WISDOM AND RATIONALITY
- A transcript from The Hour of Judgment radio series -
Copyright (c) 1995 Kevin Solway & David Quinn
Guest: Dan Rowden - Freelance philosopher
Hosts: Kevin Solway & David Quinn
VOICE OVER: We wish to advise that the following program is rated MO, and contains explicit rational argument, irony, and wise themes.
David: Hello everyone and welcome to The Hour of Judgment. I'm David Quinn, with me is Kevin Solway, and together we present Australia's number one radio program for sages. Tonight, we'll be doing things a little differently. We'll be having a leisurely chat amongst friends and we'll be examining some of the basic issues of the philosophic life, such as "What does it mean to live rationally?" and "Why is it important to live rationally?". Those of you who have been following our programs would know by now that Kevin and I regard the life of reason to be the highest life open to mankind. So we'll be going into this issue a bit, and to help us we are joined by someone who both Kevin and I have known for sometime and who's known to indulge in a thought or two himself - Dan Rowden. Hello.
Dan: Good evening.
David: Dan, you're a founding member of the Atheist Society. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
Dan: Well, you'd know as much as I would, actually. But yeah, the Atheist Society began a couple of years ago now. One of the reasons for kick starting it off was basically to try and rescue the concept of atheism from those people who would see harm done to it. Now, most people would imagine that I'd be talking about Christian fundamentalists or even the mainstream of the religious community. But apart from them, I'm really talking more about the rationalists, the humanists and other sundry agnostics, because it is these people who represent a notion of atheism that is completely false.
David: So it sounds as if you have a very esoteric type of notion of atheism. What is an atheist in your view?
Dan: Well, I guess perhaps it is somewhat esoteric, but all things that are important are esoteric.
David: Well, it's certainly different from the normal run of things.
Dan: That's true. I would define an atheist as one who knows what God is.
David: Whoa! You should have been on the program last week, Dan. This is a koan. Well, explain yourself.
Dan: It's only a koan to those people who hold the traditional view of atheism - namely, an atheist is someone who rejects concepts of God. But the thing is, whether you say that you know God exists or does not exist, you are claiming something very significant. You are claiming to understand Ultimate Reality. Because let's face it, what is God if not that which is ultimately real. So to say that God exists or doesn't exist you have to know precisely what God is and precisely what it means for something to exist.
David: Well, you're obviously not talking about the Christian God here, are you? What do you mean by God?
Dan: Well, on some level, I'm talking about the Christian God. But I'm really talking about any concept of an ultimate reality which is finite in nature. This is different to my own concept of God, which is an infinite reality, an infinite state of being. This "infinite" of mine is totally opposed to finite things like this pen, for example, or to you and I. A lot of religious traditions talk about their concept of God as being infinite, but that's all it is - talk.
David: They don't really believe it.
Dan: They don't really believe it.
David: They don't think it through.
Dan: They don't live it. They don't live it at all, because they really love to believe in a God which is finite. A perfect example of this occurred on your program a few weeks ago, when you were talking to some Anglican priests. One moment, they were talking about God - simply because it suited them to do so - as being something inconceivable and incomprehensible - in other words, infinite. And then five minutes later, they described God as being "love"!
David: Yes, that's right.
Dan: Which is something intrinsically, inherently, completely and utterly finite. I consider this to be a type of blasphemy.
David: It's a flat contradiction, isn't it?
Dan: Yeah, it certainly is that, but it is also extremely blasphemous. I define blasphemy as any statement which is misrepresentative of God. And so if a statement implies that God somehow has finite qualities, then it's blasphemous.
Kevin: Danny, you're describing God now as being infinite, and obviously you believe in the Infinite, in an infinite truth, and you describe a true atheist as being someone who believes in this infinite truth, which for convenience I presume you give the name of "God". Now the fact that you use the name of God, does this mean that you believe Jesus, for example, used the word "God" to refer to the same infinite truth and in which case Jesus himself would be an atheist.
Dan: I'm damned if I know. I've got no idea what Jesus meant when he used those terms. If he did mean those things, then sure, I would consider and in fact I do actually consider Jesus to be an atheist. Yeah, certainly.
Kevin: A wise man.
Dan: Well, a wise man and an atheist are the same thing. Necessarily.
David: I don't think there'd be too many Christians agreeing with you, Dan.
Dan: Probably not.
Kevin: Or maybe, if they were true Christians, they would.
Dan: Well, the thing is, Christians have the traditional concept of atheism and what I'm trying to do is rescue that concept from them, because it's a false concept. I mean, there are all kinds of people out there who call themselves atheists, who are not atheists. Because when you scratch the surface of these so-called atheists you find that the metaphysic that they have - the idea they have of ultimate reality - is classically agnostic. They say things like, "We can't know for sure if God exists or not", which is the classic agnostic position. And yet these people call themselves atheists.
David: Okay, let's take the Christian concept of God. Oh, well, which one shall we take?
Dan: Well, which one will we take?
David: Say Carl Wieland's view, for example, where he says that God is beyond space and time, is infinitely mysterious, and is responsible for all creation. Are you saying that you know for certain that such a God doesn't exist?
Dan: Yes. Yes, I know with absolute certainty that such a God is impossible. This is because such a God is finite. If God isn't infinite, then God is just a thing, like you and I. And this point was actually raised by you during that program. If God is finite then God possess all the limitations and the basic characteristics of all finite things. That is, as things exist relative to other things, they are temporary, ephemeral, caused, and so a God that is finite in this sense is--
Kevin: Not much of a God.
Dan: Not much of a God at all. No, just a big powerful being, basically.
David: I tend to look at it this way. If we can conceive of God in any way - whether it be an old man in the sky, or a primal force, or something or other - it must be composed of cause and effect. Cause and effect is much more fundamental to a God, or to anything you can conceive of - Intelligence, Cosmic Mind, whatever. Cause and effect is more fundamental to existence then all of those concepts. One can't get more fundamental then cause and effect. In other words, God is irrelevant.
Kevin: God was created by something.
David: Yes. Created by us.
Dan: Even further to that, if you're conceiving of something, if you have a concept - I'm talking about a direct, real, tangible concept - then the thing conceived is necessarily finite, because that thing is not you. Therefore, it must have boundaries. Therefore, it is not infinite.
Dan: So, all you can really say is that if you say anything other than God is infinite, you're wrong.
David: But a Christian mightn't have any problem with a finite God. He might conceive of a Creator of some kind, separate from nature, separate from the world, separate from His creation - what's the problem? They still say it's an infinite God. That's what they say, don't they?
Dan: Unfortunately they do, yes. The problem is that something which is infinite can't be separate. I think we need to establish what we're talking about when we use the term "infinite".
Dan: "Infinite" does not mean really, really big. It does not mean "humongous". It doesn't mean incomprehensibly large. It means not finite. It means having no boundaries. It means there can be nothing which is not a part of this infinite. So the idea that there can be this infinite God and at the same time something other - like the world, for example - is logically completely absurd. Just totally absurd.
Kevin: But Danny, you mentioned the word "logically" there. I mean, I can see three major problems with your argument.
Dan: You're hitting me with this rather early in the piece.
Kevin: Well, it's a very important point, and it's best to get it out of the way right now - perhaps we can play music for the rest of the program if it defeats you totally. That's okay by us. Firstly, you are using logic, that's your first problem. Secondly, you're using human logic, as opposed to any other kind of logic you could be using.
Dan: Am I?
Kevin: And thirdly, you're using male logic, which is probably the worst thing of all. Now, how do you answer that? I mean, I've got you, haven't I?
Dan: Well, if you were a female Christian you would probably imagine that you do. The thing is when we talk about logic what we're really talking about is reason. Okay? Reason is the ultimate authority for everything, for absolutely every analytical thought you have - even if you're not conscious of it.
Kevin: But you're still using reason to arrive at that conclusion, surely.
Dan: I can't not. It's impossible for me not to. When you were talking to the Zen Master last week, she seemed to imagine that there could be analytical thought processes that were somehow not placed in reason. I'm not sure how she worked that out, but her reasoning was obviously slightly poor.
Kevin: She was obviously using feminine logic. So, this--
David: Which is what?
Dan: Which is an oxymoron, of course.
Kevin: Feminine logic is the logic that women generally use.
Dan: Oh well, no, it's the mental process that they refer to as logic.
Kevin: Ah, right. So, if you use feminine logic wouldn't you arrive at a different conclusion?
Dan: Quite possibly, but if you were insane you might arrive at a different conclusion as well and yet refer to it as logic. You see, it's only the truly logical reasoning mind that knows what logic is.
Kevin: What's insane is surely very subjective.
Dan: And what is sane is subjective, and only a sane person knows whether they're right or not. This gets back to authority, the question of authority.
Kevin: What do you think about the idea that in another universe there may be a different form of logic which is completely different to the kind of logic we use in this universe?
Dan: Well, for a start, there is only one universe. There are no other universes.
Kevin: Okay. You got me there. This is using the definition of a universe to include everything that is.
Dan: Yeah, well, all things only exist by definition. I define what logic is. I define what reason is. I define what existence is. If people want to use other definitions, if people want to operate by a different kind of mental faculty and use the word logic to describe that, fine, good luck to them, but it is not logic by my definition.
Kevin: Fair enough.
David: Well, that's subjective too, isn't it?
Dan: Yep, if you want to call it subjective.
Kevin: Can you give me a reason why one should be rational? I mean, I meet a lot of people who delight in being illogical. There was an article in The Australian of all newspapers - this is the supposedly intellectual newspaper - saying that, "changing reasons is human nature - we should celebrate illogic rather than criticize it". Now, what reason can you give people - assuming that some of your arguments are logical - why on earth should people be logical in the first place? People are quite happy being illogical.
Dan: Yeah, they are. The reason for that is that they're largely unconscious. They have no consciousness. What I mean by that is that they are not aware of cause and effect. They're not aware of the consequences of their lives. They're not aware that everything they do and think produces effects. And it's reason and logic that makes one aware of that. If people want to live blindly, if they consciously, actually consciously, make the decision that they're not going to value logic and reason, that they're not going to value consistency, and that they're happy for the consequences of what this will produce, then I'm prepared to say, "Okay, fine. Fair enough". I'll battle against these people, but I can at least acknowledge that they've made some sort of conscious decision. But most people don't even do this. And so they're not aware of the consequences of that irrationality. It's just plainly absurd. Everyone spends their entire lives whinging and complaining about all the suffering in the world, all the violence, all the prejudice, all the injustice, all the intolerance, but they don't link irrationality and inconsistency and contradiction with those realities. And that's because they don't value reason. They use reason, everyone uses reason, but they use reason expediently. They use reason to bolster their happiness and their egos. They don't actually value reason and you have to value reason for it to be meaningful.
David: Well, they might say that you are being unrealistic. It's too unrealistic to expect people to live rationally. We are weak, finite, human creatures.
Kevin: We're animals.
David Yeah, and like this article you were talking about before, expecting everyone to live rationally just causes all sorts of suffering. How would you answer that one, Danny?
Kevin: It's human to be irrational because, let's face it, we came from the animals. We're little more than chimpanzees when you look at us. Certainly when you look at the way we behave we're little more than chimpanzees. So, why should we expect people to be more than chimpanzees? I mean, aren't we getting ahead of ourselves a bit?
Dan: Okay, how will I tackle that one?
David: It's a question of valuing. This is what I see in the world around me. We no longer value rationality. We no longer value consistency or perfection. We celebrate irrationality. Irrationality is nowadays a virtue. And as far as I'm concerned this represents a real degeneration of society. I think we're living in one of the most backward times for centuries, precisely because we don't have any ideals. I mean, we just accept irrationality as being the norm and there is nothing we can or should do about it.
Dan: Well, yeah. The thing is I'm not suggesting for a second that the philosophic life - if I can describe it as that, which is the life of valuing reason and desperately wanting to know what is true and basically trying to live ethically - I'm not suggesting that this is not difficult. But there was a time, which has long since disappeared, when ideals were valued. We don't live in those times anymore. But the thing is people nowadays are absolute morons, because they still crave solutions to all their problems. And they will continue to suffer no matter what. People will suffer because they have attachments. It's like if you're ill and you need to take medicine and the medicine tastes absolutely shocking, you've got a choice - either you don't take the medicine and continue to suffer in a meaningless way, or you swallow the bitter pill. And all I'm saying is that if you swallow the bitter pill, you have an outcome. If you value reason truly, absolutely, uncompromisingly, you do get an outcome and that outcome is wisdom. And it places you beyond all the normal suffering. I think it was the German philosopher, Nietzsche, who said that people don't suffer enough, and I agree. I think people don't suffer enough. They think they suffer terribly, but they don't suffer enough, because their level of suffering isn't such that they desperately want to get beyond it.
David: It doesn't really affect them, in a way. It doesn't drive them to actually want to solve their suffering.
Dan: Yeah, it's not quite strong enough for them to have that desire. But the trouble is there are a number of people in the world who do suffer sufficiently to want to pursue solutions and who value reason and truth. And for those people to live in an environment such as ours is very painful. Because they're the ones with the ideals, and that idealism is totally crushed by the herd, by the mediocrity of the world.
Kevin: Perhaps we could look at this question a little bit more. In the past, there were many great human beings, thinking human beings. I'm thinking of people like Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, some of the great Zen Masters - unlike the one we had in here last week - but rather people like Hakuin. Who else was there? Socrates wasn't all that bad.
David: One or two of the Buddhas.
Kevin: Yeah, there were quite a few thinking people in the past, but there are none today - present company excepted, of course. What is it, do you think, that has bought us to this sorry state? There is probably more people alive on the planet today than there have been in all history, but there are no thinkers! How did we get here? What happened? Where did we lose the plot?
Dan: Gee, I can sense this conversation becoming slowly more and more dangerous.
Kevin: We have to cause people suffering somehow, haven't we? We were just discussing how people weren't suffering enough. So, I think we should look at the causes.
David: Well, one of them is the failure of masculine reason. Like science, for example. We're living in a world now where no one believes in absolute truth. Everything is relative. Everything is grey. Nothing is black and white, and so on. So male reason has come to be regarded as futile, as impotent.
Kevin: Can I ask, Dave, why do you use this term "male reason"? I know a lot of our listeners will take that very jarringly. It sounds quite sexist. Why male reason? Why not female?
David: I'm actually just using a conventional term that a lot of people use. For example, I've heard a lot of women say that science is a very masculine based activity and that there needs to be more women in the science fields in order to humanize them. But I use the term "male reason" because reason is something that men value. At least some men do. Or at least they're bought up to think that reason and truth have some sort of significance. But I see this very, very little in women. When I go about my business during the day and say to people, to women, that I dedicate my life to Truth, they look at me as if I'm from another planet.
Kevin: They're already there, aren't they, really?
David: Yes, of course, they're Buddhas. But when I talk to men, even if they don't understand the concept "truth", they at least have some sort of inkling that it is important in some way. Even though they may never take it up themselves, something in them tells them that Truth, or the understanding of reality, is significant. That's a big difference. It is because men have been brought up to be doers. They've been bought up to create inventions, and to live by their wits.
Kevin: To be individuals.
David: Yeah. Whereas women have the comfort, or the shell, of femininity. Femininity is a very, very powerful tool - it gets a lot of benefits in this world. Men don't have this, so they're forced to be more reliant on their minds, which causes them to think, and some men go on to make a breakthrough and thus see the very power of thinking. They're the great ones.
Kevin: Have there ever been any female thinkers, do you think?
David: Well, I can only think of one whom I'd class as a female thinker and that's Celia Green. She works in Oxford, doesn't she? Unfortunately, she is wasting her life studying parapsychology, but she had that sort of dialectical mind. She understood the deeper, ironical side of life. She's definitely a class above the Germaine Greer's and the Naomi Wolf's of this world. She actually has a masculine mind.
Kevin: She's a man, basically.
David: Well, almost a man.
David: She has the ingredients of a man.
Dan: Well, doesn't that eliminate her as a female thinker?
David: Well it does, but we're talking about a thinker in a female body.
Kevin: I tell you what. I think we should pause here for a little bit of music and we'll come right back and talk about something of incredible importance.
[ MUSIC BREAK ]
David: Okay, Danny, you were going to say something.
Dan: Yeah. You were talking about the direction that society has taken and how it's moved away from valuing reason, and you were also mentioning about science, about how there's a perception that science has failed us, that even rationality itself has failed us. Just a couple of points on that. I blame men for all of this, because it's their own mediocrity which is the cause. Exhibit A: those physicists that you spoke to a few programs ago. Now, they haven't got the gumption, the guts, the courage, the integrity . . . they don't value truth sufficiently to come out and baldly state that science and truth have nothing whatsoever to do with each other, and that science has never been about pursuing truth, that by it's very nature has nothing to do with truth.
David: Yes, but if you pin them down on this, they say, "Oh yes, science has nothing to do with truth. Of course!" But then, the next day they tell everybody that science is about the search for truth. They want two bob each way.
Dan: Well, that's right. They don't value truth. They don't actually value truth.
David: That's why they believe things can arise uncaused.
Kevin: Well, I think more accurately, they don't believe there is any other truth than in their science. They're not aware that there is any kind of philosophic truth, or an absolute truth, or a spiritual truth. They're not aware of any such thing.
David: Right, but nevertheless the world thinks that science is the fountain of all knowledge. People like to think that physics is going to discover the secret of everything, even though they know deep down that it won't. So it is that perception which causes this idea that reason is ultimately useless and can't really uncover anything. And it is all due to people like Paul Davies. You know, Paul Davies is regarded as a great man. I've heard people call him a genius. He's even won this massive prize for the promotion of religion, which is supposed to be about ultimate knowledge. But the guy is an idiot. He really is. He likes to believe that things arise uncaused, and that time began with the Big Bang. He often says that he decided to enter into physics because he couldn't accept that Nature is "a brute fact". He decided that physics holds answers, that it can answer the big questions of life. But it only takes ten seconds to work out that science can never, ever uncover truth, because it is a finite activity.
Dan: Well, I believe, even more than that, science cannot explain anything. Science can't explain anything at all.
David: That's because whatever is used to explain something will itself need an explanation.
Dan: Yeah. The word is contingent. All scientific observations and facts are contingent. That means they're conditional on further observation.
David: But the scientists say that. I mean, those physicists that we had on the program did say that, didn't they?
Dan: Well, they admitted it.
David: They said, "Yes, it's contingent. So?"
Dan: This is why I talk about their mediocrity. If they weren't so bloody mediocre this would have an impact on them. They'd think, "Hang on, if that's the case, then why am I actually indulging in science? Is it just for pure utility or what?"
David: Well, they want their two bob both ways. I mean, they really want it to be about truth, since it makes them seem more important, and they can think they're getting somewhere.
Kevin: And they can get more money.
David: But when you actually pin them down on whether they are for the truth, they say, "No, no, it's all about utility".
Kevin: It's a sin that Paul Davies and Phillip Adams are putting on this series on SBS straight after this program called The Big Questions. The only time they actually even mention a big question is in the sixth and last episode, and that was the very episode which Paul Davies didn't want to do. He's got no answers, anyway.
Dan: And the question of that episode was what?
Kevin: Does God exist? That's the question they saved up for the sixth episode of The Big Questions.
Dan: So they saved the biggest one till the sixth episode.
Kevin: And he's got no answer for it.
Dan: Well, the reason he's got no answer for it is because he refuses, like most scientists, to take himself outside the parameters of the empirical method. Yet the empirical method doesn't explain anything. Most people working in philosophy departments have a bit of an idea of this, but they're not much better.
David: Well, they don't know the truth themselves. For example, the two philosophers we had on the very first show of The Hour of Judgment didn't believe that truth can be known by the human mind. Philosophers nowadays look at science and all the scientific products such as TVs and cars, and think deep down that philosophy is a very inferior kind of activity indeed.
Dan: Yeah, but when you pin the ones who hold that strong agnostic perception, they say, "Oh, we can't know anything ultimately". And you ask them, "Why"? And they give explanations. And then you say, "Isn't that saying something about the nature of our existence, about phenomena?" And as you pin them down you find that they inevitably work themselves back into what is an ultimate position, which is the very position they deny anyone can have. There's an inherent contradiction in the agnostic position.
Kevin: It reminds me of Phillip Adams' philosophy, where he says that he's absolutely certain that nothing is certain. And of course he would never claim to be wise - but at the same time he claims he hasn't got the foggiest idea what wisdom is. Naturally, he believes himself to be wise.
David: "The older I grow, the less I know".
Dan: Hmm, hmm. And this is one of the problems with modern society. As I said earlier, I acknowledge that the philosophic life is difficult and I accept that there will be people who will look at it and say, "I can't do this. I don't have the strength for this. I'm too old. I'm over thirty. I've got attachments. I'm married. I've got kids. I've got a television. I've got a mortgage." If they would say this honestly it wouldn't be so bad. But their egos can't deal with it. They can't deal with this pitiful image about them which is projected into the world. Phillip Adams is a perfect example of this. He's wimped out, basically. He had potential for the truthful life, but over time he's wimped out and he can't handle it. So instead he constructs his own type of wisdom, which is a wisdom of ignorance. He talks about how you can't define wisdom. "Who would want to define wisdom?" he says. I find this absolutely foolish. I mean, the word is in the dictionary, for heavens sake! One can define the word.
David: Yeah, he's got right to the very basis of life and worked out that it's uncertain. Everything is uncertain.
Dan: His greatest sin is that he wants to demolish the very concept of wisdom. But it's like the word "fart" - it's in the dictionary and everyone knows what it means. It's the same with wisdom. It's been used in all the literature, it's in all the dictionaries, everyone has an idea what wisdom refers to and that is the highest knowledge, the knowledge of what is ultimately real, or the knowledge of God. It would be better if one said, "Look, I don't know what the substance of this wisdom is and I'm not sure if anyone can know the substance". But to take that step and start undermining the very concept is crazy. And it comes through the cowardice and the egotism of not wanting to acknowledge that you're not fit for the philosophic life. Which is fair enough, if you're honest about it. I don't condemn people for their weakness.
David: It's similar to what I found talking to Carl Wieland a couple of weeks ago. People have said that we should have licked Carl Wieland and that Carl Wieland wiped us on the floor, but I remember when I was talking to him here in the studio and listening to him that I realized - even though he is regarded by most people as being a total loony and his views are obviously full of holes--
Kevin: We should remind people that he believes the universe was created six thousand years ago in six or seven days, and that the whole earth was covered by a great flood and that all the animals on the earth in pairs went onto the Ark . . . we could go on.
Dan: In short, that the Genesis account in the Bible is historical fact.
David: And he claims that this is a credible theory, a credible alternative to evolution and the Big Bang. You know, when I look at someone like Carl Wieland, I see that he is no different to the physicists that we had on the week before, or to Paul Davies. These physicists say that in the sub-atomic realm things arise uncaused. This is pure creationism! They say that time began at the Big Bang. Pure creationism! So when Carl Wieland looks at these people and subconsciously sees that they're twits, well then . . . how different is he?
Kevin: He thinks, "My position is strong. It's just as strong as theirs - almost."
David: That's right. His arguments are very ingenious, but so are the scientists'. They use very ingenious arguments to justify their pursuits. If you take away the actual scientific activity, there is not a lot of difference between them.
Kevin: What hope is there today for a young person who does want to live a rational life? We live in a world which is politically correct, where you're not allowed to say things which are true. No matter how true it might be, you're not allowed to say anything which might offend a lot of people. So how can a wise man exist in the world today? Is there any chance? What place is there in universities for a wise man?
David: None whatsoever.
Dan: Yeah, and why would a wise man have anything to do with universities in the first place? What you say is true, Kevin, but every wise man, every individual of potential, all the great thinkers, they all existed in that kind of culture to some degree. There's always been some form of tyranny, some form of the herd expressing itself.
David: There's never been a wise culture.
Dan: All those great people have had to grow and flourish and do their best within that kind of culture. So it's just a matter of doing it.
David: Yes, but what about last century in Europe? Germany, for example, was a very idealistic society. It valued perfection, even though this was mainly political. That's why you had a lot of philosophers back then in Germany last century; Schopenhauer and--
Kevin: Nietzsche and so on.
David: Kant, and all those sort of people. And you compare that to our age nowadays - it's the complete opposite.
Dan: Well, I'm not sure if I agree with that, actually, as I wouldn't put Immanual Kant in the same category as Nietzsche.
David: Yes, that's true. I shouldn't have said Kant.
Dan: Maybe Weininger would have been a better choice. In any generation, there's always only a tiny handful of people who value reason and truth sufficiently to really live that difficult life and to pursue it. And I think that's just humanity's karma, really. It's a difficult thing to get around. Again, this pursuing wisdom ultimately is a very individualistic thing. If you value truth then you just do the best you can, no matter where you are. No matter what culture you're in, no matter what political situation you're in, you just do your best.
David: What about this idea that some cultures are wiser than others? I was talking to a fellow the other day who believes that the Aboriginal culture is spiritual. And then there are the American Indians, or even India itself. Are these cultures wiser than ours?
Dan: Was this guy wise? If he wasn't then he's not in a position to make these sorts of judgments. But yeah, it's very popular now to talk about any old culture, especially indigenous cultures, being somehow spiritual. I find that completely meaningless, because I define spirituality as having a direct, conscious relationship with God. But to have that you have to know precisely what God is. So spirituality and wisdom are the same thing. Now the question is, do these people in these indigenous cultures understand what is ultimately real?
Kevin: Yes, that's right. I think a lot of people today say that the Aboriginals are spiritual because they have some type of relationship with the land and with nature. But when you're actually living on the land and you have to get your food from the land and you're out there living in a cave, my word, you're going to have a relationship with nature! But it doesn't mean you're going to have an understanding of ultimate truth.
Dan: No, it doesn't. You can say the same thing - and I know people will cringe when I say this - but you could say the same thing about wombats. Wombats have a really intimate relationship with the land. So what!
David: Well, this fellow says that the Aboriginal culture was more spiritual because they emphasised the connectedness of everything - that sort of thing. I told him that that's not really interconnectedness. True interconnectedness is seeing that things have no real existence. There is no beginning or end to anything. This is true connectedness. Do aborigines have this idea?
Kevin: Even the concept of connectedness is wrong.
David: That's right, it implies separation.
David: One can't judge cultures in the light of wisdom, because wisdom is an individual pursuit, as you were saying.
Dan: Yeah, it's meaningless to conjecture whether this culture is wise as opposed to that culture. It's just completely and utterly meaningless, because you can only make that determination if you're wise yourself.
Kevin: It's not meaningless for the wise person to do so.
Dan: No, but the thing is that we people ought to be pursuing wisdom.
David: Alright, so we're saying that culture doesn't make any impact on a wise man. We were talking before about how the age that we're living in - in Australia, and in the late twentieth century - is a completely deluded society. It's difficult to conceive of a more deluded society than Australian society, but then, when I look at all the other countries in the world Australia is looking good. Does culture make an impact?
Dan: Well, I guess it has a significance in the sense that some cultures, some societies, value freedom of thought and expression a little more than others, and a society like that is obviously going to be a slightly better environment for someone who's pursuing knowledge and understanding. But whether you can draw any sort of stimulus or teaching - if I can call it that - from that society is another question entirely. I mean, freedom of thought and expression is useful and it's a good thing. That's why Australia is one of the better countries around. But I don't think any particular culture has more to offer in terms of understanding than another.
Kevin: It's interesting how England has never produced any great philosophers, but America has in fact produced one great philosopher and that's Bob Dylan, and we're about to hear a song of his right now.
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David: Well, surely you're joking, Kevin, about Bob Dylan being a philosopher.
Kevin: Well, it's all relative, isn't it? I mean, he's a philosopher relative to other Americans. No, I'm serious! Actually, to my mind, that song was about the desire for immortality. Remember that Bob Dylan wrote it when he was very young. I think he was in his early twenties, so he wrote it when he was still partly human. The older you get the more American you become, I think - in any country. But the desire for immortality is the desire for perfection. It is the desire for permanent existence, permanent belonging. This desire is in all the great poets, in all the great writers, and all the great male minds. It's the characteristic of masculinity, I think, this desire for greatness, this desire for permanence.
David: You don't think this is in women?
Kevin: To the extent that women are masculine they have the desire for perfection. I think all human minds are composed of both masculine and feminine. Men, obviously, are mostly masculine and that's why we use the word "masculine". Women are mainly feminine. Men have a large feminine component in them - I'd say maybe twenty or thirty percent feminine. Women also have a masculine component, but it probably would only be in the order of one or half a percent. What do you make of that psychology, Dan?
Dan: What's the point?
Kevin: Well, if we're going to encourage people to become true atheists - to have actual knowledge of God - they have to desire greatness. They have to desire something of permanent value and the thing that is of permanent value is Truth. There is nothing of greater permanence than Truth itself. This requires great courage to overcome all of our weaknesses and attachments. If we define the feminine as the part of the mind which is content in the moment, which is content with connectedness with the earth - like the wombat - and if we define the masculine as the striving for perfection and for power, then we have to encourage the masculine in all people. In both men and women, we have to encourage the masculine. Do you see how I think it's of value now?
Dan: Yeah, I agree.
David: Immensely popular doctrine too! I mean, we're living in an age where the masculine is totally devalued.
Kevin: We were looking at a book the other day, actually. It was on the shelves in The American Bookstore and I think the actual title of it was, "Men Cost Too Much". Was that it?
David: Something like that.
Kevin: And one of the arguments on the back cover of the book was, "Men drive oil tankers into rocks in ecologically sensitive areas". I mean, this is the kind of thing that's happening to the masculine in our age.
Dan: Yes, men cost too much, but eighty percent of all commercial floor space is taken up precisely for the benefit of women.
Kevin: But men own the shops! That's a convincing argument.
Dan: This idea that we should value the masculine is important in the context of Truth, because searching for Truth involves risks. It involves abandoning security. It involves abandoning your attachment to happiness - which is a very, very important one. I have to admit I don't see much in the feminine - I don't see anything in the feminine, actually - which leads me to think the feminine has any scope for those things because it's precisely security and happiness that they crave. And it's risk-taking and that striving which is absolutely imperative for pursuing wisdom. It's a lot of risk - particularly emotionally - in abandoning your attachments to your beliefs. And pursuing truth is about abandoning all these things.
Kevin: You know, a lot of women would say that men don't have a lot of courage at all. They say that men are very weak and lack all of these characteristics that we're attributing to the masculine mind. They don't see these lofty characteristics in any of their male companions at all. Of course, not having those characteristics themselves to any large extent, you wouldn't expect women to see them. So we just have to make the point that these lofty masculine things that we're talking about - a person has to have them to begin with to be able to recognize their existence.
Dan: Look, I agree. But I think women are entitled to feel that those things don't exist in the average man, because by and large they don't.
David: Oh, but they do in seed. They do deep down.
Dan: Certainly. Absolutely, yeah.
David: I certainly don't think many women recognize that sort of potential for greatness. They just concentrate on all the negative aspects of masculine behaviour. But men are always doing things. They're always creating things, you know. They created civilization, for example. They created all the scientific inventions. They also create the wars and the murders and so forth. So they're the doers. And because men do some bad things - and admittedly they do - women want to discard the whole masculine endeavour. The whole thing is regarded as worthless, because sometimes it effects women in a negative fashion. It's really stupid.
Kevin: Yeah, a lot of it's to do with the fact that a lot of the frontiers which existed in the past no longer exist.
David: That's a big one, I think.
Kevin: In the past, men had to protect women. Today, well, we've got the police force - which is not exactly the same as men. It's just like paying robots to do some work for you, like paying some slaves. Men are no longer valued today as protectors, so we no longer have value anymore. Let's remember that more than fifty percent of the population are women, and we live in a democracy. So, if the majority don't value what men have to offer . . .
David: That's right. We've almost done too good a job of it, haven't we? We've created a society that's ordered; we've got the law. I myself rarely face life-threatening situations. This is completely different to our ancestors who had all sorts of life-threatening situations - floods, animals and everything - and the men evolved to protect and to defend the women and children from all these life-threatening situations. But because they no longer exist, men have no value. And it's also to do with the frontiers, as you were saying. Where are the frontiers now? It's still going to be quite a few decades, or even centuries, before we start venturing out into space. We live in a world which is just totally concreted and explored. Men don't see any reason to do anything great because there is no real challenge, no real masculine challenge anymore.
Dan: Well, yeah. Men in a certain respect have almost made themselves obsolete, but it's possible that some good may come of this because there is one frontier which is still left, and that's the frontier of wisdom. So even if there are no other frontiers left for men, then there is still that one. Unfortunately, women don't value it, because they assume that they are already wise - most of them, in my experience - and so they don't push men to pursue that frontier.
David: Well, that's right. Not many men pursue truth. It's the one frontier, as you said, and so in order to halt this slide towards more and more femininity in the world, in order to get the masculine juices going, it has to be towards Truth, because that's the only frontier left. I just can't see that happening. I look into the future and I see . . . it's a bit like those grasshoppers which, just after they finish copulating, the female just gobbles up the male. He's done his job and . . . that's the future I see as our society becomes more and more feminine. It's like . . . get rid of the men - Pah! Who needs them!
Kevin: Yeah, the main purpose of life is to produce children.
David: Of course! Anyway, we're nearing the end, so I'd just like to remind our listeners that we have tapes of our shows for sale. If you're interested in any of our past shows . . . this is what - our seventh show? The first one was with academic philosophers where we discussed life and death and--
Kevin: Ultimate Truth.
David: Ultimate Truth. Funny one, that. That was quite an interesting discussion. What was the next one? Zen. A couple of Zen exponents, one of them a Zen monk, and we were talking about Buddhism, basically. The third one was with some Anglican Priests, which has to be heard to be believed. Then we had a couple of physicists, which I thought was a very good conversation. It was very clear, dealing mainly with quantum physics and whether things can arise caused or uncaused, and what science can tell us about these things. And then after that we had Carl Wieland who everybody thought licked us totally.
Kevin: Who is the Creation Scientist.
David: The Creation Scientist, yes.
David: Last week was also a very interesting conversation. We had an authorized Zen Master from Canada.
Kevin: Who claimed not to be a Master.
David: That's right, yes. So, all of these conversations, all of these shows are on tape and if you're interested just give the station a ring, or you can contact us at our address: P.O. Box 207, St. Lucia, 4067. That's P.O. Box 207, St. Lucia, 4067. And you can write to us about anything, if you want to. If you're interested in getting to know us or anything like that just drop us a line at that post box.
Kevin: We also want some feminists to come into the station to do a program with us about the psychology of men and women.
David: Right. So, anybody out there who's willing for a challenge, give us a ring. Alright, thanks Danny, interesting conversation. We'll probably have you on again some time in the future.
Dan: I look forward to that.
David: Kevin and I will be back again next week.
Kevin: Will do.
David: Okay, see you later.