Quora answer: What if there are phenomena possible in this Universe, in which one needs to believe first, in order to understand/observe rather than understand/observe in order to believe?

Apr 08 2013

There are a lot of interesting answers here, which is a rarity of Quora. And I really thing we need to go back and understand the Divided Line in Plato in order to understand this question better. The Divided Line is the core of our worldview. It is composed of two parts Ratio and Doxa. Doxa means appearance and opinion. But Doxa is divided into two parts which are grounded and ungrounded opinion/appearance. Now the question concerning belief has to do with our relation to doxa. Do we believe in the appearances/opinions we have. Belief implies that they related to the aspects of Being for us, i.e. Truth, Reality, Identity,  and Presence. If I believe in something I am positing that it is either Real, or True, or Identical with itself, or Present i.e. manifests some aspect of Being. If it does not relate to some aspect of Being then belief in it is moot because it will not influence any behavior. The problem we have I think is that we say we believe in things but mostly it is just talk. Heidegger calls this chatter inauthentic immersion in the Mitsein (They), i.e. ungrounded believe and appearances. What we really believe in, which can be contrary to what we say we believe in influences what we how we act, what we do, what we say we have and who we are.

So when you ask whether believing is a criteria for experiencing something I would say yes this happens all the time. If you look at ancient skepticism of Sextus Empiricus he said that we all agree on the things we all see, but it is the invisibles that we disagree about. Dogmatists have some preconceived idea of what the invisible things really are. Academics deny everything. And the Skeptic tries to keep the conversation going with regard to the invisibles to so that perhaps their nature will be discovered. This is the traditional role dialectics to consider distinctions by which we identify these invisibles, which when grounded   in reason is called non-representable intelligibles. Some invisibles are not only substantiated by grounded doxa (empirical evidence) and also by reason. So for instance examples of this are the forces of nature which are extremely substantial in terms of both evidence and reasoned argument. These forces exist whether you believe in them or understand them or not. In general a new phenomena needs some foothold in belief in order to get investigated. Sometimes there appears to be a new phenomena, and is believed in but turns out not to exist like cold fusion or polywater. This gets to what Kuhn calls Paradigm Shifts, and Foucault calls episteme changes. Heidegger says there are even shifts in the understanding of Being. All this has to do with belief. Basically if there was not belief emergent events where paradigms, epistemes could not occur. When you are in a paradigm or an episteme it is the beliefs that drive the normal science program. When the changes occur it is because some people change their belief so that a new science program can be carried on. But these beliefs concern what Is, i.e. some of the aspects of Being with direct effect on what is studied by science research programs. And sometimes those new programs uncover new phenomena or substantiate the new paradigm or episteme. Belief is key to this dynamic that drives scientific research. If you did not believe that some phenomena existed out there to be discovered, or substantiated, or replicated you would not research it. For example superconductivity is something that scientists did not believe was possible, but it could be replicated over and over to everyone’s disbelief because it seemed to violate basic laws of physics. It took 20 years to come up with a plausible explanation for the phenomena. Essentially no one believed it, but there it was replicated over and over again, so Science had to take it seriously and try to explain it. It took, belief of evidence of replication for scientists to take it seriously enough to explain it in ways that ran against laws that were thought to be unviable. But it was because replication brought a belief in the reality of this phenomena that was eventually brought into science as something explainable. If you did not believe in superconductivity it would be easy to ignore it because it was not something that you bumped into in the world without trying. On the other hand with polywater or coldfusion people wanted to believe that it was real, but no matter how much it was believed in Science showed it to not be true, not part of reality, not self identical but rather merely illusions, and something that could not be rendered present in replication experiment. Recently we had another phenomena like this which was neutrinos going faster than the speed of light. If it had turned out to be true then it would have changed the physics game in fundamental ways. The team itself tried to falsify their own results and failed. They only admitted that it existed after they had exhausted their ability to try to falsify it. But when others came in they thought of ways to falsify it that the team did not think of and this shows how well science works. Now if you believe in neutrinos going faster than the speed of light, if they don’t actually do so, then it has not effect on our experience of reality or truth or identity, or presence. Belief in itself in a phenomenon has no effect on its existence except for psychological, social, or cultural phenomena. But physical phenomena are not effected by our beliefs. But our beliefs play a key role in understanding them. With regard to phenomena that are self-generated by beliefs such as the gods for instance, their whole existence is in the belief. Take away the beliefs and they vanish. And so this should teach us a lesson. We should not invest in phenomena that is self-generated. And in fact we are slowly learning not to do that. But what happens is that we give truth, reality, identity, and presence to things that do not exist, mostly invisibles and this causes problems, because there are just so many non-existent things to believe in, for instance magic, witches, gods. These things are mirrors of our souls. In them we discover the flip side of Being, i.e. that it can be an illusion. In fact that is what distinguishes existence from Being. Being can be an illusion but existence cannot be an illusion. Both have all the aspects related to them. But with regard to Being we may be dealing with “truth”, “reality”, “presence” or “identity” and the situation where as Zizek says the appearance or the opinion of doxa is more real than reality, more true than truth, more present than presence, more identical than identity.



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