The ACA hosts a monthly lecture series at the Austin History Center. I’ll be delivering the August lecture, this Sunday and I thought it might be worthwhile to post a brief synopsis.
It’s a topic that I’ve been fleshing-out for quite a while and despite the fact that we’re less than 48 hours from lecture time, it’s not completely finished (I’ve still got to finish some slides and run through it once more to make sure it’s complete and of the appropriate length). The major themes, though, are complete…and despite the fact that ‘epistemology’ might be a more accurate title, I’m sticking with ‘belief’.
Why? I once had someone write in to the TV show to try to convince me that it was pointless to discuss beliefs and that only knowledge mattered. I couldn’t disagree more. Belief is something that I think is much easier to come to terms with than the various (and potentially useless) definitions of ‘knowledge’. Belief is simply the acceptance of a proposition as true. Beliefs inform our actions – they matter. What we believe, and why, may be the single most important issues we face.
On a previous show, I pointed out that the old adage “knowledge is power” is actually wrong – in my opinion the real power is in understanding, not knowledge. I’m pretty sure that’s what the saying implies, but I’ve been continually striving to be more precise in language. We tend to communicate in shorthand, trusting that our meaning is understood, because shorthand is usually good enough. However, when it matters, our reliance on these linguistic shortcuts isn’t just a hindrance, it’s potentially crippling.
So, we’ll be starting with a few definitions; ‘belief’, ‘knowledge’ and ‘real’…and then moving on to some Venn diagrams demonstrating truth values vs. belief values, what it all means, which positions or ‘sets’ are actually useful and which don’t provide nearly the clarity that they imply in the vernacular.
And, unlike my last two lectures that sort of just faded out, this one may actually have a real ending – though I won’t promise that.