In life, there are some basic tenets. We will all die. The sun will rise every morning. Species will adapt to environmental cues. We will all have to face hardship at some point in our lives. These are things that we cannot change and there is comfort in knowing that certainty exists around us.
But what is not certain is how we perceive the world around us. What we know is a creation of our life experience, of our knowledge, and our perception. It may tell us that the future is tenuous. It may tell us that certain people are bad. It may tell us that adversity cannot be overcome, and it may tell us that some parts of ourselves have a negative impact on us and should be avoided.
Most of us gravitate toward certainty because it makes life easier. When we can categorize the things that happen around us, it is much easier to know what to expect. Predicting things accurately is like having a navigation device for our lives.
If the device worked properly, we would get to where we are going without fail, and we would not face hardship. But we don’t. Many times, we find ourselves in situations that we would not have chosen. We find ourselves in relationships with people that we would rather not associate with.
People and situations don’t always fit into categories, and that is okay. This is also what the ancient Greeks called “the logic of illusion.” It “is a sophistic art of giving to one’s ignorance, indeed even to one’s intentional tricks, the outward appearance of truth.”
It is a cloak for empty assertions, false predictions and yes, ending up where we don’t want to be. Logic requires that we pick apart our perceptions, dissect them, and put them under the microscope of contradiction. Because there are always opposites. There are always contradictions. Yes, failing may feel bad, but it also may reveal weaknesses that can be improved. Loss hurts, but it also avails us of appreciation.
When we question ourselves, expose our biases and find the errors in our logic, we come to see that our logic is imperfect. We have shortcuts in our understanding and these lead to inaccurate conclusions. When we learn to question ourselves, make arguments for the opposite, we are forced to face these errors in our thinking and the result is that we become much clearer in our beliefs.
But, importantly, we also become much less drawn to ideologic thinking because we recognize that simply finding reinforcement for the ways we think and the things we believe doesn’t lead to intellectual development and instead only shrinks our perception into a funnel that becomes ever more tendentious with time.
Exposure to the outside world is what fuels adaptation and natural selection would hold that, without it, we would not survive. No longer do we face the threat of natural selection, but maybe there is something to be learned from the process. We don’t need a world that simply confirms our beliefs and we don’t need to seek experiences that do either. What we need is to actively challenge ourselves, to argue the opposite, to find the errors in the way we think. Only then can we free ourselves from them.