• creativesoul
    8.8k
    Let us start by supposing that there are two opposing opinions on some matter. Is there a tried and true universally applicable method of determining for ourselves what's best to believe regarding the subject matter?
  • Outlander
    608
    Depends. Is this matter of any relevance or importance to us?

    Assuming it is and we are one of the relevant parties or stakeholders. Is what could be lost worth what could be gained? How sure are the chances of both? Or that we even understand the matter in full detail?
  • Pantagruel
    1k
    Let us start by supposing that there are two opposing opinions on some matter. Is there a tried and true universally applicable method of determining for ourselves what's best to believe regarding the subject matter?creativesoul

    It seems to me this hinges on what was meant by "best to believe."
  • creativesoul
    8.8k


    Change it to which opinions or parts thereof are true.
  • Pantagruel
    1k
    Change it to which opinions or parts thereof are true.creativesoul

    So you are basically asking if there is a universal method of identifying truth? Again, that would depend on the context.
  • tim wood
    5.4k
    Let us start by supposing that there are two opposing opinions on some matter. Is there a tried and true universally applicable method of determining for ourselves what's best to believe regarding the subject matter?creativesoul
    Which opinion is best to believe? Bespoke? Likely. "A tried and true universally applicable method"? I think not.

    Had you asked if there were any "tried and true universally applicable method" to determine fact or truth, then you've got a discussion, but one needing preliminary remarks on the terms used. But as a practical matter, about practical concerns, I think necessarily yes.
  • fdrake
    4.2k
    Intellectual hygiene.

    The reasons for accepting a specific claim will depend on the claim and the evidence for it. I doubt there is a general recipe that applies to all claims and all evidence that will tell you just when to believe and when not to believe. I believe it is much more productive to think of adjustments that can be made to one's own propensities to believe and personal evaluation of whether a claim is justified. There is a huge asymmetry between how easy it is to show something is flawed or impoverished and how hard it is to show something is a well justified complete picture. It's easier to demonstrate falsehood than truth, and easier to find a flaw than construct a position.

    Untrustworthy people or institutions will use that asymmetry, letting you construct their position for them while never spelling out the complete picture, and being unable to say what would make them change their mind about the statements/the defeaters for their justifications of it, or their interpretations of evidence.

    So here are some rules of thumb I find helpful:

    (1) Sources, is the person's claim backed up by data?

    (2) Is it from a person or institution you trust?

    (2a) An institution that relies on sourced arguments that terminate in interpretations of data is a more reliable truth teller than otherwise.
    (2b) A person who has a habit of backing up their claims with sources or data, or at least tells you where they're getting their information from, is a more reliable truth teller than otherwise.
    (2c) When a person or institution uses a sourced argument, can you find other people or institutions which do the same thing? Can you find ones that you cannot establish are politically partisan who do the same thing?

    (3) Be on the lookout for question substitution and cognitive shortcuts; are a person or institution's claims regarding a question actually demonstrating a much weaker or different claim? EG: "There are racial differences in intelligence" vs "There are statistically significant differences between the mean scores of race categories in IQ tests that are entirely attributable to biological factors"; the first is a lazy claim that relies on a lot of priming and framing to be interpreted as true, it does not spell out its truth conditions or justifying conditions or potential defeaters, whereas the second spells out its truth conditions, justifying conditions and gives a recipe for constructing defeaters. Find the latter kind of statement more worthy of investigation and plausible entertainment than the former.

    (4) The form a question is posed in or a claim is made are not innocuous and innocent; we can be primed to alter our dispositions. If the truth conditions of a claim are only explicable (as in, can be stated), given that you already are predisposed to evaluate it as true, make some extra effort to doubt that claim.

    (5) If you're looking to cut through noise, don't use raw Google to check something, use Google scholar. That will give you access to peer reviewed papers, their abstracts will tell you who wrote them and sometimes who funded them, which you can check for conflict of interest if you don't trust them. You also get a sense of how much that work is used by their citation count, though it is not a particularly good measure of inherent truth or usefulness for various reasons like peer review being its own kind of filter bubble.

    (6) Consume media that reacts more slowly than Twitter and other social media. It takes longer to read a thinkpiece and follow its sources than to knee jerk True/False assign a soundbite, but over a long time of practicing intellectual hygiene you get a more fruitful knee jerk reaction; True/False/Frame or Priming dependent/Plausible/Well justified.

    (7) No one is immune to the effects of ideology or thinking from the wrong perspective about something. Do not let yourself be filterbubbled and confirm all your suspicions through constant saturation in their content. As much as it pains you, if you're on the right read what the left is saying, if you're on the left read what the right is saying. And try your hardest not to dismiss something just because it's from a source you're discinclined to like.

    (8) Dismissing a source due to being unreliable should be done on a domain by domain basis: if you trust the UK newspaper the Guardian on one topic (say, to report the effects of healthcare spending cuts), that doesn't mean you should trust it on another (say, to report about security overreach from British institutions - their team of journalists that dealt with Snowden got dissolved and their head was replaced with someone very sympathetic to GCHQ).

    (9) The more domains a source relies on bullshit to justify its claims in, the less trustworthy it is (like the UK's Sun).

    We are always in error, the goal is to learn to be less wrong.
  • Mww
    1.8k


    Judge conflicting opinions with something of demonstrably greater certainty.
  • creativesoul
    8.8k
    So you are basically asking if there is a universal method of identifying truth?Pantagruel

    Not so much. The very idea that we can identify something bears the burden of explaining what that particular thing is.

    But what does it mean to talk in terms of "identifying truth"?

    I am inquiring to see if there is a universally reliable method for ascertaining which - if any - of multiple competing reports upon the same things is true?

    Is there a reliable method for discriminating between true and false statements?
  • creativesoul
    8.8k
    Is this matter of any relevance or importance to us?Outlander

    I would think that knowing what sorts of things can be true and what makes them so is of the utmost relevance, significance, and/or importance to anyone and everyone attempting to successfully navigate the world they live in.

    Wouldn't you?
  • creativesoul
    8.8k
    Intellectual hygiene.

    The reasons for accepting a specific claim will depend on the claim and the evidence for it. I doubt there is a general recipe that applies to all claims and all evidence that will tell you just when to believe and when not to believe. I believe it is much more productive to think of adjustments that can be made to one's own propensities to believe and personal evaluation of whether a claim is justified. There is a huge asymmetry between how easy it is to show something is flawed or impoverished and how hard it is to show something is a well justified complete picture. It's easier to demonstrate falsehood than truth, and easier to find a flaw than construct a position.

    Untrustworthy people or institutions will use that asymmetry, letting you construct their position for them while never spelling out the complete picture, and being unable to say what would make them change their mind about the statements/the defeaters for their justifications of it, or their interpretations of evidence.

    So here are some rules of thumb I find helpful:

    (1) Sources, is the person's claim backed up by data?

    (2) Is it from a person or institution you trust?

    (2a) An institution that relies on sourced arguments that terminate in interpretations of data is a more reliable truth teller than otherwise.
    (2b) A person who has a habit of backing up their claims with sources or data, or at least tells you where they're getting their information from, is a more reliable truth teller than otherwise.
    (2c) When a person or institution uses a sourced argument, can you find other people or institutions which do the same thing? Can you find ones that you cannot establish are politically partisan who do the same thing?

    (3) Be on the lookout for question substitution and cognitive shortcuts; are a person or institution's claims regarding a question actually demonstrating a much weaker or different claim? EG: "There are racial differences in intelligence" vs "There are statistically significant differences between the mean scores of race categories in IQ tests that are entirely attributable to biological factors"; the first is a lazy claim that relies on a lot of priming and framing to be interpreted as true, it does not spell out its truth conditions or justifying conditions or potential defeaters, whereas the second spells out its truth conditions, justifying conditions and gives a recipe for constructing defeaters. Find the latter kind of statement more worthy of investigation and plausible entertainment than the former.

    (4) The form a question is posed in or a claim is made are not innocuous and innocent; we can be primed to alter our dispositions. If the truth conditions of a claim are only explicable (as in, can be stated), given that you already are predisposed to evaluate it as true, make some extra effort to doubt that claim.

    (5) If you're looking to cut through noise, don't use raw Google to check something, use Google scholar. That will give you access to peer reviewed papers, their abstracts will tell you who wrote them and sometimes who funded them, which you can check for conflict of interest if you don't trust them. You also get a sense of how much that work is used by their citation count, though it is not a particularly good measure of inherent truth or usefulness for various reasons like peer review being its own kind of filter bubble.

    (6) Consume media that reacts more slowly than Twitter and other social media. It takes longer to read a thinkpiece and follow its sources than to knee jerk True/False assign a soundbite, but over a long time of practicing intellectual hygiene you get a more fruitful knee jerk reaction; True/False/Frame or Priming dependent/Plausible/Well justified.

    (7) No one is immune to the effects of ideology or thinking from the wrong perspective about something. Do not let yourself be filterbubbled and confirm all your suspicions through constant saturation in their content. As much as it pains you, if you're on the right read what the left is saying, if you're on the left read what the right is saying. And try your hardest not to dismiss something just because it's from a source you're discinclined to like.

    (8) Dismissing a source due to being unreliable should be done on a domain by domain basis: if you trust the UK newspaper the Guardian on one topic (say, to report the effects of healthcare spending cuts), that doesn't mean you should trust it on another (say, to report about security overreach from British institutions - their team of journalists that dealt with Snowden got dissolved and their head was replaced with someone very sympathetic to GCHQ).

    (9) The more domains a source relies on bullshit to justify its claims in, the less trustworthy it is (like the UK's Sun).

    We are always in error, the goal is to learn to be less wrong.
    fdrake

    Ah drake...

    That deserves permanent preservation!

    Brilliant. Beautiful. Clear. Concise. Germane. Practical.

    The agreement resonated within while reading. Literally... a visceral affect/effect.

    Thank you. My respect for you has just increased exponentially.
  • creativesoul
    8.8k
    I would advise caution regarding 2a and 2b... but that does not take anything away that matters.
  • creativesoul
    8.8k
    Are so and so being effected/affected in 'disproportionate' numbers?

    The data may lend some weak support to charges and/or implications of race discrimination by showing that there is a larger percentage of X's being Y'd than other races/ethnic groups. However, it could be the case that out of every group being Y'd, the X's far outnumber the individuals in any other group, and everyone is being Y'd, so...

    The quantity of X's being Y'd is indeed much higher than the quantity of any other group, as one would expect without any racial underpinnings whatsoever. If one compares the number of X's to the overall number of those being Y'd and arrives at knowing that that percentage is very high(say 55%), then one could claim that that is the evidence that shows a disproportionate amount of X's are getting Y'd.

    However, from there it does not warrant further concluding that such 'disproportionate' numbers count as sufficient evidence for, or proof of, discrimination. It's not.
  • creativesoul
    8.8k
    Had you asked if there were any "tried and true universally applicable method" to determine fact or truth, then you've got a discussion, but one needing preliminary remarks on the terms used.tim wood

    That's no discussion I want to get involved in. It devolves into arguing about which definition is best when faced with competing opinions about the meaning of the same word.

    That is precisely the issue I'm looking to resolve.
  • tim wood
    5.4k
    That's no discussion I want to get involved in. It devolves into arguing about which definition is best when faced with competing opinions about the meaning of the same word.creativesoul

    Clearly your difficulty is plain to see. Let's see: you want a recipe, or an algorithm. But no particulars. No ingredients, No measurements. And you're not clear about distinctions between "opposing opinions" and how to determine the fact or truth of a matter. Don't think in terms of definitions if those bother you; think instead of gaining clarity, getting on solid ground, of putting your ducks in a row, arranging your arguments, & etc.

    Here's a start: what's something you'd like to "determine"? Interested folks will participate, and maybe a method will emerge.
  • creativesoul
    8.8k


    Which statements are true and what makes them so?

    How's that?

    :wink:

    Same solution.
  • creativesoul
    8.8k
    Let's see: you want a recipe, or an algorithm. But no particulars. No ingredients, No measurements.tim wood

    That's just a misreading altogether. It's also very compelling evidence - to me in particular - that you've not read much of my writing.

    :smile:
  • I like sushi
    2.4k
    The Socratic Method is a nice place to start - it encourages conflicting opinions to actively question each other with more focus on articulating these opinions and offering up investigative lines of questioning rather than relying on terms like ‘that’s dumb’ or crass use of hyperbole.
  • Harry Hindu
    3.5k
    Let us start by supposing that there are two opposing opinions on some matter. Is there a tried and true universally applicable method of determining for ourselves what's best to believe regarding the subject matter?creativesoul
    Logic.
  • TheMadFool
    7.3k
    Is there a tried and true universally applicable method of determining for ourselves what's best to believe regarding the subject matter?creativesoul

    My initial reaction was "logic" is the answer - look at the arguments and decide which position has the best ones.

    However, if we look at it closely, opposing positions are already reasoned to by their respective proponents. In other words both have a rightful claim to logic and rationality.

    The difference between them, ergo, is not logic in the sense one side has used it well and the other side has not; rather the actual source of disputes is the assumptions each side has made in their arguments and assumptions are not a matter of logic. Assumptions are made in the low visibility fog of ignorance and you may just as well flip a coin to decide which ones you want to base your views on for logic is utterly useless in this regard.

    I suggest we refrain from quarreling because if logic isn't the issue then everything is a matter of opinion.
  • Pantagruel
    1k
    The difference between them, ergo, is not logic in the sense one side has used it well and the other side has not; rather the actual source of disputes is the assumptions each side has made in their arguments and assumptions are not a matter of logic. Assumptions are made in the low visibility fog of ignoranceTheMadFool

    Common sense is the most fairly distributed thing in the world, for each one thinks he is so well-endowed with it that even those who are hardest to satisfy in all other matters are not in the habit of desiring more of it than they already have.
    ~Descartes
  • fdrake
    4.2k


    I'm glad you enjoyed it.

    Something I want to draw a distinction between: framing and priming. Priming is when someone shows you a picture like this:

    Boris-Johnson-Stupid-Face.jpg

    Next to the statement: "Brexit negotiations stall again due to harsh terms from Bojo's Britain" - the intended effect being that you recognise the face as being stupid and angry, and it resonates with the statement phrasing (like calling Boris Johnson Bojo and making "harsh" match up with the scowl). Priming in general is explicitly applying some prompt or accompanying device to some other statement/claim/argument that is intended to make someone more likely to interpret the statement/claim/argument in the intended mood. Successful priming strongly promotes the intended interpretive mood and its behavioural corollaries.

    No one can ignore priming effects, just like you can't look at this sentence without reading it.

    It's a well documented thing (though there are plenty of papers that exaggerate its effects). Newspapers especially use priming to convey the mood they intend you to read their article in.

    Now framing; a frame is a context of interpretation for a claim. No one is in full control of their context of interpretation for any claim. When US Republicans make "states rights" arguments, say against gay marriage being a federal law, the purpose of that (and it was designed by Goldwater IIRC for this regarding civil rights) is to impede the adoption of the law by changing the narrative that supports the imposition from a religious/prejudicial one to an autonomy/jurisprudential one. People who believe in "small government" will be able to say "it's a state's decision" and argue in terms of the benefits of political devolution even though before it was a federal law binding all of 'em that gay marriage was not allowed .

    Questions can prime for framing: "Should individuals always be allowed to decide who can use their business?" as a counter argument against "Gay marriage should be legal US wide" primes people to talk in terms of the supporting narrative for the "small government" argument.

    Also wanted to add 2 to the list that you see on the forum:

    (10) A priori reasoning is over-rated; people's speculations are done within a frame, a priori reasoning often uncovers the founding principles of the frame rather than the truth of the matter. Logic alone doesn't let you decide the truth or falsity of any contingent proposition, one whose truth maker is not arbitrary; and for this reason almost all propositions we encounter , reject or adopt are contingently true or false. "Self evident" usually just means "it seems this way to me for reasons I cannot state". Another way of saying this: satori is not a justification or evidence, it is a frame announcing its presuppositions.

    (11) Do not hang back and simply ask questions; if you position yourself always as the critic and the cynic, you can bolster your own beliefs simply by rejecting all others - and it is much easier to show a flaw or falsify than to get a good picture of something or confirm. Do not let the asymmetry in difficulty between justification and falsification be a reason your beliefs never change; all doubt is done within a motivating context - a frame - which can, itself, be more or less occlusive or productive to generating well justified beliefs regarding the matter at hand.
  • TheMadFool
    7.3k
    Common sense is the most fairly distributed thing in the world, for each one thinks he is so well-endowed with it that even those who are hardest to satisfy in all other matters are not in the habit of desiring more of it than they already have.
    ~Descartes
    Pantagruel

    :up: :ok:

    Clearly, he was not entirely correct. Some of us think they have more common sense than others.
  • Pantagruel
    1k
    Clearly, he was wrong. Some of us think they have more common sense than others.TheMadFool

    And those are the people who are always eager to share it....
  • fdrake
    4.2k


    Common sense is over rated. The only reason anyone would say that anything non-trivial is common sense is because they cannot or will not justify it for other reasons. People appealing to common sense usually do so regarding matters where evidence and careful argument is mandatory. "Geopolitics, only common sense!", "Economics, only common sense!", "The mind, it's common sense!". It's usually just another way to avoid providing evidence or argument and to mock whoever or whatever you disagree with. A "salt of the earth" version of self evidence.
  • Pantagruel
    1k
    Common sense is over rated.fdrake

    Maybe. I think, as Descartes says, the reality is that everyone thinks they have common sense, implying that not everyone does. So, yes, maybe the appeal to commonsense (in an argument) is overrated. I think, by definition, common-sense (when it is genuine) is absolutely fundamental.
  • bongo fury
    576
    Conflict Resolution

    Let us start by supposing that there are two opposing opinions on some matter. Is there a tried and true universally applicable method of determining for ourselves what's best to believe regarding the subject matter?
    creativesoul

    My emphasis, and probably not the OP's, in which case apologies for going off topic. Anyways...

    Something often missed is a variety of advantages which may be enjoyed by a discourse that tolerates both of two opposed opinions on some matter. I don't say that pointing this out will necessarily lead to world peace, but I do wonder whether the extent (admittedly partial) of its observable application might deserve further scrutiny.

    An obvious hoped-for benefit (of the mentioned toleration) is the peaceful co-existence of the disputants. But then, an associated cost is a notional divide between matters of fact and of opinion, which is of course a price almost universally thought to be worth paying. And so the conflict is merely deferred: have your opinions about this or that regardless of mine, but expect your factual claims to stand or fall against mine.

    What we usually fail to notice is that our disagreements about certain cases, if they are the intrinsically unclear ones, are often the largely unconscious method by which we keep the overall shape of the discourse in good repair, so that our usage of mutually exclusive terms remains just that.

    We disagree about borderline cases of, say, "acceptable abortion" not necessarily to ensure the "correct" judgment in those cases: even though that might be exactly what we think we are doing, such that if only we had our way... etc. The disagreements serve, rather, to maintain the myth (or social construct) of an extension of the word or concept, made all the more realistic by its having a fuzzy border: cases that are variously judged to be both included and not included. That in itself might be useful for the discourse; but what it also probably helps with is the parallel maintenance of the extension of a mutually exclusive concept, perhaps "murder".

    To the extent (debatable no doubt) that "abortion" and "murder" are recognised as mutually exclusive, the borderline cases of each fix a theoretical limit on the possible reach of the other. Any even alleged abortion then exemplifies (in the discourse) a clear enough case of non-murder. And likewise, any alleged case of murder is a clear non-case of abortion. What we can offer the recalcitrant extremists on either side, as an incentive to join in the discourse on this basis, is the surprising prospect of opinions creating complete unanimity with respect to judgements of clear non-cases, and therefore the impossibility of pointing certain words at certain cases, exactly as those same opinions seem to be expressing a free choice of what words to point at what cases. Not only do the enemy camps share common ground but their battles maintain it in good condition.

    The surprising result is explained when we notice that disagreements about borderline cases are themselves negotiated, because each party agrees (implicitly) to agree which judgements are real events inside the discourse, and which ones are, as exemplified by attempts to point "black" at white, or "murder" at abortion, simply invalid, and (literally) not counted. So speech acts will not be more (or less) defiant of others than is good for their credibility as contributions to the implicit shared project.

    Another, probably less emotive, example might be consciousness. Ok, much more emotive...
  • creativesoul
    8.8k
    Let us start by supposing that there are two opposing opinions on some matter. Is there a tried and true universally applicable method of determining for ourselves what's best to believe regarding the subject matter?
    — creativesoul
    Logic.
    Harry Hindu

    Logic presupposes truth.
  • creativesoul
    8.8k
    However, if we look at it closely, opposing positions are already reasoned to by their respective proponents. In other words both have a rightful claim to logic and rationality.TheMadFool

    I think that that's exactly wrong in that it is true, but totally irrelevant.

    Either can say what they want about whether or not they are thinking logically and rationally. Saying that and being that are two completely different things. Being that is not solely up to the speaker. Saying that is.
  • TheMadFool
    7.3k
    I think that that's exactly wrong.

    Either can say what they want about whether or not they are thinking logically and rationally. Saying that and being that are two completely different things. Being that is not solely up to the speaker. Saying that is.
    creativesoul

    Common sense is the most fairly distributed thing in the world, for each one thinks he is so well-endowed with it that even those who are hardest to satisfy in all other matters are not in the habit of desiring more of it than they already have.
    ~Descartes
    Pantagruel

    The two of you concur in your outlook but don't you think it's equally a fault to think that some people lack common sense as it is for us to think we have common sense? In both cases we think we're better at it than we actually are, one in an absolute sense and other in a relative sense.
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