Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Power of Volition

In yesterday's blog, I attempted to establish the limitations of rational thought, while at the same time affirming its validity and the necessity of truth to conform to it.

If we think of the exploration of truth in terms of a mining expedition, then I am suggesting that there is a hierarchy in the "truth mining process"

I would summarize these levels from lowest to highest as:

1. The establishment of objectivity
2. The test of empirical adequacy
3. The test of logical consistency
4. The test of experiential relevance

1. The establishment of objectivity
At the lowest level, we attempt to find objectivity by questioning ourselves.
We start with humility. Without it, we learning nothing.

Do I really want to know the truth or do I merely want to support my preconceived notions of life? Am I more interested in winning an argument and being right or do I love and seek the truth more than my very pride and self-respect.

I don't really believe in the clinical and sterile definition of objectivity as presented in the halls of academia or in what passes as journalism. Instead of seeing objectivity as simply NOT having a bias towards any one argument, I see objectivity as being totally BIASED... That bias is a bias towards truth at all costs.

Anything short of this is summed up by the quote from the movie "A Few Good Men", "You want the truth? You can't handle the truth!"

2. The test of empirical adequacy
The next test is empirical adaquacy. How does a worldview line up with observation and personal experience? At this level, you'll often hear debaters on both sides of an issue pointing to studies, surveys, research and the like to support their sides and tear down the other sides.

This level of argumentation is suited best for assertions made at shallower depths. Assertions made at life's deepest questions asked by philosophy, theology and religion can often fall into a realm that is beyond the reaches of empiricism. But because (as established in yesterday's blog) we DO live in a world that is independent of our own minds, we believe that things do exist outside of our own minds' ability to empirically verify.

This brings us to the third level of evaluation....

3. The test of logical consistency
See Wikipedia's article on the dialectic process at for more information, but basically logic connects cause and effect. It attempts to connect a person's presuppositions with their conclusions. Any argument that fails to make the connection is suspect. Logic is a great lie detector but it cannot confirm the truth. It is possible for two arguments to be logical but only one to be correct. In this regard, logic might be a truth detector, but a more sophisticated lie can get under its "radar".

4. The test of experiential relevance
If the argument gets beyond these first three levels, we might be left with two contradictory systems which are both logically consistent and empirically adequate (or empirically unverifiable).

The experiential relevance test asks how does the application of either worldview affect how we live as human beings?

As C.S. Lewis once said:

"If you are really a product of a materialistic universe, how is it that you don't feel at home there?"
--Encounter with Light

In Christ, I have found a worldview that is not only logically consistent, and empirically adequate, but is also meaningful, providing a sense of purpose that not only makes me a better person in how I treat others and myself, but fuels my life with a passion endued with a sense or meaning in everything that I do and in every breath that I breathe. This is the essence of worship itself. C.S. Lewis was right to suggest that we are not at home in a materialistic universe. I have found my home in the arms of God Himself.

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