Bertrand Russell on Belief

When we read from the passages of esteemed thinkers, we reflect upon ourselves, our world, and what we are doing in it. In this spirit we decide if we want to make room in our own philosophy for such perspectives and in doing so we consider our individual “beliefs”. Such a term, belief, is riddled with metrics and questions that can take us into another sticky territory… “what is truth” … (which goes far beyond today’s blog.)

Here is a bit of Bertrand Russell on belief, which to this blogger is worthy of a moment’s reflection.

Bertrand russell _2 “… When we survey our beliefs, we find that we hold different beliefs with very different degrees of conviction. Some-such as the belief that I am sitting in a chair, or that 2+2=4 can be doubted by few except those who have had a long training in philosophy. Such beliefs are held so firmly that non- philosophers who deny them are put into lunatic asylums. Other beliefs, such as the facts of history, are held rather less firmly, but still in the main without much doubt where they are well authenticated. Beliefs about the future, as that the sun will rise tomorrow and the trains will run approximately as in Bradshaw, may be held with almost as great conviction as beliefs about the past. Scientific laws are generally believed less firmly, and there is a gradation among them such as seems nearly certain to such as have only a slight probability in their favor. Philosophical beliefs, finally, will, with most people, take a still lower place, since the opposite beliefs of others can hardly fail to induce doubt. Belief, therefore, is a matter of degree. To speak of belief, disbelief, doubt, and suspense of judgment as the only possibilities is as if, from the writing on the thermometer, we were to suppose that blood heat, summer heat, temperate, and freezing were the only temperatures. This is a continuous gradation in belief, and the more firmly we believe anything, the less willing we are to abandon it in the case of conflict…”

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