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  one who is striking at the root."
- Henry David Thoreau
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Epistemology is the skeleton of the spiritual body.

Meaningful Epistemology Outline
Updated: 01/07/2021

I.  Introduction

Our language as human beings directly reflects the way or manner in which we think and perceive the Universe, both material and spiritual.  The very essence of a word that is a noun is identification and categorization. A common noun is a categorical description of objects or less tangible things that we want to identify or describe by association with a certain set of meaningful qualities or aspects that are identical, equivalent or at least comparable.

II.  Belief Level Paradigm

1. Belief in Self: If you do not first trust or believe in yourself and your own internal authority and capacity for judgment, how can you then logically believe in something external? Your belief in any external authority as being a source of truth would then be believed in by a person (yourself) that you don't really trust or believe in.

2. Belief in Truth: The first piece of believing in truth is to accept that it is exclusive;  there is only ONE truth, not multiple versions. In the world of today, belief in the truth is under attack simply because it is considered to be relative.

3.  Belief in the Way to recognize Truth or apprehend it by Being:

a.  Honest
b.  Attentive
c.  Rational
d.  Logical
e.  Reasonable
f.  Responsible

The pattern for our ontology in some case seems to be triune. As a functioning mechanical/biological system we can be compared to a computer –we have Hardware (our biological body), Software (our psyche or soul, the composite of mind, instincts, propensities, aptitudes, etc), and Input/Output (our ability to respond and communicate).  This triune pattern seems to hold for Man's intellect, which under sound operation is rational, logical and reasonable. While being Rational means being able to distinguish and apprehend the pertinent facts and information of a situation, being Logical includes being rational and also means being able to see meaningful relationships between facts and information and to extrapolate to valid or correct conclusions.

These two lower level intellectual capabilities are meaningless in and of themselves unless they form the foundation of what is ultimately meaningful, that which is being Reasonable.  This also includes but transcends being rational and logical by relating to and incorporating a defensible purpose and set of values which can be called human or humane.  Being reasonable (ultimately meaning right) is so closely bound up with purpose that much of the time we use the word reason as a substitute for the word purpose.

You can easily get most thinking people to agree that truth is singular; there is one truth to an issue and everything else is false. This common possible-to-perceive reality is necessary for us to meaningfully categorize ourselves as human beings. However, it seems to me that we spend half our time trying to talk each other into some unified concept of the truth, and half our time trying to rationalize and excuse our different truths and our different ways to the truth. What you CANNOT easily get people to agree on is that there is only ONE way to access the truth, and this is through the intellect! The truth is apprehended through the mind and is affirmed by the heart. Could it be that thinking otherwise is the problem?

It is one thing to postulate the existence of truth; it is quite another to postulate a trustworthy way of accessing or apprehending that truth.  How can we be assured that something is the truth?  If the truth walked up to us and shook our hand, how would we recognize it?  Truth without a consistent way of accessing it is a worthless truth.  Truth without a TRUSTED way of accessing it is a tentative truth. Truth without a common way or methodology of accessing it is an irrelevant or alien truth.

Many people have their intellectual acknowledgement of truth tethered to their culture, some to the majority, some to a cultic exposition, some to a set of "sacred writings", some to tradition, some to various other authorities, etc. Most seem to be mired in what they were steeped and conditioned in.  Is there any other way to break out of whatever we are mired in than to make the commitment to be attentive, rational, logical and reasonable by the above definitions?

III.  Two Intellectual Realms

1.  Belief

a.  Active
b. Passive

There are essentially two realms within which intellectual/spiritual activity can take place: 1) the realm of things that are initially knowable from perception, rationality and logic, and 2) the realm of things that are initially only believable by choice, using conception and reason. These two realms are sometimes considered to be the respective purview of science and religion.  While we can learn about ourselves, learning or gaining knowledge is largely an activity that is primarily conditioned by or dependent on external factors while being strongly influenced by pre-existing personal traits.

While learning can be INFLUENCED by internal factors such as will and purpose, you can only learn from that set of pre-existing facts which are presented to you by the outside world accessible to your perceptions, and within your intelligence capacity, aptitude and predisposition. Without the dimension of believing, learning, like being rational and logical, in and of itself is meaningless in that if all you do is learn knowledge, then all you become is a bigger database.

In contrast to just learning knowledge, actively BELIEVING (choosing what you believe) is an activity that can be INFLUENCED by external factors, but CAN be directed strictly by internal volition working on pre-existing knowledge and issues.

2.  Knowledge Categories

a.  Intrinsic
b.  Sensual
c.  Evidential
d.  Experiential
e.  Consentual

IV.  Volition

Probably that aspect of human nature that is most closely associated with humanness is our Volition. Volition can be defined as that sacred quality or attribute and creative power in humans that deals with our will and desires/needs by consciously choosing what to believe, selecting what to intend or purpose, refining values, directing thinking and contemplation, corralling and conditioning our feelings, and deciding what to do. These are all different aspects of volition and we need words that are defined well enough so that they will symbolize and ONLY symbolize whichever one of these aspects we are addressing.  In the interest of making these distinctions available for easy communication the following words originally had meanings that were close to those that are given below.

Definition/Description of Volitional Aspects

A fully functional human being has volition or free will in that he has power to choose what to believe and thereby direct his purpose and will and organize his conscience, which will affect his emotions, behavior and destiny; and he has power to make decisions within the limits of response to his individual nature, his perception of conditions and his previously made choices or beliefs.

Choice is that most fundamental and powerful aspect of human volition that operates in the realm of active believing; where you CHOOSE what to believe; YOU choose what to believe and do not just passively accept what you are taught. Choice is the human creative power that allows us to believe one idea or another in the realm of those things not knowable or dictated  by facts, information and knowledge. Choice of belief is the root cause of ALL significant change or growth; it determines within limits our emotions and behavior, it determines within meaningful limits who and what we really are and what we are becoming, and it effects our living or dying. Choice does not operate in the arena of feelings, emotions or behavior, but choice engenders and constrains these.
     Choice is that vital aspect of human volition that is so languishing in much of the human race today, so much so that many even deny there is such a thing or that it has any meaning in a world where we are seemingly so controlled by external factors.  Many people have an extensive set of "beliefs" but have never chosen them, have only been programmed with them and passively accepted them. These are the demi-humans who are not free in the highest sense in that they are only wound up like toys and pointed by others.

Decision is the mental response to a given state or situation in conjunction with the conscience which initiates some kind of action, or the lack thereof. The given situation includes our individual physical, mental and psychological and emotional disposition, our nature matrix. The range of decisions is bounded by or determined by limiting factors in the given situation and by the conscience process resulting from previously made choices, and it operates in the arena of behavior. In contrast to choice, which is a truly creative power, decisions are more or less logical outcomes from EXISTING choices, knowledge and other situational factors.

Conscience is the science or system process, based on one's knowledge and chosen beliefs, of systematically culling, sorting out, and building constructs of what is right and wrong. Conscience operates in the realm of both knowledge and belief and is the selection process based on acquired values. The resulting set of values and guidelines is also thought of as our conscience. It is not a little organ in one's head, but is the result of a continuing process that can be focused and concentrated, and that can produce change. Nor is it an infallible guide, in that it is surely restricted to be only as good or valid as the beliefs that have been chosen and the correct knowledge that has been retained and brought to bear on an issue.

Will is that aspect of volition which is the combination and culmination of knowledge and belief, in conjunction with need and desire, that relates to purpose and values; a person's purpose in conjunction with his values.  Willpower, although influenced by other nature matrix factors, is surely commensurate with the intensity of conviction concerning the beliefs that are held.

Having been given our nature matrix, traits and characteristics by heredity and an environment both of which are not of our own selection, the only way WE can truly affect ourselves fundamentally is to CHOOSE what we believe, which literally and ultimately determines our  will, emotions, conscience and self-identity.  What we choose to believe in conjunction with our nature matrix determines our emotions or feelings which determine our behavior, and may determine far more than what we are aware of..

V.  Purpose of Life

The purpose of life is to maximize morale, or as Nikos Kazantzakis in Zorba put it:

"The aim of man and matter is to create joy."

Any other purpose when compared to this one would look mean and petty at best, and cruel and despicable at worst.

VI.  Philosophical Issues

1.  First Principle

a.  In order to be meaningful a philosophy must contribute to both the sustenance and enhancement of life.

2. Fundamental facts

b. There is no such thing as nothing or a beginning of something from nothing; every belief system must start with something pre-existent. 

iv. Greek philosopher Parmenides, "Nothing can come from nothing."
v. Heidegger, "Nothing nothings."

c. The perception and experience of all reality is based on limits, that is, differences, discontinuities, changes, distinctions and irreversibllities.

So fragmentation is in essence a confusion around the question of difference and sameness (or one-ness), but the clear perception of these categories is necessary in every phase of life.  To be confused about what is different and what is not, is to be confused about everything.  Thus, it is not an accident that our fragmentary form of thought is leading to such a widespread range of crises, social, political, economic, ecological, psychological, etc., in the individual and in society as a whole.  Such a mode of thought implies unending development of chaotic and meaningless conflict, in which the energies of all tend to be lost by movements that are antagonistic or else at cross-purposes.
     Evidently, it is important and indeed extremely urgent to clear up this deep and pervasive kind of confusion that penetrates the whole of our lives. What is the use of attempts at social, political, economic or other action if the mind is caught up in a confused movement in which it is generally differentiating what is not different and identifying what is not identical?  Such action will be at best ineffective and at worst really destructive.
- David Bohm, Wholeness and the Implicate Order, Routledge & Kegan Paul, London, 1980, p. 16.

Physical reality is dynamic versus static and it is this dynamic essence that we experience and apprehend with our five senses. That is to say that there is no experience of physical reality apart from some dynamic aspect, i.e., some movement or change, contrast, difference or discontinuity, or irreversibility.  If there were only one color to physical reality, even the best conceivable eyes would not see anything.  Or if there were only one changeless sound, even the best conceivable ears would hear nothing.  Coming into focus or getting in touch with reality is simply the process of becoming aware of these contrasts, definitions, discontinuities and changes.

Just as the essence of experienced universal physical reality is apprehension of change, its definition, contrast, or discontinuity, so is it also with the essence of spiritual or non-material realities.  In order to understand the meaningful aspects of human experience and human nature it is necessary to make the proper distinctions between what any such aspect is and what it is not; to see that which is the same and that which is different.

d. I think, therefore I am. Self consciousness is the primary and unequivocal evidence that we exist as a human individual.

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