by Gustavo Razzetti
May 03, 2018
Truth is fluid
helping people and teams
I write to make you think,
not to please an algorithm.
Dogmas are like two donkeys tied together:
the more you pull
towards your side, the less you will accomplish.
Both want to eat off the
bushes that are on each side of the road, but the rope isn't long
Both donkeys pull hardly hoping to drag the other to their side.
They pull and pull, but none move an inch. The animals become very
frustrated - no one could reach its bush.
So, they stop and try to
figure out how to eat.
"What if we work
together?", both donkeys say simultaneously.
The animals decide to
take turns. They would move together towards one bush and eat from
it. They could then move to the other side and eat from another
Beliefs blind you...
When you think in absolutes, the only 'bush' that matters is the one
that you can see. You can't acknowledge other sides - even if
the other party is trying to accomplish the same goal.
That's the illusion of being objective:
when you believe you
possess the truth, your subjective beliefs blind you from seeing
The paradox of objectivity
is the silent
perception of reality."
Can you really be objective? Or is objectivity a social construct?
In his book
Contemplative Science, B. Alan
Wallace suggests reconnecting contemplation and science. The
Latin term 'contemplatio,' from which 'contemplation' is derived,
corresponds to the Greek word 'theoria.' Both refer to total
devotion to pursuing the truth, and nothing less.
Science wants to own objectivity - to understand the nature of
By trying to remove all subjectivity, modern science divorced itself
from both religion and philosophy.
That need to become
absolutely objective was one of,
inhumanity to man" as Wallace explains.
Our society became
more knowledgeable, but not more wiser or compassionate.
Dogmas, however, are hard to validate. They are defined by a higher
authority - God, a leader, a group practice or an
extraordinary experience. The difficulty to scientifically study
that are beyond the physical world.
That's why dogmas are
placed beyond challenge.
Absolute Objectivity is like having God's eye view.
"The view from
nowhere," as Thomas Nagel described it.
Those who claim to be
absolutely objective pretend to see things from 'nowhere', like
however, is not."
Who owns objectivity? That's a very subjective thing...
For every absolute, there's an opposite absolute. Each positive
absolute has an opposite negative one. And the other way around.
Moral Absolutism establishes that there are absolute
standards against which moral questions can be judged - certain
actions are either right or wrong. It is the opposite of
Moral Relativism, the idea that
there is no universal set of moral principles - they are
As the saying goes:
"When in Rome, do as
the Romans do."
Those who worship
"absolute objectivity" have a hard time integrating opposite
perspectives. For them, you either support absolute objectivity or
you are a 'relativist' - someone who thinks no belief is better
than any other.
Dogmatism disables objectivity of judgment because it
One person's extreme is someone else's moderation. Opposites need to
integrate rather than fight each other. Just like the donkeys, they
have to work together instead of trying to drag each other to their
To solve for the tension between absolute dogmas, you have to untie
goal of all research
but the truth."
Objectivity is incremental, not absolute. We always have a point of
Absolute objectivity is
beyond human experience. Realizing you don't possess God's
eye view, helps you embrace a more humble approach to being
You might not let your emotions cloud your judgment as much as other
people do. However, you are still human. Rather than force yourself
(and others) to choose sides, find the middle way.
The 'Middle Way' is not a happy medium - it's not the
average of two truths.
referred to the middle way of
a space between the
extremes of sensual indulgence and self-mortification.
It's about seeking
balance - to reconcile and transcend the duality that
characterizes most thinking.
Aristotle talked about the 'golden mean,' whereby,
"every virtue is a
mean between two extremes, each of which is a vice."
The Middle Way is
a path that embraces both spiritualism and materialism - just like
the back and front sides of a paper.
Middle Way Society defines it as a
principle that can help us make better judgments. We understand
conditions in the world or in ourselves better by relying on
experience, but our learning from experience is often blocked by
When the donkeys stopped trying to pull each other, they could
reframe the situation. They were able to consider other alternatives
and started working together.
By being receptive to new possibilities, the donkeys achieved their
goals - they moved from conflict to integration.
requires changing your mind
To pursue the Middle Way is to bravely confront life's challenges:
identify root causes
and seek means of resolution.
It could be expressed as
the commitment to upholding respect for the dignity of life.
The opposite to dogmatism is skepticism. Rather than
taking one truth as absolute, you challenge all the truths.
Skepticism is not being negative or rejecting every possible truth.
It's about having a critical mind and not letting your beliefs get
you stuck in one truth.
Perception is ambiguous
and dynamic - we impose our own stories to what we see.
How can you tell if what you experience is absolutely real or tinted
by your own subjectivity? Even the most rational scientists and
philosophers have biases.
They might be more aware
than ordinary people but are not immune to being human.
Skepticism is not
understanding that knowledge is built every time a theory is
debunked by a new one. That's how science has always
When you believe
one theory to be absolute and perfect, you don't leave room
to incremental improvement.
Skepticism is not
thinking that beliefs are wrong, but that they may be
If anything were
absolute, there wouldn't be room for improvement or
According to the
Middle Way association, provisionality is a three-step approach:
Avoid dogma. Use
critical awareness to understand the flaws in your beliefs.
It's accepting that some of your truths may be false.
challenge your own beliefs rather than consider them
absolute. Be receptive to criticism.
having different ways of thinking and behaviors available.
Rather than pulling the other donkey to your side, you
collaborate with it.
embracing a fluid mindset, not a rigid one. It's a state that
realizes that life is full of 'unknown
How to follow
the middle way
Autonomy of judgment:
Don't let other
people's beliefs overpower you. Keep your own judgment. We are
social animals; it's hard not to be influenced by others.
everyone else is agreeing on something doesn't mean you should
too. Group thinking is the enemy of 'provisionality.'
Adopt a 'maybe mindset:'
Things are fluid,
they rapidly mutate. One event might look positive today and
then, an unexpected twist, could turn it into negative.
Provisionality requires adopting a 'maybe mindset,' as I
Don't try to turn
your personal preferences into something objective. Accept other
people's subjectivity. Your food or music tastes are different
to other people's choices. Yours are not right or wrong; they
are just yours.
Find a common goal:
Religion is a perfect
example of tensions driven by dogmas. Religion is about the
dignity of life, to realize our purpose as human beings. Focus
on the commonalities.
What's the purpose
behind your religious beliefs? Accept that, even though others
have a different creed, they can share the same goal.
Embrace a 'Yes,
Black or white. Left or right. Foreign or domestic...
Dogmas push us to
think of options as mutually exclusive. A 'Yes, and...' approach
is about building on other people's ideas and not seeing them as
opposite or exclusive.
from an abundance mentality - a 'Yes, and...' mindset removes
being judgmental and encourages diversity of thinking as I
That doesn't mean
thinking that everything is wrong but rather that it may be
wrong. Ask "why?" When you get an answer, ask why again.
Repeat over and over, as kids do.
anything for granted.
Putting it all
The two donkeys represent the negative and positive absolutes.
A right-or-wrong approach
creates a tension that distracts both animals from their end goal:
That's the paradox of
objectivity: trying to prove other people wrong, we get stuck in our
Embrace a 'provisional' mindset. Realize that the truth - no
matter how objective - evolves through time.
Nowadays, no one questions that the Earth revolves around the sun.
However, in the 17th Century, Galileo Galilei
almost got killed for being the
first to state that.
Finding the middle way doesn't mean compromising, but being smart.
Dogmas get you stuck. Integration is about seeing the whole picture,
not the one you believe to be true.
Challenge your beliefs continually - that's how you get to find