Belief a CHOICE?

A number of folks on these boards are saying or at least implying that they can consciously CHOOSE to believe things. If you are one of them perhaps one of you can help me. I have never been able to consciously CHOOSE any of the beliefs that I have and I would like to be able to do that. If you think that you can consciously CHOOSE to believe things, I wonder if you might explain how you do it. What do you do at the last moment to instantly change your one state of belief to another? What is it that you do that would allow you to say,“OK, at this moment I have a lack of belief that ‘x’ exists or is true, but I CHOOSE to believe that ‘x’ exists or is true and now instantly at this new moment I do believe that ‘x’ exists or is true?

Maybe you could use something like leprechauns to demonstrate your technique. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, a leprechaun is “a fairy peculiar to Ireland, who appeared in the form of an old man of minute stature, wearing a cocked hat and a leather apron.” So, assuming that you don’t already have a belief in them, how about right now, while you are reading this, CHOOSE to believe - be convinced without a doubt - that they exist. Now that you believe in leprechauns, my question is, how did you do it? How did you make the instantaneous transition from lack of belief to belief?

Much as I am sure to regret doing this, I am going to move this thread to Great Debates.

It is really not a General Question.

While I’m not sure I know quite what you’re getting at here, I am fairly sure that this is a bad example of it. My “belief” in leprechauns exists as a belief in the existence of the fictional creature known as a leprechaun.

I am one of these people, and I don’t know if I can help you. Given that I have an imagination, being able to believe something new without any empirical evidence is something I do all the time. I don’t consciously think, at one point, “I don’t know whether or not X is true” and then decide “I believe X is true.” It’s more that I come across an idea or a belief or a faith that I haven’t heard of before and I think “Okay, I’m willing to believe X is true, now that I’ve heard about it.”

And keep leprechauns out of it; they have a hard enough time guarding their gold.

[QUOTE=Ambivalid;15777042… I’m not sure I know quite what you’re getting at… .[/QUOTE]

I say “what” in the OP.

Thanks. Got it. As you can see, I need to be walked-through things at times.

It has to do with experiencing something in the “real world,” or in something I read or hear about. An example would be having a disagreement with someone, and gradually realize that his argument makes more sense than mine. I then have to subconsciously compare this fact with all the beliefs I already have, and see if there’s a contradiction somewhere. If there’s a contradiction, I have to go back and challenge my premises, and somehow resolve the contradiction. This usually happens over a period of time.

Belief in a leprechaun would contradict so many things that I know are true, in order to believe in them, I’d have to suspend my belief of some fairly basic assumptions.

Apparently, most people don’t do this. They just accept any idea that “feels” right to them, and if it contradicts something they already think, they just ignore that fact. Like believing in leprechauns.

Being able to consciously choose your beliefs wouldn’t imply that youccould change them instantaneously. You can consciously choose to walk from one place to another, but you can’t teleport there instantaneously. Anything you consciously choose to do is a gradual transition from one state to another, not an instantaneous change. So the better question is what process youwould go through to change your beliefs.

I think the OP is thinking that you can force yourself to believe in ANYTHING (like leprechauns), regardless of whether that belief corresponds to reality (as you perceive it). If that’s the case, I can’t.

I think I have the same question the OP has, more or less. It may hinge on what we think “believe” means. I think it means “think it’s true”, as in “really think” and “really true”. If there is some kind of leeway here, like treating belief as if it is honoring an idea with some kind of warm fuzzy support when what you actually quietly think is that the answer is untestable or the question is poorly defined, then maybe I can understand choosing to do that (though I wouldn’t call it “belief”).

One can choose to reconsider or being more open minded. This isn’t choosing to believe, per se, however. It’s making a choice that may happen to lead to changing a belief.

I am pretty sure “choosing to believe” is a cute and tidy if short definition of “pretend”.

I suspect, if it really, really mattered, I could work my beliefs around, using self-hypnosis and other mental tricks. I’d start by “suspending disbelief,” a skill most of us exercise every time we read a good drama or watch it on tv or in a movie. Then, gradually, I’d work on plausibility. In time, self-deception could come to meet the level of actual belief (although I think it would be fragile, and could collapse at the slightest challenge.)

Leprechauns are real… Just undiscovered for centuries… Reclusive from a hostile world… Who could blame them? Yes… Real…

Drugs might be helpful for this process of self-indoctrination. Can I hire a team of experts to work on it with me? Psychologists…or torturers…?

My degree of belief is grounded on the preponderance of the evidence as well as practical considerations of losses of being incorrect. When I cross the street, I act on the belief that there may be a car coming at me, so I look both ways.

I just had my car fixed: it had an intermittent start problem. I’m not a mechanic, but I hypothesized that I had a slow drain on the battery. After some testing, the repairman explained to me that the starter appeared to have issues. He replaced it. If the problem doesn’t reappear over the next few weeks, I’ll conclude that indeed I needed a new starter. If the penalty for being wrong were greater, I’d require more evidence, more problem-free days, before I became confident.

If I were a moron, evidence would have no relation to my degree of belief.

Really? Because I thought it was pretty much universally acknowledged, here at the SDMB, that lack of volition regarding one’s own belief was one of the key failings of Pascal’s Wager.

I’ve only ever, I think, seen the described opinion expressed by enthusiastic n00bs who probably only just discovered Pascal’s Wager, and haven’t tried it out much.

I’m pretty sure that if you act like you believe something for long enough, you actually start believing it.

Yup! You start out kind of thinking something is unbelievable, ridiculous, then amusing, funny, interesting… and then eventually you find out you really believe in it.

I think when people talk about a choice in believing they are usually referring to complex set of decisions and processes someone goes through voluntarily, with the result of coming out with a certain belief. Not just waking up and deciding to believe something, then believing it.

I’m thinking of my mum: she used to be extremely pragmatic, hardcore atheist and scientifically minded. She is now the biggest supporter of nonsensical woo, homeopathy, hippy god, the secret, Deepak Chopra etc etc. If it is ridiculous and clearly untrue she will believe it. The road to get there was entirely voluntary on her part. She read something here, read something there. Chose to read more. Chose to associate with people who also believe ridiculous crap. Chose to attend seminars.

Overall she made very many, very varied choices in life that ended up leading to her believing a load of random stuff. Nobody forced her, she wasn’t indoctrinated, she wasn’t taught this stuff when she was too young to know better.

In that sense, it was a choice.

But that’s not much of a sense, is it? If I take North Street instead of Water Street to go to the hardware store, and get hit by somebody running a stop sign en route, I didn’t choose to have an accident, did I?

You mean the accident is like her belief? I don’t really see them as being similar at all. Forming a certain belief is slow, it takes time. You read things that support that belief. (Well, in my mum’s case anyway).

It’s not like being hit by a car while crossing the road, it’s standing on the road for weeks hoping to get hit by a car. If we really need to use that analogy…


re: “Being able to consciously choose your beliefs wouldn’t imply that youccould change them instantaneously.”

It has to imply that. You can’t believe - be convinced - that sometheing doesn’t exist or isn’ t true AND at the same time believe that it does exist or that it is true. There has to be an instant when your one state of mind changes to the other.


re: “I think I have the same question the OP has, more or less. It may hinge on what we think “believe” means.”
For the purpose of this topic, I define “belief” as a conviction - without doubt - that someone or something does or doesn’t exist, or that a certain proposition is or isn’t true.