fluidmind
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About FluidMind.org

FluidMind.org is the personal website of Dan Delaney. I was born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky in a middle class, liberal (i.e., post Vatican II) Catholic family. In June of 1994 I married my high school sweetheart, Ginny Guthrie. We now live in an 80-year old house in the Highlands area of Louisville with our three amazing kids: Phoenix, Sage, and Inanna. Professionally, I work as an IT Systems Architect (hardware infrastructure, system administration, and database application development). While being a computer geek has been a big part of my identity since age 13, I try not to make that the foundation of my life. I'm also an artist, singer, and Lifelong Learner, and like to spend what little free time I have practicing guitar and studying social sciences, philosophy, and history of ideas.

I got an associate's degree at an electronics trade school during the two years after high school ('87–'89), during which I spent most of my spare time reading books about physics, ancient history and literature, biblical scholarship, Western philosophy, and Eastern philosophies. After working as a graphic artist for a few years, I started fulltime at the University of Louisville in '92 and eventually got my bachelor's degree in philosophy in '98, with an emphasis on religious studies and anthropology. After an eight-year hiatus from academia, I went back to UofL in 2007, taking one class per semester, and eventually completed a master's thesis in the sociology of religion in 2016. I also sing and dance in a contemporary a cappella chorus called the Kentucky Vocal Union. I'm on the board of the Kentucky Secular Society, and for a few years facilitated a Louisville group of Recovering From Religion, a support group for those who have decided to leave their religion, to help them deal with the mental and social problems they may experience during the difficult transition to a new worldview.

I've been studying philosophy and religion for over 30 years from diverse perspectives—philosophical, literary, historical, sociological, anthropological, psychological. I am not, however, a member of any religion. Rather, I consider religion to be a social construct, just one among many expressions of human culture, akin to philosophy, literature, music, and art—and I study it for the same reasons I study those other aspects of culture. I am a naturalist and humanist with an affinity for Stoic, Daoist, and Buddhist philosophies. As a naturalist, I do not believe that anything supernatural exists—that concepts like deities, demons, angels, spirits, and supernatural powers are products of the human imagination, and that human beings are fully a part of the natural world. As a humanist, I believe that (1) because our species evolved as immanently social beings, we share a profound dependence upon one another for our very existence as human beings; (2) value, meaning, and purpose in life are produced by all of us through social interaction, not by any one individual; and (3) all of us together, as sentient, social, self-aware beings, have a mutual responsibility to one another to make life worth living.

My research interests fall mainly within the areas of sociology and psychology of religion, spirituality, nonreligion, secularity, and morality. Current research projects include:

Sociology of morality is, unfortunately, a neglected field of research. Durkheim was one of the first to inquire sociologically about morality, but few in the field since him have taken up the topic. This seems peculiar to me considering that morality itself—the very idea of asking whether our actions are right or wrong—only arises due to the fact that we are not alone, that we are social beings, and that our actions affect other people. Philosopher Simon Blackburn once wrote:

Philosophy is certainly not alone in its engagement with the ethical climate. But its reflections contain a distinctive ambition. The ambition is to understand the springs of motivation, reason, and feeling that move us. It is to understand the networks of rules or ‘norms’ that sustain our lives. The ambition is often one of finding system in the apparent jumble of principles and goals that we respect, or say we do.

I certainly agree that the ethical climate is not (and should not be) the exclusive domain of philosophers. I do not agree, however, that the ambitions he enumerates are distinctive to philosophy. On the contrary, those ambitions sound far more like those of social scientific inquiry than philosophical reflection.

Why “Fluid Mind”?

The concept of a "fluid mind" expresses my own epistemological point of view. We all hold a set of beliefs about ourselves and the world around us. These beliefs determine who we are and how we behave. When we're young, our belief system is exceedingly fluid and malleable. New ideas come in easily, and old beliefs fall away with little fuss. Our full rational capacities still undeveloped, we accept the existence of Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy without question, and just as easily drop those beliefs once we realize their implausibility. Until our brains develop the ability to reason, we have a hard time distinguishing between fantasy and reality.

As we grow and learn and become more rational, those beliefs of which we feel most convinced begin to form a firm core in the center of our minds from which we base our decisions and against which we evaluate new ideas. On the periphery lie those ideas we're not quite convinced of, forming a fluid boundary where we consider new ideas, accepting some and rejecting others. A fluid mind will use critical thinking and rational reflection to evaluate new ideas in order to determine whether to reject them or to integrate them and move them further in towards the core of our beliefs.

Between the periphery and the center, beliefs are spread across a wide spectrum of "degrees of confidence." As we become more convinced of an idea, it moves closer to the central core of our belief system. The deeper it gets, the more solidified it becomes—and consequently the more difficult it is to dislodge. But even those beliefs in the core should never be beyond rational scrutiny, never become so solid that it is dogmatically unquestionable. A new idea floating around the boundary might very well call into question some of our deepest, most cherished beliefs. And if, upon further inquiry and reflection, we determine that some of those beliefs are mistaken, we should feel no qualms about pushing them back out to the periphery.

If those beliefs in the center become so solid that we never allow ourselves to question them, our development gets bogged down in the muck of those beliefs, and they eventually solidify into a hard mass from which it is almost impossible to escape. The only way we can be free to learn with open minds is to maintain a belief system that is fluid rather than solid—one that flows with the ebbs and tides of our intellectual and emotional explorations.