Why do we believe what we believe?

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Why do we believe what we believe?

  • Ricky Peter Newins

    Why do we believe what we believe?

    Which has the strongest effect on the beliefs we hold, our nature (psychological/biological) or nurture/experience?

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  • PG (Pierre-Guy) Veer

    It’s probably related to our perception of life. When I finished high school, I was a socialist and a separatist. But as I gained more knowledde (both inside and outside of school), I realized that liberalism made things much, much better (especially with free trade) and that the separatist movement (in Qc) wasn’t about liberalization at all.

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    Anonymous

    When we acquire knowledge and wisdom through experience, this can give the mind certain truths that are known and believed.

    We can also believe because of the ego, the irrational belief in something because we want it to be true, or because it suits our story.

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      Ricky Peter Newins

      I certainly agree Tom.

      The irrational belief in something is clear reality distortion. This often leads to cognitive dissonance.

       

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    Kevin Victor

    I would say both nature and nurture effects your beliefs. I think certain temperaments are predisposed to certain perceptions about the world just as much or more than behavior being effected by external influence. Arguing for the absoluteness of one or the other this seems kinda of shortsighted, or rather biased as it depends on your own cognition.

    It’s possible that some humans are just not wired to be attuned to individualism philosophies or care about liberty in general. Take for example, well educated people who attended Mises seminars but still came out of it as socialists. Acknowledging this you can come to realize that trying to change people is more difficult than trying to foster people who are already have slight grounding on the ideas of liberty.

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      Ricky Peter Newins

      When you say wired do you think this is to do with the individual´s biology or personality type Kevin? I happen to be an ENFP.

       

       

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        Kevin Victor

        Yeah the type but it could be wired in the brain. The book Neuroscience of Personality goes in depth about the correlation between types and cognitive neuroscience.

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        • Ricky Peter Newins

          This looks extremely interesting Kevin. On my to read list.

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    Ady Sheerer

    I would say it’s almost entirely nurture. Human being’s most valuable quality is adaptability. As humans we are like water, we will take the shape of the container that we are poured into and our container is culture.

    A baby abandoned on a deserted island, if he manages to survive, will not believe in Jesus, will not believe in communism or capitalism and he will not be a racist. Our genes do not carry beliefs and they definitely do not carry false beliefs.
    The example above, of the well educated people that remain socialists after attending a few seminars at Mises, does not prove that nature is responsible for these beliefs. All of these people have had at least 20 years of cultural nonsense poured into their minds, their social circle and their families are most likely socialists and their upbringing probably cemented the socialist belief into their minds. We would not say that genes are responsible for a religious person keeping his faith after attending a few atheistic seminars.

    What we know is what we empirically learn about the world around us. What we believe in is what culture teaches us that is true. Belief means trust and confidence. Trust that what we have been told is true.

    There are no “Christian” genes, no “socialist” wiring in the womb and there is no ideology or philosophy hidden in our DNA. Belief does not grow like an ear or an arm, belief is imprinted on our brains by culture and family.

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      Kevin Victor

      In the US, egalitarian policies since the early 20th century have held this idea that everyone is educable. If we can make everyone an educable person than society would be better off. Has everyone indeed become educated and has society since then advanced morally/culturally? Sure you can say since the State was the one organizing it became a failure, but what if education was left alone to the market. Would it be possible for everyone to become educated?

      Egalitarianism fails on the ground that not everyone is equal regardless of how much we try to make them equal. Adaptability is wonderful, although I am skeptical that through culture each individual takes shape of what it’s environment pours into it.

      A baby might not carry beliefs with such labels but there might be some traits that are inherited from the family and the collective unconscious. These traits can have predispositions towards certain cognitive faculties of learning and skill acquisition or ideological patterns which then effects the babies beliefs. Individuals possessing some sort of mental forms is a likely possibility which have been advanced by various psychologists and philosophers.

      The example I gave doesn’t prove it, but indicates there is something in someones temperament which makes them dispel certain ideas or attitudes. I’m sure there were some who were conditioned nonsense beliefs for the majority of their lives, never felt quite right with them, and ending up having a change of heart. Whether temperament is brought upon from nature or nurture is up for debate but I think it is rather limiting to be sure of either.

      “What we know is what we empirically learn about the world around us. What we believe in is what culture teaches us that is true. Belief means trust and confidence. Trust that what we have been told is true.”

      -Maybe, but depends what you mean by empirically. There exists a priori knowledge that doesn’t necessarily need to be experienced for you to know it is true. How would such things such as causation or geometry be understood without some operation already in the mind?

      “There are no “Christian” genes, no “socialist” wiring in the womb and there is no ideology or philosophy hidden in our DNA. Belief does not grow like an ear or an arm, belief is imprinted on our brains by culture and family.”

      -True, but it is not known whether such traits that influence belief are not actually wired from birth at least partially.

       

       

       

       

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        Ady Sheerer

        I fail to understand how egalitarianism comes into play here. Egalitarianism refers to a social status not to nature or to nurture. Even the biggest egalitarian will recognize that tall people are taller than short people.

        Also, I fail to understand your education analogy. If a person is not mentally challenged then he can be educated. The fact that society has failed to educate everyone is no indication that a mentally healthy child under favorable conditions will not be able to learn.

        “Has society since then advanced morally/culturally?” Since the early 20th century? I’d say absolutely! We are having a philosophical conversation while miles apart in a forum dedicated to highly moral and intelligent individuals aren’t we? How many groups of thousands of people concerned with morality and philosophy got together every day to exchange ideas 100 years ago? How many people had indoor plumbing or even electricity back then? I could go on forever. Saying that humanity has not evolved means that you have to deny the existence of 90% of everything that surrounds you today, including this conversation.

        “I am skeptical that through culture each individual takes shape of what it’s environment pours into it.” Sure, because there are many Christian families raising Muslim babies and many Chinese parents that cannot communicate with their children because their genes are set on English and their child ends up speaking a different language. There are also several cases of children raised by wolves that turned out Republicans. (Sarcasm intended).

        “There might be some traits that are inherited from the family and the collective unconscious.” OK, let’s take the baby on a deserted island example again. Let’s call him Bob. Years later a ship pulls in. Because this child has “socialist leaning” genes which he inherited form his family and the collective unconscious he greets the visitors and he is happy to share his food with them. The sailors happen to be pirates and they rob Bob, beat him up and then leave. What would Bob do when the next ship pulls in? Will he greet those people in the same way or will he, in a very individualist manner take to the woods and hide until the ship leaves? How much Bob’s decisions are influenced by nature and how much by what he experienced (nurture)?

        “There exists a priori knowledge that doesn’t necessarily need to be experienced for you to know it is true. How would such things such as causation or geometry be understood without some operation already in the mind?”

        There is no a priori knowledge. If there was then Bob could be able to figure out geometry, mathematics, astrophysics, chemistry and he would also be able to speak different languages although he never heard another human being speak. We do not have some “operation” already in the mind. What we have is called the neo-frontal cortex. This does not give us any knowledge but the ability to assimilate and understand knowledge.

        When Europeans arrived in Africa and in the Americas they found that the people there have not invented the wheel. You’d think that if the collective unconscious that you mentioned had some power to activate the “operation” in the mind of these people they would have figured out how to make a wheel.

        I started my response saying “it’s almost entirely nurture”. I’m not saying that nature does not play a role at all in this. I’m only saying that the role it plays is so insignificant that it’s not worthy of being considered too much.

        P.S. It is really hard to imagine what other meaning the term empirical might have but I will be happy to explain: derived from observation or experiment, verifiable, acquired through practical experience.

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        • Kevin Victor

          The reason I brought up egalitarianism and education was to point out that the attempts at trying to mold thinking does not always derive results it achieves(making everyone educable). Why is it assumed that everyone is educable?

          Check out Frank Chodorov’s essay On Promoting Individualism

          This idea posed a new question: what is an individualist? Is he born or made? Socialism laughs at the theory of innate characteristics and insists that we come into this world without temperamental shape; men can be turned by environment, including education, this way or that. Yet, the constant recurrence of the rebel is an historical refutation of this Socialistic thesis, and every mother of more than one child will bear witness against it. Some of us conform easily, others find it necessary to question every existing convention. Perhaps psychology could furnish us with an explanation of the individualist; or, of the socialist.

          As far as moral and cultural evolution this is of course a relative question that can be argued from both sides. Some folks say the past was better, others say it short and brutal. I think this point is somewhat of a quibble. Technology is not necessarily an indication as it is pretty much neutral. It can be used negatively as far as bombs or as tools to facilitate labor and improve lifestyles. The 20th century brought great advancements but also the greatest oppression the world has ever seen. The future remains uncertain.

          Regarding the desert island example, seems like Bob would be effected by that event so that would make sense if he went into hiding. This doesn’t mean that his supposedly collectivist traits went away. What if new pirates who referred themselves as protectors of freedom, came and decided to provide him with security and work in return for subservience. He might very well agree to it.

          “There is no a priori knowledge. If there was then Bob could be able to figure out geometry, mathematics, astrophysics, chemistry and he would also be able to speak different languages although he never heard another human being speak. We do not have some “operation” already in the mind. What we have is called the neo-frontal cortex. This does not give us any knowledge but the ability to assimilate and understand knowledge.”

          I’m guessing you believe in the idea of the tabula rasa. Even if it is true it doesn’t mean that a prioi knowledge doesn’t exist. Humans act. A triangle is made up of three sides. All bachelors are unmarried. You can know these things without any empirical evidence.* Isn’t the ability to assimilate and understand knowledge, receive sensory input, and control movement considered an “operation” of the mind even if it’s part of the cortex?  Hardware can only be used as table weight, not a computer unless there is some sort of programming.

          “When Europeans arrived in Africa and in the Americas they found that the people there have not invented the wheel. You’d think that if the collective unconscious that you mentioned had some power to activate the “operation” in the mind of these people they would have figured out how to make a wheel.”

          I don’t see why a straw man was needed. The collective unconscious doesn’t refer to how certain mechanisms come to be. Maybe the wheel wasn’t so important for indigenous folks who invented and relied on Almanacs instead.

          “I started my response saying “it’s almost entirely nurture”. I’m not saying that nature does not play a role at all in this. I’m only saying that the role it plays is so insignificant that it’s not worthy of being considered too much.”

          Maybe this is why libertarians have problems trying to understand and deal with statists.

          *Empirical evidence is obviously important for the natural sciences. Other areas such as praxeology or geometry, reason alone is enough to indicate what is necessarily true. You don’t need to go out in the world and experiment on or observe shapes to know that a right triangle has a 90 degree angle.

           

           

           

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        • Ady Sheerer

          “Man is neither infallible nor omniscient; if he were, a discipline such as epistemology—the theory of knowledge—would not be necessary nor possible: his knowledge would be automatic, unquestionable and total. But such is not man’s nature. Man is a being of volitional consciousness: beyond the level of precepts—a level inadequate to the cognitive requirements of his survival—man has to acquire knowledge by his own effort, which he may exercise or not, and by a process of reason, which he may apply correctly or not. Nature gives him no automatic guarantee of his mental efficacy; he is capable of error, of evasion, of psychological distortion. He needs a method of cognition, which he himself has to discover: he must discover how to use his rational faculty, how to validate his conclusions, how to distinguish truth from falsehood, how to set the criteria of what he may accept as knowledge. Two questions are involved in his every conclusion, conviction, decision, choice or claim: What do I know?—and: How do I know it?” – Philosophy: Who Needs It, Ayn Rand

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      Ricky Peter Newins

      We are a tabula rasa for the most part and nurture most definitely is the biggest contributer. However, I just wonder how influential our nature as a race and our individual nature is as well.

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        Kevin Victor

        I wouldn’t deny the role of nature so easily. There could be some useful insights to gain from.

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    Scott MG

    Why do we believe what we believe is an interesting question.

    “There is no me in your we” is a common saying among liberty lovers. I am not sure if you mean we in general as human beings, or we as anarchists. Humans definitely gain from nurture as well as nature to a lesser extent. I would not go so far to subscribe to the idea that we are slaves to our past and environment. I chose to write this for example because I believe people have the ability to understand it versus yelling at the weather to change to a preferred temperature. For many of us as anarchists we arrived at this position because we believe it is the correct position, hopefully not just because it is one of many opinions.

    All I can say is why I believe what I believe. I believe in not believing what can not be shown by rational empiricism and is verifiable. I am not saying here that there are not things that exist that are currently beyond our knowledge or understanding. It is just that I do not use it as a foundational absolute for the construction of my life. I believe anarchism is the only choice that is not inherently immoral where any Statist structure by definition must be.

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      Ricky Peter Newins

      As a race and as individuals Scott.

      I second what you say on believing in that which is empirically verifiable and rationally consistent. There are existents that are currently beyond our scope of knowledge, perhaps they will always remain there. However, we cannot say anything about them viz. we cannot logically utter anything about the unknown or unknowable.

       

       

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    Ricky Peter Newins

    If you have yet to watch the following video I recommend you do. It puts forward the case that morality is evolved (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evolution_of_morality)

     

     

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      Kevin Victor

      Interesting, thank you I haven’t looked into the moral evolution much but I’m sure there is something there.

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        Ricky Peter Newins

        Have a look Kevin, it is really interesting.

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    Nick Newell

    We believe in what we believe because of the causal relations we can draw between actions and their consequences. Every relationship we draw helps to create the framework of our value judgments, thus allowing us to develop our perception of the world. Every relationship that that agrees with our value judgment strengthens its conviction, while every disagreeing relationship causes us to overthrow previous convictions or reconcile the new causal relationship somehow in our value judgment.

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