Rebirth of Reason

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Friday, March 11 - 10:12amSanction this postReply

Joe listed the following as kinds of a sense of superiority due to holding certain beliefs:


- Feeling superior from being "in the know"
- Feeling superior from being special as a part of a superior minority
- Feeling superior as if those who hold the beliefs are special
- Feeling superior because your beliefs are only held by intelligent people
- Feeling superior because holding your beliefs is a sign of moral worth
- Feeling superior from being a trend-setter - above the hoi-poli, before the masses


And I got to thinking about how these arise in an individual.


Two basic sources of error:

1. Method: Children learn by accepting beliefs from authority (in addition, hopefully, to learning to reason independently).  This is a kind of learning where being a good little boy means being praised for accepting the 'right' beliefs.  It is a form of conditioned response and allows for a fast transmission of beliefs from parent to child.  Of course it should include learning to think.   To the extent that an adult has not fully matured beyond the sense of being a good little boy for holding the 'right' beliefs, they will 'take pride' in beliefs, like a dog will start wagging his tail when he hears food being poured into his bowl.  They will simply transfer their sense of who is the authority from their actual parent, to authority-figures, to peers, or to consensus as a principle.

2. Motivation: Self-Esteem is a deep psychological need.  Some people form bad psychological habits that in effect are attempts to acquire or maintain a pseudo-self-esteem.  It is a defensive measure designed subconsciously to stave off the fear or anxiety or shame or hurt they are suffering due to the lack of real self-esteem.  Among the defenses they can erect are the forms of pseudo-self-esteem whereby they 'take pride' in beliefs they hold - beliefs that have nothing to do with the virtues of rationality, of being appropriately conscious, of practicing integrity to the process of critical thinking. 



Objectivists, progressives, communists, Republicans, accountants, clerks, priests, housewives, everyone has within them some kind of underlying, personal relationship to the process of acquiring and holding beliefs.  And this is always, as is everything, tied to our need for self-esteem and will play a part in determing our level of self-esteem.  Put another way, we use conscious processes to acquire, maintain and hold a set of beliefs, and those processes will, automatically and unavoidably effect and create our level of self-esteem.  And this happens within the context of our nature as beings who are emotional as well as possessing a rational faculty.  For most people, their process is likely to be some mixture of that child's relationship to 'right' beliefs and an adult's sense of 'right.'  The more mature they are in this respect, the less likely they are to have an inappropriate, child-like, pride of belief.  And for a great many people, their process is likely to be some mixture of the rational, open self-acceptance of who they are, and some degree of psuedo-self-esteem that is built around a set of beliefs that they hold in a way that is defensive.


The first effect of this falsely-directed pride is that you wrap your sense of identity in those beliefs. Any challenge to those beliefs is a challenge to your identity. If someone dismisses them or ridicules them, you take it as an affront to yourself. You could simply view them as mistaken and maybe even intentionally ignorant if they aren't willing to rationally discuss the topic. But when the beliefs are a source of pride, a source of positive self-assessment, a challenge to them is an attack on you.


That is an extraordinarily important observation!  Note that when two people who DON'T wrap their identity in their beliefs have a disagreement, they are much more likely to automatically move from the disagreeement to their common stand on rationality and look to see where, in logic, the disagreeement was born.  They are more likely to be on one-another's side in finding and resolving the conflict. 


Great article!

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