Where does belief fall in the quest for knowledge? It would be foolhardy to discount the importance of belief when it comes to our worldview, our behaviors and the means in which we create order in our lives. Knowledge is not specific to any one creed, religion or worldview. Nor one worldview has a monopoly on knowledge or truth, and it is my opinion that each unique worldview has something to add to the store of knowledge. However, this does not mean that knowledge and information should be freely shared either, at least that is my opinion. But such a discussion will lead to access and privacy vs. freedom debates, such topics I wish to avoid for the time being.
Belief is vitally important to our lives. I would go so far as to claim that no person lacks belief. Scientists believe in their methods. Various religions and faith systems all have faith in some form of divine power. In one sense of the word, every worldview to some degree or another has some assumptions of belief and/or faith. As an example, take for example the scientific method. Now, a vital step of the scientific method relies on observation via the senses. What happens if our senses are unreliable, what then becomes of our observations of natural phenomena? Can such observations, and all subsequent hypothesis and experiments, be said to be reliable? How does the idea of objectivity fair if we cannot trust our senses? This may be an extreme example, but I feel it helps to make my point.
As another example, let us consider the subjective nature of human experience. I have elaborated in a previous post my belief in the dual nature of our experience. To clarify, I see the our experience as existing on at least two “levels”, one determined by our sensory input of the world as it is (the ontological nature of reality) and the other determined by how our minds interprets and orders said sensory input (our epistemological impression of reality). In such a way our impression of the cosmos exists in two realities, things as they and things as we perceive them. To put it another way, it is my opinion that we “perceive” two realities almost simultaneously, one objective, one subjective. Our beliefs “color” our impression of the cosmos and as such do our beliefs shape our reality. This is why the peer-review process is so important to the advancement of scientific knowledge, because it is my belief that no one person is truly outside of their own beliefs and biases.
So where does this leave discussion of knowledge, of truth? It leaves us with the idea that every single person has something to add to the knowledge of humanity (whether or not all of humanity has access to such knowledge) through their own worldview, more than the sum of their religion, culture, beliefs and biases. It also leaves us with the idea that truth (note the small “t”) is in the eye of the beholder, in some sense. This covers individual “truth”, but what about collective “truth”, similar worldviews shared among individuals, what might be called culture. This is a result of shared knowledge and information exchange. Folklore, mythology, stories, legends and the whole gamete of information people share, including behavior and rituals. This leads into my next few writings, in which I will be looking at Nordic myth, legend and folklore, and its relation to the life of Nordic people, past and present.