last crucial aspect is to 12) realize and embrace the importance of being intellectually responsible. In that regard, here are some questions for the day. Is being intellectually responsible less important than being:

  • Behaviorally responsible?
  • Fiscally responsible?
  • Sexually responsible?
  • Politically responsible?
  • Legally responsible?
  • Dietary responsible?
  • Ethically responsible?
  • Morally responsible?

If we support and help foster an intellectually irresponsible religious or scientific belief system, is that less dangerous or harmful than promoting::

  • Unhealthy, dangerous, or contaminated food?
  • Risky activities?
  • A careless and irresponsible lifestyle?
  • Violent and body/brain destroying sports like boxing and football?
  • The manufacturing, selling and supplying faulty products like cribs, guns, and cars?
  • The manufacturing, selling and supplying harmful products like cigarettes, and intoxicating beverages?
  • The selling or supplying of illicit drugs?
  • Lewd material and pornography?
  • False advertizing?
  • False science?
  • Fake news?
  • Money scams?

To which of the above items can you answer yes?

Hypocrisy defined as intellectual irresponsibility

Hypocrisy is NOT disingenuous behavior, but is that which causes it. In its most fundamental aspect it means below (lacking in) critical thinking (see Hypocrisy Analysis) If it were pointed out that the most influential man in our world never said anything about the above items but railed against being intellectually irresponsible by condemning hypocrisy and blindness, would you change your answers? Another way of describing hypocrisy is that it is being inauthentic to the real and legitimate self by letting some external influence override.

Mysticism, superstition and myth versus Intellectual Responsibility

From one perspective we can note that Western science may be seen as a religious attempt to eliminate unproductive and debilitating superstition, or at least move away from it. Although the overall movement has fostered its own special type of "scientific" myth and mathematical mysticism, science is a noble attempt because at its heart the scientific method is to think within the proper epistemological and metaphysical principles and do the necessary reality checks to determine the truth. Of course this basic approach can and should be used in both the physical and spiritual realms.

Take a look out there at all the human misery in the less civilized regions of the wider world, where the basic metric of lifespan is a fraction of what it is for the civilized norm. Mysticism, superstition, idolatry, falsity and confusion enable and foster human misery on an enormous scale in our world. How can we not see that these are facets of being intellectually irresponsible? How can we not see that being so is spiritually debilitating and paralyzing? At least one Catholic Pope seems to have somewhat understood this:

"For since it is in the very nature of man to follow the guide of reason in his actions, if his intellect sins at all his will soon follows; and thus it happens that looseness of intellectual opinion influences human actions and perverts them. Whereas, on the other hand, if men be of sound mind and take their stand on true and solid principles, there will result a vast amount of benefits for the public and private good." - Pope Leo XIII

Intellectual/Spiritual Integrity

The corpus of Homo Sapiens—"wise?" men—can be divided up into those that are controlled by their emotions, and by those who are controlled by the higher faculties. We are emotional beings, and that is a good thing. Life is experienced on the level of feeling, but it should be easy to see that the over all control should be held by the intellect.

Humans also can be divided up into two other groups: 1) those that "care" about truth to some significant degree, and 2) those that are totally or almost totally occupied in satisfying the more "base" needs, desires and appetites including ego gratification. If you are truly seeking the truth in an intellectually responsible way, have great confidence, enough so that you are not insecure. You are on the path of the gods. What more can a man do to be ultimately responsible than to seek the truth?

In thinking about information, knowledge, and people, their attitude towards truth and reality and their "religions" or belief systems, we can see that there are essentially three divisions of the first group—those that care—, according to how those persons relate to reality: the insane, the unsane and the sane.

(1)  The insane can be characterized as somehow driven to obliterate, blur or obscure objective reality by projecting their personal concepts UPON it and actively trying to force it to fit their personal ideas. A simplistic example would be a person who is deluded into thinking they are Napoleon. They will want to reinforce their delusion by trying to be Napoleon, acting like Napoleon, wearing Napoleonic clothes, posing like Napoleon, etc. In practice, those that do this in a too troublesome way get ostracized or even locked up. Yet by no means are all who do so interred.

(2)  The unsane comprise in my opinion the largest of these three groups. People in this group don't so much try to force objective reality to fit their internal beliefs, but rather they ignore it to some extent and smother it by clinging to an external authority—some combination of "sacred" writings, tradition, denomination, scientific majority, societal majority, peer pressure, career ambition, clergy or other formalized authority figures, those in power, etc. They filter information that comes to them through whatever belief system they are programmed with. They are insecure in their own self-conception and are emotionally attached to and necessarily dependent upon their authority/belief system for even their own identity and self-worth. They essentially embrace whatever information or concepts that come to them that "fit" their system and consciously or unconsciously set aside and ignore those that don't. It can be said of this group that they don't have a grip on their belief system, their belief system has a grip on them. These are the men that in one way or another can be wound up and pointed by others.  Or in the words of Ernest Becker in his Pulitzer prize-winning book, The Denial of Death:

What we today call "inauthentic" men, men who...follow out the styles of automatic and uncritical living in which they were conditioned as children.  They are "inauthentic" in that they do not act from their own center, do not see reality on its own terms; they are the one-dimensional men totally immersed in the fictional games being played in their society, unable to transcend their social conditioning: the corporation men in the west, the bureaucrats in the east, the tribal men locked up in tradition—man everywhere who doesn't understand what it means to think for himself and who, if he did, would shrink back at the idea of such audacity and exposure.

(3)  The sane.  In my experience, a very, very small fraction of the population, this group is composed of individuals that in one way or another have founded their self-identity and self-worth on internals instead of externals.  This has allowed them to have the courage to internalize authority and take personal responsibility for their belief system, and they have learned to think critically for themselves. They have no need to deny or filter the facts and information from either internal OR objective, external reality, and thus can be rational (capable of apprehending the facts), logical (capable of drawing proper tentative conclusions from the facts), and reasonable (capable of aligning their values, conclusions, belief choices, agenda and action decisions in the context of some larger, humanely defensible purpose).

When it comes to knowledge, this group has the humility to be aware of how tenuous much of their knowledge really is and the members are not afraid to look for and do "reality checks". Where it comes to truth, they are not swayed by other people's psychological pressure, enthusiasm, charisma, popularity, power or "authority".  Although they may be willing to die for themselves over certain fundamental principles, they understand that they personally are sovereign over and more valuable than their belief system. They can change their belief system as THEY see fit . They are in control of their belief system from their core or center, their "internal reference point", instead of being controlled by external authorities or someone else's system.A final description of this group is that they are very careful about what they accept as knowledge and belief.

If you understand and accept in general the theme of planetary astral catastrophe—especially the Saturn myth reconstruction—and the concomitant theme of the Golden Age ending in a major global disaster and resulting in a series of lesser Solar system shakeups, you now see that the implications and ramifications of this reconstruction become enormous and daunting, and also disquieting.  One of the most meaningful deductions is that the human race is in a state of "collective denial and amnesia" and HAS been and STILL IS having a hard time coming to terms with this most dramatic and impactful aspect of its history. It is our contention that it is critical for us to understand as best we can the memories and mythology of the ancient people and the context and events in which these were formed.  Only then can we begin to make sense out of a bewildering world of scientific and religious confusion.

Irresponsible Definitions

One of the insidious aspects of intellectual irresponsibility that manifests in our culture today concerns the handling of important words, their definitions, and how these words are misused so as to blur or partially obscure their true meaning.

"There is no such way to gain admittance, or give defense to strange and
absurd doctrines, as to guard them round about with legions of obscure,
doubtful, and undefined words; which yet make these retreats more like
the dens of robbers, or holes of foxes, than fortresses of fair warriors."
 - John Locke

Evidently humans have a penchant for being cute with words, by developing slang, pushing the range of what words mean, so much so that some words actually eventually come to mean the opposite of what they originally meant. The intellectually responsible person strives to use words more carefully, staying close to their original meaning, Not to mention that words can be used to clarify OR obscure. Post Modernism is particularly nefarious because of its deconstruction of language and penchant for obscuring the truth or reality.

One egregious example is the definition of "time"  Time is not some mystical overarching reality in which the universe exists, but is the sequence of events in the physical universe. One example of a nebulous and circular definition: "the measured or measurable period during which an action, process..." We don't measure time. we demarcate it by regulated events—such as the ticking of a clock or the vibration of and atom, etc., and then we COUNT—not measure—these segments.

Albert Einstein made one telling comment before he died in 1955, "For us believing physicists the distinction between past, present, and future is only an illusion, even if a stubborn one." Snow, C.B., 1991, Dreams of the Future, Aquaria Press. "Believing" physicists? Yes. Critical thinking physicists? NO! Einstein showed his mystical lunacy with this remark.

Hallucinations and other paranormal experiences

Given that there ARE paranormal experiences that many or most people have at some point during their life time, this subject should also be dealt with. Consider the mass hysteria or mass hallucinations that occur. See https://infogalactic.com/info/Mass_hysteria   Consider the prophecies and visions of "our Lady" at Medjugorje, There IS a wide variety of vivid dreams, visions, compulsions and the hearing of voices, a spectrum that runs from the extremes of schizophrenia to partial complex seizure syndrome to speaking in tongues to the occasional mild hallucination that can occur while under a heightened emotional state or distress. The bicameral brain/mind paradigm lays a foundation for understanding how one brain/mind can concoct an "experience" and deliver it to the conscious or semiconscious mind.

Since every experience must involve SOME interpretation, the intellect must be empowered to watch over the interpretation, or override the false interpretation of these experiences, but rare is the person that can do this. What is at the core of ANY serious disagreement over the truth? Simply, it is that one or both minds are not understanding properly.

For that rare individual who somehow believes that he can know the truth and the truth will set him free, who commits to being intellectually responsibility, a word of warning: Don't expect widespread support or affirmation, because you will quickly be out of sync with many or most of those around you, and they will NOT appreciate it. Such is the fate of the intrepid spiritual warrior, but it is well worth it.

Low-grade Evil

Being intellectually irresponsible is a form of what we can call low-grade evil. Let me quote Doug Casey:

It’s too bad the word “evil” has been so compromised, so discredited, by the people who use it all the time – bible-thumpers, hysterics, and religious fanatics. Evil shouldn’t be associated with horned demons and eternal perdition. It just means something destructive, or recklessly injurious.

There you have it! A meaningful, practical definition, and this is practically synonymous with intellectual irresponsibility.

The mob, the capita censi, the “head count” as the Romans called them,
is swayed by emotions. They feel, they don’t think.
- Doug Casey

One last example of intellectual irresponsibility is reflected in how we think about natural law. Because of our experience and the prevailing thinking of scientism, we tend to think of  "natural law" as ordinate or supreme, But IF intelligence and will ARE ordinate, the way the universe works has to be SUBORDINATE to this intelligence and will, and thus natural law being supreme is a fallacy. There cannot be a larger-than-"God" natural law. Our concept of natural law is just not only incomplete but is ONLY a limited extraction based on our current experience of it. We cannot arbitrarily override it; no one can, but if the material universe is under control of a deity, or say, in the premise of this site, a projection from the collective mind and will, that deity or mind/will in unison CAN override it when prudent, and even change it if that becomes so desired.

Even if we cannot believe in the traditional deity or creator, we should all hope that natural law is NOT the final or ultimate reality. If it were, then we would live in an impersonal, mechanical, intractable and uncaring universe. Even IF—and I don't subscribe to this—the universe is a living being and we are less than fleas on a dog, we have no leave to ASSUME that that being cannot change or evolve itself, and thus change the very nature and fabric of physical reality around us.

To my mind there is no intellectually responsible paradigm of reality that forces us to regard natural law as supreme over all other things. God help us if it is, for then we are just thralls to it, victims of it by being ONLY temporary emergent property meat sticks under its lack of mercy!

One final principle: For me, my intellect is supreme and inviolate, and CANNOT be overridden. I WILL NOT believe anything that violates my intellect. Any belief that violates our intellect is a leap in the dark, not a step in the light!

For self-evident epistemological principles to help evaluate ideas, paradigms, and belief systems in an intellectual responsible way, see: Axiomatic Philosophical Principles

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