Choosing what to believe

I came across the following, which seemed pertinent to a recent comment thread discussion that I had with Andrew on Irresistible (Dis)grace, regarding whether and to what extent we can choose what to believe:

[I]t’s impossible to argue rationally that people can’t know reality, because any such argument would be self-defeating; it would depend on known truths and would therefore presuppose the proposition it’s trying to disprove. On the other hand, it’s also impossible to argue rationally that we can know reality, because any such argument would be circular; it would depend on known truths and therefore presuppose its conclusion. So there’s nothing for it but to make a choice—either you believe that you can know reality, or not.

leirbag75, “The Myriad Colors Phantom World Fallacy”, Prime Matter blog, May 3, 2018.

I think people who think we can’t know reality generally have some other agenda, some reason why it benefits them psychically or emotionally to believe that. For the vast majority, such an idea never occurs to them.

2 thoughts on “Choosing what to believe

  1. I just skimmed over that link, so I don’t know all the details of the argument, but the first thing that really jumped out at me didn’t have to do so much with the mechanics of how choices are made as with the consequences of supposing we don’t have free will.

    What free will really means is that our choices are directed by what we consider to be actually good. So then our choices can be good or bad according to whether our purpose in making that choice was good or bad.

    But if our choices aren’t linked to REAL goods, but are just the results of competing abstract “desires,” then there’s no longer a sense in which a choice can be good or bad.

    So, for example, there’s no point in rewarding people for heroism. The fireman didn’t save the baby from the building because life is a wonderful, priceless thing, but just because his desire to save babies happened to win out over his desire to run away from fire. His choice isn’t a good thing, but just a thing that happened to occur.


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