Understanding through existing beliefs

What I have been trying to get across for years is that what one believes is based upon what one has believed in the past. It has nothing to do with being stupid or evil, just that we can only understand the world through our existing system of beliefs. It could not be otherwise, even if we were referring to an artificial intelligence. Having beliefs is different from knowing the truth of things.

By reading as broadly as I do, across the boundaries of belief systems, even if somewhat superficially, I see that no side has a monopoly on the truth. Clearly they cannot all be right, but it does not follow that any of them are.

There is a war between right wingers and left wingers, (and it is certainly more complex than that I know) although neither has a privileged access to the truth. Folks from one camp will never miss an opportunity to denigrate the other, in the most biased way. It is absurd, like Oliver’s Swift’s big-endians and little-endians at war over which end of an egg should be broken before eating.

Now with Covid-19, I see even more clearly that people can agree in one area, and vehemently disagree in another. Are they stupid or evil when disagreeing, and smart and noble when agreeing?

Any logician will tell you that if you start with a certain set of premises, and use strictly sound reasoning, you will end up with a valid argument. The conclusion will be wrong if your premises were wrong. However, the human animal does not use formal logic to any great degree; we use pattern recognition, inductive thinking, generalization, abstraction, and other mechanisms. Mathematics and formal logic are themselves based on patterns. So, we each interpret the world differently. There may be facts underlying it all, but we have no privileged access to them.

With Covid-19, I have been mentally composing a list of assertions that have been made by various folks. It would be many pages if written down. Some would be correct information, some would be incorrect and thus misinformation, and I clearly some would be deliberate disinformation, either by recreational bullshit artists or shills with a vested interest. The problem is, given the chaos, and the inaccurate reporting of numbers on a highly technical topic, the truth of things may never emerge.

2 thoughts on “Understanding through existing beliefs

  1. My understanding of the issues around Covid-19 and SARS-CoV2 have evolved since I wrote these words, but they still seem to be correct to me. — Ephektikoi

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