Monday, 21 July 2014

Many causal connexions are far from self-evident. Philosophy has been slow in adopting a scientific approach. Small steps taken regularly can go a long way

Irregular verbs and plurals are the most difficult part to memorize when you study foreign languages. For children learning their mother tongue, atypical cases are also the most complicated. Asymmetrical constructions are slowly assimilated by the human mind, which, at any stage of development, automatically tries to find patterns in reality.

Many causal connexions are far from self-evident

We have created numbers, which are a sequential representation of quantities. We love to understand complex phenomena and find solutions to problems. Our brains seek to identify consequences through observation and logic. Weather prediction comes from generalizing past experience. Looking for order in chaos is natural to humans. It is our way to grasp the world and make sense of it.

Nevertheless, as soon as we begin to gather knowledge in any field, we realize that many causal connexions are far from self-evident. The earth looks flat and it is no wonder that it took hundreds of years to develop and spread the understanding of planetary orbits. Science rests on the recognition that causal connexions need to be, not only theorized, but proven.

Philosophy has been slow in adopting a scientific approach

From all disciplines, philosophy and economics have been the slowest to adopt a scientific approach. Even nowadays, professionals in those fields disagree on basic questions of methodology. Discussing what is true makes little sense if we cannot even concur on the criteria to assess the validity of a proposition.

As a result, defining success and happiness has turned into a haphazard endeavour for most of History. Determinism, which attributes those to chance, remains a wide-spread philosophical error in many segments of the population. A superficial examination of the human condition can lead to see life as a series of misfortunes intertwined with lucky encounters. This perception is as false as the belief that the earth is flat.

Scientists know that observing reality with our eyes and drawing immediate conclusions frequently leads to mistakes. A more accurate view of the world is the result of understanding that a large number of effects can only be perceived long-term. The impact of events is not necessarily local. Actions without consequences to those who performed them can have a devastating outcome for third parties.

Small steps taken regularly can go a long way

Reality is more complex than the eye can perceive and rational explanations more uncomfortable than make-belief. This is why confusion reigns about the roots of happiness and success. Determinism exaggerates the role played by misfortunes and luck in human life. Believing that your destiny is controlled by random events only leads to paralysis and nihilism.

Ambition and purpose, relentlessly implemented on good and bad days, constitute the bedrock of individual progress. Small steps taken regularly can go a long way. Advancing a little every day in your chosen direction is what makes great achievements possible. Big breaks, at first sight, seem to have happened overnight, but the truth is that a river takes years to build a gorge. The results are breathtakingly beautiful.

For more information about rational living and personal development, I refer you to my book The 10 Principles of Rational Living


[Image by McPig under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under]