Tuesday, June 29, 2010

What is a Belief System?

In any belief system, "system" is the operative word. A "system" must be functionally integrated in its metaphysics, its epistemology, its ethics, etc. This makes it into what is called "justified true belief". http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Justified_t… A system that is not functionally integrated will contain contradictions.
Justified true belief is also called the "tripartite" theory: "The theory states that if we believe something, have a justification for believing it, and it is true, then our belief is knowledge." [emphasis added] http://www.arrod.co.uk/essays/tripartite…

The part about a belief being "true" is also called the Correspondence Theory of Truth, which Aristotle and most other philosophers after him accepted as the proper standard for justified belief. Basically it says "p is true if and only if p corresponds to a fact". http://www.iep.utm.edu/truth/#H3 

But to be free of contradictions in any belief system--whether about going to the library, or about whether God exists or about what kind of God he/she is--it cannot be open to having holes punched it by other theories. Of course you can decide those other theories are wrong; but what if you see the logic and realize you have holes? You can close them up by listening to the criticism.

Hole-punching theories are called "defeasors". To have a "system" that is free of contradictions, you must be able to defeat the defeasors. This is called an "undefeated justified true belief." http://www.erin.utoronto.ca/~jnagel/333h…

Only when you believe your own system to be undefeasable can you have complete confidence in its integrity and its veracity.

Are there any such undefeated belief systems? Only the ones you believe in. Buddhists punch holes in Objectivism; Objectivists punch holes in Christianity; Christianity punches holes in monism; determinism punches non-determinism which is not necessarily the same as the belief in free-will; non-reductive theories punch holes in reductive theories; etc.

All of them are examples of belief systems. But they are based on what is known by the knower in the sense that the knower "knows P"; and we all "know" different things. This doesn't make all of them wrong. To the extent that they can be justified they are true.

But to the extent that you can defeat them with your own argument, they are not "justified".

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