I remember how confused I was as a teenager. I realized even then that adolescence was the period for me to define my character and my personality and to form my own opinions on things. But how could I decide what to like, what to believe in and what to think, when there were so many opinions in the world, and each seemed defensible in some way? Reading books and online articles on different subjects didn’t help either; my opinion on any given subject would simply shift with whatever I happened to be reading at the time.
My problem was: I didn’t have a central belief with which to compare the other beliefs or opinions I came across. Without a central belief acting as a ship (or structured protection), I was drowning in an ocean of opinions, suspending judgment indefinitely in hope of finding the truth, or at least the most correct belief. But sometimes, it’s faster to just pick an opinion first, then start exploring this ocean.
As it went, I boarded the “ship” of Islam. Finding a central belief was just the beginning of my journey though. Or, to use the analogy above—my exploration of the ocean of opinions. Equipped at last with a central belief, I found new worlds of knowledge to explore in philosophy and social sciences, all of which had not interested me in the least before.
It was an amazing experience. Philosophically, I transformed from a relativist into an absolutist (being an absolutist doesn’t mean I am dogmatic or fanatic; all it means is that I believe in “absolute” truth instead of “relative” truth). Personality-wise, I went from being an INFP (introverted, intuitive, feeling, perceiving) to an INFJ (introverted, intuitive, feeling, judging) in the Myers-Briggs personality test. That was pretty interesting as well.
I wouldn’t say which philosophical position or which personality is better, but I feel a lot happier and more comfortable now holding the view that I do. My mind doesn’t wander as much anymore, and I learn something new from everything I read.
The point is this: To see any big picture clearly, first you must have a perspective.
Here is a paragraph from a book I am reading at the moment. It describes how “perspective” works and illustrates this point perfectly:
“Perspective is a notion from the science of sight. It conceives sight as a transaction between a thing at one place in space, and another thing, a perceiver, at a different place in space, but one at which she can receive energies from the first. It is therefore essential to it that the perceiver is located in a space of stable objects on which she has a point of view. If the perceiver had no location, or was able to shift instantaneously from place to place without a speed limit, the information would not be better, but worse. It would smear and blur and fail when the displacement exceeded the speed of processing. It would stop being information at all.” p.87, Truth by Simon Blackburn (my italics)
Although I have not read any of Nietzsche’s work, I really agree with his theory of “perspectivism” (as described by Simon Blackburn). As human beings, we are naturally limited by our individual perspectives. But we don’t have to think of our necessarily having a perspective as a limit. Instead, we could think of it as a very effective tool to observe the world and learn from the world. Together, we can build a vision of the truth by sharing our perspectives with each other. Perhaps that’s why God said:
“O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know each other (not that you may despise (each other)). Verily the most honored of you in the sight of God is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And God has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things).” 49:13 Qur’an
If we get to know each other very well, we will also become familiar to our different perspectives. The more perspectives we add together, the nearer we are to the truth. Now the problem is: how do we get to know each other that well? Hmm.