Wednesday, May 11, 2011

How Far Do False Ideas Reach?

Now I grant that certain ideas on a mistaken basis can be fully and sincerely believed, but when ideas are extremely, if not totally, detached from reality and have underlying evasions, then just how far can a person go in fully believing them? Is it possible that, given an idea of intense enough arbitrary or falsity, a person can never totally believe a certain set of ideas even though they live their life by them?

Let's take pragmatism for example. Part of pragmatism's metaphysics is that existence takes on a different nature at different times, such as things being one way today and another the next. For instance, water might freeze at below zero Fahrenheit today, but melt tomorrow at the same temperature because its nature changed. Logically, a pragmatist would have to concede that a candle flame would burn him today but might do something different tomorrow. If we were to conduct a survey, how many pragmatists do you think would agree to stick their finger in a candle flame every single day to see what happens? I'd wager none. While they may believe metaphysical reality may change from day to day, you don't see people burning themselves repeatedly in hopes of obtaining some pleasure, or eating rocks to see if they have nutritional value all of the sudden. Largely their beliefs are practiced contradictorily: They cherry-pick what they believe to be metaphysically flexible and what is absolute.

Given this, is it perhaps true that when an idea or set of ideas is of a certain falsity like the pragmatic metaphysics above that they can't dig their roots that deeply into a person's mind, that they'll never be able to fully believe it? After all, uncertainty is evident when a person suddenly shouts at an innocent question about their beliefs, no matter how insignificant.


  1. How Far Do False Ideas Reach?
    As Far As Possible, As far As Necessary.

    re. a pragmatic metaphysics: "Don't bother to examine a folly - ask yourself only what it accomplishes." (E. Toohey)

    To analyze the impact of such a (logical) position, I believe it is more helpful to understand the reinforcement it provides for an outlook that is not governed by a clear understanding of reality, but is instead governed by emotional reaction. Why this error occurs is a matter for another discussion (which you've already addressed, I think).
    Note that this is NOT an attack on emotional evaluation, but a suggestion that this powerful tool of motivation is misapplied when it is mistaken for a cause and not recognized as a consequence.

    re. a shouted response: "You underestimate the power of the Dark Side." (D. Vader)


  2. In other, more concise words: Are some ideas so false/arbitrary that it's simply impossible to believe them 100%, that there will always be an element of uncertainty?

  3. Radically, there is no idea so false/arbitary that it cannot be believed, if in believing it a person has some emotional need met. That's what I take away from Toohey. From Vader, I take away the awesome power of anger and denial. It's not uncertainty that provokes the response.


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