The Belief of Doubt
However, this process of data-collection, worldview formation, and fact confirmation is actually very similar to the way in which science works. A model is constructed to explain facts — say field theory which explains the fundamental nature of the material universe — and all new information is compared against the accepted model and judged accordingly. New information is either integrated into the current scientific model, suspected because of the way in which it contradicts the current model, or accepted as accurate, resulting in a revision of the current model.
In many ways, Belief Mapping is the only way in which a person may advance in thought processing to the level of maturity.
Of course, this knife cuts both ways. Lickerman begins his article preaching against homeopathy, and punctuates it with a rallying cry against creationism and anti-vaccination. Clearly Lickerman has some underlying audience he looks down upon for rationalizing their beliefs.
Perhaps Lickerman's beliefs have been adequately researched and formed dispassionately, and perhaps not - but nevertheless, a motive remains clear as he preaches the inadequacy of belief formation. It could not be more clear that Shermer had a motive for his book beyond just defining belief formation. Again, belief-mapping has never been as problematic as it is in the information age.
So far as communicating with others, educational theory has a nice, common-sensical method of integrating information into a person's worldview with the least amount of resistance: you meet the person where they are at. An educator, will, for instance, probe a student for their interests, then teach the subject matter relating it to that interest.
Math may relate to music or shopping, so if the student likes shopping, this interest may be tapped in order to teach them math. Parents instinctively do this for children, too. To explain the concept of taxes, they may use chore money to demonstrate how it works. You find something the person has already integrated into their belief map, and then use that to demonstrate your point.
In short, Belief exists. It is a word relevant to everyone — at least by its classic definition. Everyone has the same potential flaw with belief formation in that, if their worldview is flawed, their belief formation will be poor in terms of discerning accurate beliefs from inaccurate ones. One must question one's own personal belief map before attacking those of others. Doubt characterizes a state of mind when a proposition which has been held as true becomes suspect, and then remains in a status of neither being held as fully true or fully false.
It can also describe a state when a mind encounters a new idea, and is unable to decide upon the truth or falsity of that idea. It can also describe something which is not trustworthy. This is the case especially when it comes to self-doubt, that is, the inability to trust oneself to be able to discern between that which is true and that which is false. It could also be the case that when a person encounters a source of information which they have determined to be unreliable, any information that comes from that source will be deemed as uncertain as to its quality of truthfulness.
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Possibly the most common kind of doubt is self-doubt. Typically people who self-doubt do so because of a negative self-image. They have come to the conclusion that they cannot trust themselves — either to come to reasonable conclusions, or to control their own lives.
This being so, the person has come to rely on others to affirm or deny beliefs. Such a person will look to others in order to validate beliefs. If and when peers or authorities deny a particular belief, the person will adopt the beliefs of those around them. A person with a fairly strong self-respect will tend to rely on their own capacity to affirm or deny beliefs. This person typically has an internal locus of control — meaning they are self-reliant. They rely on themselves in order to discern the truth or falsity of beliefs.
A person such as this is much less likely to self-doubt than the previous type of person, and it will take a lot to ever convince them they have been wrong about something. However, for this kind of person, doubt is a much stronger force. If this person is convinced in some way usually through personal investigation rather than taking the word of some authority that they have been wrong about something — they are almost certain to suffer, considering they are self-reliant, and they have exposed a flaw in their own thinking.
On the basis of certain studies , atheists in general tend to be more self-reliant with an internal locus of control. On average, your atheist — who has made a firm decision in regards to the truth or falsity of religion — tend according to studies, to be analytical thinkers and self-reliant ones as well. As mentioned before, it tends to be far less likely for someone with an internal locus of control, with analytic thinking to doubt their viewpoint, since they consider themselves to be the masters of their own beliefs.
This is not meant as a criticism of people with internal locus of control, just to say that people with ILC are far less able to change their views on things, since once they have a belief, it tends to be set in stone. Doubt, in general, tends to be a very uncomfortable feeling - such that people will actively avoid or reject sources of information that might contradict the truths they endorse.
This ties back to Lickerman's confirmation and deconfirmation bias. The fact that doubt could cause mental - or even physical - discomfort should not be entirely surprising: when one's beliefs are called into doubt, this suggests that a person cannot trust themselves to determine truth. When a person calls into question their own sensibilities, that person has to question not just a belief that they hold - but rather all beliefs that they hold, because they realize they have the capacity for error. Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.
Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites. I believe being self reliant depends on the person. A lot of religious people have also searched and made their decision to follow that religion based on their own thinking. In ordinary non-technical discourse, we would use the term more broadly:. The idea that belief really refers to things arrived at intuitively seems to represent a different locus of ideas from that in common use. I certainly agree with that. I believe we should start this discussion by setting high Ideals beliefs.
An ideal is a standard by which one lives. It is a motivational standard by which to evaluate our goals and our reasons for pursuing those goals. The goal is what; the ideal is why! A spiritual ideal is not so much a goal toward which we move as it is the spirit in which we grow. It is a living and dynamic standard by which we quicken and measure our daily motivation.
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To provide a better website experience, owlcation. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so. Joel Furches more. The Definition of Belief The definition of the word "belief" is being called into dispute in recent years. Belief Mapping Both Lickerman and Shermer somewhat agree in their diagnosis of how humans form beliefs, however, Lickerman is kind enough not to link his exclusively with religious and paranormal beliefs.
The Meaning of Doubt
Flaws in the System The flaws of this system of belief formation have really come into focus with the arrival of the "Information Age. Belief Formation and the Scientific Method However, this process of data-collection, worldview formation, and fact confirmation is actually very similar to the way in which science works. The Psychology of Doubt Doubt characterizes a state of mind when a proposition which has been held as true becomes suspect, and then remains in a status of neither being held as fully true or fully false.
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Since the knight of faith is engaged in a practical, not a theoretical, inquiry, his method, like the method of the sciences, is inductive. The inductive method used so habitually and extensively in modern science entails making hypotheses and subjecting them to tests that result in their verification or falsification. While the knight of faith cannot verify or falsify the beliefs that express his faith in the same way that the scientist tests his hypotheses, his procedure is in some important respects analogous. As the creative scientist invests his time and may stake his reputation on the eventual verification of his hypothesis, so the knight of faith stakes his life and his final destiny on his.
Although he cannot hope to provide a definitive, assent-compelling verification of his faith here and now, the claim implicit in his faith is verifiable or falsifiable in the long run. Such faith entails risk. It is, as Pascal saw, a gamble; yet it is by no means a mere idle gamble, for it is informed by one's whole interpretation of life, as the scientist's hypothesis is no mere guess, but is founded on the whole range of his scientific experience and inquiry.
We have seen that in the thought of the Middle Ages faith fides was generally equated with belief. The great thinkers of the thirteenth century were much more familiar with deductive methods of reasoning than with inductive ones. Despite the foundations for inductive methods that were laid by original medieval minds such as Robert Grosseteste , Roger Bacon , and Johannes Duns Scotus, medieval science did not advance as physics, chemistry, and biology have advanced in recent times.
The medieval men certainly did not lack powers of observation. They made astonishingly perceptive discoveries and invented many ingenious technological tools. They were hampered, however, by not taking seriously enough those inductive methods by which modern science has made its advances. For the same reason they tended to underestimate the meaning and power of faith as the volitional, practical, risk-taking catalyst of authentic awareness of God, apart from which both the beliefs and the doubts that spring from it must lack authenticity. This peculiar role of faith was expressed in the nineteenth century by John Henry Newman.
In his Apologia pro vita sua he reports that it was not logic that carried him on any more than it is the mercury in the barometer that changes the weather: "The whole man moves; paper logic is but the record of it. The difference between the medieval and the post-Renaissance understanding of the nature of faith may be due also, at least in part, to a general change of outlook that the Renaissance brought about in respect to the nature of man. In medieval thought the will was treated as but one of several "faculties," or powers of the soul.
Such was the change wrought by the Renaissance that a tendency developed to see the will as virtually synonymous with the whole person. In this view the whole person is the agent; hence the act of faith comes to be seen more and more as an act of the will. The twentieth-century philosopher Bertrand Russell, in one of his best books, Human Knowledge London, , reminds us that "all knowledge is in some degree doubtful, and we cannot say what degree of doubtfulness makes it cease to be knowledge, any more than we can say how much loss of hair makes a man bald" p.
He goes on to say that all words outside mathematics and logic are vague. After pointing out that empiricism as a theory of knowledge is inadequate, though less so than any previous one, he concludes that "all human knowledge is uncertain, inexact, and partial" p. Russell's thought on this subject represents a development of the empiricist view championed in the eighteenth century by David Hume. According to Hume all human knowledge is reducible to more or less strong beliefs. Although some modern philosophers have argued for a clear distinction between knowledge and belief, they show only that it may be convenient to dub certain very strong beliefs knowledge in order to distinguish them from other beliefs that are weak.
While I may feel so certain about some be-liefs that I wish to assign to them a special place among my beliefs and so call them knowledge, I can never claim to be entirely certain that I have examined all possible alternatives, if only because I cannot know all the possible alternatives. When belief in a geocentric universe was fashionable, many must have felt confident that such a universe was demonstrable beyond a shadow of a doubt. If anyone doubted it, he could be asked to follow the movement of the sun from its rising to its setting and so be shown conclusively that the sun moved; yet that conclusion would be wrong according to today's reckoning.
For practical purposes one may choose to call one's strongest beliefs knowledge, but it can never be knowledge in the sense of an infallible grasp of truth or an acquaintance with reality. Even to say "I know I am in pain" is not an exception since it adds nothing to saying "I am in pain.
Of course I feel pain; but to say "I know" is to claim knowledge of what pain is, and this I cannot properly claim. Nor could such a claim to know result in any objective knowledge at all. As my friend you would presumably trust my word; nevertheless, you would be entitled to disbelieve me. It is one thing to contend that everyone has the right to be sure of his beliefs; it is another thing to affirm that the beliefs are justified as claims to knowledge. By claiming to know, I would claim — judiciously or rashly — to have no doubt.
If I affirm that something is a known fact, I am contending that no one has any need or any right to doubt it. No alleged facts, however, can be said to be so indubitable, and none, therefore, is so indisputable. When in creedal statements such as the Nicene Creed or the so-called Apostles' Creed we use the traditional "I believe" or "We believe," we exhibit the characteristically religious disposition of openness and its implication of the possibility of doubt. This doubt may be transcended by faith, yet the faith is meaningless apart from it.
Perceptive, then, was the poet Alfred Tennyson's observation that more faith lives in honest doubt than "in half the creeds"; for unless the believer's affirmation recognizes the possibility of doubt, his faith has no vitality. The absence of doubt is the height of irreligion. Both the will to believe, which the psychologist and philosopher William James popularized in the late nineteenth century, and the will to doubt, which Bertrand Russell said he would prefer to preach, are necessary for a lively faith.
When the authentic believer says "I believe," he omits a hidden qualifier — " Nevertheless , I believe. Authentic belief does not sidestep doubt. On the contrary, when one seriously intends to live by faith, one does not at all claim that the formulation of that faith is adequate or irreformable. The role of doubt in belief can be clarified by a glance at two extremes: nihilism and certainty. Nihilism from the Latin nihil , "nothing" consists in the dogmatic tendency to deny not only the existence of God but the permanence of any entity.
According to such a view one can therefore say nothing that is absolutely true of anything since no claims to truth have any objective grounds. A classical exponent of nihilism in its intellectual aspect is Gorgias in Plato's dialogue of that name. In contrast to the earlier philosopher Protagoras, who held that "man is the measure of all things" i.
On the practical or ethical side the nihilist denies all "higher" and "objective" values. In the nineteenth century the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche held that the interpretation of existence that Christianity bequeathed to Europe was fundamentally a life-negating pessimism. A particular form of nihilism emerged in Russia. Mikhail Bakunin — taught that society's only hope lies in its destruction, while, even more radically, Dmitrii Pisarev — taught that society is so evil that its destruction is a good in itself.
Existentialism, by contrast, is not necessarily nihilistic, although some forms of it e. Certainty is a peculiarly difficult concept. After the Renaissance, John Locke , George Berkeley , and David Hume all paved the way for Kant's demonstration that we can have no certain knowledge of the "thing-in-itself. Although from Augustine to Thomas the medieval thinkers had discussed the conditions of certain knowledge, all of them held that at least some kind of knowledge is possible.
Otherwise, how else could one know, for instance, that God exists? Modern thinkers, however, have generally been reluctant to recognize the possibility of absolute certainty except in the realm of logical and mathematical relationships that are as we have seen tautologies.
Russell distinguished three kinds of claims to certainty: 1 logical, or mathematical, certainty — for example, if we grant that man is a rational animal, we may be certain that by implication man is an animal; 2 epistemological certainty, according to which a proposition is credible in the highest degree as a result of the abundance of evidence adduced for it — for example, we can be certain that the earth moves around the sun; and 3 psychological certainty, which occurs when a person merely feels no doubt about the truth of a proposition — for example, if after having known you for two minutes I were to say, "I am an excellent judge of people, and I know for certain that you are not to be trusted.
Superficial critics of religion tend to ask, "How genuine is the believer's belief? The questioner, having taken care to steer between the Scylla of nihilism and the Charybdis of a claim to certainty, would more fruitfully formulate the question by asking, "How genuine is the doubt behind the belief? Doubt is a profound expression of humility. Without the humility that is and always has been at the root of all creative philosophical and scientific inquiry from Socrates onward, pretensions to religious faith are shown for what they are: at best a caricature, at worst a mockery, of religion.
For humility is not only the virtue that corresponds to the vice of pride — which according to the teachings of all the great religions of the world is the fundamental obstacle to spiritual perceptivity; it is also closely connected with love, which is in Christian teaching the spring of all virtues.
So faith and love respectively have as their implicates doubt and humility. If humility be radical enough it can become the best means of access to God, who "resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble" Jas. We may also say with E. Laughter is likewise relevant to the spirit of humility and doubt.
To be able to laugh at oneself is surely the hallmark of humility. Neither the religious fanatic nor the antireligious propagandist is likely to be able to do so, and so neither can ever laugh lovingly about religion. The mirth that springs from self-forgetfulness is a potent instrument in the attainment of religious insight, for it springs from deep humility and a childlike love that have matured into intellectual openness and awe before the mystery of being.
That is impossible apart from doubt. In childhood we learn to trust those who surround us with love. In due course we discover that, like all human beings, they, too, have their limitations. The deeply religious person, however, claims to have encountered the being in whom alone such trust may be placed without reserve, and so such a person sets no limits on the faith that issues from the encounter.
What such a person may and should question is what precisely the encounter signifies and how it is to be interpreted. If the faith does not entail any doubt at all, surely it is a straw in the wind. Moreover, without a willingness to doubt, religious tolerance is impossible.
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True, religious tolerance is not in itself the mark of authentic faith, for it may spring from mere indifference to or ignorance of the cardinal issues of the religious consciousness; but a faith that is fundamentally intolerant of any expressions of religion other than its own merely reveals its lack of confidence and the trivial nature of its thrust. Genuinely religious persons, whatever their beliefs, are always thoroughly impressed by the mystery of faith. The tendency to explain rather than to contemplate mystery is the vice of much popular, institutional religion and has immensely contributed to the disunity of Christendom as well as to the maintenance of barriers between one religion and another.
The apocalyptic literature of religion unfolds the presence of mystery; it does not purport to explain it. Genuine religion is always full of wonder and therefore full of doubt, while irreligion is wonderless. With wonderless belief the devotee can offer only wonderless love, which is tantamount to blasphemy since it entails a casualness such as one might properly express in saying, for instance, "Of course I love candy, doesn't everyone?
For a discussion of a "doubtful faith" that can partake of rational checks and balances yet allow beliefs that go beyond theoretical knowledge, see Immanuel Kant 's Critique of Judgment especially section Hong and Edna H. Hong, assisted by Gregor Malantschuk Bloomington, Ind. Swenson, Lillian M. Swenson, and Walter Lowrie, with revisions and foreword by Howard A.
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Johnson Princeton, On the meaninglessness of "radical" doubt, see G. Frederick R. Tennant's theory of belief and faith is expounded in his Philosophical Theology , 2 vols. Cambridge, U. Martin C. D'Arcy, S.