Points in favor of letting other people do your thinking for you

Point # 1

It’s okay to accept beliefs from other people on trust without independent verification.  We all do it all the time and couldn’t function otherwise.  A person is obliged to have positions (or at least working hypotheses) on many more areas than he can personally study.  However, when you do this, it’s important to remember that that’s what you did.  Also, keep in mind this great anti-democratic insight:  it’s okay to not take positions on a bunch of issues.

Point # 2

Why am I a Catholic?  Because that’s the religion my parents taught me.  Being a conservative, I’m proud to admit it!

But Bonald, that method can’t possibly be a reliable way to get at the truth.  It means that if you had grown up in India, you would have with as much justification become a Hindu.

Of course, and if I’d have been born in India it would have been stupid of me not to have been a Hindu.  Hunduism is definitely better than whatever shit I’d be able to come up with on my own.  It’s a major world religion, so it’s probably got something going for it.  And even if it started out as complete BS, the greatest minds of one of the world’s great civilizations have been pouring wisdom into it for millennia.

The only case that my own self-made worldview is likely to be as wise and true as what I inherit would be if my parents had just made up their own religion or philosophy, and even then there’s no reason to think that I’d do better than them.  Come to think of it, even in this case my parents’ made-up beliefs would have the edge over mine, because there are two of them and they’ve been alive longer to think about these things.

Nor should one dismiss the spiritual benefits that come from knowingly retaining the rites of one’s ancestors.

Point # 3

Of course, truth trumps other concerns.  Which is more likely to lead to the truth–methodological doubt and relying only on one’s own independent reasoning skills or blindly accepting whatever one is taught?  The latter, obviously!

Fortunately, there are intermediate positions between these two extremes that yield even better chances of getting at truth.  When in doubt, though, error to the side of blind faith.

7 Responses

  1. […] Points in favor of letting other people do your thinking for you […]

  2. Burke would love this post, Bonald.

  3. The choice is not so much between what your parent taught and what you came up with on your own; as between what your parents taught and what the modern mass media is telling you.

    (Hardly anybody thinks for themselves, ever, about anything.)

  4. So, should we become perrenialists and relativize the truth claims of the various religions? I mean, if it is perfectly acceptable to be a Hindu- if one was brought up in a Hindu environment- wouldnt that follow that Hindus would have a chance of salvation- as he is simply following the truth to the best of his ability?

  5. One doesn’t have to relativize any truth claims. It could well be that someone born a Hindu just doesn’t have any good path to the actual truth. From a position of ignorance, Hinduism has a better shot at truth than private judgment, but it’s not a sure thing, just less awful than what going solo is likely to turn up.

    I am sympathetic to the argument that, since following one’s inherited beliefs is almost always following truth to the best of one’s ability, God should make allowance for this somehow.

  6. As a side note, traditionally the doctrine of implicit baptism of desire revolved around the notion of perfect charity, choosing good out of love of God.

    Given that, even if they are in invincible ignorance (and have avoided all mortal sins for their entire life), I don’t see how a just polytheist could go to Heaven (as opposed to limbo).

    Regarding invincible ignorance and trust of one’s inherited religion, your reasoning doesn’t follow completely. While Hinduism is no doubt a great deal less unsound than whatever an individual Indian might make up, it is in all respects epistemically inferior to Christianity, so insofar as Indians have had the Catholic faith presented to them, it would not seem they could be excused for dismissing it as novelty (and back when it was a novelty, it’s many miracles served to nullify this objection).

  7. […] is just a part of the Great Seamless Garment of Anti-Choice. Also from Bonald: Points in favor of letting other people do your thinking for you. Three of them. And… The end of Interstellar. Black holes are one of Bonald’s main […]

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