About Belief LO19855 -was: Lectures, learning, etc.

Richard Karash (Richard@Karash.com)
Sun, 15 Nov 1998 10:45:41 -0500

Replying to LO19830 --

The second thread I propose coming out of the recent exchange is about belief.

Steve write to At:

>Your own lectures, At: do you begin with fixed opinions subject to
>revision, or with a system already fixed and in place? For example, are
>you really open to the possibility that your "7 essentialities" are
>neither seven nor essential--or is this mental model of yours a rigid
>orthodoxy immune to modification, a set of immutable categories ...snip...

(Steve, of course, is lecturing as well.)

Steve and At both have strong beliefs and are expressing them. Steve
raises some pitfalls of strong belief. At and most of us probably agree
that these are indeed pitfalls. But, if they didn't have strong beliefs,
we would not have seen this exchange.

What can we say about beliefs? What are our beliefs about beliefs? Here
are some of mine:

1. If we don't have strong beliefs... We won't never do anything. At least
we'll never do anything significant.

2. Beliefs can operate beneath the conscious level. Therefore, we should
try to be conscious of what we are believing that leads to our actions.
(see Argyris.)

2. Any belief we hold, we have a basis for holding. Charles S. Peirce says
a belief we hold, we hold because it propels us forward towards something
we desire. In other words, the basis for most of our beliefs is that we
have found them to "work" for us. Saying it another way, I think anything
we believe is likely to be "valid" in some context. Therefore, for any
belief, we should ask, "In what way is this belief working for me?"

2. If we take our beliefs too strongly, we'll start to think the belief is
universally valid and we won't notice the breakdown at the edges or in
changed context. That is, we lose the opportunity to refine the belief; we
lose the opportunity for learning. Therefore, we should constantly be
conscious of the edges... and changing contexts... in which the belief
doesn't work as well.

3. Some beliefs are more valid than others. That is, some beliefs will be
more widely effective for more people than others. Therefore, I want to be
conscious of making my own judgments of what beliefs are more valid.

4. But, just *which* are the more valid beliefs? There is no ultimate
arbiter of #3, so it's left to judgment. In the community, consensus
rules, but can be short-sighted. One form of consensus, with fairly
rigorous processes, is the form practiced in scientific disciplines. In my
opinion, this works well most of the time, but Kuhn shows how much inertia
is present in the established fields of science. Therefore, I want to pay
attention to the disciplines, but also to fringe areas, ones that might
have been subjected to what At called "academic apartheid."

5. Data is not as important in determining beliefs as is commonly thought.
Therefore, the learning oriented person must be inquisitive, make
theories, construct models, create hypotheses, and test these against
experience. In simple terms, it is effective to "try out" possible beliefs
and see if they work.

Please add to this thread about beliefs. I hope we have both descriptive
and normative comments...
- Descriptive of the way beliefs arise and affect us
- Normative in saying how we should try to act, given the theories

I have tried to include both types in my comments above.

-- Rick


Richard Karash ("Rick") | <http://world.std.com/~rkarash> Speaker, Facilitator, Trainer | email: Richard@Karash.com "Towards learning organizations" | Host for Learning-Org Discussion (617)227-0106, fax (617)523-3839 | <http://www.learning-org.com>

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