Telling the truth is not only a matter of good manners, it is also the key to making communication and civilization possible. By understanding the role of truth-telling in communication, the problems of lying are revealed to be far deeper than they come across at first blush.
The recent trend of “excommunicating” people from various groups, as a rejection of their behaviors, is a bad option for several reasons. Yes, the idea that ISIS members are Muslim sounds abhorrent to Muslims, and the idea that Myanmar’s genocidal government sounds abhorrent to Buddhists. But the attempt to simply call them non-Muslim or non-Buddhists creates far more problems than it solves.
Traditional Wisdom includes short stories, sayings, and even jokes, produced as easy to remember/easy to digest bits by various cultures, in order to communicate crucial and complicated ideas to the general population. For all their simplicity, they can serve as an important source of critical thought, and even answer deep philosophical questions, without the need for specialized knowledge.
Quite often, our arguments and discussions go nowhere, and all that effort is wasted. We may believe that the other side is irrational, or that they’re simply stubborn, hard-headed, or stupid, However, on closer examination, it turns out that the reason for this deadlock is the fact that we quite often miss the point of our own arguments.
In considering the six questions of context, question 5 (general context) was left relatively undeveloped. Here, we return to the issue with a series of tool-box questions, which both help us develop some crucial context points, and help us to identify the weak points of claims, in a neat and systematic way.
While modernity has made secularism a familiar notion – especially in academia – religion has provided the primary context of human events since before written history. When religion and religious concepts are examined critically, they can yield a great wealth of useful and interesting ideas, or at least useful warnings about what ideas lead to dead-ends and escalating problems.
Focusing on our own ethnic, cultural, and historical context makes sense and is a good thing. Doing so to the exclusion of other contexts is a problem – because our context is a tiny percentage of the total available. By critically examining diverse sources, we access a far broader field of thousands of years of theories, practice, and trial and error.
A structured system of how knowledge works helps us use it better, and recognize where we may have problems and weaknesses. Understanding the limits of knowledge explains why knowledge alone is not enough to make us act a certain way. (How many med-school students smoke?)
Speaking while ignorant is a common problem. Understanding its causes can help us both recognize ignorant speech and avoid it.
Context can be hard to come by, especially because we tend to project our preconceived ideas and make snap-judgments. We turn to two ideas from classical Chinese philosophy, to fight these bad habits and help resolve some problems they create.