Upfront confession time: I have adapted this from a website I failed to make note of. Maybe it still exists, probably under a ‘philosophy’ tag. That sounds weighty, but this is both simple and thought-provoking.
It’s to do with what’s worth arguing about, and who doesn’t argue every now and then? The original article referred to ‘belief-ins’ and ‘belief-that’s’, but I’m going with ‘believe-in’ and ‘believe-that’.
Believe-ins are opinions that tend to come from within. Believe-ins are felt with our emotions. Once felt, they are recognised by the rational mind which, in turn, rationalises them. If we believe in something, our mind tells us, then it must be a rational thing to do.
Think of believe-thats as propositions we know are true because of verifiable evidence. We are generally not as emotionally attached to our believe-thats, perhaps because they did not stem from emotions, but rather from observations. A believe-that might change with new evidence.
When two people argue over conflicting believe-ins, it’s likely no resolution will ever be found, for the arguments are from emotion, not logic. Logical arguments depend on premises that have verifiable truth.
Your belief in the effects on someone’s life of the position of the stars is not verifiable: it’s a believe-in. Your belief that the toddler reaching for the candle flame will be burned is verifiable; it’s a believe-that.
It may take some getting used to, but classifying belief statements can be eye-opening and put things in perspective. Try it.
Before embarking on a heated and potentially damaging argument, we should recognise the difference between believe-ins and believe-thats. Arguing the first is futile and damaging. Arguing the second could be life-saving.
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