Monday, 24 February 2014

Anthropomorphic explanations are childish, ignorant and primitive - but is that a bug or a feature?

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Anthropomorphic explanations of life and living are characteristic of young children, hunter gatherers, and people with low intelligence.

But does that mean they are more, or less, likely to be true?

Naturally enough the fact that anthropomorphism is characteristic of childish, ignorant and primitive people means that adult, civilized and intelligent people tend to regard anthropomorphism as low status. But what about truth?

I would say that IF human life has meaning, THEN knowledge of that meaning ought to be built-into human beings (built-in by whatever generates the meaning) - so that undeveloped, unsophisticated, uninformed and unintelligent people would be exactly the kind of people to whom that meaning would be clearest.

So the simplicity and obviousness of anthropomorphism is a feature, not a bug: evidence that anthropomorphism is true, and not that it is an error.

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6 comments:

  1. I remember the world of my childhood was full of mystery, fantasy, Tolkienesque. I don't think I'm better off being divested of that worldview.

    We also have some interesting passages like this:

    When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” Mark 10:15-15

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  2. "Childish, ignorant and primitive" is unimportant if the believer is truly primitive and childish and not willfully ignorant. To someone who is consciously, thus rationally, examining belief in God, the only important thing is: are the explanations and beliefs entailed true, and to what extent?

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  3. I should have added to my previous comment that the truth of anthropomorphic explanations and belief is determined by studying God's explicit Revelation. We certainly have a built-in appetite for truth, but because of sin, we need a public and rational exposition of truth to know it with certainty. That is the object of the public Revelation, and the gift of the Church's Magisterium to convey that to us.

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  4. @SDR - Yes they are true - true enough, perhaps the best truth; and the only accessible or possible truth to many people.

    "the gift of the Church's Magisterium to convey that to us."

    I would rather say the 'duty' of the Magesterium - a duty which currently seems grossly neglected by Bishops whose revealed preferences are for Leftist politics.

    This is absolutely typical - our most senior Bishop:

    http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/commentandblogs/2014/02/21/our-new-cardinals-attack-on-ian-duncan-smiths-benefits-reform-policies-shows-that-he-has-a-lot-to-learn-about-the-spiritual-blight-of-welfare-dependency/

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  5. I remember the world of my childhood was full of mystery, fantasy, Tolkienesque. I don't think I'm better off being divested of that worldview.

    And the fact that so many people feel this way could be fashioned into an "argument from desire" - if we desire a world more full of mystery and fantasy, a world more like the one we understood as a child, then perhaps that's because we're supposed to be *in* such a world.

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  6. A duty and a gift. If bishops are doing their duty properly, according to faith and morals, and in unity with the Catholic communion, the gift, or grace, is there. If not, the consistency of a particular teaching with truth will be discovered in studying the question compared to the official teaching, or law, if applicable, of the universal Church.

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