on truth and points on belief(2006)
Brief points on belief:
- A belief aims at truth, if it does not aim at truth, then it can’t be a belief. This is because beliefs represent the way things are; regardless of how you want them to be.
- Having a reason for wanting to have a certain belief doesn’t make it anymore true.
- It is not possible to create a belief, without sufficient reason or evidence, on the basis that you want it to be true.
Do you require anything other than your present experience, plus knowledge of what the words mean, to know whether the following propositions are true?
1. I have a toothache
To know you have a toothache, you firstly have to know what the word toothache means in relation to the feeling of having a toothache. The present experience of toothache would tell you it is a toothache through pain in your mouth. However even though you may believe you have a toothache, you may genuinely be wrong, it may be something else, therefore for it to be absolutely true you may need another opinion (preferably a qualified dentist). Even though the other opinion may not be able to feel the pain, the dentist may be more qualified to tell you exactly if indeed you have a toothache.
So, to know you have a toothache, you wouldn’t need anything else apart from present experience and knowledge of the meaning of words. However this knowledge may not be a certainty, as if you think you have a toothache, that then thought is true for you, but it may not be a toothache, rather a pain in the mouth. This is where having a alternative, professional opinion may be useful for supporting the claim.
2. I ate breakfast this morning
We don’t need anything apart from our present experience and knowledge of what breakfast, eating and morning actually is, to know if the statement is true. This is because the answer is self-evident. You do not need a sound argument or a different opinion to affirm that the statement is true.
3. I exist
To know I exist is to know my being is actually my being, without being deceived or wrongly interpreted. Not only do we need our present experience, but also our past and future, to be a human being. To understand the word exist in a traditional sense would conclude that I know I exist, as I am alive on Earth and have an identity. Regardless of if this Earth is a deception or illusion, we can grasp that we do exist, even if it’s in this illusion.
But if we now understand existence, who is this I? What must happen for I to be absolutely certain that I am I, regardless of my existence? I don’t think we can fully comprehend “I”, as we don’t know which parts actually constitute to the “I”.
If one argues it to be the “whole thing” (that is, the body, its organs, muscles, bones, and thinking mind), then do I stop being “I” if my arm gets cut off?
We can understand existence from our present experience and knowledge of the words, but I think it is more difficult to establish just who this “I” who exists is.
4. I hope it rains tomorrow
For the statement to be true, we need to know of our own mind to believe that we are indeed actually hoping. To do this, we need to understand the meaning of the words, plus our present experience needs to know if what we believe is actually what we believe. So, we don’t really need anything other than present experience and understanding of words to know that the statement is true. If we are purposely trying to lie, and we don’t hope it to rain, either to ourselves or to somebody, then our present experience (through consciousness) should know that indeed we are lying. For if we are actually lying, this makes the statement untrue, but also supports the notion that we only need our present experience and knowledge of words.
5. I think it will rain tomorrow
To know that you think you think it will rain tomorrow takes an understanding of the meanings of words. Also, it takes present experience to ensure that you think it will rain tomorrow.
6. It will rain tomorrow
We would need knowledge of the future for the statement to be true. Until it does rain tomorrow, we couldn’t ever know with absolute certainty that it will rain tomorrow. Of course, we would need to understand the meaning of the words, but our present experience will not help us in making the statement anymore true. We could make our best guesses through inductive arguments, but never with absolute certainty.