What is Your Source of Authority?

Posted: October 25, 2018 in Philosophy

When we were children we on an adventure that was predominated by the question ‘WHY’?.  If you have been around young pre-school children, you certainly have been asked “Why” any number of times.  Sometimes this question of “why” is repeated over and over again when our first attempt to answer seems inadequate.  If this goes on too long, which length is highly dependent on the person trying to answer the child, the child usually gets either the answer “Because I said so!” or “I don’t know why.”

As we get older and ask a superior (read boss) “why”, we may expect a reasonable, rational answers, but it is also possible we are told “Because I said so!” or some facsimile of it.  Seldom are we told by a boss “I don’t know why.”  As children, we don’t have a clear distinction around the question of authority.  In fact, we don’t have a logical system of thinking able to formulate question “Why do you have authority over me to answer my questions or tell me what I must do?”  That is in spite of the fact that we begin to formally challenge authority as early as age two.  That ignores all the challenges we make by crying when we don’t have language to give reasons for our challenge.  Our challenges to authority typically are  searches for our own autonomy.

Throughout the history of human existence, the role of authority has played an important role and to a large extent power of one person over another still establishes the authority of one person over the other.  Religion also deals with the question of authority.  This has changed over the eons from the shaman to the priest or the holy scriptures.  In the secular world, we tend to rely on answers derived by the “scientific method.”  Over time, things change.  That is just the nature of the creative human existance.  The understanding of what constitutes “the authority” on things spiritual or secular also changes.  Who is the authority that we rely on today?

Much of the turmoil we experience today in the general decline of church participation or the willingness to ignore the consensus of scientific thought, for example, on climate change is the open question of what is our authority base.  In the West, the empahsis on the individual has consequences in authority as more and more people say they rely on themselves to know what is right or wrong, true or false.  It has the effect of setting people adrift, grabbing onto whatever seems most comfortable or least challenging to their thinking and way of living.  It ignores the fact that we are imersed in a culture whose characteristics, languages, and patterns of thought were not created by us.  They were not even created by people of positional authority, but by the language in which we swim and the culture which we enherited.

This search for a new basis of authority is an unfinished task, but in the long run, it will be invented by the creative nature of human existance.  Wish I would be here to see the outcome.



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