Tag Archives: belief

John Stuart Mill

If mankind were capable of deriving the most obvious lessons from the facts before them, in opposition to their preconceived opinions, Mormonism would be to them one of the most highly instructive phenomena of the present age. Here we have a new religion, laying claim to revelation and miraculous powers, forming within a few years a whole nation of proselytes, with adherents scattered all over the earth, in an age of boundless publicity, and in the face of a hostile world. And the author of all this, in no way imposing or even respectable by his moral qualities, but, before he became a prophet, a known cheat and liar. And with this example before them, people can still think the success of Christianity in an age of credulity and with neither newspapers nor public discussion a proof of its divine origin!

John Stuart Mill, ‘Diary’ (April 10, 1854), in The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Toronto, 1988, vol. 27, p. 667

Robin Hanson

Apparently, beliefs are like clothes. In a harsh environment, we choose our clothes mainly to be functional, i.e., to keep us safe and comfortable. But when the weather is mild, we choose our clothes mainly for their appearance, i.e., to show our figure, our creativity, and our allegiances. Similarly, when the stakes are high we may mainly want accurate beliefs to help us make good decisions. But when a belief has few direct personal consequences, we in effect mainly care about the image it helps us to project.

Robin Hanson, ‘Enhancing Out Truth Orientation’, in Nick Bostrom & Julian Savulescu (eds.), Human Enhancement, Oxford, 2009, p. 358