1.2.3 “faith” in Reason
Ontology is suppose to establish a proper ground for a thesis which cannot be found at the beginning of the inquiry. In this way reading an ontological work requires “faith” on the part of the reader because the idea develops in the mind after the fact, when the thinker stops reading. Meaning is not what is merely communicable between people, but an ontological work should allow the experience to follow naturally from the explanation such that when you read something you should be able to witness it.
Just like a scientific fact is perceivable in its physical circumstances, an ontological fact is presentable in the mind by abstract conceptions. Pragmatist like William James associate the function of belief, which is the specification of faith, with being the efficacy of choice. William James defines having “option” as “the decision between two hypothesis”. To understand the function of belief consider the difference between doing the wrong means to attain a good end versus doing the right means to attain a good end, what is the difference if the end is ultimately in both scenarios the same, or that both arrive at the same result? The answer is that both do not potentially arrive at the same result. This question presupposes the result to be given without explaining how it is arrived at. The difference is obvious because the wrong means can bring with it wrong circumstances that affects the attainment of the good end, while the right means bring about the right affects, and so there is no chance in the latter in the same way as the former. Doing the wrong means brings about the possibility which is more probable than unlikely of the wrong things happening. For example, if I am trying to catch a bus, the shorter route is to enter illegally without paying my fare, which can make me catch the bus faster and get a free ride, while paying for the fare requires that I go in the station and around to catch the bus, which will make me miss it and I will have to wait for the next one. The good end is catching the bus but the wrong means while if successful brings about the best case scenario has the possibility of also resulting in the worst case scenario, which is getting caught and being fined thousands of dollars, which will also miss the bus which is the worst thing can happen in doing the right means.
Actions are based on beliefs not only because decisions are motivated by what we believe in but we believe in something because we think it is true. William James says that “A chemist finds a hypothesis live enough to spend a year in its verification: he believes in it to that extent.” The interesting meaning of hypothesis in the context of belief suggests that we know something is true but unsure of it and this is why we have belief in it. The importance of belief is especially relevant if we take as the bare extent of action the “conception”, which is an unconsciously mental action, as we say ‘conceive something into being’ as if there is an aspect that you conceived your circumstances you are in. There are actions at the brink of being and these are the fundamental decisions. What we are acquainted with as actions are conscious decisions we actively employ, like moving your hand up when you want to. But there are fundamental actions known as “conceptions” that are actually the causes of the circumstances we are conscious of at the present moment because we assume the moment we are in is merely given, we just stumbled upon it, however we have to ask even how this is generated. James argues that people do not have voluntary control over their beliefs, but this does not mean that people’s beliefs are predetermined, like having a genetic predisposition to belief, which could be the case, like you do not see a Caucasian as a Hindu or a Muslim unless they are a convert of some sort, but importantly, this involuntary element of beliefs alludes to the spontaneity of a conception, this is why what you believe in automatically manifest as a conception, which is responsible for producing the circumstances the individual finds themselves in at a given conscious moment. This means that you do not make a decision during the present moment, but you have on some level already made your decision mentally to be in the moment you are in. The importance of ontology can be stated as the science of belief or rather the belief of science, which in studying the nature of action as a belief responsive, we are aiming to capture that moment where a decision conceived a reality. The moment behind the moment, behind the scenes of our awareness, this is the fundamental mechanics of becoming as a basis of action.
Hegel in one of his works “the philosophy of history” looks to what happened during the development of human history as direct evidence that the world is governed by a rational principle. History is interesting because so far as the present moment is concerned the past does not even exists yet it is the past that necessarily lead to the present and is maintained as a record in the mind with the highest of importance. Hegel argues for a “belief” in “Reason” that should be adopted in the onset and then proved throughout the duration of the work, he says;
“In those of my hearers who are not acquainted with Philosophy, I may fairly presume, at least, the existence of a belief in Reason, a desire, a thirst for acquaintance with it, in entering upon this course of Lectures. It is, in fact, the wish for rational insight, not the ambition to amass a mere heap of acquirements, that should be presupposed in every case as possessing the mind of the learner in the study of science. If the clear idea of Reason is not already developed in our minds, in beginning the study of Universal History, we should at least have the firm, unconquerable faith that Reason does exist there; and that the World of intelligence and conscious volition is not abandoned to chance, but must show itself in the light of the self- cognizant Idea. Yet I am not obliged to make any such preliminary demand upon your faith. What I have said thus provisionally, and what I shall have further to say, is, even in reference to our branch of science, not to be regarded as hypothetical, but as a summary view of the whole; the result of the investigation we are about to pursue; a result which happens to be known to me, because I have traversed the entire field.” (Hegel Phil of history 23-24)
Religion says to have faith but we take that to be mindless hope in things without evidence, but having faith in reason, or the necessity for there to be a rationality, is not inept of evidence because the proof is the world, “And, especially in all that pretends to the name of science, it is indispensable that Reason should not sleep — that reflection should be in full play”. The world is rational if the individual chooses to understand it, Hegel says;
“To him who looks upon the world rationally, the world in its turn presents a rational aspect. The relation is mutual.” (Phil is history 24-25)
Having faith in reason is the most rational form of faith because the presence of thought is undoubtable, in other words, it is self evident. In this sense faith involves hope as a sense of expectation from something there present in your mind making propositions and “you” the other aspect of this mind that is equipped with self-agency to “choose”, which is not whether to act or not but to act on what, takes on these proposals or propose something in turn.
1.3.1 Truth is hard and easy
In metaphysics what we are arguing for cannot be assumed to be known from a known principle, it must be discovered from an unknown principle. Metaphysics does not only ask what a thing is but where it comes from. Where a thing comes from is taken to be the same as what the object is. “Man begets man” normally means one human brings out another human, but this ultimately just means the continuity of humans. This is a reductionism of the specification of a thing to what it is as determining these details.
In all other forms of study the capacity to know is merely taken for granted and is not paid attention to when the subject under investigation is something other than knowledge as an object, but the object of this knowledge, what it deals with. When knowledge talks about itself, recounts that it is doing something as it is doing something, talking about my self talking, talking about a chair, I am talking about my self talking about the chair, talking about my self talking about my self talking about the chair. This regress is the forthright behind the thought that takes on infinite possible forms as it exercises its expression on a single thing, it has already thought another thing, which now became the single thing expressed. in metaphysics the capacity to know is the object under investigation and that our object presents itself through that.
In all other sciences we use thought to confirm the existence of a particular object like a cell or an atom, and even if the object of thought, be it an atom or a cell, is not known, we still have them in reference to a known thought, which is the capacity for them to be known, we know that to be there otherwise we would not be able to know what to know. In metaphysics when thought is taken in reference to nothing else but itself, it is unknown to itself, and this is the only known form of knowledge it begins with. And so we cannot adequately argue for something we lack knowledge of, yet this is exactly what is required by the knowledge that the existence of thought cannot he doubted. Aristotle argues;
“THE investigation of the truth is in one way hard, in another easy. An indication of this is found in the fact that no one is able to attain the truth adequately, while, on the other hand, we do not collectively fail, but every one says something true about the nature of things, and while individually we contribute little or nothing to the truth, by the union of all a considerable amount is amassed. Therefore, since the truth seems to be like the proverbial door, which no one can fail to hit, in this respect it must be easy, but the fact that we can have a whole truth and not the particular part we aim at shows the difficulty of it.” (Metaphysics book 2 part 1)
The truth is easy because on some level it is given, or at least the capacity for truth is naturally acquainted. However what this capacity to know is after or trying to get of hold of is difficult because it can never fully be gained but only partially, it can be gained partially always.
There is the fake modesty especially in modern times where persons are not trying to impose or promote their view, they are just simply trying to “understand” the truth, or they have no opinion on the matter at hand, they strive for an impartial view. This agnosticism is also a particular view of the truth that is being promoted by the individual. If someone is truly ignorant of the truth than they are actively ignoring it because truth naturally presents itself to the individual, as the relativist say ‘every individual has their own truth’, which is taken to mean that truth is reduced to the views of individuals. But this is not what the term “view” means, which is defined as something objective, i.e, everyone has a specific view, literally means truth considered in a particular way, which is the only way to consider truth. A view is a perspective, not an opinion, means a standpoint from where truth is conceived, like a passage or medium of nature something passes through, like a position from where an object is perceived; except unlike perceiving an object from a certain position, you are, the individual, is the particular standpoint of truth. In this way every person knows the truth, or as Aristotle notes “every one says something true”. Yet at the same time everyone feels as if they are missing something absolutely essential.
The only thing an individual can offer is their view which does not mean that because it is their view it is by default false because here we are saying that some views are true, at least in pointing out a particular conception of the truth, like the toe nail of a dinosaur is a partial artifact of it. However for the same reason a limited view is a false because it is an obscurity of the whole truth, e.g, you cannot derive how the dinosaur looks just by studying it’s toenail. So we have to step outside a particular truth and look at a more collective compilation of truth, sum set of individual contributions to the truth. But this collection of truth is still subject to the same limitation that an individual truth is because a group of truths is still a particular form of truth in being identified as a totality, as distinct from the individual who receives it. The truth is not the sum set of views but it is the thing these conceptions are based on and to which they approach as a limit but never fully attain because if they do, that just becomes a particular conception of the truth. Everyone knows their own truth and there is no confusion about it because it is self-evidently their experience, and by this definition truth is that which exists the most, yet we ask about whether there is truth or not as if we lack something essential.