“You’re just seeing things!”
How often have you heard that? We understand the fundamental question addressed here: Most people react to their perceptions in fairly simplistic ways. If you see an obstacle in your path, you would normally step around it unless it seemed more appropriate to push it out of the way. There is a wide range of moral discussion about whether and when it’s appropriate to avoid or push, and this is a separate question.
Perhaps you can see how this is connected to my fundamental assertion about Western (Aristotelian) epistemology. A Greek philosopher named Aristotle, whose ideas have had a powerful effect on our modern Western society, used that word “epistemology” a great deal in his teaching. Yes, I know that’s one of those hifalutin words, but it’s not pointless. It does apply to normal human life. While it can be abused like any other fancy term, it can also serve to condense the discussion by putting a simple label on a big issue. The academic discussion of epistemology seems focused on the question of, “What is true or truth?” Another formulation is, “What can we claim to know?” However, there is a motive behind that question itself that assumes we are somehow obliged to order our conduct in this world based on what’s real, or at least what’s important. In other words, it’s a question of, “What can we say we know, such that we can act on it?” There is an assumption that we have to justify our choices according to some universal standard. The underlying issue is really quite pragmatic.
And that brings us back to that quoted line up at the top. In our English-speaking society, we can find ourselves irritated by people who react to obstacles that we don’t see. Is it really there? And is it really an obstacle? In similar fashion, we can ask whether something is a threat we should avoid or flee.
But the whole issue rests on yet another fundamental question: What difference does it make to you what I see? That quoted line above assumes a moral accountability. It’s bad enough that our Western society struggles with matters of perception, but we have a serious problem with people poking their nose into the lives of others, as if we are all under some assumed accountability that gives people the authority to intrude. There is a powerful common assumption that some portion of our human existence is common property, that we owe something to the folks around us. And the problem is not whether we do, but what.
Here is the moral question of boundaries and dominion. There are two questions here: (1) Does you choice affect me and (2) should I be allowed to do something about it? We can’t deny that a lot things we do touch the lives of others, but whether they should endure it gracefully is separate matter. For example, we know that a child’s home life can impair their educational progress at school, but does that then hand some moral authority to educators to intrude in the home life of every child they educate? Most Westerners tolerate a very high level of intrusion under a wide range of assumptions about accountability to society at large.
This is the source for the structure and shape of Western government. We assume a certain kind of social accountability that opens the door to this kind of intrusion. The only question we ask is how much intrusion is correct in a given context, instead of addressing the fundamental question itself of whether it’s anyone’s business in the first place. Western social mythology draws the boundaries in the wrong place, and grants dominion to the wrong people. It’s not enough to claim being libertarian, because that still assumes a false morality of how much dominion.
And give this a thin veneer by falsely conflating “caring” with “control.” If you care enough, you will assert measures to force the object of your caring to do it your way? This is part of why most Westerners are so very confused about God and His authority. This is the source of that silly question about, “If God is all powerful (omnipotent) and all knowing (omniscient) and loving, why does He permit this?” The question assumes a logic that is all wrong in the first place. It’s where we get such petty declarations as, “That’s just mean!”
Don’t read this back into Scripture, or you’ll be the one who is “just seeing things.” The single biggest issue Westerners have with divine moral justice is tied up in understanding the basics of dominion and boundaries.
Biblical logic goes like this: God has created all things. He did so in accordance with His own character as a Person; His moral character is woven into the very structure and nature of reality. It works as He designed it. Justice is a matter of living consistently with that divine moral character. Not merely the performance, but the desire to please Him in feeling our way along from our blind fallen nature is the primary path of redemption. Not just in His written Word, but in Creation itself can we find that path, but it requires first engaging reality through the heart-mind. In living by our hearts, we will discover in any given context what it is that keeps us consistent with His moral character, and that brings Him glory. His glory in us is as much redemption as we can experience in this life.
Stop seeing it with your senses and your logic; that’s “just seeing things.” See it with your heart.