It is always a complicated question when it comes to knowledge and truth, and the propension of groups to try to push forward what they would consider as a truthful depiction of reality. Whether science or religion, many would tend to affirm that the system of representation that they would use is right and should be priviledged over others.
We often cited philosopher Thomas Kuhn (1962) as to his statement that even the practice of Sciences is conditioned by the specificity of the social and cultural groups pertaining to it and their commitment to the belief that it would lead to a better and more truthful depiction of what is real. The supposed opposition between science and belief is to be nuanced, as they all in the end pertain to a system of representation that, conditioned by the use of language, can never be but an approximation, however fine this could be.
Moreover, we saw earlier with the work of biologist Francisco Varela (F. Varela, E. Thompson & E. Rosch, 1991) that all worlds of perception are codependent on their sensorimotor modalities of interaction. Those would lead to the enaction of a possible world, situated as any science should be in the perspective of members to a particular species. Adaptation to their surroundings would not be neutral and binary, as those surroundings would only exist to those individuals as emerging from their interactions, through the lense of their own particular way to embody them. It would not be optimal and prescriptive, but good enough to proscribe some critical threshold points that would endanger the lives of the individuals and their capacity to reproduce – seen here in its evolutionary perspective to phylogenesis.
In a competitive system that is our societies’ ideological organisation (largely patriarcal, capitalist and the result of White-supremacy, as would scholar bell hooks state), the necessity to impose a space of one’s own may lead to imposing as well a certain proposition on the meaning and nature of reality. We then enact those propositions through which we obtain a certain social position. As some belief systems show efficient enough in order to acheive social balance against upsetting forces, there would be no need to stop competing for their hegemony over others.
However, we have learnt from the idea of the performativity of identity (Judith Butler, 1990) and developed about the theory of intermediary spaces and meta-hermeneutics (all that is mediated by a form of language and/or submitted to interpretation pertains to a symbolic intermediary space that is projected out of the body’s own reality, which is suspended by the state of sensorimotor paradox, in a constant self-evaluation). This perspective pushes us to confront that every form of identification and its belief, whether conventional and widely spread or not, entails the active personal implication of the individual’s faith. It is because so much depends on the continuity of those identities and beliefs for social, affective and material stability that we tend to forget about their relativity.
As well, the distortion induced between those systems of interpretation competing for stability would certainly lead most people to a form of anguish. Which would be the right one and how would I not be mistaken ? Will I be crushed by someone else’s dogma on what is real or true and what is not if I persist in this way ? Should I be ‘rational’ and trust only the hegemony of Modern Sciences, or ‘irrational’ to some Religion’s or cult ? What kind of tension would prevent me from enacting both in my daily life, and what violence breaches society within those oppositions ?
That is, in fact, that one set of belief is good – and all can be – as long as they lead to good action. As we cannot escape the singularity of our point of view as a species and the relativity of our interpretative nature, using meta-linguistic mediums of analogy and combination, the sequencing of language, to the perception of our reality, what is the point in describing a reality that would not lead us to our own mutual preservation (but hit the limits of some social darwinist doctrine) ?
This is a statement here that inside every of those descriptions made or borrowed, there is a choice or non-choice made over the way that I treat others, whether human or of another species. So this is an ethical question : if it would only ever be an approximation, how a scientific one would be better than a religious one – and vice-versa – if this supports in the end a system of oppression and destruction, even in an indirect way ? How did public relation’s ‘engineering of consent’ work on the belief that our world of meaning was limited by what had been gained on the social level but constantly under the threat of disappearing ? How did the practice of Modern Sciences, in the phantasy of cracking the ultimate secret, intertwined with an hegemonic quest, allow the separation between the Ethics of research and the philosophical Ethics to the quest and use of truth ?
There is this beautiful idea in Hannah Arendt (1961), that the discrepency between the human world of fabrication and the one of action – that pertains to Hermeneutics – would be that one would never control the outcomes of their actions, because it would imply the plurality of the individuals on Earth and the quality of being a process. The concept of History and progress as opposed to the cyclic perception that we have of Nature as a whole, would eventually break when we would twist the very fabric of physical nuclear matter without knowing or caring of the possible consequences.
Because we can develop a certain kind of technology doesn’t say anything about the way to use it if we don’t set it back to the ethical question of ‘to whom it is for’ – that means, in what context and to what priority ? Eventually, the technicality of making up the means to confront and enact our reality falls back down to the realm of action as to the ‘what do we do with it ?’ If we don’t solve what makes us a whole as to the foundation of our social and collective nature, if we keep pushing so hard on competition just so we would not be the ones to drown, we will miss the opportunity to preserve a rich environment, plural and overflowing with enough intermediary spaces so that everyone could make their own room peacefully.
In fact, it should not matter the content of an actual set of belief so to give it its value. As long as it allows people to respect and preserve each other’s liberty to self-determine and decide what they are willing to share with others or not, any belief has the right to exist. The world needs more faith than hate. That is the beauty of intermediary spaces, that it should allow everyone to mutually decide, situate and form their own balance without encroaching on others’. Therefore, the notion of a ‘good action’ can only be seized through the lense its collective and reciprocal nature – and beyond the intraspecificity of human societies but as well considering other species’ well being.
The course to absolute control on our environments can only be a folly as we can only control and decide the way that we choose to interpret and guide our own experience. But what context and relations of power, what dynamics of trauma-inducing social pressure do condition the pursuit of the expression of truth and its elaboration, which would have to be validated by a higher authority that would grant access to a priviledged social position ? What kind of transgression would, in this context, constitue a state of ‘radical openness’, as suggested by bell hooks ? Who does apportion the validity and legitimacy of such or such set of belief and the capacity of individuals to have faith in something that is good to them, especially when it eases up their relationship with others ?
The ethical perspective would have us be enclined to encourage the personal and intimate elaboration of those personal and intimate systems of belief and interpretation as long as they support the leading to good action. Imagination has to be alive and lively and allowed to spark the light in any form suitable to them. With a minimal input of theoretical notions pertaining to the sensorimotor paradox theory, the theory of trauma and intermediary spaces, as well as intersectional feminist, social and political analysis, we would find enough motive to stop the competition and start looking at things together, rather then one against the other.
Photo credit : Ciel étoilé, by La Fille Renne, section 6×6