By Jin-yeong Yi
“[L]et it be granted and established that objects ought to be judged by Man. Then, since there exists great difference amongst men, let the dogmatists first agree together that this is the particular man to whom we must attend, and then, and only then, let them bid us also to yield him our assent. But if they are going to dispute about this ‘long as the waters flow on and and the tall trees cease not to burgeon’ (to quote the familiar saying), how can they urge us to assent rashly to anyone? For if they declare that we must believe the sage, we shall ask them ‘What sage?’”
—Sextus Empiricus, Outlines of Pyrrhonism
As a freethinker, I do not believe in appealing to authority wherever I am able to use my own judgment. The way I see it, the question is not “Which worldview is true?” but rather “What truths can be found in each worldview? It seems very unlikely that there is a worldview that is correct about all of the various complexities of life; it seems to me more likely that all of the worldviews suffer from major flaws, which means that all of the worldviews are “wrong,” some being more “wrong” than others.
People may very well point out to me that the founders of the various philosophical traditions were incomparably wiser and incomparably more intelligent than I could ever hope to be. They may well ask me if it is not better to trust them than to trust myself, as, being wiser and more intelligent, their errors would probably be minor compared to my own. I would reply that such blind submission would solve nothing, as I would still be left with the problem of figuring out who to trust. I would still need to somehow figure out which teacher/master/guru/sage can interpret knowledge and connect the dots with the greatest precision and has the most accurate picture of reality. That in itself would require me to use my own judgment.
A problem that each of us is faced with is that we are often fed lies along with truth, and it is often difficult to distinguish between the two. It is up to us to separate fact from fiction and adjust our worldview accordingly.
Philosophical traditions are like streams of water. Some are clearer than others, but are nonetheless not completely free from impurities. What is better, to draw water from a single stream, taking in the impure as well as the pure, or to distill and collect the purest water from many different streams?