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Voluntary Belief

 
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lacavin
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 22, 2009 10:03 pm    Post subject: Voluntary Belief Reply with quote

In different other threads, mostly Pascal's Wager and Proof of God, we stumbled on the question whether belief is voluntary or not.

Let me try to define the key terms:

Belief is the fact to be convinced that a statement is true.

Involuntary belief means that belief comes "by itself" when you have enough evidence, or at least when you trust that you have enough evidence (that may be for instance the statement of somebody you trust), or even as a prejudice without having any evidence (e.g. through education).
Involuntary belief is unconscious, in the sense that it is not a conscious decision. I think nobody will doubt that some beliefs are involuntary, sometimes. We almost instinctively believe in many things, without even searching for evidence.
New evidence may be gained and contradict your belief, and at some point, the accumulated counter-evidence will be sufficient to topple the situation and to change (without a conscious decision) your belief to its opposite (belief that the negative statement is true).

Voluntary belief means that - even in the known absence of sufficient evidence or proof - you can decide to believe something (knowing that it may be wrong due to the insufficient evidence), and that you will (perhaps after some time?) effectively believe it, be convinced that it is true.

The question is does voluntary belief really exist?


Thanks for your thoughts on the subject!
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TFBW
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 23, 2009 3:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Before progressing any further, I'd like to make some comments.

In order for the question of "is belief voluntary" to be interesting at all, we have to assume that some kind of voluntary action is possible. If you start from a mechanistic view, in which all action proceeds according to laws, then no action can ever be considered "voluntary", and it comes as no surprise that belief is also an involuntary action in that scheme. The specific question "is belief voluntary" is only really interesting if some actions are voluntary and others are not.

Second, there is the question whether belief is always voluntary, always involuntary, or sometimes one and sometimes the other. Is it possible, for instance, to come to the realisation that one had formed a belief unconsciously, consciously realise that it is an unjustified belief, and voluntarily alter it?

Third, there is a question as to degree of belief. lacavin has offered a definition of belief in which to believe something is "to be convinced that a statement is true." This definition seems to offer belief as all or nothing. If this is so, then we require another word to describe attitudes other than certainty -- a word like "suspicion". If beliefs are only convictions, then we need to ask separate questions about suspicions, such as are they voluntary, and how do they interact with beliefs.

Personally, I think it's easier to classify both convictions and suspicions as beliefs of different degree. Given the possible ambiguity, however, it's best if we make this distinction explicit.

Lastly, there is a question of how belief relates to action. Even if belief is always involuntary, it's possible that one's actions may be voluntary, and they can either operate in accordance with one's beliefs, or contrary to them. Again, actions may be voluntary always, sometimes, or never.

The question of how actions relate to belief can be significant in a number of ways. One might question the truth of "S believes P" if the actions of S are not what we would expect of one who believes P. Also, actions are sometimes forced into mutually exclusive options, even if beliefs (or suspicions) can be matters of degree. Thus, a person who acts in a certain way may do so because he is convinced it is the best option, because he suspects it is the best option, or because he doesn't have a clue and just tossed a coin.

There may be further questions -- particularly in relation to the "conscious" aspect of the problem -- but these will do for now.
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lacavin
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 23, 2009 2:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for your comments - indeed they are necessary precisions.

First I'd like to remind everybody that I am not native english-speaker and have no extended formal education in philosophy (and hence may even ignore appropriate wording in french). Therefore I am more than happy if somebody can put the correct words to the definitions I give.

Let's go for the missing/completed definitions:

Voluntary: act of free-will - therefore a conscious act. It includes making decision by weighting several conflicting beliefs (e.g. short term: chocolate taste good and makes me happy vs. long term chocolate makes me fat and therefore harms my health). Of course, the paramount voluntary thing is the action you choose based on your beliefs - interpreting the blief in real-world acts.
Example: I believe that smoking is harmful for health. I choose to smoke - therefore I am aware that I am irrational in this regard; it is however not a proof that I do not really believe in harm to health, it just shows that I weight unreasonably the short term pleasure with the long term impact.

Actions: actions can be voluntary - express the free-will. They may be rational or irrational with regards to beliefs. As beliefs may be contradicting sometimes, all voluntary actions are not simply "black or white" - rational or irrational. There are degrees or grey-levels.
Actions may also be involuntary when circunstances dictate them, when they are due to innate reflex or to our biological nature. For instance the act of breathing.
As usual, the distinction between voluntary and involuntary is not sharp.
Example: One could argue that for instance smoking is not voluntary as it is a physical drive (drug). I am a bit less forgiving, but I admit that "failing to stop smoking" may be involuntary. "Not trying to stop" is voluntary and (as mentioned above in my case) unreasonable.

Theory: whenever there is no fixed belief (e.g. uncertainty), one can - voluntarily - accept a theory. The dregree of confidence in this theory is usually "proportional" to the amount of non-conclusive evidence.
Thus he chooses to act as if the theory would be true, while being aware that it may be false. Rationaly, the first actions should therefore be to try to gain more evidence for or against the theory. In many practical situations, however, this is not feasible so you just act based on the theory knowing you may act wrongly.
Having a theory is very different from holding a belief, because you are not convinced of it, you just use it for conveniance. It is also much more weak - absence of evidence will shake it much more that it would shake a believer.
The suspicion is the reason why you choose a certain theory to act upon.

Belief is the fact to be convinced that a statement is true.
It is binary. You believe it, or not. If you have only suspicions, you do not really believe yet - it may come if more evidence is found.
Belief erases doubt. When you believe, you do not doubt - hence you will not actively try to find evidence on the topic anymore, except as an intellectual game. This does not mean you are becoming irrationally deaf to new evidence, of course. New evidence may shake the belief enough to destroy it and possibly downgrade it to theory.
The absence of belief is however not the belief in absence. The absence of belief is uncertainty.

Example in a practical situation:
There is a shaky wooden bridge over a deep river. I need crossing...
  • I believe that the bridge will hold: I cross without any thinking and without being nervous nor having any doubts.
  • I do not believe that the bridge will hold: I stop and think.
    • I may wait, observe, and try to gain more evidence. If the evidence I gain is supportive (but not sufficient to change my belief), I may decide to act based on the theory that the bridge will hold. But I'll be nervous and knowing I am risking my life on a bet - I'll know doubt.
    • If I find no evidence to help me choose, the wise think is not to risk my life unless forced to and hence to search for another bridge, or to abandon the aim of crossing; I know that I can be loosing my time, however, and doubt my decision.
  • I believe that the bridge will not hold: I keep walking along the river without any doubts, searching for another bridge.

I hope this clarifies the field. With regards to the unanswered paragraph in TFBW's post - I guess it is clear that according to my definitions not all beliefs are voluntary. The question I am asking is whether any belief is voluntary.
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Leorobin
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 24, 2009 7:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I believe some belief or disbelief may be are voluntary, you can choose to belief that gravity doesn't exist eventough, there's enoug evidence to support it, you may just choose to believe that things fall because of any other known or unknown force.
It's quite a rough example but I think it explains my point of view.
Hmm a tongue twister...
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lacavin
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 24, 2009 9:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Leorobin wrote:
I believe some belief or disbelief may be are voluntary, you can choose to belief that gravity doesn't exist eventough, there's enoug evidence to support it, you may just choose to believe that things fall because of any other known or unknown force.

Can you, really? Do you believe really that gravity does not exist?

Not just semantically (i.e. that there is another force, with exactly the same characteristics but with another name, such as Schwerkraft or Gravité), but that the force is really different - for instance does not act on the line linking two centers of mass, or does not decrease with the square of the distance?

What would you bet on it? If you believe, you should be ready to bet a lot on it! Because you would have no significant doubts, would you?

Can you choose to believe in something against evidence or in absence of evidence, and be sufficiently confident to bet a significant sum? That's the ultimate proof of belief: you put your money where your mouth is... because you really believe to be right!
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Leorobin
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 26, 2009 8:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'll put a personal example. I believe that there's a place somewhere or somewhen waiting for me, maybe even in another world. A place that only exists in my subconcious, similar to dreamland but something only I have acces to. I have believed in this for about 3 years. I have no proof that it is true. I have never been there. The closest i've been to that place was two years ago when I dreamed that someone promised that they would come to return me home and I knew it was a dream since it started. I'm even writing a story about how this came to be.

Now I have no rational proof of this, I just believe. On the other hand I have lots of evidence that this is just foolish and that I have a foot on the assylum.

About what lacavin said, I'm willingful to bet on it, even with my life. But again I have no proof of when or how what I believe will happen. As much as there no way of coming up with unbreakable evidence that my belief is wrong.
Leorobin wrote:
I believe some belief or disbelief may be are voluntary, you can choose to belief that gravity doesn't exist eventough, there's enoug

My, i'm quite lousy at typing. Please let me now when I type something wrong so i'll learn, i'm not native english, i'm native spanish.

Now returning to the theorical force that isn't gravity but keeps things from floating awway from Earth. Let's call it Roy. Laughing
Now lets say I believe that Roy exists(I don't) and start experiments to proove that it is produced by the interaction between magnetical fields that exist around everything. This means i'm willingful to spend my time and money to proove it.
Isn't this what some scientist have done.
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lacavin
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 26, 2009 9:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Leorobin wrote:
I'll put a personal example. I believe that there's a place somewhere or somewhen waiting for me, maybe even in another world. [...]Now I have no rational proof of this, I just believe.

Well, the question is not really whether there are irrational beliefs (I am not saying your special place does not exist, but I mean beliefs that are simply not based on reason and evidence).

The question is whether you chose to believe in this place, or whether this belief somehow just grew into you without your active will.

To try to illustrate the difference:
A kid believes in Father Christmas; this is certainly initially not the kid's conscious decision... his parents and friends all mentioned it, putting shoes in the fireplace on christmas' eve, making false evidence by filling the shoes, Father Christmas is in all the books, and so on. The blief grew in the child even before reaching the age where rational logical decisions can be made. Involuntary belief.

Now passed a certain age, kids stop believing in Father Christmas - too much evidence against it, I guess. Now we are adults: can we decide to believe again in Father Christmas? That would be voluntary belief.


Leorobin wrote:
Now returning to the theorical force that isn't gravity but keeps things from floating awway from Earth. Let's call it Roy. Laughing
Now lets say I believe that Roy exists(I don't) and start experiments to proove that it is produced by the interaction between magnetical fields that exist around everything. This means i'm willingful to spend my time and money to proove it.
Isn't this what some scientist have done.

Well, somehow perhaps. But these scientist probably believed that the theory of gravity was insufficient - and they are anyway paid to conduct such investigations, so it's not really a bet.

Anyway, I know I am probably unclear, so let's try another explanation:
  1. There is a statement you don't believe in (e.g. A exists) - you may not believe in the wrongness of the statement either (that A does not exist) but just have doubts about A's existence
  2. You would not bet a significant amount of money that A exists, as you doubt it.
  3. You decide - without new evidence about A - that starting tomorrow, you will believe that A exists.
  4. The next day, you do believe that A exists and you are willing (based on your belief, i.e. the fact that you thing the statement "A exists" is true) to bet a significant amount of money that A exists.
In short: Can you decide to believe in something you don't already believe (whatever the evidence for or against it) and become confident enough in your belief that you would bet money on it?


Leorobin wrote:
My, i'm quite lousy at typing. Please let me now when I type something wrong so i'll learn, i'm not native english, i'm native spanish.
As long as you are able to participate in such a forum in english, you are better than 95% of the spanish-speakers. Don't sweat it. Of course, some native-english speaker can help you progress, but that would easily make the topical discussion lost so that should be mostly in PMs...

[edit]Changed based on TFBW comments (see below)[/edit]


Last edited by lacavin on Fri Mar 27, 2009 10:32 am; edited 1 time in total
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TFBW
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 27, 2009 5:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

lacavin wrote:
A kid believes in Father Christmas - this is not rational (no proof), but it is certainly initially not the kid's conscious decision... his parents and friends all mentioned it, putting shoes in the fireplace on christmas' eve, making false evidence by filling the shoes, Father Christmas is in all the books, and so on. involuntary belief.

Why is it not rational for a child to believe in Father Christmas? Granted, it's not true that Father Christmas exists, but the evidence he sees supports it, as does the word of his parents. What makes the behaviour not rational?
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lacavin
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 27, 2009 10:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

TFBW wrote:
lacavin wrote:
A kid believes in Father Christmas - this is not rational (no proof), but it is certainly initially not the kid's conscious decision... his parents and friends all mentioned it, putting shoes in the fireplace on christmas' eve, making false evidence by filling the shoes, Father Christmas is in all the books, and so on. involuntary belief.

Why is it not rational for a child to believe in Father Christmas? Granted, it's not true that Father Christmas exists, but the evidence he sees supports it, as does the word of his parents. What makes the behaviour not rational?


Sorry, you are fully correct. I edited my post to this purpose yesterday (because the kid has actually fake evidence, which I added afterwards) and forgot to remove this part.

Thanks you for the correction. I will edit my previous post for clarity.
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Leorobin
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 28, 2009 4:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Seems I didn't made a clear proposition... The guy who's investigating Roy is a scientist himself he's conducting the experiments.

I see what you're saying.

I got an input from a dream when I was about 7. I wrote it down. I found that journal I had and decided it might be true about this phantasy world.
For me it was a choice, to belive or not believe what I wrote as a 7 y/o.
At least that how I see it. Therefore I think that it's possible to voluntarily believe in something despite the presence or not of evidence. Now, whether this is common or not amongst human beings I can say.

And yes I would aprecciate the PM's.
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TFBW
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 29, 2009 10:15 am    Post subject: Re: Voluntary Belief Reply with quote

lacavin wrote:
Voluntary belief means that - even in the known absence of sufficient evidence or proof - you can decide to believe something (knowing that it may be wrong due to the insufficient evidence), and that you will (perhaps after some time?) effectively believe it, be convinced that it is true.

The question is does voluntary belief really exist?

There's an Electric Monk in the Douglas Adams story, "Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency", which is able to believe things at will, quite contrary to the evidence of his senses. If that sort of belief is possible, I'd probably consider it pathological.

On the other hand, it's quite possible to decide upon a course of action even though the evidence is inconclusive. In the example of a seemingly unsafe bridge, one can doubt the integrity of the bridge but summon up the courage to take the risk of crossing it. In the case of doubting whether something exists, one can still decide to bet that it does or does not. The actions are not beliefs, but they are the same actions that would follow if the appropriate belief were actually present.

Just as action can follow belief, belief can also follow action. A man might doubt whether God exists: he may have many conflicting ideas on the matter, such as the problem of evil, the purposelessness of the universe if there is no God, the desire to see evil punished, and the dreaded realisation that he also deserves to be punished. These ideas create turmoil, but do not lead to a belief. Even so, on reflection the man decides that he ought to assume there is a God and behave accordingly. He adopts this action not because he believes in God, but because he believes in decisive action: the principle of "make a plan, and carry it out".

When asked whether he believes in God, he answers "yes", but in some sense it's not true: he answers "yes" because he has decided to act like a believer, not because he lacks doubt. One might be tempted to call this hypocrisy, but that is not fair: a hypocrite says one thing and does another, while this man's words and actions are consistent. If there is any accusation which can be levelled against him, it's that he's in denial about his own doubt. Ironically, however, belief can follow action, and his persistent refusal to entertain doubt causes it to be weakened and eventually die. When doubts enter his mind, he dismisses them with the reminder that they are irrelevant: he has decided on his course of action despite those doubts. The doubts assert themselves less and less frequently, and eventually the man's claim that he is a believer becomes quite true.

So although "voluntary belief" may not be directly possible, belief can be achieved through voluntary action.
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lacavin
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 30, 2009 7:07 pm    Post subject: Re: Voluntary Belief Reply with quote

TFBW wrote:
There's an Electric Monk in the Douglas Adams story, "Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency", which is able to believe things at will, quite contrary to the evidence of his senses. If that sort of belief is possible, I'd probably consider it pathological.

From this, I conclude that
a) Douglas Adams is real cool and,
b) that you share my opinion that belief is not fully voluntary (e.g. belief against evidence at least is pathological).
This does of course not say that no beliefs are voluntary (those in absence, and not against, evidence)...

TFBW wrote:
On the other hand, it's quite possible to decide upon a course of action even though the evidence is inconclusive. In the example of a seemingly unsafe bridge, one can doubt the integrity of the bridge but summon up the courage to take the risk of crossing it. In the case of doubting whether something exists, one can still decide to bet that it does or does not.

You are right - you can actually bet when in doubt. How many people are gambling when they should know that they statistically loose?
As long as you don't believe that the bridge will not hold, you can take your chance and risk it.

So I guess that my earlier comment that believing is being ready to bet on it is not correct.

TFBW wrote:
The actions are not beliefs, but they are the same actions that would follow if the appropriate belief were actually present.[...] he answers "yes" because he has decided to act like a believer, not because he lacks doubt.

If I follow you, you go for some sort of efficient definition of belief? In some way, as long as your actions are coherent with a belief, whether you believe or not is secondary. I agree that such "sorts" of efficient beliefs would be voluntary and rational.

The question is whether they can hold in continuous absence of evidence.

(Indeed usually betting in doubt will have an effect, new evidence - you loose or win when gambling. Or in the example of the bridge, if you bet and cross - and survive, you have a new evidence. The bridge did hold your weight, which does not guarantee it always will in the future, but is an indication that it is not that badly built. You also saw and heard whether there were squeaks or ruptures.)

For the belief in the existence of something/someone (let me stay more general than the question of God), I can decide to act as if I did believe it. But on the long term without any effect, it will be difficult to hold.

For the other example of whether somebody is hidden in the shadow:
I may have doubts if there is someone, and hence for safety act as if I knew that someone is hiding - locking my door, taking a weapon, walking quickly toward a place with more people, and so on. But if there is never any evidence (i.e. I begin to run, and nobody runs after me, evening after evening), then with time I will most probably lessen my "protective" acts - perhaps feel ridiculous about them?
Because they cost me and I have never seen them beeing useful (remember, I don't believe that someone is actually hiding, I am just doubting) - of course, the absence of use is no proof of absence, but it is some form of negative evidence (even if somebody is hiding, he probably don't want to kill me as he never ran after me).

So while you can decide to act (and bet) in the absence of belief, I consider it difficult (irrational?) to keep the bet in absence of any new evidence or confirmation gained.

TFBW wrote:
Ironically, however, belief can follow action, and his persistent refusal to entertain doubt causes it to be weakened and eventually die. When doubts enter his mind, he dismisses them with the reminder that they are irrelevant: he has decided on his course of action despite those doubts. The doubts assert themselves less and less frequently, and eventually the man's claim that he is a believer becomes quite true.
So although "voluntary belief" may not be directly possible, belief can be achieved through voluntary action.

So you side with Pascal in saying that "having masses said" will "dull your proudly critical intellect". Well, to remain general (topic is not specifically religion), this may also be a possible outcome, but this would be at the cost of rationality, in my humble opinion.

You decide to ignore your doubts, and being a human being (i.e. able to be irrational if you decide so), you can indeed probably brainwash yourself out of doubts. In this sense, belief may be possibly voluntary on long term - avoid thinking about the doubts, keep acting within some target in mind and avoid all situation where doubt may awaken. Alcohol may help. At some point you may even forget that you are able of doubt and rational behavior. And you finally believe in Father Christmas again...

Whether this is the desired "belief" to have a "belief" by default of a critical mind is questionable. In the absence of critical mind, is the subject still able to make voluntary acts? And is this a belief or a pathology at this point?

Leorobin wrote:
I got an input from a dream when I was about 7. I wrote it down. I found that journal I had and decided it might be true about this phantasy world.

I'm perhaps splitting hairs, but "decided it might be true" does not sound like a belief free of doubt. What you decided apparently is not to believe it false, nor to believe it true, but to keep an open mind.
If you had "decided it is true" and be willing to bet on it - i.e. for instance to significantly modify your life (e.g. stop studying and begin a sleep therapy to regain access to your fantasy world) because of this belief, then it would be different...
On top of it, it should be a conscious decision to believe it true, not just that with time and with remembering the vividness of that particular dream, you got convinced...
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TFBW
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 31, 2009 1:39 pm    Post subject: Re: Voluntary Belief Reply with quote

lacavin wrote:
So while you can decide to act (and bet) in the absence of belief, I consider it difficult (irrational?) to keep the bet in absence of any new evidence or confirmation gained.

If it wasn't irrational in the first instance, it's not irrational to maintain the course of action in the absence of new evidence. If nothing else has changed, what's the problem?

If new evidence is introduced, that's a different matter, but even then it's not a foregone conclusion. If the evidence is inconclusive, one might simply treat it as a test of resolve rather than a reason to change course. The only thing that would be irrational is to ignore the evidence.

lacavin wrote:
Whether this is the desired "belief" to have a "belief" by default of a critical mind is questionable. In the absence of critical mind, is the subject still able to make voluntary acts? And is this a belief or a pathology at this point?

I think you're mistaken on a key point here. Doubt is not rational in and of itself. Uncertainty is, but uncertainty is not the same as doubt. Doubt is to uncertainty what fear is to danger. Fear is an emotion brought on by danger, whether real or perceived. Doubt is an emotion brought on by uncertainty, whether real or perceived.

Conquering doubt is like conquering fear. Conquering a fear does not automatically make you reckless, it just means that your actions are not dominated by it. In the same way, conquering doubt does not make you uncritical. Were someone to become oblivious to danger, or utterly credulous, those would be pathologies; so is paralysis brought on by fear or doubt.

The hypothetical man in my example above conquers doubt, but he never conquers uncertainty. He is fully aware of the uncertainty of his position, but he resolves to embark on a course of action despite it. Uncertainty can only be conquered by proof; doubt yields to the will.
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 31, 2009 4:06 pm    Post subject: Re: Voluntary Belief Reply with quote

TFBW wrote:
lacavin wrote:
So while you can decide to act (and bet) in the absence of belief, I consider it difficult (irrational?) to keep the bet in absence of any new evidence or confirmation gained.

If it wasn't irrational in the first instance, it's not irrational to maintain the course of action in the absence of new evidence. If nothing else has changed, what's the problem?

You are right, of course, that nothing changed fundamentally that should change your position (from belief to unbelief or to belief of the negative).

But my point is that the longer you have no evidence while searching for it, the stronger the doubts. It is similar to an exhaustive directed search - only at the end you have a proof that something does not exist. But the more you already searched (the most likely locations as it is directed) the smaller are the hopes to find it in the shirinking remaning unlikely locations.
Only if you do not expect any evidence at all, then the fact that you don't get any will not change anything.

So while absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, absence of evidence is a solid reason to doubt, i.e. not to believe; and absence of evidence while searching for it is a solid reason to increase doubt.

TFBW wrote:
I think you're mistaken on a key point here. Doubt is not rational in and of itself. Uncertainty is, but uncertainty is not the same as doubt. Doubt is to uncertainty what fear is to danger. Fear is an emotion brought on by danger, whether real or perceived. Doubt is an emotion brought on by uncertainty, whether real or perceived.

Thank you for these excellent definitions. I like it.
So uncertainty is rational as danger is.
IMHO, fear is a rational and useful reaction to a real danger, and doubt is also rational if the uncertainty is real.
I don't mean being paralized our of action, of course, but doubting (and hence reconsidering periodically, search for more evidence) the decision under uncertainty that you have to make. It means being aware of the difference between facts and hypothesis.

If I take an example from my job: if my project chemist tells me "I believe this reaction will work" and we decide to use this as basis for the planning and further work, I will not allow this question to remain as is. I will question it periodically - i.e. handle it as hypothesis and not as a fact (i.e. not "believe it"). I will believe it, consider it as a proven fact, only when I got sufficient evidence from her. At some point, if I can get no evidence, I will make a risk assessment and probably begin making alternative plans. Finally at some critical moment, in absence of evidence I will rule it out and go for the alternatives. Of course this is because I assume that it should be possible to get evidence if it would work.

TFBW wrote:
Conquering doubt is like conquering fear. Conquering a fear does not automatically make you reckless, it just means that your actions are not dominated by it. In the same way, conquering doubt does not make you uncritical. Were someone to become oblivious to danger, or utterly credulous, those would be pathologies; so is paralysis brought on by fear or doubt.[...] Uncertainty can only be conquered by proof; doubt yields to the will

Therefore I fully agree that it is pathological to be paralized by doubt.
My statement is that it is also pathological to consider facts and hypothesis as equal. And that acting on a hypothesis is not equal to belief (i.e. to a fact), because while you act because you have to keep on moving in an uncertain world, you still look actively for evidence and confirmation.

Therefore while uncertainty can only be conquered by proof - or lessened by evidence, while the paralisis of doubt can be conquered by will, I still maintain that doubt itself should not be conquered. It should be cultivated because it allows rationally defining how solid your hypothesis are, and to make rational decisions.

In essence I am saying that your hypothetical man is rational in using a hypothesis for deciding his lifestyle - not be paralysed by doubt. But he becomes irrational if he forgets that it was an hypothesis and believes in it (i.e. consider it as a fact) in the absence of new evidence. In the opposite, the further absence of evidence (he is looking for some, or at least he should) should weaken his hypothesis.
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Leorobin
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 02, 2009 9:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

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But he becomes irrational if he forgets that it was an hypothesis and believes in it (i.e. consider it as a fact) in the absence of new evidence.

So you are saying it is possible for this man to believe voluntarily?
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lacavin
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 10, 2009 1:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Leorobin wrote:
Quote:
But he becomes irrational if he forgets that it was an hypothesis and believes in it (i.e. consider it as a fact) in the absence of new evidence.

So you are saying it is possible for this man to believe voluntarily?

I still don't know.

I wanted to highlight that sometimes you need to act based on a hypothesis, and that it is irrational to forget it is an hypothesis. If you forget it, and "believes" in it like a fact, then you are not rational.

What I don't know is if this is at all possible voluntarily...
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Leorobin
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 12, 2009 1:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

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Involuntary belief means that belief comes "by itself" when you have enough evidence, or at least when you trust that you have enough evidence (that may be for instance the statement of somebody you trust), or even as a prejudice without having any evidence (e.g. through education).
Involuntary belief is unconscious, in the sense that it is not a conscious decision. I think nobody will doubt that some beliefs are involuntary, sometimes. We almost instinctively believe in many things, without even searching for evidence.
New evidence may be gained and contradict your belief, and at some point, the accumulated counter-evidence will be sufficient to topple the situation and to change (without a conscious decision) your belief to its opposite (belief that the negative statement is true).

Voluntary belief means that - even in the known absence of sufficient evidence or proof - you can decide to believe something (knowing that it may be wrong due to the insufficient evidence), and that you will (perhaps after some time?) effectively believe it, be convinced that it is true.


I believe it falls in involuntary belief.
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