Monday, September 11, 2006

Old beliefs, new beliefs

The main area of reinterpretation that I want to argue for is around belief, something that has been on my mind regarding my forthcoming Masters degree, in which it features pretty centrally, as well as regarding my understanding of people in general. In the past I have had issues with people’s odd beliefs and life practices and wondered at how monumentally stupid (though I loathed to admit it) they had to be to adopt and continue them. My resulting position considered the failings of the educational system to be chiefly at fault for suppressing independent thought and honesty with one’s position. I still think that this is central to explaining our current disposition, but the difference now is that it does not give rise to the beliefs and practices that I observed as starting points. Recently I have come to reinterpret the world differently, seeing belief as something quite rarified and covered over, despite the fact that it is the main concept at large in the world today. To believe something is to think that it is true. Holding this to be the case causes a huge revaluation of people’s alleged ‘beliefs’, and it must first be admitted that people sometimes (or oftentimes) do not belief what they proclaim to. It must be the case, in extension of this, that they can fully believe that they believe something, that they do not in fact believe. In strictly logical terms this is impossible, but the difference between the two instances of belief – the social use of ‘belief’ and the proper use of belief as thinking that something is true – should be highlighted. We fully believe, in the sense that we have a subject position to the effect that, x is the case, without actually believing that ‘x is the case’ is true.

I suppose my position is that utilitarian beliefs are impossible, and we only believe that x is likely or useful when we think that ‘x is likely’ or ‘x is useful’ is true. A belief is complete in itself, and cannot be provisional nor suspended. For example, if our belief is that ‘it will rain’ is true, and are told that it will only rain if the cold front moves a few miles north, then, providing we think this correction appropriate and true, we no longer believe that ‘it will rain’, but rather than believing to some degree that ‘it will rain’ we rather now believe, quite absolutely, that ‘it will rain providing that the cold front moves a few miles north’. An encounter with Bayesian theory recently left me feeling more than a little disgusted.

With this all said, it is my opinion (belief, indeed!) that the almost total definition of belief in terms of social etiquette and subject positions constitutes manifest dishonesty. People are so utterly unfamiliar with what they in fact believe that this social usage of the term has hijacked the authority of legitimate belief – and of course, this is the reason why social belief is so powerful and proliferate. So what is this dishonesty if we aren’t acting consciously against the true definition of belief (that I think, only a philosopher would these days really contemplate)? Granted that belief is a naturally occurring state that everybody understands on the level of intuition, our dishonesty must lie in a conscious denial of our very feelings.

I’m sure I should give these thoughts more of a chance to come out into the open, but as it stands this is the revolution in my thought that has caused me to reinterpret current life. As far as this blog is concerned, I am happier than ever not to have an ‘overarching belief’ about it. How can I, when legitimately questioning whether any such belief can be at all meaningful?


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