this is approximately a 12 minute read.

Community Building, Mental Health, Perception, Philosophy, Politics, Values

Is There A Universal Common Ground?

Axiomatic differences are impossible to oppose. At best one can simply point out what the differences are and the resulting repercussions. What is harder is identifying the existence of differing axioms since most see no point in discussing “truth” that civility has embedded so severely that it has been objectified.

Radical Civility – Axioms/Value Collision


I grew up (as many do) in a Christian home. The virtues of love and forgiveness and being a part of something bigger than yourself were all promoted. To this day I still see the benefit in promoting these ideals. But the faith in the religion didn’t last.

There are many that turn away from religion because they blame it for the harms of the world. They blame God for pain and suffering. While I understand their plight, this isn’t my story. The “JeudeoChristian” God became a myth. In addition to other logical problems, the ultimate criticism wasn’t that I couldn’t imagine God, but – ironically – because I could. The supernatural being that was split into parallels of Zeus, Hercules, and Hermes (Gods based on stars that we projected personalities onto) was logical… a medium used by humans. The supernatural cannot – by definition – be understood by humans. I could never find a way to explain this other than considering Chrisitianity itself a myth as well… one I couldn’t conflate with reality.

Thus – for me – God became synonymous with unfathomable chaos.  And all alternatives to that became projections of other people.

I mention all this to set the stage of this article.  Both to show my own journey (which will be the foundation of this piece) and to identify why religion works: communities depend on a moral authority. An undeniable source of “good” and “bad”. Without this common ground, appeals to “oughts” (common agreements on how people should act) make no sense. God provides this.

To this day I see much of society through the lens of this understanding of religion: how many disagreements occur because they believe in different “Gods”? This has caused a lot of strife in my life since (as I said) for me God is unfathomable chaos.

How do you find a common ground with everyone when unfathomable chaos is unknowable?


We all have experiences many of which we share with others. Many of which we experience at different times but can still relate to. Many of which will never overlap but we synthesize through empathy and imagination.

Or at least that’s what we would like to think.

If we are honest about what is actually happening, our “experiences” are data manipulation within the mind. Our memories are inconsistent, our ability to empathize and imagine gets conflated with experience itself. Our senses are limited and flawed and likely – who’s to say for sure – are unique to our own biological inputs.

We assume common ground here, but for no real reason.  In fact, this perception bias often causes us to harm others through ignorance. The more disjoint an experience becomes, the more we have a bias of our own view. This can be seen easily through unidentified personal racism, sexism, or general bigotry. Regardless of what our limited experience and inherent preference to find patterns may want to suggest, the material world is unfathomably chaotic.

How do you find a common ground with everyone when unfathomable chaos is unknowable?


Maps were originally created locally to plot out locations, geography, or resources. These were eventually combined by outsiders exploring the area by identifying overlapping parts to find a ratio and get a common metric between the two unique scales. In a nutshell this is empiricism: finding “common ground” with others by adapting our own understanding of the world to that of others’ using overlapping knowledge – sometimes literally.

Much of the enlightenment is built on this concept of shared experience.  Science rejects the idea of a dogmatic truth opting instead for the view that we can only get closer to that truth with a common metric. Math, logic, and measurements can be used to technically discuss our personal beliefs to see what holds up and what individual claims can be shared by all.

Assuming we all can agree on the same metric.

My training is in mathematics, specifically abstract mathematics. I bring that up because there is a difference in abstract thinking and practical thinking: abstract hinges on the idea that there are always different metrics to use. The ones we currently agree to use are done through an equilibrium of efficiency, applicability, and cultural historical acceptance. Unfortunately, this has nothing to do with “truth” (even though all empirical evaluations are based on it) and – when new concepts are derived – can get subjective.

Mathematical paradoxes show us some of these critical failings. From systemic problems like the discovery that any rule based system is incomplete to more practical critiques like slicing one ball correctly can duplicate it, we start to see that even empiricism is based on a language that cannot account for the fringe cases of reality. Therefore – as much as we can try with incredibly robust languages – the local maps can never be stitched together due to the unfathomable and chaotic ways we locally capture information.

How do you find a common ground with everyone when unfathomable chaos is unknowable?


Up to this point I have been trying to appeal to things that others can typically empathize with. I feel the path that I have described so far is one that most people will take to varying degrees: trust in an authority figure, growing through experience to find an understanding of the world, and then sharing that experience to expand their world. I would wager most people stop there.

To me this is problematic. It may be that my community has remained small and I’ve never feared the need for exclusion if I didn’t conform.  Or, it could be that I did this intentionally to ensure that I never HAD to conform to others. I don’t know. But stopping here wasn’t an option for me, so I’ll document the rest of my journey so others can evaluate it however they want.

Descartes – through a series of logical inquisitions – arrived at what is generally considered something that is undeniably true: “cogito ergo sum” (or – informally – “I think therefore I am”). Without getting too long winded, this result was an attempt at trying to disprove that god was feeding him a false reality, one that he couldn’t even trust to know himself within. So the conclusion was that if he could think, that’s enough to know that reality exists. This is greatly paraphrased.

But I hope given the conversation so far, we can see the problem with this: perception is not reality. Everyone has a truth. But that is a different claim than everyone has THE truth.

The only place to go from here – unfortunately – is nihilism. Specifically: can we even assume truth to exist? Can we assume that there is only one truth and we aren’t all creating personal instances of “I think therefore I am”?

One can drive themself crazy talking about “anti-realism”, “essentialism vs existentialism”, “authenticity”, and “rights”; but – at the end of the day – hidden in the depths of the unknowable chaos of metaphysics one thing emerges: even if there is a truth, we can never practically know it.

I would like you to consider a question for a moment and pause before reading on: what should you call reality that you can never comprehend?  Give yourself a second to think.

An answer (in my opinion the ONLY answer) is Truth. All our understanding of the world is filtered through flawed and limited perception.  Making sense of it is like a puzzle piece being slammed into a puzzle it isn’t a part of just to make it fit. All the worlds we can know are adaptations of that information, but we can never know the source of those experiences.

For all practical purposes Truth is an unfathomable chaos.

How do you find a common ground with everyone when unfathomable chaos is unknowable?


So are we all just doomed to living as the joker? Living in a reality that we may never share with another person? Maybe. But fortunately, we don’t practically believe that. We can’t. Self preservation dictates we move ahead and – even if it’s pretend – live alongside others and make the best of it. And we’ve already shown above: reality doesn’t actually matter as long as we can find some overlapping experiences.

So even if Truth is unknowable, it is possible for us to generate one. Even if it isn’t strictly “true”, a common ground can still hold people together. Then – using that common ground – we can start to build reality up from there.

There is an issue here because we all have our beliefs and bias, and if we stake a “true” claim for common ground we may end up invalidating those that don’t – or can’t – agree with it. As an easy bias to see, most would agree we shouldn’t care about appealing to Neo-Nazis for a moral claim. But without everyone agreeing, a universal common ground is impossible. This shows a fundamental flaw of institutionalized morality (aka law): the state is inherently used to protect its people and thus any institutionalized morality will exist to invalidate the “other”. For this reason, anyone valuing inclusion should not appeal to the state for common ground – much less truth (even if they are practically necessary).


All the scenarios we have run through so far: religion, experience, empiricism, philosophy, culture/state; these all should be what we expect others to appeal to. They are simple. They are authoritatively sound. And as long as you have trust in those authorities they make sense. But the question posed is not if there can be some common ground, but if there is a UNIVERSAL common ground. So instead of seeing what we can appeal to, let’s instead see if we can generate it.

This common ground needs to be – first and foremost – identifiable.  We need to be able to appeal to it. This may seem simple, but dialectics says otherwise. We can only identify knowledge through contrast. There is no real reason to discuss any common truth because we all believe it and can all depend on it. Even identifying some terms implies a counter to it.

As a side note: this is why conservatives depend on narrowing the conversation. If ideas cannot be discussed, they can’t be countered.

So it seems by this premise alone, universal common ground is impossible. And it is possible that there isn’t, but there may be a way around this: contrast current understanding of the world with that of the past.  Find ideas that still exist but have been universally abandoned and appeal to the alternative.

I’m not a historian and I haven’t found an idea so outdated that everyone rejects it, so I – personally – am forced to arrive with the answer “I don’t know.  Maybe.  But I haven’t been able to find it. And regardless, I expect as soon as a universal common ground is stated, people are likely to question it and some will distinctly disagree with it.” That said, I will offer the best I have come up with and suggest that you search for this yourself.

Historically, privilege and hierarchies were accepted truths.  Slavery, monarchies, etc all had “divine” justification and were unquestioned because of it; but we’ve moved past that – for the most part. We know now that even though privilege exists, it isn’t justified.  And through this we can find the first thing that we can possibly agree on: No one is inherently better than anyone else and therefore all things being equal, people “deserve” the same opportunities.

Additionally, we all have our own unique experiences and those experiences are not worth invalidating. As has been discussed already, no individual can really know the full experiences of others. To assume that anyone else’s experiences are “untrue” is fundamentally perception bias.  One could argue about “utility monsters” and “bad faith actors” but – instead of going into a deeper discussion – I’ll just reject this by saying they are hypothetical edge cases and accounting for them will do actual harm to others. So a separate part of the common ground I’ve arrived at is the claim that all opportunities and discoveries of life are justified.

Finally, the issue with and the reason that no one can practically be nihilistic is because of self preservation. Everyone living has an instinctive reaction to continue doing that.  Whether that’s addiction to life or some biologically/ideological indoctrination we can’t avoid, it doesn’t matter. We cannot help living and wanting to live. This is countered sometimes when people start to ask the existential questions of “is my life justified?”, leading to depression and other conclusions that shouldn’t even be discussed.

(As a side note, anyone struggling with depression, please know you do matter to others, even if you are unaware of it. Don’t give up. Please talk to someone. There are hotlines in your area, please reach out if you need it. You are worth it.)

So it is important and necessary to search for that purpose (even if we never find it).

So I offer you my not-quite-Universal common ground:

Except when it inhibits others to do the same, every person deserves the opportunity to discover and pursue – to the fullest extent – that which gives their life purpose.

I hope the reader can agree with this.  If so we should all work to make this a reality.  I hope this helps with your future discussion and community building.

“Every action, every decision, every choice is a vote to make reality what you want it to be.  Please help promote each other.”

Please rate this article. It will help others to decide which are worth reading.
If you enjoyed this, please consider joining the the contact list