• Pinprick
    328
    I’m have several questions regarding belief and action, so it may be easier to just list them out.

    1. Are actions caused be beliefs? In some cases, perhaps more than some, the answer is obviously yes. We intentionally perform a certain action because we believe it will achieve the result we desire. However, there are other times when our actions seem to contradict our beliefs. What can we conclude from this? Are the beliefs that we take for granted as being permanent and unchanging actually very fluid so that in certain circumstances we change our minds and believe the opposite, and therefore act in such a way?

    2. Are we always aware of our beliefs? We may think we believe in the golden rule, but maybe we really don’t. Isn’t it possible that the social pressure to believe a certain statement is so great, and that our entire construct of the world, sense of self, morality, etc. is so dependent upon believing this statement that our subconscious will not allow our true belief to rise to the surface of consciousness? Much in the same way that cognitive dissonance affects our behavior?

    3. Could our actions cause our beliefs? Could it be that we generally behave in a very thoughtless manner (seems rather obvious to me), and that we form beliefs post hoc based on our actions? We may, again subconsciously, be aware that we act a certain way, and therefore conclude that we hold a belief that is consistent with our actions.
  • The Wu Way
    2
    I guess its important to understand how we determine what our beliefs are in the first place.

    How would you respond if I asked you to tell me your beliefs about a controversial topic such as abortion or gay marriage or immigration?

    Would your answer be the same or different if you were narrating this response to your family, or if you were giving an interview on CNN, as opposed to posting it on a discussion board. Or perhaps the determinant is the course of action you take when you find one of this issues at your very own doorstep. Or maybe yet still it is the innermost private thoughts you hold, or even the deep feelings that you do not even know exist within you.

    The possibility, and i would suggest, more likely, the probability of contrasting responses in these situations begs the question of which do you take to be your fundamental belief or does such a thing even exist?
  • DingoJones
    1.9k


    Its cognitive dissonance. Human behaviour doesnt always make sense unfortunately.
  • Frank Apisa
    2k
    We may think we believe in the golden rule,Pinprick

    Of all the idiomatic indulgences used in a philosophical forum...the term "believe in" is the most needlessly over-used. It exacerbates fogging up the problems being discussed rather than helping to make them more clear.

    Do you "believe in" democracy?

    Do you "believe in" God?

    Do you "believe in" the Golden Rule?

    Wouldn't a more specific phrasing be better? For the three examples above:

    Do you prefer a democratic state over a totalitarian one?

    Would you guess that at least one god exists; do you guess that no gods exist; or do you not make a guess on the question?

    Are you inclined to treat people the way you would like to be treated by others...or do you think that notion to be intrusive or unworthy in some way?

    Even the use of the words "believe" or "belief" is over-used...a kind of lazy way of saying what we actually mean.
  • Pinprick
    328
    Its cognitive dissonance.DingoJones

    What are you referring to here?

    Human behaviour doesnt always make sense unfortunately.DingoJones

    Right, but it should be explainable, right?
  • Pinprick
    328
    Do you prefer a democratic state over a totalitarian one?Frank Apisa

    Whatever your preference is, it’s based on a belief you have. The reason you prefer one over the other is because you believe one to have better qualities than the other.

    Would you guess that at least one god exists; do you guess that no gods exist; or do you not make a guess on the question?Frank Apisa

    This actually seems more complicated than simply asking if you believe in God or not.

    Are you inclined to treat people the way you would like to be treated by others...or do you think that notion to be intrusive or unworthy in some way?Frank Apisa

    How you actually treat people may be different than how you believe they should be treated, and that’s what I’m getting at.

    Even the use of the words "believe" or "belief" is over-used...a kind of lazy way of saying what we actually mean.Frank Apisa

    There’s no hidden meaning in what I’m saying. I’m talking strictly about beliefs, as separate from actions, feelings, etc.
  • DingoJones
    1.9k


    Its a psychological term, holding two opposing ideas to be true at the same time, or consistently acting contrary to one or more beliefs.
    Explainable given sufficient knowledge yes, of course.
  • Pinprick
    328
    I know what cognitive dissonance is. I meant what in the OP are you attempting to explain using it? Do you not think that we have the necessary knowledge needed to explain our behaviors, either our own, or others?
  • DingoJones
    1.9k


    I think the 3 things you described are part of the natural result of cognitive dissonance. The blurred lines that you are asking about between contradicting belief and action are cognitive dissonance in action.
  • Banno
    8.8k
    Curious how when beliefs are mentioned, some folk go for the big stuff -
    Do you "believe in" democracy?

    Do you "believe in" God?

    Do you "believe in" the Golden Rule?
    Frank Apisa

    abortion or gay marriage or immigration?The Wu Way

    Meh. That's mostly irrelevant to the argument.

    You wanted to light the room
    You believed that flicking the switch would light the room
    Therefore you flicked the switch.

    And the question is did your belief cause you to flick the switch?

    Offhand, that's one of Davidson's approaches. And it seems fine so far as it goes. The explanation given above is complete, since the question "why did you flick the switch?" has an adequate answer. SO talking in terms of beliefs causing actions is fine.

    I take your second question to concern akrasia rather than cognitive dissonance. See the section on Davidson's approach. While suffering cognitive dissonance is having contradictory beliefs, akrasia is having consistent beliefs but acting irrational.

    And for the third, yes, beliefs can be made post hoc.
  • The Wu Way
    2


    Right, but it should be explainable, right?

    Do you not think that we have the necessary knowledge needed to explain our behaviors, either our own, or others?

    From a purely cause and effect perspective behaviour is entirely explainable:
    I was hungry so I ate
    It was dark so I switched on the lights
    I was an only child so now I am an attention seeker

    But from what I understand the root of your questions is 'what drives our behaviours?'. If that is the case then conscious beliefs are only one, potentially small, piece of the puzzle.
  • Pinprick
    328
    I think the 3 things you described are part of the natural result of cognitive dissonance.DingoJones

    Well, in that case, I guess I would reframe my questions to be about what causes cognitive dissonance, and how can we tell when this is or isn’t occurring. But, so we’re clear, you’re agreeing that these things do occur (actions causing beliefs, beliefs causing actions, and lack of certainty of our beliefs)?
  • Pinprick
    328
    So the answer to 1 and 3 is sometimes? 2 is more about whether or not we can be certain about what we believe, and if so, how. Is it reasonable for me to evaluate my behavior and deduce my beliefs from that analysis? Vice versa? IOW’s when there is an apparent contradiction between what I think I believe and how I act, does that mean I’m wrong about what I think I believe, or did I just act irrationally? If the latter, then what would be the cause of my action? Perhaps a different, and contradictory, belief? An emotion/feeling? Some sort of limitation on my ability to act in accordance with my belief?

    Consider this example:

    1) I think I believe A.
    2) Belief A entails act X.
    3) I do act Y.
    4) Act Y implies I believe B, which contradicts belief A.

    Does this mean 1 is wrong? Is it possible to hold contradictory beliefs? Was 3 caused by something other than a belief?

    This is somewhat of a personal question. I do not believe in free will, yet I act as if people are responsible for their actions. I’m a moral nihilist, but act as if good and bad exist. I suppose a follow up question would be should I try to change either my beliefs or actions so that they are consistent?
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