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The Axiom of Open-Mindedness

This work in some measure is intended to open up this world to you, dear reader. If you have read carefully, you at this point should realize that there are things that look like questions but aren't. I can write ``Is there a God?'' and it looks like a question, but this question cannot be answered in any way that can be ``proven'' correct. Any answer you like can only be asserted with no possibility of proof either way!

This leaves you with a bit of a dilemma, doesn't it? Should you or shouldn't you decide (as an act of deliberate, irrational will) to believe in God? This question is at least framed in the right order - God first, then religion - instead of the wrong way - religion first, shaping God to fit - but we know a priori that we cannot rationally defend either answer.

One approach is to assume that the answer is yes, and see how the worldview that you derive from the assumption (together with other assumptions - axioms - you add along the way) works out. Then assume that it is no and repeat the process. Then just see which system you like the most.

That's right. I'm not going to ask you to adopt any particular set of axioms as ``obviously right'' as I have no idea on earth which set are ``right'' in the sense of absolute truth myself. In fact, I don't think that any set is ``obviously'' right - quite the contrary. I think that judging right and wrong is the ultimate piece of the bootstrapping of self-awareness and is both difficult and subtle.

This still leaves you with the problem of deciding what you like, and with the possibly deeper issue of facing up to the fact that you can never logically know that your choice is absolutely correct.

An honest acceptance of this fact means that you have no moral ground for imposing your choice on others except insofar as it factors into a social contract. Social contracts are discussed elsewhere below - they don't require any particular belief set to implement, they only require that all of the participants agree as an act of will to participate. Ultimately, they are enforced by the Law of the Jungle and brute force, but if the participants are of good will and keep the contract practical and focussed they can make enforcement largely unnecessary.

This can be framed as an axiom:

The Axiom of Open Mindedness

All axiomatic systems with any degree of complexity are likely self-referential, incomplete and inconsistent (including this one, as this axiom just referred to itself). I will therefore provisionally reject all Axioms or sets of Axioms (but this one) that claim completeness, overtly refer to themselves, or are explicitly and obviously inconsistent.

The provisional part is needed because (as all good jigsaw puzzle or crossword puzzle doers know) one sometimes has to try different pieces in different places to get things write. Sometimes an inconsistency occurs when you try a new piece because a lot of the existing pieces are wrong but the piece being tried is right; the only way to find out is to rearrange a bit and try it anyway.

This is a lovely axiom. It asserts that I Don't Know The Answer, and that You Don't Know The Answer EITHER so Give It All A Rest. I might, possibly, adopt an axiom you propose because it is appealing. I will NEVER adopt an axiom you propose because it ``has to be correct''. It doesn't. It is an irrational assumption we make as the basis for further consideration using reason and logic. That's what the word means.

It also is an anti axiom, an axiom killer. For one thing, it is the exact opposite of the Prime Axiom of scriptural religion. It rejects the notion that any scripture or human writing or physics textbook or argument is ``true without question'' or ``obviously true'' or ``self-evidently true''. If anything, it is self-evidently true that nothing is self-evidently true, a statement that is an obvious Gödelian knot and yet, somehow so very obviously correct if we leave out of consideration only a few things - the self-evident truth of our own existence, the self-evident truth of this statement in application to logical axioms.

If we don't agree on our axioms before we start any discussion on e.g. religion or politics, we are as silly as a plane geometer trying to convince a curved-space geometer that the theorems of plane geometry are correct, as silly as those plane geometers were in arguing that curve space geometry was a kind of blasphemy as there cannot be more than one set of self-evident axioms, and so constricting themselves to a narrower universe of reason.

Theorems true in one space are perfectly reasonably false in another and vice versa, and there is no absolute where space must be curved or flat - both are just what they are. They are just ``geometries'' derived from differing but similar sets of axioms. If this is true in mathematics, how much truer must it be in human affairs. We cannot even begin our business of judging axiom sets without agreeing that all axioms are on the table, all options need to be explored.

So I urge you to start this process of self-exploration by opening your mind. Whatever you've been taught, be it Christianity, Islam, Atheism, Cartesian Rationalism, Communism, or Any-Other-ism (belief) is not necessarily true or false, it is not necessarily right or wrong. Make yourself into a child again, free from any preconceptions about how the Universe and God ``have to be''.

Only then you can try looking yourself to consider the possible answers and choose the answer that works for you, instead of being told an answer, or forced by law and social custom into an answer, that may well not be correct or even consistent, by somebody else. Quite possibly the invisible, historical dead hand of somebody else who lived long ago, far away, and in a different culture. How silly is that?

next up previous contents
Next: Shaving the Barber with Up: Meta-Axioms Previous: Meta-Axioms   Contents
Robert G. Brown 2007-12-17