False beliefs that are useful

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Re: False beliefs that are useful

Postby Faust » Wed Nov 20, 2013 1:41 pm

Riv -
Don't be a jerk.

William James himself defined pragmatism as, "what would be better for us to believe". That's a direct quote from his essay "What Pragmatism Means", which you can google and read online. Please.


But I am a jerk. And a dumbass, or so I am told.

Nietzsche has been variously called an Existentialist, a pragmatist (by Rorty, among others), a deconstructionist, a postmodernist, a proto-Nazi, a Transcendentalist, a Romantic - all manner of things. And a superficial reading, a shallow analysis of what he wrote, a misunderstanding of these terms - all will lead to such conclusions as yours, Riv.

So I'll jump in - he was an "inductionalist". No worse than any of these other sloppy labels. Nietzsche held that we are capable of ever-closer approximations to the truth - and even this is a sort of "reverse" reasoning. We are not so much right about stuff as we can be progressively "less wrong." Kinda like science. We construct models, paradigms, some of which give better answers, more practical solutions than others. So, of we use "pragmatic' for "practical" then yes, we can apply that term to Nietzsche. But we don't use those words synonymously in philosophy. James would not have. The difference lies in the answer to the question, "better to what end?"

Nietzsche's ends were very different than James' and it does both thinkers a disservice to lump them together. If you examine James' theory of truth, you will see that he has little in common with Nietzsche. It constantly astounds me that people will not analyze philosophers in terms of their various theories of truth. Pragmatism implies certain theories of truth as epistemological devices. Nietzsche's does not - N's theory of truth is not pursuant to an epistemic view at all. It is therefore not an aid to understanding to call N a pragmatist - it's just a way to throw a label around in order to appear intelligent and well-read. In the end, neither goal is accomplished.

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Re: False beliefs that are useful

Postby von Rivers » Wed Nov 20, 2013 3:59 pm

Faust wrote:Nietzsche has been variously called an Existentialist, a pragmatist (by Rorty, among others), a deconstructionist, a postmodernist, a proto-Nazi, a Transcendentalist, a Romantic - all manner of things. And a superficial reading, a shallow analysis of what he wrote, a misunderstanding of these terms - all will lead to such conclusions as yours, Riv.
Yes, of course. Well said. Totally justified.

So I'll jump in - he was an "inductionalist". No worse than any of these other sloppy labels. Nietzsche held that we are capable of ever-closer approximations to the truth - and even this is a sort of "reverse" reasoning. We are not so much right about stuff as we can be progressively "less wrong." Kinda like science. We construct models, paradigms, some of which give better answers, more practical solutions than others.
Do you have a single quote?
And recognize that we were talking about what truth is, not whether you can get closer to it or not.

So, of we use "pragmatic' for "practical" then yes, we can apply that term to Nietzsche
Oh, then you are welcome.
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Re: False beliefs that are useful

Postby Faust » Wed Nov 20, 2013 4:20 pm

Riv -
Oh, then you are welcome.


I'll assume that this is just self-deprecating humor.

Do you have a single quote?
And recognize that we were talking about what truth is, not whether you can get closer to it or not.


A quote? This might do -

Our amazement. — It is a profound and fundamental good
fortune that scientific discoveries stand up under examination
and furnish the basis, again and again, for further discoveries.
After all, this could be otherwise. Indeed, we are so convinced
of the uncertainty and fantasies of our judgments and of the
eternal change of all human laws and concepts that we are
really amazed how well the results of science stand up.


Nietzsche has no faith in the necessity that science leads to truth. It does lead to something, though. here, he also notes that our "laws" change - they are not set in stone, as we know - scientific certainties do not exist, strictly speaking. That is, we may take it as settled that the Earth is a spheroid, but we know of no law that requires it. At least, no law that may not be someday refined, amended, even superceded by another Great Discovery about the laws of the Universe.

We are not talking about what truth is, however. As I have tried to point out. James may be talking about what truth is, but N usually talks about why we are so adamant about finding it. We have other things to do - more useful things.
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Re: False beliefs that are useful

Postby von Rivers » Wed Nov 20, 2013 4:35 pm

Faust wrote:A quote? This might do -

Our amazement. — It is a profound and fundamental good
fortune that scientific discoveries stand up under examination
and furnish the basis, again and again, for further discoveries.
After all, this could be otherwise. Indeed, we are so convinced
of the uncertainty and fantasies of our judgments and of the
eternal change of all human laws and concepts that we are
really amazed how well the results of science stand up.

You claimed that Nietzsche thought we are capable of ever-closer approximations to the truth. This quote does not justify that comment. And if anything is clear about Nietzsche, it's that science doesn't deal in 'truths'---errors, perspectival fictions, falsifications, etc, YES, but not truth. Furthermore, whenever you quote, I need references so that I can look at context---not that it matters in this case, because even at a superficial level, the quote is unrelated.

We are not talking about what truth is, however. As I have tried to point out. James may be talking about what truth is, but N usually talks about why we are so adamant about finding it. We have other things to do - more useful things.
Since we were talking about Nietzsche's conception of truth, we were talking about what truth is, for Nietzsche. There is a separate issue about what the value of a traditional conception of truth is. But you can't just change the topic when you stop wanting to talk about the other one.
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Re: False beliefs that are useful

Postby Faust » Wed Nov 20, 2013 4:41 pm

Riv -
You claimed that Nietzsche thought we are capable of ever-closer approximations to the truth. This quote does not justify that comment. And if anything is clear about Nietzsche, it's that science doesn't deal in 'truths'---errors, perspectival fictions, falsifications, etc, YES, but not truth. Furthermore, whenever you quote, I need references so that I can look at context---not that it matters in this case, because even at a superficial level, the quote is unrelated.


I think my point was of a subtlety beyond your ability to comprehend.
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Re: False beliefs that are useful

Postby von Rivers » Wed Nov 20, 2013 4:45 pm

Faust wrote:Riv -

I think my point was of a subtlety beyond your ability to comprehend.

And I think you are a quack.
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Re: False beliefs that are useful

Postby Faust » Wed Nov 20, 2013 4:50 pm

Well, when you say. "science doesn't deal in 'truths'---errors, perspectival fictions, falsifications, etc, YES, but not truth" you are agreeing with me when I say, "We are not so much right about stuff as we can be progressively "less wrong." Kinda like science. We construct models, paradigms, some of which give better answers, more practical solutions than others." and "Nietzsche has no faith in the necessity that science leads to truth."

So I am left to wonder which quack you are arguing with. Not that i haven't seen you argue with yourself before, of course.
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Re: False beliefs that are useful

Postby von Rivers » Wed Nov 20, 2013 5:14 pm

Faust wrote:Well, when you say. "science doesn't deal in 'truths'---errors, perspectival fictions, falsifications, etc, YES, but not truth" you are agreeing with me when I say, "We are not so much right about stuff as we can be progressively "less wrong."


I didn't say science progressively moves away from errors, perspectival fictions, and falsifications. And therefore, I didn't say that science is progressively "less wrong".

And when asked to say what I thought 'truth' was for Nietzsche, I didn't avoid the question and say, "something that you can get progressively closer to".
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Re: False beliefs that are useful

Postby Faust » Wed Nov 20, 2013 5:29 pm

Again, there's that subtlety problem. I really have answered your concerns, before you raised them. As usual.
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Re: False beliefs that are useful

Postby von Rivers » Wed Nov 20, 2013 5:42 pm

Faust wrote:Again, there's that subtlety problem. I really have answered your concerns, before you raised them. As usual.


You are dismissed.
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Re: False beliefs that are useful

Postby Faust » Wed Nov 20, 2013 5:46 pm

Whew!
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Re: False beliefs that are useful

Postby Moreno » Thu Nov 21, 2013 12:10 am

Other useful, for the believers, but false systemic beliefs can be found in various kinds of colonialism and, say, Manifest Destiny. Here people found beliefs to assuage what might otherwise have been considered immoral behavior. I am not making choices, it is Destiny. I have the right because when I evaluate my Culture, amazingly, I find it better than the people whose land I am taking. Racism, which is often a part of these, can be seen as useful but false. If you gather the system of beliefs involved in some mix of Christianity, racism, and the beliefs involved around what is the correct and only correct way to have a society/Culture/way of Life, you get a very effective program for minimizing guilt and combining secular and religious Power and Control of Soldiers, sailors, administrators, etc, to carry out these intercultural relations that often skipped things like fair negotiation, rights to Life, etc., which would have tended to be held in relation to members of one's own society and even to a great extent to societies one defeated in war, but who were similar types of civilization.

The trick here is that there were no doubt some truths and partial truths tossed into the system of belief.

Of course, Another issue is - what is the time frame? When do we decide enough time has gone by, we can weigh all the pluses and minuses?
And how do we compare what happened to what might have happened without the beliefs?
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Re: False beliefs that are useful

Postby Helandhighwater » Thu Nov 21, 2013 2:09 am

Generally human beings thrive on believing things that are not true, self delusion, after all if we were completely honest with ourselves it would make our lives extremely hard to cope with; you might argue depression occurs when you are facing up to the reality of your false beliefs, although it often tends to be a a spiralling down beyond anything regarding something honest. It is useful to some extent to kid ourselves in many areas of our life, to make us believe we are better than we are, in fact we do it so often it often goes unnoticed. There are so many false beliefs that are useful to us, it's probably impossible to untangle them from every day life. You might think it's just religion that is perhaps unreal and based on pure faith, but much of our life comes from this state of mind, I'm not saying life is total shit, but one needs at least a veneer of self delusion to function at all, the longer you live the more undercoats you probably have.
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Re: False beliefs that are useful

Postby fuse » Thu Nov 21, 2013 5:09 am

von Rivers wrote:1. "We simply lack any organ for knowledge, for ‘truth’: we ‘know’ (or believe or imagine) just as much as may be useful in the interests of the human herd, the species; and even what is here called ‘utility’ is ultimately also a mere belief, something imaginary, and perhaps precisely that most calamitous stupidity of which we shall perish some day". (Gay Science, Aphorism 354)

2. "The falseness of a judgment is for us not necessarily an objection to a judgment; in this respect our new language may sound strangest. The question is to what extent it is life-promoting, life-preserving, species-preserving, perhaps even species-cultivating". (Beyond Good and Evil, 4)

3. Over immense periods of time the intellect produced nothing but errors. A few of these proved to be useful and helped to preserve the species: those who hit upon or inherited these had better luck in their struggle for themselves and their progeny (Gay Science, 110).

"I just gave you 3 quotes of Nietzsche saying either that we do, or should, consider 'true' what works."

Nietzsche says neither that truth is what works nor that it should be considered as such. On the contrary, he says what's not true is often most necessary. Nietzsche is explaining that what conscious life requires for its own promotion are instinct-informed fantasies just as often as anything resembling truth.
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Re: False beliefs that are useful

Postby von Rivers » Thu Nov 21, 2013 5:19 am

1. "We simply lack any organ for knowledge, for ‘truth’: we ‘know’ (or believe or imagine) just as much as may be useful in the interests of the human herd, the species; and even what is here called ‘utility’ is ultimately also a mere belief, something imaginary, and perhaps precisely that most calamitous stupidity of which we shall perish some day". (Gay Science, Aphorism 354)

2. "The falseness of a judgment is for us not necessarily an objection to a judgment; in this respect our new language may sound strangest. The question is to what extent it is life-promoting, life-preserving, species-preserving, perhaps even species-cultivating". (Beyond Good and Evil, 4)

3. Over immense periods of time the intellect produced nothing but errors. A few of these proved to be useful and helped to preserve the species: those who hit upon or inherited these had better luck in their struggle for themselves and their progeny (Gay Science, 110).


fuse wrote:Nietzsche says neither that truth is what works nor that it should be considered as such.
In every single quote, Nietzsche is saying either that we do consider true what works, or else that we should.

On the contrary, he says what's not true is often most necessary. Nietzsche is explaining that what conscious life requires for its own promotion are instinct-informed fantasies just as often as anything resembling truth.

No, perspectival falsifications and errors are called false because by the lights of the traditional conception of truth (the Correspondence Theory), they are false. That's why you find 'truth' in scare quotes. It is absolutely clear, from the quotes, that Nietzsche is saying either that we do consider true what works, or that we should.

Here's another:

Nietzsche wrote:Truth is the kind of error without which a certain species of life could not live. The value for life is ultimately decisive. (Will to Power, aphorism 493)


Boom, son.
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Re: False beliefs that are useful

Postby Moreno » Thu Nov 21, 2013 5:56 am

Helandhighwater wrote:Generally human beings thrive on believing things that are not true, self delusion, after all if we were completely honest with ourselves it would make our lives extremely hard to cope with; you might argue depression occurs when you are facing up to the reality of your false beliefs, although it often tends to be a a spiralling down beyond anything regarding something honest. It is useful to some extent to kid ourselves in many areas of our life, to make us believe we are better than we are, in fact we do it so often it often goes unnoticed. There are so many false beliefs that are useful to us, it's probably impossible to untangle them from every day life. You might think it's just religion that is perhaps unreal and based on pure faith, but much of our life comes from this state of mind, I'm not saying life is total shit, but one needs at least a veneer of self delusion to function at all, the longer you live the more undercoats you probably have.

I like this and Think there is a lot of truth in it. I Think a lot of the rapid motion and distraction we find today is because there is an underlying panic closer to the Surface than in earlier periods.
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Re: False beliefs that are useful

Postby fuse » Thu Nov 21, 2013 6:23 am

von Rivers wrote:
fuse wrote:On the contrary, he says what's not true is often most necessary. Nietzsche is explaining that what conscious life requires for its own promotion are instinct-informed fantasies just as often as anything resembling truth.

No, perspectival falsifications and errors are called false because by the lights of the traditional conception of truth (the Correspondence Theory), they are false. That's why you find 'truth' in scare quotes. It is absolutely clear, from the quotes, that Nietzsche is saying either that we do consider true what works, or that we should.

This is a continuation of the passage you quoted from BGE.
    "To recognize untruth as a condition of life - that certainly means resisting accustomed value feelings in a dangerous, way; and a philosophy that risks this would by that token alone place itself beyond good and evil."
What could Nietzsche mean by untruth being necessary for life, other than just that?
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Re: False beliefs that are useful

Postby von Rivers » Thu Nov 21, 2013 6:31 am

fuse wrote:What could Nietzsche mean by untruth being necessary for life, other than just that?

Just what I said in my last post. --Untruths according to the traditional conception of truth (i.e., The Correspondence Theory of truth). Nietzsche equivocates about 'truth', but he usually indicates he's speaking in this sense by using scare quotes.

But the notion that we really consider true what enhances our power, our life, etc.... that's pragma. That's not the same as above, and n endorses that.
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Re: False beliefs that are useful

Postby James S Saint » Thu Nov 21, 2013 10:40 am

MechanicalMonster wrote:If a belief system that is false (or which we have good reason to believe to be false) is in fact useful somehow, which is to say gives something that cannot be gotten elsewhere (perhaps peace of mind, or emotional stability, or happiness, etc.) or gives more benefit than detriment (assuming we can even know that to be the case), would a person be justified in adopting that belief system?

Nietzsche asked this question in a similar but opposite-like manner, as: what is the value of truth? And are not lies also valuable at times, and even necessary? Nietzsche points to the fact that blind and unconditional devotion to truth and against falsehood might not be justified. But in what sense could this be (or not be) so?

A) useful to whom?
B) useful toward what purpose?

Those are the two questions to have answered before attempting to answer the question that you asked.

But now, how are you going to answer those two unless you first answer your question with "I need to know the truth and not be deceived"?

If you accept misbelief, then you can't rely on your answers to those two questions and thus can never know if your misbelief was justified.
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It is not merely "do what works", but "to accomplish what purpose in what time frame at what cost".
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Re: False beliefs that are useful

Postby Neither Nor » Thu Nov 21, 2013 11:54 am

MechanicalMonster wrote:If a belief system that is false (or which we have good reason to believe to be false) is in fact useful somehow, which is to say gives something that cannot be gotten elsewhere (perhaps peace of mind, or emotional stability, or happiness, etc.) or gives more benefit than detriment (assuming we can even know that to be the case), would a person be justified in adopting that belief system?

Nietzsche asked this question in a similar but opposite-like manner, as: what is the value of truth? And are not lies also valuable at times, and even necessary? Nietzsche points to the fact that blind and unconditional devotion to truth and against falsehood might not be justified. But in what sense could this be (or not be) so?


True/False are value judgements of beliefs. Something 100% true, a certain, undeniable belief, would be a fact, but you're not asking about facts, you're asking about beliefs.
So, isn't there something odd about asking if a false belief is useful? Isn't it a contradiction in terms? How can something of a negative valuation be useful? It's like being attracted to someone ugly. By definition, you can't be. You're just not being honest about what is or isn't ugly.
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Re: False beliefs that are useful

Postby Faust » Thu Nov 21, 2013 1:47 pm

3. Over immense periods of time the intellect produced nothing but errors. A few of these proved to be useful and helped to preserve the species: those who hit upon or inherited these had better luck in their struggle for themselves and their progeny (Gay Science, 110).


In every single quote, Nietzsche is saying either that we do consider true what works, or else that we should.


No, he's not. He's just saying that truth is not necessarily of any value to us.
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Re: False beliefs that are useful

Postby von Rivers » Thu Nov 21, 2013 3:41 pm

Faust wrote:No, he's not. He's just saying that truth is not necessarily of any value to us.

What the intellect produced was what was considered true. By the traditional conception of truth, those truths were errors. But by what is life enhancing, valuable for life, and power enhancing (read: what fucking worked) clearly those aren't. It's not an error that they worked. It's only an error that they correspond to the ultimate nature of reality.

That's why N says explicitly: Truth is the error that works to keep you alive. THATS PRAGMA.

I'm done educating you. No disrespect.
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Re: False beliefs that are useful

Postby Fixed Cross » Thu Nov 21, 2013 9:53 pm

Faust sticks to what N says, Mo draws consequences from that. Both have solid points, they do not contradict.
Where it goes wrong is in talking about truth in truth statements without a sense of irony and absurdity.
Why do you think N compared truth to a woman? Not because he wanted to be directly truthful. The point is to let the concept Truth recede to the background and discipline yourself to interpret all situations in terms of a truth that is not yet established - an increased power.

The concept truth as a guide for action obstructs the will to power. At least this is Nietzsche's point - his only truth-value is the goal at the end of the straight line, along with the force that produces and aims to reach that goal.

Nietzsche makes truth disappear. Under his hands it recedes further and deeper into the background. The concept is unnecessary. All that matter is what is agreed upon by certain parties. In this hierarchy of values, Truth is synonymous to History. And this is how it should be, this is what makes a human happy - to live among the actions of great men, rather than in conscientious obedience to truthfulness.

The problem is that there probably is a definitive truth about things. "The world is will to power" is obviously Nietzsche's attempt at a truth-statement, and belief in the ER is it's verification, which to N can only be attained by a certain type of man, to bring it back to the relative value of truth. What is true is that truths are relative to the value the produce, which means that this statement has to be disregarded in any attempt to value. Truth requires either blind obedience or blind courage.

"Truth is relative" is true only in a certain context. "Truth is absolute" creates a context wherein the most ambitious and relentless minds dictate the rules. Science is the tyranny of such minds over those 'species of the plant Man' that would be better suited to a world wherein truth is relative. Nietzsche's work can be seen as an attempt to give such plants the benefit of the doubt, at least in their own mind.

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Re: False beliefs that are useful

Postby Fixed Cross » Thu Nov 21, 2013 10:43 pm

Progressively less wrong, yes. Faust is rightest.
The end of this process is not the absolute truth but the absence of truth.
How can you be wrong when you can't be right?

Might is Right -- so who's right is usually also powerfully in the wrong.

Science is probably extremely wrong about a number of subjects. From a good deal of perspectives that I can imagine or even embody, the scientific method is a big mistake, an error which will kill us if it remains uncorrected.
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Re: False beliefs that are useful

Postby Helandhighwater » Sat Nov 23, 2013 1:22 am

Fixed Cross wrote:Progressively less wrong, yes. Faust is rightest.
The end of this process is not the absolute truth but the absence of truth.
How can you be wrong when you can't be right?

Might is Right -- so who's right is usually also powerfully in the wrong.

Science is probably extremely wrong about a number of subjects. From a good deal of perspectives that I can imagine or even embody, the scientific method is a big mistake, an error which will kill us if it remains uncorrected.


It's not the scientific method that is the problem in science, it is after all in essence completely objective, it denies truths and proclaims that no theory is inviolate, it claims that all of current knowledge is getting there but is not quite right, that truth does not exist only an asymptotic approach to it. It is in essence as a progression one death after another; unfortunately even those who are meant to be completely objective do not follow such an ideal, having natural a bias, as all people do in any subject, which means the weakest link is not the method it's those who use it. I can say though it at least tries to self regulate, it is perhaps one field of practical endeavour where finding error gains you more renown than finding conformity. In that sense it is as healthy as it can be given human nature. The philosophy of science is hence still very important in pointing out the fallacies of humans, and hence modifying science and its method so that the humans personal bias are more likely to be removed from the equation. It's not perfect but then it is perhaps honest enough to say that, few methodologies are.
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