If the preference for an idea, the liking or disliking, strikes first, and the reasoning that justifies it follows, then learning more about the ingredients and mechanics of preference tells us about belief. And in learning about belief we learn about one of the determinants of what we confer the word “knowledge” upon. For knowledge, in part, is made up from the mix of beliefs that people have. Without a method for analyzing the moment of preference it passes by mostly unnoticed. Generally, when we are questioned about this moment of preference – called assumption, intuition, the given, self-evidence - we shrug because we have to accept its role in belief creation, but there’s not much more to say about it. Additionally, there’s often a discomfort with it because it runs counter to the primacy of reason as the reason we believe. Yet how do reasons which justify an opposite view also gain allegiance? How does a reasoning and conclusion the opposite of ours convince? Its convincingness has to have an alien quality to us because it cannot do to us what it does to our intellectual opponent. To know it in that way – the way the convinced know it – is to have “gone native” and become a convert. Conversion occurs when we transcend reason and have an experience of something as the truth.
This focus on the preferential moment, our liking or disliking, our desires, is unusual. It runs contrary to the main thrust of post-Enlightenment reason and science. But its role in believing the ideas we adopt as our own is, I’m arguing, necessary. If necessary we should know more about it.