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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
09/16/2018

The theologian Bernard Lonergan has distinguished 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 expansion of Lonergan's "four transcendental precepts" would be that Intellectual Responsibility can be defined as having a yearning for knowledge and truth, being honest, attentive, rational, logical and reasonable in our thinking and belief, and a 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 incorporating a healthy skepticism that is willing and able to challenge any and every concept/idea to which it is exposed, whether from the self or external sources.

Given that our world view, our belief system, our philosophy, our thinking, and our ethics affect and effect everything that we do, 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 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?
  • Fake news?
  • Money scams?

To which of the above items can you answer yes?

If it were pointed out that Jesus never said anything about the above items but railed against being intellectually irresponsible by condemning hypocrisy—in its most fundamental aspect it means lacking in critical thinking (see Hypocrisy Analysis)—, would you change your answers?

How can we not see that being intellectually irresponsible fosters mysticism, superstition and idolatry, and thereby confusion and human misery on a far greater scale? How can we not see that it is spiritually debilitating and paralyzing? Even a 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?" can be divided up into two groups: those that "care" about truth to some significant degree, and those that are totally or almost totally occupied in satisfying the more "base" needs, desires and appetites.

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 according to how those persons related to reality: the insane, the unsane and the sane.

(1)  The insane are driven to obliterate or obscure objective reality by projecting their personal concepts upon it and actively trying to force it to fit their personal ideas.  If these people do this in a too troublesome way, they get locked up. Yet by no means are all who do so interred.

(2)  The unsane icomprise by far the largest of all three groups.  This group doesn't try to force objective reality to fit their internal beliefs, but they smother it by clinging to an external authority--some combination of "sacred" writings, tradition, denomination, societal majority, peer pressure, 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 on 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.  A very, very small fraction of the population, this group is composed of individuals that 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.  They have no need to deny or filter the facts and information from objective or exteral 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 are not afraid to look for and do "reality checks". Where it comes to truth, they are not swayed by othe people's psychological pressure, enthusiasm, charisma, popularity, power or "authority".  Although they may be willing to die for certain fundamental principles, they understand that they personally are more valuable than their belief system, and 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.

If you understand and accept in general the theme of planetary astral catastrophics--especially the Saturn myth reconstruction--and the concomitant themes of the Golden Age ending in a major global disaster and resulting in a series of lesser Solar system shakeups, the implications and ramifications of this reconstruction become enormous and daunting.  One of the most meaningful deductions is that the human race is in a state of "collective amnesia" and has been and is having a hard time coming to terms with this most dramatic and impactful aspects of its history.  Again, 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 confusion.

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

For that rare individual who somehow believes that he can know the truth and the truth will set him free, who sets his heart, mind, soul and feet on the pathway of intellectual responsibility, a word of warning: Don't expect much support or affirmation, because you will quickly be out of sync with those around you, and they will NOT appreciate it..

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