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Davis, California

Monday, May 27, 2024


When most people think about philosophical conversations they imagine stoners pondering their existence as they pass the bong. Philosophy is as rigorous and objective as the logic that structures it. Because of the precise nature of philosophy, a lot of philosophical conversations DO end up sounding like stoner conversations. Take for example this philosophical exchange – Q: “Does god exist?” A: “Yeah dude, I totally feel his energy every time I chill with my bros.”

Unfortunately, there can’t be a right answer; the question itself is ill-defined. The question is an incoherent hypothesis with an undefined concept of “god.” It wouldn’t even make sense to answer this question logically. A lot of people don’t mind ignoring what I like to call conversational stop signs. These are flaws in a conversation’s logic that should immediately terminate the conversation from progressing. I always wondered why people allow philosophical arguments to last so long when obviously the conversation is going nowhere. That’s when I realized people are ignoring the stop signs! Where are the philosophy police when you need them?

The laws of logic are the strictest laws around; how dare people break them? This question has led me to an even more inconvenient discovery: not everyone cares about his or her beliefs corresponding as close as possible to reality. Humans have an innately weak belief-forming algorithm. By weak, I mean that it is unreliable in forming beliefs consistent with reality. Unfortunately, we are endowed with a biased mind that gives us a filtered perception of the real world. But there is hope; us humans have the ability to overcome our biases; a better understanding of our universe is possible! (I am not implying we can have a complete understanding of the universe, whatever that may mean.)

I have found out that many people don’t actually care so much about having their beliefs correspond to reality. Personally, I don’t know of any false belief that I want to believe in simply for the reason that it is convenient. I put great value on having my beliefs be as close as possible to the truth; it is my top priority. If I have a debate and my opponent points out my logical flaws or brings forth new information, I would be more than happy to update my beliefs. I would feel better off knowing I was wrong than to continue believing something false.

Like I mentioned above, people don’t care about being right! Our culture values a person who is consistent with their beliefs. A person who is inconsistent with their beliefs is perceived as indecisive, confused, two-faced or illogical. On the other hand, consistency is associated with being logical, rational, honestor stable. When someone publicly announces a belief they are more inclined to believe it, even in the face of contradicting evidence. They care more about social status than being right. Others prefer the short-term bliss that a false belief induces. A false belief only gives someone happiness because they believe it is true. In other words, they value the truth, but only when it is convenient for them. The happiness is short-term because one day getting rid of the false belief will be valued higher than the happiness it induces.

In order for a philosophical argument to “go somewhere,” the arguers must mutually desire their beliefs to correspond to reality. This is why it is hard to argue with religious people about god’s existence. Faith is used to justify beliefs about god, not logic and reason. You have to understand the way the person you are arguing with forms beliefs or no beliefs can be shaped by the end of the argument.

LIOR GOTESMAN prefers knowing the truth so if you believe he is wrong he would like to know why. Tell him why at liorgott@gmail.com


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