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Rational vs irrational arguments

Rational vs irrational arguments
Scrivener
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Posted Aug 16, 2009 - 4:23 AM:
Subject: Rational vs irrational arguments
Virtually all beliefs people hold are supported by an argument.

But many beliefs are supported by irrational arguments e.g. I believe X because my parents believe X, I believe X because it makes me feel...

Everybody relies on both rational and irrational arguments to support their beliefs. Though obviously the less contemplative a person is, the less likely they are to support their beliefs with rational arguments because rational arguments require the contemplative use of reason to balance evidence, while irrational arguments appeal to immediate perceptions.

My question concerns the immutability of a person's beliefs. I'm currently inclined to think that beliefs supported by irrational arguments are less amenable to change regardless of the means employed to change them. In a sense once you encourage a person to support their beliefs on the basis of rational arguments, you in effect weaken their beliefs.

Are people more likely to change beliefs supported by rational or irrational arguments?

It very likely depends on the individual and their experiences but lets suppose a vast population thereby limiting the affect these influences can have.
wittge

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Posted Aug 16, 2009 - 5:52 AM:

I don't think you can give a general and catholic answer to that question.
It depends on the case.
For example, it is very difficult to change someone's "irrational" opinion that hapiness is the desired state in life. On the contrary it's rather easy to change someone's irrational habit, eating fast, by explaining to him that it's no good for his stomach.
Similarly, rational arguments can be divided according to their complexity. To persuade a philosopher that his philosophic theory is wrong will take much effort and time (supposing we are referring to a competent philosopher smiling face). On the contrary, to persuade someone that his rational argument, that the solution of an integral in mathematics is a number A, you only have to indicate the mistake he did in the solution process.

So, i believe there is no general case...
sqeecoo
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Posted Aug 16, 2009 - 2:22 PM:

No beliefs are supported by rational argument. All justification is ultimately dogmatic, sorry sticking out tongue
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Posted Aug 16, 2009 - 3:03 PM:

sqeecoo wrote:
No beliefs are supported by rational argument. All justification is ultimately dogmatic, sorry sticking out tongue
As this assertion is not supported by rational argument, I am free to reject it. Problem solved. grin
kkiiji
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Posted Aug 16, 2009 - 3:17 PM:

I guess one could say that the appeal of rational arguments can not be rationally justified, otherwise it would be circular. (Did I just rationally reject the notion that rationality can be rationally justified? What the hell just happened?) But once we have belief in rational arguments for whatever reason(irrational reasons I suspect), they WILL be a very strong influence on our beliefs.
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Posted Aug 16, 2009 - 3:20 PM:

Of course you are free to reject it! But do you have any rational argument for rejecting it? sticking out tongue

Seriously, do you see any way to justify something that is not dogmatic and thus ultimately irrational?


@kkiiji
Perhaps, but should they be? What is, after all, achieved by giving rational reasons, other then perhaps a purely psychological feeling of confidence?
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Posted Aug 16, 2009 - 3:23 PM:

Here's why they should be. Utilizing rationality generally results in more efficient and sustainable satisfaction of irrational urges, if rationality isn't taken TOO seriously that is.
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Posted Aug 16, 2009 - 4:43 PM:

I'm currently inclined to think that beliefs supported by irrational arguments are less amenable to change regardless of the means employed to change them.

Actually, I doubt that must be true. You can show flaws in irrational arguments, and you can't show any flaws in rational ones. And I don't see why it would be rhetorically or psychologically easier to make people think there were flaws in rational arguments than in irrational ones.

Now it is plausibly true that if someone holds a belief for irrational reasons, then they're more likely to be irrational -- even if you show them flaws in an argument, they won't see them, or won't believe you. And if they're no more or less susceptible to rhetorical or psychological strategies than rational people, then it will be harder to change their minds. And if the majority of beliefs are held by irrational people, then the average belief held for irrational reasons will be harder to change. But that's a lot of "ifs."
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Posted Aug 16, 2009 - 8:25 PM:

It seems a lot of people fundamentally disagree with the question, so perhaps rephrasing it may help.

Suppose a person has a belief. When asked to explain why they believe it they give exclusively irrational arguments. The same person subsequently adopts rational arguments to form the basis of the belief and abandons the formerly held irrational arguments. Is the person now easier to persuade to change their belief?
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Posted Aug 17, 2009 - 6:59 AM:

In general, I think the answer is yes!

Every system of knowledge have to be built from something. You have to have basic truths you do not question, otherwise you can only say tautologies, which are not very useful.

These atoms of thoughts must be irrational, for if they had been explained by something else they wouldn't be "atoms". Rational beliefs are connected to other beliefs by rational arguments, so if you want to break them, you can refute what made them true. For the atoms of thoughts, this is more difficult.

Actually it is quite common that after you had convinced someone that is argument is not generally valid, he will admit it, but stay in his conclusion. Saying something like "I still think it's true", "It still make sense"

This suggest, that our strongest and most basic beliefs are irrational.

Edited by hyena in petticoat on Aug 19, 2009 - 12:47 AM. Reason: Illiteracy.
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