[lit-ideas] Re: Philosophy: A Very Short Introduction

  • From: Phil Enns <phil.enns@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: "Walter C. Okshevsky" <wokshevs@xxxxxx>
  • Date: Tue, 17 Dec 2013 15:02:39 +0600

Walter O. wrote:

"Phil presupposes something I think we can justifiably deny: the view
that pseudo-beliefs can 'do all the work that beliefs normally do.'
But rationally acquired and justified beliefs are efficacious
precisely because they are evidence-based, and thus more likely to be
true or correct than pseudo-beliefs."

But a belief is efficacious, not because it comes with evidence but
because, by definition, it has a use, a place in experience. This
usefulness is independent of the reasons and justifications we may
give to help understand why we do what we do. Just as a knuckleball
works, or does not, regardless of whether the pitcher holds attendant
reasons and justifications regarding the relevant physics, so also our
beliefs about taxes, love or the Good work, or do not, regardless of
whether we hold attendant reasons and justifications. This
independence of usefulness from reasons and justifications is
important for beliefs because there will be times when we don't have
reasons and justifications at hand. Who has the time, inclination or
ability to have reasons and justifications for all the various beliefs
we hold? But this doesn't stop us from holding beliefs about taxes,
love or the Good. Sometimes we turn to traditions where beliefs have
endured over time and space, and so people identify with political
parties, religions or other sources of identity. And sometimes we just
shrug our shoulders and say something like, 'Well, I just believe that
I am in love', because, at a certain point, that is all one can do.
One can call these beliefs, 'pseudo-beliefs', but I suspect most of
our beliefs fall under this category, and perhaps these would include
the beliefs we care about the most, certainly those that involve
ethical and aesthetic judgments. So, I suppose one can dismiss certain
kinds of beliefs as 'pseudo-beliefs', but it isn't clear to me why
this is a good thing.

Walter O. adds:

"I'll postpone for now comment on Phil's very interesting (but I
believe) false idea that a language-game, as understood by Witters, is
political. I submit that believing-that, like knowing-that, is an
epistemological matter, having nothing to do with politics."

The decision on what counts as a rule within a game cannot be based
solely on criteria internal to the game. Instead, these decisions will
be based, in part, on things like what group within a society was more
influential, who was elected to the governing body or who had the
most/biggest weapons. In short, politics. I know for many people, the
word 'politics' is a bad thing, but I am increasingly of the belief
that it is a really good thing, and we should have more of it.


Phil Enns
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