Bruno, Bent, list,

Sometimes I use the word "opinion" to refer to a theoretical belief, as opposed 
to a practical belief. In those terms, if I believe something, then I'm willing 
to act practically, on the basis of that belief under potentially 
discorroborative circumstances as they currently appear, at least as they 
appear, even if I'm not fully certain about them. If I have an opinion, I'm 
willing to "act" theoretically, modify a theory, etc., on the basis of that 
opinion under potentially discorroborative circumstances as they currently 
appear. This distinction between "opinion" and "belief" is only suggested by 
common usage and is not actually well established. For instance, a medical 
opinion may be the basis for grave practical steps. C.S. Peirce often discussed 
opinion or belief in terms of the willingness to act upon it and insisted on 
distinguishing between theoretical & practical beliefs.

This is a little more complicated in the case of researchers, since researchers 
tends to end up with practical matters and even the shapes of their lives 
dependent on theoretical issues and developments. Mendel believed strongly 
enough in his genetic theory to at least fudge his data somewhat, for a better 
fit. And even where it doesn't raise issues of integrity, the nexus of 
practicality and theory still arises for the researcher in terms of career 
choices, funding, etc. (not that I know a lot about this sort of thing, but it 
does seem to be there). So it does seem a bit of a juggling act for the serious 
researcher -- straining his/her mental sinews to give his/her theory the best 
possible shot, yet not persisting stubbornly in it when it is definitely 
disconfirmed, because the point, strictly speaking, is not to decide the truth 
but instead to be decided by the truth, and the real dedication must be to the 
quasi-leisurely, multi-generational project of seeking to be determ!
 ined by the truth, not some rushed conclusion. In practical matters we are 
justified in rushing sometimes, and in taking into account arguments that would 
be quite out of place in a theoretical context. And none of those researchers 
who scorn invariant personal solemnity in public forums means to convey a lack 
of seriousness as if their theoretical research were just a hobby.

One probably could make the same distinction between theoretical & practical 
knowledge (recognizing something as theoretically / practically confirmed 
enough that one would act theoretically / practically on its basis under even 
surprising potentially discorroborative circumstances, i.e., under the widest 
range reasonably imaginable), theoretical & practical understanding (an 
interpretation on the basis of which one will likely be disposed to act in 
potentially discorroborative circumstances likely to arise), and theoretical & 
practical assumptions (on the basis of which one has acted or been disposed to 
act, theoretically / practically, in potentially discorroborative circumstances 
that have arisen.

In the chafing between science and religion, some of us recurrently scorn a 
religious tendency toward intense belief about matters of physical fact on 
insufficient bases of evidence and logic. However, in practical matters 
sometimes one must decide and act with total conviction on the basis of 
insufficient information. Occasionally it's in for a dime, in for a dollar, 
such that half-way or hesitant measures are far worse than decisive action or 
total inaction. We can't really mean to broad-brushingly scorn all that sort of 
thing on account of some portion's excesses, because, if we're true to such 
scorn, then we'll vitiate ourselves. Now, valuings and ideals are a side of the 
theoretical which tends to get minimized in the context of the 
practical-theoretical distinction, just as the difference in the practical 
between decision-making and performance tends to get sloughed over also in the 
context of practical-theoretical distinction. But there's no knowledge based on 
logic &!
  evidence without valuing of logic & evidence, there's no artistic 
understanding of effects without gratificational valuings, there's no know-how 
without care-how, and there's no discipline of community planning, education of 
character, no "ruling arts" or "governing arts" as they've been called, without 
a certain thing found also at religion's core -- valuings and carings in regard 
to the sources, powers, principles whereby one moves and acts. Bruno tends to 
point to that which stands out in religious people but is common to all people 
and he has a good point, even if there are usually also differences.

Best, Ben Udell

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Bruno Marchal" <[EMAIL PROTECTED]>
To: "Brent Meeker" <[EMAIL PROTECTED]>
Cc: "Stathis Papaioannou" <[EMAIL PROTECTED]>; <everything-list@eskimo.com>
Sent: Monday, January 30, 2006 9:06 AM
Subject: Re: belief, faith, truth


Le 29-janv.-06, à 20:02, Brent Meeker a écrit :

> I largely agree with Stathis.  I note a subtle difference in language between 
> Danny and Stathis.  Danny refers to "believe in".  I don't think a scientist 
> ever "believes in" a theory.

All right, you use "believe in" (quote included!) for the "religious belief of 
the fundamentalist".
Still I hope you agree that the scientist believes in its theory, if only to be 
able to acknowledge his theory is wrong when experiments refute it.
Cf Belief = B with (Bp -> p) NOT being a theorem!

>  That implies taking the theory as the foundation of all further beliefs.  In 
> fact most scientists don't "believe" any theory, except in the provisional 
> sense of thinking them likely, or worth entertaining, or suggestive.

OK, but this is independent of the fact that, still, the scientist can "believe 
in" (in the scientist modest way of self-interrogation) in the *object* of his 
theory. Most naturalist "believe in" a physical universe, or a nature or 
whatever. We wouldn't discuss about a "theory of everything" if we were not 
believing in ... something.

> Religious faith differs from ordinary belief and scientific hypothesizing not 
> only by the lack of evidence but even more in the assertion of certainity.

I think everyone has religious faith. Today, a scientist who pretends no doing 
philosophy or theology, is just a scientist taking for granted Aristotle 
theology. No problem in case he is aware of the fact, so that, as a scientist, 
he can still be open to the idea that Aristotle theology can be falsified, but 
if he is not aware of the fact, then he will not been able to make sense of the 
data---a little like Roland Omnes who concludes his analysis of QM that there 
is a point where we need to abandon faith in  ... reason. Personally, I 
consider that abandoning faith in reason in front of difficulties, is just 
worse that abandoning faith in truth (whatever it is).

Bruno
http://iridia.ulb.ac.be/~marchal/



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