Table of Contents
1. The Futility of Beliefs
(Most) Beliefs Are Useless
Literally. They have no use.
The only time a belief is useful is when you’re faced with a choice. Since “not making a choice” is a choice, you might be better off choosing what you believe is the best option.
You can also settle the belief through a falsifiable experiment. But then, it’s not a belief (about the same thing) anymore.3The belief becomes the belief in the experiment.
(Most) Beliefs Are Invalid
Not only that, it’s (almost) certain that there’s already a rebuttal for the argument–you’re just unaware.
A rule of thumb: if there’s a single person who can destroy you in a debate, your stance is invalid. There are ~8 billion people on earth. Somebody must’ve thought it through further.
(Many) Beliefs Are Preferences
If you dig down deep enough, you’ll find that a lot of beliefs are “personal likings” with reasons(justifications) attached to them.5Implying that the reasons are, in fact, nonsense; they came “after” the conclusion.
Here’s a radical example: racism. There’s no “absolute” reason why racism is bad. But most of us prefer a world without racism because it creates problems6things we don’t want.
Opinions in the form of “what things ought to be” are, in essence, preferences. They have no basis.7Hence, much of politics is eternal debates. They can never be settled with rationality(experiments).
2. On Beliefs
Belief is something that isn’t falsifiable (now).8E.g. Physics laws are being tested every day. It’s not a belief.9E.g. Allah’s existence can’t be falsified. It’s a belief.910Most political opinions are beliefs; they can’t be falsified (in a way that satisfies the believers). They’re not knowledge.
Beliefs are attachments. Ideas come to you, you build onto them, they become part of you.
(When you’re reading something that disagrees, does your mind keep arguing against it? If so, you’re attached.)
Because they’re attachments, they create conflict. They create conflict because you try to protect them against other ideas.11Which is the last thing you should do.
It’s hard to scrap an idea you’ve been developing for years.12That’s why most don’t. (Not just ideas; careers, too.13E.g. Joe has spent thousands of hours practicing basketball, with the belief that he will one day play in the NBA. But his right leg got amputated. He now has to leave that identity, “future basketball star.”14E.g. Mary has been developing perpetual machines for 10 years. One day, she learns about the “laws of thermodynamics.” She refuses to believe they’re true.)
You never know what you don’t know.
None of your beliefs can escape the frame of knowledge. Thus, you can never be certain that a belief is true. Or else, it’s not a belief.
3. Developing Ideas
You should never “protect” an idea (generally). An idea is as good as the resistance it endured.
An idea becomes stronger as you “attack” them…given that it survives.
Keep asking “why”. Why, why, why, why, why… Question ideas to the limit.16Most are false.
You have to challenge your own ideas. If not, you’ll eventually end up delusional.
When somebody/something else challenges your idea, you naturally get into “protection mode”.17Since the idea is part of you.You won’t discard ideas that way. Debates are largely ineffective.18They’re conflicts; they don’t get anything done.
“Others” is a good tool to get ideas for rebuttals. But, you have to be the ones using them.
Related: Be Skeptical
I’ve mentioned above that “ideas become attachments”. But it’s (somewhat) necessary.
Unless an idea is significant, you won’t go on and develop it.19Most ideas go undeveloped; they’re forgotten.It’s a necessary risk. Lots of gaps would be forgiven (as you develop them).
Counter that through writing. Writing is (by far) the best way to expose gaps. It’s right in front of you; you can’t help but see them.
(Personally, I find myself scrapping ideas, mostly: A. Within 10s of thinking, OR B. While writing.)
Perhaps a way out is to be interested in the topic, not the idea. If you just want to know “what’s true’, you would see new(opposing) ideas as potential progress(+) than challenge(-). You wouldn’t “straw man” anything.
My approach to an idea used to be:
- Have an opinion
- Develop it very far
- Have a debate with somebody else, as hard as I can.
It was ineffective.20Result-wise, I never changed my mind. I also came across as “arrogant” and “self-righteous”.I learned the big lesson: nobody can change what I believe other than myself.
I now take a (maybe) better approach :
- Have a topic of interest
- Produce/consume a bunch of ideas
- Develop them very far
- Have internal arguments between the ideas
It works wonders. Less efficient, but rational.
4. Related Posts
Questions & comments are welcome!