Belief without Warrant

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Re: Belief a CHOICE?
« Reply #30 on: October 13, 2012, 08:32:18 pm »
Hi rstrats...

I am not the sharpest pencil in the box, so I may be following this incorrectly.  As I see it, the Christian belief in "Free Will" requires choices.  There can not be a judgement if the person did not make a choice.  Obviously there are many factors in these types of choices.  But, in John 3:3  we are commanded to be "born again".  Why the command if there isn't a choice involved?
« Last Edit: October 13, 2012, 08:40:25 pm by maranatha33 »



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Re: Belief a CHOICE?
« Reply #31 on: October 13, 2012, 10:41:00 pm »
The question "Is belief a choice?" certainly has profound implications for Christian apologetics and for God's justice. If anyone here wants a philosophical treatment of this question, I'd recommend the excellent article on the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy on "Doxastic Voluntarism".

Belief, as a faculty of the soul, is something that is controlled by the will, although not entirely. There are many beliefs I hold without choosing to hold them, including properly basic beliefs, historical beliefs, scientific beliefs, philosophical beliefs, etc. In fact, I don't think that in order to hold a belief, one needs an active "upholding" of it by the will. What I do believe is that, through the will, a person can change his/her beliefs.

For instance, I could (in theory) choose to believe in Buddhism by moving to Bhutan, reading only Buddhist religious texts, and talking with only other Buddhists. It is quite likely that if I do this for a year or so, I will come to believe in Buddhism. By exercising the faculty of the will I cause a change in my beliefs. That is the indirect path of the will that I can take to choose to believe something.

However, as a direct doxastic voluntarist (someone who believes that beliefs can be directly chosen), I do affirm that belief in objective morality or God or Christianity can be actively and directly changed. As the Scholastics understood it, faith is "the act of the intellect assenting to a Divine truth owing to the movement of the will, which is itself moved by the grace of God" (St. Thomas, II-II, Q. iv, a. 2).

How one answers the question really depends on one's anthropology. If humans have souls, and therefore have the faculty of will, then beliefs can be chosen, because beliefs are the product of agent causation of the will - that is, the soul's will itself generates belief, rather than passively receiving beliefs from an external cause.

rstrats, you seem to have equated the state of belief with the state of being convinced without a doubt. I think this is where the problem lies. No one (as far as I know) affirms that the will can move from nonbelief to belief-beyond-a-doubt in an instant. However, our actions and choices do have effects (both direct and indirect) on our beliefs, don't they? Just as I can't move from here to Johannesburg by a single act of will, I can't completely change my belief-state with a single act of will. That doesn't mean that I can't choose to go to Johannesburg, nor does it mean that beliefs cannot be chosen.

As a side note, since it seems that the Elephant in the room here is belief in God and Christ, I think Lewis might be helpful. In the Screwtape Letters, the senior demon (Screwtape) makes a comment about God and belief that I think is a propos. He says, "the Irresistible and the Indisputable are the two weapons which the very nature of His scheme forbids Him to use. Merely to override a human will (as His felt presence in any but the faintest and most mitigated degree would certainly do) would be for Him useless. He cannot ravish. He can only woo. For His ignoble idea is to eat the cake and have it; the creatures are to be one with Him, but yet themselves; merely to cancel them, or assimilate them, will not serve."

Grace to you and peace.
Hebrews 12:1 - Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith.



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Re: Belief a CHOICE?
« Reply #32 on: November 26, 2012, 08:59:38 pm »
If we had no choice over our beliefs, the fallacy of wishful thinking would be unintelligible.



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Re: Belief a CHOICE?
« Reply #33 on: March 20, 2014, 10:59:41 am »



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Re: Belief a CHOICE?
« Reply #34 on: June 08, 2014, 05:46:32 pm »
<P>A number of folks on these boards are saying or at least implying that they can consciously CHOOSE to believe things. If you are one of them perhaps one of you can help me. I have never been able to consciously CHOOSE any of the beliefs that I have and I would like to be able to do that. If you think that you can consciously CHOOSE to believe things, I wonder if you might explain how you do it. What do you do at the last moment to instantly change your one state of belief to another? What is it that you do that would allow you to say, "OK, at this moment I have a lack of belief that ‘x’ exists or is true, but I CHOOSE to believe that ‘x’ exists or is true and now instantly at this new moment I do believe that ‘x’ exists or is true? </P><P>Maybe you could use something like leprechauns to demonstrate your technique. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, a leprechaun is "a fairy peculiar to Ireland, who appeared in the form of an old man of minute stature, wearing a cocked hat and a leather apron." So, assuming that you don’t already have a belief in them, how about right now, while you are reading this, CHOOSE to believe - be convinced without a doubt - that they exist. Now that you believe in leprechauns, my question is, how did you do it? How did you make the instantaneous transition from lack of belief to belief? </P>

You are confusing matters of opinion with matters of fact. It is in principle a matter of fact if or not leprechauns exist, and the fact is that they don't exist. But leprechauns can exist in our fantasy. When I fantasize about leprechauns they are in fact in my imagination.

But what a leprechaun feels is a matter of opinion, regardless if it is in imagination, or in nature, it is categorically a matter of opinion what the leprechaun feels. So does the leprechaun have hate in his heart or love? It is a matter of opinion. 

With opinions you can only reach the conclusion by a way of choosing it. So by a way of choosing you reach the conclusion whether the leprechaun is hateful or loving. If you choose the leprechaun is loving, then you have the opinion that the leprechaun is loving.

It's good also to think about how matters of fact work, to clearly distinghuish it from matters of opinion. With facts you reach the conclusion by a way of evidence forcing to it, resulting in a copy/model of what is evidenced, which is what a fact is. The fact that the moon exists, is a model of the moon that you have in your mind. In science you aim to make perfect mathematical models of things. With facts you are just copying information from nature, you don't create any information yourself. With opinions you create information yourself through choosing.

So I can hold a leprechaun in imagination, and my opinion on what this fantasy leprechaun feels, changes all the time. The love or hate exists depending on my opinion, although the freedom in imagination is very limited. That is how subjectivity works, and the truth will be that you are quite incapable of subjectivity, otherwise you would have never brought up such an argument.

Re: Belief a CHOICE?
« Reply #35 on: September 30, 2018, 02:33:19 am »
I think the approach at hand is a little misleading:  "OK, at this moment I have a lack of belief that ‘x’ exists or is true, but I CHOOSE to believe that ‘x’ exists or is true and now instantly at this new moment I do believe that ‘x’ exists or is true?” I think there are some steps that need to take place before one can choose to believe in something.
Let’s take the leprechaun example. If I don’t have any idea or knowledge of what a leprechaun is, then, as you stated, “I have a lack of belief that ‘x’ (a leprechaun, in this case) exists or is true.” How could I believe in a leprechaun if I have absolutely no idea of what it is? If, at that point, someone were to ask me “Do you believe in leprechauns?”, I really would have no answer for them. Even if my intuition told me that leprechauns don’t exist because I have never heard of them, answering “no” wouldn’t be an entirely fair answer if I have not had the chance to do any type of research. However, if I then did some research, something as simple as searching “leprechaun” in Google, I would quickly find websites and articles saying that leprechauns are fictional or mythical characters in Irish folklore. I would probably also find articles that say leprechauns are actually real, but those would probably be fewer (and from sources that are less reputable). At that point, I would be able to choose not to believe in leprechauns based on my findings. Or in turn, I if found reputable evidence for the existence of leprechauns, I could then choose to believe in leprechauns. In both cases, I would also have to choose to believe in the sources of information, based on many factors, such as their reputability.
Another quick example to further explain the point, is learning in a college class. If you take a history class and you are presented with a historic passage unfamiliar to you, you can choose to believe it or not. You probably would choose to believe it if you trust the professor and his or her credentials and the sources he or she is using. However, if you don’t trust the professor and his or her credentials and the sources, you could choose not to believe that the historic passage is true.
In sum, I think we can choose to believe that something exists or is true–in fact, I believe we do it every day–but I don’t think the choice is instantaneous, as we do it based on evidence and knowledge we already possess, or we can acquire.



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Re: Belief a CHOICE?
« Reply #36 on: October 29, 2018, 12:15:37 pm »
People use language in many ways.

What do people mean when they say "choose"?

I would submit:

1. They must necessarily believe they have free will.
2. They must necessarily believe there are options.
3. They are likely using the word "believe" in the same manner as a juror does when hearing testimony and view evidence in a court case.

If I have evidence that the universe had a beginning, and also that no eternal regress is possible (borde-guth-vilenkin) even if you postulate a multiverse, then I have to choose to believe that the universe can simply come to be and that's that, or I can choose to believe that some non-temporal-all-powerful-non-physical mind has produced the universe. If I look at the laws of physics and see that these are insufficient to create a dead universe, never-mind one with life and if I see that random mutations and natural selection are insufficient to produce the diversity of life on this planet, I may feel that I do have warrant to at least choose theism.

I'm not sure that anyone chooses to have belief without warrant. These people may just not choose to express their warrant to you or they may not have the capacity to accurately express their warrant.

No one has warrantless beliefs. Even the wholly insane have warrants for their delusions. Some may consider theism a delusion, but I don't and certainly not a warrantless one.



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Re: Belief a CHOICE?
« Reply #37 on: October 31, 2018, 09:06:36 pm »
I believe that where you are misguided is that you are equating believing things to be absolutely certain about them. Your example of Leprechauns is a hard one to demonstrate your faulty reasoning in because it is a very all-or-nothing scenario. The proof for the existence of leprechauns is so far outweighed by the proof against their existence that is hard to have any sort of psychological battle for belief in that subject. I think a scenario that would better fit this predicament, if we are sticking with the fantastical, would be aliens. The way you are describing your view on people choosing their beliefs is that it is basically a switch that they flip and after that they are fully invested in the belief for or against something. I think this is the complete wrong way of viewing it. When people say they chose their beliefs it is because they see two different plausible scenarios and, because both are possible, they weigh the odds and evidence for each and then choose the one they feel is true or beneficial and then stake a claim in that belief. So, for example, with aliens there is very good evidence for both sides of the argument for and against the existence of aliens. On the against viewpoint there has never been a reliable sighting of an alien, if they exist they are not common knowledge or in the public eye, and the majority of the planets that we have discovered have not been inhabited. On the other hand the argument for the existence of aliens can be very persuasive when one considers the vastness of the universe and the odds that we would be the only life to develop in such a large space. In this case as there are legitimate points to be made for both sides one might approach it by going through the arguments and reasonings for each, considering the implications for both, and seeing which side makes more sense for them. Then, at the end of their considerations, they will  choose one side or the other and place their beliefs with that side. In this way, the subject will choose his/her beliefs and maintain them but they are not “convinced without a doubt” that their belief is right. Believing in something is not synonymous with having cartesian certainty in that thing. If anyone claims that they can have cartesian certainty in a belief in leprechauns, God, or even their friends then I think they should reevaluate their beliefs. In conclusion, the transition from lack of belief to belief isn’t instantaneous and it is not beyond doubts. Belief is gained by weighing options and choosing the one you think is truth.



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Re: Belief a CHOICE?
« Reply #38 on: January 30, 2019, 12:37:08 pm »
Maybe you could use something like leprechauns to demonstrate your technique.
The question appears to be about inducing changes in the mind, which ties into the teachings of the East that the mind is difficult to change, requiring inner disciplines. Christians are generally to be faulted as insouciant and unresponsive to God, accepting the formula too easily that man is sinful and cannot change himself, when the East not only suggests it can be done, but provides examples of successes, though quite rare. In other words a man who saw his own impurity and wanted to please God, would want to purify himself if it were possible. He wouldn’t say, “Jesus must do everything for me.”

The question also highlights that a false belief might be chosen, as in one choosing to believe in leprechauns. Leprechauns were once subject of belief, so the question has bearing. They’ve only been widely disproved after man had more or less conquered all wild spaces, finding none. Today one choosing to believe in leprechauns would need to ignore the fact all places were searched and found empty. The Bible amounts to an unsearchable place, so its rumors continue to have weight, as many subscribe to them.

To have right metaphysical beliefs requires a right metaphysical perception, that men lack. In a zone where none has experience (that of soul and spirit), anything goes, and anything does. Rumors, theories and factions abound in all directions, multiplying as we watch. Are men choosing these beliefs, or are the beliefs choosing them? With no basis for intellectual choice, men may be following darker urges, such as enmity and competition, choosing a belief precisely since it seems against what others have chosen.