Friday, November 19, 2010

Belief vs. Knowledge

Original Posting

In the course of certain debates, someone will probably bring up that once one has evidence, a belief becomes "knowledge." This often occurs (at least in my experience) when one debater tries to show how all or nearly all beliefs contain faith; by claiming that evidence changes the nature of a belief, you argue that you can attack faith-based claims without also undermining your own beliefs.

Fair enough, clearly a belief held with evidence is not the same as a belief held without evidence.

I do take one issue with this, though, which is that evidence is not just a matter of true and false or on and off. It simply isn't the way evidence works; you can't look at a premise, ask if it has evidence in its favor, and then receive a yes or no answer. Evidence comes in shades. Beliefs are not a matter of evidence vs. non-evidence, they are a matter of more evidence vs. less evidence.

Hell, nearly every belief must be accounted at least a modicum of doubt for the simple fact that what we perceive to be reality may, in fact, be an illusion.

So, I propose that beliefs should not be held to be either knowledge or faith, but rather every belief should be held as some ratio between the two. A belief supported by a great deal of empirical evidence should be held as consisting of mostly knowledge with a minimum of faith (the faith mostly consisting of having faith that you are not, in fact, insane, that reality is not an illusion, and that whatever logical presuppositions you had to assume in the course of forming a believe were correct). A belief that has very little empirical evidence should be held as consisting mostly of faith with a minimum of knowledge, or perhaps even no knowledge at all (it seems impossible for a belief to consist of complete knowledge, but it seems quite possible for a belief to consist of complete faith).

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Trying on Worldviews

Original Posting

How much of our philosophizing in a matter of reason and how much is it a matter of feeling and emotion?

I got to thinking about my own worldview and how it's developed over the years, through several different shades of Christianity to my present agnosticism. Not to mention how I've tried on different approaches to ethics. I've noticed that there is, certainly, an element of reason when considering my worldview. I want the worldview to be consistent, and for that I test it with my reason to make sure that I'm not using any special pleading to squeeze in a belief I happen to like. Still, my predominant approach to these matters has to do with feeling and emotion; can I make myself love this philosophy? Can I reconcile myself to it in a way that keeps me from too much despair?

Now I wonder, does this indicate weakness on my part (as I've often believed) or is this just how humans do philosophy? Probably both, after all why not believe that the way humans do philosophy is weak?

Now, depending on the kind of philosophy, our reliance on emotion shifts, our emotional charge for a topic seems to me to be directly related to how much it affects how we view ourselves and our place in the world.

That's not to say that I (or anyone else) base my worldview strictly on emotion. If we care enough to think about things, we probably care enough to try to believe true things unless we've made a committed effort at some point to disregard the truth. However, what I'm describing is something like reconciliation. Once your mind sees the evidence going a certain direction, it seems that there is a period where the rest of you has to try it on. Your emotion and your will have to try to find a way to fit into the new belief you've found.

This is what I mean by "trying on worldviews." We don't adopt them strictly by reason, we have to find things that our whole being can commit to. This occasionally takes the form of someone constantly trying new beliefs and philosophies to see what fits comfortably.

This, of course, means that we aren't operating according to strict reason and evidence. It also means we're still human (you can decide if that's a positive or a negative). But I wonder what the exact proportions are. How much of our philosophizing is about examining evidence and following argument, and how much of it is about finding something we can live with?

Monday, November 8, 2010

On Happiness

Original Posting

Everyone spends their life trying to avoid pain and pursue happiness. The perfect world would be a world full of many diverse pleasures, and pain (not just in a physical sense, but as everything that hinders our life of pleasure) does not exist or is at least brought down to its most most minimal point.

Is this true?

Is this really what we want?

Is this really the world that our common nature craves?

I don't think it is. I don't think that we want a world without pain. Not just because the existence of pain gives us an appreciation of pleasure, but because we were grown in a world with pain and suffering. It's what we crawled out of, it shaped our nature. To deny it would be to deny a fundamental aspect of life itself.

Life is happiness; life is also suffering.

Look at our art. When we are creative, what do we create? Do we create idealistic worlds of peace, harmony, and joy? No. We claim to want them, but we spend no time creating them. No, everything we create with a narrative (with the possible exclusion of bubblegum pop) always includes pain and suffering somewhere.

We grew up in it, we crave it.

I'm not saying we're all masochists or that we all want to sit around torturing ourselves. What I am saying is that any conception of a good life or a good world without suffering is a concept that doesn't understand human nature. It's listening to humanity's mouth rather than its actions.

We desire pleasure, fun, and joy; but deep down we wouldn't be happy without pain, suffering, and a little anguish.

So, if you are altruistically inclined, by all means work to make the world a more pleasurable place. Try to remove the pain in the world. But you better hope the pain isn't completely removable, otherwise you might go too far and fuck up the world.