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Here’s why you don’t have the right to believe whatever you want

phands

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I'm sure this has been discussed here before, but this article was published this year (May 14th) on Aeon, and is under a Creative Commons license, and I figure it might engage some minds....

Do we have the right to believe whatever we want to believe? This supposed right is often claimed as the last resort of the wilfully ignorant, the person who is cornered by evidence and mounting opinion: ‘I believe climate change is a hoax whatever anyone else says, and I have a right to believe it!’ But is there such a right?

We do recognise the right to know certain things. I have a right to know the conditions of my employment, the physician’s diagnosis of my ailments, the grades I achieved at school, the name of my accuser and the nature of the charges, and so on. But belief is not knowledge.


Beliefs are factive: to believe is to take to be true. It would be absurd, as the analytic philosopher G E Moore observed in the 1940s, to say: ‘It is raining, but I don’t believe that it is raining.’ Beliefs aspire to truth – but they do not entail it. Beliefs can be false, unwarranted by evidence or reasoned consideration. They can also be morally repugnant. Among likely candidates: beliefs that are sexist, racist or homophobic; the belief that proper upbringing of a child requires ‘breaking the will’ and severe corporal punishment; the belief that the elderly should routinely be euthanised; the belief that ‘ethnic cleansing’ is a political solution, and so on. If we find these morally wrong, we condemn not only the potential acts that spring from such beliefs, but the content of the belief itself, the act of believing it, and thus the believer.

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. For this reason, I think, it is not always the coming-to-hold-this-belief that is problematic; it is rather the sustaining of such beliefs, the refusal to disbelieve or discard them that can be voluntary and ethically wrong.

If the content of a belief is judged morally wrong, it is also thought to be false. The belief that one race is less than fully human is not only a morally repugnant, racist tenet; it is also thought to be a false claim – though not by the believer. The falsity of a belief is a necessary but not sufficient condition for a belief to be morally wrong; neither is the ugliness of the content sufficient for a belief to be morally wrong. Alas, there are indeed morally repugnant truths, but it is not the believing that makes them so. Their moral ugliness is embedded in the world, not in one’s belief about the world.

‘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.

I do not mean to revert to the stern evidentialism of the 19th-century mathematical philosopher William K Clifford, who claimed: ‘It is wrong, always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence.’ Clifford was trying to prevent irresponsible ‘overbelief’, in which wishful thinking, blind faith or sentiment (rather than evidence) stimulate or justify belief. This is too restrictive. In any complex society, one has to rely on the testimony of reliable sources, expert judgment and the best available evidence. Moreover, as the psychologist William James responded in 1896, some of our most important beliefs about the world and the human prospect must be formed without the possibility of sufficient evidence. In such circumstances (which are sometimes defined narrowly, sometimes more broadly in James’s writings), one’s ‘will to believe’ entitles us to choose to believe the alternative that projects a better life.

In exploring the varieties of religious experience, 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.

Believing, like willing, seems fundamental to autonomy, the ultimate ground of one’s freedom. But, as Clifford also remarked: ‘No one man’s belief is in any case a private matter which concerns himself alone.’ Beliefs shape attitudes and motives, guide choices and actions. Believing and knowing are formed within an epistemic community, which also bears their effects. There is an ethic of believing, of acquiring, sustaining, and relinquishing beliefs – and that ethic both generates and limits our right to believe. If some beliefs are false, or morally repugnant, or irresponsible, some beliefs are also dangerous. And to those, we have no right.
102a5e69-3ad2-48d9-ae87-0340fd866264.gif


By Daniel DeNicola

This article was originally published at Aeon and has been republished under Creative Commons.
 

Lion IRC

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Some beliefs are false, morally repugnant, irresponsible, dangerous.
OK But...
How can you force someone NOT to hold a belief that something is true, morally righteous, safe, useful, essential?

Contra to the Op AC Grayling offers "Towards the Light: The Story of the Struggles for Liberty and Rights that Made the Modern West" (2007) He demolishes Torquemada etc and others who held the dangerous and false notion that you can deprive people of their right to freedom of thought.

talkfreethought.org :cool:
 

WAB

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Humans are not machines, they are all faulty, some to a greater degree. My belief is that everyone has the absolute right to their beliefs. What they don't have is the right to act on their beliefs if such beliefs are in contradiction to the law.

Mr. DeNicola's claim that people don't have a right to a dangerous belief is itself a belief, and in my opinion a dangerous one.

We don't police thoughts or beliefs; we police actions. Thought-policing is a foolhardy proposition.
 

Underseer

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Some beliefs are false, morally repugnant, irresponsible, dangerous.
OK But...
How can you force someone NOT to hold a belief that something is true, morally righteous, safe, useful, essential?

Contra to the Op AC Grayling offers "Towards the Light: The Story of the Struggles for Liberty and Rights that Made the Modern West" (2007) He demolishes Torquemada etc and others who held the dangerous and false notion that you can deprive people of their right to freedom of thought.

talkfreethought.org :cool:

Christianity is not supported by the evidence and doesn't make anyone more moral. It inspires people to commit atrocities, and renders those who commit atrocities incapable of seeing their own evil.

It is not true, not morally righteous, not safe, not useful, and absolutely not essential.
 

Underseer

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Humans are not machines, they are all faulty, some to a greater degree. My belief is that everyone has the absolute right to their beliefs. What they don't have is the right to act on their beliefs if such beliefs are in contradiction to the law.

Mr. DeNicola's claim that people don't have a right to a dangerous belief is itself a belief, and in my opinion a dangerous one.

We don't police thoughts or beliefs; we police actions. Thought-policing is a foolhardy proposition.

Sorry, but that's wrong.

You're entitled to your own opinions as long as you recognize that they are opinions.

Once you encounter contrary evidence or reason to find an existing belief wrong, you have an obligation to honesty to admit it.

All of us are wrong about a great many things, none of us will ever be right about everything. Thus the best any of us can do is to believe more true things and fewer false things than we did yesterday.

If you actively resist admitting when you are wrong, then you actively prevent yourself from moving closer to the truth. That is only rational if you are hostile to knowing the truth.
 

Lion IRC

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Christianity is not supported by the evidence

On the contrary. There is evidence which supports Christianity

and doesn't make anyone more moral.

Agreed. You can't make someone act morally. They have to want it.

It inspires people to commit atrocities, and renders those who commit atrocities incapable of seeing their own evil.

That's like blaming atheism for Stalins atrocities.
Would Jesus applaud atrocities done in His name? Example? (Preferably something you and I both agree is an atrocity.)

It is not true, not morally righteous, not safe, not useful,

I disagree. But hey. This is a freethought safe space.

...and absolutely not essential.

Agreed. It's voluntary. Not forced on you.
 

Underseer

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On the contrary. There is evidence which supports Christianity
There is also abundant evidence for fairies. The problem is that there is no good evidence.

In order to have evidence for your god, you have to lower your standards of evidence to such a shocking degree that all other religions become true at the same time yours does. If you raise the standards of evidence enough to eliminate the other religions, you also eliminate your own from consideration.


Agreed. You can't make someone act morally. They have to want it.
Christianity cannot produce morality at all. No religion can. In fact, no authority-based moral system can produce objective morals. This was proved thousands of years ago. If you can tell right from wrong, that came from you, not your religion. The man in the pulpit just tries to take credit.


It inspires people to commit atrocities, and renders those who commit atrocities incapable of seeing their own evil.

That's like blaming atheism for Stalins atrocities.
Would Jesus applaud atrocities done in His name? Example? (Preferably something you and I both agree is an atrocity.)
If you went back in time to the Stalin era, went into one of those gulags and asked the prison guards why they were doing those things to their fellow citizens, not a single one of them would have said "I'm doing it for atheism!" They would have said for mother Russia, for the revolution, for the workers' paradise, but not one of them would have said for atheism. Because atheism was neither the cause nor the motive.

But if you went back in time to the crusades and asked crusaders why they were committing acts of cannibalism to terrify civilians in besieged cities, or asked inquisitors during the Inquisition why they were torturing Muslims and Jews to death by the hundred, or asked Christian troops why they slaughtered all the Cathars, every one of them would have looked you in the eye and told you quite plainly that they were doing it for Jesus.

Christianity provided the motive and the rationalization for what they did. Unlike the atrocities that happened under Stalin, those atrocities were caused by Christianity.


It is not true, not morally righteous, not safe, not useful,

I disagree. But hey. This is a freethought safe space.
Safe space has nothing to do with it. The Euthyphro dilemma proved that authority-based moral systems cannot produce morality thousands of years ago.

That's how you end up with William Lane Craig making a fool of himself in public by arguing that objective morality proves God, but also arguing that it is moral when God orders all the babies in a city slaughtered, but it would be immoral if you did the exact same thing. His conception of morality is the most extreme form of moral relativism imaginable, just as the Euthyphro dilemma predicts. Under Christian "morals," things are not good or bad based on what is done, but based on who does them.

Just look at Christian opinions on a few prominent public moral debates in recent years:

Giving money to pass a law in Uganda to cause the execution of all the gays in Uganda: morally good.

Baking a cake for a gay couple: morally evil.

Toddler concentration camps: we need to have a national debate about that, and most of us can't be convinced it's immoral.

Does any of that sound arbitrary to you? Does it even sound moral to you?


...and absolutely not essential.

Agreed. It's voluntary. Not forced on you.

Then why did you say essential?
 

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Here, let's look at the Bible:

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Exodus+21:20-21&version=NIV

Bible said:
20 “Anyone who beats their male or female slave with a rod must be punished if the slave dies as a direct result, 21 but they are not to be punished if the slave recovers after a day or two, since the slave is their property.

There you go. Instructions on the right and wrong way to beat your slaves to death. Right in the Bible for all to see.

Every single Christian that I know of who reads that passage will immediately try to come up with an excuse for not following those instructions. If they can't think of one, they will ask other Christians until someone can provide them with a good excuse to either ignore that passage, or decide that it means something completely different.

Don't bother telling me your excuses. I've heard them. They're weak, but irrelevant. What matters is not the excuses, but the fact that every or nearly every Christian immediately seeks them out upon reading that passage.

This proves two things:
  1. Christian morals come from Christians, not the Bible and
  2. Christians are more moral than the Bible

If you know right from wrong, that came from you, not the Bible, not from Christianity, not from God.

An authority-based moral system can only demand obedience, not make you more moral.

- - - Updated - - -

Can you please provide a link to the original?

I found it here.

Thanks!
 

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About your evidence, as I said, in order to have evidence for your religion, you have to lower your standards of evidence to such a degree that all other religions become true at the same time.

  • You have special feelings and a special relationship that let you know your beliefs are true and the other religions are wrong? The people in other religions have the same feelings.
  • You notice improbable things happening? People in other religions also notice improbable things happening.
  • Your religion has a special book? So do most other religions.
  • Your special book mentions real places and peoples, maybe even real individuals and real events? So do the special books of other religions.
  • Your special book has "fulfilled" prophecies? So do the other special books.
  • Your prayers are always answered and the answers are always yes, no, or wait? The people from other religions get the same three answers to every single one of their prayers.
  • Your religion provides answers to where existence came from? So do the other religions.
  • Your religion claims to make you more moral? So does every religion. Your religion has a list of special rules you have to follow that make you "morally superior" to everyone else? Everyone in other religions believes the same thing.

You surround yourself with people from the same religion. You repeat to each other all of the "proofs" of your religion. Because you avoid social contact with people of other religions, you probably didn't notice the people in those other religions using more or less the same "proof" that their religion is true and yours is false. Oh, there's some variation in the specific details of the "proofs," but overall it's the same.

It's all the same appeal to emotion and appeal to authority and argument from ignorance.

It's a pile of logical fallacies that are convincing only to those living in an echo chamber that endlessly reinforces all of their beliefs no matter how wrong.
 

Jobar

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I think DeNicola is saying that beliefs unavoidably shape our actions, and thus wrong beliefs always will lead to wrong actions of some sort. We individuals, and society in general, police deeds, not thoughts, yes. But if it can be shown that some ideas and beliefs are sufficiently poisonous- that some beliefs lead to terrible actions- then it seems society should act to suppress those beliefs.

In Germany, I understand it's illegal to express support for Nazism. For much of the latter half of the twentieth century, espousing Communism in the United States was not technically illegal, but was so severely detested and suppressed by the great majority that it might as well have been. Outside of Africa, believing in witches and that it's proper to kill them is almost universally rejected.

I can remember when here in Georgia and throughout the South, most whites believed (and openly said) blacks were an inferior race. (If was all too common in the North, too.) Over time, that belief has been subjected to negative pressure which has at least driven it underground, and it's no longer politically or socially acceptable to bluntly express it; those who do are considered gauche, low-class, hateful. I won't say it's been completely repressed- but we can hope that eventually it will be.

Perhaps we might say that we have the right to our individual beliefs- but that we also have the individual responsibility to demonstrate that our beliefs are factual, demonstrable, and morally acceptable to our neighbors, and to the human race in general.

When you believe in things
That you don't understand
Then you suffer!
Superstition ain't the way.

-Stevie Wonder
 

WAB

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Humans are not machines, they are all faulty, some to a greater degree. My belief is that everyone has the absolute right to their beliefs. What they don't have is the right to act on their beliefs if such beliefs are in contradiction to the law.

Mr. DeNicola's claim that people don't have a right to a dangerous belief is itself a belief, and in my opinion a dangerous one.

We don't police thoughts or beliefs; we police actions. Thought-policing is a foolhardy proposition.

Sorry, but that's wrong.

You're entitled to your own opinions as long as you recognize that they are opinions.

Once you encounter contrary evidence or reason to find an existing belief wrong, you have an obligation to honesty to admit it.

All of us are wrong about a great many things, none of us will ever be right about everything. Thus the best any of us can do is to believe more true things and fewer false things than we did yesterday.

If you actively resist admitting when you are wrong, then you actively prevent yourself from moving closer to the truth. That is only rational if you are hostile to knowing the truth.

Underseer,

If a person has a belief, then that by definition means they have not been shown (to their own personal satisfaction, NOT yours) to be in error. IOW: The belief itself may be in error, granted, but if a person believes something, they believe it. That has to be granted for the sake of carrying on this discussion, or we're into other territory, like cognitive dissonance, self-deceit, lying, even insanity.

If a person believes something, and then accepts proof that the belief is mistaken, then that person no longer holds that belief.

This has nothing to do with not admitting that you're wrong - unless you actually believe that people who don't believe the same things as you actually do believe the same things as you but just won't fess up to it? You don't truly believe that Lion IRC, for example, is secretly an atheist and is just being stubborn? Or that I secretly agree with you but just won't admit it?

Someone knowing they are wrong and not admitting to it is wholly different than someone holding an incorrect belief, and really believing it. And as I said it's a different topic.

So, no, I am not wrong.

IMO, every human has the absolute right to believe whatever they happen to believe, whether that belief is justified, evidenced, or what have you. It's acting on certain beliefs that society and civil law can act upon in order to counter them and prevent harm; but we can't do anything about people holding unsavory beliefs apart from education, rational persuasion, and moral objection by means of powerful free speech.

You wrote:

You're entitled to your own opinions as long as you recognize that they are opinions.


No. A person is free to hold an opinion which they may freely regard as a conviction. IOW: they are perfectly free to entertain their delusions as fact, no matter how deluded they are. No-one has any business trying to police someone's own mind outside of legal means.

Thought policing is ethically evil, not to mention impossible. No-one will alter his/her beliefs with a gun to their head.

I don't entirely disagree with you!

IF a person who once held a belief happens, by whatever means, to lose that belief, then it seems rational that they should admit it, although I don't recognize that they have any legal obligation. Perhaps a moral obligation, as you said. But mostly it would be a personal obligation: i.e: that it would be a benefit to themselves first and foremost.

Jobar,

Yes, indeed, potentially dangerous beliefs can and probably should be suppressed, as I mentioned above to Underseer: through education, rational persuasion, and moral objection by means of powerful free speech.
 

Underseer

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Humans are not machines, they are all faulty, some to a greater degree. My belief is that everyone has the absolute right to their beliefs. What they don't have is the right to act on their beliefs if such beliefs are in contradiction to the law.

Mr. DeNicola's claim that people don't have a right to a dangerous belief is itself a belief, and in my opinion a dangerous one.

We don't police thoughts or beliefs; we police actions. Thought-policing is a foolhardy proposition.

Sorry, but that's wrong.

You're entitled to your own opinions as long as you recognize that they are opinions.

Once you encounter contrary evidence or reason to find an existing belief wrong, you have an obligation to honesty to admit it.

All of us are wrong about a great many things, none of us will ever be right about everything. Thus the best any of us can do is to believe more true things and fewer false things than we did yesterday.

If you actively resist admitting when you are wrong, then you actively prevent yourself from moving closer to the truth. That is only rational if you are hostile to knowing the truth.

Underseer,

If a person has a belief, then that by definition means they have not been shown (to their own personal satisfaction, NOT yours) to be in error. IOW: The belief itself may be in error, granted, but if a person believes something, they believe it. That has to be granted for the sake of carrying on this discussion, or we're into other territory, like cognitive dissonance, self-deceit, lying, even insanity.

If a person believes something, and then accepts proof that the belief is mistaken, then that person no longer holds that belief.

This has nothing to do with not admitting that you're wrong - unless you actually believe that people who don't believe the same things as you actually do believe the same things as you but just won't fess up to it? You don't truly believe that Lion IRC, for example, is secretly an atheist and is just being stubborn? Or that I secretly agree with you but just won't admit it?

Someone knowing they are wrong and not admitting to it is wholly different than someone holding an incorrect belief, and really believing it. And as I said it's a different topic.

So, no, I am not wrong.

IMO, every human has the absolute right to believe whatever they happen to believe, whether that belief is justified, evidenced, or what have you. It's acting on certain beliefs that society and civil law can act upon in order to counter them and prevent harm; but we can't do anything about people holding unsavory beliefs apart from education, rational persuasion, and moral objection by means of powerful free speech.

You wrote:

You're entitled to your own opinions as long as you recognize that they are opinions.


No. A person is free to hold an opinion which they may freely regard as a conviction. IOW: they are perfectly free to entertain their delusions as fact, no matter how deluded they are. No-one has any business trying to police someone's own mind outside of legal means.

Thought policing is ethically evil, not to mention impossible. No-one will alter his/her beliefs with a gun to their head.

I don't entirely disagree with you!

IF a person who once held a belief happens, by whatever means, to lose that belief, then it seems rational that they should admit it, although I don't recognize that they have any legal obligation. Perhaps a moral obligation, as you said. But mostly it would be a personal obligation: i.e: that it would be a benefit to themselves first and foremost.

Jobar,

Yes, indeed, potentially dangerous beliefs can and probably should be suppressed, as I mentioned above to Underseer: through education, rational persuasion, and moral objection by means of powerful free speech.

Sticking your fingers in your ears and refusing to listen to or understand contrary evidence does not make it reasonable to believe in something. You are at that point doing unreasonable things to preserve a belief regardless of what the truth is. The moment you do that, you're no longer interested in the truth, only certain conclusions.
 

WAB

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Underseer,

If a person has a belief, then that by definition means they have not been shown (to their own personal satisfaction, NOT yours) to be in error. IOW: The belief itself may be in error, granted, but if a person believes something, they believe it. That has to be granted for the sake of carrying on this discussion, or we're into other territory, like cognitive dissonance, self-deceit, lying, even insanity.

If a person believes something, and then accepts proof that the belief is mistaken, then that person no longer holds that belief.

This has nothing to do with not admitting that you're wrong - unless you actually believe that people who don't believe the same things as you actually do believe the same things as you but just won't fess up to it? You don't truly believe that Lion IRC, for example, is secretly an atheist and is just being stubborn? Or that I secretly agree with you but just won't admit it?

Someone knowing they are wrong and not admitting to it is wholly different than someone holding an incorrect belief, and really believing it. And as I said it's a different topic.

So, no, I am not wrong.

IMO, every human has the absolute right to believe whatever they happen to believe, whether that belief is justified, evidenced, or what have you. It's acting on certain beliefs that society and civil law can act upon in order to counter them and prevent harm; but we can't do anything about people holding unsavory beliefs apart from education, rational persuasion, and moral objection by means of powerful free speech.

You wrote:

You're entitled to your own opinions as long as you recognize that they are opinions.


No. A person is free to hold an opinion which they may freely regard as a conviction. IOW: they are perfectly free to entertain their delusions as fact, no matter how deluded they are. No-one has any business trying to police someone's own mind outside of legal means.

Thought policing is ethically evil, not to mention impossible. No-one will alter his/her beliefs with a gun to their head.

I don't entirely disagree with you!

IF a person who once held a belief happens, by whatever means, to lose that belief, then it seems rational that they should admit it, although I don't recognize that they have any legal obligation. Perhaps a moral obligation, as you said. But mostly it would be a personal obligation: i.e: that it would be a benefit to themselves first and foremost.

Jobar,

Yes, indeed, potentially dangerous beliefs can and probably should be suppressed, as I mentioned above to Underseer: through education, rational persuasion, and moral objection by means of powerful free speech.

Sticking your fingers in your ears and refusing to listen to or understand contrary evidence does not make it reasonable to believe in something. You are at that point doing unreasonable things to preserve a belief regardless of what the truth is. The moment you do that, you're no longer interested in the truth, only certain conclusions.

I never said it was "reasonable" to believe in something contrary to evidence, only that it is legal and that we are forced to tolerate delusional and even immoral beliefs. That's what living in a free society means!

In fact, many argue that a person literally has no choice in what they belief, i.e: that beliefs are not actually choices at all. See the various free will arguments extant all over the web. It is acting upon beliefs that we do not have a right to - if such action is in contradiction to the law, and/or causes harm to someone else.

All kinds of bad ideas can lead to harm and bad behaviors, but there is nothing you can do about bad ideas except to have better ideas, and to argue for them - as someone famous once said.
 

WAB

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I feel I need to expand on my reply to you, Underseer:

My defense of the "right" to an unsavory belief is wholly on principle. I don't mean for a moment to say that potentially harmful beliefs should be "tolerated" as in "we ought not do anything about it." I don't celebrate false beliefs, or even defend beliefs themselves - only a person's right to hold them.

My difference of opinion with you, or so I believe, lies in exactly what ought to be done about the fact of people holding potentially harmful beliefs.

I am not promoting blind, apathetic tolerance of bad ideas, but tolerance as a civil constraint. I very much support free speech - as a means of promoting good ideas and heaping censure on bad ones.

It's one thing to say that one does not have the right to their beliefs; it's quite another to try and back that up by any kind of practicable legal means.

In case none of this is coming across: I do not approve of someone sticking their fingers in their ears or intentionally blinding themselves to facts any more than you do.
 

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I think DeNicola is saying that beliefs unavoidably shape our actions, and thus wrong beliefs always will lead to wrong actions of some sort. We individuals, and society in general, police deeds, not thoughts, yes. But if it can be shown that some ideas and beliefs are sufficiently poisonous- that some beliefs lead to terrible actions- then it seems society should act to suppress those beliefs.


Beliefs are conscious things. What leads to beliefs may underlie behavior but the relation is neither causal nor onto. So to claim beliefs shape behavior just can't be supported.
 

Shake

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Underseer's post at the top of this page addresses this issue quite well, IMO. YouTube personality Aron Ra in a couple of his videos talks about how he often gets the question, "Well, why can't I believe what I want to believe?" IIRC, his response is something to the effect that for the most part you can believe what you like, the exception being when those beliefs cause you to try to impose your own morality on others, or attempt to affect public policy in a way which would force others to abandon their morals in favor of your arbitrary system.
 

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The OP makes the common error of confusing a legal right with a moral responsibility.
It is quite true that beliefs and particularly non-evidence-based irrational beliefs can be immoral and should be treated as such by others. But not all immoral acts should be illegal, meaning that people have the right to engage in some immoral acts. Primary among such allowable immoral acts are acts of holding a belief or espousing such beliefs. The justification for protecting such rights to be morally wrong is that 1) rationality cannot be psychologically compelled by law, and 2) espousing irrational beliefs has only indirect impact on others. So long as others remain free to reject those beliefs and form their own beliefs, then the harmful consequences of irrational beliefs are limited. Also, rational thought concludes that no belief can be definitively concluded to be wrong, and that conclusions of wrongness by the majority are often (if not usually) not based upon a rational assessment. Thus, actual legal restrictions against the right to be wrong will often (if not most often) prevent rationality and progress toward more and more correct ideas.

In sum, people should be pressured via non-legal social channels to adhere to a moral responsibility to be rational. However, people cannot be legally compelled to be rational and should not be legally compelled to only speak of rational ideas, thus the should retain the right to think and say wrong things, except where there is clear evidence of direct, neccessary, and intended harm of such speech (which is very rare).
 

OLDMAN

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I feel I need to expand on my reply to you, Underseer:

My defense of the "right" to an unsavory belief is wholly on principle. I don't mean for a moment to say that potentially harmful beliefs should be "tolerated" as in "we ought not do anything about it." I don't celebrate false beliefs, or even defend beliefs themselves - only a person's right to hold them.

My difference of opinion with you, or so I believe, lies in exactly what ought to be done about the fact of people holding potentially harmful beliefs.

I am not promoting blind, apathetic tolerance of bad ideas, but tolerance as a civil constraint. I very much support free speech - as a means of promoting good ideas and heaping censure on bad ones.

It's one thing to say that one does not have the right to their beliefs; it's quite another to try and back that up by any kind of practicable legal means.

In case none of this is coming across: I do not approve of someone sticking their fingers in their ears or intentionally blinding themselves to facts any more than you do.

What world do you live on? Most of the people on this planet can and do believe damn near anything they want.....flat earth, flying saucers, three-headed gods, and on and on it goes. Very few of us do not subscribe to beliefs, but a system of determining what appears to be the theory that is best supported by facts.
 

fromderinside

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Yet, in line with Pinker in "The Ancestors Tale", people where people do change IAC with pressure from elites to adapt, generally, some position other than the one they held on some group issue. Seems to me that there are at least two imperatives at work here. One is that any individual may believe andy damn thing she wishs and that any individual can be moved to bring their beliefs in line with strongly held social values.

Social values it seems are beliefs adopted by te many which may or may not serve common need. I say this to include situations such as that of Hitler's Germany where social values were turned toward specific groups, much like they are being pressured now, toward more selfish purposes lending to state control. Now it is clear there is a relation between one's individual mores and the group's social sense of with what's right.

It is not to say that one cannot believe whatever one wants to believe, one can, it is that to get along one adopts beliefs IAC with pressure from social demand. What one can believe is molded by what one needs to get along.

I'm not sure that such mechanisms are for the general good. Rather one has agency yet one subsumes that agency for some sense that one will be better off if one doesn't make waves.
 

WAB

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I feel I need to expand on my reply to you, Underseer:

My defense of the "right" to an unsavory belief is wholly on principle. I don't mean for a moment to say that potentially harmful beliefs should be "tolerated" as in "we ought not do anything about it." I don't celebrate false beliefs, or even defend beliefs themselves - only a person's right to hold them.

My difference of opinion with you, or so I believe, lies in exactly what ought to be done about the fact of people holding potentially harmful beliefs.

I am not promoting blind, apathetic tolerance of bad ideas, but tolerance as a civil constraint. I very much support free speech - as a means of promoting good ideas and heaping censure on bad ones.

It's one thing to say that one does not have the right to their beliefs; it's quite another to try and back that up by any kind of practicable legal means.

In case none of this is coming across: I do not approve of someone sticking their fingers in their ears or intentionally blinding themselves to facts any more than you do.

What world do you live on? Most of the people on this planet can and do believe damn near anything they want.....flat earth, flying saucers, three-headed gods, and on and on it goes. Very few of us do not subscribe to beliefs, but a system of determining what appears to be the theory that is best supported by facts.

How is what you wrote very much different than what I wrote? We all have beliefs, can believe whatever we want, and there ain't jack squat anyone can do about it, right?

The OP argues that people DO NOT have the right to believe whatever they want. I argue that they most certainly do. This says nothing, nada, about the content or the value of those beliefs.
 

Copernicus

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My approach to the OP is similar to that of a few others here--that the expression "I have a right to my belief" should not be taken too literally. It is not a claim of a legal right or even a moral right. Normally, it is just a way of saying that one has no obligation to refute a counterargument, especially when the other person is dominating the discussion unfairly or too obtuse to argue with. It's another way of saying "We'll just have to agree to disagree."

I'm not totally unsympathetic to people who walk away from arguments, particularly when the arguments get repetitious. It isn't just that the person claiming the "right to an opinion" is the unreasonable one. Sometimes it is just impossible to get the other person to listen to one's own side of the argument or to make an honest effort to understand a different point of view.
 

Lion IRC

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phands has abandoned his Op because his attempt to justify thought control - here of all places - just can't cut it.

Liberté, égalité, fraternité
The liberty referred to here is free will, free thought.

Je déteste ce que vous écrivez, mais je donnerai ma vie pour que vous puissiez continuer à écrire.
Seriously phands? You're siding with Torquemada over Voltaire?

“My own opinion is enough for me, and I claim the right to have it defended against any consensus, any majority, anywhere, any place, any time. And anyone who disagrees with this can pick a number, get in line, and kiss my ass.”
― Christopher Hitchens
 

Jobar

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I think DeNicola is saying that beliefs unavoidably shape our actions, and thus wrong beliefs always will lead to wrong actions of some sort. We individuals, and society in general, police deeds, not thoughts, yes. But if it can be shown that some ideas and beliefs are sufficiently poisonous- that some beliefs lead to terrible actions- then it seems society should act to suppress those beliefs.


Beliefs are conscious things. What leads to beliefs may underlie behavior but the relation is neither causal nor onto. So to claim beliefs shape behavior just can't be supported.

Mmm... I agree that beliefs do not *always and unavoidably* shape behavior. But I would say there's a strong tendency for that to happen.

In post 13 I mentioned Germany's laws against expressing support for Nazi policies and ideals. Given the amount of death, destruction, and awfulness which Germany and the whole world suffered as a result of Nazism, I tend to agree with the German lawmakers who put expressing Nazi ideas in the 'shouting fire in a crowded theater' category. IOW I don't support Voltaire's maxim on freedom of expression unreservedly; there are words and ideas so poisonous, so monstrous, that we ought to forbid them if it's in our power.

As always, the real bitch is deciding where we should draw our lines.
 
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