Those who refer to chosen beliefs hold that all beliefs are equally absurd or invalid; so the thing to do, they think, is to just pick what appeals to you; what “feels good.” I’ve heard it said that “because people disagree so much about what is true; nothing is true but the perceptual level and everything abstract is arbitrary opinion” (note the self exclusion). Everyone is thus equally wrong.
But, whatever the reasoning; can a “belief” not regarded as true actually be a belief? Is a belief not an idea regarded as true by the person holding it?
What is truth? And what are the alternatives to it?
Truth is the status of an idea which reflects the identity of an existent. Truth is the recognition of fact. Fact is the existential identity of entities. Truth, as here differentiated from fact, is epistemological; an attribute of an idea. Fact then is metaphysical, an attribute of a thing; its being so.
Falsehood is the status of an idea which contradicts the identity of an existent. A false idea clashes with the facts. Arbitrary is the status of an idea lacking relation to existents. The arbitrary is the realm of nonsense; utterances devoid of any real content; without a shred of evidence supporting its reflection of facts or its contradiction of them.
An ideas status as an opinion is determined by a persons method of arriving at it; what makes an idea an opinion is its acceptance based on an assumption. Once an idea’s relationship to reality has been established its status changes from opinion to truth or falsehood. If an opinions lack a relation to reality they are then absurd.
What these people then reject is the possibility of proof. The process of establishing an ideas relationship with reality. Most I’ve encountered seem to grasp that observations about the perceptually given are valid. Statements about the perceptual level are accepted as true. The standard of proof is accepted, but the method is unknown or its existence is denied. Some can even grasp low level abstractions when the chain of reasoning is easily seen to be grounded on the perceptual level. But the further you get from percepts everything begins to sound like nonsense to them.
What is lacking is integration and an understanding that facts imply other facts. By a process of reduction we can take an abstract idea and follow the chain of reasoning that led to it. We can see that it was implied ultimately by the data of our senses. The process by which we may check the status of an idea and by which an idea is properly reached is of course logic.
To hold an idea as true someone need to be convinced of it by what they regard as evidence. Even ideas accepted on fallacious grounds are accepted because they are thought to make sense and the reasoning for them is thought to be valid. If I were to think that there was a God because a lot of people that I trusted told me there was one I’d be mistaken, but I’d still hold it as true because I thought it was in some way proven. But to explicitly accept an idea on the bases of emotion while acknowledging its absurdity can’t really be a belief.
What is the relationship between a kind of appeal-to-authority epistemology and the “people disagree therefor nothing is true” grounds for the rejection of truth? If a person does not know how to think for himself and comes to hold other peoples’ statements as the source of truth, if their whole conception of truth is based on other people and they know of no other way of learning about reality, the realization that people disagree constantly could obliterate their concept of truth. It could destroy the very possibility of anything being true or of a means of knowing its truth, their only such means having been invalidated.
What actually is taking place when someone “chooses a belief” is that, having rejected all abstract ideas, these people still know in some terms that they need ideas to guide their actions. They must realize that that they can’t live without some kind of principles so they just pick some preexisting set of ideas that appeals to their emotions. So it’s not that they believe anything, only that they allow their actions to be guided by ideas when they need them to be even though they don’t regard them as true.
Or can a person by an act of will actually swallow an idea? Can, by some massive evasion, someone take an idea, knowing it to be absurd, and then force himself not to consider its absurdity together with its status as a belief of his. People do hold contradictions. And they can do so by actively avoiding integration of the two ideas that contradict. “All ideas are equally worthless but I must hold something as true. These ideas are as good as any. Henceforth I shall never attempt to integrate my rejection of these ideas with my acceptance of them!” It sounds insane, but then so do a lot of things people do often. Perhaps this is the answer.
Evasion could explain the hostility I’ve encountered in people in this condition. Lashing out angrily when someone tries to discuss the thing you are set on not thinking about as a method of preserving the evasion.
It’s not that it’s impossible to have a chosen belief because it wouldn’t make any sense. Not making sense isn’t going to stop an irrationalist. By compartmentalizing his ideas he can hold them as both true and absurd when either is convenient. The very idea of all ideas as opinions is itself a self exclusion and as such a contradiction. “All S is P, but this one isn’t!” or “All S is P, but Some S is not P”. “The idea that it all ideas are opinions is a fact!”
But why couldn’t it be both? Some may use the word belief to mean “An idea chosen as a guide for action when one is needed” while others simply hold a massive contradiction through an enormous act of evasion. They do believe it, actually hold it as true, but they also hold it as untrue.
Contrasting this with the “true for you” crowd. They seem to hold existence as independent of any one person’s mind. They seem to know that there is a world out there and it has identity. They simply hold its identity as unknowable beyond perception. The true-for-youers hold a kind of universal solipsism. All of reality, excluding the minds of other people (at least sometimes), exist in the mind of the subject. Each person has his own reality governed by his own mind. This results in the opposite epistemology. Rather than all ideas being invalid and false; all ideas are valid and true, for each person that holds them. But the same damnation of judgment can be and is based on either, no one can justifiably tell another person that he is wrong under either of these insane systems.