Where Does Our Philosophical Authority Lie?

It is of great importance to understand where authority lies in your world view. Conclusions are individually made which paint the world we all see in different ways. Typically this is done through belief. It has been since ancient times that we are often given a world and are obliged to agree with various authorities which tell us what is true about that world. In history it was primarily the government or the church which told us what was true. We’ve had arguably time periods of more “free” thinking, such as periods after the dissolution of a system. The American Revolution is an example of this kind of period. New ideas need to be thought up, and creativity is necessary. Shortly after though, a society develops which has norms and members of that society are obliged to accept those norms. These norms are often to be viewed as true beyond the society which made them, leading to the idea that other ways of life are inferior or false.

It could be argued that we have sort of been drugged into taking a view which benefits others than ourselves and we no longer have autonomy over our own minds. This is not the case however. The mind is beyond our understanding and we often take it for granted. A classical example involves The Bible.

Some people take The Bible to be the word of God which is perfectly fine. There only becomes an issue when a “Why?” question gets involved and it’s the wrong “Why?” response. For example, what authority says The Bible is the word of God? Well, The Bible of course. It should be of no surprise that this is somewhat problematic in itself. If someone were to tell you he were a messenger of God, and when asked to prove it he replied “my message from God says to listen to me as a messenger of God.” There would obviously be very few to follow him. There’s another level at play with The Bible though which our messenger does not currently have. Why do we believe that when The Bible says it is the word of God that it is telling the truth? The church tells people that what The Bible says is true, namely that it is the word of God. So the Bible has a living authority “the church” which some people respect and believe that what it says is true.

Most importantly is not the authority of The Bible, nor the authority of the church in whether or not what The Bible says is true. In the end it all really comes to the real deal of authority when it comes to our beliefs. That is, you. For who determines that what the church says is worth believing in? You do. So in the end of it all, whether or not you take The Bible to be the word of God is your jurisdiction and nobody else’s. Just as with beliefs about anything in this world, I would presume you have your reasons for believing what you do and I respect that right. I have much respect for someone with experiential reasons for believing what they do, even on matters I disagree with based on my experience.

Now this doesn’t mean anything goes. It is true that we can create whatever kind of philosophy we want, as is apparent by some of the atrocities we’ve seen throughout history. It is not true however that whatever philosophy we come up with is correct or true. It very well may be that The Bible is the word of God. If it is the case, well everyone who didn’t take it to be so would of course be wrong. But it doesn’t take away their freedom of not believing it. Just because we are free to do something doesn’t mean it is right. Likewise we should of course provide our neighbors with reasons why we believe something, if we feel the need to express our beliefs.

The final takeaway from all this is that we understand that we are in fact responsible for our own state of mind except in extreme likely theoretical cases. For the average person, it all comes down to you. Even if you sort of think its impossible to think freely in today’s world, that’s a pretty good start to realize inherent freedom. At least that’s something you think for yourself.



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