Ultimately, it’s very difficult to prove that anything is absolutely true. So ultimately, what I believe comes down to a choice that I make.
Do I decide things based on logic or on intuition? Do I go by what I think or how I feel? Do I fall back on scientific proof or on religious doctrine? Do I hold dear the values that I was raised with, distilled into the sayings of my elders. Or do I deliberately believe the opposite of what I was taught as a child?
Not only do we choose what to believe, we choose what to study. If we choose no formal education we may most likely believe the things we learned from our parents, from our siblings, from our community. If we choose to study science we may put a lot of credence in scientific methodology. If we choose to study humanities we may put a lot of credence in history and literature. If we choose to skip college and hit the road, we may believe what we learn on the road.
So given the choice between believing in two things seemingly at odds with each other, how do I choose? One way is to be guided by what I have studied, what I have been taught, where I came from in the past. But there is another way to choose: where I want my world to go in the future.
If I truly want a world where peace is possible, I can choose to believe that peaceful settlements are effective. There are many examples that I can seek out. And there are also many examples of disputes decided by fighting. I can seek those out also. What I look for, what I study, is a choice.
Do I want a world where there are winners and losers, masters and slaves? If so, I can choose to believe that competition is really good; that capitalism is really good. Or if I want a world where there is equality and justice for all, I can chose to believe that cooperation is really good; that socialism is really good.
There are excellent, I mean really outstanding, arguments to be made for both capitalism and socialism. Competition can be an excellent way to bring out the best of people resulting in achievements not previously imagined. Capitalism can be an extremely good method to distribute wealth in ways that create more wealth and innovation and opportunity for many. And yet cooperation has also resulted in achieving things previously unimagined. And socialism can distribute wealth in ways that create more wealth and innovation and opportunity for many.
So given the choice between believing in two things seemingly at odds with each other, such as in my above example, how do I choose? It cannot be proved that capitalism or that socialism is universally better. So how do I choose?
I choose not based on what I have learned in the past but what I want for the future.
Do I want a world where people compete or cooperate? Do I want a world where people make war or make peace? Do I want a world where people talk about their differences with open minds or fight about their differences with closed minds? Do I want decisions guided by short-term individual gain or long term community health? (And I don’t mean to imply that these questions are aligned with capitalism or socialism – that was just an example from which I have moved on.)
I cannot prove what is right and what is wrong, but I can choose the type of world (home, neighborhood, community) I would ideally like to live in, and for my children to live in, and my children’s children’s children. I can choose my beliefs according to my dreams.
I cannot prove that there is no such thing as universal truth. And I cannot prove my Theory of Relative Understanding. Yet I see a lot of fighting over what is “true” and I think that “relative understanding” would make for more peace. So that’s what I choose to believe.