Our Favorite Conclusions

It would be unfair for teachers to give the students they like easier exams than those they dislike, for federal regulators to require that foreign products pass sticker safety tests than domestic products, or for judges to insist that the defense attorney make better arguments than the prosecutor.

And yet, this is just the sort of uneven treatment most of us give to facts that confirm and disconfirm our favored conclusions.

For example, volunteers in one study were told that they had performed very well or very poorly on a social-sensitivity test and were then asked to assess two scientific reports—one that suggested the test was valid and one that suggested it was not. Volunteers who had performed well on the test believed that the studies in the validating report used sounder scientific methods than did the studies in the invalidating report, but volunteers who performed poorly on the test believed precisely the opposite.

To ensure that our views are credible, our brain accepts what our eye sees. To ensure that our views are positive, our eye looks for what our brain wants.

Daniel Gilbert, Stumbling on Happiness

Universal Beliefs

The generic nature of human beings and the ordered nature of the world in which we live tend to evoke very similar beliefs in all of us, which we have called universal beliefs. They include:

1. adherence to a law of noncontratidiction,

2. belief in a an external world of orderly processes,

3. belief in the existence of other persons who share our world and with whom we communicate and live,

4. and belief in also in some ultimate reality with which we must eventually reckon.

Beliefs such as these are a practical necessity if we are to think and function at all.

Arthur Holmes, Contours of a World View

Becoming better persons

We cannot sharply separate the process by which we come to have true beliefs from the process by which we try to become better persons. If we demand intellectual certainty about our beliefs before we begin to live out those beliefs, we will not make much progress on the intellectual questions themselves... progress in answering our intellectual questions goes hand in hand with progress in becoming better people. Our beliefs matter... but we cannot hope to settle questions of belief in a way that is prior to and independent of our struggle to become selves of a certain sort.

C Stephen Evans, Kierkegaard: An Introduction

True Beliefs and Better Persons

We cannot sharply separate the process by which we come to have true beliefs from the process by which we try to become better persons. If we demand intellectual certainty about our beliefs before we begin to live out those beliefs, we will not make much progress on the intellectual questions themselves... progress in answering our intellectual questions goes hand in hand with progress in becoming better people. Our beliefs matter... but we cannot hope to settle questions of belief in a way that is prior to and independent of our struggle to become selves of a certain sort.

C Stephen Evans, Introduction: Kierkegaard’s life and works