Wednesday, September 05, 2007

you "can't" mandate belief - or can you?

A response to 2 comments yesterday:
First one - "if someone comes and says "I don't believe and hence, by definition, I can't believe", it would be better to have a more extensive explanation."
Second one - "You can't mandate belief. That's a psychological fact."

In lieu of the extensive explanation the first comment asked for (sorry, I have a day job) here are 4 reasons why the above opinion (stated as a fact) is highly debatable:

1) Doxastic Voluntarism – Simply put, who says belief is not a function of will? The fact that some people claim as a “fact” otherwise only reveals their ignorance of hundreds of years of scholarship by numerous philosophers who think otherwise. Google the term.

2) Even if you assert belief is involuntary, all that assertion establishes is that environment, education, etc. impacts upon belief. Who is to say that the commandment of emunah does not charge us with creating an environment (e.g. havai goleh l’makom torah, etc.) which will be conducive to creating the proper beliefs?

3) Belief is ingrained in human nature and it takes an act of will to counter it. Isn’t it remarkable that belief in a deity cuts across cultural, geographical, historical boundaries? Is it perhaps part of the human condition which the atheist must make a deliberate decision to ignore? If so, belief is the effort to not succumb to the temptation to deny what we inherently feel to be true and instead to affirm the natural state of faith.

4) Belief is not an emotional or psychological state but is a philosophical proposition that can be proven based on reason. Arguing that one cannot mandate belief is like arguing that one cannot mandate belief that 2+2=4. True, but unless there is an assumption of reason, all human discourse collapses.

I imagine there are other arguments that I missed, but this should be enough. Each of these arguments has flaws, but taken together they make a powerful case that a command of belief is not illogical or unreasonable, not something that “can’t” be done, as was stated. The agnostic/atheist blogs always try the same routine – state arguments as facts, present philosophical points that have been disputed for centuries as great discoveries and settled arguments, etc. Along those lines, the counter-arguments to this post will be along the lines of disputing one of the 4 approaches above because of some similar “fact” which is really an opinion in disguise, trying to knock off one of the 4 arguments and presenting that as demolishing all of them, arguing that none of this proves Judaism (correct, but the topic is not Judaism, the topic is belief), saying that the counter-arguments are equally reasonable (just because a counter-argument is out there doesn’t mean these arguments “can’t” be made, which was the original point stated), and finally, donning the mantle of nevuah to ask if G-d really wants this or that type of belief, which begs the question. Just wanted to go through the run down in advance to save myself time later.

7 comments:

  1. Oh please!

    > 1) Doxastic Voluntarism

    From the net:

    There are certain cases in which doxastic voluntarism clearly does not hold. We cannot simply choose to believe that it is the year 2020 and that elephants rule the Earth; we cannot induce this belief in ourselves by a sheer act of will. Many philosophers think that doxastic voluntarism is false in all circumstances, that belief is entirely subject to reason rather than to the will.

    A few biased theistic philosophers hold of this, no one else. And even then only for reasoinable things, like God, not for any old thing, like TMS.

    2) Fine. But if you don't believe, then you're not going to be too impressed with this.

    > 3) Belief is ingrained in human nature and it takes an act of will to counter it.

    Rubbish. For thousands of years everyone believed in magic. Is that ingrained??? Nothing is ingrained, its all cultural. Skeptics don't force themselves to not believe. And anyway, we're not talking about God, we're talking about TMS, and thats not ingrained.

    > 4) Belief is not an emotional or psychological state but is a philosophical proposition that can be proven based on reason.

    Could potentially be proven. However the skeptics believe that davkah TMS is disproven by reason, and I haven't seen ANYONE, you included, do a good job of countering that.

    > Each of these arguments has flaws, but taken together they make a powerful case that a command of belief is not illogical or unreasonable, not something that “can’t” be done, as was stated.

    Absolute rubbish. Each of these arguments is flawed, and taken together its flawed * 3. You haven't made a reasonable case for anything here. If someone has reasonably proven that TMS is false, then they can't force themselves to believe in it.

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  2. > The agnostic/atheist blogs always try the same routine – state arguments as facts, present philosophical points that have been disputed for centuries as great discoveries and settled arguments, etc.

    Haposel bemumo posel. You guys do this all the time. You did it in this post, with your doxastic volumtarism, as if that's an accepted theory!

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  3. Once again, you simply throw out your opinion mixed with a few wrong "facts" like claiming no one holds of voluntarism anymore (really?!) and concluding what you opine to be wrong "can't" be correct, presenting your opinionated biased conlcusion as one of established truth.
    I fail to see a single shred of new evidence or sources that you have introduced to the discussion, so I have to ask you to please refrain from commenting further unless you have something meaningful to say.

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  4. Anonymous11:27 AM

    So rather than respond to the comments above you chose to avoid the discussion and be insulting instead.

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  5. Anonymous,
    I will respond (and have responded) politely to every comment (see yesterday's post), but I will not respond to a willful distortion of facts or simple declarations of opinion. If you have a point to make, kol tuv, please make it. If you write 100 times in the comments that 2+2=5 and keep saying that is a "fact" without offering any reason, I'm afraid at some point I have to cut you off. I think that is pretty fair despite the bad light you attempt to put on it.

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  6. Anonymous, let me make one other point. The contention was made that belief "can't" be mandated. 2+2 "can't" equal 5. Do you see anything in the two comments I critiqued that would address my point that the fomer is a statment of opinion and the latter statement of fact? I don't. If you would like to address that point, please do. But just rehashing the same opinion statement of what "can't" be doesn't address the point.

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