Saturday, November 10, 2007

Belief Systems

Today I saw a bumper sticker that said

If you fall for nothing, you fall for everything.

The best sense I could make of it was as an argument against having no foundation of beliefs because you are then open to whatever nonsense comes along. I can see someone like Orson Scott Card making an argument like that: choose your nonsense now before some other nonsense chooses you!

As a rationalist atheist, I do see some value to belief systems that are at least exclusionary. Once you're a Methodist you're probably not going to also believe in a bunch of other baloney. This is, in fact, probably what I don't like about New Age folks. Their beliefs aren't exclusionary and therefore they can believe all varieties of nonsense - even varieties that contradict each other.

I'm a fan of empiricism. It has the twin values of being exclusionary (in that whatever is not empirically supported should not be believed) and corresponding to observed reality (in that it is intrinsically designed to have that exact quality).

(Yes, I realize that this is approximately on the philosophical level of a bright 7th grader. Give me a break, it's just a blog.)


rvman said...

The original quote was "If you STAND for nothing, you fall for everything." Alexander Hamilton, according to google. Country music also contributes a version - "You've got to stand for something or you'll fall for anything." Aaron Tippin.

The bumper sticker version strikes me as a bit cynical, in a weird way, since 'fall for' implies false belief. If you don't believe the big lie you'll buy all the little ones?

Tam said...

It's possible I misread it, but I don't think so. But yeah, the version with "stand" makes (marginally) more sense.