Self-doubt & Modern Philosophy: The Roots of Scepticism

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Custom Title: Mr Ron Price
Location: George Town Tasmania Australia

Self-doubt & Modern Philosophy: The Roots of Scepticism

Post by RonPrice » Wed Mar 25, 2015 11:19 am


Self-doubt is both the originating matrix of modern philosophy and the source of a considerable part of its energy. For the last three or four hundred years, self-doubt has defined the most salient and persistent ambitions of philosophical inquiry. But the vitality and the flavour of our contemporary life are notoriously impaired by modes of radical ambivalence that are more poignant and more urgent, in some ways, than the sceptical inhibitions imposed upon life by Descartes(1596-1650: dubito ergo sum) and his successors.

Scepticism for Descartes was a means of arriving at true beliefs. In today’s world scepticism is more of a pervasive attitude of mind than a way of arriving at truth. Needless to say, however, the story of ambivalence is an old one: people have suffered from divided wills, and from being alienated from themselves, for a long time. St. Augustine writes of this in his Confessions 1600 years ago.1 -Ron Price with thanks to 1St. Augustine, Confessions, trans. R. S. Pine-Coffin, Penguin Books, London, 1961, p. 172.

A unified undivided will,
being wholehearted, can be
part of a healthy mind:
mind and heart on one track.
The wholehearted person
knows what he wants.

He knows where he stands
with regard to any conflict
of feelings or tendencies
within himself, so far as
his loving is concerned.

He is wholeheartedly
invested, convinced.
He lends himself to it,
identifies with it--without
qualification or reserve.

This will is purely his own.
It is the purity of wholehearted
will, the core of self-love
kneaded into the very clay
of humankind and has a wonderful
centre of triumph, excellence
and exaltation unchecked by maybe.

Spinoza suggested the highest thing
for which we can hope is this self-love.1
What is it about an undivided will
that qualifies it as the most precious
goal of life? Self-abandonment,
more valuable than cerebral consent,
the heavenly fool, the God-knower,
a double-lens & burning glass, artist-
seer who produces beauty,
the soul’s glimpse of certitude,
leaves no word untouched by wonder,
invites crimson astonishment to leap
through our veins, impelled by urgency
that tells of the soul’s flight—
not the mind’s ease.2

A divided will is self-defeating.
If the will is not divided, no part
with which one is identified
is opposed to or resists
his loving what he loves.

He is altogether wholehearted
in loving what he loves.
Volitional disunity requires us to act
in contrary directions at the same time.

A deficiency in wholeheartedness
is an irrationality that infects our lives.
To be free from interference from oneself
and others is tantamount to being satisfied
with oneself, to being wholehearted.
This is not easy to come by and,
if you can’t come by it, then cultivate
a sense of humour: that’s second best.

1 Harry Frankfurt, “Dear Self,” Philosophers’ Imprint, 2005.
2 Bahiyyih Nakhjavani, “Artist, Seeker and Seer,” Baha’i Studies, Vol.10, pp. 3-5.

Ron Price
6/11/'05 to 3/9/'14.
married for 48 years, a teacher for 32, a student for 18, a writer and editor for 16, and a Baha'i for 56(in 2015).