Do You Feel Lucky?

(and feel free to comment! My older posts are certainly no less relevant to the burning concerns of the day.)

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Less of a Comment, More Its Own Separate Post #1: People Who Object On Principle to "Belief"

Man, I could do a whole other post on people who object in principle to the word "belief."

Have you run into these people? I've run into a few. They'll claim they have no belief at all, on any matter! They look at it as if everything upon which one could have belief is either a matter for certainty (within which, presumably, certainty is infallible!) or else it is a matter where one should have absolutely no iota of belief or disbelief, either way.

This strikes me as dishonest. First, it's dishonest about one's own lack of knowledge. About the limitations of knowledge and of certainty. But more importantly, it's got a gnarly ingrown component of hypocrisy in there! You can't say you should have no belief, either way. If you say "should," then you believe something. You believe: given certain conditions, a person should do X. That this is belief is plain on the face of it.

Why you hold the belief is no matter. Maybe you don't claim to base the belief on morals - and so? Maybe you say it's based on pure selfish benefit, or "self-evident reason," or some galoolahgilly, but your should remains nevertheless a belief. It's a belief you have about how people should act.

And what's wrong with that? Nothing! As long as you're not simultaneously going around making shady and dishonest claims that you have no beliefs whatsoever.

A skeptic believes.

A skeptic believes that one shouldn't accept a proposition as true in the absence of compelling indications that it is true.

Now THAT'S a pretty strong moral stance! One of the most self-evidently valid and justifiable moral stances we have. And it remains a moral stance, even if you or I or any given person embraces it purely for the strong selfish benefit it confers. Skepticism remains a moral stance because skepticism, whatever else it may be, is a firm foundation for human growth and understanding and a powerful means to combat evil. Evil in various forms, oh people might call it out as ignorance, deception, disinformation or oppression by any of these means. These are evils, it don't take a dude in red pajamas and a pitchfork. In just the same way, "don't murder" retains its aspect as a moral stance, regardless of why a given person embraces or repudiates it. There's a pretty strong argument for selfish benefit there too, usually.

"Moral" doesn't equal valid, after all. Given its defined aims (usually some version of compassion), its general validity or invalidity can be established. As long as you're not one of those dipshit absolutists!

1 comment:

dogimo said...

Man, that was one lazy fucking post. Straight copy-paste from two, three days ago or so! Didn't even mess it into shape.