This is part 2 of the Indestructible Mindset series.
“…we suffocate with uncoordinated facts; our minds are overwhelmed with science breeding and multiplying into specialistic chaos for want of synthetic thought and a unifying philosophy. We are all mere fragments of what a man might be.”Will Durant
What is mindset?
Well, the dictionary says it is our attitudes. We establish certain attitudes and that’s what it is.
Other articles say the beliefs that shape how we see the world are our mindset.
Beliefs can yield certain attitudes toward life. So, we see no real discrepancy between these two definitions except perhaps one.
When a man adopts beliefs rather than forms them for himself, the attitudes will be unstable. An unstable mindset.
Adopting or subscribing to ideology is thus a horrendous (and lazy) method of forging a mindset.
No matter what ideology you choose, your mindset will be inherently synthetic and will not stand up to the inevitable uncertainties and confusions that life’s nuances will throw your way.
What is ideology?
To call an ideology a philosophy is to call the cake an oven.
Ideologies are a pre-packaged set of ideas and principles that serve as a system of thought. They are usually political or economic, such as conservatism (political) or communism (political & economic).
Their creation is the fruit of some philosopher(s) – even if those philosophers are just political actors.
What purpose do they serve?
To special interests, an ideology may serve the purpose of forwarding its own ends. For a culture, an ideology usually serves to obtain compliance.
To an individual, an ideology can serve to stave off the confusion of life itself.
As long as the world and the people in it play out in exact accordance with the ideological principles, all is well.
The Fatal Flaw
The attitudes a man has in facing life are his mindset.
An ideal mindset would be one of relative equanimity. That is to say, a man would like to keep his composure in most circumstances. We would also like the freedom of mind to attain a necessary ferociousness when warranted. He probably would not want to scare easily.
When he adopts an ideology he serves none of that.
For the moment life knocks up against these assumptions, the chaos of the world swarms in on him.
Uncertainty breeds a bad attitude. Equanimity is destroyed.
The mindset succumbs to baser human emotion.
Say one contradictory thing to someone on Twitter and you’ll see this whole cycle take place.
He has not put in the work to think his way through life and arrive at conclusions that are broad enough to embrace the multitude of factors at play in the world.
His ideology does not admit other realities, so instead of any learning that may have taken place, there is only a hectic defense of the ideology.
Our Troubled Thinking
“If a man will begin with certainties, he shall end in doubts, but if he will be content to begin with doubts he shall end in certainties.”– Sir Francis Bacon
The ideology retards thinking in just this way: all deductions are based on the questionable assertions of the ideology.
Take this scenario for an example: a white police officer shoots a black man.
On one side, people will say it was a racial act. On the other, people will say it was deserved or justified that the black man was shot.
The side that deduces it was a racial act does so against the presumption that America was founded and steeped in white supremacy. This is their starting point. The other side makes its deduction against the presumption that those who act as law enforcement do so in a noble, selfless interest to the communities they serve. This is their starting point.
Neither of those assertions may actually be correct, but pointing this out to either side won’t get you anywhere.
Okay, that’s a pretty elementary example.
Can you think of others?
To forge unity from chaos and create our indestructible mindset, we are going to have to do the hard thing first.
We are going to have to turn that spectator’s gaze upon ourselves.
How harshly have we judged the world through the lens of some ideological assumption?
Well, that is how harshly we’ll need to audit where we think we are starting from – our ideological baseline. Only then can we start learning or developing new truths with philosophy.
Our goal here is not to start with high certainty and deduce downward to specifics. Our goal is to throw the “high certainty” into question in search of more general truth and establish an even higher certainty.
Illuminati confirmed: Pyramid of Wisdom
You can think of wisdom as a pyramid.
At the bottom, we have a smattering of observations and facts, and bits of data.
Above that, we have broader statements that unify and explain all of the information in the lower segment of the pyramid.
And higher still, we have an even more general set of truths that unifies and explains the wisdom below it. And even above that, would be even higher wisdom. The tip-top of the pyramid is…who knows?
But the test of each higher segment is, “does it unify (bring clarity, harmony, etc. to) the segment below it?”
You can see where an ideology will always fall short. Masquerading as wisdom, it looks below itself on the pyramid where it can only hope to find confirmations. Where it doesn’t find these, it either has to alter what it sees or cast it out as “unbelievable”. This is how you get both “white supremacy is everywhere” and “there is no racism in America”.
To break our own ideology, we are going to have to look upward to test the consistency and clarity of our assumptions, not downward for confirmation of them.
This Week’s Mindset Challenge!
I said in the first part of this series that we were going to get some practice with philosophy before studying at length.
I believe the best road to learning is doing and getting experience first. Then, when we go to study, we will have a background of experience to relate with what we learn.
As you know, thoughts can be stolen. If we hit the books straight away, we risk having our own thinking supplanted by the thinking of others – directly opposed to the purpose of this series!
So let’s be willing to mess it all up and be totally wrong for the benefit of the experience!
Last week we defined some (not all) of the more major philosophical doctrines. These are not ideologies. They are “schools of thought” that will serve as rough categorizations to help us analyze our own beliefs.
The challenge this week is to take an ideological belief that you have – a very closely held one if you’re brave enough – but you can start with a lesser belief first.
Find the doctrine or doctrines that seem to most closely encompass that belief.
Then compare that doctrine to two or three other beliefs that you also hold.
Are they consistent?
Where you find your ideological beliefs are not unified by a higher wisdom, is your first instinct to justify the beliefs? Are they even reconcilable?
If you find your beliefs consistently comply with higher wisdom, check off some others. Get closer in on yourself and check some very deeply rooted assumptions about life that you have. Do they all lineup?
What we hope to find are inconsistencies. We want to find irreconcilable conclusions. We want to find baseless assumptions masquerading as truth. When we do that, we will find doubt. Then we can get comfortable with that. And from there, we can truly begin.