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  1. #1
    philosopher wood nymph greenfairy's Avatar
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    Default Two strategies of forming beliefs

    "William James observed that the passion to get truth and the passion to avoid falsehood are two distinct passions, and they lead to different strategies. The passion to get truth leads to more risk-taking than the passion to avoid falsehood, which leads to a more conservative strategy. One can ensure that one has no false beliefs by believing very few things and making sure that what one does believe satisfies the most stringent standards; but in doing so, one not only avoids false beliefs, one also forgoes many true beliefs. The passion to get truth, in contrast, will lead one to have more beliefs, some of which may be false. The standards of the person dominated by the passion for truth will be somewhat looser than the standards of the person dominated by the passion to avoid falsehood. James thinks that the passion to get truth is as rational as the passion to avoid falsehood. Reason cannot determine which passion should dominate, since both are, after all, passions. Neither should dictate one's entire belief-forming life, but it is not irrational for one of them to be more important than the other."

    Quoted from an excerpt from Linda Zagzebski's On Epistemology.

    Thought provoking.

  2. #2
    Infinite Bubble
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    Could it then be said that those who follow the path of avoiding falsehood would naturally be more skeptical, and those for finding truth more open minded?

  3. #3
    failure to thrive AphroditeGoneAwry's Avatar
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    Our beliefs are formed in childhood and are laid down into our subconscious, because they are below our conscious understanding, for the most part. Our ego's main objective is to protect our beliefs and see that they are upheld. This then drives all our overlying thoughts and feelings, which drives our actions.

    The problem is that these beliefs were our parent's beliefs, or the rules of the products of our care providers' agenda. We naturally adopt them because as children we must, to survive and stay safe. However, it is when we become older, and attempt to become our own person that these beliefs, some or many of which might be false for us individually, can hinder our true growth. Even if we want to effect change, it is difficult because we often don't even understand what these subconscious beliefs are which are driving our behaviors.

    And I'd posit that we cannot form new beliefs to supercede the old beliefs, but that old beliefs are firmly rooted first and foremost, and hold the most sway over our ego.


    So, forming new beliefs isn't really what it's about. It's more about taking stock and inventory of our beliefs, then keeping those that jive with us individually, and throwing out that that don't, and forming new ones, which is where growth as a person comes in.

    But the ego is not going to let that happen easily. Its ego's main job your whole life up to that point has been to maintain a functioning body and mind by informing the conscious realm. The ego is strong! It must be moved away to even see what our most firmly held beliefs are, because the deepest and most powerful are also the most buried. Doing this is difficult because the ego can become set and firm, and cannot open with discomfort.
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  4. #4
    philosopher wood nymph greenfairy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Infinite Bubble View Post
    Could it then be said that those who follow the path of avoiding falsehood would naturally be more skeptical, and those for finding truth more open minded?
    Yes. Of course people should follow both, but often there is an emphasis on one.

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    while this very accurately describes my own spectrum, as i tend to move back & forth between the two (though lately I've being more on the side of scrutiny)... i don't know if this spectrum gives leeway to the majority of belief systems within the human population, a.k.a. "my faith is right and says all your faiths are wrong".

    how does traditional religion fit into this spectrum?

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    philosopher wood nymph greenfairy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mane View Post
    while this very accurately describes my own spectrum, as i tend to move back & forth between the two (though lately I've being more on the side of scrutiny)... i don't know if this spectrum gives leeway to the majority of belief systems within the human population, a.k.a. "my faith is right and says all your faiths are wrong".

    how does traditional religion fit into this spectrum?
    Hm, difficult question. I'd say it's somewhere in the middle, but in an unhealthy way. It's really more on the side of avoiding false beliefs if you think about it, because they tend to be close minded. They may have a lot of opinions, but they are clustered around a small number of rigidly held principles. The beliefs are not conscientiously held, that is governed by a concern for the truth- they don't rigorously examine the beliefs they have, only ones different from their system (and even then not without bias). That's my opinion. What do you think?

    You're right; I think some ways of forming beliefs have nothing to do with concern for truth, and are more for emotional security, so they would not fit into either category.

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    Quote Originally Posted by greenfairy View Post
    What do you think?
    hrm, i've looked for ways to devil advocate that religion can some how fit into this, but otherwise i'm pretty much in agreement.

    i remember a research linked in a cracked.com article showing surveys that people will tend to define infidelity in a completely different way for themselves vs. for their partners, and i thought of drawing some equivalent here with scrutiny, but i can't seem to find the article... beyond that possible point of exploration to extend the convo into, i pretty much agree with you.

    (we seem to have a knack for short conclusive conversations)

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    philosopher wood nymph greenfairy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mane View Post
    i remember a research linked in a cracked.com article showing surveys that people will tend to define infidelity in a completely different way for themselves vs. for their partners, and i thought of drawing some equivalent here with scrutiny, but i can't seem to find the article...
    Yeah, it's messed up, isn't it?
    Quote Originally Posted by Mane View Post
    (we seem to have a knack for short conclusive conversations)
    Which I think is a good thing.

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    Quote Originally Posted by greenfairy View Post
    Yeah, it's messed up, isn't it?

    Which I think is a good thing.
    found the research and the article (#3). and yes, it's pretty screwed up, and very similar to what happens with religions in your spectrum (one foot in scrutiny and one foot in acceptance).

    Quote Originally Posted by greenfairy View Post
    Which I think is a good thing.
    an intellectual disagreement resolved in two posts? it's an internet miracle

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    I prefer the burning bush.

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