IS WISDOM JUST A MYTH?
Permit me to run a thought experiment. What if wisdom is just a myth? What if there is no such thing as wisdom, what if wisdom is just an arbitrary human convention? It seems to be if we live in a God-less reality—a naturalistic worldview—then wisdom is merely a myth. There is no such thing as a wise or foolish way to live or interact with others, just arbitrary opinions or advanced apes acting on genes.
Firstly, let me share about another myth. I think one of the most far-fetched ideas I encounter regularly is the secular humanistic notion of progress. It is the idea that one can work together toward “progress” and “progress” as a society even if there is no God—that we somehow, within a godless worldview, we can define what progress is and work together toward it. I believe such an effort to achieve “progress as a civilization” is really just a myth if naturalism (the belief that there is no such thing as God or the supernatural) is true. Why so? Here’s one reason. It seems that for progress to exist—in anything—one must have at least 3 things: a legitimate STORY which the progress takes place in, non-arbitrary STANDARDS by which to make assessments, and a real GOAL to work toward. For instance, if I want to assess the progress of the fastest 100 m dash, there needs to a framework of racing in competition with others (STORY)—if I just ran in the forest by myself and no one ever knew or measured me, I would be considered psychotic or delusional if I thought I was running a competitive race with others in the world; the same would be true if I considered my toddler’s make-believe race from the table to the couch as part of a global competition. There also must be non-arbitrary STANDARDS to assess the race (standard distance of meter, and length of a second)—if everyone had a different standard of meter and second then any notion of measuring would be pointless. Third, there must be a GOAL (speed)—if I just ran down the track but took breaks to catch my breath or turned around, then it would be meaningless to try and speak of an attempt to be the fastest. If I don’t have these things I’m fooling myself, deeply mistaken, or delusional.
Now, if naturalism—the view that there is no supernatural, no God, and only the physical universe in existence—were true, then it seems rather obvious that the humanistic notion of progress is FALSE and a blatant myth we tell ourselves (as this atheist John Gray argues: https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/qbwqem/john-gray-interview-atheism). Think about, if there is no God, then there is NO story to reality, just random matter bumping into each other for no purpose and no reason which ultimately all be forgotten. If there is no God, there are NO legitimate non-arbitrary standards, just loud opinions of what is progress and what is regress (one argues for selfishness and another for altruism—neither are right or wrong in a world where there is no such thing as objective right or wrong). There is also no goal if there is no God: any goal for humanity is arbitrary and futile and all of our greatest achievements will be forever forgotten with the death of the universe. Anyone who says they have humanity’s goal defined is a deceiving, deceived, or using a coercive power-play to get us to play along.
But progress is another topic, what I’m interested in this post is WISDOM. Wisdom is the application of knowledge connected to virtue. I want to argue that if naturalism is true, then not only is progress a myth (along with purpose, and morality, and justice, and love, and beauty, and a host of other things), but so is WISDOM. In a God-less reality, there is no such thing as wisdom or folly, just preferences and arbitrary opinions. I think we can use the same criteria to see this is so: STORY, STANDARDS, GOAL. Without one or all of these things, wisdom is impossible, and thus if there is no God underneath and behind all of reality, wisdom is a mirage.
In a God-less reality there is no STORY (no meta-narrative). We are just here by accident (random time and chance); there is no source of information on how to live a wise or foolish life, because NO ONE cares what we do, or how we live, and in the end, it does not matter. In a God-less reality there are no non-arbitrary STANDARDS for wisdom or folly either: there is no right or wrong way to live or interact with others, no wise or foolish way lifestyle, just arbitrary opinions of evolved apes acting on instinct—advanced apes that are slaves to their genes and have no free will to make choices or rise above their genes’ power. There is also no GOAL: wisdom or folly are just as valid options in a universe which has no purpose and is headed nowhere for no reason. If a foolish approach makes me happy why not pursue it, and who are you to tell me not to?
Thus, if there is no God, then there is no such thing as a true or legitimate or authoritative STORY behind or above reality, neither are there any non-arbitrary STANDARDS for how I OUGHT to live and act wisely, nor is there any actual GOAL for our existence besides arbitrary ideas we create. Since a naturalistic worldview lacks legitimate, non-arbitrary, true and authoritative STORY, STANDARDS, and GOAL, wisdom is a myth. That is, if naturalism were actually true.