Intellectual Honesty - Spirituality and Intellectual Honesty, part 2/6 - Science and Nonduality (SAND)

Intellectual Honesty – Spirituality and Intellectual Honesty, part 2/6

photo by David Martin Castan

Intellectual honesty means simply not being willing to lie to oneself. It is closely related to old-fashioned values such as propriety, integrity and sincerity, to a certain form of “inner decency”. Perhaps one could say that it is a very conservative way of being truly subversive. But intellectual honesty might at the same time also be exactly what representatives of organized religions and theologians of any type simply cannot have, even if they would like to make claims to the contrary. Intellectual honesty means not pretending to know or even to be able to know the unknowable while still having an unconditional will to truth and knowledge, even where self-knowledge is involved and even where self-knowledge is not accompanied by pleasant feelings or is not in accordance with the received doctrine.

Some philosophers conceptualize intellectual honesty as a virtue, as an “intellectual virtue” concerning one’s own thoughts and inner actions, as an ethical stance towards one’s thoughts and beliefs. Again, this involves moral integrity. It means that, as often as possible, one’s actions should be in accordance with the values one has adopted as one’s own — and it concerns the question of what one should believe in the first place. Adopting a belief as one’s own is itself an inner action, and one that it is possible from which to refrain. The spontaneous appearance of a belief is one thing, the active endorsement of this belief by holding on to it another. Aside from emotional self-regulation (the ability to purposefully influence one’s emotional state) and the ability to control the focus of attention, inner self-regulation also exists with respect to what one believes. Interestingly, infants only gradually learn to control their emotional states and the focus of their attention. But the kind of critical self-regulation involved in adopting beliefs as one’s own is something that even many adults are not proficient in and never fully master. Is it possible to enhance one’s autonomy, one’s inner freedom, by practicing and improving this particular type of self-control? This is exactly what is involved in intellectual honesty. And it is interesting to note that meditation aims to increase this very same kind of mental autonomy – namely, by cultivating a specific and effortless form of inner awareness. Meditation cultivates the mental conditions of possibility for rationality. It involves the inner ability to refrain from acting, the gentle but yet precise optimization of impulse control and the gradual development of an awareness of the automatic identification mechanisms on the level of conscious thought. Thinking is not about pleasant feelings. It is about the best-possible agreement between knowledge and opinion; and it is about having only evidence-based beliefs and about cognition not serving emotional needs. Have you noticed how the last two points suggest that all of this also involves abstinence, a special form of mental asceticism? And it reveals first points of contact to the spiritual stance. The central insight, however, is that the sincere pursuit of intellectual integrity is an important special case of the pursuit of moral integrity. More about this soon.

Whoever wants to become whole—a person of integrity—by gradually resolving all conflict between their actions and values must pursue this principle with their inner actions as well. This requirement is especially true for their “epistemic actions”, their action for the sake of knowledge. We act “epistemically” whenever we strive for insight, for knowledge or true belief, for sincerity and also for authentic self-knowledge. As all meditators know, there is more than one form of inner knowledge, and inner epistemic action cannot simply be reduced to the intellect or to thought. This seems to be a first bridge between spiritual practice and the ideal of reasonable, rational thought: both involve an ethics of inner action for the sake of knowledge. Moreover, in both cases the goal is a systematic enhancement of mental autonomy. It is interesting to note that spiritual practice is much deeper, more refined and better developed in Asia than in the West. Occidental cultures, in the spirit of the enlightenment, increasingly developed and focused on the ideal of intellectual honesty.

extract 2 from Spirituality and Intellectual Honesty (see part 1 of the 6 part series)

Total
0
Shares

#79 Restoring Wholeness

Podcast with

Exploring Internal Family Systems from theory to practice.

Zionism has no space for an Arab Jew like me

Article by

The State of Israel conditioned us to see the intersection of 'Jewish' and 'Arab' as impossible — even though my family held that identity for generations

#78 The Crisis in Gaza

Podcast with ,

From a recent Community Gathering having the difficult conversations about a horrific violence in Gaza.

Spirituality, Archetypes & Trauma

Video with

The treatment of trauma is fraught with many pitfalls and “tight corners.” Generally overlooked, however, is an innate relationship between trauma, archetypes and spirituality

What is Internal Family Systems?

Video with

Richard Schwartz, Ph.D, founding developer of IFS, speaks about Parts & Voices, the Self, Healing and how Internal Family Systems got its name.

Entangled Nature:
Feminist Lessons
of Interconnectedness

Article by

Like the mycelium networks that exist under the Earth, sisterhood—holding each other in safe spaces, speaking out for one another— is also at times invisible but fundamental to the survival of us all

Liberating the Social Instinct to Support Realization 

Article by ,

Exploring the origins, distortions, and liberating potential of the social instinct, as discussed by Diamond Approach founders A

Gaza Besieged, Jews Divided & A World In Pain

Video with

Gabor Maté and sons Aaron and Daniel got together in Vancouver BC to discuss what's happening in Gaza, Israel, and the worldwide Jewish community.

Support SAND with a Donation

Science and Nonduality is a nonprofit organization. Your donation goes towards the development of our vision and the growth of our community.
Thank you for your support!