Plato's Curse

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Plato's Curse

Earlier I wrote Don't Fight Plato.  I now believe that Plato is such a curse that he must be fought.

We live in a world where TRUTH is considered universal while VALUES are considered personal.  This is the result of Plato's teachings.  The practical impact of this is that people organize themselves around shared beliefs, not shared values.  This means that if I share values with some people who have different beliefs, there is no way that I can join together with these people to promote the shared values.  Today we basically have two dominant belief systems, Secularism which is universal belief based on (faulty) reasoning, and Christianity which is based on faith which can be defined as belief without reason.  Of these two groups, I personally fall in the secular group even though I share none of their values.

This is Plato's curse, that people with shared values cannot organize to promote those values because they don't share beliefs.  What this means is that default values tend to take over, and default values reflect the basest human instincts.  We can see this in the change of values of Christianity over time.  Christianity started with Jewish values in opposition to the decadent Roman values of that time.  Today, Christianity has absorbed liberal values which are much like those decadent Roman values that they originally opposed.  This happened because Christianity is focused on belief/faith, not on values/action, so Christianity had no way to avoid drifting to the lowest common denominator of human values.

The Old Testament is free of Plato's curse.  It's entire focus is on values and actions, not on beliefs.  I would go so far as to say that the Old Testament is the only respected book in our world that is free of Plato's curse.  This means that the Old Testament is the best basis for fighting Plato's curse and for unifying people around shared values.

In the past, I suggested various ideas that simply ignore Plato's curse.  For example trying to organize people around shared values while ignoring belief, as CoAlpha tries to do.  But without explicitly fighting Plato's curse, one cannot do this because people will continue to focus on belief.  So we must fight Plato's curse explicitly.  Using the Sciencism concept of levels, I would say that there is a low level and a high level approach.  The low level approach must push this message:

Belief is personal, but values should be shared.

Making this explicit is a fundamental shift in thinking for most people.  It is low level because one can still keep Plato's idea of universal truth while following this principle.  This principle doesn't require deep thought.  It just requires people to focus on values.

The high level message is much deeper.  It is:

Truth is subjective.

I don't expect most people to ever understand this.  But there is no need.  In fact it is almost irreverent to this topic.  But understanding this would be useful for the high level leaders of a religion.  It would have a practical impact on how they led the group and would prevent them from ever pushing any particular belief too hard.

So let's focus on the low level message "Belief is personal, but values should be shared.".  The practical benefit of pushing this message is to allow people of different beliefs to share a religion, just as early Judaism did.  It also has the practical benefit of having people focus on action, as a reflection of values, rather than belief as a reflection of truth.  The focus of the religion shouldn't be "what is true" but rather it should be "what should one do".  This is true of Judaism today but the problem with mainstream Rabbinic Judaism is that there are basically only 3 choices of rule sets for actions based on the 3 types of Rabbinic Judaism; Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform.  None of these is particularly appealing.  It would be better to have more diversity of rule sets.  Just as the Protestant Reformation allowed for many variations of belief in Christianity, Judaism needs something similar to allow for many variations in rule sets (reflecting different values).  Karaite Judaism may offer a solution to this.

I am not suggesting something like CoAlpha with this message added.  What I am suggesting is that a new religion should focus on this message.  Judaism shows me that a religion can exist today with a focus on values and action.  A full religion is needed because people can't divide their commitment between too many things.  Someone who is a Christian and a CoAlpha is going to put his Christianity first.  But a religion based on values would be an alternative to Christianity.  A Christian who is more committed to values than beliefs could switch to this new religion which would be a basic change of focus for him.  He could still keep his Christian-type beliefs, but he must dump those parts of Christianity that put faith over action, especially when judging others.  If he doesn't do this, then he is useless and there is no point having anything to do with him.  If he does make this change, then he should be welcomed into the new religion where he can focus on shared values.