No Man Is an Island

In the last two blogs, we learned that in our search for what is true, our personal experiences are so limited.  Therefore, we must have assistance from other sources.  One source we can turn to is other humans.  We can verify our observations by comparing them with the observations of others.  Other humans, challenging our perceptions, help to keep us honest.  As Trueblood says, we need others to keep us from leaving reality:

We cannot, without some perverse act of the mind, avoid the conviction that common verifiability is the ultimate criterion of the independence of the known object, the final way of distinguishing between imaginary and real objects. [1]

. .  .we need to devise a multitude of ways of correcting our errors.  This is done chiefly by engaging in a series of efforts, in which we subject individual view to the impact of other views which may bring correction or corroboration. [2]

The benefit of working with others is illustrated in the book The Little Ice Age by Brian Fagan.  In it he describes the effect changes in climate had on civilization between 1300 and 1850 but the book also describes other causes, besides the climate, of the famine and disease that killed millions.  The other causes were the lack of knowledge and the lack of coordination among the people of that time.  It was not until humans developed new agricultural methods that increased the yields of crops, imported new crops from other lands, and shared that knowledge with others that most farmers moved beyond substance farming and began to produce a surplus which they could sell.  Methods of transportation were developed and used to move food stocks from country to country which helped eliminate famine when one country’s crops failed.  Governments began to coordinate relief efforts during times of crisis. [3]  Learning from and working with others helps us survive.

Working with others also enables us to move beyond a survival mode to developing technology that allows us to accomplish more than previous generations thought possible.  Our telephones, cars, airplanes, buildings, and all of our modern conveniences did not spring up overnight.  They are the result of scientific discoveries and business ideas that have been centuries in the making as one generation teaches another what they have learned.  If each of us did not learn from others, we would repeat the same experiences and make the same mistakes throughout our life that our ancestors did.  By assimilating the knowledge, values, and norms of our culture, we and our culture advance.

Our existence has been structured so each of us is limited in what we individually can accomplish.  Each of us cannot build our own cars, houses, appliances, and computers.  Each of us cannot grow our own food and make our own clothes along with the equipment necessary to do so.  We simply do not have the time and knowledge to accomplish all these tasks.  This means we must work with others if we want to overcome our limitations.  Our civilization provides the mechanism to accomplish this task of working with others.  Our own selfish interests drive us to participate in a society because our individual lives are greatly improved by doing so.  We are able to enjoy an exceedingly richer life because we work with others.  If we did not, we would be back with the caveman. [4]

Even the Bible tells us the only way to overcome our limitations is to work with others.  When God observed the human race building the Tower of Babel, his comment was that if people work together, nothing is impossible for them (Genesis 11:4-6).  So in our search for reasons to believe in Christianity, we should examine what other say about this topic, not just depend upon our own experiences.


[1]   David Elton Trueblood, General Philosophy (New York:  Harper & Row, 1963), p. 41.

[2]   David Elton Trueblood, Philosophy of Religion (New York:  Harper & Row, 1957), p. 44.

[3]   Brian Fagan, The Little Ice Age (New York:  Basic Books, 2000), pp. 106-112.

[4]   Robert M. Prisig, Lila (New York:  Bantam Books, 1991), p. 255.

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