Believe Everything (Believe Nothing)

I’ve started to notice in my online debates (I know, I’m so cool, right?) that I tend to send mixed messages as far as my actual viewpoint on the topic.  I somehow manage to defend and oppose both sides of the argument at the same time, which causes some confusion.  If I defend religion, or a religious person, in a debate, people assume that I am a religious person, at which point I have to clarify that I’m not really, but I’m interested in religion and religious debates.  In philosophical debates, I am often labelled as a solipsist because I pull the solipsism card alot.  People then go on to try to disprove solipsism to me, at which point I have to clarify that I’m not a solipsist really, but I think that solipsism is very possible, and so has to be taken into account when debating the nature of existence.  This has caused me to attempt to sit down and actually define my beliefs, which has been harder than it sounds.  It seems that most people (at least most bloggers) have a very well-defined set of beliefs that they defend in all of their posts and comments, so when they read something, they say something along the lines of ‘You are wrong or right for these reasons.’  But I find that most of my comments usually start with ‘I think…’ or ‘Maybe, but…’  or something along those lines.  I try to steer clear of asserting my opinions as facts, despite what my schoolteachers taught me about how to write an essay.  This may be my natural aversion to confrontation, as I find most blog debates quickly get heated, and then people just start animalistically defending their own point without actually debating the topic.  But the more I think about it, the more I’m starting to think that I just don’t truly believe that any one viewpoint is correct.  I have theories about the world and how it works, but I could be completely wrong, and I accept that fact.  I don’t think that just because something could be wrong, I should ignore that viewpoint entirely, as I could learn alot from considering it.  I don’t ‘believe’ in any one religion or religion in general, but I want to learn as much as I can about each one, because who knows where I’ll come across an answer to a question I have or a thought I may never have had before?  I’m not a solipsist, because I don’t deny the existence of objective reality, but I don’t think it can be entirely proven either, so I have to frame all of my assertions about objective reality through the lens that I may actually be talking about nothing.  I think that in order to consider all viewpoints, we can’t simply find the reason that one is wrong and then cast it out.  In order to gain anything from the viewpoint, we have to consider the implications that it makes about the world around us, and who knows, maybe we’ll learn something by doing so.  Just a thought, I’d love to hear yours below!!

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24 thoughts on “Believe Everything (Believe Nothing)

  1. In the final analysis i think very few people are actually in the business of opening their views up for change, rather the business of defending those views through challenges which they purposefully seek out. It’s like exercise.

    Now, didn’t i already disprove solipsism? 😉

  2. But which is more constructive, in your opinion? Is either business more or less valid than the other?

    Re: solipsism… where and when? If so, I’d love to hear it!

      • I must have missed that one, but allow me to put in my two cents…

        Solipsism doesn’t necessitate that the external world is self-generated, it simply asserts that it can’t be known to exist, since we only perceive it through our unreliable senses. The dream/hallucination concept is simply an analogy to help explain the idea. The other popular analogy is the ‘matrix’ one. If we are all just plugged into a computer simulation (which we may find out soon: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/12/12/physicists-universe-simulation-test-university-of-washington-matrix_n_2282745.html?utm_hp_ref=fb&src=sp&comm_ref=false ), then new information could be presented to us by the architect or the program itself.

        Further, if the only thing we need to validate a real experience is whether or not new information was presented to us, then all ‘revelatory experiences’ that have been had by prophets and bozos alike are validated. Surely you’re not suggesting that?

      • Why not? We’re speaking in hypotheticals aren’t we?

        If not, imagine a person came up to you and told you that God told him there was going to be a flood. If that flood happened exactly as the person said, by your test that person’s delusion would be verified, as the knowledge of the flood could not have been in his mind beforehand, right? Or am I misunderstanding the test?

        • Why deal in hypotheticals? Better to stick to natural reality. No prophecy, that i’m aware of, has ever borne true. No new information, therefore, has ever been revealed.

      • Sorry, had to do it.

        Well if we’re barring hypotheticals I guess I have nothing else to posit, because, you’re right, we can’t prove any prophecy or delusion has ever presented new information.

        But, back to solipsism: if reality is simulated rather than self-generated, is there a test that can disprove it?

          • Yeah, i’ve seen the articles on it. Interesting stuff. The question is, though, what makes “you” think its a simulation. If you can locate the thing (or things) that raises your suspicion then i think we might be able zero in on that.

          • Well as I said in the post, I won’t commit to ‘believing’ that it is a simulation, but I admit to believing that it’s entirely possible.

            If I had to commit to a belief though, this is pretty close to something I would commit to, though I don’t think we could define the ‘simulated universes’ using our vocabulary or understanding. Again, it’s simply an analogy to attempt to grasp the concept.

  3. I could not agree with you more, I think. Seriously, I’m a little punchy as I had to spend some extra last night getting pics to position right on my newest blog post (Where Were We Now?). I consider myself, publicly anyway, as a doubting agnostic, but I am perhaps better described as a critical realist (of Roy Wood Sellars vintage – a bit out of date maybe, or maybe not, but so be it either way). As a result I find myself doing what you do, debating in both directions. Of course, I’ve never won an argument! Have you?

    • I like to claim little victories here and there to myself, but no not really. But I guess that’s the point I’m trying to make. I find it more constructive to try to come to some sort of conclusion with a person, instead of just trying to win one for the home team.

  4. Amen to that, bro. It realistically seems to me that in the fundamental arguments (God or no god; immaterial mind or physical mind; natural morality or ontologically dictated morality) it always come to one point in the argument when no deductions are left, and there is only inductive leaps (with the stress on leap).

    I translate that to mean a philosophy of belief, with a heavy dose of psychological and cultural make-up. This is the song I’ve been singing lately, but can find no choir to join. I need to find some material on formation of belief (all the rationalists on both sides always imply the believe absurdly nothing, because their conclusions are simply certain).

    • I’ve reached that impasse with several people as well, and I always attempt to make the leap toward their viewpoint in order to debate it, but I rarely find this reciprocated. While the more civil debaters usually just ‘agree to disagree,’ most will simply rely on the ‘I’m right because I’m right,’ argument, which hasn’t worked on me since the third time my sister tried it on me when I was 5.

  5. You are in a quantum superposistion of states, so to speak. 😀 Actually, I am going to discuss an idea I call quantum solipsism in my blog sometime in the next few weeks.

  6. This is the tune I have been singing lately, to piggyback c emerson’s point, that pure empiricism, evaluated by the same standard as most examine God, does not possess any reason to warrant assent to it and cannot serve itself as the reason for belief. If I concede to an individual that things appear to that person in a certain way, what reason will one adduce for going beyond that to an assent ( that is, to a belief) that they are that way? Any reason one cares to bring forward is inevitably going to rest upon some large claims about the world, claims that are surely not more, but rather less compelling than the experiences that led that person to say that things appear to her thus and so.

    As I understand it, perceptual beliefs(I see my hand in front of my face), self-evident propositions(there is a world), analytic truths(2+2=4), uncontroversial reports of your own memory( I had breakfast this morning.), and also the holding of incorrigible beliefs(I am now conscious or I feel pain in my leg.) These beliefs arise in us directly and not as a result of inference and are often described as basic or foundational. They are beliefs that are rational to hold in appropriate circumstances and they are grounded in and justified by those circumstances. This is foundationalism, an intellectual tradition of which I am a member. The idea being that ‘good reasons’ will ultimately have to appeal to premises that are basic in the sense that they are not derived from further premises. For self-evident or analytic propositions believing them follows from understanding them; they can be basic for anyone. However, with perceptual and incorrigible beliefs, and those based on memory, the individual’s and the community’s–in the case of religious belief—experience is all-important. These beliefs reflect experience, and such experience is ultimately unique to each individual. And so for such a belief to be basic is for it to be basic for someone. For the basicality of these beliefs is relative to the believer’s range of experience or information. Of course, our own experiences often overlap: We all see a stump and we all believe we see a stump on the basis of our experience. But it is still true, that what counts as basic for me depends upon the content of my experience.

    In my estimation, it is possible to think and to experience the universe, and ourselves as a part of it, in both religious and naturalistic ways. For those who sometimes experience life religiously, it can be entirely rational to form beliefs reflecting that mode of experience. At the same time it is equally rational for those who do not participate in the field of religious experience not to hold such beliefs, and to assume that these experiences are simply projections of our human desires and ideals. In other words, we are facing an issue of fact which is at present veiled in ambiguity, so that both belief and disbelief at present carry with them the risk of profound error. The believer risks the possibility of being self-deceived and the non-believer risks shutting out the most valuable of all realities. Given this choice, William James would urge, and surely with reason and evidence, that we have the right to choose for ourselves. People are therefore justified in holding beliefs that are grounded either wholly in their own religious experience or in the experience of the historical tradition to which they belong, this being in turn confirmed by their own much slighter range and intensity of religious experience. It seems that we stand, as finite and ignorant beings, in a universe that both invites religious belief and yet holds over us the possibility that this invitation may be a deception.

    Sorry, for the long comment.

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