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February 21st, 2006

Dogma: Ideas, Beliefs, and the Faith

The beauty of lucidly appearing epiphanies! There are so many I wish to completely and accurately unveil. It is all so enlightening.

originally posted to philosophy where a discussion followed ...

One recent epiphany was driven by the persistent conflict between science and religion and it concerns my theory on belief systems. My epiphany rests upon clarifying terms in use by these competing sources of knowledge. People toy with the words "belief" and "faith" and here I regard their meaning with sincere admiration and simplicity, so I define them by abstraction and analogy. Although my explanations use English, any language -- including computer and, necessarily, symbolic language -- conveys the same meaning. Let us start with the most abstract and fall towards Earth.

1. Most abstract: an Idea. English examples: I. God. Symbolic example: x.

Note that the examples are merely nouns, so ideas are contextless. I would prefer to say an idea simply is, that they exist in of themselves and for themselves, where self is obviously reflexive and dependent only upon the idea. I feel inclined to agree that a definition of existence should be given before proceeding. Perhaps a pragmatic argument suffices for the existence of an idea.

But a definition of existence is unnecessary in this hierarchical system. Ideas follow logically from beliefs as given by the next abstraction.

2. The Bridge: a Belief. English examples: I am. God kills. Symbolic example: A(x)

Note here the addition of action that labels these examples as "statements" in some languages. The noun idea remains from our previous example, namely the idea doing the action. The difference is an active property of the idea is invoked (or called, as programmers would say) like "being" and "killing". So beliefs are within the scope of an idea, relative to the idea.

Earlier I admitted, to the seeming contrary, that ideas are dependent upon beliefs. Can it be both ways? Yes, depending on perspective. From a most-to-least abstract perspective, beliefs inherit properties native to ideas. From a most-to-least concrete perspective, beliefs determine the properties of ideas. If one requires a definition of existence before discussing ideas, then beliefs are your foundation and you would work in the reverse order of my hierarchical abstraction. In your case, you would say "I believe I exist" and work towards the previous degree of abstraction to determine what "I" means.

3. Most concrete: the Faith. English examples: I am a student. God kills people. Symbolic example: A(x,y)

Note that these examples finally arrive at a complete "sentence", as labeled by many spoken languages. The subject is doing something to an object (the second example), inheriting properties of a class (the first example), etc. The difference between belief may, at first, appear slight. It is the interaction of ideas, some may say the causality between subject and object, that differentiates faith from belief. The statement "God kills" is impotent if there is no one to kill, not even himself. Some may think faith is trivial but given this definition it is the essential catalyst. Faith is a solid origin from which humans walking on Earth can leap into more abstractions.

I feel this system is inconsistent because of the interdependency of beliefs and ideas. There should be something more abstract for ideas -- something that contains the ideas, like a set or group visualized by an elegant venn diagram. I admitted that ideas depend upon beliefs, so a group or set of ideas would seem to be a subset of beliefs, inheriting properties from the set of beliefs. But I also stated the apparent converse. I can only conclude that, although a meaningful definition of an idea differs from a belief, the set of all ideas is the set of all beliefs.

So my ideas are my beliefs, and my beliefs are my ideas. Faith empowers both.