First, personal thoughts. Two issues have been occupying my mind.
- Cognitive dissonance.
If it was one thing I prided myself on during my seminary years, it was my unyielding attachment to sheer consistency of belief, thought, and action. Now, that does not imply that my thoughts were always based on sound judgement, nor that my actions were never subject to human weakness. But nevertheless, I relished the notion that my Catholic faith was like a hot iron, pressing out the wrinkles of intellectual obscurity. I still hold on to the conviction that real faith is the archimedian point for the life of the mind. But one effect of my living as a layman is that much of my anxiety about personal failings has decoupled and slowly fallen away. The failings are there; the sense of urgency and guilt about them is not. The iron is not has hot as it used to be. Is this a sign that I am allowing cognitive dissonance into my own framework? This was always the most irritating thing I observed in liberal Catholic authorities and pundits. Or is the ability to accept failure a sign of growing maturity?
- Contraposition of belief vs. neurology as motivators.
The MSN website ran a couple of cheesy articles on how differences between the male and female brain can affect behaviors and explain certain habits. I'm not at all opposed to the idea that we are substantially moved by biology. But the articles highlighted for me the wonder that the human organism is governed by such a thing as "belief" at all. That a mammal should have access to rational thought, and through the science of logic gain entry into being (at all! let alone well), is to me the most fascinating and wonderful thing. Perhaps it is a red herring, in the "homo sapiens are special" debate, to look for essential differences between humans and animals on the natural plane. Still, it bears reflecting: an ape can learn sign language. Can an ape worry about whether he is allowing cognitive dissonance into his motivations?