For some reason, our brains are easily tricked into accepting what I believe are called false disjunctions. Such and such group of people believes that A is true, and this other group believes that B is true. Which group is correct?
When I pose it in those terms, hopefully it is obvious that, and obvious why, this approach makes no sense whatsoever.
It doesn’t have to be one or the other! There is a very great probability that the answer is “both, actually.”
Should we strive for physical health or intellectual capacity? Should we believe that all people are equal in dignity or that people are unequal in ability? Should we want the government to cut wasteful spending or to do what it can to improve the conditions of its populace? Should we be at peace with the world’s imperfections or try to make the world a better place? Should we honour solitude and independence or life in community? Should we be kind to others or do what’s best for ourselves?
Both! Always and forever both! How can these questions even exist for a second without being laughed into obscurity?
Arguing about which is more important is also nothing more than a distraction. “Well sure, of course you need to have both, but when it comes right down to it and you have to pick one or the other, which will you choose?” The thing is, we can choose both. Maybe we can’t choose both at the same instant or with the same dollar, but if we say that both are important and that we have to find a way to address them both, then in all but the rarest of circumstances, that is precisely what is able to happen.
These sorts of questions don’t really have anything to do with what we do or should believe about reality. In my experience, they have much more to do with which groups of people we want to align ourselves with. It also often corresponds to the kind of life that is most appealing to us (which is to say, the vices we treasure and will find a way to justify to ourselves).
What happens when we start to answer that type of question with the sensible response, then? What happens when we insist on “both”?
For one thing, we find friends in places we would never before have thought to look, and that opens our eyes to see many things more clearly.
For another, our vices will begin to appear to us, seen for what they are, left with nowhere to hide. And that’s the first step to becoming a better person, which is the most important thing of all.