- Scott H Young - https://www.scotthyoung.com/blog -

What do you know for sure?

Ask yourself that question. What do you know for sure?

That the sun will rise in the morning? That there is a God? That you are sitting in front of a computer monitor right now?

Of course you are sure about these things? But are you really? What beliefs, what mental constructions of reality cause you to believe these things?

You believe that the sun will rise in the morning because you believe that it is likely that the pattern of the sun rising will repeat itself. You believe it because you believe that the earth revolves on its axis giving the impression of the sun “rising” every morning.

Why do you believe the pattern of the sun rising will repeat? How do you know the sun rose in the last morning? How do you know you weren’t just placed here with all of the memories of a sun rising for thousands of days before this one but it never actually happened? That is ridiculous though, or at least extremely unlikely. Is it? What beliefs give you that impression? Maybe the belief that the universe is subject to scientific laws and is consistent in that regard.

How do you know that the universe is subject to scientific laws and is consistent? Maybe the universe exists entirely within your own mind and you create the impression that it is objective and independent, but is actually controlled by your subconscious thought?

My point is this. Every thing that we believe we “know” for sure is actually based on our own assumptions about reality. I assume that the universe obeys scientific laws and is objective. Unfortunately, that is an assumption I have to make, rather than an undeniable truth, because it would be impossible to prove or refute that claim.

Your mind has constructions or models of what it feels represents reality. Seeing as there is always the potential that a completely outrageous hypothetical situation would contradict those beliefs, yet still appear to be the same as it is now, we have to make the separation between these approximations of reality and reality itself. Even though the idea that you are currently in the Matrix right now seems pretty ridiculous, since you can’t definitely refute it, then your assumption is only an approximation or an estimate not an undeniable truth.

Now my purpose here isn’t to get you to turn away from scientific evidence or to get you to adopt some crazy religion. I simply want you to understand that everything we think we know is actually based on some implied assumptions we have about how reality works. These assumptions or “constructs” we build in our minds to understand reality can be incredibly useful.

For example, while the scientific method may itself be hinged on a few assumptions (like reality being both objective and logical) if it is actually true, then it is an incredibly powerful tool for understanding that reality.

There is one principle that does allow us to control the frightening uncertainty of this feature of our own reality. I take this principle from science (which again, is unfortunately based on a few assumptions). This principle in science is known as Occam’s Razor. For those who are unfamiliar with this concept it says that the simplest explanation is usually the correct one.

Using this principle I can see that the more constructions I need to have for a belief to be accurate, the more likely it is incorrect. For example, lets say a belief in gravity. This belief requires few constructs about our reality for it to be valid. A mental construction that tells us that our past actually occurred and that it was subject to the same laws that our present is would be one of the few constructions needed to believe in gravity.

But some of our beliefs require a lot more constructions in order to be valid. For example, the belief that we need to be employed, the belief we can’t take up public speaking, or even that we are a horrible dancer. These beliefs require thousands, if not millions, of constructions or assumptions about reality in order to be accurate. While this means that these beliefs could very well be true, there is a much greater chance that it is inaccurate.

So what is the point?

The point is rather simple. Since everything we assert as being a fact is actually hinged on our own personal constructions and beliefs about reality, we should actually take a look at the beliefs we hold. Take a look at what you are convinced is true. What is it based on?

The key here is to use this principle to make changes from within. We need constructs and beliefs to operate, but we can use this idea to strip away our beliefs that disempower us. Even if we decide not to change our beliefs, continually reviewing them is critical to our success.
Imagine that you are like a computer. Your beliefs are like pieces of software that inform you about what you believe to be reality. Some of these beliefs that are core to our reality require few other beliefs to exist, like the belief that our past actually took place. Further more these core beliefs are needed for the thousands of other beliefs we have, similar to your computers operating system (like Windows or Linux).

However, some of these beliefs are like little pieces of software that handle only a small part of that reality. Sometimes these little beliefs are inaccurate and won’t work to give you the best life possible or they cause problems with your core beliefs about reality. By carefully reviewing these beliefs we can consistently review them to see if they are accurate and that they will maximize our experience of life. So simply look at the software that isn’t working and remove it.

Understanding reality more effectively is a big part of personal growth. Now while I personally doubt that we can ever achieve 100% certainty with our beliefs about reality, I think that by removing disempowering beliefs and directly observing our experiences can get us a lot closer. Whenever we understand reality better we can operate more effectively inside it.

What do you know for sure?