jump to navigation

What we believe but cannot prove 2011 Aug 31

Posted by Karl in : philosophy , 2 comments

I recently read a book that is a collection of answers to the Edge question of 2005:

What do you believe is true even though you cannot prove it?

I find the question interesting because it excites conflicting messages. On one hand, I don’t think it makes sense to believe things that can’t be demonstrated. And yet, I experience a life of ambiguity. I find the unknowns most fascinating and I’m not likely to get answers to some of my deepest questions.

The book provides a window into how some people deal with things they don’t know. A number of scientists and other thinkers have tossed their opinions into the pot. Their answers range widely, from the trivial to the fantastic.

One answer that I found particularly interesting was from Susan Blackmore. She responded that “It is possible to live happily and morally without believing in free will”. According to her understanding, she has no reason to believe in free will. So, she has systematically changed the way that she thinks and she now has no personal experience of free will. It’s a fascinating thought experiment and her conclusions are interesting.

What do I believe but cannot prove? I believe that life is meaningful and that our actions survive beyond our lives. This isn’t a sure thing. I feel fortunate to have lived the life that I’ve lived and I feel excited (and a little overwhelmed) about the possibilities. I have family and friends that love me and I have opportunities for interesting work. I don’t think that life guarantees us a meaningful life, but I am hopeful.

If you’re a curious person that likes tossing around ideas, it’s well worth reading the book. You can read it online or buy it. I’ve seen it at most large book stores.

What do you believe but cannot prove?