Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Analysis And Belief

I have been pondering a post I made a few days ago about thought and belief. I was talking about how I have so many thoughts that they are hard to distinguish from what I believe. I said that thought was an activity, while belief was a conviction that was more constant than just a thought.

While walking tonight I thought about a way to clarify this distinction between thought and belief.

I decided that the distinction might be put more precisely as the tension between analysis and belief.

I was thinking about Claxton's work on d-mode: that form of analytical and rational thought that can produce articulate and compelling answers that don't necessarily correspond to truth or reality. In other words, it is easy to spin a logical web that sounds convincing, and yet it might not be anywhere close to the truth. How interesting, that language possesses this possibility, this deceptiveness, this violence, as Zizek would say.

To put this another way, intelligence and articulateness are not inherently valuable. As Chris Hedges says: "Intelligence is morally neutral. It is no more virtuous than athletic prowess. It can be used to further the exploitation of the working class by corporations and the mechanisms of repression and war, or it can be used to fight these forces" (2009,104). The truth of this statement depends on how we define intelligence. But if we accept Claxton's arguments, then we need to accept that intelligence in the West is often defined in terms of articulation, the ability to use words to analyze certain things. But as I already said, Claxton also claims that articulation is a very limited facet of human thought and is not an indication of intelligence. I agree with Hedges. Intelligence is not inherently valuable. Analytical skills can justify terrible things or bring about wonderful change. But neither is inherent to what we think of as intelligent.

This analysis is getting towards a very personal issue for me. I wonder about how much my analytical skills enable me to be truthful and how much they distance me from people, place me in my own world. I wonder if my analysis of myself, my beliefs about myself, are trustworthy. As I've said in previous posts, I'm afraid of trusting myself to analyze myself. I don't trust myself to say what type of person I like. I don't trust myself to say what kind of things I think or believe. I'm very good at saying, but I don't know if I believe what I say.

In any case, this issue of 'thought and belief' can be better addressed by referring to analysis and belief. It is the danger of language identified by both Claxton and Zizek, it is d-mode, it is the violence of language. Interesting stuff. Very personal. Although to articulate that personal element precisely is too difficult for me right now. I'm tired. And we lost trivia.

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