metaphysical meanderings

a quasi-conservative soldier journalist indulges in contemplative compulsions

Love and Inauthentic Belief

with one comment

Consider two cases:

Smith is an atheist. However, he judges his life would go better if he believed in God. So, he begins going to church, reading the Holy Bible and bearing his testimony. He eventually forgets his reasons for atheism and his life ends up going better.

Jones hates his wife. However, he judges his life would go better if he loved his wife. So, he tells his wife that he loves her, buys flowers for her, and treats her kindly. He eventually forgets his reasons for hating his wife and his life goes better.

Intuitively, I find that these two cases are not morally on a par. Smith seems to be inauthentic, and his behavior demonstrates a breech of intellectual ethics. One should not be so willing to abandon one’s fundamental believes for psychic comfort. Jones, on the other hand seems to be very admirable in his behavior. So, I must locate something dis-similar in these two cases or else abandon the intuition that the two are dis-similar.

I  think we should hang on to the intuitions and seek a dis-analogy. I suggest this solution: “God exists” clearly expresses a clear proposition whereas “I love my wife” does not, necessarily. “I love you” can be interpreted as a descriptions of one’s own present activities like “I throw the ball to Susan” or as a speech act, like “I promise you.”

If that is right then what Jones, unlike Smith, is after is not primarily a change of belief, regardless of the truth content of the belief. It is a change in orientation toward others that is within his power to affect.  If he is successful in this, “I love you” is true as a purely descriptive statement.


Written by Spencer

February 26, 2011 at 9:57 am

Posted in Uncategorized

One Response

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  1. To me, the important question is if Smith or Jones genuinely believe the assertions “God Exists” or “I love my wife.” If their positions are changed from disbelief to belief then they are genuinely converted regardless of why they set about attempting to convert themselves. If their are genuine believers their conclusion is not less valid because they set about to achieve that result. That being said I don’t know if I personally find either of the scenarios particularly plausible.


    February 26, 2011 at 8:44 pm

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