Correspondences: On Trust and Knowledge

My dear C, 

You said a person should never just believe another, and I know this is true. I believe what you say is true, but I do not believe it is true because you say it. Instead, you say it because it is true, and when you say it, your words invite me to participate in the truth with you. When you give me an invitation that I can accept, then I accept it with delight and gratitude. If I cannot accept it, I stop at this. I do not continue to infer that it is false or incorrect, or that you cannot be trusted. I stop with the recognition that the truth of what you said does not reveal itself to me. But what does not reveal itself today may still reveal itself tomorrow, so I cannot simply reject it. Instead I attempt to negotiate the subtle equilibrium between assent in the light of truth, and suspension of judgment. I pitch camp on the mountainside, as it were, in the night of the soul and await the light’s return. The most I can say is, “I do not see the truth of this today.”

I believe it and know that it is partly true insofar as I understand it, but you maintain that “understanding is not knowing.” In any case, I think I know what you mean, and I believe that I can grasp the meaning that impelled you to write it. But the way you expressed it makes it sound like there is a dichotomy between understanding and knowing, or trusting others and trusting our own experience. And that is not how it is. We listen to others out of interest to discover how the world is seen from eyes that are not our own, and we can trust that we receive this view from others if we are able to understand what they say and if they are willing to speak out of the truth of their experience. 

I agree: we ought not to speak out of someone else’s truth. This is one reason that a great deal of “philosophy” repels me. “‘Philosophy’ is said in many ways.” I believe that ‘thinking’ is said in many ways as well. It doesn’t make any sense to deny thinking. We can suspend it in meditation, for instance, or in other situations, but when we do this we are cutting ourselves off from intersubjective experience. 

 Of course, we can enter a state of non-thought in meditation, for instance. This is very healthy. But thinking is the basis of intersubjective communication between human beings, and non-thought or feeling or anything else is no substitute. These things depend on thinking for their articulation. Of course, thinking is false and vacuous when it has no meaning and no truth behind it.

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