I was thinking today about how readily we accept the reality of optical illusions over reasoning illusions. Certainly, the optical illusions are easier to spot. I imagine reason based illusions are not easy to notice because we have such deep-seated faith in what we think.
Why do we trust our thinking sixth sense so deeply? From a symptoms point of view (p.141), we trust thought as deeply as we do simply because we need to. That is obvious I suppose, although it is curious how easy it is to overlook the obvious.
Ironically, our thinking sense (cognition) is likely our most unreliable sense. For one thing, the five primary senses receive their input directly. For thought, the input is derivative. In other words, thought relies on preconceptions — names, words, and a native language — to shape its interpretation of direct sensory input. This input, woven into thought by our native language, becomes the myths, expectations, biases and aesthetics (1) that our native culture inculcates in us from infancy.
Our framework of thought relies on the secondary knowledge of names and words. For example, the word “tree” and the object it symbolizes are light-years apart to anyone who deeply feels an actual tree, i.e., Tat Tvam Asi, and compares that to an imaginary symbolic “tree”. Yet, words hold more weight. Words allow us to funnel existential reality down into comfortable and manageable stereotypes.
Despite the second-hand reality of thought, this sixth sense is our top survival trait. Our cognitive ability to operate in a virtual reality enables us to invent tools for every purpose, and tools have lifted us to the top of the food chain. Alas, our sixth sense is often too much of a good thing. As chapter 32 cautions us, Only when it is cut are there names. As soon as there are names, one ought to know that it is time to stop. Knowing when to stop one can be free from danger.
Ironically, by funneling reality down into stereotypes we divorce ourselves from an extemporaneous experience of reality. This disconnect drives us to trust our stereotypical virtual reality even more. It’s crazy! No wonder chapter 71 warns, Not to know yet to think that one knows will lead to difficulty.
(1) Chapter 2 reveals the defective character of our biases and aesthetics, The whole world recognizes the beautiful as the beautiful, yet this is only the ugly; the whole world recognizes the good as the good, yet this is only the bad.