Have you ever found yourself at an impasse when facing an important decision in life? I certainly have and I’m fairly certain most of us have as well. The more important the issue is, the more we want to examine all angles before we proceed lest we find ourselves unhappy with the outcome. I think this is especially true when the implication is that we have only one opportunity to make the correct decision.
Most of us, I believe, are prone to dismiss any external influence in our decision making that goes against our grain. We all have beliefs and experiences that make up who we are and what our general worldview is and how we go about approaching a solution to a problem. I think this “a priori” mechanism serves us well in most cases, but not all.
a priori – (adj) relating to or involving deductive reasoning from a general principle to the expected facts or effects
But what happens when we are faced with going against our grain because our search for the facts leads us in the other direction? I’ll admit, I have on more than one occasion allowed my pre-conceived notions to lead me astray. My gut tells me one thing (don’t do this – something isn’t right here!) and my mind tells me another (damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!). I can safely say that in my experience, my mind leads me astray because of my desires – usually, my desire for comfort with that which I am familiar with. My “gut” in this description is really just the other part of my mind that isn’t swayed by my own desires, and often can see more clearly, the part of my mind that later tells me “I KNEW I shouldn’t have done that!”.
I believe that when we find ourselves at an impasse in our decision making, we clearly need to seek wise counsel. We need a second opinion. Otherwise, seeking no counsel leads us back to our default, which can lead us in the wrong direction.
Sometimes, we just can’t see the forest because we have too profound of an interest in the trees.
Robert Jastrow on his struggle with this impasse
John Lennox on “a priori” influences
For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries. – Robert Jastrow