Sunday, December 10, 2006

Belief(s?), Wittgenstein and proofs

This post concerns my recent assertion that what we call beliefs socially are in fact not beliefs, and that we are in fact largely unaware of our actual beliefs. To sum up my earlier post, 'Old beliefs, new beliefs' (posted in September, and which might be a good starting point for the reader), there are two occurances of the word 'belief' in common parlance: one a construct forged around social use, and the other the precise usage that deals with what we in fact do believe. Of course, the way I've just worded what the latter means informs the meaning of the former, which by implication I mean to say is a lie.

But so what? Why does the social use of 'belief' have to be eradicated? Is it not complete in itself, partaking in a different language game?

Well, yes, it is. But there is a technical argument here from Wittgenstein, who argues that language games are the expressions of incommensurable forms of life. This is, currently, how I see the Wittgenstinian problem here:

Elements of language games can only be subverted into other language games through the activity of a form of life that partakes in the subverting game, and, as they are closed systems, the subverted form of life does not therefore change except through its own ability to understand the conditions of the subversion (i.e. through its own nature and not by that of another).

I intend to offer a couple of proofs for my position, showing by reductio the necessity of my position. Does this mean that I am only reinforcing my own form of life and not affecting any other? No. Reason is not a language game. And not only this, but I feel Wittgenstein would agree.

My move is a Spinozian one. Compared one to the other, forms of life (or singular things) are different, and not the same, and contain more or less perfection only relative to the meaning each one produces through its striving to exist. This is the same as to say that forms of life create dynamic language games. But for Spinoza reason is not a power of abstractly crunching out whatever meanings our form of life arbitrarily produces, but is our power of striving itself and our highest excellence. Reason does not decide what is best in the context of the notion of perfection, but absolutely.

I mean not to speak only to those 'with ears to hear', but to all men, when I offer the following:

1) Categorical belief is necessary to social belief: To be convinced that there is a social 'kind of belief', it cannot be possible that we do not believe it.
2) Social belief is not a subset of categorical belief: The question is open whether a stated social belief is believed categorically.

On a final note, we have to ask ourselves what the meaning of a social belief is. If someone says to you that they have a non-categorical belief, this is the same as saying that they do not have a belief. The insistence that there is another kind of belief is precisely the attempt to convince you that they do in fact have a belief, without their having to believe it. This is a lie. Indeed, because thought is reflecting on itself in noting that belief is categorical, their lie is not simply a discursive instance of lying (about what they are claiming to believe), but is an operation of the privation of knowledge that is lying itself.

3 Comments:

Blogger News is Good said...

Re-reading September's post, and reading this, is making your position more clear. Damn your well-read cleverness.

"The insistence that there is another kind of belief is precisely the attempt to convince you that they do in fact have a belief, without their having to believe it."

This point is a laudable conclusion, and I believe (!!!) it to be absolutely true. OR AM I JUST SAYING THAT?

A question. Is the relationship between categorical belief and social belief something like the relationship between a biological female and a male in drag? You can adopt the guise of a female for many reasons - fun and profit, or to fulfil an obligation, or to deny a genetic truth in favour of the feeling of psychological difference. So, I imagine that I am asking whether social belief is a convention of lying about one is that could be for all sorts of reasons, which is why it is so complex.

9:34 PM  
Blogger Atum said...

I see what you're getting at. I think it is like the drag idea, but to be more specific about it I think it's our dressing a vice up as a virtue. The really important thing is that to do this we must already know that social belief is a vice.

I suppose this does away with my earlier thought that once people know how to recognise belief they would have to stop believing, in error, that social belief is real belief. So on this issue there is less for us do-gooders to do about it in a specific way (i.e. saying to people 'did you know belief is categorical?', but in a less Jehovah's witness-y kind of way), and our action now is only determined in terms of what Socrates does with Thrasymachus:

Thrasymachus asserts that what is in the interests of the rulers is what is posited as a universal good. Socrates however shows that advantage cannot be secured from vice (e.g. the rulers don't know what's really in their interest and in fact tend to work to harm themselves).

So I think we're at the problem of the state (ours) suggesting one form of living as desirable and good, to which we counterpose our suggested form of living, as something quite different. Of course, we already knew this, but the emphasis is now on the form of argumentation we advance, which, as far as I can tell, is metaphysical.

I think as a psychologist you'll resist me on this last suggestion?

5:01 PM  
Blogger News is Good said...

I agree with your resurrection of Thras (sounds like a rapper), that fits the situation quite well.

As a psychologist, I don't resist you - unless I find out that you're crazy because you see a chimp eating Walt Disney in the inkblots. Pervert.

5:18 PM  

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