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Response 2 (to C1, Patlavskiy)

 

ABSOLUTE  AND  WORKING-BELIEFS
by Herbert FJ Müller
6 March 2008, posted 15 March 2008

 

Serge Patlavskiy writes that beliefs are necessary.  This is quite true, but the beliefs have various qualities, in particular how resilient and/or flexible they are.  One always has to make working-assumptions, which serve as (in principle temporary) stabilizers for thinking and action.  The naϊve belief in subject-exclusive mind-independent reality serves well for many aspects of life, like for buying bread, where MIR does not have to be questioned.  But the alternative to MIR-belief is not ‘no reality’ but rather subject-inclusive working-MIR-belief (e.g., working-ontology), which is needed for some questions like the mind-brain relation.  Neither buying bread nor Einstein’s ontological question about the moon are affected by a change from absolute MIR-beliefs to working-MIR assumptions, which also work adequately.  The same considerations apply to holistic beliefs like religion, or theories of everything. 

 

Inflexible beliefs can be very resilient but may on the other hand cause difficulties.  I just learned that the president of Iran, who is often in the news, firmly believes that the Mahdi will soon come, and he wants to prepare his country for this event.  It does not seem that he understands this as an ad-hoc temporary working-hypothesis, and that might become be a problem.  It could be of considerable importance for international politics, since apparently this belief governs his decisions.  (He also said that there are no homosexuals in his country.)

 

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REFERENCE

Hoffmann C, Das verborgene Land. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 23 Febr. 2008, p.Z1

 

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Herbert FJ Müller
     e-mail <herbert.muller (at) mcgill.ca>