Saturday, December 23, 2006

Explaining Our Beliefs, As Well As Their's: 7th Installment

Following on my previous blog entry, “Our Criteria of Rightness: 6th Installment”:

We feel very comfortable understanding our own viewpoint as representing the way the world is or as an accurate rendering of the world as it is in itself. And, correspondingly, we judge an opposing view as off and not capturing things as they are. Consequently, we both develop explanations for how our intellectual opponent could be so off in their beliefs about how things should be and are, and we have the experience of perplexity at how they could believe something so different from us.

I think that we all have that feeling of ourselves as being sturdily planted in rightness while our opponents are hopelessly muddled.

But it is readily admitted by the masters of reason - philosophers - that our rational worldviews are based on rational intuitions, i.e. rational assumptions which cannot be further justified. There are very few epistemological foundationalists left. But if our views cannot demonstrate their origin in the way the world is - the one and only reality - and if that is also true of our opponents, then we should also take a look at why we believe what we believe beyond the reasons we give for believing what we believe.

We feel comfortable residing in the ultimately unsupportable perspective we take on how things are and some comfort in explaining the blind spots, stupidity and obstinance of people with opposing views, but we rarely wonder about the psychological origins of our own attachments to our beliefs. Not just what we come to think of as mistaken beliefs, but also what we consider correct beliefs. For if the way the world is cannot be shown to sanction or justify these beliefs, we can rightly wonder about their origins.

It’s comfortable to examine the extra rational causes of our opponent's beliefs, but we rarely inquire into the extra rational causes of our own beliefs.