RE: origin of beliefs

From: Russell Blackford (
Date: Thu Aug 09 2001 - 21:04:35 MDT

Lee said

>That would only work if you had some confidence or faith in those
>who liked the other candidate. As an example, suppose that you
>do not believe in God, but wish to be as truth-seeking as possible.
>It does not follow that you should "move your beliefs in the direction
>of beliefs favored" by those who are religious. You may have concluded
>that they are simply out to lunch for some reason (explanation).
>However, I am interested in any other brief tricks that you may know of
>to assist one in being really truth-seeking.

Lee, I don't know any "tricks". I must say, though, that if I actually write
an article on an issue I often end up with a slightly different view from
the one I started with. That could be one kind of trick, I suppose. When I
try to grapple honestly with opponents' counter-arguments and imagine
counter-counters, I often find there's more to the opposing side than I
originally thought. I may not shift my position towards that of my opponent,
but I may be forced to look across at some other issue and find myself
developing unexpected ideas, as I test whether I am still comfortable with
what I originally wanted to argue.

I've been writing a lot about cloning, stem cell research and genetic
engineering, etc, in the past couple of years. In that time, I've certainly
ended up with more sophisticated views as a result of trying to understand
*why* my opponents put the arguments they do, ie what underlies their view
that such arguments might be persuasive.

I must say that sometimes it works the other way. For example, the more I
try to understand what makes the libertarians on this list tick, the more I
find myself mentally elaborating a non-libertarian political philosophy. The
process is helping me put my finger on where I think libertarianism builds
from metaphysical ideas about law, ethics and property which I reject (eg, I
don't believe there are any such things as "natural rights"; not in the
ontology of *my* universe). Thus, I am doomed to be the
"left-liberal"-merely-bordering-on-libertarianism that I have now been
unmasked as. :)

But then again, I would quite like to swallow libertarianism, in a way. It's
actually a theory that has some attractions and that I could imagine taking
up. So maybe part of the "trick" has been "trying on" the theory mentally,
imagining how I could really justify the "homesteading" account of property
etc, etc, to a sceptical third party.



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