Friday, August 16, 2019

In Making Judgments, Go Slow, Go Deep

(Moon over the River Raisin, Monroe County)

I am mostly uninterested in people's political opinions. It's not because I am smarter than them. It's because I'm not smart enough. I don't know enough yet. This is my goal (God help me!): to refrain from political judgment-making in the absence of understanding. 

When it comes to understanding, I have been trained to go slow. (See Daniel Kahneman. Or, take a philosophy class.) 

It's like this. I have a medical doctor I trust. He is experienced and, I think, brilliant. In terms of my own health he has instructed me to avoid self-diagnosis and to "Stay off the Internet!" So I try. (Sometimes it can be helpful. Other times it can make you afraid.)
  
I don't pay attention to people who give medical advice but have: 1) never studied medicine; and 2) not spent years  treating patients as a physician (the more years, the better). When it comes to my physical well-being I need deep, non-anecdotal wisdom. I need my physician to diagnose the underlying cause of my symptoms, before treating me. I need the "Why?" questions answered. (Philosophers are very interested in causality and agency. Aristotle really launched this with his four causes, which are four ways of answering the question "Why?".)

This is true for advice in general. Listen to people who understand what they talk about. Find people who have wisdom in some area, and sit before them. The acquisition of such wisdom always involves study and experience, over time. 

Here's how I came to think like this.

As an undergraduate in philosophy I studied with Michael Gelven and E.W. Van Steenburgh. Both knew their Plato and Aristotle. They gave me my introduction to Plato's metaphysics. I fell in love with studying deep structures, underlying causes, paradigms, worldviews, prethematic thinking, slow thinking, reasons, ontological realities, and meta-analysis (e.g., metaethics, which looks at questions like how is ethics possible). This is what studying philosophy at a university can do to you! It is about the love of wisdom (philo [love of] sophia [wisdom].

This dovetailed nicely with my conversion to Christianity. I saw that Jesus was after the heart, not the surface, with the belief that what is in the heart informs behavior, experience, and perception of reality. (See Dallas Willard's three stages of the human will, which move from shallow to deep.)

Pay close attention to the book of Proverbs. The core message is: Get wisdom!

For example: 


The fear of the Lord is the beginning of Lord is 
the beginning of knowledge, 
but fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Proverbs 1:7

Turn your ear to wisdom,
and apply your heart to understanding.

Proverbs 2:2

The word 'wisdom' appears fifty-five times in Proverbs!

We are told that wisdom is a deep-thinking thing.


The purposes of a person’s heart are deep waters,

    but one who has insight draws them out.


Proverbs 20:5

That's it! I am interested in the deep waters of the human heart. I am uninterested in what Nicholas Carr has called The Shallows. And that, in my humble opinion, is where much current political talk resides. There's too much rushing to make judgments.

I was trained to not jump on bandwagons. I was also trained to reject conspiracy theorizing. This is one reason why, at times, I don't say anything. I have neither desire nor time for vain speculation. But I do say things about worldview, epistemic, and moral issues. Just preach from the Bible and all these issues are raised. Political systems (all human systems) are then evaluated in light of the ethics of the Kingdom. This is where the followers of Jesus have a voice. (See, e.g., Martin Luther King's "Letter from Birmingham Jail"; or Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Ethics [one of the first books I bought as a new Christian]; or Richard Hays's The Moral Vision of the New Testament.)

To all of us: slow down. Go deep.

For example, to bolster my lack of understanding of economic behavior, I read Tomas Sedlecek's Economics of Good and Evil: The Quest for economic Meaning from Gilgamesh to Wall Street, and How Much Is Enough? Money and the Good Life, by Robert and Edward Skidelsky. (For how I do political meta-studies see here.)

The strategy God has given me was birthed when I was a new follower of Jesus in 1970, and I changed my major from music theory to philosophy. This strategy is: go after the deep waters of humanity. Focus there. Study there. Listen there. Learn there. Because if the deep waters of the heart are transformed, culture changes. 

This, I believe, is also the strategy God has given the likes of Craig Keener, N. T. Wright, Dallas Willard, J.P. Moreland, William Lane Craig, and even Jordan Peterson (and even Marx, Nietzsche, Plato, and Aristotle).