Photograph by Cecily Chenault
Courage Within Limitations:
Our perception is flawed and we should be skeptical of our own ability to perceive and understand the truths of this world.
At times, we find ourselves feeling superior to dogs; for when he frolics upon the flowers outside, his color-blindness limits his perception and true understanding of violets. This may be true, but if we accept our superiority in color-sightedness to the dog, then we should also accept our limitations regarding sight as well. For, less than 1% of all light is visible to the human species; not because less than 1% of light is colorful, but because of our flawed faculties of sight. We may indeed be superior to the dog concerning sight, but to pretend we have access to the highest meaning of color is nonsense. So too, when we believe ourselves Grand Philosophers when compared to apes and ants, we should remember, we too lack the ability to perceive much of anything whatsoever.
Imagine for a moment we were dogs; our philosophical tradition may be as follows: the dog worships the almighty master, for it is He who provides food and shelter. Over time, the dog seeks out a moral ethic; meaning, he accepts his purpose is to worship the master but desires to understand how best to do this. The dog notices when he greets the divine master at the door he’s praised with a “Who’s a good boy” and sometimes a treat. Certainly, this must be a sign from the heavens of correct behavior, as opposed to chewing up the Master’s slippers. Some dogs reject such a Philosophy as hedonism and prefer an ascetic lifestyle of contemplating life in sun-beams through the window and even the couch when the master is away doing his masterly things; for the life of contemplation outweighs the virtue of praise and treats. In the far reaches of the earth, a dog once heard of an abusive master and after much contemplation determines one’s master is chosen before birth through a calculation of previous lives deeds. This leads her to believe it is not the master which creates moral ethic but actually the master’s Master, the real Almighty Master, who determines what one should do.
Just as there are limits to a dog’s intellect; so too, our intellect is limited. Prior to seeking out truth, we must define what it is we seek. To pretend our relative intellect over other species grants us the authority to determine ultimate Truth is nonsense; instead, we seek out the truth of our limited perception but no further. This is not an argument against the study of philosophy but instead an attempt to understand the rules in which we play. We should fear not our limitations; instead, push against these limits with tongues out and tails wagging courageously into the world of philosophy.