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March 17, 2017 / Congau

The Need for Beliefs and Values

Why do we need beliefs? We might as well ask: why do we need perception? We could shut ourselves up inside our wardrobe and try hard to avoid sense impressions, but of course we don’t. We live in the world and want to experience the world. We let our senses perceive data, but before we have interpreted them, they are meaningless. We must form an understanding of the objects around us. That is, we must develop a belief about some of the things we see and hear. When we don’t, it is as if we didn’t perceive it at all; pictures remain anarchic colors and words just noise.

We cannot be sure about any of the sense signals we get, but we can believe and that’s how we experience the world.

Now some beliefs are more complex than others. Beliefs about politics and religion and about ethical rights and wrongs go a step further and are attempts to interpret the uniquely human experience. We may prefer to shut that out also, but the more we avoid it the more we become automatons merely reacting to input like pre-programmed computers.

When we interpret our social environment and form a belief about how it really is, we naturally also conceive ideas about how it should be. We think of something as right or wrong, something working properly and something needing repair and then we get increasingly emotionally involved and develop stronger preferences. That is how our values come about. (A value is whatever is important to us.)

This is a natural process of being human: Perception > belief > value. We can choose to exclude ourselves from any of the stages, but then we reduce our human experience. If we don’t form a belief, we avoid reacting to our perceptions and without values we ignore our beliefs. A full human being reacts emotionally to the world. A computer draws conclusions but doesn’t care about them; human beings have feelings and therefore they care and therefore they need values. We need values to be human.

 

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