• Thorongil
    3.2k
    In another thread, Agustino provided two very interesting quotes from Kierkegaard and William James.

    Kierkegaard writes: "One may be deceived in many ways: one may be deceived by believing the false, but one may also be deceived by not believing the true [...] Whose recovery is more doubtful? [...] To awaken one who is sleeping or to awaken one who, awaking, dreams that he is awake?"

    James writes: "Scepticism, then, is not avoidance of option; it is option of a certain particular kind of risk. Better risk loss of truth than chance of error,-that is your faith-vetoer's exact position."

    These quotes, I admit, almost cracked my skepticism, but then it occurred to me what such arguments for faith, particularly religious faith, are assuming, which is doxastic voluntarism. Such a term is not often bandied about on these forums, but it effectively states that human beings have the freedom to choose their beliefs. Doxastic determinism claims the reverse: we do not possess the freedom to choose what we believe in. Before I go on, it's interesting to note that if actions follow from beliefs, and doxastic determinism is true, then determinism more generally is true.

    So, what reply can we give to Kierkegaard and James? I would say that it is at least not certain whether I can choose my beliefs or not. If I cannot, then it makes no difference whether I ought to make the leap of faith, as these philosophers would encourage me to do, for I have no control over whether I will or not. However, I would go further and argue that doxastic determinism is true, though at present only by means of an appeal to personal experience. I have never felt that what I believed in was in any way up to me. True, I have witnessed my beliefs change over time, but I could not honestly tell you why they did. One would like to think they did because I became convinced by certain arguments, but what exactly causes me to be convinced of said arguments in the first place? It can't be because they are true, since we are convinced by the false more often than not. What else is it? I suppose, then, one might assume doxastic determinism to be true in the absence of any coherent explanation for how doxastic voluntarism could be true. I welcome anyone to provide me with one, though.
  • Agustino
    11.3k
    @Thorongil
    I would say that it is at least not certain whether I can choose my beliefs or not.Thorongil
    Choosing your beliefs doesn't have to be so black and white. Maybe you can't choose freely in any circumstance - some beliefs are forced on you. But can you influence at least some of the beliefs you have? Even a Spinozist would be forced to admit that you can, since you yourself are part of the causal chain that will determine what your beliefs are. For a Kantian/Schopenhaurian it's even easier - freedom is of the noumenal, not of the phenomenal, hence the choice remains free sub specie aeternitatis. And ... nothing is certain - certainty is incoherent. I don't even understand what it would mean for something to be certain other than perceiving everything all at once - which is impossible - the view from everywhere :p .

    If I cannot, then it makes no difference whether I ought to make the leap of faith, as these philosophers argue, for I have no control over whether I do or not.
    Not having complete control is different from having no control. If you want to argue that you have no control, you dig yourself too deep to ever get out. If you have no control over any of your beliefs, then there is not point to study philosophy. Just stop. You have no control over what you believe anyway. If you have no control over what you believe there is no point in talking about it. Just be silent.

    However, I would go further and argue that doxastic determinism is true, though at present only by means of an appeal to personal experience. I have never felt that what I believed in was in any way up to me. True, I have witnessed my beliefs change over time, but I could not honestly tell you why they did. One would like to think they did because I became convinced from certain arguments, but what exactly causes me to be convinced of said arguments in the first place?
    Sure, determinism (including doxastic) is true, pace Spinoza, but it doesn't follow that you have no control over what you believe. You do have control, but it's a limited kind of control. You're only one of the factors that determines what your beliefs will be - there are many others external of you which also come in to make the determination happen. The fact that you have never been able to take all factors into account - because probably you don't know them - does not mean that you haven't also been a factor. You don't know the cause, because knowing the cause of your beliefs changing involves knowing all the factors which merge into what is the cause. But you certainly know part of the cause.

    As for why arguments, of any kind, convince you - there can be many causes coming into play. It can be due to your past experience, it can be due to your thought pattern, it can be due to what you want to be true, it can be due to reason, etc. An argument doesn't have to be true to convince you. It will convince you if it's not true so long as it agrees with your passions. If it is true, the argument may convince you because it agrees with your passions (in which case you are accidentally convinced, and you may become unconvinced) or because it agrees with your reason (in which case you remain convinced - your conviction is stable).

    It can't be because they are truth, since we are often convinced by the false more often than not.
    Hasty generalisation - just because the false convinces you many times does not mean that the true never convinces you.

    What else is it? I suppose, then, one might assume doxastic determinism to be true in the absence of any coherent explanation for how doxastic voluntarism could be true. I welcome anyone to provide me with one, though.
    Yes, sure, let's assume it to be true, but it doesn't help you in anyway. The position you really want to put forward to help you in your argument is doxastic FATALISM. Our beliefs may all be determined, but, surely, we also play a causal role in that determination - therefore there is a degree of freedom that we have by merely being causal agents. Doxastic fatalism on the other hand - that digs the hole too deep, and you can't climb out. If that is true, then you can consider none of your beliefs to be true, not even the belief in doxastic fatalism, because that too, you have been determined to believe in by factors entirely outside of your control and/or influence.
  • Wosret
    3.2k
    I don't really see the relevance, nor even appeal to being able to choose one's beliefs. I wish for them to be determined, as I'm sure that we all do. Determined by the true, the reasonable, and the good. What would be significant to me, is if what is said to determine our beliefs is something entirely irrelevant to facilitating true, good, and reasonable beliefs. This is not so easy to believe.

    Just like any argument of reason, appeal to values/emotions, or empirical demonstration, the quotes wish to persuade. No, you don't have a choice exactly about whether or not they will be persuasive to you, but that doesn't mean that they won't be persuasive. In fact, it sounded like they were somewhat persuasive, given how jarring you found them to be, and worthy of contemplation. Clearly not jarring enough though!
  • Thorongil
    3.2k
    Our beliefs may all be determined, but, surely, we also play a causal role in that determinationAgustino

    I take this to be the crux of your reply to me, which I appreciate, by the way. What is the direction of the causality in this case? It cannot be that I self-cause the beliefs that I have, for this would mean they sprang from nothing and have no reason for their existence. In fact, this would constitute a restatement of doxastic voluntarism. But I have the beliefs I do for many reasons, as you have pointed out; therefore, they cannot be self-caused. If you say that these various reasons cause me to have the beliefs I do, then I fail to see where the freedom to choose them can be sneaked in. Hence doxastic determinism remains true. On the other hand, you apparently cede its truth and now want to distinguish it from doxastic fatalism. Could you expand on what you mean by that? And what, precisely, is our role in the determination of our beliefs?
  • Monitor
    94
    Kierkegaard writes: " …..but one may also be deceived by not believing the true…. “

    James writes: "….. Better risk loss of truth than chance of error…."

    It seems they are speaking about the loss of an opportunity at an objective truth. That would certainly raise the stakes. But the discussion is dealing with belief or premise. Our premise is not truth since it’s not constant nor the same for everybody. And yes we make it up, and so we love it, and so we defend it. This would seem to be an operational necessity. Whatever the causal role we take, whatever endless loop of cost / benefit analysis are we not just taking the path of least resistance?
  • Agustino
    11.3k
    It cannot be that I self-cause the beliefs that I have, for this would mean they sprang from nothing and have no reason for their existence.Thorongil
    Well it depends Thorongil. Just like Hume/Kant/Schopenhauer, you have emptied the "I" of all possible constituents in the world. Why? Because for you, the I is the sustainer of the world. Sure, I don't disagree transcendentally, but that's not the "I" that I was referring to. What I'm referring to as "I" includes your body, your set of beliefs, your desires, etc. This "I", which is the entire framework of all of that, plays a causal role. For example, your desire to transcend the world, that certainly plays a causal role in whatever you do or believe. When your internal resources play a greater role in determining your behaviour than external forces, we say that you are "self-determined". Therein lies your freedom.

    But you are not born with such a self. Men are not born free (one of Spinoza's many great insights). Such a self is built, in time. Your self is made and created to a large degree by society, and the environment you grew in. Here is what Hume didn't see. This is where you get an ought from an is. Because your "self" is generated and sustained by your community, you owe much to that community, simply because it is somehow more "you" than you are. It is the cause that is responsible ultimately for your freedom.

    Only after you have developed a self can it become independent - and it does so, when your behavior becomes governed by your internal resources much more than by circumstance. Freedom is as difficult as it is rare.

    Could you expand on what you mean by that? And what, precisely, is our role in the determination of our beliefs?Thorongil
    To the first question. It is one thing to be determined to do something by causes (some of which are internal), and it is another thing to be destined to do something. When you are destined to do something you don't play a causal role - causes of any kind cannot alter the outcome, because it is your destiny. What is our role in the determination of our beliefs? The current beliefs, our desires, our physical body, etc. guide our perception and navigation through the world, and we interpret whatever happens to us through them. New beliefs, changes of belief, etc. all happen within this framework that we call "I". This framework, via top-down causality, determines (in some of us to a large degree) what we believe, how our beliefs change, etc. Imagine a street full of people going along in two different lanes, in two opposing directions. If you want to go say right, then you join the lane where people are all heading right, because otherwise you'd not be able to go right - you'd crash in others. That's how a system can play a top-down causal role on its parts. That is what you do as well in your life.
  • S
    10.2k
    It certainly seems very clear to me that there are at least some beliefs that I did not choose. I became convinced of them, I remain convinced, and I might - under certain circumstances - become unconvinced. But no matter how hard I try, I cannot choose to either disbelieve or believe certain things.

    It seems harder to identify cases in which I chose to believe or disbelieve something. Perhaps there are none. I can choose to, say, read a certain article, and that article might convince me of something, but the choice to read the article is not the choice to become convinced: the two are separate.
  • Agustino
    11.3k
    Try CBT. You will see that with practice you can alter even your most fundamental beliefs. No better proof than this.
  • S
    10.2k
    What I'm referring to as "I" includes your body, your set of beliefs, your desires, etc. This "I", which is the entire framework of all of that, plays a causal role. For example, your desire to transcend the world, that certainly plays a causal role in whatever you do or believe. When your internal resources play a greater role in determining your behaviour than external forces, we say that you are "self-determined". Therein lies your freedom.Agustino

    I'm not sure I'd say that because "my" desires (at least partially) determined my belief, that I (at least partially) determined my belief. In what sense are these desires even mine? Our disagreement might just be semantic, but I'm not sure about the relationship between desire, self, and causality (or determination).
  • S
    10.2k
    Try CBT. You will see that with practice you can alter even your most fundamental beliefs. No better proof than this.Agustino

    Is this not analogous to what I said about reading an article in one of my prior comments?

    My beliefs can indeed be altered, and might be altered by methods such as CBT, but I question the role that I play - if any - in altering my beliefs.

    Let's say I chose to practice CBT, and my beliefs were altered as a result. But I didn't choose to alter my beliefs, did I? I merely chose to try out a certain method in the hope that my beliefs would be altered. I acknowledge that I can do certain things which might, or might not, consequently alter my beliefs; but I don't accept that I can choose my beliefs.
  • Monitor
    94
    Let's say I chose to practice CBT, and my beliefs were altered as a result. But I didn't choose to alter my beliefs, did I? I merely chose to try out a certain method in the hope that my beliefs would be alteredSapientia

    Suppose your beliefs are altered. Do you accept and own those beliefs as yours or do you pass the responsibility to CBT? Aren't we just looking down the road and reevaluating what is really going to push us to the left or to the right? Your "choice" is your path of least resistance.
  • S
    10.2k
    Suppose your beliefs are altered. Do you accept and own those beliefs as yours or do you pass the responsibility to CBT?Monitor

    That looks like a false dilemma. The beliefs are mine, and they were caused, and caused most directly by something other than my decision to practice CBT. But it still doesn't follow that I chose to believe them, does it?

    I chose only to attempt to alter my beliefs, regardless of whether the attempt had succeeded or failed.

    Aren't we just looking down the road and reevaluating what is really going to push us to the left or to the right? Your "choice" is your path of least resistance.Monitor

    Not sure I follow. Can you spell it out?
  • Agustino
    11.3k
    Clearly the issue between us is one of definition. You merely define your "self" as something above and beyond your body, your thoughts, your desires, etc. So, just like Hume, you're left with your "self" being nothing. So of course your "self" can't cause anything. You don't even have one under that definition.
  • S
    10.2k
    Clearly the issue between us is one of definition. You merely define your "self" as something above and beyond your body, your thoughts, your desires, etc. So, just like Hume, you're left with your "self" being nothing. So of course your "self" can't cause anything. You don't even have one under that definition.Agustino

    Woh, hold your horses. I merely questioned the relationship between desire, self, and causality. So you're attacking a straw man.

    Of course I can cause things. I can cause my arm to move, for example. But I can't choose what to believe.
  • Agustino
    11.3k
    Well make your question more specific. I can't even begin to answer such a large question without going into what is meant by self, desire, and causality, something that would take pages upon pages of writing. So narrow down to something more specific please. As for attacking a strawman - I attacked nothing, merely pinpointed that you're using a different definition than I am.

    I'm not sure I'd say that because "my" desires (at least partially) determined my belief, that I (at least partially) determined my belief. In what sense are these desires even mine?Sapientia
    Precisely my point. You ask in what way they are even yours. I say that it is no question of being yours. They are you.
  • Monitor
    94
    I merely chose to try out a certain method in the hope that my beliefs would be alteredSapientia

    If I get drunk and say something inappropriate, Is that me or the liquor talking?

    Can you spell it out?Sapientia

    The discussion is about what is choosing / determining our beliefs. I guess I see correctly diagnosing the cause as irrelevant.
    Our premise / belief is not objective truth. It is Fallibilism at best. But if our rational mind is to survive and stay in charge is has to index it's choices from something. Believing something is true and "making it true for the time being" (for necessary operational purposes) are the same thing. We may be able to change to what extent things in our path are going to effect us but we still follow the path that is least resistant to what (we choose to believe) is beneficial.

    A Navy Seal undergoing agonizing, perhaps abusive, training can apparently quit any time he wants. He is encouraged to do so. It's only because, at the time, he considers quitting as worse, that he endures. What he accepts as "what quitting would mean" is a private truth whose origin cannot be assigned to a cause. He is following the path of least resistance. And that I believe, is testable and empirical.
  • S
    10.2k
    As for attacking a strawman - I attacked nothing, merely pinpointed that you're using a different definition than I am.Agustino

    You did more than merely claim that I'm using a different definition. You claimed that I "merely define my "self" as something above and beyond my body, my thoughts, my desires, etc.", and that is an assumption on your part. You then proceeded to criticise this definition.

    Precisely my point. You ask in what way they are even yours. I say that it is no question of being yours. They are you.Agustino

    Ok, well I say that they're not me, but are perhaps part of me. Surely I can differentiate between my self and my desires; my self and my body; my self and my thoughts. I'm not sure how to best define "self", but your way seems problematic.
  • Agustino
    11.3k
    Ok, well I say that they're not me, but are perhaps part of me.Sapientia

    So if they are part of you, and they cause some single belief of yours to change, does it not follow that you have caused part of your belief to change through that desire that is part of you?
  • S
    10.2k
    So if they are part of you, and they cause some single belief of yours to change, does it not follow that you have caused part of your belief to change through that desire that is part of you?Agustino

    Yes, I suppose so, in a sense, but that'd be just one factor of many, and a more remote one at that, at least in the example we discussed. But where does choice fit in here? It seems it's been overlooked. I no more choose my desires than I choose my beliefs. I can choose to attempt to change my beliefs, but whether or not they actually change seems outside of my control. I can largely control my actions, but I seem to have very little control - if any - over my beliefs.
  • Agustino
    11.3k
    But where does choice fit in here? It seems it's been overlooked. I no more choose my desires than I choose my beliefs. I can choose to attempt to change my beliefs, but whether or not they actually change seems outside of my control. I can largely control my actions, but I seem to have very little control - if any - over my beliefs.Sapientia

    @Sapientia Choice of whom? What is this "self" which you say is doing the choosing? It's not really a question of choice, since you are the framework formed by your current desires/beliefs, etc. As such, these things are not separate from you. But this framework, your self, exerts a top-down causality on individual beliefs and desires, similarly to the way a crowd of people exerts a top-down causality on an individual within the crowd. In this way, you have power over individual beliefs and can change them by making use of other beliefs/desires/thoughts that are already part of you. In this way, you are effectively changing and determining yourself.
  • S
    10.2k
    If I get drunk and say something inappropriate, is that me or the liquor talking?Monitor

    Good question. A bit of both, perhaps. It's you talking under the influence of alcohol.

    The discussion is about what is choosing / determining our beliefs. I guess I see correctly diagnosing the cause as irrelevant.Monitor

    For me at least, the discussion is primarily about whether or not one can choose to believe something; not about what it is that makes choices. The latter is easily answered: I make choices. As for what determines our beliefs, that question isn't so easily answered, but again, seems besides the point.

    We may be able to change to what extent things in our path are going to effect us but we still follow the path that is least resistant to what (we choose to believe) is beneficial.Monitor

    Whether we can "choose to believe" is precisely what's being questioned. You might think that unimportant, but it's the topic of discussion, and it's what I'm interested in pursuing, and you haven't dissuaded me from this pursuit.

    Ironically, if I could simply choose to believe otherwise, this wouldn't be a problem.

    A Navy Seal undergoing agonizing, perhaps abusive, training can apparently quit any time he wants. He is encouraged to do so. It's only because, at the time, he considers quitting as worse, that he endures. What he accepts as "what quitting would mean" is a private truth whose origin cannot be assigned to a cause. He is following the path of least resistance. And that I believe, is testable and empirical.Monitor

    What do you think this demonstrates? That we can and do choose to believe certain things? If so, I don't see how that supposedly follows. If not, it seems beside the point.
  • unenlightened
    3.6k
    I don't remember where it comes from, but there is a distinction I like between belief and faith. Belief, that this bridge will support my weight, say, may range from a 'possibly' to a 'probably' to a 'certainly'. Faith is stepping onto the bridge and crossing the chasm. Faith remains a choice even if belief is determined by experience. Thus I do not much believe in justice, seeing little of it, but I try to be faithful to it nonetheless.
  • Agustino
    11.3k
    I don't remember where it comes from, but there is a distinction I like between belief and faith. Belief, that this bridge will support my weight, say, may range from a 'possibly' to a 'probably' to a 'certainly'. Faith is stepping onto the bridge and crossing the chasm. Faith remains a choice even if belief is determined by experience. Thus I do not much believe in justice, seeing little of it, but I try to be faithful to it nonetheless.unenlightened

    Interesting... so one may have faith even if they don't believe so long as they step on the bridge and cross?
  • S
    10.2k
    Choice of whom? What is this "self" which you say is doing the choosing? It's not really a question of choice, since you are the framework formed by your current desires/beliefs, etc. As such, these things are not separate from you. But this framework, your self, exerts a top-down causality on individual beliefs and desires, similarly to the way a crowd of people exerts a top-down causality on an individual within the crowd. In this way, you have power over individual beliefs and can change them by making use of other beliefs/desires/thoughts that are already part of you. In this way, you are effectively changing and determining yourself.Agustino

    I'm not sure how to best describe my "self", but I understand my "self" as identity, in terms of ability and location, in relation to other, and probably in other ways. I am a subject, an agent, a human, a person, I am Sapientia. I am here, in England, at this point in time. I think, feel, act, etc.

    You say that it's not really a question of choice, but that's where the controversy lies, so it's all about choice.

    But then, perhaps we could phrase it in terms of will. I can will to believe something, but again, there's the issue of whether it's my will which determines my belief or other factors, or, if it's both - which does so to a greater extent.
  • Agustino
    11.3k
    I'm not sure how to best describe my "self", but I understand my "self" as identity, in terms of ability and location, in relation to other, and probably in other ways. I am a subject, an agent, a human, a person, I am Sapientia. I am here, in England, at this point in time. I think, feel, act, etc.

    You say that it's not really a question of choice, but that's where the controversy lies, so it's all about choice.
    Sapientia

    See the question of "having" choice is the wrong way to put it no? If the self is the framework of your beliefs, tendencies, desires, thoughts, physical body, etc. then it follows that this "self" determines, via parts of it, other parts of it, and therefore plays an active role in whatever will become of it. There is no "free will", but there most certainly is freedom - and freedom is being self-determined, meaning that your actions end up depending much more on internal determinations than external ones.
  • S
    10.2k
    See the question of "having" choice is the wrong way to put it no? If the self is the framework of your beliefs, tendencies, desires, thoughts, physical body, etc. then it follows that this "self" determines, via parts of it, other parts of it, and therefore plays an active role in whatever will become of it. There is no "free will", but there most certainly is freedom - and freedom is being self-determined, meaning that your actions end up depending much more on internal determinations than external ones.Agustino

    Ok, but actions weren't the issue, were they? Beliefs were.
  • Agustino
    11.3k
    But the same holds for your beliefs no? Once you have grown a self, (note you aren't born with a self), individual beliefs are, to a smaller or greater extent, caused by your "self" which is the larger framework of all your beliefs, etc. So this "self" determines via parts of it (a certain set of beliefs for example) another part of it (a belief in God for example).
  • S
    10.2k
    But the same holds for your beliefs no? Once you have grown a self, (note you aren't born with a self), individual beliefs are, to a smaller or greater extent, caused by your "self" which is the larger framework of all your beliefs, etc. So this "self" determines via parts of it (a certain set of beliefs for example) another part of it (a belief in God for example).Agustino

    I agree that beliefs can - and at times do - influence other beliefs, but I don't draw the same conclusions that you do, or define "self" in the way that you do.
  • Agustino
    11.3k
    Okay, fair enough. Regarding your definition, on a personal note, it's too vague for me. I can't touch it. What's identity in terms of ability and location, in relation to other, etc.? That sounds like something that would slip through one's fingers. Whereas when I think of the self according to my definition as the cumulation of desires, thoughts, beliefs, tendencies, etc. it feels like something I can touch. But that's me! :)
  • S
    10.2k
    Okay, fair enough. Regarding your definition, on a personal note, it's too vague for me. I can't touch it. What's identity in terms of ability and location, in relation to other, etc.? That sounds like something that would slip through one's fingers. Whereas when I think of the self according to my definition as the cumulation of desires, thoughts, beliefs, tendencies, etc. it feels like something I can touch. But that's me!Agustino

    I don't have a definition; only a set of things that I can point out in regard to my self. I haven't yet arrived at a definition.

    And besides, I gave examples of what I meant right after I said those things: I am a subject, an agent, a human, a person, I am Sapientia (identity). I am here, in England, at this point in time (location). I think, feel, act, etc., (ability). And most of those are relations to other, since I'm not thought, and I'm not England, and so on.

    Although, perhaps that was a rhetorical question.
  • unenlightened
    3.6k
    Interesting... so one may have faith even if they don't believe so long as they step on the bridge and cross?Agustino

    For example, I might not quite believe that someone is on the level, but 'give them the benefit of the doubt', and treat them as though they are. I don't have to believe that Christ is alive in every man to act as if he is, though I dare say belief would make it a tad easier. To put it very starkly, faith is how one lives, and belief is what one thinks, and there is not a necessary connection.
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