Epistemology, IRL

Epistemology is the study of knowledge. How do we know things? Can we know things? Spoiler alert: you’ve got to have a really high bullshit threshold to read anything in this field. People apply epistemology to the most boring kinds of situations. Do I exist? Um, yeah duh or else um no, duh but either way you won’t cease thinking, which is enough of existing to matter as we learned from Descartes.

What I especially dislike about epistemology is that we talk about it as if we have any kind of control over what we believe to be true (know). Think about your last breakup. You spent weeks trying to “move on.” If we had doxastic voluntarism- authority over to pick and choose what we believed- we wouldn’t have to keep repeating “I’m better off without him.” You would accept the facts and move on because you have allowed yourself (or been allowed) to believe that is the best course.

I think one of the most interesting (though not necessarily factual) parts of the Bible is the story about Paul. His name was Saul at first and he persecuted Christians but then one day he was riding his horse around and he had this sudden conversion experience and he changed his name and became one. To me, this is a perfect example of how epistemology works. It’s out of our control. 

On the other side, think about people who are religious, who question their faith or abandon it entirely. Surely they didn’t arrive at that unwelcome destination by sheer force of will. Religious leaders sometimes have doubts, proving that just because you want to “have faith” in something doesn’t mean that you will.

I think the evangelists have it wrong. I think will is entirely irrelevant. If you’re an especially frightened person you can choose to surround yourself with reassurance, sure. You can stack the deck so that a change in thinking will be extremely unlikely. You can read apologetic texts, listen to Christian radio, immerse yourself completely in Evangelical culture. This is a lifestyle in which it’s unlikely you’ll encounter any bumps in the road that might cause you to question your beliefs. The point is that your beliefs are formed by your socio-political place in the world and the family you were born into and are unlikely to be changed because someone tells you “jesus saves” in passing.

The point is to stop thinking about beliefs as something to be proud of. You don’t have faith in something, it is chosen for you. You probably didn’t even have anything to do with it. Was Jim Carey on The Truman Show proud that he believed his life was normal? When he was introduced to the truth could he have chosen to actually reject that new belief that it was a hoax and revert to his earlier worldview? Absolutely not.

When it comes to your worldview you are a product, not a producer. Stop taking credit for happenstance.

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  1. mar6 reblogged this from philolzophy
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  4. jaygabler reblogged this from philolzophy and added:
    True ‘nuf, but there is a way to game this system. Sociologists and psychologists have documented the fact that people’s...
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  14. imbue said: You talk about beliefs and little about knowledge. Also, when answering the question ‘how do we come to believe something?’ you are asking an epistemic question. I don’t …know whether a belief has nothing at all to do with inclinations or reasons.
  15. youknowidontlikeyou reblogged this from philolzophy and added:
    just had a high school flashback. thank you, beacon, for making me think about this crap when i was seventeen, as though...
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  18. hardcorefornerds said: so how did you come to believe that you are in this situation? didn’t you choose to reject ‘doxastic voluntarism’? society/our worldview produces us, but we produce society as well. seems like basic existentialism
  19. philolzophy posted this