All ideas have consequences. In fact, ideas always precede a product, an end point that is either designed, desired or unintended. This end point can be good or bad—the reality is that brilliant ideas yield beneficial products and thoughtless ideas portend disastrous consequences. Furthermore, in many cases, an idea will not yield a concrete product because the idea was not worth anything to begin with.
As it pertains to our search for ultimate truth, we are concerned with those foundational or basic ideas that shape our reality and have tangible, everlasting, and positive consequences.
Humans are born into a world that they did not create ex nihilo (out of nothing). Instead we step into a world, a society, and a culture that already exist, and we therefore learn to interact with the consequences of ideas that already define the contours of our reality. By turning our attention to the consequences of some foundational ideas and laying bare our assumptions, we will do two things: (1) illuminate those timeless ideas that benefit us and (2) discover those underlying ideas that are in fact bogus, along with their associated poisonous consequences. Foundational thinking is concerned about the dissimilarity between truth and non-truth because it has a sincere interest in knowing what is good and what is evil. As Socrates once said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” To any mature adult who takes life seriously, an unexamined life simply is not an opportunity to be grasped. When it comes to the truth, embracing it means not only holding the complete truth close to your chest, but also considering and then accepting all the consequences of that truth.
At time I am writing this, we in America are in the midst of a presidential campaign. At one point, one candidate suggested that all high school graduates should be entitled to a free college education. This is a great idea, but an idea that nonetheless has consequences. On one hand, this would allow all those who are disenfranchised and who otherwise would not have access to a college education to receive one for free. One the other hand, although college would be “free” for the student, it would not be free for society. One consequence of free college is the need for a reasonable means of financing an education for many. Where would such funds come from in a government that is already in debt?
On the one hand, a free college education means more young people would be better equipped to enter a competitive job market, and therefore be able to generate more income, stimulating the economy. On the other hand, who defines what “college” is? Is it two years or four? Would the universal availability of a college education drive down the quality of the educational standards that exist now? Notice that I did not take a stance on the idea. I am simply trying to relay a principle: that if a person divorces the consequences of an idea from the idea itself, then what he or she is really doing is divorcing him- or herself from reality.