False beliefs that are useful

This is the main board for discussing philosophy - formal, informal and in between.

Re: False beliefs that are useful

Postby James S Saint » Sun Nov 24, 2013 8:06 am

A false belief that is useful;

Given the right team, all of my teammates are being faithful.

At any one time the belief might be false, but given the right team, you are better off believing that it is true.
Clarify, Verify, Instill, and Reinforce the Perception of Hopes and Threats unto Anentropic Harmony :)
From THIS age of sleep, Homo-sapien shall never awake.

The Wise gather together to help one another in EVERY aspect of living.

You are always more insecure than you think, just not by what you think.
The only absolute certainty is formed by the absolute lack of alternatives.
It is not merely "do what works", but "to accomplish what purpose in what time frame at what cost".
As long as the authority is secretive, the population will be subjugated.

Amid the lack of certainty, put faith in the wiser to believe.
Devil's Motto: Make it look good, safe, innocent, and wise.. until it is too late to choose otherwise.

The Real God ≡ The reason/cause for the Universe being what it is = "The situation cannot be what it is and also remain as it is".
James S Saint
ILP Legend
Posts: 25976
Joined: Sun Apr 18, 2010 8:05 pm

Re: False beliefs that are useful

Postby attano » Tue Nov 26, 2013 12:28 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?

Both statements capture two questions having philosophical interest, yet I think that establishing a relationship between them is confusing.
I do not think that the the question about the usefulness of beliefs (which strikes me as distinguishably pragmatistic) is relevant for the theme of the value of truth for Nietzsche. My position is that the truth at any price («”At any price”: how well we understand these words once we have offered and slaughtered one faith after another on this altar!», «Nothing is needed more than truth, and in relation to it everything else has only second-rate value» - GS, 344) questioned by Nietzsche is the truth of knowledge, not of something that is qualified as belief. Beliefs, qua beliefs, are not the primary object of Nietzsche's reflection about truth.
The well known position that there are no facts but only interpretations is a statement targeting knowledge. It may be referred to beliefs too, but then it would sound quite nugatory. Of course one can argue that, if knowledge is only interpretation, then all knowledge is just belief, but I don't think that Nietzsche maintains exactly that.
The broad category “system of beliefs” is too coarse to approach Nietzsche's analysis, and there is not a unique kind of beliefs.
The belief in free-will is not exactly the belief in guardian angels. (Or is it? Because, ultimately, they are roughly equally implausible and whimsical).
The myth of Atlantis is not the same of Dumezil's Trifunctional Theory.
I picked these examples because they are heterogeneous - and may be controversial as well. I would understand if people disagree and that would serve my point: “system of beliefs” is too coarse a class for analysis and the equation knowledge = belief is not really helpful either.
Even if we are to endorse the most skeptical point of view, and assume that all beliefs are epistemologically equal, and maintain that a distinction between knowledge and belief is pointless, there would still be relevant psychological differences. The supposed truth of beliefs such as religion – which is the reasons for believing them without paramount evidence – is not the same truth of knowledge, which is presumed to be a necessary representation of reality, a so-called “fact”.
As I see it, the quotes proposed by Von Rivers are compatible with my way of framing the question.
But unlike him, without delving into the definition of pragmatism, I don't think that Nietzsche would say anything like that “we” should believe true what works - which I interpret as what is useful. First of all because there's no undifferentiated “we”, a belief can't be of concern to all, because mankind is not composed by equals. Some thoughts (and hence beliefs) correspond to some natures while are repelled by others. This position can be found in many works, as throughout the book II of BGE, but as for beliefs (and notably a collection of beliefs such as «god, satan, evil, will, spirit, justice, rights, free will, heaven, hell») I guess that Antichrist 37 is enlightening:
States of consciousness, faith of a sort, the acceptance, for example, of anything as true—as every psychologist knows, the value of these things is perfectly indifferent and fifth-rate compared to that of the instincts: strictly speaking, the whole concept of intellectual causality is false. To reduce being a Christian, the state of Christianity, to an acceptance of truth, to a mere phenomenon of consciousness, is to formulate the negation of Christianity. In fact, there are no Christians. The “Christian”—he who for two thousand years has passed as a Christian—is simply a psychological self-delusion. Closely examined, it appears that, despite all his “faith,” he has been ruled only by his instincts—and what instincts!

And as for the concept of usefulness: Nietzsche clearly states (BGE 354) that «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». It doesn't take much to reckon that free will is convenient for egalitarians – or Christians – so that everybody can be deemed equally responsible for his/her acts. And being egalitarian is a belief – and, from Nietzsche's point of view, a toxic and corrupting one.
Indeed, while it is debatable that a system of beliefs as a whole can be maintained when it turns out that it is patently false, some tenets can be strenuously maintained against all evidence. Again responsibility is a pretty helpful example. Even a philosopher like Dennett, who claims that «holding people responsible is the best game in town» (if nothing else, American philosophers are worth reading for statements like this one), or that «At our best, we behave “responsibly” - that is to say, morally», finds himself with no philosophical elements to prop his notion of responsibility, else than it's “useful”... It's worth playing the comedy because else the society would tear apart – maybe that can be better rendered as: society would become something he's afraid of.
I don't think that this attitude can possibly match Nietzsche's. Conversely philosophers, future philosophers at least, are distinguished by being good-humoured and devilish (or godly) and cruel "seekers of truths", of the most inconvenient truths (BGE 29, 34, 227, 230...).
So, about
MechanicalMonster wrote:Thus, perhaps, we have at least one reason for the low threshold of reasonable certainty of the truthfulness of belief, which also points to what Nietzsche was getting at: the lack of a necessary condition of known truthfulness produces a situation wherein many more beliefs and belief systems are allowed to arise and spread out through time and space, in cultures and individuals, than would otherwise. A kind of 'grand experimentation' of beliefs is thus permitted. Surely this must have some great value not only for societies in an evolutionary sense, but also for the individual rather he wishes to refine his understanding or merely to discover and develop (tend naturally toward) that paradigm of thought and emotion which best suits his particular situation and need/preference.

I don't really think so. Such a 'grand experimentation' is indeed possible and has taken place – at the cost of life and death – throughout history.
But philosophers, qua philosophers, craft no beliefs – truths possibly (BGE 207).
Now, it is apparent that the Nietzschean doctrine of truth is the theatre of the most disparate interpretations. Personally I think that truth, although truth is human and nothing but human, is not a matter of convention (because of any supposed utility). But analysing this would take us quite far, factoring in also BGE 34, or GS – Preface 4, and probably others. Moreover it is also arguable that Nietzsche changed something between GS – V/BGE and TI on this subject, or that, however, these books do not attack the subject from the same point of view (TI being a more “esoteric” work, while BGE, as an attempt at “fishing” free spirits, being more “exoteric” - note that I don't really subscribe to the view of Nietzsche as an esoteric author).
By the way, it is sufficiently clear that truth is only for philosophers, the ones fit for and capable of daring it. The rest need to be “disciplined”, by all means (TI, «The “Improvers” of mankind») - and maybe that is what Mr.Dennett is trying to do.
«Va', va', povero untorello. Non sarai tu quello che spianti Milano.»
User avatar
Posts: 174
Joined: Tue Jun 28, 2011 7:38 pm
Location: Europe

Re: False beliefs that are useful

Postby Fixed Cross » Sun Oct 15, 2017 6:50 pm

Fuck truth and it will reproduce in your image.

Well said.
The strong do what they can, the weak accept what they must.
- Thucydides
User avatar
Fixed Cross
Doric Usurper
Posts: 9103
Joined: Fri Jul 15, 2011 12:53 am
Location: the black ships


Return to Philosophy

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users