A Problem about Belief

An experience (I hope) everyone has had: you have a strong opinion about a subject. Then you learn more about the subject and realize your initial opinion was hilariously immature. It was the opinion someone who was uninformed. The new knowledge you’ve acquired gives you hints as to how you might have to revise the original opinion. But, more importantly, it has humbled you. You now realize you’re unqualified in this area. Whatever new information you now have, you’ve been given something that supersedes it: the fact of your own limitations. You can take your new knowledge and form a new opinion, sure. But you can also project based on past experience. What would happen if you learned even more about the subject? Isn’t it likely that you’d realize that your new, revised opinion was also silly? It was, after all, still the opinion of someone who was relatively uninformed, even if less uninformed than before.

This has happened to me with philosophy. I used to have fairly strong philosophical convictions. The more philosophy I learn, the weaker those convictions become. Not because I’ve necessarily found convincing counterarguments. More so because, the more I learn, the more obvious it is to me how little I actually know. And I don’t even mean knowledge of facts or of particular arguments. It’s broader than that. The more I learn, the more I realize there are entireĀ ways of analyzing issues that I don’t have access to because I haven’t learned enough.

One takeaway from this is: unless you’re a top expert in a field, you should assume that your opinions are wrong (or, if correct, for the most part accidentally so).…

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