Monday, 20 May 2013


DM: To believe is just what we think are the facts now. To think is to revise. So all belief is ephemeral even though the content may be similar to what we thought was the case a moment ago.

ME: If what we thought/believed is similar [that is nothing of any substance has changed] each and every time over a period of ages then that belief can not be said to be ephemeral can it?

DM:  Yes, it can as the belief is not the content but the current feeling that it is true.

It always involves revision. So past content is not relevant but current feeling is. The content need not change when I see a meme as false. The feeling it is true does have to change.

ME: What if both the content and the feeling remain the same?

DM: Like the air we breathe in, I would still say it was a fresh belief.

ME: How can it be a fresh belief?

DM: The same way that we can take in fresh air.

Do you want to say that air we breathe in is not fresh, as the content is the same?

My thesis is that we spend belief about as fast as we use up the oxygen from the air we breathe in, so we need to breathe and make fresh assumptions automatically. To think is to assume freshly, even though it retains content about as much as a movie/film frame does from one belief to the next.

ME: Ah, fresh not new. A fresh look might not involve a new look at something. The difference between a quick thought and a detailed thought about the content of an issue. To take a fresh look at things. I do that often. Then more often than not I believe as I did about the content. Thus the truth and fact of it as I understand and comprehend the content I still believe in remains the same. I might of course form a new belief from the old, or dispel with the old belief I once held; as one can of course change ones mind about what one thinks. I have done that in my comprehension of Christian thought; and indeed political thought. A fresh look at a belief [or anything else for that matter] does not assume that anything different will come from that fresh look.

Some will ask how can one not see or understand differently after taking a fresh look at the content of an issue or proposition. They are expectant of a change of view or belief but are disappointed or confused when a change does not occur in the other persons viewpoint.

DM: It soon occurred to me that the five senses renew and revise beliefs about as often as we breathe in air. This is roughly the idea I retain today.

If I go out to fetch the paper, I recreate beliefs with my five senses, even though I have made the journey many times. I do not recall beliefs but look to make fresh ones. 

Indeed, revision does not mean amendment or change but it is a test of sorts.

I do not think it matters very much what we believe but it does matter if we do immoral things.

ME: Does not our moral action arise from what we believe?

DM: Saint Augustine is right that what we do is a matter of will rather than of mere belief. The Stoics saw that too.  Augustine used this against his master, the ancient Plato [some 800 years earlier] on sin, that it could be wilful thus we can sin even if we know it is wrong. That was mistaken in my view. Realising a thing is immoral is to not to want to do it, as Plato held,  despite having the physical ability to do it.

ME: Does doing what we will also relate, at times at least, to what we believe?

DM: Belief is just what we think the facts are.

What we will is what we want. Beliefs are usually just a means there thus David Hume says reason is and ought to be only the slave of the passions.

ME: So what we believe does indeed also relate to what we will. Though not always it seems as the two can be separate entities.

DM: Yes, but it cannot utterly replace it, our will is what we want rather than what we think is the case but if we think an apple is rotten we will not want it. I might want to beat my girlfriend up but if I believe she has just puled a gun to defend herself I may lie that I did not mean what I said when I told her I would punch her nose.  Facts can change the will, for we never attempt anything that we see as futile but no set of facts logically implies a certain action. Thus science will forever remain value free but no scientist is ever value free as a person.

ME: Yes I agree. Our belief will never replace our will. Facts can alter how we think about an issue or person and of course a fact can affect our belief. Indeed there can never a value free person – could artificial intelligence be a value free intelligence?

We all bring our values to the table of life. Thus I am saddened when normally peaceful minded men promote warfare. I understand self-defence but to wage war. Sad.

With thanks to David McDonagh.

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