Why "follow"?

Discussion in 'General Philosophy' started by Adam, Jun 21, 2002.

  1. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Staff Member

    Why ask why?

    Despite the examples, I will still take a moment to split the hair of what is meant by following.

    • Some follow in terms of obedience
    • Some follow in terms of respect

    To wit, religious persons generally follow in terms of obedience. Philosophers generally follow in terms of respect. That is, where a religious person submits to an undemonstrated authority (as described by the religion), the philosopher submits to a demonstrated authority. Kant is still relevant because to follow Kant is to choose a method of defining the problem according to specific, observable (if not uniform) principles. Hegel is relevant because it defines patterns in a way which people recognize, and thus award the credibility of common observation.

    To follow Rand's Objectivism, then, should be a practical measure. To follow an open idea such as Objectivism, one would not place the doctrinal definition above the practical application. That is, when the situation defies objective response, an Objectivist would presumably forsake Objectivism, thereby allowing continued objectivity.

    Perhaps this idea is best served by its counterpoint. To follow God's Law, as described by any number of religions, one applies the law even when the situation defies it. Objectively speaking, God's Law of forgiveness as contained in the Christian kernel does not apply so well as one would hope; many Christians, in fact, reflect a more Muslim attitude about institutional aggression, to meet hostility with hostility until aggression ceases. I find this a curiously real adaptation within the faith structure. But we see that in terms of the knowledge required to implement the faith practically, more and more Christians are forced by the nature of reality to render the Bible more and more mythical. We see in the remaining faction a devotion to literalism, such that in some cases the world is believed to be six-thousand years old despite evidence to the contrary.

    And here we can reflect on the two ideas of following.

    • To follow an idea by awarding it the credibility of demonstrated result; say, for analogy, a treasure map. Now, the guy who made the treasure map knows the path, so when it says to turn right instead of left, you follow (trust in the prior authority demonstrated by the mere existence of the map, at least) its directions.

    • To follow an idea by awarding it credibility a priori, presuming the concept to be correct without examining its practical applications, so that one who, say, believes that this particular culture built their labyrinths with such a dependency on left turns that you can expect one here, will perhaps ignore the map's instructions to turn right, and thus step into a bottomless pit

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    I see no benefit in following a prior unless there is no alternative.

    However, in terms of following the demonstrated result, we tend to strive toward our own advantage, so there seems to be some benefit in following a path previously established to be advantageous, instead of believing in an idea despite its apparent pitfalls.

    An interesting expression of the idea is found in the comparison of Sufism to the related Abramic tradition. One of the ways to spot a fake Sufi is if you can tell at first glance that he is a religious seeker. That is, to walk down the street in Seattle and see a dervish in peculiar white garb, I can either conclude that I am seeing a Malamati (one who follows the path of blame) or a charlatan (the more likely explanation). The Sufi should be capable of integrating with the society s/he exists among.

    We see among the Sufis a certain experimental or practical objectivism. While following trends which have proven their worth according to relevant values, the Sufi struggle to remain aware that they might well be wrong. It is a learning process they follow, a certain active process involving knowledge. This is much contrasted to the following done by the "accreted" religions of which Sufis are so critical. This following, as we have noted, trusts blindly in a principle without any demonstration.

    I think following in terms of "following the advice of history" is the benefit of following that all followers pretend to strive toward. Following logical outcomes, or following sane theory. People tend to attach a very personal weight to following due to the amount of duckling-following Western minds are conditioned with.

    Robert F Kennedy once said, Some men see things as they are and ask, "Why?" I dream things that never were and ask, "Why not?"

    If I find its conceptual derivation ironic, it is because the Sufi are aware of this idea--it is inherent in the idea of the "divine" containing knowledge and opportunities for humankind. To wit, is the best we have the best we can do? What makes the notion ironic is that John F Kennedy once lifted from a Lebanese philosopher--Gibran--when he said, Ask not what your country can do for you ....

    I would assert that the following humans strive toward is generally not the following they undertake. The idea of following an idea is not inherently bad. As with all things, common sense is called for.

    Following--adhering to--a presupposed agenda cannot help. Following a presupposed template for perceiving information--receptive habits, as such--can be both helpful and hurtful. If we tend toward the best we can conceive, then our following the presupposed templates can be functionally helpful. Logic, for instance, is a presupposed template for perceiving information; that is, intending that all information perceived should have a logical value.

    Those templates, however, can nullify their own reason for being. As with all things, common sense is called for.


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  3. Adam §Þ@ç€ MØnk€¥ Registered Senior Member

    Very nice post, Tiassa, thanks.
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