Methods of Fixing Belief How to settle belief

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Methods of Fixing Belief How to settle belief under conditions of uncertainty and doubt

Methods of Fixing Belief How to settle belief under conditions of uncertainty and doubt

Strategies in Reading Philosophy • Read with a ‘question-asking’ attitude as if the author

Strategies in Reading Philosophy • Read with a ‘question-asking’ attitude as if the author is talking to you— question reasons given for claims, such as definition of terms, assumptions, alleged facts, • Write down main claims and main reasons to support them • Write down questions and criticisms about the reasoning • Think of examples to support author’s argument and criticize it • Identify important textual passages • Look up words you do not know

Method of Fixing Belief If you reflect on many of your most important beliefs,

Method of Fixing Belief If you reflect on many of your most important beliefs, you will probably discover that they rest on assumptions that you have not really thought much about. Many of our significant beliefs are accepted or inherited from our upbringing without much scrutiny or critical reflection. And if you reflect further, you will discover that you were not born with these beliefs (they are not “innate”) but that you acquired them in some way. Where did you get these beliefs? How do you know the sources of your beliefs are reliable? How do you know your belief are true or good? Can you defend your beliefs against objections?

Examples of Significant Beliefs Political affiliation (Democrat, Republican, Independent, Green, Libertarian) Religious identification (Catholic,

Examples of Significant Beliefs Political affiliation (Democrat, Republican, Independent, Green, Libertarian) Religious identification (Catholic, Protestant, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu, no identification) Religious beliefs (belief in God, an afterlife, miracles) Moral beliefs (extent of obligation to help others, when it is acceptable to lie, what you owe your parents) Public policy beliefs (immigration, decriminalization of drugs) Social (causes of crime, views about the police) Scientific beliefs (truth of evolution, climate change)

Methods of Fixing Belief TENACITY • “I will believe what I have always believe

Methods of Fixing Belief TENACITY • “I will believe what I have always believe or want to believe” • Belief is based on habit or inertia or feelings or loyalty to someone (parent, friend, religious leader, coach) • Dismiss those as ignorant or unworthy of attention who question or challenge your beliefs • Selectively choose evidence to support your belief and ignore or minimize counter-evidence (what psychologists call ‘confirmation bias’) • Claim that one would be less happy with a different belief • Frequently repeat the belief, which makes it feel or seem stronger

Methods of Fixing Belief PROBLEMS WITH TENACITY There will always beliefs that conflict with

Methods of Fixing Belief PROBLEMS WITH TENACITY There will always beliefs that conflict with one’s own, and with no other basis to go on but what one ‘has always believed, ’ there is no way for a person to decide between conflicting opinions or beliefs. ‘The pressure of opinions other than one’s own cannot always be disregarded’(71) ‘Once the incidence of other views is felt, the method of tenacity is incapable of deciding between conflicting opinions’(71)

Methods of Fixing Belief AUTHORITY Appeal to a respected authority—religious, political, legal, scientific—to determine

Methods of Fixing Belief AUTHORITY Appeal to a respected authority—religious, political, legal, scientific—to determine what to believe. Reasonable authority: • proper training and expertise • acknowledgement that one’s view is not final and infallible Unreasonable authority: • claim infallibility • justify views by an appeal to some ‘external force’ • punish or dismiss those who disagree. ‘Men have been frightened and punished into conformity in order to prevent alternative views from unsettling our habitual beliefs’(72)

Methods of Fixing Belief PROBLEMS WITH AUTHORITY • The appeal to an authority cannot

Methods of Fixing Belief PROBLEMS WITH AUTHORITY • The appeal to an authority cannot resolve disagreement among authorities, e. g. , religions that have different views of nature of the divine, afterlife, and morality, doctors who give conflicting diagnoses, financial advisers who have different strategies for investment, policy experts who disagree on the best social policies, scientists who have conflicting theories. • The method of reasonable authority must be supplemented by some other method to resolve doubt and uncertainty.

Methods of Fixing Belief INTUITION Settle beliefs by appeal to an alleged ‘self-evident’ fact

Methods of Fixing Belief INTUITION Settle beliefs by appeal to an alleged ‘self-evident’ fact based on intuition or feeling, something that does not require reasoning. Examples of supposed ‘self-evident’ truths: • • Existence of divine beings Earth is the center of the universe Every effect has a cause The area of a triangle is 180 degrees Absolute nature of time Inequality of women Superiority of humans over non-humans

Methods of Fixing Belief PROBLEMS WITH INTUITION • People have different intuitions or feelings.

Methods of Fixing Belief PROBLEMS WITH INTUITION • People have different intuitions or feelings. • Appeal to ‘intuition’ is usually a function of current fashions and of early upbringing, not of objective or universal truth. • Intuitions must be tested in order to have confidence that they are true or reasonable.

Methods of Fixing Belief CRITICAL REFLECTION/SCIENTIFIC METHOD • Belief is not settled based on

Methods of Fixing Belief CRITICAL REFLECTION/SCIENTIFIC METHOD • Belief is not settled based on our desires or will but on relation of belief to objective reality. • Scientific method tests beliefs against the best available evidence and are done publicly and are repeatable. • Develop doubt about theories and claims and test to see what survives doubt. • No appeal to ‘special revelation’ or authority • Scientific testing admits fallibility and is self-corrective based on results. • Beliefs are not ‘certain’ but have degrees of probable truth.

Methods of Fixing Belief CRITICAL REFLECTION/SCIENTIFIC METHOD Sagan’s ‘Tools for Sceptical Thinking’ and ‘Fallacies

Methods of Fixing Belief CRITICAL REFLECTION/SCIENTIFIC METHOD Sagan’s ‘Tools for Sceptical Thinking’ and ‘Fallacies of Reasoning’