paul has a new video  

 



visit the thread.

see the DVDs.

  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic

"The seeker of the truth" (not the holder of the truth)  RSS feed

 
Erik Ven
Posts: 18
Location: "...where somebody's struggling to be free, look in their eyes and you'll see me..."
4
greening the desert trees wofati
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I had a conversation with Paul about something that just happened and he suggested that I ask the forum's opinion, since I am new here and I want to make sure that I don't violate any guidelines.

Earlier today, I have used a quote from Al-Hasan ibn al-Haytham's, The Book of Vision which goes like this:

"the truths...are immersed in uncertainties [and] not immune from error...Therefore, the seeker after the truth is not one who studies the writings of the ancients and, following his natural disposition, puts his trust in them, but rather the one who suspects his faith in them and questions what he gathers from them, the one who submits to argument and demonstration, and not to the sayings of a human being whose nature is fraught with all kinds of imperfection and deficiency. Thus the duty of the man who investigates the writings of scientists, if learning the truth is his goal, is to make himself an enemy of all that he reads, and, applying his mind to the core and margins of its content, attack it from every side. He should also suspect himself as he performs his critical examination of it, so that he may avoid falling into either prejudice or leniency."

It was moderated out because: "Your signature seemed to be in direct conflict with the aims of this site, which is to promote discussion, not debate, and to discourage any member from claiming they have 'the truth'.  "

I don't post this question because I mind it to be deleted, but since questioning everything, and accepting only what has withstood the scrutiny of rigorous inquiry, is one of the principles by which I live and work it is important to me to understand what happened here. Also English is a third language for me so I may have missed something in the understanding.

I felt that the quote was exactly speaking FOR the rule that it was deemed to be violating. I felt that we can arrive to good practices and solutions by discussing all the options, debating over the possibilities, and if we do it a nice, non-confrontational way, we have a good chance to arrive to an excellent solution that may address all the problems it was created to address. It is about not accepting the DECLARATION OF THE TRUTH without suspecting and examining it.

Could you guys please help me out to see what I am missing here?

Thank you
 
Tracy Wandling
steward
Posts: 1677
Location: Cortes Island, British Columbia. Zone: 8ish Lat: 50; Rainfall: 50" ish; sand and rocks; well water
335
bee books chicken forest garden fungi hugelkultur trees
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hi Erik;

I agree with your philosophy, and understand what you're trying to say. I think that a couple of important things need to be kept in mind when conversing in online forums.

First, all of the non-verbal cues such as facial expression, body language, and inflection are missing from online conversation. It is therefore much more difficult to have a normal conversation, and to have a debate - especially when people are passionate about something. So the purpose of the rules of conduct on Permies is to keep the debating to a minimum, and instead have a place where people can share their experiences, and ask questions, without being told they are wrong. If they ask for input, there are ways to give that input, without negating their own experiences and knowledge.

Second, the quote you used is wonderful, and I agree wholeheartedly - but . . . I believe he is talking about the internal process that one who is seeking answers must go through in order to find them. This is not the same as debating with someone else, this is an internal conversation you have with yourself. "Question everything" is a theme that runs through most of the writings of the best minds down through the ages. But it means, question the concept - in your own head - not necessarily the person saying it.

That to me is the only way to converse peaceably in an online forum - there are lots of things that just need to be left unsaid in order to keep the peace, and let everyone feel that they are heard and have valid information to contribute. In my humble-ish opinion.
 
Nicole Alderman
garden master
Posts: 1799
Location: Pacific Northwest
295
cat duck forest garden hugelkultur cooking
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Personally--under my own understanding of the aims of this site, as well as my understanding of your quote--I don't think the quote violates the aims of this site. As I understand it, Paul doesn't want anyone to say they have a claim to the one and only truth, but instead that everyone can find their own truth and share it without any fear of being told they are wrong.

Your quote seems to be about a personal seeking of truth, (not that you think everyone should find truth in the same way). This fine to me, as long as one realizes that even after seeking and finding "truth," that it's okay if that truth is different from someone else's truth. Like Tracy said, some people might think that you think that your way of seeking truth is the only way. If that's how they read it, then they would think it incompatible with permie's goals.

So, maybe you need to clarify that you're not saying that your way is the best way to find "truth"? Maybe if after the quote you said something like, "And may we all find our own truth in our own ways"?

Personally, I really like your quote! But, I'm not Paul or one of the moderators/gardeners, so take my word for what it's worth
 
John Weiland
Posts: 962
Location: RRV of da Nort
50
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Translated from Al-Hasan ibn al-Haytham: "Thus the duty of the man who investigates the writings of scientists, if learning the truth is his goal, is to make himself an enemy of all that he reads, and, applying his mind to the core and margins of its content, attack it from every side. He should also suspect himself as he performs his critical examination of it, so that he may avoid falling into either prejudice or leniency."

As always it would be interesting if viewed from within the culture to which A-H i a-H belongs to get a better sense for how well this English translation 'feels' to the original author.  I agree that the truths are immersed in uncertainties....which somewhat by default suggests that "if learning the truth is the goal", then one may have to be prepared for a bit of a moving target and accept this nature of truth.  Personally, I don't feel that critical thinking and reading necessarily needs to be considered an "attack" undertaking by an "enemy" of what is being investigated.....again, would be interesting to know if the original author and language used would have agreed with this interpretation.  So agreeing otherwise with the others that as long as all experiences and observations from others are respected, critical, open-minded discussion is helpful to the cause.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
gardener
Posts: 2667
Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
518
bee chicken food preservation fungi greening the desert
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
To me, the troubling phrase in the quote is this: "Thus the duty of the man who investigates the writings of scientists, if learning the truth is his goal, is to make himself an enemy of all that he reads, and, applying his mind to the core and margins of its content, attack it from every side."

So as a moderator, on a site that discourages debating and argument, I notice a new member of the forum, proposing via his signature line to make himself an enemy of all that he reads, and advocating to attack the writings here from every side.... That's not the tone that this site seeks to maintain. We are more about sharing experiences than about doing science to arrive at the truth.





 
Fred Tyler
gardener
Posts: 398
Location: St Paul, MN/Tularosa, NM and now a gapper at Wheaton Labs
258
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I guess my interpretation of the quote is similar to Erik's. I don't see how it is a violation of the policy, and what i see is something that encourages the intent of the policy.
 
Tracy Wandling
steward
Posts: 1677
Location: Cortes Island, British Columbia. Zone: 8ish Lat: 50; Rainfall: 50" ish; sand and rocks; well water
335
bee books chicken forest garden fungi hugelkultur trees
  • Likes 6
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
But I don't think it does 'encourage the intent of the policy'. The policy here, as I understand it, is to avoid debate, and not attack or make an enemy of anyone. The policy here is to foster civil conversation and 'a place for gentle souls'. That, to me, means avoid debate, and let people feel that their opinions and experiences are valid.

The intent of the quote is admirable, and I practise this in my own quest for knowledge - in my personal life - but it doesn't seem to fit or uphold the policies here, in the Permies forum life. Virtual conversations are far different than face-to-face conversations, and words must be chosen very carefully. There are too many words in the quote that have the potential to get peoples' backs up. So says me . . .
 
Joseph Lofthouse
gardener
Posts: 2667
Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
518
bee chicken food preservation fungi greening the desert
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Perhaps the simplest explanation, is that there is a group of moderators on this forum who are tasked with reading the worst of everything that gets posted to the forum. We see the spam. We see the quarrels. We see the blowhard posts. We see the overly-long posts. We see the posts from people that know the whole truth and are on a mighty quest to make sure that everyone else knows and obeys that same truth.  So a request comes in to change a signature. And the very-long quote in the signature expresses the sort of sentiment that has caused turmoil in the past. So it makes some of the moderators jittery. So we spend precious staff time discussing it privately. Which makes us even more jittery, because we rarely discuss nice stuff. We discuss problems. If we are discussing something, then by association, it seems like a problem. And now we are discussing it in public, which leads to even more jitters, and even more staff time spent. We often make the decision to spend staff time guiding new forum members, so no worries.



 
Judith Browning
Posts: 6026
Location: Arkansas Ozarks zone 7 alluvial,black,deep loam/clay with few rocks, wonderful creek bottom!
398
bike chicken fungi trees urban woodworking
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I always thought we were limited to two lines in our signature?  I haven't looked though so maybe that has changed?

I like the line of thinking in Erik's quote and think the much simpler bumper sticker version 'question authority' says something similar...and also might not be accepted?

Would it fit in Cassie's 'Quote of the Day' thread

EDIT to add...

Signature:
This is a text block that will be added to your message's end. Optional, limit of 255 chars. No more than 2 lines please.




 
David Livingston
master steward
Posts: 3779
Location: Anjou ,France
189
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
First of all I would like to thank the OP for bringing this author  to my attention . Anyone who writes a book entitled " Treatise on the Influence of Melodies on the Souls of Animals " seems an interesting chap . About the quote and herein lies the difficulty I have is that it is translated from Arabic a language so contextual and difficult to appreciate the finer points it is no wonder that there are  many different translations of the standard work in Arabic - The Quran-  and they differ so much and whose translations often reveal a lot about the motivation of the translator.
Culturally, as it is advised in the Quran according to my understanding ,   everything should be questioned and this is reflected in the quote given so no surprise there to me. The difficulty is in the word truth and a discussion of what is " the truth" and how this differs from "fact" would reveal much in this case.
On Permies as far  I see the Golden rule is " be nice" it is possible to question things in a polite open way and in a closed agressive way . The latter being a cause for concern and in some cases banning whilst the former enlightens discussion  .
The quote in question I see as encouraging the latter style and comes across as confrontational like waving a red flag at a bull and wondering why it might attack ° maybe a different translation of this passage may be more appropriate

David

° yes I know bulls are colour blind but why spoil a good metaphor with science   
 
Travis Johnson
pollinator
Posts: 1490
160
books cat chicken duck rabbit transportation trees woodworking
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I personally agree with the Moderators on this and agree that it should be struck from the forum. I personally find it offensive and nothing more than phycobabble, but that is just me.

It is heartening to see that Paul Wheaton has enough integrity to throw this out for discussion since this is literally his domain and he has the right to allow what stays and ultimately goes. I feel he has extended me far more courtesy and leniency then any other forum member on here. So when a moderator says, "Hey Travis...", yep I lower my head and realize I am probably really in error.

I have been asked to edit some posts regarding "truth" and I readily complied as it is just best to get along. If a point cannot be made without stirring up resentment then perhaps another approach should be made. For a newcomer with a signature line that violates standard operating rules and is placed on every post that could cause strife; sorry but I would much rather help someone with a sick lamb, discuss the merits of soil health and the importance of feeding our families. To that end Eric, have you thought about getting sheep?
 
Tj Jefferson
pollinator
Posts: 258
Location: Virginia USDA 7a/b
24
bee chicken hugelkultur hunting
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
There are many people on here who have an expertise. I will name names but this is NOT exhaustive:
Lofthouse- genetics/improvement
Travis- practical/business
Redhawk- propagation/integration
Burra- Community/diversity
These are just a few people that have been gracious enough to respond to some of my interests (not necessarily posts) and I have found that reading them for content is not sufficient. Look at some of the contributors that provide you with value and see how they advance their field. How do they interact with people with differing ideas? How do they gently try to prevent people from making predictable errors? We all start out with a sort of fervor to jump in and add our subject matter expertise to attempt to pay back the community, but often it is not enough. Content is necessary but not sufficient, and there are some really good teachers on here!
 
John Weiland
Posts: 962
Location: RRV of da Nort
50
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
@T Jefferson: "...Content is necessary but not sufficient..."

Yeah, just an observation, but as I have aged, 'content' has been taking more of a back seat to 'process'.  Both important, but skewed a bit in priority these days....
 
Tobias Ber
Posts: 494
Location: Northern Germany (Zone 8a)
16
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
stuff like this makes me think about myself. so please excuse me. first, i think and experience that people on permies are really nice, gentle and know more than i do in most areas.

if i want to attack truths, than i should start with myself. yes, there are situations where one person is right and the other is wrong. fact. but if i want to help that person (which most people on permies really want to do), then i must find a way to help the person grow, change viewpoints, re-think, re-evaluate etc. ... if for example i want a person to go a bit higher on the wheaton eco scale (which is a good picture/metaphor for many other areas), then i need to get in touch with the person at the level where the person is currently at. and... that person is probably higher than me in other areas. so humility from my side would be a good thing. pride can make people be a dick and not be nice. so it helps to take pride out of it.

thing is... do i need to proove that i am right and win the discussion? do i want to win discussion or win a person?

we all know in part. to quote from other ancient text: And if I understand all mysteries and all knowledge, but have not love, I am nothing
(ok, i took out some bits related to other topics).
what i mean: what does my knowledge do good, when i m an arrogant dick that scares people away by needing to win every discussion.

and love in our context here can mean people care and be nice. ... simple. but even that simple thing of "be nice" takes practice and often needs examples and reminders.
and then we can talk about lovely thing like pooping in buckets, fertilizing you plants with pee, fermenting stuff, building houses from "dirt", breeding worms, BSF, composting stuff and lot s of other nice and normal things.
 
r ranson
master steward
Posts: 6783
Location: Left Coast Canada
855
books chicken cooking
  • Likes 4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I have been thinking about that quote a lot since this thread started.  Very interesting guy, writing at an amazing period of history.  He's writing at the height of medieval Islamic science and innovation.  I've never studied him, but I know a bit about the people he's writing about and he's not the only one in his day to seek a path away from "truths" that are not immune from error.  There are tremendous parallels between his time and ours.  I think the translation is a bit unfortunate, perhaps.  There was a time there when Islamic writings were translated very aggressively into English (it's a long history). Basically, the translation lost the poetry of the writing and made it seem like an aggressive, war-like language.  Take this line:

to make himself an enemy of all that he reads, and, applying his mind to the core and margins of its content, attack it from every side


I don't speak Arabic, but from what I know of the time period and the culture, I bet there are ways of translating this that are less confrontational.  "enemy"  "attack"  These aren't gentle words conducive to gentle conversation. 

The feeling I get from that quote is that the author is making the same fallacy he's trying to prevent.  He recognises that once we have "truths", it closes our minds off to other possibilities.  There may very well be a truth to the universe, but looking at history, human understanding of this 'truth' seems to me a moveable feast.  Yet, he wants to open his mind from one way of thinking and close it by finding a different way of thinking.   


Why doesn't this quote fit with permies? 

The aggressive language is a big problem.  "Enemy," "critical," and "attack" are emotionally heavy words that encourage confrontation. 

The drive to get at the "truth".  Permies isn't about 'truth'.  It's about exploring new ideas.  There are so many "truths" that are presented to us, that turn out to be untrue with closer examination.  Like your guy ibn al-Haytham says, we can't trust truths.  "the truths...are immersed in uncertainties [and] not immune from error..."  This bit fits with the atmosphere of permies.  The rest, less so.  "if learning the truth is his goal..."  implies pursuing the truth should be a person's goal.  Doesn't that contradict what he just said about truths being uncertainties? 

What is "true" for one situation isn't for another.

Think about it like building a house.

Maybe we study up on all the different ways we can build a house.  We disbelieve the modern-day way of building houses is the best ("make himself an enemy of all that he reads"), look at all the different ways of building houses ("applying his mind to the core and margins of its content"), evaluate each method ("attack it from every side."), we've consulted other people with different backgrounds ("also suspect himself as he performs his critical examination of it, so that he may avoid falling into either prejudice or leniency"), and arrive at the truth that cob housing is the best kind of housing.

Cob may not be the best kind of housing, but it's easy to spell, so I'll use it for this thought experiment.

For truth to be truth, it must be universally applicable.  So, if it is true that cob is the best thing for building houses, then it must be the best thing for everyone to build a house from.

Only, when we get to the building site, maybe there is no clay.  Maybe we build the best cob house to the best specifications, and the weather in that location is wrong.   Maybe we need temporary housing for three months.  Cob does not strike me as temporary.  Maybe we need moveable housing.  Maybe there is a weight limit for some weird reason.  I suspect there are lots of things that could make cob construction not work in different situations. 

Permaculture, as I understand it, is about designing systems that work in different locations.  When we think we know the truth, we close our mind to other possibilities like maybe there are other natural building styles that might work better than cob.

So at permies, we avoid talking about 'truths' and talk instead about opportunities, options, experiences.


Think of this place more as a brainstorming session.  We have a challenge and we come here for ideas and inspiration.

 
Steve Taylor
Posts: 136
Location: Ohio
chicken hugelkultur woodworking
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
"I know nothing" is another famous quote that could be perceived as delivering a similar message,  "critical thinking" and "truth is a moving target"

The Cob reference illustrates the need for customized truths. 

Realizing or reminding yourself that you "know nothing" is a humbling way to look at the world or a situation with a fresh perspective.  It's could also be hipocritical if taken literally. 

I'm personally humbled by the intelligence and compassion that Permies members display.  If it were me I would consider changing the wording to reflect the members advice.  In the end it's better to lighten the work load of the moderators and staff.  I'm thankful they keep us safe from the trolls.
 
Tobias Ber
Posts: 494
Location: Northern Germany (Zone 8a)
16
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
some more quotes: "i can show you the door, but you must go through it (morpheus in the movie matrix)"

"you can lead a horse to the water but you can t manage it to drink"

"a good teacher shows you in which direction you should look.... bet he does not tell you what you should see"


i think, "truths" come in levels. for example our slug problem. a truth is, that we in our garden don t have too much slugs, we have a duck shortage. (is that a bill mollison quote?). an even higher truth is, that the ecosystem at them moment (given realitities, limitations) can t handle the slugs. a more mature/complete ecosystem might handle the slug pressure.
but given the realities/limitations, what WORKS is sluggo, beertraps and collecting slugs by hand.

or poop-processing. jenkins humanurehandbook-style hot composting, 2 vault system or flow through worm poop processing system would be best. that s true. but given the actual amount of input, letting the stuff rot in buckets is what works in our sitiuation. but truth for other people in other situations is that other systems would work far, far better.

i believe that there is an absolute truth only in a spiritual/philosophical/religious sense. but that (from my mind absolute, unchanging, eternal and true for all people) truth is sooooooo much higher than what my brain/intellect can grab. so i only got an imperfect part/version of that truth (i assume that there is). so per definition, this truth is no more truth when we try to express it. we talk and explain in an imperfect way. so the truth becomes my version of truth.
like a beam of clear light becomes many shades of grey when it is reflected by a stained mirror. or that beam breaks up into different colours of rainbow when it goes through a prism.

most people think that laws of nature are truths. but what would happen if you see a person levitating or walking on water?? again i d like to refer to the movie matrix. see the kids in the oracles flat. they bend spoons by willpower n stuff. what would happen if we see stuff like this happens? if our version of truth (laws of nature) is bend by a higher truth?
i ve seen some of this myself. i ve heard many people ( i would trust) talk about these things.

even our understanding of science is very limited, in a few years we might see things very differently.

we know in part. do you remember the story where different people are in a dark room putting their hands on the same elephant and trying to describe what it is? but no-one sees the whole elephant? and then they discuss what it might be that they re feeling?

EDIT: this is what i try to keep in mind, when writing, posting, talking to people
 
Politics is a circus designed to distract you from what is really going on. So is this tiny ad:
Video of all the PDC and ATC (~177 hours) - HD instant view
https://permies.com/wiki/65386/paul-wheaton/digital-market/Video-PDC-ATC-hours-HD
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
Boost this thread!