Doxastic DIY? You don’t have a right to believe whatever you want to

#1
https://aeon.co/ideas/you-dont-have-a-ri...ou-want-to

EXCERPT: . . . Such judgments can imply that believing is a voluntary act. But beliefs are often more like states of mind or attitudes than decisive actions. Some beliefs, such as personal values, are not deliberately chosen; they are ‘inherited’ from parents and ‘acquired’ from peers, acquired inadvertently, inculcated by institutions and authorities, or assumed from hearsay. [...]

‘Who are you to tell me what to believe?’ replies the zealot. It is a misguided challenge: it implies that certifying one’s beliefs is a matter of someone’s authority. It ignores the role of reality. Believing has what philosophers call a ‘mind-to-world direction of fit’. Our beliefs are intended to reflect the real world – and it is on this point that beliefs can go haywire. There are irresponsible beliefs; more precisely, there are beliefs that are acquired and retained in an irresponsible way. One might disregard evidence; accept gossip, rumour, or testimony from dubious sources; ignore incoherence with one’s other beliefs; embrace wishful thinking; or display a predilection for conspiracy theories.

[...] In exploring the varieties of religious experience, [William] James would remind us that the ‘right to believe’ can establish a climate of religious tolerance. Those religions that define themselves by required beliefs (creeds) have engaged in repression, torture and countless wars against non-believers that can cease only with recognition of a mutual ‘right to believe’. Yet, even in this context, extremely intolerant beliefs cannot be tolerated. Rights have limits and carry responsibilities.

Unfortunately, many people today seem to take great licence with the right to believe, flouting their responsibility. The wilful ignorance and false knowledge that are commonly defended by the assertion ‘I have a right to my belief’ do not meet James’s requirements. Consider those who believe that the lunar landings or the Sandy Hook school shooting were unreal, government-created dramas; that Barack Obama is Muslim; that the Earth is flat; or that climate change is a hoax. In such cases, the right to believe is proclaimed as a negative right; that is, its intent is to foreclose dialogue, to deflect all challenges; to enjoin others from interfering with one’s belief-commitment. The mind is closed, not open for learning. They might be ‘true believers’, but they are not believers in the truth....

MORE: https://aeon.co/ideas/you-dont-have-a-ri...ou-want-to
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#2
(May 16, 2018 04:05 PM)C C Wrote: You don't have a right to believe whatever you want to

That's a rather bizarre assertion. If that's true, then why all the talk from philosophers about "critical thinking"?  

Quote:. . . Such judgments can imply that believing is a voluntary act. But beliefs are often more like states of mind or attitudes than decisive actions. Some beliefs, such as personal values, are not deliberately chosen; they are ‘inherited’ from parents and ‘acquired’ from peers, acquired inadvertently, inculcated by institutions and authorities, or assumed from hearsay. [...]

Perhaps. I detect a not-so-faint argument for totalitarianism there. (Not particularly surprising, coming from a professor.)

If people have no power to decide what they find plausible or credible, have no ability to decide what should and shouldn't be believed, then they would seem to become puppets. Puppets whose strings are pulled by their surrounding environment. So once again we find ourselves back at the Marxist-derived idea that if people disagree with you, the solution isn't to try to convince them by presenting convincing arguments, but rather to enact some revolutionary transformation of the foundations of society so that you control the environment that shapes people's attitudes. It might work, as it seems to have done in North Korea. But it's 1984ish and I viscerally oppose it.  

Quote:‘Who are you to tell me what to believe?’ replies the zealot.

Why "the zealot"? It sounds like a reasonable question to me, one that needs to be put to anyone who wants to control your thinking.

Quote:It is a misguided challenge: it implies that certifying one’s beliefs is a matter of someone’s authority. It ignores the role of reality. Believing has what philosophers call a ‘mind-to-world direction of fit’. Our beliefs are intended to reflect the real world – and it is on this point that beliefs can go haywire.

And that's precisely the point in not believing everything you're told, isn't it?

Assuming that the object of belief is an objective fact about the real world, and not an interpretive or a value judgment about it, then arguably we do seem to have some epistemic responsibility to try to maximize the verisimilitude of our beliefs. But that's something that we have to do for ourselves. We can't just defer the task to others who want to tell us what to believe. That just pushes the problem back a step, since we would have to choose our authorities, which we often have to do in real life when others have more expertise than us. We are still the ones who decide whether we trust our authorities.

Quote:There are irresponsible beliefs; more precisely, there are beliefs that are acquired and retained in an irresponsible way. One might disregard evidence; accept gossip, rumour, or testimony from dubious sources; ignore incoherence with one’s other beliefs; embrace wishful thinking; or display a predilection for conspiracy theories.

How can he talk about epistemic responsibility when he's denied up above that believing is a voluntary act? That doesn't make sense and looks like a contradiction.
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