Mindfully understanding the Big Picture

When learning about new things and gaining knowledge our minds tend to get in the way. We tend to have preconceived notions and biases towards one point or another. Whatever stance you take on an argument, you’re still hindered by your single sided approach.

Here are a few positions on how to understand the bigger picture without having a single track mind and many biases that we follow. Note: Some of this content is obvious, yet you will probably disagree with some of it. Just try to seek understand than debating and justifying you’re own beliefs. This is a post about some of the things I am starting to learn about epistemology.

We don’t know what’s true

If you don’t understand, accept and appreciate that the truth isn’t just some tangible thing. Everyone has a different perspective on things and you don’t really know what’s true. Although you can’t find the truth, you can gain understanding. You can understand how certain processes work, but there are no universal truths.

If you don’t accept this fact than you will bring a lot of assumptions and biases into life that will hinder your understanding of life. When you know this, anything is possible. Yet people don’t want to accept this fact. They choose not to read a book just because they don’t believe in the philosophy of it. They have a preconceivedĀ notion that a certain belief system is false. To gain a big picture understanding you must admit that you don’t know where your research will lead you. Everything warrants investigation in life. You can’t prejudge anything.

How do you accept which books are right and which are wrong? Frankly, you don’t and you need to admit this to yourself.

Your worst enemy is Self Deception

When doing research, you are your own biggest enemy. You need to watch your personal biases and weaknesses constantly because they will make you close minded and limited in your accusation of knowledge.

What do we do when we start researching topics that don’t perfectly align with our beliefs? We point fingers and make decisions about what’s right and what’s wrong. When you start doing this, you have already failed.

In order to truly understand as much as you can you must set aside your biases and seek what’s actually out there. Not just based on what you want to hear.

Every position has hidden assumptions behind it

To have a perspective on ideas also comes with hidden assumptions. People don’t know it but there are assumptions that come from their beliefs, but that they’ve never questioned. Yet these basic assumptions define how they look at the world. The assumptions are the basic foundation that we build our knowledge off of.

All perspectives are partial

The biggest flaw that people can make is finding one perspective that they like and then living by it. If you do this, you won’t understand the big picture of things. The only way to avoid this is to study as many different perspectives as you possibly can.

Don’t commit to any perspective. Your job is to learn about as many perspectives as you possible can without adhering to any one of them.

A model isn’t reality

Thinking about reality isn’t reality. Coming up with a representation of how things work isn’t what the real thing does or is in the real world. Don’t mistake models for reality.

Your web of beliefs is your representation of reality

We have a few facts in our mind and a lot of beliefs built on that small number of facts. Because of this, different peopleĀ interpret the same fact in many different ways. Everyone has there own web of beliefs and they use their biases to explain the facts.

You must realize that everyone is doing this and making the facts fit their biases. In order to stop this we must question the beliefs that aren’t connected to the facts themselves.

Foundationalism is false

Foundationalism: The belief that you can grind down an entire set of beliefs into a few basic and completely true facts

People have been trying to do this for over thousands of years and haven’t had any success. With all sets of beliefs there are assumptions you have to make and you can’t change these assumptions to facts.

Rationality is for too limited to explore reality

Reality goes far beyond logic. You can’t use logic to explain everything around you. Just because something doesn’t seem logically true doesn’t mean it isn’t. The universe can’t be rationalized in principle. There’s just more to reality than rationality.

Direct experience is the truest thing we have

We usually rely on authority. We might believe Einstein, well renowned figures in our life but do they trump our direct experiences. You should still use authority figures and reasoning but above all is our direct experiences.

There’s a giant realm of possible direct experiences

It would be safe to bet that all of our experiences of reality make up a tiny fraction of everything that we can experience. There are countless numbers of feelings and experiences that can’t be explained only felt. Ā Seeking out new experiences is very important.

Most people commit themselves to a tiny fraction of the spectrum. They live in one city for their entire life, go to their jobs in that one city until they retire, speak one language and don’t experience the world. The reason no experiences need to be explained is because they aren’t experiencing anything new.

The practical level matters

The reason your reading this now is probably because you want some benefit in your own life. Many philosophers and researchers get lost in the reasoning and philosophy of it, but why go down this journey if it isn’t going to change your life in some way. Why would you meditate if you didn’t see any benefits?

Although you won’t see the improvement today or tomorrow, down the road huge benefits will fill your life.

The best position to take is not position at all

When you don’t have anything to defend then you’re doing really good at epistemology. You shouldn’t need to prove anything to someone, you should simply be seeking understanding. The greatest way to go about research is to get to the bottom of everything and respect what it gives you. Accept that you don’t know where your research will lead you. Don’t dismiss a book or concept because it doesn’t fit within your beliefs or preconceived notions.

A position is something that people need to feel comfortable with their life. When you evolve out of needing a position is when you will really start to understand the big picture.

Seek understanding rather than truth

Truth isn’t something set in stone. Very few people in history have actually succeeded in finding truth. Seek understanding not truth. Understand the many fields of life. Work to see how all the parts are moving and why they’re moving the way they are.

Seek holism in your studies

The opposite of this is becoming highly specialized and getting lost in some element that doesn’t effect how you live your life. The goal is to understand as much of life as possible not a hyper specialized field.

No need to justify

Argumentations, debated and justification are all tools of the ego and they don’t serve truth finding. Question everything, don’t justify it.

I did some research in order to come up with these points. I am not just making all this stuff up. Everyone takes facts a certain way based on their web of beliefs. This is definitely not the end all be all but it’s a start to the process of understanding information.

Tell me what you thought in the comments. If you want to learn more try researching epistemology and understand the topic for yourself.


    Great post! One of my favorite sayings is "You don't know what you don't know."

    Jan | 5 months ago Reply

      That's a great quote. To realize that we need to accept that we don't know a lot in life and we are constantly trying to understand more of the world around us. Thank you by the way. I really appreciate it.

      Ethan Nelson | 5 months ago Reply

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