Thursday, May 5, 2011
We are born, we learn, we mature, we reproduce, we age, we forget and ultimately we are forgotten! Collectively we induce great change in the world.!!
It all begins and ends in your head
"You could not step twice into the same river; for other waters are ever flowing on to you" Heraclitus of Ephesus (540 BC - 480 BC)
We are born, we learn, we mature, we reproduce, we age, we forget and ultimately we are forgotten. Collectively we induce great change in the world. These dynamics of living makes a constancy of philosophy even during an individual life time seem inappropriate.
There is a very long tradition of thought that focuses on the importance of belief revision. As we can see from the two quotes above, even more than two and half thousand years ago it became obvious to people of different cultures that is productive to consider the importance of change.
Our beliefs help us provide stability in our lives by separating into isolate compartments everything in order to make sense of the world. As an example if you see a group of youths on the street on trailer motor cycles, wearing black T-shirts and tattoos on wrists and being rowdy, you might immediately try and separate them as follows: youths - loud - black T-shirts- Trailer bicycles - tattoos - street corner - dark = dangerous = steer clear = fight or flight.
This is a very simple example but one that shows where our beliefs lead us and what actions it prompts us to take once we have boxed all the relevant categories and then put them together and then formulate a belief. Obviously beliefs are upheld the more we come into contact with that particular scenario, like the one quoted.
Just think for a while. How many of your beliefs have you questioned in your life? Not that many I suspect because you have never had to question them, you've never had evidence to the contrary to cause a massive shift from one belief to another.
Let me give you a little exercise: List the things you believe to be true about yourself: My list would be; intelligent, honest, good looking, a bit overweight, inner confident, and so on. Now try to think of each belief and ask where it came from. For example I believe I am intelligent because I have a degree, I read a lot, I pick up things easily etc. Now, all of these reasons are beliefs within themselves e.g. I believe that people who read a lot is a sign of intelligence. Now this is not the case as it would depend on what the person was reading, so therefore I have to refine that belief to; people who read, what I class, as intelligent books are intelligent.
Break this down further; how do I know that the people reading these intelligent books? Are they actually grasping the words they are reading? So therefore I have to refine the belief again to; people who read and comprehend intelligent books are intelligent.
Now I have the dilemma of asking what comprehension really is. We can dig deeper and deeper until we unearth the core of a belief which is nothing really than a set of other beliefs.
Where does this leave us? Does it mean all our beliefs are unsubstantiated? No, it means if we dig deep enough we may find some of our beliefs are unfounded, find they are outdated, and do not fit with our lives.
Our beliefs are important for they strongly influence our sense of well being and our actions in the world. Scientific beliefs shape the way we see the world and the way we develop technology. Political beliefs affect our welfare.
Legal beliefs help to make our societies function in the way that they do. Moral beliefs influence the way we treat others. Religious beliefs, in the widest sense, strongly influence our view of our origins, our deaths and the nature of reality as well as having a strong social influence
I, like many others, contend that we should become a civilisation of questioning thinkers rather than unquestioning believers. Scientific and analytical philosophical methods show us the advantage of learning to modify beliefs in the light of observation and the value in making new observations.
Studies of the placebo response reveal our ability to alleviate every imaginable health condition and symptom 30 to 90 percent of the time, based only on our belief in the effectiveness of medical treatment. Hypnosis, which is successfully used to control or eliminate a wide variety of unpleasant symptoms, also shows the power of expectation and attitude on health.
Spontaneous remissions from cancer often come about when beliefs change-when patients reinterpret their symptoms and alter their attitudes about their lives.
The influence of beliefs upon health cannot be overstated. This is in keeping with the main rule of consciousness, "You get what you concentrate upon." Our thoughts and emotions follow our beliefs and create the attitudes, assumptions, expectations, and behaviours that determine how we react to life events and what we think is possible.
Our beliefs are the furnishings of our mind, put in place by us. They are not the result of mysterious unconscious forces that are beyond our control. Choosing to become aware of our beliefs is the first step in rearranging them to better suit us.
Technology is fuelling radical change in beliefs. Five years ago who would have "believed" that over 500 million people globally would be engaged on Facebook? Who would have "believed" that the internet would have drawn billions of dollars annual in advertising revenue? Who would have "believed" that real-time communications would create addictive behaviour from the human network? What business leader would have "believed" that everything they say and do would be transparent to the marketplace? These changes would have been and still are consider radical. More importantly these changes are indeed changing our beliefs.