1. DonationPawnokeyhole
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    08 Apr '07 21:29
    Is it possible to decide to believe something?

    If it is, is it rational or desirable?
  2. The sky
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    08 Apr '07 21:37
    Originally posted by Pawnokeyhole
    Is it possible to decide to believe something?

    If it is, is it rational or desirable?
    I don't think it's possible. That's why I always question it when people say we choose whether or not to believe in God.
  3. DonationPawnokeyhole
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    08 Apr '07 22:18
    Originally posted by Nordlys
    I don't think it's possible. That's why I always question it when people say we choose whether or not to believe in God.
    I tend to agree. Normally, belief is a passive, not an active, process. One is persuaded by reasons, involuntarily. Beliefs happen; they are not instigated.

    However, I think deciding to believe may be possible, albeit highly abnormal. For, it would require a deliberate and quite catastrophic subversion of one's critical faculties.

    But isn't that what a "leap of faith" is supposed to involve? Overwhelmingly motivated, unshakable, irrationality?
  4. The sky
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    08 Apr '07 22:51
    Originally posted by Pawnokeyhole
    I tend to agree. Normally, belief is a passive, not an active, process. One is persuaded by reasons, involuntarily. Beliefs happen; they are not instigated.

    However, I think deciding to believe may be possible, albeit highly abnormal. For, it would require a deliberate and quite catastrophic subversion of one's critical faculties.

    But isn't that w ...[text shortened]... "leap of faith" is supposed to involve? Overwhelmingly motivated, unshakable, irrationality?
    I think I know what you mean, because I did something like that when I was a "believer" as a teenager. But it was not a fully conscious decision, and once I fully understood what I was doing - closing the mind whenever something didn't fit into my world view, or actively avoiding to ask questions - it would have been impossible to continue with it. So I think there are psychological mechanisms which can make you believe something even if your mind tells you it's wrong, but if your mind is reigned by some psychological mechanisms, that doesn't really make it your decision either.
  5. Standard memberRemoved
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    09 Apr '07 01:142 edits
    Originally posted by Pawnokeyhole
    Is it possible to decide to believe something?

    If it is, is it rational or desirable?
    Isn't the word "believe" a verb? It conotes action on ones part if he/she does indeed believe. For example, I have to believe there is water in the pool before I jump in. The jumping reveals my belief. In a spiritual sense a true believer in God proves to himself that he/she believes by taking that leap of faith. IE. tithing, opening one's mouth and speaking in tongues, etc.
    A true Christian "trusts" what God has promised, then acts accordingly. There are various kinds of believing in the bible. One is passive and another is in manifestation or acting/doing. Here are some...

    BELIEF, BELIEVE, BELIEVERS

    pistos ^4103^, (a) in the active sense means "believing, trusting"; (b) in the passive sense, "trusty, faithful, trustworthy." It is translated "believer" in
  6. Standard memberRemoved
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    09 Apr '07 01:164 edits
    Hmmmm...the edit didn't work...

    BELIEF, BELIEVE, BELIEVERS

    pistos ^4103^, a in the active sense means "believing, trusting"; 2. in the passive sense, "trusty, faithful, trustworthy." It is translated "believer" in
  7. DonationPawnokeyhole
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    09 Apr '07 15:36
    Originally posted by Nordlys
    I think I know what you mean, because I did something like that when I was a "believer" as a teenager. But it was not a fully conscious decision, and once I fully understood what I was doing - closing the mind whenever something didn't fit into my world view, or actively avoiding to ask questions - it would have been impossible to continue with it. So I thin ...[text shortened]... reigned by some psychological mechanisms, that doesn't really make it your decision either.
    I see what you mean.

    However, I think believing might still be one's decision; one might knowingly, if fleetingly, give in to a strong temptation the mind had to embrace a set of congenial beliefs; and after one had given in, one might conveniently forget that one had done so, and thereafter rationalize having those beliefs.

    I think the matter may be even more complex: the set of beliefs in question may be partly congenial, partly uncongenial. Indeed, the motive to resolve epistemological tension between beliefs may prompt irrational decisions to believe.
  8. DonationPawnokeyhole
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    09 Apr '07 15:37
    Originally posted by checkbaiter
    Isn't the word "believe" a verb? It conotes action on ones part if he/she does indeed believe. For example, I have to believe there is water in the pool before I jump in. The jumping reveals my belief. In a spiritual sense a true believer in God proves to himself that he/she believes by taking that leap of faith. IE. tithing, opening one's mouth and spea ...[text shortened]... the passive sense, "trusty, faithful, trustworthy." It is translated "believer" in
    "Trip" is also a verb.

    Does that imply one does it intentionally and actively?
  9. Donationbbarr
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    09 Apr '07 17:17
    Originally posted by Pawnokeyhole
    Is it possible to decide to believe something?

    If it is, is it rational or desirable?
    Sure it is possible, but not directly. I don't know how one would go about directly deciding to believe that P independently of evidence. But I've certainly decided to believe something on the basis of the evidence that I have at my disposal. Of course, it is probable that given the evidence I had at my disposal, my decision to believe was superfluous; the my awareness of the evidence was sufficient to elicit my belief. The only cases I can come up with of deciding to believe that P are cases where one decides to take a course of action one has reason to believe will result in one's believing that P. Suppose I knew that if I started attending church every day, reading religious literature, and drinking heavily, I would eventually come to believe that God exists. We could describe my engaging in this course of action "deciding to believe that God exists".
  10. Standard memberNemesio
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    09 Apr '07 17:49
    Originally posted by bbarr
    Sure it is possible, but not directly. I don't know how one would go about directly deciding to believe that P independently of evidence. But I've certainly decided to believe something on the basis of the evidence that I have at my disposal. Of course, it is probable that given the evidence I had at my disposal, my decision to believe was superfluo ...[text shortened]... could describe my engaging in this course of action "deciding to believe that God exists".
    What about the deciding to believe that the earth is flat, say? There is a tremendous amount of
    evidence to the contrary and the evidence pointing to it is either circumstantial (from where I'm
    standing it doesn't appear flat) or misinterpreted (a la Bible). Is this merely a misweighing
    of evidence; that is, a situation in which someone misguidedly gives greater importance to the
    erroneous or misunderstood evidence rather than to the sound, and consequently is not 'independent'
    of evidence?

    Nemesio
  11. Donationbbarr
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    09 Apr '07 18:46
    Originally posted by Nemesio
    What about the deciding to believe that the earth is flat, say? There is a tremendous amount of
    evidence to the contrary and the evidence pointing to it is either circumstantial (from where I'm
    standing it doesn't appear flat) or misinterpreted (a la Bible). Is this merely a misweighing
    of evidence; that is, a situation in which someone misguid ...[text shortened]... nce rather than to the sound, and consequently is not 'independent'
    of evidence?

    Nemesio
    Your example is a bit underdescribed. It could be that when S "decides to believe" that the earth is flat, S is really just taking the proposition that the earth is flat as a posit. That is, S will assent to the proposition "the earth is flat", act as though the earth is flat in normal circumstances, etc. But all this is consistent with S really not believing that the earth is flat, in the same way that somebody playing devil's advocate may not really believe the negation of the proposition their arguing against. Alternatively, S could really believe that the earth is flat, but do so on the basis of pragmatic rather than epistemic reasons. Perhaps in S's flat-earth society it is necessary to believe that the earth is flat in order not to be ostracized or worse. One wonders, though, whether this would really be belief, and not merely pretending to believe (though it is certainly evident that pretending to believe that P may engender the actual belief that P; witness the inner trajectory of various forms of self-deception). Finally, it may be that S does decide to believe that the earth is flat because S mistakenly takes the evidence for a flat earth to be much stronger than it actually is. But this case doesn't seem properly described as an instance of deciding to believe that the earth is flat, if that is supposed to entail that S could have chosen to reject the proposition. After all, if S really thinks the evidence overwhelmingly supports a flat-earth, then in what sense did he choose to believe that the earth was flat. It seems his deciding in this case in explanatorily superfluous, and his sensitivity to what he takes his evidence to be is sufficient to elicit his belief. So, in none of these possible interpretations of your scenario does it seems that S actually decides to believe the earth is flat. This is wny I claimed above that the only way one can decide to believe P is to indirectly engage in a course of action that one has reason to believe will result in eliciting the belief that P.
  12. Cosmos
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    09 Apr '07 20:17
    Originally posted by Pawnokeyhole
    Is it possible to decide to believe something?

    If it is, is it rational or desirable?
    If you live in a stinking religious country where apostasy is punishable by death, then it is certainly desirable to 'believe' in it!
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    09 Apr '07 20:213 edits
    Originally posted by bbarr
    Your example is a bit underdescribed. It could be that when S "decides to believe" that the earth is flat, S is really just taking the proposition that the earth is flat as a posit. That is, S will assent to the proposition "the earth is flat", act as though the earth is flat in normal circumstances, etc. But all this is consistent with S really not believi urse of action that one has reason to believe will result in eliciting the belief that P.
    That's a good post. I think with respect to theistic "belief", it's largely the pragmatic approach you describe. They "choose to believe" based on social pressure; or some sort of Pascal Wager-like approach to expected utility; or they think belief in God is the only way to support what they take to be moral or social imperatives; etc. Can we really say this is belief? I doubt it (possibly under certain dispositionalist or behavioral views of belief??? -- but not under a representationalist view). But it seems they from there use rigorous methods of self-delusion to arrive at actual (or at least something close to) belief.
  14. Hmmm . . .
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    09 Apr '07 20:39
    Originally posted by LemonJello
    That's a good post. I think with respect to theistic "belief", it's largely the pragmatic approach you describe. They "choose to believe" based on social pressure; or some sort of Pascal Wager-like approach to expected utility; or they think belief in God is the only way to support what they take to be moral or social imperatives; etc. Can we really sa ...[text shortened]... rous methods of self-delusion to arrive at actual (or at least something close to) belief.
    Well, I’m not quite so cynical as that. I think supernatural theists also sometimes simply take as evidence things that I do not.

    Also, I think that religious expressions of various kinds can be validated on other pragmatic grounds than the ones you listed—without the insistence on belief in metaphysically speculative propositions.
  15. Donationbbarr
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    09 Apr '07 20:451 edit
    Originally posted by LemonJello
    That's a good post. I think with respect to theistic "belief", it's largely the pragmatic approach you describe. They "choose to believe" based on social pressure; or some sort of Pascal Wager-like approach to expected utility; or they think belief in God is the only way to support what they take to be moral or social imperatives; etc. Can we really sa ...[text shortened]... rous methods of self-delusion to arrive at actual (or at least something close to) belief.
    Really? I think the pragmatic account of theistic belief is phenomenologically inaccurate for the vast majority of theists. From a young age people get trained up into theism by their parents, peers, teachers, etc. This worldview is more than simply a set of believed propositions, it is also (and more fundamentally) a host of integrated dispositions, with cognitive, evaluative and motivational components. After awhile theism is self-sustaining; events that are objectively evidentially neutral get interpreted in light of one's theistic outlook and provide support to the worldview. Elegance of the natural world is seen as evidence for a creator, manifest compassion is seen as the action of God, and even natural distasters become evidence for God's punishment for some moral failing on the part of a person or society. Rather than "choosing to believe" for pragmatic reasons, the vast majority of theists had theism inculcated along with (and as part of) a more general moral education.

    Note that belief based on moral or social imperatives might not be best construed as pragmatically grounded belief. If you think that it is true that moral claims are rationally binding, and also that there is no formal account of practical rationality that can make moral claims compelling (contra Kant), then you might think that moral claims must be backed up by a legislator with the ability to punish (that is, a legislator with the ability to make moral requirements and prudential requirements coincide). This is famously what Hobbes was trying to do with the state, but you can see something similar with theism. In other words, if you accept 1) Moral 'oughts' are necessarily rationally compelling, and 2) instrumental rationality is exhaustive of practical rationality, then you might take this as evidence for 3) there must be something that makes self-interest and morality coincide. And what else could do the job of (3) but God, who sees into our hearts and is prepared to reward or punish us for what he finds therein?
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